The history of humanity, the expansion of humans, its migrations and conflicts, all comes down to resources; their availability and how they’ve been used. The ones who have had the most have been able to survive, conquer, grow and evolve.
Just as animals migrate, sometimes across the globe to find more favourable climates to survive in, the migratory flows of people have been the same, and still is. However, unlike animals, we nowadays have easy access to more resources than ever before in the history of human kind. We can both move and consume resources way faster than ever before. The question about how we use the resources available to us is without argument the most important for the future.
So, just to break it down a bit. I mean this is a way bigger subject than this blog, but so, so important it needs to be brought up everywhere.
Resources can be seen as energy. No matter what type of resource it´s all a form of energy. Natural resources such as fossil fuels, obviously, forests, all food items, even money is just a form of energy. And then we have our internal resources; our intellect, creativity, our life force. You know when someone is referred to as “resourceful”, meaning able to use his/her inner resources, our intellect and intuition, in a way that creates solutions and opportunities.
Scarce resources are the basic assumption of economics. To scope with limited resources, we need to economize – very simple. However, it feels like we´ve forgotten this basic fact that we cannot have it all at the same time. We cannot run a marathon, solve a puzzle and sleep at the same time. Or can we?
To answer that, we first need to allocate the resources available to us. We’re often not aware of our resourcefulness, like the fact that we only use a marginal part of our brain capacity.
When we’ve understood the resources we have, we need to choose how to use the energy available to us. How do we spend our money, how do we spend our days? And do we do it sustainably?
Let us take your arm as an example. With all its layers of skin, tissue, muscle, bone and fluids it is a resource for you to use, but only if you use it wisely and in a sustainable way.
It’s easy to argue that your arm belongs to you. It’s up to you how you use it. When you’re a child maybe your parents thought some part of that arm belonged to them, telling you how to use it. In the time of slavery, your arm might have been considered as the resource of someone else. So, what resources are “ours”?
The San people, our Bushmen ancestors who occupied the southern parts of Africa for as far back as 20 000 years ago, lacked the concept of ownership. They were gatherers and hunters, a nomadic tribe that only hunted down an animal that was the correct size for the family to eat for the day, or two days without creating leftovers. They lived in the moment without saving for the future, trusting their resourcefulness to survive tomorrow. It’s a beautiful idea (yet a scary one for us who have been told since we were kids to start saving for retirement). As other tribes began to take over land, limiting the resources available to the San, claiming no-man’s-land for themselves, the same resources the San couldn’t understand could “belong” to someone, they were forced to survive in the harshest desert lands nobody else wanted. The same story echoes in the history of other native people living close to nature.
What to me is the most astonishing thing about the way of life of the San people is that they only used resources that gave them meaning. They were not interested in controlling the resources but simply utilising them in a sustainable way to survive, make art and other creative forms of use.
Jumping back to today and the meaning of ownership. If we look at resources as energy, can they really be owned? Energy isn’t really worth anything until we make use of it. A bank account full of money doesn’t do anything (except to perhaps bring some peace of mind, or sleepless nights) until it’s exchanged to something else. We gather all these things around us in our homes, but do we really use any of the things we “own” in a meaningful way. I believe there is a meaning behind every action, we do things to fulfill a basic need, meet an expectation or we are driven by some other emotion. But do we even know, or stop to listen what the meaning is of that last thing we acquired? What basic need, expectation or maybe an emotion was behind the energy exchange?
If you look around at things you “own”, can you say what meaning they have to you? Or do we just hold on to things thinking they have a meaning in other peoples’ eyes, and some day in our own eyes as well?
I’m not necessarily saying owning things is a bad thing. But with ownership comes great responsibility. We need to be accountable for the administration of the resources we “own”, or there will be nothing left for tomorrow.
The action of gathering resources always has a purpose we’re trying to fulfil; and it often ends up being a sense that we are lacking something. But you know what, we are not! If we simply tap in to our inherited resourcefulness, we find out we already have it all. We’ve had it all along. We’ve just got caught up in comparing and judging ourselves.
Our arm is part of a whole ecosystem of our body, which in turn is a part of another larger ecosystem, and so it goes on. Every ecosystem has a circular flow where every little part has its own function. When we disrupt the flow of an ecosystem by eliminating or adding something, it changes, and the flow gets anomalies. That´s what ´s happening with our planet; the anomalies are increasing with catastrophic results. At least for life as we know it today.
So, when you’ve figured out what resources are available to you, how do you use them; for good, for bad, or not at all?
On the theme of resources, there’s so much we can no without having much. This post was originally written with actual pen and paper (yes, they still exist). Small things might be all you need…
Co-founder of Pranama