In 1972, Abenaki singer and filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin said something that has been quoted many times by many people, usually without attribution.
“Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”
I thought of that earlier this week, when Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver commented on the International Energy Agency’s forecast of a rapid increase in U.S. oil production:
“They’re simply not going to need to buy as much from us and so we can’t rely as much on the U.S. market. If we don’t find new markets, the resources will be left in the ground and the legacy will be lost. So it is crucial.” (Globe and Mail Nov. 12, 2012)
For capitalist demagogues like Joe Oliver, any oil that isn’t extracted, sold and burned is a lost legacy. If the petro-vandals haven’t devastated indigenous communities, poisoned rivers, killed wildlife, destroyed forests and wetlands, and driven global warming into overdrive, they just aren’t working hard enough.
When it comes to defending earth’s legacy, I stand with Alanis Obomsawin. You can’t eat petro-dollars.