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19 May 2007 @ 02:04 pm
David Suzuki on the power of story  
In the Global Exchange Newsletter I received today, there is a short piece on David Suzuki, a Canadian (I think) environmentalist who will receive the International Human Rights Award May 31 in San Francisco. The piece is not on the internet, so I'll just provide some quotes here.

"Companies like Patagonia, Interface Carpet, Ben & Jerry's, and others are making great efforts toward sustainability, but they are still caught up in an economic system that is fundamentally flawed. Here's an example: I was involved in a struggle to save a watershed in the Stein Valley in British Columbia. It was sacred land for the native people and they decided to fight the logging company that was coming to cut the forest. One day I had a heated argument with the CEO of the logging company. He pointed to a large tree and said, 'Listen, Suzuki, if tree-huggers like you aren't willing to pay so you can look at that tree and enjoy its beauty, it has no value until someone cuts it down.' I was blown away because I realized he was right. Our brand of economics is only interested in the dollar value of the tree, not the myriad services that the tree is performing for us: it is exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen, its roots are holding soil so it doesn't erode, it takes massive amounts of water and pumps it into the air, it provides a home for diverse organisms, and all of these services are being provided for free. Given the way our economic system works, that tree would only have measurable value if someone paid to keep it alive or cut it down and sold the parts. That is the fundamental flaw in our system."

When asked what gives him hope, this was his reply:

"The fact that people have the power to assign meaning to things and then vigorously defend those things. I was at the Dome of the Rock in Israel and I thought, 'Here is this rock with so much religious and political significance, and it is just a big rock.' But the human mind is capable of ascribing sacred status to that rock. No physicist could find special importance in that rock but lots of people ascribe great spiritual value to it. So if millions of people can assign great spiritual value to a rock because of stories they have been told, then we should be able to tell other stories that will convince people to ascribe great value to all the plants and animals upon which our very existence depends."
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