Following on from the last one, this John D. Liu video from the Environmental Education Media Project takes us to the steppes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. If you love learning from different cultures that find ways to survive and flourish in circumstances and climates very different from your own, as I do, then you’ll find this an interesting piece.
I wasn’t too excited by the tourism ‘development’ happening in this remote locale, only because this always shifts focus for locals who start to earn more money than they ever would have, and so their economy begins to plug into, and frame itself around, the globalised economy. Priorities inevitably shift with the influx of hard currency and ultimately the people start to move inexorably from localised subsistence towards consumerism. The local society also begins to stratify, with those more directly involved in tourism than actual living on the land taking the lion’s share of income, creating inequality and causing prices to rise based on the highest income — pricing some out of the market.
This aside, the big take-home element for me was seeing the benefits of cooperation. With some outside encouragement, these people organised themselves into collectives (‘Nukhulul’) that worked in a participatory fashion to consider the big picture elements of their lives and their environment, to come up with strategies to improve their lot whilst maintaining or improving their environment. This is in stark contrast to the western, atomised ‘every man for himself’ mindset, that sees most of us isolated from each other, and detached from the impacts of our lifestyles. Working collectively provides opportunities for all to share their observations, so that the group can make the most holistic decisions to benefit all.