We can’t even really plan economically unless we attribute a value to the work that is called “Not Work.” The only other thing—the only other economic step forward we need that is as big is attributing a value to the environment so that it is no longer the case that a tree that is standing there giving you oxygen has no value, but if you cut it down it has a value. I mean, no wonder we are destroying the environment, because every economic incentive is moving in that direction. There’s nothing on the other side of the ledger when corporations or when any force damages the environment. And we are committed to do this within the United Nations, but of course it hasn’t happened so far.
Gloria Steinem, speaking at Tulane University (video uploaded March 7th 2008)
While these words are essential in making points for my thesis, why is it that when a clear example of the type of value-making she urges—literally placing economic value on a tree—is so jarring and so aggravating? Is it that this effort by the City of Chicago (et al) reinforces the glaring fact that people otherwise do not inherently value the more-than-human? In the ruling paradigm, the more-than-human world exists parallel to the human world, only entering it (read: gaining market value) once humans have agency over it. And that is what is so aggravating: the reminder that my beliefs—which fuel my words and are the seeds of my actions—exist on the margins.