Friday, February 27, 2009

Everything is Connected: Part I

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to 
everything else in the universe.” - John Muir

Is everything really connected?  Some connections are easy to find and others take some work. But when we realize that every apparently separate item or thought is actually part of a greater whole then we have learned one of the keys to life. Understanding our connections helps us go from survive to thrive as we can better predict cause and effect of actions and see why acting in line with “the golden rule” or Albert Schweitzer's idea of “reverence for life” is not only an ethical but practical calling.

First let's look at some examples of connections. Searching for someone on Facebook reveals a list of people that have mutual friends, some surprisingly in other parts of the world you may not have predicted. Or one can draw on some knowledge reserves and research to find noteworthy connections of the current breakdown of the finance capitalist system.

For example we can read that Vladimir Lenin predicted finance capitalism as the last stage of imperialism before an inevitable collapse and movement towards more government influence in the economy. Then we see today the mortgage crisis and failing of banks in the US and Europe, investment and consumption rates greatly decreasing thus Chinese product makers laying off workers en masse as demand for their exports have sharply declined. And following we observe a reverse of the migration trend in China (people are heading back to the countryside from the cities) and a renewed interest in Maoism amongst many Chinese “proletariat”. When we look at Maoism we see how it is focused on the agrarian people surrounding cities instead of the urban industrial laborers rising up as was the Marxist idea that Lenin revised a bit to include more of a role for the rural poor. So here we see how history and current economic events are just points on a web of threads of time strung by the needle of human ideas.

Though one beauty of Muir's statement is that it applies universally, he was speaking in the context of conservation of natural ecosystems in light of human population growth. In his close studies and relationship with the Sierra Nevada mountains he was one of the first modern humans who realized that natural resources are not infinite and environmental degradation not only threatens natural wonders like Yosemite Valley but the continued health and economic sustainability of human societies. He established the Sierra Club in 1892 to bring awareness to this issue and advocate in the political arena for conservation.

So why I am I talking about this in a blog based on my work for an economic development organization in East Africa? What is the connection? I have been in parts of Kenya and Uganda now for three weeks.  As I indicated in my first entry I arrived here with only a vague idea of what my work would be.  However the basics of my responsibilities, the people I met through my interviewing with Village Enterprise Fund and of course the mission and approach to poverty reduction of the organization were in line with my values and interests. One piece of this approach is to partner with other organizations to tackle complex problems. And one of my primary jobs while I am here will be to evaluate, coordinate and manage pieces of our project and partnership with the highly-visible international conservation organization Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in the communities that border the Budongo Rain Forest, one of the few remaining habitats in the world for chimpanzees.  

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