Chasing Scarcity

Checkpoint #1:
Shit Happens

Not from the Holy Land trip, but a more recent journey to the Mongolian steppes — but all of life is pilgrimage, I guess! I was studying how common pool resources like pastures are used and governed. Night temperatures dipped to −12°C (and this is Autumn weather!), so we had to wrap up warm.

We stayed in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt, in Turkic spelling) and the views were simply stunning — enough to prompt many moments reflecting on what cosmic, driving energy creates this sort of sheer, stark beauty.

But there were also reminders that the simplest things matter too. Our nomad friends advised us that the best way to stay warm was to burn dung in our ger’s stove — mostly from cows, horses, sheep and goats. This was a truly circular economy — everything is either eaten (flesh and milk), used (bone/wool), made into products (milk/curd), or recycled (dung and the burnt ash from it).

After a long day walking through the cold, it was amazing how welcome the sight of baskets of dung could be — quiet reminders that shit doesn’t just happen, but is sometimes among the most important things around!

Dung, ger stove and the burnt ash

The Curious Generalist

Portrait of Aaron Maniam on Mongolian landscape

Thanks for stopping by! I am Aaron Maniam, a civil servant by profession; poet by calling; curious generalist by choice; all of them by passion.

As the first Head of the government’s Centre for Strategic Futures (2010—2011), I crafted many letters, scenarios and other artefacts from the future. And as that decade entered its twilight, my passions sent me on one last hurrah, to present Chasing Scarcity, a documentary about what the dawn of this new decade might bring.

And with that, I set off to answer a question: Is scarcity real?

Needs vs Expectation Diagram

Checkpoint #2:

Here we are in the Danish outpost, Samsø, a windswept island of 4000 Samsingers. What the island receives in abundance today wasn’t lost on ancestors, as evidenced by the Brundby post mill, one of Denmark’s oldest, dating back to the 1700s, possibly.

Photos of new tree growing out of a fallen one.

Walking around the wooded surrounds of our accommodation, we stumbled upon the spectacular sight of a fallen tree, thrilling enough for us urbanites to snap a few pics. On our way back, we were met by the owner of the property and he was thoroughly excited to share that the tree came with the house. “No one knows when it fell, or how old it is.” Wise enough to let sleeping logs lie, he left nature to its own workings, and sure enough, life finds a way — trees started growing, out of a tree! A timely reminder of nature’s awesome regenerative capacities.

Governing Resources in a Digital Age

In the course of filming Chasing Scarcity, I was constantly awed by the collective wisdom of communities everywhere, hence set about to formulate my own perspective. The finished article: Governing Resources in a Digital Age includes ideas about what is becoming scarce, what is more abundant, and how we can include even more people in this conversation.

Download Governing Resources in a Digital Age

This research paper is at the liberty of any individual and collective that has to manage resources — scarce and abundant, physical and virtual — to adapt, appropriate, and apply in daily life.

Chasing Scarcity

The origins of my paper can be traced to Chasing Scarcity, a 2-part documentary, which complements my search for an answer to the question: Is scarcity real?

Chasing Scarcity, a 2-part documentary

View online on CNA, Singapore
I: Finite Resources  |  II: Unlimited Desires

If you know of any actors and agencies that could benefit from this research paper, do forward it on. We are all part of this conversation.

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