Leadership and the Environment

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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.



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7/5/2020

356: I was assaulted again this morning. Can I talk about it?

Ep. 356
While I was jogging (actually plogging) along the Hudson River around 7:30am, a person not wearing a mask stepped into my path, blocking me, saying the person's shoes had been stolen. The person seemed to let me pass, but then threatened me and threw a bottle that shattered at my feet as I ran past. I kept running, the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my adrenaline high. I don't know if the person had a weapon.I describe more and some of how it affected me in the audio.I was first going to say I was threatened since he didn't touch me. I'm not a lawyer so I looked up the definition. According to FindLaw.com's page on Assault Torts and Injury Law:legal scholars define assault as an intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury upon a person, coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, which creates a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in another.Notice the words “attempt” and “threat” above. In tort law, assault does not require actual touching or violence to the victim. We use another term for the touching or contact: “battery.”Here are the notes I read from:The story from this morning runningHappens all the time, not daily but throughout my lifeI don't think he did it because black, but I suspect were I not white it may not have happened. Can't say this time.When I stayed in AtlantaFriends say, you can say to us but careful with othersShared about mugged childhood, but still happeningMaybe there is a secret white suburban life I don't know aboutRecently white friends have started sharing how they've been muggedConsistent with Dov's saying how sharing stories will lead to others feeling they can share tooThat's all background. Here is my point: every time I bring up suffering or being threatened, while I may get some listening, the other person always says, remember others have it worse---not that person, not even someone with their skin colorSo they don't know from experience but they're telling me as if I haven't heard before, and they're presuming to know my experienceI don't know anyone's experience but mine, but everyone absolutely everyone dismisses it without asking, presuming it's the caricature in the mainstream.When I hear white people talking about BLM, George Floyd, there's always this mea culpa. Maybe they are guilty, I don't know. I never hear them speak about their problems. Maybe they have no problems, maybe I'm unique, but that people open up with me when I share and they hear I'm not white supremacist or racist---though in today's world white people even mentioning race without saying how they are allies or something making up for guilt or things like that---then they tell me about their experiences, but they insist on my respecting their confidence, which of course I do.So much of what I hear from white people sounds so similar andinauthentic, I don't think they're being open, honest, or candid. Maybemany are as privileged as they say, but people have told me about being attacked, their lives threatened with weapons, and so on.I think about risks maybe not every day, but all the time. And when Idon't, some guy walks into my path, throws a bottle at me, and threatens me.For a while I feared sharing messages like this because people mightsuspect I'm turning into a white supremacist. I came to terms that ifpeople think that about the opposite, I can't let their preconceivednotions hold me from acting for equality."White Like Me," Eddie Murphy's Saturday Night Live sketch I referred to