Corporate Control & the Profitability of “Consent”

What do Pinehouse, Saskatchewan and COP18 in Doha, Qatar have in common?

They are both under siege by some of the wealthiest extractive corporations in the world.  At the UN climate negotiations the Chairman of Qatar Petroleum presides over COP18, while CEO’s and other higher-ups of corporations such as Shell, Exxon and others freely wander about the conference center and hold self-congratulatory “sustainability” weekend events for delegates to attend, hiding behind a green washed veneer of social responsibility. Meanwhile, youth are finding their voices increasingly stifled in any meaningful way when it comes to dialogue with the architects of their future.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, reports are emerging around a “collaboration” agreement between Cameco Corporation, Areva Resources and the town of Pinehouse. Cameco and Areva are effectively offering to buy their way into the town, which sits upon the largest undeveloped high-grade uranium deposit in the world.

While offering a lump sum payment coupled with annual deposits into a Pinehouse “trust fund”, in return these corporations are seeking that (and here I quote verbatim from the proposed agreement) “Pinehouse is expected to fully support Cameco/Areva’s mining” and “(Pinehouse) Not make statements or say things in public or to any government, business or agency that opposes Cameco/Areva’s mining operations; Make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco/Areva’s mining, or do or say anything that is not consistent with Pinehouse’s promises under the Collaboration Agreement.”

These may seem like two separate issues but at the crux they are about voice. Who gets heard when making decisions that affect current and future generations? It would seem that these days, whether at home in Saskatchewan or here in Qatar, those with the money are those who do the talking. We are rewarding those who already have the most privilege and silencing those who do not – be it through monetary offerings, lack of access to vital channels of communication or by encouraging social control of dissent.

I have spent a lot of time thinking over my reasons for coming to COP18, especially in times of greater than ever youth marginalization. It seems to me that regardless of where we find ourselves in the world, those of us who speak up and push back are increasingly labeled the troublemakers, the deviations from the “norm” and the “radicals”.

This type of polarizing response, from the UN and from mining companies in Saskatchewan, is a desperate attempt to claim any remaining mainstream political space for themselves, an effort to cling to the final vestiges of empire and control. For anyone invested in changing these systems, it is vital that we being to reclaim these spaces (from the municipal, as in Pinehouse, to the international, as at the UN) as our own. It would be very easy to give up and say that there is no point in speaking out against destructive processes such as these, but if we were to withdraw at any level, we lose.

In my heart, I know that our effectiveness at the moment is measured in the amount of pushback and attempts to stifle us. I know that the corporate elite, both here and at home, is waking up to the threat the climate justice movement poses, because it is one based on human, not monetary, value. And that is what drives me to keep going; that is what gives me hope.

8 Responses to “Corporate Control & the Profitability of “Consent””
  1. larryapowell says:

    If it is true that the Chair of Qatar Petroleum is actually chairing these climate talks, it surely represents a new low for the credibility of such events. This is an outrage.

  2. David says:

    I hear what you are saying and on the surface, I don’t like this kind of thing either. But I don’t think there is a legal leg to stand on in terms of enforcement if an individual who did not personally sign the agreement decides to voice an unfavorable opinion of the project. The community in general may suffer as there may be an attempt to recover payments if any dissent results in a successful restraint of or the hindrance of the project. I think that the reason such a proposal is made is because of the interference of unaffected NGO’s who descend on an area once the project is announced and look for any parties who do not support the project. Some groups are opposed to any extraction activities regardless of benefit. I am fine with opposition based on fact and certainly in the case where communities will be harmed. Otherwise, I feel development is necessary and inevitable. So go ahead and oppose the project, there is nothing in that agreement that would prevent that. Nor will other residents be prevented, unless they personally signed the agreement – i.e. they can’t be sued. They certainly can be pressured by peers, but that is something they all have to deal with. We are all placed in situations at times in our lives where we have to make decisions based on moral and social considerations.

  3. larryapowell says:

    “David,” I believe you should step up and identify yourself. Sounds like you are on the payroll of one of the corporations in question! Perhaps your job is to surf the net and counter dissent with your own, slick remarks designed to gloss over the very real, even tragic picture painted by this young author. (What do you mean, “On the surface, I don’t like this kind of thing, either”? Does this mean that, deep down, you do?) I’d suggest, if you don’t step up and do what I suggest soon, in this same space, we can all conclude that my assumptions about you are correct! Show some backbone….tell us all who you really are!

  4. David says:

    No Larry, I am not paid by anyone to surf the web and counter opinion. I am simply an individual with an opinion and who is ready to express it. What do you care about who I am? If what I say is wrong, then counter it on its own merit. But instead, you try to negate my message by besmirching my character buy raising questions about who pays me. For your information, I currently am staying at home to ensure my kids have the important guidance they need as they navigate through junior and senior high school. My response is simply the response of someone who it sick and tired of the whining and complaining of the anti-development crowd. I say again, those who truly oppose the development are not muzzled and can speak up if it is that important to them. They only have to decide whether the money or current state of their community is important to them. Try to find a more substantial argument next time – this tactic is getting old. Any what I mean by “on the surface” is that this thing sound really bad if you just look at the headlines. But if you look deeper into it you find that it is not as restrictive as you think. I don’t even have to read the agreement to know that my city council can’t agree to a muzzle contract on my behalf. Ridiculous.

  5. larryapowell says:

    Thanks for your measured response, David. If I was over the top, I apologize. I guess I am cursed with being an individual who sees something of the big picture that is happening to our planet. To be “pro-development” is too often to watch our resources disappear, our environment and food shrivel and our soil, forests oceans and air beset by more demands from we humans than it can handle. To look to the ways of the past (i.e. expensive and dangerous nuclear and even disruptive and hugely damaging hydro power) as somehow being acceptable “alternatives” as energy sources, is to continue to cling to methods which have failed miserably in past, all the while expecting they will somehow have a different outcome in the future. (As to my suspicion that you were an industry “shill,” I am now convinced that you are not. However, I do know from life experience that there are, indeed, such people on coroporate payrolls out there. Thanks for answering my comment.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] in Qatar as part of the Canadian Youth Delegation to the COP18 UN conference on climate change. Read her blog post addressing the Cameco/Areva collaboration agreement with […]

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