Leadership and the Environment

Share

273: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

Ep. 273

I understand why historical reasons lead us to look to scientists, journalists, educators, and legislators for leadership, but they don't know how to lead. They may excel at their crafts, but sharing research however accurate, or stirring controversy, spreading facts and figures, and chasing votes rarely inspire people to change their behavior.

I've long looked to Mandela, King, and Gandhi as role models. I'm increasingly looking at leaders who inspire people to act against challenges when they would otherwise feel hopeless, futile, defeated, and complacent.

Henry V's speech to the outnumbered British in Agincourt, as Shakespeare recounted, stands the test of time. Now that the science is overwhelming---look at nearly any beach in the world to see we're losing to plastic as just one example---we need motivation and inspiration to act more than more science.

I draw on Henry V's sentiment and apply it to our situation. Here's the text:


KING HENRY V


What's he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark'd to die, we are enough

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words,

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks



That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

More Episodes

2/24/2020

294: Population: How Much Is Too Much?

Ep. 294
What is Earth's carrying capacity? Why is it important?Many ask how we will feed 10 billion people. Mathematician way of asking is if we can feed so many and if so how. Maybe we can't.First, don't want to know. While it depends on many assumptions that aren't hard or measurable numbers, like standard of living, distribution of resources, and technology, we can say it's maximum misery per person.How do we narrow it down? Could ask resources per person and how much resources Earth can provide. Limits to Growth projects how much planet would sustain from a systems perspective including history and how we live our values.I prefer a historical perspective I learned from Alan Weisman based on the Haber-Bosch process, which enabled artificial fertilizer. Before artificial fertilizer, limitations on fixing nitrogen to grow food suggest Earth could sustain about 2 billion, enough to create Einstein and Mozart. Want people like Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, and Aristotle? We needed only a few hundred million to create them.If we're over the planet's carrying capacity, especially by factor of 3 or 4, strategy isn't to ask how to feed 10 billion but if we can lower the population before processes like famine, disease, loss of critical resources, war, and so on do it for us.I couldn't answer except in ways where the cure was worse than the disease, but the history of Thailand's Mechai Viravaidya's leading a nation-scale cultural shift from 7 babies per woman to 1.5, voluntarily, peacefully, leading to abundance, prosperity, and stability changed everything for me.Mechai's success makes lowering the population plausible and fun. The limitations of growing food without artificial fertilizer make it necessary to avoid famine and other natural disasters. These two factors clarify our priority, it seems to me.Mechai Viravaidya's TEDx talkMy episode 279: Role model and global leader Mechai Viravaidya
2/20/2020

293: Alan Weisman: My Greatest Source of Environmental Hope

Ep. 293
Alan Weisman's book Countdown changed my strategy to the environment. It ranks among the top most influential works I've read, watched, or come across, up there with Limits to Growth.Why? Because when you look at environmental issues enough, and it shouldn't take too long these days, population always rises to the top as one of the top issues. Many people today hear about projections that the population will level off around 10 billion. Actually, the ones I see project that the population will keep growing exponentially then, just slower than now.If you only look at one issue---only climate, only deforestation, or only extinctions---they seem possibly solvable, but they're all linked. Solving several at once---say meeting power needs while the economy falls apart and food becomes scarce---looks impossible.Also, since nothing deliberate limits population growth, we're lucky if it levels off. We aren't choosing where to level it off and 10 billion looks three to five times what the Earth can sustain. Cultural changes could promote more growth. Many populations are promoting maximum growth today---very powerful religions and autocratic rulers for example.I don't want to rely on luck for our species' survival. Besides, my research into what Earth can sustain says that we're over the limit. If we're heading toward a cliff, simply maintaining our speed and not accelerating doesn't stop us. We have to decelerate.Despite the convergence of all these issues, for years I held back from talking about population. People don't like others meddling in their personal lives. I don't want the government in my bedroom. People overwhelmingly associate population talk with China's one child policy, eugenics, and Nazis. I did too. I didn't see how I could improve a situation by suggesting to avoid misery later through misery now.Still, I knew some cultures---island nations that lived centuries or longer, for example, or the bushmen in southern Africa whose archeological record went back hundreds of thousands of years---kept their populations level, so they must have developed some mechanism.In some past episode of this podcast, with Jared Angaza, for example, I pondered aloud how to find out how they did it, though it may have come up when I was a guest on his podcast. I could only wonder what worked but couldn't promote what I didn't know.Countdown changed all that. Alan found and reported on numerous examples in today's world of cultures lowering their birth rates without coercion, without top-down government authority, voluntarily, desired by all participants, leading to abundance, prosperity, peace, and stability, the opposite of where overpopulation takes us.Countdown tells stories of 21 places, some promoting growth and results aren't pretty and some where they've lowered birth rates and they're remarkably pleasant, even prosperous and stable. He talks about the top ones in this episode.We have tough times ahead of us. One change simplifies everything---a smaller population achieved voluntarily, peacefully, joyfully. Alan has researched firsthand more than almost anyone. He has more than enough reason to despair if he wanted to. If he's not, I conclude that everything he's found nets out to say we can do this.Family planning, education, and contraception seem technologies and practices that can work more than carbon sequestration, solar planes, and everything else. They're cheap, they're available, they make sex more fun, they've overcome cultural resistance outside the gates of the Vatican!Read his books and Limits to Growth.I'll do my best to bring him back.Past episodes I based on Alan's books258: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman251: Let's make overpopulation only a finance issue250: Why talk about birthrate and population so much?248: Countdown, a book I recommend by Alan Weisman