Westward Independent

From Conspiracy to Open Advocacy By Local Governments

by Adrienne Richards
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As we witness local policies being rammed down the throats of locals, coupled with technological advancements, and global agendas, a disquieting reality unfolds—one meticulously crafted to surveil, control, and confine.
What was once dismissed as mere conspiracy theory is now openly championed by local governments and embraced by some radicalized factions of the population, propelling us towards a 15-minute, track-and-trace future where every aspect of our lives is subject to scrutiny and regulation, and where ‘you will own nothing and be happy’

Under the guise of sustainability, equity and efficiency, local governments champion urban planning initiatives that promise livability and convenience within compact urban areas. The concept of 15-minute cities, once considered fringe, is now celebrated as the pinnacle of modern urban design. However, the implementation of such initiatives often comes at the cost of individual freedom and mobility. Zoning bylaws are redrawn to prioritize high-density development, pushing residents into tightly packed urban centers where every aspect of life is meticulously planned and regulated.

Some ideas come in the form of narrowing roads to discourage private car ownership and restrict individual mobility, while initiatives to promote pedestrian-friendly infrastructure hope to confine residents within the confines of their walkable neighbourhoods, even when the majority of people, as in the Cowichan Valley, commute. The utopia of us all living within 15 minutes and working within walking distance, leaves out the glaringly obvious lack of thought – who supplies these 15-minute ghettos with all the amenities? Certainly, all the amenities such as food must be brought in from afar, negating any so-called ‘climate solution’. Additionally, studies have shown that living in high-density neighbourhoods can have detrimental effects on mental health, increasing stress levels and feelings of social isolation. The lack of green spaces, family neighbourhoods, backyards, and communal areas exacerbates these issues, creating environments that are conducive to anxiety and depression.

Technological advancements, once viewed with suspicion, now form the backbone of surveillance infrastructure that enables control and monitoring on an unprecedented scale. Smart city initiatives, propelled by the Internet of Things (IoT), create an interconnected web of sensors and surveillance cameras that monitor every aspect of urban life. Street lights, once merely illuminating pathways, now can serve as covert surveillance tools with monitoring attachments that can include cameras, emission sensors and microphones, which will enable authorities to track movements and identify individuals, vehicles, sound and emissions in real time. Moreover, these streetlights can communicate seamlessly with other smart devices, such as surveillance cameras, smart meters and IoT sensors, creating a networked grid of surveillance that blankets entire urban areas.

In addition to street lights and surveillance cameras, the monitoring infrastructure extends to utility usage, including smart meters installed in homes. These meters track energy consumption patterns, providing authorities with detailed insights into residents’ daily activities and routines. As local governments gradually remove alternative heat sources, such as wood-burning stoves, and gas and oil furnaces, and transition towards centralized heating systems, electricity usage becomes a key component of the monitoring system.
This interconnected network of devices not only enables comprehensive data collection but also facilitates the consolidation of power and control in the hands of local governments and third-party entities. The data harvested from these devices can be leveraged to profile individuals, predict behaviour, and exert influence over populations, all while infringing upon our right to privacy and autonomy.

While urban planning initiatives and technological advancements disproportionately impact marginalized communities, it’s crucial to recognize that these policies are not solely driven by local interests. They are part of a broader global agenda that prioritizes corporate profits and centralized control over individual rights and freedoms. Gentrification, once challenged by grassroots movements, is now embraced as a sign of progress and development.

While surveillance and control mechanisms are being implemented on a physical level, the transition towards a subscription-based society is quietly underway. The mantra “You Will Own Nothing and Be Happy” is gradually becoming a reality as individuals increasingly subscribe to services rather than owning physical goods. Subscription-based models, exemplified by platforms like Spotify and Microsoft Word, offer convenience and flexibility at the expense of ownership. Instead of purchasing music albums or software licenses, individuals pay recurring fees for access to vast libraries of content. While this shift may seem innocuous, it erodes the concept of ownership and control, relegating individuals to mere consumers in a world where access trumps possession. As the subscription-based economy expands its reach, individuals become increasingly dependent on corporations for access to essential goods and services. The notion of ownership is replaced by transient access, leaving individuals vulnerable to price hikes, service interruptions, and arbitrary terms of use dictated by corporate entities.

The erosion of ownership doesn’t stop with digital content. Increased taxation can make homeownership increasingly unattainable for the average citizen. Moreover, the separation of utility costs, such as water, from yearly taxes, as exemplified by North Cowichan’s approach, makes it easier for municipalities to raise prices on water usage, place fines on contaminated recycling, and increase these fees separate from the yearly taxes at a whim. By combining increased fees and property taxes with soon-to-be bylaws mandating forced retrofitting of homes to meet environmental standards, we see more direct threats to homeownership. Forced retrofitting could saddle homeowners with exorbitant costs, leading to financial instability and potential loss of their homes. Additionally, under bills like BC Bills 44-47, BC Assessment could appraise properties not for their current use, but for their potential use under new regulations, further jeopardizing homeowners’ ability to retain their properties.
These initiatives infringe upon our fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The right to freedom of movement, once considered sacrosanct, is now undermined by policies that restrict individual mobility, right to security of person, and autonomy. Similarly, the right to privacy is compromised by pervasive surveillance and data collection practices.

Challenging these infringements requires collective action and advocacy for the protection of our rights and freedoms. By remaining vigilant and resisting the encroachment of global agendas that prioritize control over individual autonomy, we can strive towards a future that honours the principles of democracy, justice, and freedom for all. For in the defense of our rights lies the hope of reclaiming agency over our lives and shaping a future that prioritizes the well-being and dignity of every individual.

Visit coap.ca for more citizen-led action.

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