How is it that only now, a decade later–when the Tar Sands rapists, e.g. Sunoco, et al, are looming over the Salish Sea–their crimes against humanity are coming to light? Why was this atrocity not stopped in its tracks?
How did the oil companies go about defeating the First Nations and bona fide environmental networks opposed to the project? The answer according to Macdonald Stainsby* and Dru Ojay Jay**, writing in their article “The Effects of Foundation Funding and Corporate Fronts” in the blog Offsetting Resistance, is that companies buy their own environmental groups to negotiate with the government on their behalf.
That organization, Tar Sands Coalition (a Tides project), can then be counted on to help smother the grassroots environmental movement. As oil corporations like Tar Sands investor Sunoco look to defeat environmentalism and indigenous peoples from the Arctic to Patagonia, giant multi-billion dollar foundations like Pew Charitable Trusts are critical.
Using money-laundering operations like Tides to help them, Pew (same family that owns Sunoco), Rockefeller, Ford and Hewlett Foundations — all benefactors of the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation — can then effectively greenwash corporate fronts masquerading as environmental organizations. When organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, and Sierra Club can be bought off by big oil, the only thing to do is expose the colossal fraud. In their remarkable report, Messrs. Stainsby and Jay have done just that.
In 2012, the Nobel Women’s Initiative sent a delegation to speak with women in the Canadian province of Alberta about the impact of the Tar Sands oil mining on them, their families and communities. As Nobel Laureate Jody Williams notes in her observations, the denuded Boreal forest area of the Tar Sands project is geographically the size of Florida, and while oil companies had at that time made $14 billion on the project, local indigenous communities have reaped respiratory problems and cancers.
As a project that daily uses enough natural gas to heat 6 million homes, one has to ask, what is the social benefit of the dirtiest industrial undertaking in human history? Six years after the Nobel Women’s delegation listened to stories about the annihilation of indigenous peoples’ independent and sustainable way of life and ever increasing rates of sickness, substance abuse and suicide, we might want to ask why the broader society finds this cultural genocide acceptable. Would our society accept this if the victims were white?
The First Nations vs Petroleum State conflict is a drama of mythical proportions. The police of the world superpower and its sidekick neighbor to the north are amassing against the indigenous peoples within, and no one is coming to their aid.
Due to the highly successful fossil fuel divestment campaign–devised by Wall Street as a way to obtain oil company shares from public institutions on the cheap–the previous tactic of lobbying shareholders of corporations is no longer available to tribes. Having created or co-opted their own environmental NGOs, i.e. 350, the oil corporations set their agenda, thereby designing ineffective but highly visible moral theatrics that undermine the indigenous peoples’ movement.
Long story short, they are playing the long game, knowing full well that consumer society can and will never boycott their products. In the society of the spectacle, he who controls the narrative determines the outcome of netwar.
Worse yet is the possibility of unrestrained activists committing sabotage, thereby legitimizing state repression in the mind of the public. As we know, the anti-terror theme is already being promoted by the petroleum state axis. Once the public relations agencies launch their offensive, we will likely be in a wag the dog scenario, where the U.S. Congress imposes draconian measures against tribal sovereignty, activism and journalism.
The orthodoxy of radicalism, associated with what I call the moral theatrics industry, makes it very predictable and easily defeated. Staking out and holding terrain is a losing tactic. Just look at the disaster of Standing Rock.
At the heart of the problem is activism as a career, as opposed to activism as a civic duty. Those who view civic involvement as a way to make a living will naturally adopt doctrinaire tactics oriented toward philanthropic marketing, rather than painfully examine strategies for achieving a public benefit. Unfortunately, for those absorbed in pious posturing, this distinction is largely lost in the rhetoric.
Careerism is certainly a draw to political activists, but an even greater appeal, I think, is the prestigious identity associated with activism. What I find fascinating about this is that they simultaneously conform to the capitalist framework of social discontent – a very predictable, very controllable, very ineffective commodity.
* Macdonald Stainsby is a 29-year-old student, freelance writer, and social justice activist living in Montreal, Quebec, and studying at Concordia University
** Dru Oja Jay is a writer, organizer and web developer based in Montreal, Quebec. He is a co-founder of the Media Co-op, Journal Ensemble, Friends of Public Services and Courage. He is co-author, with Nikolas Barry-Shaw, of Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s development NGOs from idealism to imperialism.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here