Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Environmental Memory

I went to an inspiring lecture by David Suzuki (, renown scientist, environmentalist, broadcaster and author at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco tonight. When asked about where he got his motivation to do his work on the environment, he said, "I feel desperate." And then he added, " We are not leaving the same planet for our grandchildren."

Mr. Suzuki told us about how, as a young person, he and his family went fishing and could catch fish within 10 minutes of throwing out the line. Now, he said, there are no longer salmon derbies, festivals around catching salmon, because there aren't any around. There are no more fish like the way he experienced it as a child. The thing is that there also seems to be no "environmental memories," no clear picture of what the environment was like for our elders. These stories are not being told and passed on.

I remember when I learned that almost all the trees in the Tahoe area are second and third growth because they were clearcut between 1860-90. There were historical photographs on the ferry boat showing the logs piled up in the lake. I was shocked to realize that the trees I grew up seeing were so young. I also took note of how the Washoe people, who hold Tahoe as a sacred place, mourned. And, of course, they too were brutalized. But they still retain their environmental memories.

I am thinking of how waribashi production consumes millions of trees every year. US junk mail consumes 100 million trees a year. I don't think I know how to hold a picture of that many trees in my mind. I wonder if I will get to see it.