In this opinion piece, published on Al Jazeera English, Chip Ward connects the Occupy movement which protests against social and economic inequality with today’s ecological crisis. Ward argues that the assault on the middle class and the assault on the environment are two sides of the same coin. “Mother Nature is among the disenfranchised, exploited and struggling”, Ward writes.
The whole text is definitely worth a read, so be sure to read it. Here are some key quotes:
“The 99 per cent pay for wealth disparity with lost jobs, foreclosed homes, weakening pensions and slashed services, but Nature pays, too. In the world the one-percenters have created, the needs of whole ecosystems are as easy to disregard as, say, the need the young have for debt-free educations and meaningful jobs.
[…] Extreme disparity and deep inequality generate a double standard with profound consequences. If you are a CEO who skims millions of dollars off other people’s labour, it’s called a “bonus”. If you are a flood victim who breaks into a sporting goods store to grab a lifejacket, it’s called looting. If you lose your job and fall behind on your mortgage, you get evicted. If you are a banker-broker who designed flawed mortgages that caused a million people to lose their homes, you get a second-home vacation-mansion near a golf course.
If you drag heavy fishnets across the ocean floor and pulverise an entire ecosystem, ending thousands of years of dynamic evolution and depriving future generations of a healthy ocean, it’s called free enterprise. But if, like Tim DeChristopher, you disrupt an auction of public land to oil and gas companies, it’s called a crime and you get two years in jail.
[…] The same bottom-line quarterly-report fixation on profitability that accepts oil spills as inevitable also accepts unemployment as inevitable. Tearing apart wildlife habitat to make a profit and doing the same at a workplace are just considered the price of doing business. Clearcutting a forest and clearcutting a labor force are two sides of the same coin.
[…] The fundamental contradiction of our time is this: We have built an all-encompassing economic engine that requires unending growth. A contraction of even a per cent or two is a crisis, and yet we are embedded in ecosystems that are reaching or have reached their limits.
[…] Like so much else these days, the crash, as it happens, will not be suffered in equal measure by all of us. The one percenters will be atop the hill, while the 99 per cent will be in the flood lands below swimming for their lives, clinging to debris or drowning. The Great Recession has previewed just how that will work.
An unsustainable economy is inherently unfair and worse is to come. After all, the car is heading for the cliff’s edge, the grandkids are in the backseat, and all we’re arguing about is who can best put the pedal to the metal.
Another good read on the Occupy movement and the ecological crisis is this piece by Ian Angus and Simon Butler on Grist. They have a little different angle where they focus on our capitalistic system and overpopulation. “The capitalist system and the power of the 1%, not population size, are the root causes of today’s ecological crisis,” they write.