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Farewell to Orri Vigfusson. Three cheers for David Korten. And one hand claps for Nova Scotia’s recent record.

Posted on Jul 9, 2017

Orri Vigfusson is one of my heroes – a very successful Icelandic businessman from a fishing family who made it his mission to save the wild Atlantic salmon from extinction by purchasing and retiring all the commercial Atlantic salmon fishing licenses in the world. Charming but relentless, Orri visited fishers from Spain to Russia to Labrador to Connecticut, found other ways for each of them to prosper, and bought up their licenses. Today the commercial conservation agreements negotiated by his North Atlantic Salmon Federation cover 85% of Atlantic salmon habitat, and 5-10 million salmon that would have died have lived to spawn again. You can read his biography on the NASF site, here. We did a Green Interview with him in 2012, and you can see that interview here.

Orri Vigfusson died of lung cancer in Reykjavik on July 1, at 74. He was a towering example of just what one person can do, and it was a great honour to have known him even slightly.

David Korten is a former professor at the Harvard Business School, a former foreign-aid executive with the Ford Foundation – and a trenchant critic of globalization and corporate power. We did a Green Interview with him in 2013, which you can read here. He’s just written a very thoughtful column in YES! Magazine about New Zealand’s recognition of the Whanganui River as a living entity with the same rights as a human being. “Modern law,” he notes, “has the rights issue exactly backward.” We have “a system of law that gives corporations more rights than people and nature no rights at all. Just as our human existence depends on the health and well-being of a living Earth, the existence of corporations depends on the health and well-being of human society.” It’s a crisp, incisive piece that goes to the heart of the issue. Our interview with David Korten is here. 

And the National Observer reports that two provinces have already met their 2030 climate-change targets: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Well, Nova Scotia does have some achievements to cheer about, but this is not one of them. In 2007, the legislature unanimously passed the enviable Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which has had some noble effects: for example, 13% of the province’s land area is now protected. On the climate change front, however, under a deeply neoLiberal government, this climate-change “success” derives from a 15% decrease in manufacturing activity, and also from some strangely convoluted definitions. Clear-cutting and its even-more-evil sister, whole-tree harvesting, are providing “green”fuel for power generation while transforming the landscape into a wasteland. Meanwhile, the government allows LaFarge to burn rubber tires in a local cement plant, and supports the opening of a new coal mine. That sound you hear? Only one hand is clapping.

Marjorie and I spent Canada 150 — Canada’s 150th birthday — at the Coady/Tompkins Memorial Library in Margaree Forks, Nova Scotia. Named for two great social activist priests, Father Moses Coady and Father Greg Tompkins, this little library does a warm and highly-professional literary festival every Canada Day. This year’s readers were first-time novelist Barbara Radecki, plus the amazing Ian Brown and Johanna Schneller of the Globe and Mail, and both Marjorie Simmins and me. The place was packed with about 150 people – and it was packed again that evening for a screening of Green Rights. There was great music, food, and tons of great conversation.

Marjorie and I – and many, many other Canadians – had been deeply troubled by the idea of simply celebrating 150 years of Canada’s ambiguous history, so I prefaced my reading with this little text:

Canada 150. Mi’kmaki 13,000.

Marjorie and I have been deeply troubled about celebrating events which, for the original peoples of this country, have been catastrophic. It’s appropriate to celebrate what has been achieved, but only if we also recognize what has not been achieved, and resolve to achieve that as well – a country which fully and equally respects, honours and cherishes everyone in it, and particularly our native brothers and sisters, whose cultures and wisdom traditions so greatly enrich our lives in this country. My film, Green Rights, which will be screened at 7:00 here tonight, has something to say about this, and I hope you’ll all be able to attend.”

Coming up:

I will be speaking at a public meeting opposing the LaFarge tire-burning deal on Wednesday, July 12 at the Canadian Legion in Stewiacke, NS at 7:00 PM.

I’m also expecting to speak on at the Eco-Connects Gathering on September 23-24, a large conference of environmentalists in Truro, convened by the Nova Scotia Environmental Network. And there may be another Green Rights tour with Merlin the Motorhome coming up in the early autumn as well. The beat goes on….

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