3 Development Concepts that are not Nature’s ‘Style’

It suddenly dawned on me last week that many of our commonly accepted ‘principles of development’ are not synchronous with Nature. I know this may be contentious but take these 3 for example:

  1. The unquestioned supremacy of the 24/7 concept: Most urban dwellers are conditioned to believe that the highest sign of development is the availability of goods and services 24/7.  To use Khalil Gibran’s phrase, in a collective sense we’ve become ” a stranger unto the seasons”. At the macro-level, cities are ranked according to round-the-clock availability of water and electricity. I can’t think of anything in nature that offers such 24/7 security. Are we making a mistake when we create a world that expects such 24/7 convenience? Perhaps we are because it creates a false sense of security and teaches us to expect a constant output while ignoring the systems that enable such output in the first place. It breeds wastefulness and apathy. Reminds me of children/teenagers who place constant demands on their parents without ever considering how their parent/s would be able to meet their demands.  We need to grow up at some point or else our parents can get very, very weary of  never-ending demands on them.  In creating such social systems, we’re cutting off people’s connection with nature. Most people would be hard-pressed to answer a direct question about where their water came from or what happened to it after their use. Where is the incentive to be like the squirrels or countless other creatures that prepare for the lean times?  At the other end of the spectrum, we have societies where women and children have to walk miles and miles to collect water and fuel for daily use. Sometimes, they spend 8 hours of productive time in such pursuit. Their potential could certainly be used better elsewhere if they had appropriate systems in place. What we must also consider is that more often then not, it is our desire for such 24/7 convenience that may contribute to such dire circumstances in the first place. You only have to think of how the big and powerful usually act as hegemonies when it comes to resource allocation to know this might be true.
  2. Growth can be eternal: Everything that we find around us in nature shows signs of stopping growth at some point. It is not nature’s way to continue growing forever. Yet our world economy is not yet equipped to handle signs of a slowdown. Found a lovely video that illustrates this point beautifully.  Watch [http://positivetv.tv/channels/the-impossible-hamster-club/]
  3. Death and decay is bad and must be avoided at all costs: We’ve certainly put ourselves in a strange place where we’ve created monsters that we’re not equipped to deal with. Remember reading somewhere that we’ve sort of become like Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein,too much in love with our own creations to see the harm they can do eventually.  Want an example? Think of our obsession with plastic and what it is doing to our world. Want another example? Watch this video:

At the other end of the spectrum there are products that are ‘designed for the dump’.  It is easier to replace IPods than to repair them. Also the case sometimes with larger items such as refrigerators and even cars in some ‘developed’ economies. Think of how earlier generations repaired things and used them till they could be used no more while our generation and the younger generations would balk the very notion. Certainly food for thought…



  1. Niyi · March 8, 2011

    Kiran, good thinking. We are building a surreal world that is scared of reality.

    • rhetoric2reality · March 14, 2011

      Thanks Niyi

  2. Kaustav · March 8, 2011

    Kiran, here’s some food for thought in the form of rejoinders:

    1. Our body works 24×7. It’s only consciousness that takes a break when we sleep. And that is only because our social brains have developed a specialised function called sleep that enables us to assimilate and process more information in an accelerated manner while there are others that are awake and protect our physical existence.

    2. Growth is eternal – depending on how you define the terms ‘Growth’. The tendency of simple systems to co-ordinate to form more complex systems is eternal in nature – and has culminated in ‘life’ as we know it, atleast on this planet. ‘Change’ based on natural principles is always progressively in search of a higher level of ‘balance’ – an example of eternal growth.

    3. Avoidance of death and decay is only a conscious expression of nature’s move towards improved balance – after all, what is consciousness but a special condition of abstract perception that exists only in beings in which the forces of nature achieve a special form of balance?

    • rhetoric2reality · March 14, 2011

      Kaustav, Thanks for the post. Made me think.
      1. In a sense, even for our bodies to work 24 x 7, don’t they need rest? One cannot function at the optimum when one is sleep deprived and it is not just the consciousness that is impaired, it is our physical functions too. I don’t believe sleep is a specialized function of a ‘social brain’ as you call it. Even plants sleep. Some go so far as to demonstrate this very visibly.though sleep movements called nyctinasty. It is a fascinating science!
      2 and 3. Couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. The key word is BALANCE. Today, the materials economy uses so much more than nature can replenish. In the past 3 decades alone, we’ve consumed one-third of the earth’s natural resources. Let me give you an example of what I mean. In school, we were taught that fish is a renewable resource and it is rightly is. But humans have harvested soooo much that we mine those fish faster than nature can replenish. In a sense, we make renewable resources, non-renewable. Read about the collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fisheries. http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/cancod.html

      Balance is much needed out here. Watch the fantastic movie Story of Stuff to know more of what I’m referring to. Available here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM

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