Back in 1995 during a visit in Sugar Creek Ohio, in the heart of the renowned Swiss-German Amish Community who migrated to the US in the late 17th century, I traveled with an old friend of mine: John Miller aka “Johannes Mueller” owner and CEO of Superb Industries. Back then John Miller, a former Amish Community member, was living near Bonn in Germany but grew up in Sugar Creek: an idyllic little town populated by a large Amish community. While visiting there I picked up some incongruities on how the Amish community was going about its daily life. I noticed some of the shortcuts they were taking to beat their own belief system. John Miller made an unforgettable statement about his former community: “Why have it the easy way when one can have it the German way?” Having lived in Germany for more than 25 years I could really appreciate his dry sense of humor because, just like Germans at times, the Amish community tends to make things difficult for itself. But let me stop pointing the finger to some of those anachronisms and take a realistic look at the way I run my life in my so-called modern digitized world.
1. Our modern societies rarely promote sustainability
At the dawn of our digitized 21st century we still endorse manufacturing practices we have acquired during the industrial age dating all the way back to the 19th century! We have managed to “industrialize” just about everything we transform or produce: manufacturing routines and processes, educational paradigms and finally agriculture. Because of our cultures being mostly non-sustainable we all pay a price, which is phenomenal: emotional stress, physical stress, mental illness and potentially deadly physical diseases while imprisoning ourselves in non-sustainable megacities: and the list could go on and on … Humans fully understand that our world’s fossil energy consumption is not a sustainable one, but to this very day we still classify our countries’ economies with an antiquated measurement system: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In her article: “Instead of GDP,” Carolyn Brajkovich writes about the Rio+20 environmental conference and reports how “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discussed the need for the world to move past the antiquated GDP measuring tool that has failed to show the true prosperity of nations. Instead of measuring the tangibles of ‘wealth’, which do not show the true measure of ‘success’ at the citizen’s level, he agrees that we need to create a broader measurement that also covers the social developmental aspects of humanity as well as an added health measurement for our planet and its integrated eco-systems.” Such antiquated industrial measurement practices should have been abandoned a long time ago, but unfortunately our voracious human greed still promotes a never ending appetite for more. In her article: “13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite” Heather Stewart writes: “A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network”.
On the other hand sustainability is everywhere: Any of us can observe sustainability by just pausing and admiring nature all around us: No cables, no programming updates, no rewriting on how a spider could improve on more sustainable web manufacturing routines. No need to check the self-sustaining burning limits of our sun star situated at the core of our solar system. Our sun star (1.392K km / 864K miles diameter) is made of a mix of three-fourth hydrogen while the rest is mostly helium, but also oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, among others. There is no hauling of raw materials; no “manufacturing” processes subcontracted to different parts of our universe! It sounds crazy, but please bear with me for a second and think … This is exactly what “intelligent humans” are doing on the planet that sustains their very physical lives!
2. Our educational system comes out of the Enlightenment age
We do not respect the idiosyncrasies of our young people and literally destroy their creativity by the time they are 25! Children are pretty much all taught the same thing without considering their proclivity, talents, likes and dislikes. We tightly join them together: boys and girls sorted out by “manufacturing dates” i.e. year of birth. Our educational system mostly emphasizes linear non-creative thinking such as mathematics, sciences, philosophy and chemistry. All are geared towards nurturing a manufacturing based society and its commonly known industrial output. Young educated people for the most part have been stripped of their human creativity. They have been transformed into societal tools which are aimed to support the necessary “industrial output” our society expects. Character, principles and ethics remain non tangible assets and of little interest for our daily industrial output.
3. Manufacturing routines based on 19th century industrial revolution
Our societies are still based on business models coming right out of the industrial revolution; our countries’ education paradigms are fueled by linear thinking systems going all the way back to the days of enlightenment. Both company productivity and success are measured in monetary values solely determined by our international financial markets. Financial success or failure is tightly connected to the profit company shareholders make and this regardless of how sustainable or unsustainable our manufacturing routines are. In his article: “Tim Cook’s Freshman Year: The Apple CEO Speaks,” Josh Tyrangiel’s writes: “In Cook’s first 16 months on the job, Apple has released next-generation iPhones and iPads and seen its stock price rise 43 percent.” Right at the beginning of his article, Josh Tyrangiel proves Tim Cook’s performance by equating his success to a 43 percent growth of Apple’s stock’s price Share Value.
4. Local agriculture transformed in agro-industry
We have lost the respect towards the environment that sustains our lives. Are industrialized ways are careless about our planet’s fragile ecosystem and the fact that it gives us the very air we breathe the water we drink and the food we eat! Our agro-industrial food manufacturing methods are destroying our environment. The resulting “fast-food” culture is only one of the tragic examples our western cultures have credited themselves with. Chipotle states: “It’s all fun and games until someone wrecks a planet.” We need to reestablish a culture of local food markets. We also need to replace our industrial farming techniques and pesticides with sustainable and ecological ways of growing food otherwise who knows what the consequences will be.
So how do we turn this around? How do we contribute to our planet and environment’s survival? What can our businesses do in order to promote sustainability and avoid industrial waste? In this new article series, we will look at ways management, workforce and clients alike can benefit from applying sustainability.
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