Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in Manhattan's Financial District Occupy Wall Street protesters gather in Manhattan's Financial District Collinn Anderson, CC

This week starts what looks like will be major participation from Canadians in the growing global frustration against rampant capitalism. Participants in this movement don’t represent a sudden swelling in the ranks of Birkenstock-and-flower hippies, anti-government “black bloc” protestors, or even a resurgence of McCarthy’s communist sympathizers. What they do seem to be is comprised of the most wide-ranging political and social backgrounds of any global protest movement in years, if ever.

Events are planned for Toronto, which are overshadowed by the incidents of the G20 protests and emphasize ensuring a leaderless popular uprising against financial inequality. Protesters in Vancouver are working closely with police to try to put together a “family friendly” movement of concerned citizens. Protests are also planned for several other Canadian cities. In the words of Iranian General Masoud Jazayeri, the Occupy Wall Street movement is the “beginning of an American Spring.”

As someone who doesn’t participate in direct-action activism often, I’m intrigued for a couple reasons. The time seems right, I agree with the message, and, most importantly, the movement actually seems to have traction. There is certainly something to be said for the motivating power of a chance at success, remote though that chance may be.

More importantly, however, is that a popular uprising in the comfortabley rich West, successful or not, may be a sign that people are starting to realize we can’t wait for some of our biggest global problems to be solved by politicians. This is likely impacted by the mainstream public acceptance that all political parties are corrupt to varying degrees due to the inherent imbalance of power between the wealthy elite and the general public.

The environment has been a major issue that polls well in Canada, as long as there isn’t an election on the horizon, at which point the economy and jobs take over. Whether the protesters joining the Occupy Wall Street movement realize it or not, a reduction in corporate influence over politics and a return to more reasonable taxes on the rich will have a direct impact on many environmental issues. Powerful corporations have long set the tone in public policy by swaying politicians directly as well funding propaganda campaigns, with Canadian policies on climate change being one of the best and most recent examples.

While economic stability and job creation are important issues, they won’t matter much if we don’t have a stable climate or affordable, clean drinking water and food. Corporations and private interests have been using economic arguments to scare the public away from dealing with these issues for years, but this strategy may have finally backfired. People have had enough. If it takes the occupation of Wall Street to get people’s attention I’ll gladly welcome it.

From my perspective the ultimate goal is to reduce corporate influence and political corruption that so often are used to distract the public from the issues that are most dangerous to society, such as pollution, climate change, and deforestation. Having a job won’t matter if you can’t breathe or access clean food and water.

So please, occupy Wall Street. I’ll be right behind you to occupy Environment Canada.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Movement enjoys broad political representation
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