Friday, March 02, 2012

University Of Alberta: Corporate Pandering

Despite local and international outrage, the University of Alberta, led by president Indira Samarasekera, conferred an honorary degree yesterday on current Nestlé executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. Why honor someone who has so explicitly pursued an agenda that is diametrically opposed to the public good? Brabeck-Letmathe has been consistent in his priorities; he has said it's an “extreme” view to call water a human right while advocating it be privatized as a marketable commodity.

According to the recent documentary, Bottled Life: Nestlé's Business with Water, Nestlé generates US $10 billion dollars a year with bottled water. As Kirsten Goa of the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton says, “Nestlé is trying to normalize turning water into a commodity the same way it normalized the use of artificial baby formula.”

U of A Chancellor Linda Hughes confers an honorary degree on Nestlé chairman Brabeck-Letmathe (via Edmonton Journal).
In his speech at the U of A, Brabeck-Letmathe lamented "our somewhat innate tendency to follow emotions more easily than facts" and said "no dogmatic or ideological approach will suffice to find solutions." Except, of course, the ideological dogma of so-called free markets and globalization.

We live in precarious times. Since returning to Canada from Hong Kong six months ago I've noticed an increasing collusion of government and corporate interests. Hannah Arendt, perhaps the greatest chronicler of totalitarianism's creeping influence, wrote eloquently about the dangers of the corporate state as a prerequisite to fascism. The University of Alberta has now committed to a dangerous liaison. Citizens of conscience must be vigilant and speak out relentlessly against these "dignifying" abominations. If they fall away the failure belongs not to the proactive usurpers, but to the silent enablers.

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