Often, people who are sick of the debate over healthcare, guns and everything else here in the US will say how they just wish they could move to away to some other country, Canada is usually the number one choice. National healthcare, homicides by firearms just 1/6th of the United States, and gay marriage was legalized there way back in 2005.
But corporate influences on government and the resulting failed policies aren’t a phenomenon confined strictly to the United States. In 2011, a government friendly to mining and energy companies came to power in the Yukon Territories up in Canada. Now native peoples face the loss of pristine, untouched lands forever to drilling, strip mines and fracking.
In the fall of 2011, elections brought the Yukon Party, which is heavily supported by mining interests, into power. Currie Dixon, a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly who serves as Minister of Environment and Minister of Economic Development, said, “The vast majority of my colleagues and I indicated we weren’t comfortable with the plan. The commission’s process wasn’t flawed, but the product produced by the commission was. And since we won a majority government, we felt a mandate to proceed in a manner that was the correct one.”
The government’s new plan sets aside only 29 percent of the Peel region as “protected lands.” It prohibits new claim-staking in these areas, but allows miners to build roads to reach and develop existing mineral claims.
“How can they even call them ‘protected lands,'” asks Baltgailis, “when the plan allows mines and all-weather roads for industrial development right along rivers that are major tourism destinations? Given that most of the Yukon is already open for development, do they not see the need to protect some large, last great wilderness areas?” (Source)
Originally the agreement was supposed to only allow mining in small area and leave most of the wilderness untouched. However, with the new government, that all went out the window. That 29 percent that is being left as “protected”? There will still be roads crisscrossing that area, with large trucks belching exhaust into the sky. This isn’t just Canada or the recent chemical spill in West Virginia where entire mountaintops have been removed to get at the coal seams below; this is happening everywhere that corporate interests have a stranglehold on government, the will or traditions of the people be damned.
Just look at the new acceleration of the deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil, or the land and resource grabs in Africa which enrich foreign developers while the rightful owners of the land remain in desperate poverty. Unless you are a member of the 1%, the chances are slim to none that any of this development will be beneficial to your economic state.
An example of this can be found in Niger, a country with one of the lowest human development indices on the planet but rich in mineral resources. This is a place where AREVA, the French public nuclear energy giant has been exploiting uranium for 40 years now, scarcely providing any opportunity for development. On the contrary, AREVA’s operations have proved to be largely destructive. AREVA’s negligent mismanagement of the extraction process has caused radioactive substances to be released into the air, seep into the groundwater and contaminate the soil around the mining towns damaging the local ecosystem and creating a multitude of health problems for the local population. High exposure to radioactivity leads to respiratory problems, birth defects and cancers. In the localities of Arkit and Akokan, the uranium concentration was above the WHO recommended limit for drinking water. In the mining towns, radiation levels were found to be up to almost 500 times higher than normal. This situation is source of concern because while Nigeriens are exposed to radiation, illness and poverty, AREVA is making billions from their natural resources. Little effort is made by the multinational to take into account the well-being of its workers, the surrounding populations and the environment.
There is nothing wrong with capitalism in which a business provides goods and services and thrives or fails depending on the demand for their products. But this isn’t real capitalism, this is corporate welfare run amuck all around the world. It is a system in which only the richest and most powerful can thrive while the rest of us hope for a few scraps to fall from the tables of the 1%. And this is the system which we better hope will eventually crumble, if it doesn’t destroy us all first.
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