I’ve been out planting seeds this morning. I planted sunflowers a few weeks ago and was very happy to see them pop out of the ground only a few days later, and then they were all eaten by snails. Grr.
So I’ve planted more. I have a lot of seeds because I saved them from the sunflowers I planted last year, which means I can afford to lose a few to snails. But you can be sure that I’ll be buying coffee when I next go shopping (coffee is poisonous to snails and slugs). And as I was walking around with my watering can, giving the seeds a soak, my thoughts turned to the TPP. It’s not as big a leap as you might think–saving seeds is something which is common to both gardeners and farmers the world over, and with the trade agreement having been apparently rushed through, I’m concerned about how this will affect our agricultural sector, and the environment, as well as a host of other areas.
The trouble is, as I sow my seeds in my garden, it’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of an agreement which involves so many people and countries, and as I like to give our politicians the benefit of the doubt, I want to believe that they’re doing this for the right reasons. But given the rapid pace at which it seemed to happen, and the lack of debate or transparency, it’s hard to believe that we’re going to do well out of this. If it were such a fantastic deal, why don’t we know more about it?
What bothers me most is the helplessness I feel, when something big like this happens. Because as much as it might not affect my ability to save my own sunflower seeds and grow them again next year, I know that it might affect our farmers on a much broader scale. As much as I love the friends I have in America, I don’t like some of American politics, in particular, the way in which big companies seem to be able to sway legislation to ensure that their profits are protected, but the environment is not. This is not a uniquely American problem, but my issue with the TPP is that some of these tactics, which have been so successfully deployed in the US, may then be able to find their way over here. And we can do so little about it.
Australians tend, as I’ve written before, to be a little apathetic when it comes to politics, and although that is changing to some degree, I don’t expect there to be millions marching in the street to protest this agreement. But I wonder if that is also because it’s not something which has been widely discussed. And therein lies the rub: we can’t protest something if we don’t know the details, and we don’t know the details because they haven’t been released. Is the media to blame for this as well? Partly, but both the media and the politicians rely on the public for their survival. They’re telling us what we have told them we want to hear. So if only a few people on the fringe are jumping up and down about this, then they don’t see it as important, and nothing changes.
I hate that. Don’t you? What worries me most about this agreement is how it will impact our day-to-day lives–increased cost of medicines, for example, or online shopping. I’m worried that the consumer protections we enjoy won’t necessarily be upheld. I worry that we’ll become more like the United States, and I don’t want that to happen. I worry that there will be more litigation and that it will value the rights of companies over the rights of people.
It could be that all my concerns are for nothing. But if something is to be passed into law and it’s not able to be debated, then it sounds a lot like our governments are trying to hide something… and my saying something like that sounds like I’m a conspiracy theorist! It boils down to this, though: as much as it’s true that our politicians and those in certain sectors of the public service have–and need to have–information which might not be readily available to all of us, all the time, they still work for us. They are our representatives, and their salaries are paid via our taxes. So for an agreement to take place without even the potential for community consultation is concerning at best, and anathema to our civil rights at worst.
I’m usually too tired to be kept up at night by any one idea, but I often find myself coming back to a few things, when I get a quiet moment and a chance to think. One of them is the kind of world I imagine in the next twenty to thirty years, because that’s the world in which my children will be really coming into their own. I know that’s a cliche. But I do wonder… what is the legacy of the laws we pass now, for them? For us, in our old age? I worry that something like the TPP is going to reinforce an attitude to business which dismisses individual rights and ignores our impact on the environment. I worry that it means we’re even more intertwined with a country that brought us Monsanto and the Global Financial Crisis. And I worry that we’re not making enough noise to stop it.
Want to try to stop it?
Australians tweet @AndrewRobbMP and voice your concerns. Contact your local MP and tell them you’re worried. Ask them to provide the details of the agreement. It’s us who are going to feel the changes; we should at least know what we’re in for.