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People's Rights Come Before Corporate Profit

October 5, 2011 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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People's Rights Come Before Corporate Profit

Teresa Treacy, from Clonmore, Tullamore, Co Offaly, speaks to the media after leaving the High Court yesterday.Photograph: Collins Courts

Teresa Treacy is a frail middle-aged woman who loves all things in nature and lived a peaceful quiet life with her sister in County Offaly a beautiful part of rural Ireland. She planted and tended her trees, cared for the natural forest and the clear stream that ran through it. What turned this peace loving woman into a brave courageous protester who is challenging the might of big business and government and has gone to jail for her beliefs? One reason is her passionate desire to save hundreds of trees and make a statement in the most dramatic way possible — from behind bars.

Perhaps it was the brazen manner in which the utility corporations ESB and Eirgrid allegedly bullied their way into her life and that of her sister and brought her to court when she refused to allow them to cut down her privately owned forest trees to make way for their gigantic pylons. Perhaps she could not accept the greater power of the State to exercise the “right of imminent domain”, that gives corporations the permission to take away private property and use it to achieve their development plans. The individual must give way to the common good they say. She refused and a judge jailed her for contempt of court.

Teresa offered to forgo the 150,000 compensation if the company would put the cables underground on her land. Then they would only cut a 12 meter swath not a 21 meter one through the forest. They refused for good reasons they say. Other local people who support her say there is an even shorter less costly route but it has been ignored. The company denies any wrongdoing or insensitivity.

Her protest is similar to that of thousands of protesters taking a stand against government backed projects of big corporations. People world-wide are demanding for government to put the environment and people’s rights first before the interests of corporations. Their concerns are frequently ignored and rain forests are cut down, rivers are dammed, landslides and floods are common and peoples lives, crops and houses are ruined. In a democracy this should not happen. It is supposed to be government for the people, by the people, not government for and by corporations.

In the Philippines the people of Midsalip, Northern Mindanao, together with the missionaries, have protested and blocked the onslaught of mining corporations into their lands. Environmental damage will be great as it is mostly the devastating open-pit mining that will gouge out nickel, chromate and other minerals. There is no agreement to compensate the small land owners or claimants or share the wealth with the people.

The mining companies claim they have government permission. It is common, for that officials can be corrupted and give environmental clearance certificates for bribes and a share of corporate profits. Instead of protecting and promoting the common good they deprive and destroy the property and lives of the common person – for their own profit and that of their corporate patrons.

In Subic Bay, Zambales, north west of Manila, thousands of people and town councils have rejected the planned coal powered electric generating station to be built on a Peninsula, mostly to benefit the giant Hanjin Korean shipyard and the financiers behind it. The shipyard gives jobs to thousands of Filipinos but at what cost to the environment and the family tourist industry.

Most of the electric power in the world is generated by burning fossil fuels; coal is dirtiest and most polluting. The CO2 gas produced causes the greenhouse effect and global warming is the result. This damages the entire planet everybody and everything is affected. In turn this causes the melting of the polar ice caps, the glaciers and this results in a rise in ocean levels and a temperature change. If this happens, a catastrophic climate change will occur. We have seen the changes already in changing severe weather patterns that have brought draught in Australia and Somalia and a terrible famine. More frequent storms destroy crops and cause floods. Greater human suffering and environmental destruction is the result of government inaction and corrupt decisions. Is this serving the common good or vested interests? People’s rights must come before corporate profit. End

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