What do a landfill in Pakistan and a potato packing plant in Idaho have in common?

August 6, 2020 by Anna Willman , Syed Wajid

Lessons from the Virus #1

Cross-cultural conversations on a global platform highlight not only different perspectives, but also common themes.

One theme that has come up in our Building Toward a Better World conversations has been an awareness that bigger is not always better. Large bureaucracies, whether private corporations or governmental departments, tend to be expensive and inefficient when faced with the task of meeting local community needs.  Expensive because corporations need profits to run and governments need taxes.  Inefficient because they tend to be far away.  

For example, a local community in Pakistan will recycle plastics, create a local dump of biodegradable wastes, and then sell the compost to farmers and give the money to local charities. A big urban government will create a huge landfill for everything.  Farmers will find the refuse impossible to compost.  And street children who might have benefited from the charities will instead endanger their lives scavenging the great piles of waste for recyclable materials.

Similarly in the US, food distribution has become the province of a few giant corporations with workers crowded in huge food packaging facilities.  When the Covid-19 virus found its way into these facilities, the plants were declared “essential” to the nation’s food supply forcing workers to remain on the job in unsafe conditions.  When there were many small plants, before consolidation, an outbreak could close an infected plant without causing major disruption.

Discovering these similarities is just a first step in exploring new ways of doing things as we move forward.