I met a Tree

I went for a ride in a far away region.

There, I met the Tree I had so many times heard about.

I decided to carefully examine it, as it appeared to me so different and enigmatic compared to the Trees I had seen in Europe. The Tree had an aura of magnetizing and a somehow frightening charm, which at first made me remain on my guard. The majesty of the Tree also revealed multiple divergent features.

What struck me most was the presence of this massive and rigid prop, tightly holding the Tree’s move, strongly controlling its direction. The branches, straight and uniform, docilely followed the indicated track. Although the Tree seemed big enough to independently decide for itself, a sort of apparent cohesion and harmony still bound trunk and prop. Yet, having a closer look, I could observe some very twisted branches, unequal, growing but refrained and half hidden behind the gigantic structure of the Tree. Severe cut back had obviously been undertaken, leaving salient and deep wounds.

Embedded within its branches, some marks and knots remained, ancient proofs of the Tree’s growth. The most stunted parts could be the result of diseases, attacks, droughts or famines. The Tree’s history must have been very dense and agitated, in the view of the marks left, I thought. Nonetheless, the recent sprouts indicated a fantastic strength and potential. I could almost hear the sap bubbling, looking for further growth. I could see the stunning new architecture formed by those highest branches, symbol of vigour and future prospects. On the contrary, the lowest branches, unequally receiving the sun seemed to struggle finding their way out.

The Tree was clearly in full expansion, its large red flowers disseminating pollen all over the surroundings and further. Nevertheless, its branches, amply spreading, shadowed the smallest trees living around, therefore slowing down their development. A tiny twig was even swallowed by the Tree (the Tree claimed it as its property since the very beginning).

The Tree is not alone. Indeed, a forest of other Trees are trying to establish contacts with it, as flies are attracted by jam. Sure of its power, the Tree knows very well that it can outgrow all of its rivals. I wondered if the other Trees were fooled or had considered the danger represented by the Tree. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. This is the reality. Again I questioned myself, which Tree of the forest could oppose the Tree’s growing hegemony? Humm, let’s see: the so called committee of Trees I know in Europe is way to much busy arguing about trifling acorns and the other potential opponent is facing some sap liquidity problems.

Am I right to be so concerned? Indeed, there has always been one Tree taking precedence over others. Still, the Tree has been sucking its strength up from the ground; pumping over and over more nutrients, water, hence progressively emptying its own resources. Its power even enables it to use other Trees’ resources. And then what? It would not be the first Tree to do so!

I do not know where we will end up. My only certainty is that mind-sets and behaviours must change. Open your eyes; we just cannot keep on doing as usual without caring about the impacts of our acts. If no Tree is willing or able to find a consensus, we shall start the move.

Walls apart

Cultures, History, religions, values, norms (…) are factors seemingly not potent and efficient enough to ensure a clear division and opposition of the people across this planet. Indeed, while minds are changeable and to some extent, more or less easily manipulated, from one side to another, an alternative and somehow effective solution to keep people from any conciliation is to physically divide them. Therefore, huge and sturdy walls have sprung up, endowed with razor wire fences… hum, even more off-putting.

I believe, by interacting between each other, individuals can broaden their mind-sets and possibly find a way out of any conflictive situation. Obviously, this is a pleasant perspective, which is however, to the views of events marking Human History, virtually completely false.

Those previous remarks are certainly too clear-cut. Nonetheless, here comes the never-ending debate regarding a hypothetical historical redundancy. I like to think that those who dare to ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Following this thought, and hoping that, I have an inch of truthfulness, let’s have a look to the walls past and present.

I was born with the fall of the most “shamefully famous” of them: the Berlin Wall. I have grown up reading and hearing about this wall of Infamy, this Iron Curtain. Never again? … Not for sure.

The West Bank Wall being built between the highly disputed Israeli and Palestinian territories is consistent with the same line.  The Israeli separation fence is more than 15 times longer than the Berlin Wall. Even though this is a rather hard-to-ignored project, the economical, political and religious interests at stakes are undermining the underlying Human implications in both sides.

Likewise, the wall erected by the United States along the Mexican border, the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) is supposedly aimed at securing U.S. borders and reducing illegal immigration. Another example is the real fortifications established around Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. And who remembers the Moroccan Wall perpetuating Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara thus chasing the Saharawi from their land?

Certainly, the contexts, situations and stakes are different but the outcomes are similar. The only difference is that, nowadays, little is said about these far largest walls. Why is that? Would it be because the major media and powerful lobbyists are erecting an invisible and mute wall?  This would be even worse: how to destroy what is basically intangible?  It is high time to bring back on public scene these new cases of Human shamefulness. Will we have to wait for their fall before we dare speaking out loud?

An ode to secularism

Religious matters are extremely controversial and everyone has his own views according to the type of education received as well as in school and in a familial context. Religions, faiths are an integral part of our Societies. This is a non-inconsiderable aspect and I am not considering the likelihood of having a World religions-free. Indeed, I came to the conclusion that Human beings have created and transmitted, from generation to generation a clear dependency towards religion. From the height of my certainly limited knowledge regarding humanness, I would explain this dependency by the intrinsic human capacity to question everything and the obviously related craving for answers.

I do not deny the benefits of having a religion. To some extent, it can provide, more or less plausible answers to the questions that science and logic have failed to solve. “We do not know” appears to be definitely unsatisfactory, thus reflecting the impossible human capacity to be ever satisfied. From a positive perspective, this fosters investigations, initiatives and breakthroughs.  Another benefit lies in the creation of communities sharing the same values, developing solidarity and mutual support. Moreover, such a diversity of religion proves the wealth of cultures and the amazing heterogeneity of anthropological wits.

However, religions also entail many ills. To my mind, this does not only represent some bad apple. Even though religions are at many levels, beneficial for the individuals and the Societies, the downsides, such as wars and intolerance prime. This may be regrettable but I really think that the positive aspects are virtually all undermined. I deem the intolerance generated by some extremists as the most important issue.  Your freedom ends where mine starts. This has never been so true regarding religions but it is obviously not respected. That is why I advocate the hegemony of secularism.

For me, secularism is the fairest and most respectful way to manage religions within a multicultural society. Secularism guarantees the right of individuals to have a religious faith while, in the same time protecting people who do not share the same views. I would even go further: religions should be considered as a private matter for the home and the places of worship. Accordingly, the State must not give any special treatment for any religious organisations and be absolutely blind to religion.

Education must be, as a matter of fact, exempt of any religious sign or connotations. Obviously, I am 100% in favour of the total ban of the Hijab, the Muslim headscarf, Christian cross and other ostentatious religious signs from the public areas. Freedom may be at stake here, but I think that in some very precise cases, it has to be put aside over a common good. The education provided in State school should only include a brief coverage of the tenets of world religious, no religion described as superior to another. Indeed, one of my favourite mottos is that you cannot be critical without knowing what you are referring to.

Those are my thoughts and personal views. Although, I do not expect you to share them, constructive critics are evidently welcomed.

Environment and Natural Resources Management

Session 5:

Today’s slogan: “Pesticides: a vicious business cycle”

The usual “Business is Business” should not be used to justify the exploitation and the indirect killing of illiterate Indian farmers. Yet, those practices have been on going for years. Other solutions are available. Applying a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy  midst of chemical industries is not an antithetical concept.

Environmental & Natural Resource Management

Our Slogan:

“Sustainability: it’s too late to be pessimistic”

Making a choice: a baffling paradox

The official dogma of industrial society follows this mere cycle: if citizens’ welfare is to be increased, their freedom has to be maximised (so everyone can act on his own) and this freedom is increased by a multiplication of choices which then enlarges people’s welfare. Barry Schwartz explains how this dogma is nowadays made irrelevant  given the modern progress and the world of communication we are living in.

Having the choice is embedded in our lives, we are use to be offered a large variety of products, services, similar or not, whatever, the importance is the diversity.  Barry Schwartz goes even further affirming that the formation of an individual ‘s identity is a matter of choice. Today, we can invent and continuously reinvent ourselves. If an individual’s identity is, to some extent, shaped by his consumption patterns, therefore making the choice of buying a certain product impacts on who he is and the way he is perceived by others. Well, overall, life is a matter of choice.  And choices, we have plenty of them. There is the stumbling block: it is good or bad?

Having so many choices, as we have today, would produce two negative effects on people. The first is that it creates paralysis: a consumer confronted to too many choices finds it very difficult to settle his mind and make a decision. The second is that even if this consumer overcomes the paralysis and makes a choice, he will be, in the end, dissatisfied by the result of his choice. Indeed, the more options you have, the easier is to regret your choice thinking that another choice would have been better.

Besides, having many options increases the expectation people have about how good the choice will be. This can explain the requirement of customers for a perfect product or service and then their disappointment as nothing can be perfect to everyone’s liking.

Barry Schwartz concludes in this way “the secret to happiness is low expectation” because you get more easily surprised and less often dissatisfied.

In general, I do not think that human beings are meant to be satisfied in any case. This is not always a negative comment as it can foster people to win, to surpass themselves over and over… However, today we can afford to be dissatisfied because our choices are enabled by a still affluent source of materials. Nonetheless, regarding the current scarification of some natural resources, will we be able to make so many choices? Can Humans be ever satisfied?

Human beings are not determinate, they are paradoxical themselves, how can we expect our behaviours to be otherwise?


Making sliced bread remarkable

According to Seth Godin, we are living in a century of idea diffusion: people standing out and spreading their ideas are the real winners. Therefore, today, marketing products is not any more about creating average products for average people.  The key is to target consumers that are really listening, and then those very consumers will spread the word telling their friends how fantastic and unique such or such product is.

Seth Godin is right in his analysis of today’s society. It can be taken for granted the fact that no one can escape the marketing hype and that consumers are confronted with an increasingly large range of products and less time to make a selection. As a result, marketers must figure out what people really want and offer the most remarkable product immediately drawing consumers’ attention. Indeed, what is new, modern, fashionable always finds a large public. The most interesting point is that this particular intrinsic value differentiating an outstanding product from another one can justify an enormous difference in price.

However, I do not think that a product, whatever remarkable it is, can be successful on the long-term. This is one criterion but not the only. Demand is, to some extent, highly volatile, unpredictable. Consequently, the novelty or trendy effect cannot last for a long lapse of time.  Success is achieved when a brand or a product can infiltrate the daily life and be assimilated as a part of the consumer’s identity.  At this stage the loyalty of the consumer is almost guaranteed forever.


My world, Your World, The World

Every culture comes up with its own understanding of life, of the world. Culture or “how we think here” according to a peculiar history, believes, values (…) shapes every single aspect of the society. Culture can be seen as a criterion of an individual’s identity. Indeed, as an individual research of identity keeps changing over time, culture is also a dynamic process.

Thanks to / via his culture an individual recognises signs and their symbolic. As a result, he reacts to various stimuli in a specific way, independently from another individual’s reactions. Marketers use these symbols to target consumers depending on their response towards those very stimuli.

These concepts are not just some mere thoughts; they actually help understanding the interactions between businesses, marketing and the society we live in. But what is business? This is how markets and organisations behave. As for marketing, it is the part of business seen from the consumer’s point of view. The study of business and marketing cannot be done without taking into account the understanding of consumer behaviours, the definitions of culture and subcultures… In any case, we need to remember that everyone has his own subjective truth and that in order to avoid cultural clashes, good marketing strategies must understand the context, the outcome and the paradigm in which they are evolving.

Try to understand my world while I am acknowledging yours.


From scratch.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. This motto ought to be remembered all along the value chain, from the industries and companies (the main product creation sources) to the final customers. However, in a recycling context, this value chain is not that clear: roles and positions of the different actors are changing.

For instance, the end-customer has therefore both the role of a buyer and a supplier. Another tricky assumption is that, because this end-customer supposedly closes the value chain (and therefore pays the highest price); then, the consumption of a product marks the decrease of its value. Indeed, from this perspective, a consumer is going to use a product until it is worthless and eventually buy another one. This postulation in which the final buyer is the last link in the product’s life chain, starting from a raw material stage and ending with finished product must change.

On the contrary, all recycling activities generate material flows and interactions between other actors, thus creating a circular recycling chain beyond the so-called final consumption or use of products.

Nonetheless, although important in today’s society, recycling should not have to be the ultimate solution to waste management. Actions must be taken even before the reduction part. Reducing the amount of waste is necessary but not sufficient. In fact, although more and more people are heading in the right way, adopting sustainable practices, a still too significant regardless part of the population will unfortunately remain unaware of the problems and dangers caused by the wastes.

This is why, a first “R” should be “Replace” or “Remake”. If, from the very very beginning, the products are made according to an ecologically intelligent design, it would cut many issues out while creating an environmental, social and economical value. This view is developed in depth by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book “Cradle to Cradle”.


What consumers want…

Is that what we really want? … Being happy spending time and money looking for the Real Real, the authentic “experience” which will propel us out of this sooo dreadful world?

After some fluctuations in the field of rationalism, is the world being re-enchanted?

Now, make room for this new era of “experiences” in which consumers will be able to reach a further stage within this mass consumer society.

How can companies like Starbucks or Disney make us believe that the “experience” they provide is true, as everybody’s conception of truth differs from one another? And then again, if only people knew such companies were not the genuine reflection of the image they show, would those mere consumers be capable of showing some critical thinking regarding the way they consume? Is the pressure from the society too high that wanting to be different can be regarded as a way towards self-exclusion? Does that even mean anything, “being different”?

Mass customization tends to provide to the consumer a sense of uniqueness. I must say, as a consumer I quite like it, feeling like the nice and specially well-treated sheep of the flock.

I do not believe in this vision of the society. I know that is the way it is but I wish it was not.


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