Photo: Occupy movement demands fresh thinking - for our grandchildren

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. (Credit : focusedcapture via Flickr).

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist

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.

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It's a message that's starting to emerge from the Occupy movement. It's not just about the one per cent who rake in an ever-increasing proportion of society's wealth while 99 per cent 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 per cent 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 fire hundreds 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.

November 10, 2011

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Apr 24, 2014
5:56 AM

I can see te facebook and Tweeter button, but where is the google button to share this page with mi folowers on mi profile?

Dec 08, 2011
6:12 PM

Hi David,

Although I also believe that the Occupy Movement is about keeping democracy in the hands of the people, I worry that the majority of voters are the older generations. How can we utilize the Occupy Movement to engage them to support and vote for political leaders who have the same values as them such as social and economic justice, the environment, etc?

A hopeful future politician Vanessa Hamilton Brandon, MB

Follow me on twitter (I just joined!) @NessaHamilton1

Nov 21, 2011
12:25 PM

The occupy movement has grown out of frustration about the damage being done to society and our environment by the collective actions of a multitude of multinational corporations and their political sock puppets throughout the globe. You can’t reason with them because a corporation isn’t a real person despite the assertions of some in recent days and they only care about one thing: money. Because of their stranglehold on global economic matters they have gained the ability to control governments in what has been described by historians and philosophers of politics as inverted totalitarianism or more politely totalitarian democracy. The roots of this situation go back so far most of the occupy movement had not been born during it’s rise but we are all certainly feeling the effects.

The first thing that has to happen to help the environment is for a massive increase in consciousness to take place. Many real people who are contributing to the problem do so unwittingly so the next step now that occupy has every bodies attention is education. Education on how the pursuit of material wealth and all the negatives that go with it have become confused with having a life. It’s going to be a tough sell because we are addicted to gadgets and the situation has been in place so long it feels almost like it’s natural, but this is no substitute for a rich and fulfilling social, cultural, spiritual and intellectual life shared by the 100%.

Nov 14, 2011
6:08 PM

I agree that must be a better way to run our society that would lead to more equality but it would be more productive toward meaningful change for the occupy vancouver followers to concider these wise words….

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― Richard Buckminster Fuller

They are now wasting everyones time in Vancouver. Your organization would be doing everyone a great service to encourage those still on the art gallery property to pack up, clean up and move to another venue to continue their protest. If all they can do is protest they will never accomplish anything. One needs to have a plan and an achievable goal in order to make progress. From my observation the occupy vancouver group have neither.

Nov 14, 2011
3:38 AM

The web link shows an option other than taxation for a Reduction in Exigence of Growth of Avarice as Indicative of voter Nobility. (REGAIN) the trouble with taxation is that the government gets confused as to whether the rich are bad cause their greedy or good cause of the possibility of tax income. I've recently moved from Ontario to Occupy (wall-street) Montreal and I'm encouraged to be with a similarly intentioned group. It's good to see Berlusconi resigned from parliament and let's keep it up with "Anti-monopolia media Berlu". Thanks to the Suzuki foundation from the guy with the big sign sign on his bicycle. "velo" Cures

Nov 10, 2011
7:30 PM

I initially felt good about "Occupy Wall st" etc But now I am very disappointed, one dead ( drugs), one seriously ill( drugs). If the young want to be taken seriously, dont give the authorities an excuse to label you "hippies" or worse. Get organised, arrange for proper sanitation, make your tent cities neat and tidy. Stay away from drugs and booze.

Make us all proud of you. Young men and women have given their lives for this country. Could you not be just a little more responsible?

You CAN do it! It just needs guts not drugs!

Nov 10, 2011
1:44 PM

L'indignation comme émotion souvent viscérale est le commencement d'un mouvement probablement planétaire qui devra s'organiser dans ses convictions profondes et dans ses priorités. Dans le moment sa semble être une réaction à tout un système mettant en danger l'environnement dans lequel nous vivons, assurant l'enrichissement que d'une infime minorité. Les conglomérats économiques sont tellement devenus puissants et les gouvernements tellement à leur chevet que ces individus incapable de savoir où donner de la tête et se sentant trop en dehors des normes de notre société, et bien ses individus se sont rassemblés et de cette façon il manifestes leur indignation. Ils ont maintenant besoin de s'organiser, de se structurer et de se renouveller afin de cibler plus concrètement les raisons de leur indignation et comme en France, les intellectuels de se monde doivent les aiders à structurer leur pensée afin de savoir où fournir les efforts dans les actions de leur mouvement. Votre grande sagesse est toujours aussi inspirante et réflexive! Merci pour tout!

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