A crowd gathered by the side of the road in Hardwick today to protest the XL Pipeline and its little brother the Portland Pipeline through the NEK. These pipelines will carry toxic tar sands bitumen with potentially serious environmental consequences should a spill occur. And several already have in other parts of the country. The Portland Pipeline is an existing pipeline that is already about 60 years old. It passes under many NEK waterways and due to the effects of Tropical Storm Irene, the pipeline is now exposed to the elements in a few locations. Activists came from all over northern and central Vermont to say "No" to these projects.
After the rally, a smaller group, including members from 350.org NEK99% and Occupy Central Vermont, met to talk about how we can create a society where greedy wealth-accumulating individuals and corporations don't engage in activities which put people and our planet at risk.
Here are some thoughts I took away from this discussion:
We want to replace the "Hoarding Economy" (where a few people who work hard at "gaming" the system are accumulating an ever larger share of the nation's wealth) with the a "Sharing Economy", where people in communities move goods and services locally without excessive accumulation by the few and without debt. We tossed around a few ideas about what the Sharing Economy would look like. Certainly one aspect would be fair sharing in the wealth generated by production by all those who labor to create it. Another would be more neighbor-to-neighbor support and community assistance.
We talked about working in our communities to create the Sharing Economy while at the same time working to dismantle the Hoarding Economy. Some ways that this could be done are:
1. Working through various governmental and legal channels to make it harder for accumulators to accumulate, such as the proposed "Robin Hood Tax" on financial transactions. Wealth accumulators are like other hoarders, they have a problem that makes them unable to stop trying to accumulate money, even when they have so much that there is no logical reason to have it. The tax is like putting a tax on cigarettes--it makes it harder to pursue their addiction.
2. Reinforce the immorality of wealth accumulation in the face of the suffering of so many. In small scale societies, people are prevented from accumulating by peer pressure. We need to apply that pressure. At the recent Wall Street demonstrations in New York, we went from financial institution to financial institution to crying "Shame, shame". This is a moral statement. In some parts of the country people are gathering for "Moral Mondays" to promote the idea of a just society. It's also hopeful that the new Catholic pope Francis has made a statement that the church has become unduly obsessed with issues like abortion and has neglected issues of inequality of resources. This helps bring the notion of social justice into the moral realm.
3. Work in our communities to model the Sharing Economy on a local level, by promoting local production and distribution of goods and food and by holding events that where "value" is not monetary. We need to demonstrate that "giving" means more than donating a gift to a poor family at Christmas.
4. Make the Sharing Economy fun. No joke. Art, music and film can make a new idea more attractive to everybody, the 99% and the 1%. And a great outreach to kids too.
I picked up a copy of "Occupy Finance" at the 2nd anniversary. Here is a link to an NPR story:
And here is a link to the book: