In 1890, a pathogen called Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense wiped out the banana plantations across Latin America. This was because unlike in a natural environment where there is diversity, the banana plantations had been reproducing and planting clones of the Gros Michel banana. Basically, every banana plant in Latin America was an identical twin of every other one. So, when a disease arrived that the Gros Michel was susceptible to, it got them all.
The banana producers found another banana, the Cavendish, and started cloning it because it was resistant to fusarium wilt. Today, if you were born after 1950, it is unlikely you have ever purchased or eaten a banana that isn’t a Cavendish clone.
The bad news is that there is a new strain of fusarium that kills Cavendish bananas. It would appear history is about to repeat itself.
This is an extreme example of the result of a lack of biodiversity. Biodiversity is generally the variety and variability of life on Earth, and is usually divided into three subsets:
Species diversity is defined as the number of species and abundance of each species that live in a location. Each species has a role in the ecosystem.
Genetic diversity, or genetic variation, gives living organisms unique traits that distinguish them from even their closest relatives. Genetic variation explains differences in human facial features, breeds of dogs and cats, height and size of plants and many more alterations. Populations that are genetically identical are especially vulnerable to pathogens and disease (like the Latin American banana plantations.)
Ecological diversity is the variation in the ecosystems found in a region or in the whole world. Different ecosystems are necessary to produce clean air, clean water, and fertile soils. Without diversity, individual ecosystems would not be able to withstand environmental perturbations.
We get the word diversity from the Latin diversus, which means different. Diversification is the action of making or becoming more diverse, in other words, becoming different.
Difference comes in many flavors. In the case of bananas, the plantation owners could have chosen to plant a variety of different bananas to protect the crops from a single pathogen (genetic diversity.) They could have grown other fruits along with the bananas (species diversity.) They could even have arranged the groves such that there was some separation to help prevent the spread of disease (ecological diversity.) Each of these differences has a cost associated with them, but they also offer certain protections and benefits.
We are committed to diversification at Kimray for the same reason the banana growers should be. When all our revenue is tied to a limited range of products (not much genetic diversity), sold to a small group of customers (not much species diversity), in a narrow band of a single industry (not much ecological diversity), we are at risk of a single event wiping us out.
We also need diversity in our team. We need people with different backgrounds, different experiences and different views to help us find the best path toward our future. If we all look, think and act alike we will miss much of the opportunity and improvement available to us.
Paul, the apostle, wrote about diversity among the early Christians. He compared a community to a body; “…our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-21
We should seek and celebrate diversity in our team. Each of us has unique talents, experiences and potential that combined with others makes our community agile, healthy and strong. We are all different, but we are all a part of the larger whole. Our mission and core values hold us together and create the environment where everyone can flourish.
Let’s not be a banana plantation full of clones, let’s be a garden overflowing with variety.
That is the Kimray Way.