Sunday 10 October 2010
I’ve just finished watching bits and pieces of a documentary about the Exxon Valdez mess, and it got me thinking about accountability. Particularly of the corporate variety. Now, I’m not opposed to big corporations doing their thing, that is, making money. By all means, do so. There’s nothing wrong with that. It would be hypocritical of me be affronted by that, as I am a very big fan of money. However, take some responsibility for what you do.
The town I live in, was born in, grew up in, left and came back to, is surrounded by industry – literally. Coalmines, and power stations surround the majority of the town. There is a bauxite refinery just out of town in another direction. Approval for a urea plant to be built on the outskirts of town in yet another direction has just been announced. In fact, it’s impossible to enter or exit town, without passing by major industry. Major industry that doesn’t like to employ people from this town; major industry that pollutes, and rapes the environment; major industry that believes adequate compensation is to sponsor local sporting teams, pay for the widening and lighting of an intersection leading to the refinery, give solar panels to schools, blah, blah, blah.
I think that the donation of solar panels to schools is excellent. However, part of the deal to get these solar panels, involves the schools actively attempting to reduce the energy usage within the school. Again, that’s awesome. I totally agree with this, in principle. The subterfuge occurs within the industry. An industry that uses masses of electricity provided by the power stations in town; an industry that consumes masses of local water; an industry that has cut down many, many hectares of bush land to expand business, and has only compensated by replanting a very small number of trees as a “buffer zone”. Hypocrisy in action, I think.
The town I live in, was born in, grew up in, left and came back to, also has one of the highest rates of breast cancer diagnosis in Australia – at least, that’s what mum and I were told on the day she was diagnosed. As you can imagine, it was a fact that was of little importance to us nine years ago when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. At the time she was diagnosed, approximately ten other women in town were also dealt that hand. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidence when all of the women came from different backgrounds: some had been born here, others moved into town, some (like my mum) were born overseas and their parents had arrived in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. Each year, the number of new cases diagnosed, is around the ten or eleven mark.
What do the major industries in town do about this? Nothing. It’s not their problem, is it? It’s not like they spew copious amounts of emissions into the air. And really, what industry would commission an investigation into something that would conceivably incriminate them, and lead to huge compensation payouts. You’d have to be an idiot to agree to that. These corporations are savvy to this sort of situation, are they not? I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that the high incidence of cancer in this town may have something to do with the type of industry that we are surrounded by – coalmines, power stations, and a bauxite refinery. And soon, we have the addition of the urea plant. Total awesomeness. Yes, I meant that with as much sarcasm as I can muster.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been accused of being a “greenie”, and the fact of the matter is this: I do think of myself as someone who cares about the environment, I just don’t do dumbass things like chain myself to heavy machinery or trees, in order to make a point. I honestly believe that the zealous protestations of the more radical environmentalists are futile. Very few people listen to them because they look and behave like petulant children unable to get their own way. I think that type of protesting does little to garner support from “regular” people. I also think that more people would listen, and pay attention to, protestors who dealt with the situations logically, and used well-developed arguments and tangible evidence to deliver their points. And I know it’s really not cool to say this, but people, take a bath, get rid of the dreadlocks, clean yourselves up, get rid of the hippy clothing (no offence to hippies), look like adults who live in the real world not tree houses, and just maybe, people will start to listen to you. Oh, and stop with the radical and overtly theatrical actions. In my experience, the greater population switch off and don’t pay attention to what you’re trying to say. You do little for “the cause” when you look, say, and act the way you do. Folks, first impressions DO count.
It’s not just big corporations that should be accountable for their actions. I firmly believe that everyone should be held up to the same standard of accepting responsibility and being accountable. I’m sure I come across as being completely naïve, and maybe I am, but to me it seems simple. Accept responsibility. Be accountable. I don’t see myself as someone who is perfect. Believe me, I’m the first to admit that I’m ridiculously far from being perfect. I make mistakes, but generally, I’ll admit to them. Generally . . . except that one time involving the – yeah, you thought you’d catch me out, didn’t you?
Imagine our world, if everyone took responsibility and held themselves up to be accountable. Imagine if everything we did and said was transparent. Imagine how different things would be. Idealistic? Yep. Illogical? Probably. Naïve? Most likely. Hopeful? Absolutely.