Occupy Wall Street is all over the news these days, and there has been some talk of the link between the economy and the health of our environment. Critics of the 99% protesters have said they have no focused message, but I agree with Kathleen Rogers, who says that we can learn from their passion and spontaneity, something the environmental movement protests in recent years have lacked. Much of what is wrong with society is what’s wrong with the environment, too.
Dominant social classes taking advantage of the lower ones is an age old problem, but right now there is an extra element of hopelessness that big business is all too happy to exploit. They’ve always taken advantage of the working man’s need for food, shelter, and medical care to rake in maximum profits while paying him the lowest possible compensation, but during these times of economic uncertainty a primitive survival instinct is kicking in. Corporations know that we’re willing to do things we wouldn’t tolerate more prosperous times.
This means that our planet is in even greater danger. It’s the perfect time for the 1% to sell us on a coal-fired power plant that will pump 44 pounds of mercury and 921 pounds of lead per year into the Chesapeake Bay, and fill the air in the surrounding communities with carcinogenic fly ash for the children to breathe in. They’ll rake in massive profits over the next forty years while innocent people die of cancer and black lung disease, and the priceless life of the largest American estuary fades. It’s the perfect time to quietly whisk away the Clean Water Act and EPA smog standards; it’s the perfect time get us to allow an oil sands pipeline that could put take our planet past a climate-change point of no return, because all we can see is the “jobs and prosperity” they’re dangling in front of us. If you’re lost in the desert, and a merchant wants to sell you a bottle of sea water, he’ll tell you how great it will feel in your parched mouth; but when he’s long gone with your money and your kidneys are shutting down, you’ll probably think better of your short-sightedness.
Rampant disease and a devastated Earth doesn’t sound like “prosperity” to me. The 1% can’t destroy the environment without the complicity of the 99%–and let’s not forget about the innocent birds, fish, and other life forms who have no voice of their own but are part of the 99% too. It’s up to us to speak for them.
Use your head, and refuse to drink the sea water. Occupy Wall Street’s cause is our cause, and their passion and spontaneity is ours if we unite our message with theirs. This is our chance.