Great Lakes Governance: Valuation of our Responsibility (by James Arruda)

dec-2016-blogpost-jamesIt was most definitely my E4A cohort on water that helped me understand water and land as commons. Commons once seemed like an unsustainable construction when faced with the way we engage in North America; nowadays, I realize that it is the opposite. Our present economic system persistently extracts and exploits the land and people in order to grow; it grows alongside and through a colonial and racist Confederation (as ‘conferred’ by British Monarchy), institutionally organized by white settlers to displace the people and accumulate the land. What results from the persistent theft of land, imposition of residential schools, extremely low funding for Aboriginal children, polluted waters, is wealth production bloodied by violence.

Just recently, E4A’s greatly beloved community scholar and revolutionary climate activist was arrested by Sarnia police. Along with comrades, Vanessa Gray stopped the flow of bitumen crossing through her community. She protected her territory from Enbridge’s Line 9, a 40 year-old pipeline with a high risk of bursting.  As young Ecological Economists we know about these contradictions. We know that both Canada and the U.S. cannot meet COP21 emissions targets if more fossil fuel pipelines are built. We know that policies take time to realize results, but it is absurd that the Canadian $3.3B subsidy will carry the transition to a ‘cleaner future with renewable energy for everyone.’ Can these beliefs better inform how we produce knowledge?

Violence occurs where colonialism and capitalism flourishes; violence occurs within our present institutions, one of them is our financial industry. To be honest, I do not have a professional understanding of the (Canadian) financial sector, but I believe that it has a powerful hold on how resources are (mal)distributed. The Standing Rock revolution demonstrates that Big Banks are heavily invested in land and natural resource accumulation and expropriation. As Ecological Economists we understand the diverse social implications for such a dangerous and inefficient investment; subsidized by our governments, but led by the energy industry, the Big Polluters and the Big Banks. Their private interests have made and are making our world unsafe and unsustainable.

For many folks like me, ours is a society of which (political and financial) resources are mostly spent on enhancing and defending extractivism at the expense of broken promises, broken relationships and a broken economy.

All in all, I am currently helping the Great Lakes Commons (GLC) discuss the Great Lakes with activists and educators, and I saw an amazing opportunity for E4A. I first heard about the GLC from E4A’s first community scholar, Sue Chiblow. It was an inspiring opportunity to work alongside Sue, who is part of the GLC team. Check them out! They work to attract a diverse community of activists, peoples and educators to protect the bodies of the Great Lakes; “to see the Lakes thrive for generations to come”, to quote Paul Baines, co-founder of GLC. 

I wish to extend an invitation to E4A students to help answer a research question by the GLC: Can a lakes-backed currency be designed to value our rights/responsibilities toward the Great Lakes? According to Paul Baines, “the Great Lakes region is home to about $5 Billion [CAD] in trade, yet the lakes are dying – surely value is being taken and not given.” Many of us have already imagined, theorized and critically analyzed local governance, currency systems and water. If this is of interest to you, come and share what you know in a Skype conversation with the co-founder Paul Baines, and possibly other guests 🙂 Give me a shout !!


James Arruda is a recent Masters graduate from the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York. His thesis was on Settler colonialism and Canadian economics pedagogy.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply