The Occupy Wall Street protests are poised to spread worldwide during its fourth week. Many observers are making the links between financial malfeasance, government corruption, social injustice and environmental degradation -- all operating under a skewed system that perpetuates an illusion of infinite growth within the reality of a finite planet. Environmentalist David Suzuki weighs in on why we should care about the protests:
Why have governments spent trillions of dollars in taxpayers' money to bail out financial institutions, many of which fought any notion of government regulation or social assistance, while doing nothing for people who had life savings wiped out or lost homes through foreclosure? And why have governments not at least demanded that the institutions demonstrate some ecological and social responsibility in return? [..]
Why are we rapidly exploiting finite resources and destroying precious natural systems for the sake of short-term profit and unsustainable economic growth? What will we do when oil runs out or becomes too difficult or expensive to extract if we haven't taken the time to reduce our demands for energy and shift to cleaner sources?Why does our economic system place a higher value on disposable and often unnecessary goods and services than on the things we really need to survive and be healthy, like clean air, clean water, and productive soil? Sure, there's some contradiction in protesters carrying iPhones while railing against the consumer system. But this is not just about making personal changes and sacrifices; it's about questioning our place on this planet. [..]
I don't know if the Occupy Wall Street protests will lead to anything. [...But the protests] all show that when people have had enough of inequality, of the negative and destructive consequences of decisions made by people in power, we have a responsibility to come together and speak out.
Like Suzuki, many others like are describing how the protests point to an urgent, broader need to build a more sustainable "post-growth economy" based on deep social change. Whether or not the protests will lead to anything remains to be seen -- at least they have taken over the stage, revealing that 'business as usual' cannot and will not continue.
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