Leadership and the Environment


305: The greatest danger from covid-19 would be not learning from it

Ep. 305

My notes that I read from for this episode:

Greatest danger is not to learn from it.

Starting story: Preparing to launch on 9/11. While nothing on scale of victims, first responders, and those who fought, but went from 8 digit to limbo. Within two years squeezed out. Gave up following Einstein and Newton to outdoor advertising that I didn't even like. Now no way forward, backward, or anything. Lost trust in people. Closer to mom and other entrepreneurs with similar disaster.

We feel everything shutting down. Huge unknown. Will things restart? How many will suffer? How many will die? What will happen to health care system? Have I bought enough to eat? Will I become infected? If so, how badly? Will I accidentally infect others?

Images of China, Italy, Korea show fuller shut down ahead.

Other nation's results show divide in effectiveness with if they faced SARS, MERS, and related situations.

Nothing compares with experience.

We've seen in America back-to-back 500-year storms, fires, and floods. My home of New York City has seen a hurricane, not nearly the country's severest.

We know more is to come.

We lack relevant leadership experience.

I don't see a silver lining to lower pollution if it comes through suffering and death.

If any silver lining -- that given predictions for generations that neglecting our humility to the environment by dominating instead of stewarding it would lead to sea level rise, unbreathable air, famine, pestilence, and more, we can expect more -- and however bad this problem, it may give us training for future disasters.

Our greatest danger in responding to covid is not to learn how to handle a population far beyond the Earth's ability to sustain or regenerate. Because we could learn what nations hit by SARS learned.

We've been fortunate enough so far to face mostly localized disasters at different times. Here is one of our first global ones. The US could come together to help victims of Katrina, Paradise CA fires, and so on.

We've helped foreign communities -- however imperfectly?

What will happen when two or three disasters happen? Four?

Today's answer is that we don't know and have no basis to answer.

But we could learn now. Not a silver lining for people in Italy or Iran and probably the US who are turned away from hospital care.

Nor did I know what I would do on September 12. The fallout had barely begun. My life is far better for what I learned over what comfort and convenience I lost.

Learned leadership and how to teach it, over a decade now. Students and clients apply it from the West Bank, to Silicon Valley, to the nation's least advantaged communities.

Five years ago began my journey to serious meaningful environmental action. It began simply, challenging myself to go a week buying no packaged food. Learned to cook from scratch, found delicious, faster, cheaper, more accessible (Saturday cooked in Bronx at invitation from single mom in food desert to show her community what I'd learned).

Mindset shift to expect acting on environmental values to improve life. So when I learned flying NY-LA r/t warmed the globe a year of driving, I challenged myself to go a year without flying.

March 23 begins my fifth year of what I expected deprivation, sacrifice, obligation, chore, but turned out joy, connection, and community.

I threw out my garbage once in 2019, 2018, 2017. Pure life improvement amid 90% reduction according to online calculators.

I've spoken to about 1,000 people on my podcast and life about not flying. About 998 said impossible.

Suddenly many not flying. It's always been a matter of motivation and imagination.

One flight brings you to distant loved one or job opportunity. Flying in general separates to where you have to fly. More flying means less time with family and less control over career and is a sign of privilege that letting go of improves life.

My mom texted me she couldn't see me last week. We don't know if my niece's Bat Mitzvah later this month will happen. Our family is closer, not more distant, despite the physical distance.

We can learn from this. It will get worse before it gets better. Maybe it will just be a worse flu season. It probably won't become like the 1918 flu coming off WWI or the Black Plague, but they danger isn't how sick you get, it's how society handles it.

Let's learn as much as we can.

More Episodes


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

354: Harvard Global Health Institute Director Ashish Jha, part 1: Front Line Pandemic Leadership

Ep. 354
If you've followed sensible, expert advice on the pandemic, you've probably read or seen Ashish Jha in the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, Washington Post, and everywhere. On Tuesday he testified to the US Senate.He's Harvard's Global Health Institute's Director. Over 200,000 people have taken his online Harvard courses, which you can for free. Over 80,000 took Ebola, Preventing the Next Pandemic and over 120,000 took Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety. As it turns out, we were college teammates on the ultimate frisbee team.I'll link to a few top articles by him. With so many interfaces between the pandemic and us---health, government, research, policy, etc---you can read a lot of his views and experiences from different sources.I wanted to bring the personal side of leading on the front lines and top levels of a pandemic---how do doctors and public health experts feel about people not following advice, facing triage decisions, how to be heard, and what affects a doctor personally. We talk about leadership, the intersection between the pandemic and the environment, which overlaps with his directorship and courses, and more.By the way, he created his Ebola course five years before this pandemic and predicted much of it, as did many. If predicting what's happened so far isn't enough reason to follow his advice, I don't know what is. Let's wear those masksAshish's faculty profileCoronavirus Testing Needs to Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts Say, NY Times article quoting AshishIn the W.H.O.’s Coronavirus Stumbles, Some Scientists See a Pattern, NY Times article quoting Ashish Pandemic Expert Dr. Ashish K. Jha ’92: “We Will Get Through This.”How We Beat Coronavirus, The AtlanticHere's the reason we are still shut down right now, CNN video