Winners and losers

The next day our CFO died. I am probably as far removed from the daily life of a CFO as one can get so I didn’t know her that well. But she was the one who agreed to pay for Axel to accompany me on an exploratory trip to Afghanistan, to see if he could imagine living there for two years, out of MSH’s fund balance. It was something that most everyone else told me was out of the question. Her response was, ‘of course’ we will pay for that. I have always loved her for that matter of fact response, a person who was known and credible for her expert stewardship of MSH’s finances. She left us too early, like our former chief who we said goodbye to the day before.

But it is spring and for the rest of us life goes on. Our garden is now full of shades of purples: creeping phlox, lilacs, wisteria and iris. The apple tree has had an extreme haircut which hasn’t kept the little leaf eaters away. I don’t mind not having apples but I am afraid for the beach plum and blueberry bushes nearby which have succumbed in the past to these little critters. It is amazing how much they can eat of the tiny green leaves in a day. Axel promised he will spray today.

But then I worry about the spraying and what it will do to the good micro-organisms around us. An article in Sunday’s New York Time Magazine and a story on NPR last night radio reminded me that there are billions of these creatures (bacteria and fungi) in and on our bodies. I learned that our feet host some 80 different kinds of fungi, and I presume these are healthy feet, and that most of them are innocuous or doing good work, only a few turning into athlete’s foot or ringworm. But when we kill the latter we kill the others as well. Same for antibiotics: we get better and we get worse at the same time.

I am reading more about systems dynamics, well known for decades in the science community, but even if acknowledged by us ordinary souls, not significantly affecting our daily work of designing, planning and evaluating interventions to improve the world. A superb piece of journalism on NPR last night about the marihuana trade going east from California reminded me of the symbiotic relationships between good and bad we create and maintain at great cost and at great benefit to everyone. As long as the forces are in equilibrium and not one side wins we appear to benefit. It is when the force on one side is stronger than the other that we create winners and losers. And that changes everything that follows.

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May 2013
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