“Your money or your life!” snarled the bandit, brandishing his pistol.
“Take my life, but please don’t take my money!” cried the little old lady. “I’m saving that for my old age”
We laugh, but that’s exactly what we’re doing as a culture and a species – hoarding our cash at the cost of our lives. We’re thus missing a spectacular opportunity to create a dazzling new economy – and to do well by doing good.
How do I know this? For eight years, I’ve hosted a web site called www.TheGreenInterview.com Recently I was asked to describe the core benefit of the site. The answer simply tumbled out of me.
“Every month,” I said, “you get to spend an hour with a great thinker, imagining the future.” That’s how we choose our interviewees. They share a passion for a better, greener future, a determination to help us get there, and an ability to talk about their passion with great eloquence.
“What Can One Person Do?” began as a TEDx talk developed in response to the despairing question of a student at Dalhousie University. “The problems are so huge,” she said, “so various, so overwhelming. What can one person do?”
In response, this keynote presents video clips of several inspiring figures from The Green Interview whose whole lives constitute a stirring response to that question — an Icelander who has single-handedly ended most commercial fishing for Atlantic salmon, an Englishman who builds hydrogen-powered cars and aims to reform the whole automobile industry; a Dutch lawyer who forced the Netherlands government to honour its commitments to address climate change; an Ecuadorian who won a $9.5 billion lawsuit against Chevron for polluting the headwaters of the Amazon, and others.
“The Most Important Idea in the World” examines the disjunction between the circular patterns of the natural world and the linear process of the human economy, which on closer inspection seems to have the effect of turning the planet into junk as fast as possible.
How do we change this? Fundamentally, we need to re-learn what indigenous people still understand: we are part of the natural world, not separate from it. Seeking sustainability, we have to recognize that the circular patterns of the natural world require a closed, circular economy in which nothing is wasted, and where the economy is organized to deliver services (warmth, light, transportation) rather than stuff (furnaces, lamps, cars).
“Using the Law to Defend the Planet” is rooted in the work of 17 trailblazing lawyers in my book Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth, and it describes a new paradigm: where traditional environmental law works through the permit system to “legalize harms,” as one lawyer puts it, these lawyers seek to deny permission for harmful activities and to prevent these harms altogether.
Often mischievous but always serious, they are passionate, articulate, courageous and — surprisingly — entertaining. One reviewer called the book “a romp with some of the finest legal minds on the planet… You get to the end and realize you have feasted on both revolution and hope.”