The magical thinking of Barry Cooper

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Barry Cooper is displeased by the thousands in Vancouver have protested against

Rich hippies have destroyed the BC economy. At least, that's what Barry Cooper, a University of Calgary Political Science professor, says in a recent Calgary Herald article. He despairs that BC, which "squats in the way" of Alberta's world markets, is no longer the "productive resource centre" it once was in his glory days at UBC.

And it's all your fault.

Cooper sympathizes with his premier, Alison Redford, for having to deal with the irritating people to her west.

"Most people [in BC] see themselves as soft consumers and rent collectors," says Cooper, "drinking lattes in the rain. Many believe in spirit bears and water sprites and require grief counselling [sic] when trees blow down in Stanley Park. They are what Nietzsche called 'last men.'"

The Alberta Übermensch suggests that like water sprites, climate change and spirit bears are a matter of fanciful myth. But this population of tree huggers has also wrecked the province's largest city:

Vancouver has become a "backwater playground ... less a big Canadian city than a 'world-class' vacation village with lots of multimillion-dollar condos and absentee owners." It is true that Expo '86 organizers, Olympic boosters, property barons like Li Ka-shing, condo marketers like Bob Rennie and real estate developers like Concord Pacific have radically remade the face of the city. But Cooper seems to place the blame with the environmentalists, not the speculators.

After a generation of city-wide real estate gambling, acute localized contagious condo infection, raw log export, pine beetle-mania, Thatcher/Reagan style de-industrialization, globalization and the outsourcing of jobs that swept most western countries, the state and character of the BC economy can hardly be laid at the feet of the environmental movement.

Industrial and manufacturing decline is a fact of North American economic life. Neither Vancouver's gleaming condo towers nor the mid-west's Rust Belt are the work of "greenie alarmism," which Cooper elsewhere dismisses as boring and passé anyway.


Besides, the Vancouver I know still has much of what Cooper says is missing -- it's not all lifestyle consumerism. It has an active port, refineries, concrete terminals, sweatshops, a harbour full of container ships and a summertime-thick industrial miasma of rendered chicken care of West Coast Reductions.

I invite the professor to come take the air with me, not just parrot old Olympics tourism brochures. We could enjoy a civilized afternoon mint julep in Crab or New Brighton Park.

This letzte mensch likes his coffee black and his spirit bears real.


Garth Mullins is a writer, long-time social justice activist and three-chord propagandist, living in East Vancouver. Follow him @garthmullins on Twitter.

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