Innovation, Development and Inspiration from Natives
The world has been developing at a breakneck pace. The number of people without electricity is falling around the world. The majority of humanity live in cities for the first time in history. The number of technological discoveries and innovations continue to increase consistently. Any yet, despite the unprecedented amount of talent, intelligence, and human capabilities being deployed around the world, we still have so many complicated issues. There are a massive amount of species threatened with extinction because of anthropogenic (human caused) disruption of the ecosystem. Global warming is still here, and the projections aren’t getting much better. What is the cause of all these issues in the midst of increasing world prosperity?
I believe these issues are caused by a lack of developing and innovating in harmony with the local economy, ecosystem, and resources.
What drives this belief? I’ve been reading a lot of books that discuss the misguided priorities driving the development of our world. Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher and Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman have helped me rethink how the world develops and innovates. They point out that while globalization has allowed people to reach higher standards of living, the force of technology and connectedness that is transforming our world can lead to the destruction of nature, local cultures, and small-scale economies that don’t reach the gigantic scale needed to survive in the world economy. Multinational oil corporations destroy indigenous land and precious ecosystems in foreign countries as they chase more black gold. Local economies in the U.S. are devastated as large factories choose to move to cheaper operating conditions where wages are cheaper and environmental regulations more lax.
Even as the symptoms of inflated scale in our business practices persist, we still operate under the assumption that bigger is better. Entrepreneurs dream of making their companies global empires, and local charms are overlooked in a world made up of developing countries desperate to increase the size of their economies. When faced with these realities, we always respond in the same way: More, bigger, and better.
Inspiration from Native Americans
I’ve always possessed a lot of respect for the traditional cultures and beliefs of Native Americans. The United Cherokee Nation has some powerful items in their code of ethics- including “Nature is not for us, it is a part of us. They are part of your worldly family.”, “Respect all things that are placed upon this earth — whether it be people or plant.”, and “Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity.”
A powerful theme from the above quotes is the recognition of the interconnectedness between all living things. The speed, stress, and disconnection from nature so prevalent in modern society makes this concept alien to many. It only takes a little bit of observation to re-discover the uncanny ways we can affect ecosystems and economies all around the world with the directions of our development. Take these for example:
- America’s Oil driven development funding oppressive regimes around the world.
- Our social connections significantly affect our well-being
- Simply being around nature boosts our well-being (Biophilia)
Putting the philosophy into practice
These examples (there are many more like them if you care to search) show in practice how our environment, our social decisions, and our economies are part of a dynamic network that can be leveraged to make development decisions. Want to truly alleviate the suffering in the middle east? Invest in sustainable domestic energy infrastructure instead of subsidizing oil purchases from abroad. This forces the oppressive regimes to invest in the knowledge of their citizens as opposed to drilling holes in the ground in order to retain their power and wealth. Want to better the mental state of people in overcrowded cities everywhere? Embed cities into natural systems so the city dwellers can get their needed dose of nature everyday.
I (heavily) simplified the paragraph above for a good reason. Yes, the problems are much more complex in practice and require more thought to flesh out completely, but I wanted to underscore the guiding philosophy in approaching the problems, which is relatively simple. It is to acknowledge the far-reaching connections between the economical, environmental, and social consequences of our development. Once these connections are acknowledged and analyzed, I believe companies, governments, and other powerful institutions will realize that long-term prosperity lies in nourishing those connections. This means more emphasis on social and environmental analysis when creating products and policies as opposed purely on the economic (which has been the norm).
In summary, it would serve us well to learn from the Native Americans to rediscover the underlying moral philosophies behind our development. The well-being of consumers, the health of our environment, and the stability of our economy all rely on a foundation of ethical guidelines from which we develop. We need to find the foundation we lost in a whirlwind of profits.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article and I would love to hear your thoughts. I’m inexperienced on this topic so post any feedback, criticism, or just conversation starters as a comment! I want to talk to people who know more about this kind of stuff to improve the depth of my knowledge so fire away 😃 🗣.