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Giving Thanks for Diversity
Tue 1st December, 2015 lmc-solutions-facebook lmx-solutions-tweet lmc-solutions-linked-in lmc-solutions-google-plus lmc-solutions-tell-a-friend
Thanksgiving

This past week our North American friends have been celebrating Thanksgiving and while I am not a fan of the commercialisation of such celebrations, I think it is a wonderful idea to give thanks for all that we have and to appreciate the sacrifice, work and forethought of those who made it possible for us to live the lives that we do. In my own case, I am incredibly thankful for the life I have, for all I've seen, for the places I've been, for the experiences I've enjoyed and for all those most dear to me - friends and family, past and present.

We are a far cry here from the streets of Paris, or the borders of Macedonia or flight routes over Turkey. Far enough away to look upon recent events with an objective observer's eye, far enough away to gain a little perspective. It wasn't always that way for me. In a not so distant past I had more of an inside view of world events. When you live and work in different countries, with different cultural norms, you soon learn how to blend in, especially when you are part of the white minority. We chose to integrate at every opportunity, living amongst the locals, breathing in and absorbing the diversity that makes this planet such a great place to live. As a consequence we were left pretty to ourselves. In some instances folk went out of their way to accommodate our cultural needs but they were people infatuated with the west. For the most part as we respected the differences of our host country so did they ours.

These days we live in a new home, in my native country, in a town not half an hour from where I was born - personal events over the last year forced the move but the outcome has opened up some brilliant opportunities. We're restoring a native parkland - turning exotic pasture into native grasslands, riparian areas and bush. The land is semi-coastal, ravaged by wind and rain, built from sand blown into dunes centuries ago and sculpted by water, rabbits, the previous owner’s copious quantities of stock and, most recently, our three dogs. 

In this place I am learning the value of diversity and the importance of planting certain plants together to optimise the growing potential of both. I am discovering that what grows well in one place, has no chance in another. It's like a puzzle, matching each plant to the terrain, conditions and aspect. Am I having success? I'll let you know in a year or two. But it struck me that diversity is the key to survival for all living things on this planet. The most successful creatures are the most adaptable. The contribution of each species in an ecosystem ensures the survival of the system as a whole. There is an interdependence there that only comes from the diverse nature of all the parts.

I wonder then why we do not embrace this same diversity amongst ourselves. At the heart of our modern society is a curious human trait that compels us to justify our own beliefs and actions by imposing them on others.  I wonder at the subtle yet persistent pressure that society applies to its citizens to conform despite history showing that our greatest achievements came through non-conformity.

And that's all I do, wonder. 

As an observer, literally one who follows or watches over without involvement, the challenge lies in seeing what is without filtering it through one's own beliefs or opinions. In fact the art of the observer is to suspend all such conjecture and to deal simply with what is and perhaps posit some questions as to the “whys” and the “hows” and play with some possible “what-may-bes”.

And yet for any system to survive there must be diversity. Within any society we accept the need for diversity, albeit grudgingly at times. A world full of computer techs is of little value when what you really need is a plumber. The growth and development of any civilisation is founded on utilising the diversity within.

When considering the nature of diversity, the very idea of something being distinct, separate, "turned different ways", and the social compulsion for order and conformity, no wonder our leaders are faced with a form of cognitive dissonance when it comes to foreign policy, homeland security and immigration issues. How do you embrace diversity and keep everything the same? The simple answer is you can’t. The complex one is that change and diversity happen even when you do everything in your power to prevent it, and sometimes due to your efforts to do so. Ask any parent of a teenager and you will hear the truth of that.

So back to my restoration project on my lifestyle block, it seems that even without my help nature is doing the work for me. While removing a great pile of pine tree trimmings that had been bulldozed into a mound by the previous owner, I find a tiny eco-system of ferns and pittosporum amongst the weeds that are growing there. The onus is on me to protect this natural piece of diversity as I weed and plant around it. These naturally seeded natives have the greatest chance of success and as they grow, they’ll provide the much needed shelter and nurturing for any new natives, and create an environment where there just is no room for the weeds at all.

I am most thankful for these brave little plants and the diversity they bring to this area of huge pines they have found themselves growing amongst. They are teaching me what will do well there and how best to keep the weeds out.

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