Interesting that the great spy novelist John Le Carre would turn his talents to a highly relevant mystery in Africa in his book The Constant Gardener (also an excellent movie) that puts a spotlight on the corruption and degradation resulting from scientific and corporate greed. When you delve into this subject, it seems pervasive and discouraging. But then there are others of an entirely different ilk, dedicated to world service instead of mere profit. My current favorite is Sambazon. They are the #1 source, and the only organic source, of the Acai fruit from the Amazon, the latest superfood—a super-nutritious antioxident with a long list of benefits. Their sustainable methods build the economy while preserving the rainforest and benefiting indigenous peoples. You can buy their smoothie drinks at most health food stores and juice bars. Greenpeace has said acai is “the most important non-wood forest product in terms of money from the river delta of the Amazon.”
If you want to look to the past for similar inspiration, my personal favorite is George Washington Carver—a brilliant botanist and humanitarian. He was born into slavery in Missouri, in 1864 or 1865, towards the end of the Civil War, and overcame nearly impossible racial barriers to earn not only a college degree, but a masters degree in agricultural science.
He dedicated his life to agricultural research at Tuskegee, starting with assisting poor farmers with such advances as crop rotation to nourish Southern soils depleted from cotton. He had patents he never sold, or didn’t apply for, seeing them as a gift from God. U.S. Presidents and global leaders, from Roosevelt to Stalin to Henry Ford, came to him seeking counsel. He turned down Thomas Edison’s offer of $100,000 to work for him (over a million dollars today). No surprise that he counted Mahatma Gandhi among his friends.
Carver’s genius was inseparable from a deep humility. He said, “It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” His gravestone reads: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”