Corporate Control & the Profitability of “Consent”
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.