The Amazon, the Markets, and Us.
Why it’s time to redirect our insatiable appetite for ‘growth’.
In response to the fires raging in the Amazon this week and having recently watched the Amazon and Brazil episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, I wrote a post on my Facebook and Instagram that I wanted to share - albeit a slightly edited version - with you here.
I’ve tried not to over think it and edit it too much from my original post but tweaked, refined and expanded for a more thoughtful read...
The Amazon is burning, indigenous people around the world are desperately trying to not only defend their rights and their land, but warn us of the devastation being caused by our insatiable drive for ‘growth’, ‘development’, ‘progress’, ‘increased GDP’, ‘research’, ‘industry’ and ‘economy’.
‘And so we will seek continued growth cloaked as progress, unrestrained and ill-considered until we can grow no more; and the growth we promote will be such that we will, in the end, choke to death, both metaphorically and literally.
A better future may not lie in growth at all, but rather in the opposite direction, in progress as smaller size and deeper relationship with each Other and Planet; in progress as measured in a variety of forms of presence.’
We’ve been bumbling on for years now knowing that some of the comforts, pleasures and habits of our daily lives have been slowly killing the environment (and us). I’m still struggling to let go of some of them, as most of us are.
Us humans are masters at cognitive dissonance. In fact, this ability to detach and disassociate from experiences, people, habits that we know are bad for us, has been a clever human survival strategy, but the more we’ve grown and evolved as a species (and with the advance of technology, sharing of information and interconnectivity of social media), when it comes to the planet, how we are treating it and how we are treating each other, the more we know we can’t look away anymore.
It’s feels like many of the egomaniacal, narcissistic political leaders that are in power today are here to grip on to old paradigms and resist major power change, but also to show us the sides of ourselves and our society that we know and feel but incredibly dislike and try to ignore or push away.
Even on the celebrated, less offensive side of the powerful and rich - Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk - all have companies investing millions and millions of dollars into space travel and exploration. Why? It feels like an ego-driven race or competition for ‘more’, in the name of growth or ‘progress’.
I’m for economy and growth that creates value, for everyone, but not just for growths sake with no purpose, no impact beyond just ‘more’. Our ability as humans to trade and invest and generate capital has morphed into something we can’t even understand anymore, it’s become so disconnected and separate to us it’s become a thing all of its own - ‘the markets’.
The markets are us! Our human beliefs, biases, values, greed, fear, joy, kindness, connection, disconnection, are the markets.
It is heartening, exciting and curious to see the newly released statement from the Business Roundtable (and subsequent New York Times piece), announcing a redefined ‘purpose of a corporation’ - agreeing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. That they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.
Many are questioning what it means, what action looks like beyond the intentions of the 181 CEOs of America’s largest corporate companies that have signed the agreement, with views ranging from hopeful to cynical.
I am hopeful.
I believe it’s a great start to a growing shift in how we show up in business. I believe many are cynical because the system as it currently is has benefited us in many ways and it’s the way it’s always been, for centuries. We don’t clearly know what a ‘new way’ will look like, and that’s hard and uncomfortable.
There’s no algorithm or model that could predict what the markets or what business could look or feel like beyond the deep institutionalised doctrine of Milton Friedman’s ‘the social responsibility of business is to increase it’s profits.’
But what got us here, won’t get us there, as the saying goes.
For me, two things are important.
A redirected focus on personal growth, and coaching & development that supports leaders and managers all the way down through organisations to not only build leadership from the ‘inside’ (meaning inside us, our own unique human values, feelings, purpose and personal presence and how we lead from that place), growing mindsets, beliefs, and worldviews, not just skills, but also to understand and interpret what performance and leadership means when you are serving systemically - employees, customers, community, shareholders, the environment, suppliers, stakeholders, humans, planet, the present and the future.
It means understanding ourselves more deeply and learning better ways of being with each other; like (and not limited to) sitting with questions we don’t know the answer to…vulnerability…being at ease with discomfort…sacrifice and attachment…speaking from the heart, compassion – real compassion from a place of deep empathy…what integrity means for us individually beyond laws and regulations…intrinsic values…understanding and embracing our emotions…embodiment…understanding the mind, with and beyond intellect and conceptual thinking…speaking truth…listening – really listening, silence…understanding our fears…developing discernment…independent and interdependent thinking…standing for what we believe in…courage and presence.
I’ll end with this from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (from his beautiful book, In Love with the World) -
‘Without personal transformation, and without some sense of humility - even with regard to the universe itself - greed and anger are pushing us over the cliff. It seems that without acknowledging the way each of us sets ourself up to receive the arrows, we just keep slinging them at each other, misperceiving the source of our anguish to be outside ourselves.’
With love, and continuous learning.