Leadership and the Environment


138: A National Civilian Service Academy

Ep. 138

Today's post covers a dramatic proposal I see as a clear winner. It's big and bold but everyone benefits from it. Its challenges are in garnering support and implementation, but once started I see it sustaining itself as a national jewel.

First some context.

I've talked about my return from Shanghai a few years ago to a crumbling airport, creaky trains, and crumbling train stations. Anyone can see this nation's crumbling bridges, roads, and infrastructure.

Same with my train trip across the country. Amtrak is a third-world train system. It measures its delays in hours. First-world train systems measure delays in minutes and seconds.

As a New Yorker I see our subway, which carries billions of rides annually, has fallen to disrepair. Its slipshod weekend repair schedule means you can't predict what lines will work or how long to plan a trip. First-world systems have built whole cities worth of systems. Other cultures update old systems instead of starving them like ours. We act like a few new stations are a big deal. That pride is a shame.

From New Orleans after Katrina, Miami's regular floods at high tide, New York after Sandy, California after earthquakes, Puerto Rico, Flint, MI, the list goes on, of our poor preparedness. Same with the aircraft carriers we send around the world after natural disasters. We do the best we can, but far from our potential.

The climate-based challenges are only increasing as the planet warms. The future's normal is a world where such challenges are normal. We'll have to move cities.

The nation lacks readiness to respond to aging infrastructure and climate change. Those problems are our future.

I propose a civilian service academy.

Its goal would be to teach trades -- construction, carpentry, electrical, programming, engineering, and so on. What we'd need to rebuild cities -- in the style of military academies, requiring academics, physical training, sports, arts, but civilian, not military.

It would embody a culture of rigor that would include uniforms, marching, honor, service, and military precision, but not military. More like engineering precision. Making beds, teamwork. Elite opportunities. Leadership through practice.

It would provide the leadership among and for the millions of students, veterans, and young people of McChrystal's program.

Listen for more depth.

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416: Rod Schoonover, part 1: Resigned in protest after White House tried to delete "basic science" from climate change report

Ep. 416
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415: Marion Nestle, conversation 2: Let's Ask Marion

Ep. 415
Food started me on this journey. If it's not a major source of joy, community, and connection, the opportunity is there to make it so.Marion Nestle does it. She returned after recently launching her book Let's Ask Marion, which I consider her most accessible. I read What To Eat, around 500 pages, and loved it, but Let's Ask Marion is under 200, with quick chapters, though still comprehensive in covering her most important topics.Our conversation covers background not in the book of her and her co-author, Kerry Trueman, who researched the questions, asked them, and planned with Marion the book's structure and content.Since her first appearance on this podcast, I sat in on her class at NYU---one of the benefits of teaching there myself---so got to know her work and history in more depth. She helped found the field of food research. I was glad to get some of that personal touch at the end---the plants Marion grows and her attitude to them.She wrote in the book that her top consideration about food is that it's delicious. It's personal. We can grow it. I hope that connection to our food came out in our conversation and that we can increase it.Most Americans seem to view food, exercise, and the environment with horror, sources of guilt, shame, confusion, and uncertainty. Marion lives the opposite. I think I do too. Knowing all about food and our food systems may seem like work, but it leads to delicious joy, community, and connection.

414: Nir Eyal, part 2: He committed to avoiding flying before the pandemic

Ep. 414
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