A decade ago, at 15, I decided to be an ecologist. The moment was profound because it captured my commitment to the natural environment in a profession; a life path. A connection to the outdoors is a birthright among many Africans, but I always felt a unique sense of respect for the land around me. Some of the most remote habitats on earth were accessible to me in Mozambique and so I developed a keen respect for the natural environment. Most of that respect was shaped by the breathtakingly abundant beauty that Africa offered me; I was in love with its vast wild territories and wanted to experience more of it! Despite this rich exposure, that same respect has manifested a sense of guilt I feel on behalf of our species – the natural environment is disappearing before our eyes! I remember often being taken by sorrow when listening to tales of my home before I was born – a mere generation before I came into this planet, and the world was described to be so different, so untouched.
This sense of responsibility has continued to influence my observations and I’ve come to realize that one of the greatest gifts of my life was having been born to two social extremes. I was afforded a world-class education in a country where half of its people are illiterate. My upbringing offered insight into the landscape of inequality – to consolidate this gift of life into a single word, I was blessed with perspective.
The perspective I gained living in Mozambique was especially revealing when I moved to the US in 2011 to study entrepreneurship at The University of Tampa. I could grasp the magnitude of transformation our species is going through based on the cultural differences between Africa and America. It all clicked for me – I became aware of just how much urbanization and technology is changing us; not only had I relocated to a booming post-financial crisis city of America, but I had brought with me a great understanding of the earlier stages of urbanisation and economic development. It was a powerful moment when I saw before my eyes where humankind was heading as a whole and how our connection with nature could be lost and forgotten, forever. On one hand, I was grateful for being able to participate in a society superior in many ways to the one I was brought up in. On another, I yearned nature’s presence.
This disconnect is a very existential crisis for me. I prefer to think that the psychological chaos as a by-product of urbanisation is temporary. I hope that conscious order will eventually catch-up to an exploding population and economy, so I choose to believe that we can, and should, reverse these negative side effects of urban environments. Just Grow was founded to fuse technology and nature in our lives. Malawi, our first product, brings back a dying activity to the comforts of where we live and work, in a new, more suitable way, while reminding us just how much more we have to learn from the natural world.
While I didn’t become an ecologist by trade, I consider it a duty to understand the natural environment and work alongside others to share its importance with the rest of the world.