Adbusters: Why Harper Gets Away With It

In Canada, the environment dies while the press stands by.

By Dugan Nichols |  Adbusters | Feb. 20, 2013:

Photo: Remy Steinegger

Photo: Remy Steinegger

Thanks to a hyperactive press, the energy baron agenda continues unabated. It’s a dangerous endgame indeed. You’ve heard the buzzwords involved – Enbridge, tar sands, Keystone XL – but maybe only as a jumble, a sick constellation no news official connects the dots to. And such is the consequence of a “watchdog” news industry with no teeth. We’re forced to connect the dots ourselves.

Meanwhile, the State facilitates the madness of capital as the west coast hangs in the balance. Again, the mainstream news cycle misses the gravity of what’s really in store for North America, the continent, the planet.

The reality we face is that, in the name of progress, profit logic, and “job creation,” massive projects predicated on fossil fuels will proceed, including the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat BC – and the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline to the Burrard Inlet. From here, nearly a tanker a day will transport Alberta’s crude oil to Asia, increasing the odds for oil spills off the coast. Already etched on the public consciousness are “Exxon-Valdez” and “Deepwater Horizon” (which exploded on Earth Day for god’s sake). Thanks to coverage after the fact, images of petroleum-slick sea life can still be recalled. How soon until the next catastrophe? We need coverage now. We need awareness of the evils of enterprise.

Corporate collusion equals dying ecosystem. There’s no way around it. Economists can muster all the apologias they want, but such is reality. Now we’re at a tipping point for environmental health. But the direness, the desperation needed to explain the situation is lamentably not found in the paper.

If you question whether the conditions are desperate, go to where the rubber meets the road, in Kitimat, say, or northern Alberta – where machines the size of McMansions gut the earth for sludge, blast it with superheated water, and send it west as a ware for China. As an added irony, tanker traffic must traverse the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in order to reach foreign markets. Ships transporting fossil fuel are forced to sail through trash – if it weren’t so deplorable, it’d almost be funny. But such is the Alice in Wonderland world wrought by capitalism.

Where is the analysis of this? The urgency? It’s relatively stunted within public discourse. Harper remains largely unscathed by the media, and he relies on tricks and alternative communications to reach supporters. The 24-hour news cycle does some of the work for him. In a general ethos of collective forgetfulness, the cycle moves quickly from one story to the next, leaving environmental atrocities to slip through the cracks. Moreover, Harper capitalizes off of local news outlets, which are sycophantic and more willing to toe his line without checking the facts. Through these machinations he is able to spin the stories regarding tankers, pipelines, energy company excess, and for that matter, Afghan detainees and threats to Net Neutrality too.

Standing up to the massive energy enterprise are Defend Our Coast, the Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics, and West Coast Environmental Law – all orgs that represent the best line of defense against ecocide, against Boreal Forest shredding and Canada’s global warming impact. The key to fighting back is using Harper’s own trick to reach conscientious supporters through other channels, such as social media and email. The stakes are high, and the work is ahead of us, but so far protests have had impact. Harper’s already had to back away from some statements regarding tanker traffic and pipelines. But the environment can’t afford for us to rest on these laurels alone.

It’s up to us all to keep the pressure on the State even when the media won’t.

Dugan Nichols is a Ph.D. student interested in cultural theory, race, neo-Marxism, and the way capitalism makes the upside-down world we live in seem natural – or the only way things can be. He’s from Milwaukee, WI but currently lives in Vancouver, B.C for school, and all along skateboarding has been a part of his identity (even though the culture has a major consumerist ethos).

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