Environment Magazine

Can We Save Biodiversity? Not as Long as ‘democracy’ is for Sale

Posted on the 15 July 2015 by Bradshaw @conservbytes
© Bill Day

© Bill Day

Like you, I’m tired of the constant battle with ill-informed politicians who claim all sorts of nonsense reasons for the bad environmental decisions they make in the name of so-called ‘democracy’. The flesh of my right hand is sore from the constant fist-bashing of tables as I let loose yet another diatribe concerning why our politicians are corrupt whores for sale to the highest bidder. My teeth are becoming worn from the nights of grinding as I lay awake contemplating why we as a society are taking more steps backward than forward.

Yes, we have politicians today claiming that “coal is good for humanity” and that climate change is a “hoax” designed by communists to disrupt society. They spew all sorts of nonsense in public about how they are making their decisions to approve yet another coal mine, limit renewable energy investments or allow continued deforestation because “it’s good for the economy”. All these despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I used to invoke the comforting feeling of intellectual superiority that these (mostly male) politicians were merely stupid, and that as a democracy, we cater to the lowest intelligence denominator of civil society (i.e., we get the politicians we deserve). However, that excuse is about as stupid as the label we give politicians who make decisions that fly in the face of all evidence. Yes, there are stupid people that have been elected to represent us, but I submit that truly stupid politicians are probably quite rare.

No. Ironically, stupidity cannot explain these moronic and generationally bankrupt decisions. Only money can.

I write these words while visiting the US, and there can be no better example of how money absolutely corrupts a system that purports to represent democracy. In this country, and increasingly in most developed-nation political systems, democracy has been entirely usurped by its evil alter ego, plutocracy. “What? Land of the free? Whoever said that is your enemy!“. The irony is palpable that this nation claims to spread democracy to the world when it doesn’t even have one itself.

Yes, America is the epitome of a political system created by, designed for and completely controlled by corporate interests. Corporations exist for one reason only – to make oodles of cash as fast as possible – and anything that stands in the way of that goal is anathema. I’m not being cynical here, just realistic. The conservation of biodiversity, while it certainly would save society money in the long term, it is viewed by corporate interests as, rightly or wrongly, nothing but a limitation to their goal. They will therefore fight environmentally strategic and sustainable policies regardless of how sensible, supported by the majority of voting citizens, or economically sound.

So do not make the same mistake as I have for years that politicians and the public who votes for them merely require more information with which to make better policy decisions for the environment. Otherwise you will remain as angry, exasperated and frustrated as I have become, and without making much meaningful progress.

I contend then that the single-most fruitful policy shift that conservation-minded people can support is to abolish the practice of political donations utterly, for as long as democracy is for sale to the highest bidder, we will never make any real progress toward conserving biodiversity. Imagine if we actually lived in a true democracy where your vote counted as much as anyone else’s, and that politicians would listen to the majority? I’m afraid that even if that has ever actually happened, it was long ago destroyed as soon as we allowed political parties to receive large donations from corporate interests.

Isn’t transparency enough? Clearly not – we are acutely aware of what political parties receive. In Australia, one merely has to view a party’s donation history online to find out who’s buying whom. With even a modicum of financial sleuthing using such basic tools, it’s pretty easy to understand why our government makes the fucked-up decisions it makes. Make no mistake, you do not live in a democracy, nor will you ever until we get the money out of politics.

What are the alternatives? There are many variants, but one of the easiest after abolishing all (not just capping) political donations would be to fund campaigns entirely out of taxpayer money. In Australia, these could be administered with not too much difficulty by the Australian Electoral Commission. Once a party or prospective candidate had registered sufficient support from the electorate, she/he would be allocated a particular sum with which to engage the public prior to election. There is no shortage of free or cheap media these days, so campaigns could be short (wouldn’t that be a relief!?), to the point and extremely targeted. Not only would we be spared the bullshit of extended political campaigns, we would be able to see what our candidates would (more) truly desire to represent.

Make it your top-priority goal when advocating political change; otherwise, biodiversity will continue to be flushed down the corporate toilet.

CJA Bradshaw

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