Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Radicals And Learned Responses

Even if the Conservative argument is true, that we've reached a point where environmental review processes are bogging down economic development, it's an after the fact assertion, rather than a fair read of present reality. One must cleanse their mind of any historical context to even begin to comprehend the Conservative position, it simply fails to comprehend we've reached this point for a reason.

There was a time when companies acted with complete and utter regulatory impunity. What occurred within this environment, they TRASHED the environment, the destroyed ecosystems, their one concern was money, they acted as amoral entities, they UTTERLY failed to show any environmental stewardship. In reaction, society created certain "checks- some would argue not enough still today- because companies couldn't be trusted to "do the right thing" unilaterally, they needed laws, rules and oversight, like an impulsive child, guidance was required. See, companies like to cut corners, if there is a decision to be made regarding greater good and selfish desire, HISTORY has shown a consistent pattern. Government "intervention" in the free economy is nothing more than a learned response, had corporations properly policed themselves, things such as "public consultations" wouldn't be required. To be a Conservative these days seems to demand a certain naivety about human nature, a simplistic world that bears no resemblance to practical expression.

I note today a story on another Enbridge leak, the timing instructive, because a small reminder that empty promises made by corporations are just that, a seasoned society realizes that mistakes do happen, the sales line rarely meets the reality, so the question becomes: can we afford human errors, can we trust profit driven entities? Corporations today LOVE to tout their environmental records, their advancements, their commitments, their emerging "green" philosophies. Trouble is, these supposed revelations didn't come unilaterally, if anything the by-product of demands from "radicals" and government regulation. Reasonable people understand this fact, not trying to harm the economy, but the realization that things we do can harm the environment and the consequences CAN overshadow any short term gain.

When we hear of a pipeline that will snake through mountains and earthquake zones, only to end up at a challenging sea passage, it is fair to be concerned, not only are questions required, they should be DEMANDED by any reasonable observer. Perhaps these factors explain why British Columbians are "divided" over the project, there are many competing interests in play, it's a complicated proposition. The only "radical" predisposition I can ascertain is those that vilify people with genuine concerns, based on a dubious track record from proponents. If projects are getting "bogged" down in the review process, the blame for the current state rests SQUARELY with those that have failed to act ethically, responsibly in the past, those that have actually harmed the environment, those that are doing it as we speak. "Radical" apparently means anyone with a capacity to incorporate history and understand human nature. We don't trust corporations, we don't believe their promises, this is a learned response, based on their continual failures, that's why we're here.


JimBobby said...

Good post, Steve. We must always bear in mind that corporations exist for one purpose only: to earn money for shareholders. Protecting the environment is only in their interests if it also can be shown to make more money than harming the environment.

It's not that corporations are untrustworthy. They can be trusted to do exactly as they are intended to do - maximize profit.

Coupled with that is the fact that they report their earnings quarterly. Long term gain is not something that Wall St or Bay St investors have the patience for.

When corporate profit is reaped at the expense of the planet (i.e. the public good), the public (i.e. government) must step in. When a government puts corporate profit above the public good, that government is fails to live up to its reason for existence.

Tof KW said...

Just one example of why we have environmental regulations, taken from Sudbury's past.

Back in the late 1800's, the primary extraction process for the separation of nickel ore was to roast it out in the open in giant fire pits. Between 1890 and 1930, 28 million tonnes of ore was smelted in the open. By the time Ontario's environment ministry stepped in to stop the process in 1929 (back when no one gave a shit about the environment), 10 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide was released at ground level, killing plants and acidifying soils. To this day, nothing can grow in those old roasting pits, not even weeds.

Mechanical smelters existed by the 1800's, but open roasting was used by the industry because it was cheaper. Stuff like this the reason for our current environmental regulations.

If you think the Alberta tar sands industry is suspect now, imagine what they'd be like back in the "wild north" days? And every time we "streamline" our existing regulations, we take a step back to those days.

Jerry Prager said...

Not only do corporations exist to earn profits, they can't sign affadavits in coutrt "because they have no conscience to bind them," the conscienceless pursuit of profit is the hallmark of corporate capitalism: they lie, they cheat they steal, they abuse process, they buy politicians and the present Prime Minister was bought by Big Oil back when his daddy sold him into slavery. All the geo-political horrors of the last century snake their way through oil salesmen.

rockfish said...

the Harper thugs throwing mud at environmentalists, labelling them as being 'used' and 'financed' by foreigners.
Funny but serious accusations these. Who is going to benefit the most from a pipeline to the coast? After construction, it comes down to less than 100 jobs here. As opposed to building an oil refinery, or improving (both capacity and efficiency) the ones we've still got.
Now turn their accusations on its head -- the foreign companies that will benefit from a free pass. And we still don't know who financed Harper's leadership campaign. I dare say we should be getting journalists to dig into that one - its hard to believe Harper has buried all the bodies.