By Guy Dauncey
Sometimes it seems as if those who care about Nature stand on guard around the edge of a huge circular Blob known as “The Economy,” which keeps growing and encroaching onto Nature. We organize to prevent its advance against creeks, rivers, forests and wetlands. We try to stop it from shooting out new pipelines, digging new coalmines, pouring more carbon into the atmosphere and introducing new chemicals into our food.
Sometimes we are successful and The Blob backs off, which happened with the proposed Raven coalmine near Courtenay. But just as often, we are not, as the ecological wreckage of the private forest lands on the Island shows, and when The Blob assaults Nature in a distant country, such as Indonesia, destroying native hardwood forests, home for millions of years to families of orangutans and other creatures, and replacing them with palm oil trees for the global biofuel market.
Will we ever win if we continue to deal with The Blob’s attacks in this defensive way? And what is this Blob that behaves like an alien creature, consuming Nature wherever it goes? Does it have a brain? An inner purpose? A directive DNA that guides its actions?
To understand its origins, I have dug into history and the huge efforts our ancestors made to drag themselves out of the feudal age when life for most people in Europe was poverty, misery, sickness and frequent hunger.
One possible date for the birth of The Blob is 1851, when the Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Gardens attracted millions, who came by foot and horse, to admire all the new technologies, offering the hope of material advance in place of dark, remorseless poverty. People became enchanted by The Blob’s magic spell of Progress, and the exhibition was followed by an incredible expansion of railways, steam engines, the telegraph, electric current, motor vehicles, a house in the suburbs, a kitchen full of labour-saving devices and a cellphone in every pocket, soon to be followed by robots and personal deliveries by drone.
Does The Blob have DNA? Yes. One important piece of coding is the assumption that humans (especially the white European variety) are the most important species and, due to our genius the world is at our disposal, entitling us to cut down the forests, net all the fish and extract all the fossil fuels. There’s no easy remedy to this belief — we have to work at it every day and hope to instill our children with beliefs that are more Nature-sensitive.
The second piece of DNA dates back to the capture of native lands by conquering invaders, who divided the land among their supporters. Private ownership of land, property and capital became the norm, and one of the strongest driving forces within The Blob today is the desire by those who have capital to make it grow, often by investing in a further assault on Nature. The solution is to switch investments out of fossil fuels and other destructive forms and into clean, green companies. Check out the Responsible Investment Association of Canada to find a local ethical funds manager (www.riacanada.ca).
The third piece of DNA arose when The Blob acquired a co-conspirator in the shape of academic economists. The early economists admired the success of eighteenth-century physics, and they wanted economics to be equally scientific. The problem that humans don’t behave in predictable ways, like atoms or molecules, was brushed aside, and the assumption was made that all humans are rational and self-interested. This enabled classical economists to state that, given such behaviour, the market in which The Blob operated would tend to perfect equilibrium as long as governments did not interfere, which was very convenient for the business owners inside The Blob since the fewer the tariffs, regulations and trade barriers, the more successful they could be. Unfortunately, it is this very weakness of regulation that enables The Blob’s assault on Nature.
A fourth characteristic of The Blob is pervasive ecological ignorance. It might have been understandable in the 1800s, but it’s totally unacceptable today that many of the government, business and corporate leaders who are driving The Blob forward still don’t know what the carbon cycle is and couldn’t explain the role of herring in the marine food chain.
Can we reconfigure The Blob’s DNA so that it ceases behaving like an Earth-monster and begins instead to work in partnership with Nature?
As a first step, we could set a goal that a thousand restaurants, offices and retail stores on Vancouver Island receive Vancouver Island Green Business Certification, joining the hundred that have already been certified on a checklist of around fifty items, covering everything from water and energy use to building operations, transportation, and social goals. See www.vigbc.ca.
As a second step, we could set a goal that a hundred businesses on the Island change their legal structures to become Benefit Corporations, joining over two thousand businesses around the world that have done so. The essence of a B Corp is a changed legal and fiduciary mandate, so that instead of the primary goal being to make private profit, the company will also work to produce a social and environmental benefit, with third-party certification to provide assurance that this is so. So far, there are seven Benefit Corporations on the Island: New Society Publishers (on Gabriola), Animikii Indigenous Technology, Enrolment Resources, Synergy Enterprises (founders of VI Green Business Certification), Tartan (a global communications group), DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods and Brooke Associates Consulting, which helps organizations and communities become more resilient. To learn about becoming a B Corporation, see www.bcorporation.net.
And thirdly, UVic, Camosun College, Royal Roads, VIU and North Island College could work together to tackle the problem of ecological ignorance by declaring that, starting in 2020, they will not accept any students or hire any staff who have not completed a foundation course in Ecology 101. The schools will have to scramble, but there are many people on the Island with the skills to teach it — and wouldn’t it be a feather in our cap if Vancouver Island became the first region in the world to make ecological literacy a fundamental requirement for all students and college professors?
We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can make a start here where we live. We need to get inside The Blob and change its DNA, transforming it from an Earth-hating to an Earth-loving force, and change its magic spell of Material Progress to something more appropriate for our time before it destroys us all.
Guy Dauncey is an author, speaker and visionary. His most recent book is the novel “Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible.” He lives in Yellow Point (journeytothefuture.ca).
View our video on Wonderful Walks at Askew Creek Wilderness Park in Chemainus here