The Multi-National Giants

The large multi-national companies are rapidly becoming the new ‘world government'. Because we have allowed them to wield power, they now transcend national boundaries and are able to dictate policy to individual governments, both through their vast spending power and through the leverage that their provision of employment and taxes gives them. As for presidential elections, that ‘bastion of democracy', making a sizeable contribution to the election campaigns of both sides puts them in the way of any pay-back, whoever comes to power. The reneging on the 1997 Kyoto Agreement, by the US Government, so soon after the election in 2001, is an interesting case in point.

If a company is polluting a river and a government asks it to stop, it is able to threaten to remove its factory to another ‘laxer’ or more ‘needy’ country, thus depriving its former host of tax revenue and large-scale local employment. This is powerful leverage and sadly exerts a very significant influence on the enforcement of environmental policy.

Couple this with the power that is now being wielded through the WTO, via GATT and GATS, and the power held by national governments is put in perspective. What chance has an emerging nation to set its own ethical policies, when even the G8 giants seem individually helpless?

Power of this sort is eroded only by the spending power of the ‘masses’ (i.e. you and me). The way we invest, the way we insure, how we set up our pensions and the items we buy all influence the profitability and the confidence of these commercial giants.

The many marine oil disasters, the Bhopal disaster, the serious pollution of the North Sea and Irish Sea, the Nigerian oil pollution (even the Gulf War?); all these grand scale calamities are products of commercial cynicism and short-term-profit motivation. Even that ecological treasure, the Galapagos Archipelago, has been threatened by oil pollution. Nothing is sacred or precious to these operators, except commercial gain.

Does this impinge on animals? Of course it does. There is not just the same degradation of water, ground and air that we share, there is the threat to whole habitats and therefore fundamental and immediate threat to survival.

Even the Greenhouse Effect itself owes its origins to this serious and dangerous power imbalance.