Do Voters Not Bear Responsibility for Those Who They Choose to Govern?

Building on the momentum of millions of people taking part in worldwide strikes to demand action on fighting climate change, an environmental group, Stop Ecocide, has called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) to recognize ecocide as a crime against humanity.

Activist Jojo Mehta of Stop Ecocide defined ecocide as “large scale and systematic damage and destruction to ecosystems.”

Mehta blames leaders of certain countries for contribution to, and inaction on, tackling climate change and proposes that the leaders of such countries be held criminally culpable by the ICC.

Yet, in so-called democracies, such as Canada, do not the citizenry bear some responsibility through their act of voting for so-called representatives who do far too little or nothing to fight climate change?

In a recent poll gauging attitudes toward climate change, 77 per cent of 1599 Canadians responded that they either strongly or partially agreed with the statement “The world is facing a climate emergency and unless greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically in the next few years global warming will become extremely dangerous.”

A little over half of the Canadian respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a political party or candidate who promised to cut Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Furthermore, 43 per cent expressed the strongly felt sentiment that politicians are subservient to the interests of big oil companies before communities.

In Canada, there are two political parties that make environmental protection a cornerstone in their party’s policy: the New Democratic Party and the Green Party. That fact that two such pro-environment parties are available for Canadians to vote for should allow for them to electorally push the climate change agenda to the forefront. Are these the parties that Canadians vote for in elections?

In the 2015 federal election in Canada, the NDP grabbed 44 seats (a drop from 103 in the previous 2013 election) and the Green Party held on to its single seat from the 2013 election in 2015. With 63.8 per cent of eligible voters participating, the environmentally oriented parties garnered 45 seats out of the 338 available. Should this not cause one to question to what extent climate change is genuinely important for a large number of Canadians?

Some might argue that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party campaigned on fighting climate change, but that would cause some cynics to wince since the Liberal Party is a corporate-backed party. Trudeau ran on a copied-from-Barack-Obama campaign that promised change, and like Obama, Trudeau has disappointed many Canadians who had hoped for better.

This raises another question: flawed as electoral democracy is, do the people who participate in choosing their leader and government not bear any responsibility for their choices? Do Canadians not bear some responsibility for Trudeau’s support for pipeline construction schemes (even to the point of his government buying out a troubled pipeline company to push through construction)? No one would argue that expanding the infrastructure for fossil fuels is in accordance with a commitment to fighting climate change.

Conclusion

Holding the leaders chosen by citizens criminally culpable is hardly likely to pass muster. Canadians chose the climate change charlatan Trudeau, Americans choose Donald Trump who withdrew from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and Brazilians elected Jair Bolsonaro who has allowed the Amazonian lungs of the Earth to burn. The fact is that the citizens of most of the world allow capitalists to reap profits from the environment too often in blatant disregard for the health of the environment and oblivious to the opinions expressed in polls by the citizenry.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.