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Celluloid Prophecy, Sea Turtles, and the WTO

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
December 9, 1999


It doesn't take a lot to trip me out. Sometimes revelations occur. Bam! Connections become obvious, and things take on a whole new light. Recently I've had such a revelation, It involves the WTO, George Lucas, and a view of the future.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the bad guys in the Star Wars saga the Trade Federation? As I see it, The WTO is the phantom menace, the Force was behind the protesters in Seattle, and the police in riot gear were just 20th century storm troopers. The Star Wars equivalent of sea turtles? Jar Jar Binks was Gungan, also a semi-aquatic amphibian species. Continuing this analogy Bill Clinton is obvious our Emperor Palpatine, and not only is George Lucas a cinematic genus, he is actually prophetic. Which is disturbing because according to Lucas's vision the dominance of trade ministers will be with us for a very long time, carrying into galaxies far, far away.

Last week, while channel surfing media coverage of protests in Seattle, a pattern began to emerge. I'll admit it, until recently, I've never given much thought to the greedy boys and girls of the World Trade Organization, thinking them nothing more than cheerleaders for global consumption. Acting locally left me little time to think globally. Then the people in turtle suits took to the streets.

The WTO now had my attention. Why the turtle suits? With just a few key strokes I found my way to www.seaturtles.org, website for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. The search engine also took me to the Sea World/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database. Found in warm and temperate seas, there are 8 species of sea turtles surviving in the world today, the Gulf of Mexico's Kemp's ridley being the most endangered. Widening my search to online environmental news services, I soon knew exactly why the turtle people of the Animal Welfare Institute were marching in protest.

The reason? WTO-directed trade liberalization is lowering standards for environmental protection, and has been used repeatedly to attack US environmental laws. One of those attacks was aimed directly at endangered sea turtles. US law requires the all wild shrimp brought to market in the United States be caught in nets equipped with turtle excluder devices, which prevent needless drowning by more than 97%. The World Trade Organization sees such environmental regulations as trade barriers. When Asian nations challenged that turtle protection measures violated WTO policy, the United states weakened the Turtle Shrimp Law, a 1989 provision of the US Endangered Species Act. This is but one example of how the environment is bearing the cost of free trade.

On December 1st, the second day of protests, the turtle people returned to greet WTO representatives. The establishment had other plans. Watching CNN, I saw footage of demonstrators being pulled from their costumes, much like turtles from their shells. Bootboys in black, acting under orders from Seattle's Mayor, made sure free trade talks did not include free speech. These were peaceful protesters, yet any voice of dissent was excluded so as not to encourage those who refuse to go limp. Funny thing was, even as the talking heads talked about violent demonstrations all the video showed was the Seattle police shooting plastic bullets into the crowd, and spraying pepper gas as if they were trying to hold back the end of the world.

Two questions; Who were the the cops protecting, and whose agenda did they serve? Imagine the message being sent to young people around the world, now that they know their rights are overruled by the holy grail of unrestricted trade. Something else strikes me as odd. Isn't it curious that American media makes a big deal about the threat of foreign nations using chemical weapons against Americans, but they never question American authorities dousing US citizens with pepper spray. Video coming out of Seattle should give all of us pause. Clouds of poison floating through their air, I guess freedom to assemble no longer applies.

What the police accomplished last week was jump-starting America's youth into action. As we move into the 2000 election, a reawakened youth movement will really shake things up. I predict next year will be one for the record books. Not because of some arbitrary spot in linear time, but because of rebel forces fighting against globalization without representation, regulation, and moderation.

I am actually looking forward to the next 12 months. Two major conventions, lots of angry people who feel things are out of control, and a growing police state is an interesting combination. I suggest everybody hold on, because it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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