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Too big for their planet

As a reluctant capitalist, it sometimes disturbs me that I have been so good at it. I even begrudgingly admire many of the entrepreneurs who have gone further – but question what drives them, and some of the outcomes. Like Peter Pan, most are inspiring brats, refusing to accept the limits that most people acknowledge as they mature.

Branson, Bezos, Jobs, Musk, Zuckerberg; I would wager most are insatiable, damaged men, seeking to fill an intangible inner hole with tangible outer success. That never works, so on they go, with a gnawing dissatisfaction that nothing on Earth can fulfil – perhaps why most of them want to colonise space.

BBC Radio Four’s ‘Inside the Brain of Jeff Bezos’ gives a fascinating insight into the world’s richest man; his obsession with meeting customer demands, and his willingness to take risks. Perhaps most interesting is his insistence that Amazon will always stay at ‘day one’ in its cultural development, because ‘day two’ implies “stasis, followed by irrelevance, agonising and painful decline, and death.” A Peter Pan if there ever was one.

On the day Riverford became employee owned, I said my biggest fear was not that we would now do something stupid, but that we would stop being (occasionally) stupid; that we would grow up and become boring. So I recognise Bezos’ resistance to organisational ageing.

Rocket launch
Billionaire entrepreneurs are focused on space travel.

But we must all grow up if we are to successfully share this planet. Having created the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, Amazon might be the world’s most environmentally damaging company. Even Bezos has acknowledged that “when unlimited demand meets finite resources, the inevitable result is rationing.” His answer is a highway to space; always looking up and out. What we really need is for those powerful, inadequate men to look within. Until they attain some human perspective, their rockets create more problems than they solve.

In search of mature, rocket-free inspiration, Riverford supports the Oxford Real Farming Conference: an annual meeting of unconventional farmers, cooks, campaigners and scientists, who measure their achievements not in market dominance, but in bees, worms, trees, good food and fulfilled lives. This time it’s online (7-13 January 2021), so anyone can access it. Visit orfc.org.uk to book your tickets for hours of enlightening talks and challenging debates. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

    Comments

    anthony roper

    10 Months 3 Weeks

    In reflecting on the lives of the very wealthy, one is in the good company of people like Jesus who told his followers 'that life does not consist of the possessions one owns'. Although we have to deal with stuff, we are made for more than things, The tricky bit is to find that treasure.

    0 Reply

    AliceFavre

    10 Months 2 Weeks

    I have booked my tickets for ORFC. I am sad that it has to be online this year though, it is such a great place to make great connections when you sit next to someone at a talk or end up sitting next to someone whilst eating your lunch or being put in a group with someone at an interactive talk. I will also miss spotting Guy in his big, thick wooly jumpers!

    And boo to Besos. I actively encourage people to not just not use Amazon, but to actually delete their account.

    1 Reply

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    Comments Editor

    10 Months 2 Weeks

    Hi AliceFavre, totally agree that those chance encounters and conversations are so interesting - sorry you'll miss being able to attend in person this year. ORFC have really embraced the online format though and it will help get a more global farming perspective, with delegates and attendees from six continents for the first time. Radical, inclusive and inspiring - ORFC Global will be a great way to start 2021. .

    0 Reply

    chilting

    10 Months 2 Weeks

    This news story about factory farming in China made my blood boil -

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN28H0C8

    1 Reply

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    Ludd

    10 Months 2 Weeks

    That image of the building is one of the most chilling things I have ever seen .
    I wonder who owns it ?

    0 Reply

    Guy Singh-Watson

    Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.

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