As important as protecting the Peel River watershed is to many of us, that issue is a drop in the bucket compared to the larger issue it points to. Do we live in a democracy, as most of us presume, or do we live in a corpocracy, to use a term from David Mitchell’s brilliant book, Cloud Atlas?
The Occupy movement, world-wide demonstrations and the obvious erosion of services to the public (like health care, quality education, affordable childcare, affordable housing, clean energy, unbiased scientific research, unbiased media reporting, safe infrastructure, freedom to work out labour disputes, healthy food, and protection of our environment) are letting us know, without a doubt, that big corporations are getting what they want, at the expense of everyone else, by influencing governments, judiciaries and the media.
We still call our system a democracy, and many of us vote. But if our elected officials are swayed in their decision-making more by big money than by public opinion, then we do not have a democracy.
If we don’t like that idea, we need to rethink our participation. Voting isn’t enough. Letters to the editor and to government officials are great. Demonstrations and protests, if non-violent, are great.
But what if letters and demonstrations are still unable to speak as loudly as big money? What actions do we take then?
To answer questions like this, we have to have clear pictures in our minds of what we do want. What if the premier of the Yukon held the position of minister of Environment, instead of minister of Finance? This would demonstrate an understanding on the part of government that our life-support system is the Earth, not the economy.
The Finance minister, a capable money manager, would find money for worthwhile projects recommended by the public and brought forward by MLAs who do a good job of representing their constituents.
Money would be allocated for improved health-care services, housing for the homeless, programming at historic sites, clean-up of roadsides, continued Arctic research, protection of the Peel watershed, and much more.
What if communities reclaimed the right to make decisions about what happened around them without huge corporations coming in, making promises, and possibly destroying local environments and local economies?
What if we could take care of the needy in our communities without having to beg and grovel for funding year after year? What if we could decide, on the local level, to contribute tax money to efforts for peace rather than to weapons for killing?
We can do this. But we have to care – about the survival of species other than just our own, about future generations, about our personal impact on the environment and on our fellow humans, about what is morally right rather than just how our bank accounts are looking.
And speaking of banks, they are huge corporations, and the service they offer has eroded, too. What shall we do about that? Let’s consider alternatives to the way the world is currently doing business. Let’s reclaim democracy.