Why bankers need to talk to pastoralists about uncertainty

Written by Ian Scoones

What are the connections between a banker working on a trading floor in London and a pastoralist herding animals across the grasslands of East Africa? In a recent essay in the digital magazine, Aeon, Ian Scoones argues that there’s more than you’d think.

Both bankers and pastoralists must, as a matter of course, work with deep, pervasive uncertainty – where they don’t know the probability of future events. Both often confront ignorance – where they don’t know what they don’t know.  These conditions of making important decisions amid incertitude require a very distinct approach to navigating day-to-day practices, as well as long-term futures. Simple risk management is insufficient, as probabilities of events happening cannot be calculated and outcomes are unknown. Navigating pervasive uncertainty has important consequences, suggesting a particular approach to confronting a turbulent world.

The essay asks: what can pastoralists show us all – including bankers –  as we grapple with uncertainty and ignorance? The essay argues that pastoralists have a great deal to teach a world that is more interconnected, mutually dependent and, in some ways, fragile than ever. As we all confront uncertainties in today’s complex and turbulent world, we could all learn a thing or two from pastoralists who continue to navigate uncertainties with deep knowledge and practised skill.

With examples drawn from PASTRES sites, the essay makes the case for a wider conversation between pastoralists and others, including bankers. You can read the full essay here: https://aeon.co/essays/what-bankers-should-learn-from-the-traditions-of-pastoralism

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