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The Hypocrisy of Caring

3 March 2011

For a century, the Toronto Star has been in the forefront of the battle to reform capitalism, the premise being, 'take it easy, capitalism won't be so bad once we've forced politicians to smooth away a few rough edges.' After a century of smoothing away, Canada, let alone the rest of the world, is still in one heck of a mess. A century of achievement? I think not. Therefore, when one takes into account the reforming zeal of the Star, it came as a mild surprise to this writer to see it publish an ad that was blatantly reactionary. On November 8th. 2010, the entire back page carried an ad paid for by "The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers",that emphasized their concern for the environment that they are destroying at the Alberta Tar Sands site.

The headlines read, "We Know What Was Here Before, What's Here Now, And What We Need To Do Before We Leave." To which the environment, if it could speak, might add 'the sooner the better'. It included a photograph of a concerned looking young woman, Megan Blampin Devon, and an open letter from her - "I grew up in a town called Big River, surrounded by lakes. From a young age I knew I wanted to do something with the environment. As a biologist in the oil sands, it's my job to understand the water chemistry of the lakes and streams around our oil sands drilling site so we don't affect it. It's a matter of frequently collecting samples and monitoring the plants, soils, and animals, including rare species, like arctic grayling and woodland caribou. Everyone I work with loves the outdoors. The last thing we want to do is to harm it."

What Ms. Devon does not say is the first thing they want to do is make a profit from it. The above would be hilarious were the consequences not so tragic. In fact, as far as fantasies go, this may seem pretty impressive on paper. One may indulge in whatever fantasies one wants, but the brutal, cold facts of capitalist economics have a way of dissolving fantasies. This ad is a small part of a massive, and costly, campaign in all media by the oil industry to convince Canadians that they are environmentally responsible.

In our Fall issue of Imagine The Socialist Party of Canada, in an article on the Tar Sands ("Profit Before People") pointed out that, "Evidence began to emerge showing that caribou, elk, moose, deer, and other animals were disappearing or infected with diseases. Fish stocks have been damaged by pollution in the water and plants used for traditional medicinal purposes were threatened." Nor is it animals alone that are suffering, "A census recorded that 922 Beaver Lake Cree people, half of whom lived on the reserve and fish and hunt regularly for winter food supplies and gather medicinal plants are affected." Only the most na´ve people would be taken in by any claims that oil capitalists may have about caring for the environment, especially when the evidence proves otherwise. Why then would the Toronto Star run such an ad that they probably don't believe either?

An ad of an entire page would cost thousands of dollars, a healthy source of revenue for the newspaper, which, at the bottom line, translates into one word - "Profit".

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