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Posted: June 28, 2020

Cheerleaders and the house of cards

By Dr. Brian Horejsi

Op-Ed Commentary

Canada, like most nations in today’s world, suffers from a political system – both structurally and in process – that is dominated by corporations, commercialism, and the ideological doctrine that more and faster is better, and growth in numbers and consumption is always good.

Part of the problem is the rise of corporate, media and political cheerleaders and their rah-rah chants that all will be well if we just manage to keep the wheels rolling. Even though it concentrates at the top 10% of the earnings-wealth scale, you need not worry; it’ll trickle down and you’ll get some too.

It has proven unfortunate, that over the past several decades, when clear thinking, scientifically sound and legally entrenched environmental protection measures could have been in place, mainstream North American media, from print to television, got infected with the cheerleader virus. It is astonishing, but some papers even run only “good” news editions.

A critical part of this promotionalism is a debt fuelled economy in which thousands of small (and too many large) businesses barely eke out an existence provided growth and cash flow continue on a predictable, daily basis.

So thin is this veneer that a week’s disruption causes many of these to collapse and, as we are seeing, call immediately for public assistance. This sense of urgency is infused in industries that consume public resources as well; lumber mills demand a constant flow of trees (and logging) even when old growth is endangered and caribou populations are going extinct. Livestock owners demand access to critical wildlife habitat for their cattle; off roaders and mountain bikers cry for more roads even in protected landscapes, and people jostle for beach and park space, violating personal spacing rules with impunity.

Yet, urgent discussion of the fundamental reality of our landscapes ecological and environmental limits and sinking capacity to support a world with too many people, bloated resource consumption and virtually unrestrained human expectations, are unable to earn space in the public eye let alone in the regulatory and legal world that would signify and empower a potent democracy.

Seemingly inconsequential realities like tax write offs for advertising that promotes consumption, tax subsidies and handouts for industries that are chewing up public land and heating our airspace, bleeding off public funding by non-profits and special interest like the aboriginal industry, are all forms of economic cheerleading and political cherry-picking. All have helped fuel damaging and growing crises instigated by too many people and too much consumption. Crises like housing, income and opportunity inequality and immigration that has broken down natural barriers and distorted local economies, and now disease that moves freely around the world.

I suspect that few people around the world see this coronavirus shock as the all-encompassing signal to citizens and governments; the canary that signals to us that all is well is finally falling off its perch.

We will not put it back by reverting to economic –market – government alliances and practices that have “flattened” us for the past three months. Even more threatening is the rampant exploitation of taxpayers’ money by businesses demanding “recovery.” All this is magnified by attacking and “suspending” environmental protection regulations and democratic decision-making processes that had at one time, at least superficially, offered hope of reform that would set us on a path to downsizing human populations, consumption, and behavioural excess.

The sheer stupidity of getting out of the hole by digging deeper and faster reflects the economic agenda that forced us into a political and ecological landscape that can no longer sustain even a fraction of existing human numbers and activities.

– Dr.  Horejsi is a wildlife and forest ecologist and resident of B.C. He writes about environmental affairs, public resource management and governance and their entrenched legal and social bias.

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