In the remote highlands of the Indonesian province of Papua is the Grasberg mine, boasting the world’s largest copper and gold reserves.

This is capitalism in its rawest form, straight out of the pages of Atlas Shrugged. It ain’t pretty, yet the sheer hubris of the venture takes your breath away.

The mine is located 14,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by the last of the equatorial glaciers. There is very little that passes for human civilization nearby.

Every stitch of infrastructure that exists in this impossible terrain—“the most difficult engineering project ever undertaken”—was built solely to facilitate mining operations.


How could one not be in awe of the minds that refused to be daunted by nature in its most formidable aspect?1


Only a short distance away live the coastal Kamoro tribe of Papua, who have been successfully negotiating this inhospitable land for a mind-boggling 45,000 years.

Key to Kamoro survival is their ruthlessly efficient use of the limited resources available to them.

Zero waste: extracting the sago pulp and then using the bark and leaves of the same tree to make a backpack in which to transport the pulp.

From the sago palm, for example, they extract the starch that is a staple of their diet using an apparatus fashioned from the bark and branches of the tree. The leaves of the tree are then woven into a sort of backpack to transport the sago starch as this semi-nomadic tribe makes its way through the jungle.

They waste nothing.

Again, how could you not be in awe of the minds that refused to be daunted by nature in its most formidable aspect?

All within a few square kilometers, the entire spectrum of human innovation manifests itself.