Leadership and the Environment

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326: Why Should I Care About Oskar Schindler?

Ep. 326

I used Oskar Schindler in my third TEDx talk along with a few others as examples of people who took risks to do what they considered right—and that I think nearly all of us do. People like Rosa Parks and those who operated the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. I'm going to share about Oskar Schindler in a bit so you learn more than the movie showed.

The video of the talk is being edited and should go up soon. I researched more about Dunkirk, as you'll see in the video, but I looked up a bit about Oskar Schindler.

Why do we make movies about people like him and not the millions of others who saw what was happening but didn't act, hoping someone else would? Why not, if not to emulate him when the chips are down? There were many like him, but still few. Do you think if you lived then that you would have acted as he did? Don't you like to think you would?

In my fifth year of not flying, I estimate I've talked to about 1,000 people about not flying. About 998 of them said they couldn't avoid flying. Suddenly with the pandemic, with their own health at stake, people find they can.

I've had dozens of conversations lately and read more articles about people saying how much they enjoy the simplicity they're finding not traveling. I can't tell if I feel more gratified or frustrated at how many say with joy and gratitude—serenity, I remember one guy saying—almost exactly what I told them would happen.

When will people get the pattern: acting by your values looks hard. Most people never do, but those that do wish they had earlier and want to share their joy with others.

For us to act to stop degrading Earth's ability to sustain life and human society is easy compared to Oskar Schindler. We don't have to risk our lives—only change our diet, our travel plans, walk a bit, have one child.

From Wikipedia:

Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia. He is the subject of the 1982 novel Schindler's Ark and its 1993 film adaptation, Schindler's List, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by profit, who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity, courage, and dedication to save the lives of his Jewish employees.

In 1939, Schindler acquired a factory in Kraków, Poland, which employed at its peak in 1944 about 1,750 workers, of whom 1,000 were Jews. His Nazi connections helped him protect them from deportation and death in concentration camps. He had to give Nazi officials ever larger bribes and gifts of luxury items obtainable only on the black market to keep his workers safe.

By July 1944, Germany was losing the war; the SS began closing camps and deporting the prisoners. Many were murdered in Auschwitz and the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Schindler convinced SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Göth, commandant of the nearby Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, to allow him to move his factory, thus sparing his workers from almost certain death in the gas chambers. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the execution of his workers until the end of the war. By then he had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black market purchases of supplies for his workers.

Schindler moved to West Germany after the war, where he was supported by assistance payments from Jewish relief organisations. He moved with his wife to Argentina, where they took up farming. When he went bankrupt in 1958, Schindler left his wife and returned to Germany, where he failed at several business ventures and relied on financial support from the Schindler Jews he had saved during the war.

Initially Göth's plan was that all the factories, including Schindler's, should be moved inside the camp gates. Schindler, with diplomacy, flattery, and bribery, prevented his factory from being moved and led Göth to allow him to build (at Schindler's own expense) a subcamp to house his workers plus 450 Jews from other nearby factories, safe from the threat of random execution. They were well fed and housed, and were permitted to practice religion.

Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of black market activities and once for breaking the Nuremberg Laws by kissing a Jewish girl, an illegal act. The first arrest, in late 1941, led to him being kept overnight. His secretary arranged for his release through his influential Nazi contacts.

What we can do is nothing compared to what he did. Nothing. Eating lentils instead of steak. Having at most one child for a few generations. Going camping or visiting a place nearby instead of flying around the world. Yet the danger to human life is much larger. Billions of lives are at stake now. This pandemic is nothing compared to what will happen if we don't act.

Wouldn't you rather follow Oskar Schindler's lead than his neighbors who did nothing?

He came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity, courage, and dedication to save the lives of his Jewish employees. Be Oskar Schindler.

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7/10/2020

358: Bald Versus Plastic

Ep. 358
Here are the notes I read this episode from:People keep acting like I'm different, that they have to balance things that I don't when acting on the environment.So I'll share a recent decision I made. People I tell have sounded intrigued and delighted to hear it so I'll share with you.First sensed hairline retreating at 19.Not much for maybe a decade following, I don't remember.Maybe 10 years ago started using minoxidil.Don't know if works or not, but used as insurance. Not insanely expensive.Tested on thinning in back, so even less sure if it works.Over the past few years noticed it becoming my greatest plastic consumption.Thought more about stopping.Even stopping flying was reversible. Never decided to stop forever, just kept finding that it improved my life not to fly. Constraints breed creativity.Stopping minoxidil not reversible. Might not do anything. Might go bald. I don't want to go bald. I like my hair.But I'm pitting purely my vanity against reducing plastic pollution.Last bottle of last 3 month supply was running low. Kept thinking about it. Risk balding, but maybe no difference.Last American president elected bald was Eisenhower. Have to beat Hitler to get elected. Women complain they get judged by appearance, but men do too.Felt helpless, yet also recognize the alternative is simply to live with my genes. What chemical shitstorm is in that stuff anyway?But the bottom line was every time I've chosen to live by my environmental values, it's improved my life. I used to have faith, but faith is belief without evidence. Between avoiding packaged food, avoiding flying, picking up garbage daily, plogging, all of which I thought would worsen my life, they've all improved it.So I made a deal with myself to flip a coin. Heads I'd keep it. If every 3 months I flipped, eventually I'd have to end.I started making deals with myself -- just get to 50 years old. It's so little plastic compared to everyone else. Just one more time. I found out you can buy the raw ingredients on Alibaba. What if I found a great price? Rite Aid had almost half off online. Another place even lower prices, but then more packaging.So I flipped the coin. Tails on the first try. I made a rule only flip a coin when I can't decide any other way, then never reverse that decision or it undoes the value of coin toss's decisiveness. Still I started bargaining with myself.Are you getting how hard I found this decision? I was deciding in the moment a choice to affect me possibly for the remaining several decades of my life.I didn't refill. I still went to Rite Aid intending to buy another box, against the coin toss, but the low price was only online. I was going to break my rule, but didn't because of circumstance.Within a day I could feel new breeze on my forehead. Maybe coincidence, but maybe I'll end up bald in a few months. Maybe it will recede a bit and stop. Who knows?I don't see a path to this choice improving my life, but I'm going with it. Talk about your first-world problems, right? But everyone goes through similar decisions too. Should I buy the coffee on the way to work in the disposable cup? Should I take a subway or shared ride?We all do mental gymnastics to rationalize behavior we know is against our principles. I do. My difference today versus me years ago is that I've moved my balance toward stewardship. Each time I do, I find it improves my life. Before long I find role models beyond where I am. I learn from them, for example Bea Johnson, whose family of four produces collectively less trash than I do.The world will see the results.Some relevant posts of mine:Choose easier by visualizing choices, part IChoose easier by visualizing choices, part IIWhy are decisions hard?How to ChooseHow to decide among close options
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