This Sustainable Life
439: How to Fix Texas
Here are the notes I read from for this episode
How to fix Texas
- Just got off conference call a Texas attendee couldn't attend because her power was out.
- There are helpless people suffering. I empathize with them and feel compassion. I support helping them.
- If we want to prevent future suffering, we have to look at systems. That's not ignoring present pain or loss. It's preventing future pain and loss.
- In that call, one person had been in touch with the Texas person. She told us of ice forming inside her house and other problems.
- The present attendees lamented each mention of a problem as if she were suffering some horrible hardship. For tens of thousands of years, humans have lived without power including in the cold, including sudden, unexpected cold.
- Is it not obvious that what we call technology and innovation has made us dependent, needy, and the opposite of resilient?
- I'll repeat that people in hospitals, homeless, elderly, and others have always needed extra help and they do today. Nothing of what I'm saying suggests neglecting them.
- But she also talked about our Texas friend tweeting. However spotty, she has the internet.
- Let's talk systems.
- NYTimes headline: A Glimpse of America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids: Systems are designed to handle spikes in demand, but the wild and unpredictable weather linked to global warming will very likely push grids beyond their limits.
- While the proximal reasons may be technical, the systemic cause is our dual focuses on meeting demand no matter what and growth but not focusing on resilience. The result is that when demand is always met, we grow (population and consumption) until we hit problems like this. Then we build more capacity.
- It costs a lot to go from 99.99% uptime to 99.999%, but we do it every time.
- The savings to go from 99.99% uptime to 99.9% is also huge. Most of the world does fine with under 99% and we could too if we built our systems and lives to handle power going down sometimes, even unpredictably. Hospitals, elderly, etc would need special treatment. The rest of us could reduce our needs and learn from how people lived all the time for hundreds of thousands of years.
- We'd save tons of money, live healthier, and pollute a lot less. We'd learn to treat nature with a bit more humility and respect.
- Listen to my episode on why I unplugged my fridge. I didn't do it because I expected my power savings would amount to anything divided by 7.8 billion.
- I did it because other cultures as well as humans for hundreds of thousands of years thrived without power. While some disasters, like Vesuvius erupting, we can't defend ourselves against, we can prepare for cold without polluting.
- My main results for unplugging my fridge? More delicious food from increasing my skills and experience preparing it. Saving money. Increasing my freedom, decreasing my neediness.
- Again, repeating my compassion for helpless people in pain now, whose rescue and support I support in the moment, I suggest seeing this weather as impetus to make your life more resilient, less needy, to support a power grid more resilient and less brittle but, and a culture not so entitled, spoiled, dependent and needy that its answer to everything is something polluting more, deepening that entitlement and being spoiled.
- If you can't live without power dropping for a few days even in terrible weather, and you aren't someone that lions would have eaten in previous eras, you're part of the problem. Fix yourself without drawing more power and polluting everyone else's world.
- If your society suffers from the only way it handles problems is to use more power, polluting more, leading to suffering from by people who aren't polluting so much, which for Americans means the entire rest of the world outside Saudi Arabia and its oil producing peers and maybe some insanely rich tax havens in the Caribbean, fix your society.
- Changing culture and systems begins with changing values. In this case from coddling, spoiling, externalizing costs, and ignoring others' suffering to resilience and freedom.
451: Alexandra Paul, part 1: A Genuine Celebrity Role Model
I saw a TEDx talk on population where the speaker spoke thoughtfully and persuasively on overpopulation. I consider the topic among the most important on the environment, yet nearly no one talks about it, so I had to find out who she was and invite her to the podcast.She turned out to be a huge celebrity. Most people who talk about population are academics, at least in my experience. They know the facts but tend to present them abstractly. Who was this Alexandra Paul?You could see from her bio that she's acted in movies and television. She cohosts the Switch4Good podcast on veganism with an Olympic athlete. She's also finished Iron Man triathlons and been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. She's genuine, authentic, and mission-driven. Where others lecture or tell others what to do, she smiles and does it herself.If I hadn't met her, I wouldn't have believed she existed. She does and here's the conversation with her.Her official siteThe Switch4Good podcast
450: Brian Keating, Losing the Nobel Prize
Though I haven't actively practiced physics since defending my thesis in 1999, it felt great to talk science with the author of a book named one of the best non-fiction books of all time. The conversation stayed where nonscientists could understand, but we spoke, I think, how physicists do, though I'm out of practice.We talked about values, the difference between theory and experiment, the beauty of experiment, running experiments by the South Pole and tops of mountains, Einstein, Feynman, and technology. Of course, sustainability too.He shared about the writing of his book, the life that led to it, and the life it led to of becoming a spokesman for science.We also closed with him describing his podcast, where he interviewed me.Click here to see the video of our conversation.
449: Chad E. Foster: How Do You Handle Huge Challenges? Not Big. Huge.
How do you face challenges? Not little ones like a pandemic lockdown for a year. Big ones.Regular listeners hear me talk about role models like Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela in the context of handling life challenges. During the pandemic, for example, I recognize there was suffering before, there will be suffering after, and there's suffering now. Our challenge is not to take on things outside our control since we can't, but to figure out how to respond, not just to the world but within our hearts and minds.We're locked down. Nelson Mandela was locked down for 27 years. If he could create meaning forced to break rocks, I can find meaning in my home, able to go out every day, with access to communicate with everyone, access all the culture ever digitized, and so on.In the context of sustainability, do we just give up? How do we find hope and resolution to act even when everyone around us says what they do doesn't matter or that only governments and corporations can make a difference? What role models can we find.Today's guest, Chad E. Foster, lost his eyesight as a teenager, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an executive for Red Hat, the world’s largest open source software company and securing over $45 Billion in contracts throughout his career.He is the first blind graduate of the Harvard Business School leadership program and did what Oracle said could not be done; he built a software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people. His direct and confident style, combined with a go-for-it inspiring belief system (he is an avid downhill skier… and that’s not a joke), has made him a high-impact speaker for leaders at companies such as Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, GE and Microsoft.He also skis double black diamonds, which he talks about learning.From Chad's Quotable Quotes page:Happiness is not a feeling, happiness is not an emotion, happiness is a decision that each of us make every single day when we wake up.You do not know what you cannot see when you cannot see it.The facts are far less relevant than the stories we tell ourselves.Life without obstacles removes opportunity for growth.If you’re not getting outside of your comfort zone, then you’re not growing.Life begins outside of our comfort zone.You have to take advantage of your disadvantages.It is a great time to go blind.This stuff is so easy I can do it with my eyes closed.All of us are blind. Blind in some aspect.Don't let other people define your vision of your future.If you never dare to be great, you'll always be mediocre.Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing something despite the presence of fear.If you're not failing from time to time, you're not aiming high enough.