A crash course in changing the world.
"Don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.) "
This, for me, is one of the critical problems facing those trying to do something positive in the world. History is my passion and the study of it - especially in the South African context - has showed me how often people have tried to impose their culture and ideas upon others. And do you know what history shows us? It never works. Culture is fundamental and trying to force people to change, to fit into YOUR culture is not only rude but is not going to facilitate your ultimate goals. In order to change anything we need to work from the ground up - to TALK to the people affected by the changes we are trying to implement, to try to UNDERSTAND what their lives are all about. I have often thought, when reading about new initiatives and programs designed to alleviate poverty or to reduce carbon emissions from fuel wood burning in rural areas, that there seems to be very little communication with the people who will be affected. Simply telling someone that their means of cooking and heating is environmentally unsustainable and that they should stop using the resources in these ways does not solve the problem. Only by illustrating the full extent of the problem in a way that can be understood and by acknowledging that sometimes the use of those 'unsustainable' resources is their only means of survival can we effectively manage and change the situation - and even then, this is going to involve much more than simply encouraging people to take the 'moral high ground'. Only by acknowledging that different people believe in different things and adhere to different mores can we begin to build solutions and technologies that will work in those circ**stances.