Can We Sustain Democracy and the Environment Too? Global Democracy in a Colonial Context

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Can We Sustain Democracy and the Environment Too? Global Democracy in a Colonial Context
by Isabelle Morin

Through Situating Sciences’ collaboration with a host of sponsors and partners, Philip Kitcher came to speak to the packed Ondaatje auditorium on October 3rd.

It appeared to be by strange coincidence that Kitcher’s talk, which was named “Can We Sustain Democracy, and the Environment Too?” fell on the same day as Treaty day. Treaty Day marks the day in 1752 that the Crown would give gifts to the Mi’kmaw people to maintain friendship and peace.
The coincidence lies in the fact that the talk itself was happening on occupied land, while Kitcher was talking about establishing a global democracy that would be a better route to global equity among peoples and environmental sustainability.

A lot could be said about the general trend of ownership of land and resources (at least in Canada) is moving in a specific direction already. Occupying land is no longer acceptable, and there is at least an effort to uphold human rights pertaining to access to resources. Overt colonialism is taking on more and more negative connotations, and there is a push towards securing equity for as many entities as possible in many discourses. Because of current events involving social justice and aboriginal groups in Canada, along with uproar in our very own Halifax about student debt, amongst other issues, it would be easy to agree with Kitcher when he suggested that “the emperor has no clothes: democracy has no meaning.”

With references to Plato, who argued that democracy was far from the most optimal form of government, Kitcher brought the typically Western faith in democracy into question. An important qualifier to this statement is that he argued that democracy has lost its true form. In fact, the institutions that we call democratic have fallen far from their Platonic origin. Kitcher argued that we need to form a global democracy: a true democracy. Because some of the most pressing problems we are facing right now are global, such  as climate change and access to resources, our current atomized form of democracy is not sufficient. Some of the most influential global entities, that is, those who have the most influence on causing climate change and how it can be slowed, are disconnected from the immediate effects of their actions (or inactions) to some extent. Though the effects will trickle down to that population eventually, the entities with the least resilience (such as disaster relief, economic resilience, and access to resources) will most likely be hit the hardest at first.
Hence the call for global democracy, where each voice is equally heard, no matter what their quality of life or political surroundings. How realistically this could be achieved is debatable, but the question of democracy in our global decision-making process is critical to realms of environmental sustainability, economic resilience, and social justice.