When Cultures Collide: Business and Ecology in the New Century
Samuel P. Huntington had it all wrong. He characterized the twenty-first century as the clash of civilizations--as a clash of different worldviews aligned to particular geographical/cultural agglomerations which would inevitably come into grave conflict: Islamic, European, and so forth, providing much of the background to current wars (i.e. US-Iraq War). But, he had it all wrong. There is a much more profound clash that is going on right now on our very doorsteps that supersedes geographic conflicts. It is the clash between the cultures of business and ecology; it is a clash of fundamentally different world views that have logical coherence within their own respective frameworks, but whose incongruities and mutual disparities have yet to be fully identified, elucidated, and resolved. They are, as Thomas Kuhn would put it, incommensurable.
Think, if you will, how differently the very same plot of land is perceived by the different sides. One the one hand, you have the world of business which epitomizes the human world; one whose cost-benefit formulas are strategically maximized to increase profit and social interests. A plot of land will be perceived as a series of inputs and outputs ending up with a positive coefficient: if you take X number of materials, charge Y amount to a given number of individuals, it will generate a net revenue of Z over a given number of years. Dollars and cents are added up, to be reinvested in the next chain, generating an expected series of profits, in a continuous and ongoing evolutionary cycle of revenue generation.
On the other hand, you have the world of the ecologists--not the 'butterfly loving' 'hippie freaks' they are insultingly characterized to be, but serious straight-laced individuals (scientists) who have thoroughly studied 'every inch' of the very same plot of land, identifying thermodynamic transfers of caloric inputs and outputs fluctuating across diverse ecological strata constituting the system. (There is, of course, nothing wrong with "butterfly loving hippie freaks" who might know next to nothing of basic biology.) The compound interest of genetic variability within a given field is calculated with as much precision and detail as the best financier would with any mutual fund investment. A plot of land is not a blank chalkboard to be had in whatever manner we might wish, but a very real preexisting entity of animal communities interacting with each other in a manner more complex than could be ever imagined by the ordinary businessman. There is as much life and complexity in one (ecological systems) as in the other (business systems).
As mentioned before, the two views are valid within their own respective frameworks, but have not yet been "mutually reconciled"; there is no framework cross-referencing between the two. However it might be done, what is certainly the case is that if ground rules are not established for their clear resolution, we will end up in a more serious 'war' that is against the interest of all parties involved.