Saturday, June 28, 2008

The following item is from the London Ontario Indymedia site. It's all about restricting further development of drive-thru restaurants in the city of London. The reason that Molly reproduces this little bit of statist propaganda here is for reasons of contrast. The "left", as it is, has pretty well given up on influencing the ordinary person. One may say that this is because of the class composition of "the left", being as it is part of our present ruling class. In lieu of populist campaigns "the left" has taken to trying to influence government agencies, with which they have a much greater affinity in terms of life styles and beliefs than they do with the great unwashed. Thus, even if the cause is laudable the left corrupts it by speaking to the wrong audience. Molly will state this bluntly here- IF YOU CANNOT CONVINCE THE ORDINARY PERSON TO AVOID DRIVE-THRUS BY SPEAKING TO THEM DIRECTLY THEN ANY ATTEMPT TO INFLUENCE GOVERNMENT IS HARMFUL RATHER THAN USEFUL-BECAUSE,BECAUSE,BECAUSE SUCH ACTIONS REINFORCE THE CENTRALIZED PLANNING THAT IS AT THE HEART OF THE "ECOLOGICAL CRISIS". WE WILL CONTINUE TO PLAN OURSELVES INTO OBLIVION IN THE ABSENCE OF REAL DEMOCRACY-ALL WITH VERY GOOD INTENTIONS,OF COURSE. The following very well intentioned plea is a good contrast to the anarchist approach. Its leftism, with its appeal to guilt and the reliance on the coercive power of the state is the precise opposite of what anarchists should advocate. The cause may be good, but it ignores the issue of local community and the growth of restaurants in same, something that can only be a long term organizing matter. The recourse to government may seem like a convenient quick fix, but it is doomed from the start.
But enough of my yelling. Here's the news item.
Seeing the Big Picture on Drive-Thrus and the Need to Start Somewhere

By: Tony Weis
Seeing the Big Picture on Drive-Thrus and the Need to Start Somewhere

In the increasingly heated debate over whether or not the city of London should establish a moratorium on new drive-thrus, an advocate for the moratorium was recently told by a vocal opponent (a city counselor) that they had lost sight of the ‘bigger picture’ of jobs and economic growth. Advocates for the moratorium have also been criticized by some activists who suggest that prohibiting future drive-thrus is a marginal issue amidst so many other ‘bigger’ problems.

Conversely, the intensive public relations campaign led by Tim Horton’s has sought to narrow the discussion of the issue down to a claim – based on the report of a paid consultant – that drive-thrus are environmentally benign when compared with crowded parking lots. This spin is reminiscent of efforts by big oil companies to pay for scientific studies which, for more than a decade, helped to justify inaction on climate change.

And in classic ‘greenwashing’ style, this has been coupled with an appeal to people’s sense of entitlement. For instance, one radio ad evoked an image of a mother driving around with four children during a blizzard and therefore needs a drive-thru, with the implication that it is outrageous to suggest that people might be deprived of their right to fast food without leaving their cars. Another tactic of the drive-thru lobby has been to fear-monger that all drive-thrus could be closed, though this is not what is before Council. To this end Tim Horton’s packed the chambers for the June 17 Council discussion by paying employees for their attendance.

For many reasons then, some ‘big picture’ context for this debate is sorely needed.

We – and here I’m grouping Canadians along with the US, as the consumption levels are similar – represent less than 5 percent of humanity that consumes over one-quarter of the world’s oil, and contributes to more than one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, of which carbon is the most significant.

According to the most recent Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme, Canada’s per capita carbon footprint is more than twice that of the average European, roughly five times greater than the world average, and more than 20 times that of many developing countries.

And this average world carbon footprint is already vastly too high, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC last year described the “warming of the climate system” as scientifically being “unequivocal,” based on evidence “from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.” The report called for swift and dramatic emission reductions if the planet is to avert the most dangerous fallout.

If we place the average carbon footprint of Canadians in the context of the IPCC’s sustainable emissions targets, we need to make per capita emissions cuts on the order of 90 percent. A converse way of putting this is that if the rest of the world emitted at Canadian levels, we would need roughly nine more atmospheres!

Cars are a large part of this. In 2003, Canada had 561 passenger cars for every 1000 citizens, one of the highest levels in the world, along with very high levels of per capita mileage driven and oil consumed. In contrast, many low income developing countries have 20 passenger cars or less for every 1000 citizens.

The inequality of this picture does not end with uneven consumption. The IPCC has long drawn attention to the fact that there is a highly uneven vulnerability associated with climatic change, as many of the world’s poorest nations (and particularly the poorest people within them) will be most adversely affected by rising climatic variability, higher temperatures, and increasing risk of drought and water stress, with obvious impacts on food security and malnutrition. Sub-Saharan Africa faces some of the greatest risks, the immediacy of which cannot be overstated; the IPCC projects that “yields from rain-fed agriculture [which represents much of African agriculture] could be reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020.”

It is urgent that Canadians face up to our grossly outsized and destructive carbon footprint. Obviously, placing a moratorium on new drive-thrus in London is not, in itself, going to do this. It is a small part of many large changes that are needed in how our economy functions and how our cities are planned. But these changes need to start somewhere.

London already has 160 drive-thrus. Whether in blissful ignorance or conscious disregard, to continue to act like we are simply entitled to more –and by implication more urban sprawl, more cars, more oil, and more greenhouse emissions – constitutes a planetary arrogance of frightening proportions.

And let us be clear that this has nothing to do with jobs. Corporate fast-food chains do not create any more jobs than do independent, community-centered cafes and restaurants closer to people’s home and workplaces. Rather, they represent an approach to urban planning that is centered on oil and the primacy of the automobile.

The City of London has the opportunity to take a very important first step in overcoming this outmoded approach, and beginning to envision the future of our cities in a way that is denser, less resource intensive, and ultimately more in step with our responsibilities as global citizens.
In this, we could be very proud to see elected councilors give London a leadership role on a Canadian scale.

Tony Weis: Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario. Tony is also author of: The Global Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming


Toban said...

To put Tony's writing more into context, I'm going to point out this pro- drive-thru lobbying site:
There also have flyers at Tim Horton's, and there have been advertisements, and other propaganda.

By the way -
Bookchin ended up supporting participation in municipal governments. Whether or not you're prepared to support that stance, you do agree that municipal governments are much different from larger-scale ones, don't you?

Anyway, some of the campaigners raising criticisms about drive-thrus may be trying to get people's attention more so than they are actually expecting to sway the people at city hall.

Toban said...

That is...

I'll be blogging about that site and associated lobbying shortly.
That post will go up after this one -

Steve said...

It is absurd, frankly, to accuse "statist" leftists of neglecting to address a mass working-class audience, solely on the grounds that they make demands on the state.

You seem to be saying that whenever a leftist makes demands on the state, such as demands to impose emissions controls on automobiles or on industrial production, s/he is somehow ignoring the concerns of the masses. Instead of such "statist" deviations, you seem to advocate ranting on the internet about how important it is to avoid participation in politics. (You're not saying something like, "get active in your union," because -- let me guess -- you probably oppose unions as a "bourgeois" expression of the "labour aristocracy," etc.). You make a vague reference to long term organizing, but you provide no plausible account of how to do that in a way which both (a) makes no demands on the state and refuses to participate in the political process, even by engaging in protest, and (b) somehow addresses the grievances and aspirations of the working class.

It is this kind of claim that has earned anarchism its reputation for doctrinaire and sectarian irrelevance.

mollymew said...

OF COURSE I DON'T OPPOSE "GETTING ACTIVE IN AN UNION. That much should be obvious. As to what I am saying as per "leftist" demands and "the "demands of the masses"(whatever the "masses" are) is NOT that they may or may not coincide. What I AM !!!! saying is that "the left" IS part of our present ruling class, and that their demands may or may not be beneficial for the majority of people in this society. I am ALSO saying that the ways that they puish their demands via state action mare pretty well INEVITABLY detrimental to the interests of the majority of people because the TINY benefit that ordinary peoplke may or may not derive from the hobby horses of the leftists of the day comes with a larger detriment of statist regulation.

Everybody tries to "address" a large audience. The question is what do they propose to do, and what are the CONSEQUENCES of the proposed action. If there is ONE thing that I can rock-solid guarantee about thye mentality of "the left" after being over 40 years in this game- about 35 of them as an anarchist- it is that "the left"", in its delusional concept of itself a pure and holy order of sacred knights NEVER sees that the propsals they put forward can have consequences that are detrimental. It's a primitive view of the world, that there are simply "two sides" and everything on one side is right and everything on the opther is wrong. Can I suggest that there are ALWAYS more than "two sides" and that ALL actions have BOTH detrimental and beneficial consequences ? Or does this violate the manichean worldview that you, as a leftist, hold to ? If you are young, and if you nare not destined for a career where you PRETEND to help people by manipulating them(or if you are not in such a bureaucracy already) remember these words in a few years when you realize the level of bullshit that your leftist youth involved. Realize that there are OTHER ways to socialism other than the path of managerialism.

Werner said...

Back in the days when the trotskyists were a 'visible' minority in Canada they called this operation making "militant demands and struggle proposals". Eck! Part of all this is an acquired habit of being or becoming obtuse ... never being able to ask an honest question or give a straight answer. You can see the "professionalization" of this process in the curriculum, if you can call it that, offered by technical schools such as SIAST in Saskatchewan which train young people as "handlers" for a variety of "clients". More Eck! The worst part, in my view, is the way some lower class people have absorbed their "role" almost with a degree of willingness. Examples: professional mental patients who learn to whine "on command" when confronted with their (usual) lack of personal courage, or working class people who really believe that certain interests at any level of knowledge like scientific or complex artistic ones are "not for them". These feelings of "exclusion " are probably a contributing factor to the resurgence of fascist ideas. Half baked "green" mysticism was a part of fascist ideology in Germany back in Orwell's day. George O's comment in Wigan Pier about the "magnetic attraction" of the word "socialism" to flakes still stands today.

Toban said...

By the way -

Tony W. doesn't say anything about a "ban" here. He does mention "advocates for the moratorium", however -- that is, he mentions people advocating a moratorium on new drive-thrus, rather than a closure of all existing ones.