The Power of Money… It is Your Vote

In my last post [Capitalism Reigns … True Democracy is Dead] I discussed my lack of faith in our political system and its leaders to do the right thing.  The world leaders of our most developed nations are far more concerned with issues relating to their economy than about anything else, including the global climate crisis.  Many world leaders have accepted that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and yet they are not willing or able to create significant change in this regard.  Many of our world leaders view global climate and environmental issues as separate or ‘external’ to their more pressing economical issues.  The truth is that the environment is not an externality,  climate change is not separate.  Without a healthy, sustainable planet, there will be NO economy.

Alright, so what do we do with this knowledge?  We need to understand the power of our vote.  And by that I do not mean our vote in our systems of Democratic government – as I’ve said – true democracy is dead.  We need to realize the power of our vote in the reigning system of Capitalism.  In this system we vote virtually every day, but with a different ballet known as the dollar.  We vote every time we exchange capital.  Every time that we hand over money or credit, we are voting for that product.  We are saying that we want that product, that we support that company, or that we support that industry.  We need to think very carefully about how we spend our money.  Many of us are simply voting too much, on things that we don’t need or really even want.  We are often voting for things that do not even make us feel good about ourselves.  This is rampant consumersism, this is capitalism.  This is the power of our vote.  The system of capitalism is more powerful than our systems of government.

Again, what can we do with this knowledge?  We need to accept that quick and important changes are needed for our survival.   And we need to accept that we are in control.  We are in control of what we spend, what we buy, as well as what we do not buy.  We are in control of the decisions we make.  We are in control of what industries we choose to support.  We are in control of our vote.  And all of the little things matter.  The little things add up, especially in a world in which millions upon millions of people are consuming little things every day.  Buy a reusable water bottle, buy a Brita water filter, and save hundreds of plastic bottles every year.  Make that choice.  Choose to support reusable products and don’t vote to support the bottled water industry.   Buy reusable shopping bags [the ones made from recycled plastic] and avoid using plastic or paper bags.  Replace old incandescent light bulbs with compact florescents; vote to support the more sustainable products.  Support local produce growers.  Spend the extra dollar to buy free-range chickens and eggs.  Cut down on fast food.  Every time that you buy fast-food, you are supporting the industry of factory farmed animals and contributing to the poisoning of our food supply.  Yes, indeed the little things matter.  The little things are your vote.  Vote less often, and vote to support organic and sustainable products whenever it is possible.

Further Reading:

Everything From Here to There: How To Put Your Anger to Use Pt. 1 by William Patrick Corgan
Everything From Here to There: How To Put Your Anger to Use Pt. 2 by William Patrick Corgan
Everything From Here to There: How To Put Your Anger to Use Pt. 3 by William Patrick Corgan
Everything From Here to There: How To Put Your Anger to Use Pt. 4 by William Patrick Corgan

Capitalism Reigns … True Democracy is Dead

Democracy is dead.  Capitalism reigns.

This has never been more clear than it is today.  For those of you who followed the Copenhagen summit for global climate change, I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m saying.  Last December, the Presidents, Prime-Ministers, and dignitaries from 192 of the world’s 197 countries met in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss the global climate crisis.  [Ministers of five developing nations boycotted knowing full-well the resulting actions from developed nation’s leaders.]  As predicted, no substantial agreements were made at these very important meetings.  Nothing substantial enough to counter the the effects of climate change.  Nothing substantial enough for us to feel any pride for our leaders.  Instead, the leaders of developed nations did exactly what many would expect they would do.  

Stephen Harper, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and many other leaders put more effort into protecting their economies than in becoming leaders of significant and necessary change.   They sought for agreements in 2020, well into the distant future, and well past their reign of power.

The summit has resulted in the Copenhagen Accord, in which the leaders who have signed have recognized climate change to be one of the greatest challenges faced in our time. Unfortunately, recognition is not enough.  We are way past the time for recognition.  This is a time for action, as quick and drastic changes are needed.  The Copenhagen Accord document that resulted from the summit outlines 12 proposed actions as set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change report (unfccc.int).  However, this Accord is considered by many to be a rather vague document in which there is no accountability for any real or immediate actions.   For many climate change activists, what is outlined in the Copenhagen accord is simply not enough, and many still consider Copenhagen to have been a failed opportunity that could cost the planet and its inhabitants dearly.

We cannot rely on our systems of government to make change.  They do not represent the people, they do not look out for the needs of the people.  Democracy has been hijacked.  We can not rely on our elected leaders to create the changes that are needed in order to protect ourselves from climate change.
Below is the tag cloud from a blog post that asked for the public’s reflections and perceptions of the COP15 summit and its resulting Accord.

Hope in Corporate Partnerships?

A few years ago, after watching the documentary, The Corporation, I remember feeling that I no longer had any faith in democracy.   463px-Movie_poster_the_corporationThe Corporation, which is the most successful Canadian documentary of all time, is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan.  The film and book explore the history and rise of corporate power in the western world –  from small businesses to the giant global powerhouses that we have today.   Throughout the film, the message is clear; corporations in North America have become enormous, and enormously powerful.  Corporations are patholical in their pursuit of profits, and corporations are doing serious and irreperable damage to our planet.  Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of the film is the knowledge that a large number of globe-spanning corporate giants have clearly become more powerful than our systems of government.  Corporate greed and power has grown so strong, that it has managed to manipulate constitutional laws in order to protect the interests and profits of these great giants.  This leads to serious questions of coruption of government and faith in democracy; concerns of whether democracy is serving the people or serving the interest of greedy corperate power houses.

A newer book by Peter Senge (and others), however, sheds a more positive outlook on corporate power.  Necessary RevolutionHis 2008 book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World portrays countless examples of a new kind of organizational partnership.   Giant corporations around the globe are partnering with NGOs (non-government organizations) and not for profit organizations in order to counter or eliminate the harm that they are doing to the planet.  At first, many of these partnerships are very shocking; as an example Coca-Cola is partnering with WWF (the World Wild-life Fund – not the wrestling federation).  Many large corporations have made such partnerships and serious commitments to work towards a sustainable future.  Nike, Google, Costco, Ikea, DuPont, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world.  Now, stop imagining – that world is already emerging.  These partnerships have already begun, and they are beginning to make headway in making substantial difference.  Amoung the most shocking of these partnerships may be the recently announced partnership between Walmart and the Suzuki Foundation.

cokewwfIt seems more logical for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer and bottler to team up with a wrestling federation than with the World Wild-life fund.  Selling beverages at wrestling events would generate revenue, but what does Coca-Cola have to gain from a partnership with the World Wild-life Fund?  Sustainability.  The hope for a sustainable future is what Coke has to gain.  The fact is that Coca-Cola is one of the world leaders in polluting our planet.  It has an enourmous carbon footprint, with manufacturing plants all over the planet.  More importantly, it is an emormous consumer of fresh water, one of our most precious resources.  By partnering with WWF, Coke is doing more than simply making a financial contribution, they are demonstrating a shift in corporate thinking.  This shift is an awakening to the realities that corporations have to face; the reality that current practices are unsustainable.  Coke, as one of the greatest consumers of fresh water on this planet, simply cannot sustain its current production.  This partnership is a realization that the company needs to change how it operates, and that it can benefit from the knowledge of leading NGOs like WWF.

walmart-logoWal-mart, Coca-cola, Costco, Ikea, Home-Depot, McDonalds, etc… these powerhouses aren’t suzuki_logogoing away any time soon.  There seems to be an acknowledgment by many of the leading non-profit organizations in the world of this fact, and a realization in essence that, “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”   Will the partnership between Coke and WWF result in sustainable water use, and health to watertables the world over?  Will a partnership between Wal-mart and the Suzuki Foundation result in sustainable transportation of goods around the planet?  This is a rather new development in the corporate world, and it is very early to see any significant outcomes.  However, there is hope in these partnerships, as they are steps in directions towards living sustainably.  HOPE.

Your thoughts are important.  It’s time to SPEAK UP.  What do you think?

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UPDATE:

This post is receiving significant traffic, often in the amount of several hundred reads each week.   Do me a favour.  Just leave a quick response, and let me know who you are and how you came across this article.  I’m curious to know who’s reading.  If you’d like to share your thoughts about the article, that would be great.

Thanks for reading,

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Ryan