The Occupy Movement Is Dead – Long Live Participatory Democracy!

What is it with Canadian corporations and the destruction of natural ecosystems? It seems, not content with devastating an area of boreal forest the size of the UK to extract the dirtiest of oil beneath – the infamous tar sands of Alberta – another Canadian mining corporation, Gabriel Resources Ltd., is set to flatten four peaks of the Apuseni mountain range in Romania, the town of Rosia Montana and adjacent villages and leave in its wake a massive lake of toxic tailings including deadly cyanide. All this plunder for a bit of gold – something that will merely fan the dying embers of an utterly corrupt and unsustainable economic system.

It doesn’t take much to envisage what the world would look like if activists such as those in Romania who are systematically opposing this pillage of the earth are silenced: it would be barren, grey and empty, bereft of birds and butterflies, of the clear streams and biodiversity that once bejeweled the landscape. Who’d want to live in that world? Certainly not the CEOs and shareholders of the corporations that profit from this despoilation. Oh no, it is indigenous people, first nations people, farm labourers and peasants who, all over the world, have to pick up the pieces after such corporate ransacking; who pay the price in terms of debilitating illness and unrelenting poverty as their crops fail and animals succumb to the poisoned land.

This situation puts me in mind of the American Indian proverb: “Only when the last tree has been cut down; only when the last river has been poisoned; only when the last fish has been caught; only then will you realise you can’t eat money.” The giant industrial maw is out of control, destroying everything in its path, laying waste to beauty and vitality, leaving in its wake a bleak future.  

However, there are rays of light – glimmers of hope – in this shadowland. There are people all over the world who haven’t forgotten the wisdom of their ancestors and who are coming together in the name of ‘participatory democracy’ to ensure that their voice is heard; that they are not silent witnesses to the crime of ecocide. font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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There are many reasons for this: a deep distrust by Romanians of their government; and of multinational exploitation of Romanian resources, but also the memory of the cyanide spill at the Baie Mare gold mine in 2000, Europe’s worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl. As Luke Dale-Harris wrote in his recent article in Spiegel Online, “Everywhere it seems, the Romanians see the mine as a form of robbery, facilitated by their government but conducted from abroad, and for which the country will pay the price.”violent protests. Just like that other form of mining – hydraulic fracturing – that is gearing-up in the UK, there is a dash to extract the earth’s mineral wealth, no matter what the cost to people and planet.

What the situation in Rosia Montana highlights is that we all need to become adept at ‘participatory democracy’ or the art of activism, because soon, it might just be in our backyards. Our brothers and sisters in Romania and Alberta, in Greece and Balcombe (Sussex, UK) are all standing up against the cynical exploitation of the earth, our one, precious home.

On Sunday September 15th there is a font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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