Thankfully, 'big oil' can't buy everything
I would like to briefly take issue with the reasonable sounding guest comment by Dylan Jones of the Canada West Foundation that appeared in the May 28, 2014 issue of The Terrace Standard.
The people of Kitimat and what Jones calls “the anti-pipeline crowd” have every cause to celebrate their symbolic victory over “big oil”.
They should be extremely proud of the fact that they asserted their rights as citizens to think for themselves about what kind of future they want for their community.
The tantalizing idea Jones has that putting Canadian Tar Sands bitumen into tankers bound for Asia could somehow help reduce global poverty which in turn could help lower the birth rate and reduce the global environmental footprint is, unfortunately, absurd.
It is a variant of the old trickle down economic theory that has never worked but that has never lost its popularity with the people and the corporations that own most of the world’s resources.
Yes big companies help support hospitals and services but what if we had a healthy sustainable economy that didn’t make people sick, that didn’t rely on men dislocated from their families for its workforce, and that didn’t feed the boom and bust cycles that create the demand for psychiatric care and the treatment of addictions in the first place?
It is undeniably true that overpopulation is a major concern in relation to the world’s resources but it is clear that economic wellbeing in our current toxic economy equates to people using much more fossil fuel per capita and an increase rather than a decrease in environmental stresses.
These big problems need to be tackled directly rather than by simply intensifying the kinds of activities that got us into so much trouble to begin with.
Climate change is hitting poor people the hardest while the business – as usual – economy continues to funnel the proceeds of resource exploitation into fewer and fewer hands.
We desperately need a new model: one which places a value on quality of life, one which reflects our ultimate dependence on biological diversity, one which rewards energy conserving policies and technologies, and most importantly, one in which local people have a significant say about what happens to them and to their communities.
Congratulations, Kitimat! Your plebiscite result sends a message to everyone, including “big oil” that money can’t buy everything or everyone, and that when people assess what really matters to them and their families in the places where they live and work, things will have to be done differently.
David Bowering, MD, MHSc.,