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Posted on May 6, 2005

Bailey Porter

Why does bigger always mean better? In a world dominated by Wal-Mart, Starbucks and the largest military some of the best things go unnoticed.

Obvious rejections to the bigger is better mantra is the value of a Honda Hybrid over a raised Silverado truck or smaller, home cooked dinners over the supersized menu at a fast food restaurant. But other practices are out there too and happening on a large scale, or with the possibility of having a large impact, despite the lack of publicity they get.

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Take Native American teachings that survive against all odds beginning with the European and Spanish invasions. An example is Chief Seattle’s famous letter in 1854 which still circulates today. Even when the government was taking away their land, Chief Seattle replied citing truths his people lived by: “We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us.” This philosophy of our relationship to the land is still present today. It is a concept with fewer followers than it should have. But it would make a lot of sense in place of the imminent threat of oil drilling in Alaska and off the Florida coast and the air, water and land pollution that choke our lives today.

When the need for tourism dollars forces many countries to place hospitality and easy access ahead of culture, like Tijuana’s recent attempts to put a clean facade on prostitution to encourage more American business, some small wonder destinations are holding to their values. The Cook Islands between South America and Australia have found a way to keep McDonald’s and large hotel chains out. It becomes a catch-22 since tourism is still an important economical force in the Cook Islands, but residents want to maintain their identity. The fact that the islands’ residents still close shop on Sundays to attend church and maintain a sense of community proves that they put their identity before tourism. When an airline tried to land a plane full of tourists on a Sunday, the islanders littered the runway with bulldozers and cars to prevent it from landing.

Sometimes the name of a university becomes so big that it becomes the reason people spend most of their adult lives repaying student loans for attending a school with a 300 to one student teacher ratio and more T.A.s teaching classes than professors with field experience. While considerably smaller colleges provide direct contact with experts and give students a sense of immediate value to their education, bigger schools can frustrate their students and make them feel like a number.

Likewise, when universities begin to focus their attention on the students who will most likely become monetary success stories in order to reap the benefits of wealthy alumni, decisions are made that leave other students in the lurch. Artists and performers’ effect on society cannot always be measured in dollars, but that doesn’t diminish their value.

Big name coffee companies have broken their ties with nature. But some small farmers are getting the idea. Families in Costa Rica broke away from the traditional form of growing coffee beans in order to practice sustainable organic farming. They face buyers rejecting them because they no longer grow according to their contract. But these farmers are putting everything on the line for the environment’s survival.

I think the way to keep ourselves from falling into the bigger is better trap is to remain conscious of our world view and stay grounded in our day-to-day lives.

It is important to recognize greatness even when it isn’t the loudest, biggest voice in the crowd.

Bailey Porter, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at