Food for thought comes in the strangest package sometimes. Nonetheless, once opened, the food can feed delicious thoughts and so it was when a friend started talking about a David Suzuki article he’d read yesterday, which discussed this world’s obsession with all types of growth, particularly the business, profit-making kind.
I became alert. “Tell me more,” I begged, listening for a detailed narrative. He couldn’t remember where he’d seen the article but that wouldn’t stop me, I had a timeframe to work with and knew what I was looking for: David Suzuki’s musings on growth. And with that in mind I successfully linked to a related article on straight.com.
There, in print, someone of Suzuki’s caliber had finally addressed a question I’ve been wondering about for a very long time. He referenced nature and fear to show how out of sync we are with reality. A major fear appears to be that if we slow down, others will consume our pie. They will have full bellies as a result, and we will go hungry, so instead of waiting patiently for that fate, or simply sharing and living in balance with nature, we pursue a culture of excesses.
Actually that sounds like the illusion of insufficiency, mentioned by Neale Donald Walsh in his book Communion with God. It is that illusion — the belief that the Creator will not provide for us all — that drives us to pillage instead of taking more moderate approaches.
By doing so, we overlook the interrelatedness of all things, and the understanding that every action has a reaction.
Suzuki recounts an enlightening episode in which the CEO of a forestry company explains why it is pointless to save trees: “Listen, Suzuki: Are tree huggers like you willing to pay to protect those trees? Because if you’re not, they don’t have any value until someone cuts them down!”
Therein lies the rub and the economic untruth which became transparent to Suzuki, the environmental scientist. One cannot reduce the value of trees to paper and lumber; its simply inaccurate and moreover, short-sighted.
Forward-thinking people like Suzuki must be at a loss when encountering brazen profiteers. But that business man’s assertion presents an opportunity, which lies in comprehensive education about how humans impact the environment and our interconnectedness with all of nature.
“You see, as long as that forest is intact, the plants photosynthesize and remove carbon dioxide from the air while putting oxygen back–not a bad service for animals like us that depend on clean air,” Suzuki explains in the article. “However, economists dismiss this as an ‘externality’. What they mean is that photosynthesis is not relevant to the economic system they’ve created.”
Without proper education and nurturing it is possible to see how we can believe we are divorced from nature. Yet, we can avoid the Dark Age that Jane Jacobs wrote of in her book, Dark Age Ahead, if we preserve truth — the fact that, as a friend likes to say to me: “There is no distance and no separation.” Educating ourselves to this fact will be a multi-faceted exercise, not just to be learned in classrooms or through “credentialing,” as Jacobs calls it, but to be tried and proven in all areas of life. Hopefully we don’t have to be gasping for air to fully understand this issue.
After all, it is by looking at what happened to others who misunderstood our links to nature in the past that we glimpse our possible future. Mesopotamia (the “Fertile Crescent”), for example, was home to food production and the world’s earliest empires, but lost its lead due to what Jacobs called “environmental ignorance.”
“In ancient times much of the Fertile Crescent and eastern Mediterranean was covered with forests. But to obtain more farmland and more timber, and to satisfy the plaster industry’s relentless demands for wood fuel, the forests were cut faster than they could regenerate. Overgrazing goats, allowing new growth no start in life, sealed the destruction.” Subsequently, human ignorance lead to a salty desert where great wetlands once existed, such as in southern Iraq.
Both Suzuki and Jacobs allude to the fact that we must practice more astute self-governance before losing that option all together and suffering the fate of other failed civilizations. It is wonderful food for thought.