Give a man a fish…
The phrase ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’ is a familiar adage used to convey the longer term benefits achieved through knowledge sharing and education- compared to the short-termism of simple alms ‘giving’.
It’s a maxim that is used by charities and NGOs to support development programs that are not simply focused on providing short term aid, such as food and medical supplies, but to seek to improve and enhance the fundamental conditions that are often at the root of the need to provide aid in the first instance. This can be done by investing in and enhancing strong and resilient resources of built (e.g. technology and infrastructure), human (e.g. health and knowledge) and social (e.g. relationships and co-operation) capital- all of which contribute to the positive functioning of societies.
As such, wide scale knowledge sharing and education is at the crux of developing the human and social capital within societies- and ‘teaching a man how to catch a fish’ (rather than simply giving him one), will, in a the context of a society, instil the knowledge required for individuals to utilise and consume available natural capital (e.g. natural resources and ecological processes) to provide a community’s on-going fundamental practical needs.
However, with increasing pressures on, demands for, and consumption of, such natural capital (both in a local, and global sense) many of our learned (and increasingly industrialised) practices of how we ‘catch fish’ (both in a literal sense, and furthermore in relation to global resource consumption in general) are unsustainable- and are degrading these sources of natural capital on which we rely. From polluting, and inefficient utilisation, of our water supply; the removal of nutrients from soil; the elimination of natural pollinators; the over farming/fishing of food stocks leading to their collapse…. we are negatively impacting the planet’s capacity to provide us these goods and services it offers us for free- and on which we fundamentally rely for our survival.
This is not to say that we should stop consuming nature- I am no advocate of some kind of ‘environmental resource abstinence’- and that humanity should not benefit from what nature provides. It is, in fact, because I believe humanity- both those alive just now, and those who are to live in the future- should be allowed the opportunity to benefit from such goods and services provided by nature, that I support the notion that we should protect and conserve it.
How we deliver aid and international development, develop our national and international economies, run our businesses and corporations, control our communities and public services, and, fundamentally, live our individual lifestyles- will all contribute to the levels of natural capital available for our use. Establishing levels of sustainable consumption, as well as practices and behaviours to meet them, are in our interests now, and in the future.
It could be said that we need extend our understanding and application of the ‘fish adage’ to something along the lines:
‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime; implement sustainable fishing practices and you will allow him to feed himself, his family, his community, and his future generations for years to come’
Like all good sayings and maxims, this is relevant in a literal sense in relation to how one man consumes a fish, but furthermore true in a wider, more universal, context in relation to global economic, social and environmental development.
- exotericenvironmentalism posted this