If I was back in Toronto right now, I’d likely be on the street protesting the G20. Instead, I am thousands of miles away reading about it online at the Toronto Star’s live blog. Already, there have been arrests including an acquaintance Dave Vasey.
Tomorrow I am heading out to a “Hands Across the Sand” event in Mississippi – likely the one in Pass Christian which was one of the earliest spots that dead turtles and tar balls started washing ashore back in early May.
There are events across North America – please try to get out to one if you can.
I can’t help but think of the connections between the two events.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on April 20th continues to spew oil out into the gulf. No matter what methods – top kill, cap, burn off – the oil is filling the gulf. There is a potential hurricane brewing right now; and a heavy season expected. If it looks bad now, just wait til a hurricane lifts the oil and throws it several miles inland. BP is involved in providing response and recovery. It continually throws money at the problem; at the same time it controls media and public response. Volunteers and BP contractors are under a gag order. Kindra Arnesen is one of the locals not afraid to tell it like it is. (I heard this speech and it is great!). BP has spent about $2 billion in relief efforts (and pledged $20 billion into an escrow account for income loss).
The G20 (and G8) meetings which occurred this week in Ontario bring together world leaders to discuss key economic and development issues. The theme for the summit is Recovery and New Beginnings and is intended to discuss recovery from the recession and moving forward. 7 LCBO (liquor) stores, the PATH (underground corridors), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Toronto, the CN tower (ironically included in the G20 icon) are all closed. Many businesses and organizations downtown – including the Professional Writers Association of Canada of which I am President – have shut down for the day or are having employees work offsite.
$1.1 billion has been spent on the security and set-up of the summit; that’s just the amount they have told us about. From the fake lake to the security fence to over the top amounts of security police the summit organizers have turned Toronto into a police state. The information that gets out will be as spun and controlled as the truth about the oil spill.
The protesters at the G20 aren’t just complaining about the cost of the summit. They’re there to talk about women’s rights, immigrant rights, health care, poverty, job security and climate justice.
The latter is where the biggest connection (after the outrageous security and media control) come into play. Environmental issues are critical. At the same time that the oil spill occurred and President Obama declared a moratorium on offshore drilling, Prime Minister Harper relaxed Canadian laws.
The oil spill is the fault not just of BP or governments but the fault of all of us. We have an over-dependence on gas and oil; it stems from our desire to drive, and consumerism. I include myself in this. As someone with a disability I depend on my car; I live in a community that has hardly any transit so my car is necessary. I don’t ever shop at Wal-Mart but the substitutes here – at least for low cost – are Family Dollar and Dollar General. That means that if I don’t want to spend a ton of money I need to buy cheap plastic products, likely made in China. I’m doing my best to find local sources, shopping at local non-chain stores, but its still a challenge.
What the G20 should be talking about this weekend is oil. It should be looking into clean energy options on a global scale. They should have a serious talk about the environment and the need for climate justice. I don’t have any faith that it will happen in any way but I wish it would. Maybe then the world would start heading in the right direction.
If you’re Canadian, on Facebook and want to show your support for residents affected by the BP oil spill, please join Canadians in Support of Gulf Coast Residents.