Maybe this is what Gregor meant by communist "party"?
In Tuesday's papers we're seeing Gregor Robertson back in town and on the front lines of a disaster, looking positively Rudy Giuliani-esque as everyone tries to figure out why toxic fumes are billowing out of the basement of the Electra building. Someone commented to me that if the Mayor thinks that attaching himself to a problem where the City is potentially liable, he must really be desperate to "change the channel" after the disastrous media he received during his economic junket to China.
Now Mayor Gregor is saying his comments about communism's advantages over democracy in dealing with the environment were a "poor choice of words", and what he really meant is that governments back home need to step up in their efforts to reduce the threat of climate change. On this matter the Mayor and I are in full agreement - it was a terrible choice of words.
For the Vancouver Economic Development Commission and the business representatives, the Mayor's careless comment have the effect of undermining their costly overseas PR exercise. When you spend $120,000 of taxpayers money to prove that you are an economic visionary, then blow it by saluting an authoritarian ideology over hard won democratic liberties at home, it's the political equivalent of flushing those dollars down the drain.
The bad ink Robertson earned for his China mission significantly outweighed the positive press. Today Gary Mason gave his analysis in the Globe & Mail, yesterday Jon Ferry gave his, and both The Province and G&M editorial boards blasted Vancouver's Mayor. Newspaper website commenters under the blanket of anonymity rarely hold back, but the reaction to Robertson's "pro-communist" views garnered the kind of reaction that would keep the Mayor's aides awake at night.
Many of us know thanks in part to CityCaucus.com's investigations that Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver are heavily funded and guided by groups and individuals driven by the mantra of "systemic social change". It's a vague expression that could mean whatever the person using the expression wants it to. Certainly, "Social Change" is code. It's a term that suggests that you're either with us, or you're with the non-believers.
Social change for some on the extreme end of the environmental movement expresses itself in a new fascism, a new authoritarian movement which dictates that the preservation of the planet is our highest and only calling. While Robertson hardly calls for a jackboot to come down on the West, his naive comment has whiffs of a world vision espoused by enviro-radicals.
Writer Micah White is a contributing editor with Adbusters, the anti-consumerist movement founded in Vancouver, BC, and he wrote a column for The Guardian warning us off a "new wave of ecofascism". White opens by saying that "mainstream environmentalism has failed to prevent climate catastrophe" and that this has opened the door for extremists.
He points to James Lovelock, a British sciencist who discovered the presence of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Lovelock said
that democracies are incapable of adequately addressing climate change. "I have a feeling," Lovelock said, "that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
White goes on to cite a more extreme eco-kook from Finland named Pentti Linkola, a fisherman and "ecological philosopher". Like Lovelock he also suggests that we must curtail democracy. These ideologues believe that our world is headed to a place that looks like the post-apocalyptic landscape in The Road.
Linkola may be a minute voice, but in today's indy media world everyone can have their own YouTube Channel. The Finnish fisher's prescription is pretty bleak:
His bold political programme includes ending the freedom to procreate, abolishing fossil fuels, revoking all international trade agreements, banning air traffic, demolishing the suburbs, and reforesting parking lots. As for those "most responsible for the present economic growth and competition", Linkola explains that they will be sent to the mountains for "re-education" in eco-gulags: "the sole glimmer of hope," he declares, "lies in a centralised government and the tireless control of citizens."
Which brings me back to Gregor Robertson's "poor choice of words". Does our Mayor deep down think that curtailing human rights is really the way to preserve our air, land and water? I hope not.
However, I do think his suggestion was a product of lazy thinking and an unwillingness to fully grasp the tools that democracy provides us to reduce our impact on the planet. For example, I think Robertson's golden opportunity to lead the country and ally with regional and senior levels of government has devolved into symbolic stunts and boasts of being the greenest somethingorother.
In his article, White sums up the problem of the environmental movement advocated by Robertson's ilk:
Environmentalism is currently marketed as a luxury brand for guilty consumers. The prevailing assumption is that a fundamental lifestyle change is unnecessary: being green means paying extra for organic produce and driving a hybrid. The incumbent political regime remains in power and the same corporations provide new "green" goods; the underlying consumerist ideology is unquestioned. This brand of environmentalism only emboldens ecofascists who rightly claim that shopping green can never stop the ecological crisis. And yet, ecofascists are wrong to suggest that the suspension of democracy is the only alternative.
Vision's backyard chickens, city hall garden, beehives and the Mayor's vain self-promotion are now Vancouver's "luxury brand for guilty consumers". In 2011 I hope voters exercise those democratic rights and send a message to Robertson about what they think of his lacklustre leadership.
STRIKE A POSE! Robertson's image-makers made sure that great photos were taken of him on his overseas trip and submitted to media, including this Zoolander-like shot of Hizonner standing in front of the statue of his distant cousin Dr. Norman Bethune. A common practice, the "submitted photos" were used widely in local and national coverage, as this short slideshow shows.
- post by Mike