Sunday, December 17, 2006

2 things



My name is Timothy Schwinghamer. I am a graduate student at the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba. I have chosen to contact you because I believe that the Canadian government should maintain the Canadian Wheat Board and supply-management mechanisms that support family farms. The Canadian government ought to protect the Canadian Wheat Board and supply-management mechanisms from the prejudiced impact of international trade agreements. Canadian farmers have not reaped the benefits of free trade that were promised to them. Since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1989, exports have doubled but Canadian farmers have seen their net income drop by 24 percent. As the deregulation of agriculture increases and U.S. and Canadian standards meld, independent farmers will suffer even more. While the U.S. government may want you to eliminate the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board, I support the CWB and its ability to pass along a premium to farmers that would otherwise go to a small handful of agribusiness corporations. As the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board you should defend this valued Canadian institution, not undermine it.

Sincerely and respectfully,



[The following was written by Matt Soltys.]

A while back, an idea came to me. Some people consider this idea clever, others, stupid. Some people even consider it threatening.

The idea was to inject humour into people's lives by spray-painting a politically satirical stencil, and to provoke thought on the use of the word 'terrorism.' I went out with this stencil -- an image of a bulldozer with the word 'eco-terrorist' below -- and at one point during a midsummer night, I turned, mid-spray-paint, to see a police car behind me. As the officer exited his car, I couldn't resist sharing a rare greeting -- "Well, you caught me red-handed." I was using red paint and actually did have some on my hand.

I placed several stencils around town, but only got caught with one. Two days later, after some negative press, my feelings shifted. It's not worth the controversy, I felt, so sought to avoid further problems by covering the remaining stencils. I asked a friend for help, and away we biked. Unknown to us, however, three undercover police were following my every move.

Given Guelph's numerous unsolved acts of sabotage targeting what passes for "development," the cops probably thought they had a lead. According to the police budget, each investigative officer makes approximately $45 an hour, so eight hours amounts to $1,080. Considering there are at least two shifts daily, and that I was likely under surveillance for more than one day, it is conceivable that the cost of following me reached into the tens of thousands of dollars. Surely you can think of numerous ways to more wisely spend your taxes.

The stencil's purpose, ultimately, was to encourage a rethinking of the word "eco-terrorism," and "terrorism" in general. These words are manipulated to suit the perceived needs of those in power, and their misuse has ruined countless innocent lives.

The word "eco-terrorism" has been created and actively promoted by people who are voices for the logging, automobile and chemical industries. Its purpose is to severely criminalize those who seek to stop destructive business practices. Thus, people who rescue animals from tortuous laboratories are called "eco-terrorists." People who, like the heroes in the children's film Hoot, protect forests by damaging construction equipment, are called "eco-terrorists." However, despite the media's labels, they are never charged with anything related to terrorism; the word is legally irrelevant and used solely as a propaganda tool. I am sure 19th-century abolitionists, who risked their lives to free slaves and torch their prisons, were similarly considered terrorists by those in power. What's next? Are the heroes of Captain Planet and Fern Gully eco-terrorists?

The point here is to show that a word's meaning is subject to the person using it. Consider, for example, the amount of terror created when an empty building under construction on the edge of Guelph was set aflame, in an attempt to make destroying nature less profitable. In comparison, how many people are terrified and depressed that their children will get cancer from the air, or that future wars will be fought over water, and recognize that Guelph's development policies are exacerbating an already grim situation? How many wild animals -- who are entirely capable of experiencing fear -- are terrorized by the ever-encroaching machines that destroy their homes and tear apart the earth?

What, really, creates more fear?

Through my ordeal, I have had the opportunity to speak with many people about their feelings regarding such topics. Most see we are heading for catastrophe, yet feel the options presented by those in power grossly under-represent the threats we face. Nearly everyone I speak with is frightened, saddened and angry, if they have not yet shut down due to the pain required by feeling.

I must be clear that I do not wish to undermine any fear felt by people who live near any acts of arson. Nor is this a plea for more people to commit such acts. It is simply a proposal to stop using the word "eco-terrorist," and that we discuss as a community what really does scare us, and that government and business leaders actually do something about it. Certainly, these acts of sabotage are a way of seeking empowerment after being ignored for far too long by those in power.

I am far from alone in recognizing that if we wish to survive this century, we need to drastically change our entire way of life. This will not come easily, but the danger my generation faces is too painful to fathom. The City of Guelph must take a stand and transition out of an industrially dependent way of life. Our lives truly do depend on it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I support the CWB and its ability to pass along a premium to farmers that would otherwise go to a small handful of agribusiness corporations."

This is a new facet of the CWB debate to me. Info on the "agribusiness" aspect is requested.

Joe Hueglin
"Joe Hueglin"