number fourteen: expand the pie

This is a real simple concept, that’s hard to get your mind around sometimes. particularly in this age of consumerism, where everything is about maximising profit and minimising loss, and ‘externalising’ the downside of everything, which is just a nice way of saying ‘shit in someone else’s well, not your own’.

The strategy that nature actually uses is totally not that way, and the sooner human beings get our collective heads around it, the better off we’ll be.

Quite simply, what you want to do is, in every interaction you have, be it business personal, environmental or whatever, is to enrich the total field of resources from which you are partaking. Rather than just taking the biggest piece of the pie, take your piece, but also do something to expand the pie, so there is now more for everyone.

This is the true meaning of ‘economic growth’ which gets lost in an endless stream of cooked books and starving people. If you advance technology, enrich relationships, build trust, open up the playing field, add to a common resource, then everybody wins and everyone does better.

The real problem in the world, if you had to pick just one, is what’s called ‘the tragedy of the commons’. Basically, if everyone abuses a common resource in some relatively minor way, magnified by hundreds thousands, millions, that resource is destroyed.

One person trampling the grass on the way to work is trivial. A hundred people will wear tracks in the earth. A thousand will turn that field into a mud-hole with nothing in it, in short order.

Abusing someone’s feelings in some small way for the sake of expediency might seem harmless, but that’s why relationships end: eventually all you have left is a list of times someone has abused you and taken away from whatever common well of empathy you started with. If you took the time to build empathy, build trust, add to communication, that wouldn’t happen.

Are you going to tell someone they can’t take that shortcut, catch that fish, abuse that trust, take advantage of that privilege? Maybe, maybe not, but if everyone does it, you end up in the situation we’re in today. Everyone means well, or at least not too ill, and yet we’re still fucked.

It’s relatively easy to apply this to nature, because this is what nature tries to do anyway. It’s not too much of a leap to tend the ecology of our minds, our society and our relationships, much the same way.


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