Engineers without borders, and the Monoculture

Mat has published a new lunch on Free Lunch Diaries with Parker Mitchell, the founder of Engineers without Borders, which seeks to build sustainable businesses in impoverished areas worldwide. He seems like an accomplished, good-hearted guy. These two quotes stood out for me:

He cites the example of transitioning rural farmers away from relationship-based trading (where you know and can trust the person you’re buying and selling from) to a more global and impersonal trade (where money abstracts and renders irrelevant the relationship between buyer and seller).

Later in the interview he says, in contrast:

He suggests that the notion of leading our lives on the convenient and easy track (school > work > money > consumption) — what he likens to merely floating down the river–is at once not a sustainable model for the entire planet and not providing us with spiritually fulfilled happy lives. His somewhat cryptic antidote is to challenge ourselves to go into the vulnerable, into the questions. By way of example he challenges the notion that capitalism as we have practiced it over the past 200 years should be the model we adopt for the coming century.

A book I recently read, Monoculture: How one story is changing everything, shows how the economic story is the master narrative that shapes our culture in the modern age, and that resisting that monoculture is the way to human dignity and freedom. Having just read that made these two contrasting passages stand out to me. You can read a blog by FS Michaels too, which gives you a sense of the book’s perspective.

If there were some way of preserving the human, trust-based way of trade, that Mitchell describes above, AND bringing sustainable prosperity to its practitioners, that would be the ideal. It’s a tough problem, but worth solving.

2 thoughts on “Engineers without borders, and the Monoculture

  1. I’m surprised you have not yet written a book about your experiences and your rich and varied life. Everybody else is doing it, you should too! It would be very interesting and IMHO better than most of the drivel that gets published these days, I for one would be especially interested in the story behind Flikr, your views on where the industry is headed and whatever wisdom and starch you can impart to the young ‘uns.

    Please do consider this request seriously.

  2. Suraj, thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate it. Yes, I’m one of those that would “like to write a book some day” but haven’t quite gotten around to it. In the interim, I’ll post more to this blog.šŸ™‚

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