As Jim Tolstrup toured members of the Colorado Native Plants Society around the High Plains Environmental Center, where he is Executive Director, he reminded me why ecosystems are a metaphor for how people function in organizations and communities.
To paraphrase, he said if you start with an area full of an invasive plant, it’s nearly impossible for another species to get a foothold, at least without extensive interventions (time & money). But if you start with a rich mix of well established plants, a normally invasive plant can grow but won’t overtake them. Why? Diversity creates more even competition for resources.
In other words, biodiversity levels the playing field of access to opportunities.
I don’t know about you, but I heard the clonk of my hand hitting my forehead in a V8 ‘aha’ moment. In many ways we see it around us every day.
Neighborhoods that change quickly (gentrify, depress) when not rooted in a rich mix of ages, socioeconomic levels, housing options and community connections.
Students who perform better in schools with families of different financial means.
Majority groups that strongly resist change that may reduce their power or access to resources. We can look at the Roman Curia (administrative arm of the Vatican) since Frances became Pope or the rise of racism during the administration of America’s first African American president.
It made me wonder...
Where in my life am I enjoying benefits others can't access? ...Perhaps owning a home in a now "hot" neighborhood when 2 miles east renters are being displaced by development for people like me who want to live closer to downtown.
How often do I allow myself to feel the discomfort of being 'other' in a group? ...Maybe I could really listen to the cousin who supports Trump or shop in a neighborhood where I can't speak the language or am the only white person.
When have I been most successful at cultivating diverse opinions in my organization and community? ...Probably when I've let go of needing to be right and brought curiosity to the meeting instead of my ego.