David Suzuki: Occupy movement puts decisions and democracy back into the hands of people

The laws of physics tell us we can’t build a rocket that will travel faster than the speed of light, that gravity governs objects on Earth, and that perpetual motion machines are not possible. In chemistry, diffusion constants, reaction rates, and atomic properties set the limits of chemical reactions and types of molecules that can be synthesized. Biology dictates our absolute need for clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, and biodiversity for our survival and health.

Those are laws of nature and we can’t change them. We have to live within their boundaries. Capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, corporations, currency, markets, and regional borders are not forces of nature. We invented them. If they don’t work, we can and must change them.

Instead we try to alter nature to fit our priorities. Look at what happened at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. We saw 192 nations gathered to deal with the atmosphere that belongs to no one—192 national borders, 192 economic priorities, trying to shoehorn nature to fit our creations. We should be looking for ways to make our systems work with nature, not the other way around.

It’s a message that’s starting to emerge from the Occupy movement. It’s not just about the one percent who rake in an ever-increasing proportion of society’s wealth while 99 percent bear the real costs. It’s also about corporate power and the systems that facilitate it. A few corporations have become bigger than most governments.

Occupiers know, because so many are young, that the inequities represented by the one percent today are also intergenerational. Although not all corporations are bad, many of them, and the super-rich who run them, are increasing their wealth at the expense of generations to come—exhausting resources, extinguishing species, and poisoning air, water, and soil. The costs of those problems will be most strongly felt by successive generations to come, yet economists discount them.

Why do the governments we elect to look after our well-being and future act as cheerleaders for the corporate sector? Because money talks.

Corporations may produce or do things that we need and that are good for society, but their real mandate is to make money, and the more they make and the faster they make it, the better. Corporations are said to be the economic engines of society. But as Joel Bakan explains in his book The Corporation, when profit is their primary goal, corporate leaders will fight to reduce their share of taxes, demand subsidies, oppose regulations, and 500 of employees for the sake of the bottom line.

Globalization does not encourage the highest standards for workers, communities, or ecosystems. Instead, corporations often go for the lowest standards of medical care, wages, and environmental regulations because it’s all about maximizing profit. The global economy means our garbage and toxic effluents are shared with the world, dumped into the air, water, and land.

When you buy running shoes, a cellphone, or a car, it’s almost impossible to know whether slave or child labour was involved in its production. How can you be aware of the ecological impacts or the toxic materials that may be generated in the manufacturing process? These costs are hidden, yet each time we make a purchase, we become part of that system that exploits people and ecosystems.

To me, the Occupy movement is about putting decisions and democracy back into the hands of people. We need democracy for people, not corporations; we want greater equity; we demand social justice; and we want to recognize and protect our most fundamental needs—clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, biological diversity, and communities that support our children with love and care.

My generation and the boomers who followed have lived like reckless royalty and thoughtlessly partied like there’s no tomorrow. We forgot the lessons taught to us by our parents and grandparents who came through the Great Depression: live within your means and save some for tomorrow; satisfy your needs and not your wants; help your neighbours; share and don’t be greedy; money doesn’t make you a better or more important person. Well, the party’s over. It’s time to clean up our mess and think about our children and grandchildren.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Comments (16) Add New Comment
NoLeftNutter
What a joke...the Westcoast Watermelon weighs in and gets it wrong once again. The occupy movement is exactly the opposite of democracy, it's anarchy by a small group of malcontents who want nothing more than more of somenone elses. DS is one of the 1% with amongst the highest standard of living and one of the world's largest carbon footprints. How does this hypocritical crap get published?.
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ja
"NoLeftNutter"? I guess not. Definitely a "RightNutter". You don't even address any of DS's points...because you can't disagree with them because they are true.
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equal opportunity
I would believe Suzuki when he stops charging $50,000 to speak at an event!!

What an hypocrite!!

Lets him disclose his income and net worth and everyone will know that he likes the alleged 99%, but belongs to the 1%!!

Hei David S. lets us know how much you make a year?? And how many tax shelters you use NOT to pay taxes, which could help the homeless.

I am not going to held my breath!!
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the real ODB
Hey, numb nuts. Oh, sorry "NoNutsLeft"! Time for a reality check. You "RightWingNutters" are big on checks (and balances). But you wouldn't recognize a "externality" if it flew out of your grande latte and bit you on the ass! Find out what the "Occupy" movement is really about. Then you may have something half ass intelligent to say. But I doubt it.
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Save Vancouver
Why isn't there a thumbs down option for Suzuki's gaseous emissions?
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Exile on Main St.
sounds like an invite for the occupy gang to move to Dave's place in Point Grey
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monty/that'sme
I am of the same generation as you, Dr. Suzuki,. You are the only one of our group that spends recklessly (of course that's because you have profitted so much from your verbiage). Party enlessly--that is the boomers, not my group. You admit you have forgotten what your parents tried to teach you. What a shame. Have you forgotten the encampments at Greenwood and New Denver, too?Too bad. Why are you jumping aboard the Occupy Vancouver movement? Seeking more attention?
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Just Wondering
Bang on Mr.Suzuki, I could not have said it better myself. Only cheerleaders would be looking for any excuse to get rid of the occupy movement.
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Anti-Human Network
Maybe all of the Occupy bleeding hearts and hippies should quit blaming everyone else and look at the own habits. We all are supporting the corporations and other greedy little pigs by purchasing all of their goods. We have the purchasing power to slow down the 1%.
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blueheron
How many homes does the sanctimonious David Suzuki own? Four? Five? He is Canada's Al Gore; there's one rule for us ordinary mortals and a completely different resource-hogging rule for him. Like Kalle Lasn of Adbusters, who vilifies automobiles yet drives a Toyota, Suzuki does not expect to be held to the same standard as we, of the working class, are. At least Lasn admits that he's a walking contradiction. Suzuki is a wealthy hypocrite.
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Piscapo
It would be good to see at least once some commenters actually addressing the arguments rather than relying on ridiculous ad hominen attacks and falsehoods -- but that would take some actual rational thinking. And that would be hard!
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urban ranger
Suzuki as usual goes on and on and on. He seems like an angry little man. "My generation and the boomers who followed have lived like reckless royalty and thoughtlessly partied like there’s no tomorrow".

So shouldn't you be apologizing instead of always blowing hot air?
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blueheron
Piscapo: One of the signs says "Winter is Coming. The 99% have woken up. Scared yet?"

"Scared" of what?

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Conscientious Gamer
Democracy is always in the hands of the people.

Occupy the Polls. Change is Pragmatic, Not Automatic.
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Joe Smith
@Piscapo

DS's rhetoric doesn't come from the heart. It doesn't inspire. He doesn't walk the talk. His arguments are no longer arguments, they've become worn-out clichés.

The problem for the occupy movement, or for that matter any other movement that challenges the status quo growth economy, is the lack of credible role-models in society.

Problem = get famous ->get rich -> get corrupt.

People devoid of internal conflicts with one track minds accomplish things. The obejctive needs to get narrowed down to one goal that can be expressed in a very short sentence. It would be interesting to see if the occupy mov't could produce such a leader, from the current primordial soup.
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Piscapo
@Joe Smith: See, you have no real argument and you have refused to address any of the substance of the article - just nasty personal attacks, at least one falsehood, and an irrational call for one short sentence to deal with a huge number of problems. Thanks for proving my point.
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