Once upon a time, there was a non-profit forest of happy animals. The deer ran the Deer Department, the squirrels, mice, and chipmunks cooperated in the Rodent Department, and the bunnies administered the Department of Lapinography. Each department was sovereign, but they cooperated in self-governance to ensure that the forest remained a safe and productive forest for them all.
Unfortunately, drought struck the forest, and a great famine ensued. The famine went on for a few years, and the head of the forest animals, one Mr. Tod, a Vulpinologist, told all of the animals they needed to sacrifice for the good of the forest. The animals were alarmed, but they made their reduced rations go around for a few years while they tried to wait out the drought and famine. Although the numbers of their young continued to grow, they were given no more food.
One day, Mr. Tod told the animals that they could have some extra food from him, on one condition: they needed to demonstrate that by taking the extra food, they’d be able to generate a profit. “But,” cried the animals, “we’re doing all we can to fulfill our roles here in the forest–feeding our young and educating them in the ways of the forest, as well as conducting our research in our various genera, and participating in self-government for the greater good of the forest. This is already extremely challenging during a drought. What more can we possibly do for the forest than this? Besides,” they noted, “that’s all it says in our contracts. Our contracts don’t state that we must make money for the forest.”
Mr. Tod replied, “The forest indeed appreciates your hard work and sacrifices through this drought. But need I remind you animals that you are fortunate to have a place in this forest at all? Those animals out in the private sector have no guarantees of food, like the one you have from this forest. The forest needs you to contribute more resouces.” The animals understood that times were tough–but they always thought that if they served the needs of the forest, the forest in return would serve their needs. They never understood themselves to be working to pay the forest itself. Mr. Tod explained further. “You egg-laying birds over there. You can give the forest your eggs and chicks so that we can sell them. You beavers there–you can teach your young beavers to chop down more, bigger trees, so that the forest can sell the wood.”
Then Mr. Tod fixed his warm, brown eyes on the deer. “You deer–well, you deer don’t contribute much to the forest after all, and lord knows you enormous vegetarians consume a lot of forest resources. But the forest has had an interesting proposal from a number of two-legged creatures. They would like you to venture out into their cornfields in November when the two-legged creatures are all wearing those funny orange hats while walking about our forest. The two-legged creatures will pay the forest a premium if more of you deer would volunteer to visit the marvelous buffet of corn they’ve prepared for you on the borders of our great forest.” Mr. Tod licked his vulpine lips, and, most shockingly to the smaller creatures who could perceive it from below, it looked like he drooled.
“But, how can you do this?” the animals cried. The birds asked, “How can you take our children from us and sell them? What is a forest without its young?” The beavers protested, “we chop down trees to make our homes, and the dams we build create flood plains that nourish the soils of the forest. If we chop down trees for your profit, where will our children live? How will the forest grow the plants we need if we divert our labor for your ‘profit?’” Other animals pointed out that they weren’t guaranteed anything from the forest–they were on year-to-year contracts and so worked on a casual basis for their food.
The deer said nothing–they just blinked at Mr. Tod a few times and ran quickly away. What good would it do to talk to an animal who would sacrifice your labor–or even your life–for “profit?”
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