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Who runs this Mother … Earth, that is?

By Lottie V. Spady

This is the second in a series of columns on the 14th Environmental Justice principle: Environmental Justice opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.

A multi-national corporation is a corporation enterprise that manages production or delivers services in more than one country. A few of the many U.S. multi-national corporations are Coca-Cola, Exxon, Dell, Nike, Wal-Mart, Yahoo and Xerox.

In researching information for this article, I stumbled upon the frightening fact that of the world’s 175 largest economic entities, 63.4 percent (or 111) are corporations. Also, the largest three — Shell, Exxon and Wal-Mart — individually are larger than approximately 55 percent of the total number of countries in the world, according to Fortune Magazine.

Now, I played the classic board game Monopoly well into my recent years and I’m fearing for my St. James Place right about now.

What kind of power and influence does this represent as far as global decision-making on environmental issues? As Victoria Goff illustrated in last week’s column, when corporations have control of this magnitude, they shift the values of human rights to money and profits. The right to a clean environment with healthy, safe living conditions has become something accessible by only a privileged few.

The concern around the corporations’ ability to amass great power and its detrimental effect on human-kind as a whole is not just blooming. As Abraham Lincoln stated in an1864 letter to Colonel William F. Elkins:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” (Source: The Lincoln Encyclopedia)

The reign of the corporation is far reaching. Corporate influence seeps into the nooks and crannies of everyday life via advertising and through control of the media. Its persuasive touch can be seen financing elections, creating “citizen” interest groups, and helping to shape local, national and international economic and political agreements and public policy.

The rising tide of consumerism is fed by this corporate influence as well. Rampant consumerism is making the planet a land filled with mountains of car bodies, discarded cell phones and the plastics of our lives.

This is capitalism by any means necessary. Automotive, mining, oil and chemical corporations are some of the biggest polluters and influencers. These corporations use their financial might to promote false solutions such as “clean coal,” to discredit climate change efforts and some have been known to urge the military to harass, even kill, community members who speak out in protest around the environmental abuse and other problematic practices of their operations. Even though these business operations do contribute to the economy, they all too often wreak havoc on the natural resources and the communities on which they are seated, contaminating soil, air and water with toxic, disease-causing pollutants.

Marginalized communities under the stranglehold of multinational corporations do not get to “Pass Go” and definitely do not “Collect $200.” And, those marginalized communities are not just out there or over there somewhere. They are right here. We are all enclosed within illusions of choice that have global impact.

In thinking of global corporatization, how can we work together at the local level to help pull the planet out of those deep pockets? Where are our choices for clean, renewable energy? Where are our recycling choices? Where are our choices regarding clean water to drink, bathe in and fish from? We have to support policy and businesses that represent sound environmental choices and not false solutions.

This is not a game.

 Lottie V. Spady is part of the Justice Communications team at East Michigan Environmental Action Council. She can be reached at lottie@emeac.org

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