This blog will look at environmental and political issues that will affect the quality of life for future generations of all species. Including; sustainability, media labels of "environmental issues," and different kinds of resistance to environmental oppression. I will also post on anything I think someone interested in the aforementioned would be interested in...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ralph Nader on the Corporatization of University Campuses and the Global Economy

this is an article I wrote for the university of regina newspaper The Carillon
on a lecture by Ralph Nader one month ago...
... minus a couple changes that the editor did (without letting me know til after publishing)...

How different would our lives be if we lived in a dictatorship? According to Ralph Nader, not very much. Multi-national corporations have ridiculous amounts of power and influence over legal and policy-making institutions. Not to mention the increasing commercialization of university campuses. Most people don’t notice this happening, and most of the privileged who do aren’t putting up much of a fight.

On September 19, 2007 Ralph Nader spoke to over 700 students and citizens in the university of Regina education auditorium. His topics ranged from the global economy, civic responsibility, a "dangerous convergence of corporate and government power," and corporate influence in post-secondary institutions.

Ralph Nader is a political activist, bestselling author, four-time US presidential candidate, corporate critic, and an active advocate for consumer, human, environmental, and democratic rights. Nader helped establish many governmental and non-governmental organizations (like the Environmental Protection Agency). He also founded and inspired the Public Interest Research Group movement (PIRGs). The recently formed Regina-Public-Interest-Research-Group (RPIRG) is a student-directed and student-funded PIRG, based on Nader’s community-PIRG model.

In the 1950’s Nader is credited with creating enough public awareness and pressure to force the automobile industry into installing mandatory seatbelts after he was enraged into activism by the easily preventable deaths of some of his classmates.

Nader’s lecture topic was ‘The Global Economy.‘ He spoke of a desperate need for an increase in general civic engagement amongst the status quo. Every political riding has bowling leagues, bridge clubs, and bird-watching societies. Why are there no parliament-watching societies? In a democracy, “politicians are only as accountable as we allow them to be.”

Corporate-interest lobbyists are constantly pressuring our politicians to choose the path of most profit. Regardless of all other costs. This is the juggernaut that voter apathy and misinformation have created. In Washington alone there are 35,000 corporate lobbyists, and only 1,500 civic lobbyists. Whose concerns are getting the most attention? Corporations are shaping banking, agricultural, defence, and trade policies right now!

What is Esso’s view on the war in Iraq? General Motors? Peace is not a profitable commodity! No wonder the United States has been at war with one country or another for the past fifty years! According to Nader, the power and wealth concentration of multi-national corporations has grown to monstrous proportions. International trade laws enforced in secret tribunals are overturning national labour and environmental laws. As well as national sovereignty itself. When was the last time a corporation took a stand for disarmament? Solar energy?

Corporations are even patenting life. Through biotechnology, corporations are changing the nature of nature (making it more profitable). Corporate manipulation of post-secondary institutions is growing, as is the resistance to it. Nader posed a rhetorical the question, “How was School Today? Did you learn to believe. Or did you learn to think?”

According to Nader, the solution to the problem is simple. People need to be responsible and informed citizens who vote for candidates they believe in, then hold them accountable to their promises. “The only vote that’s wasted is voting for someone you don’t believe in.”

We also need to change how we measure progress in our society (and how it is reported in mass media). A politician will claim they are doing good in office because GDP is up 3.5%. What about child poverty?! Economic progress is not human progress.

Social change doesn’t come easily, but “our own indifference is our biggest opposition.” Nader suggests we develop a civic personality that is informed, resilient, optimistic, encouraged, and persistent.

Nader also rekindled the memory of our prairie farmer ancestors, who rose up against the big bank and railroad companies. They formed co-ops, forced reforms, and generally kicked ass. Students and the community should not stand idly by as human beings become another natural resource exploited by corporations. Nader challenged students to pressure our own administration to formally draw the line between the public academic interest and corporate-profit driven interest.

Specifically, any interested student could use the RPIRG to look into creating new university policy that draws the line between commercialization and corporate capitalism.

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