Many of us are struggling living in lockdown. Nelson Mandela has inspired me in many ways. Going beyond subsisting in captivity, he emerged from 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island---South Africa's Alcatraz---to become President. Today's episode shares part of what I believe helped him, which I believe can help us. First, he endured 27 years. We're only a few months in, and not in a small cement prison cell with a bucket for a toilet. More, he practiced daily habits. We can too. I describe his in this episode, I hope in ways we can learn from. Here are a couple quotes I read in the recording, both from his autobiography: “I attempted to follow my old boxing routine of doing roadwork and muscle-building from Monday through Thursday and then resting for the next three days. On Monday through Thursday, I would do stationary running in my cell in the morning for up to forty-five minutes. I would also perform one hundred fingertip push-ups, two hundred sit-ups, fifty deep knee-bends, and various other calisthenics.” “I awoke on the day of my release after only a few hours’ sleep at 4:30am. February 11 was a cloudless, end-of-summer Cape Town day. I did a shortened version of my usual exercise regimen, washed, and ate breakfast. … As so often happens in life, the momentousness of an occasion is lost in the welter of a thousand details.” For more on Mandela and daily habits, see my post, Nelson Mandela on sidchas.
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.
I got a taste of what I believe leads people to tell me they can't avoid packaging or buying fresh, local produce. Living in a semi-rural area led me to shop in a large supermarket for the first time in a year or two. They carried only doof and stuff shipped from across the country and world. I share the story and the uplifting results. Here are the notes I read from: When I talk about taking over a year to fill a load of trash, people often say "You can but I can't." I'm staying outside the city and shopped with my stepfather in a supermarket for the first time in at least a year Onions Everything packaged, almost nothing loose Produce out of season, can't tell from where Pears from Argentina Bulk food section All doof Realized why people say they can't do it But I don't accept Plan to talk to manager about bulk foods Researched farmers market June start Emailed people, they responded Mom and stepfather knew one Visited Learned about Hub Ordered Hub yesterday Living by environmental values always leads to joy, community, connection If you just accept what they offer, you're bull with ring in nose Result is obesity, dependence,
Food is fundamental to our environmental problems. Most of what American restaurants and supermarkets sell looks like food but isn't by my definition. It makes us obese, diseased, fatigued, poor, dependent, and such, whereas food, like fruits and vegetables, bring us together. Many of us are addicted to salt, sugar, fat, and convenience. Yet people addicted to salt, sugar, fat, and convenience can point to addicts to other things, like alcohol or cocaine, and say, "they don't need their thing but we need to eat." But no one confuses Doritos with broccoli. But the terms "junk food," "fast food," and even "frankenfood" have the term food in them, leading people to confuse them with food. I introduced the term doof---food backward---to distinguish between doof and food. Doof is all the stuff sold to go in your mouth refined from food, usually designed and engineered to cause you to crave more of it, usually through salt, sugar, fat, convenience, or other engineering. Here are my notes I read from: What motivated the problem: reading about food, nutrition, health, and the environment My favorite food writers, and podcast guests, Drs. Joel Fuhrman and Michael Greger Their books Eat to Live, Fast Food Genocide, How Not To Die, and How Not To Diet Their videos The problem: the term "food" in junk food, fast food. Other addictions, like tobacco or alcohol, people say you don't need them, but they need food. Beer versus water versus Doritos versus broccoli Solution: New term One that isn't sticking as well: craving-oriented mouth filler One that people like: doof Sounds like doofus. Helps you not confuse doof with food, like you don't confuse poppy seeds with heroin. Next episode I'll share my story of shopping in a supermarket for the first time in years, nearly all doof. Michael Pollan's "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much." Doof clarifies. Won't confuse McDonald's, Gatorade, Starbucks with food since they don't serve it. Enjoy food. Avoid doof. Spread the word!
I don't normally post other people's material, but 1) I found this video the most valuable I've seen on pandemics and 2) a previous guest, Dr. Michael Greger, created it. It's an hour, so I summarize its highlights in this episode, but watch the whole video for the comprehensive view with full data and references. My summary covers What current media coverage includes---the urgent, important What it misses---the non-urgent, important Long-term pandemics trends Recent pandemics trends and why we are causing them to increase How we can decrease them EDIT: Also watch this later video by Dr. Greger, which follows on the first one: Can we stop a future pandemic? Dr. Michael Greger M.D explains what's next.
Attendees said my talks brought tears to their eyes. Technically I spoke at the UN last week and UNICEF this week, but virtually not physically there, and to Toastmaster groups organized by UN and UNICEF workers. Both talks were similar. I recorded the UNICEF talk. I spoke on A past New York City crisis---the 2003 blackout Lessons I learned from it How we risk not learning from the COVID-19 crisis How we can learn from it What I propose we learn from it Talks were limited to 5--7 minutes, so I could go to that depth.
An article I read about research into diversity asked about levels where different groups felt occupations became "sufficiently diverse." It looked at positions at tech companies, for example. I support diversity. I came across the article from the newsletter from Heterodox Academy, started by previous guest Jonathan Haidt, which promotes diversity, particularly of viewpoints. I would promote diversity in many places, yet there are many places I don't see diversity promoted or researched. Living in Manhattan, I see many doormen, building superintendents, building porters, takeout food deliverymen, construction workers, and so on. I know there are many people who work mines, deep sea fishing, and so on. I understand mostly men work these fields. I never see whites or women delivering food in New York by bicycle. Have you? Maybe I'm ignorant, but where is the push and research for diversity in these fields? I'm not asking rhetorically or to poke holes. I expect diversity in those fields would promote a healthier society for many reasons, including Physically dangerous fields dominated by men, when women entered them, became safer The more opportunities for whites in fields like delivering food, the more they'll be pulled from other roles and the more the roles where they're underrepresented will change to appeal to executives The more people promote equality in dangerous or low-paying fields, the more credibility they'll gain, so they don't just look like they're trying to help themselves only They may receive support from groups from whom they don't, like manual laborers who likely feel slighted People and society will rethink relationships between different workers and classes Martin Luther King, jr sought equality between all, not just to help some. Nelson Mandela learned Afrikaans to understand his captors. How much do people today seek equality across the board versus helping some groups but not others?
This episode puts together the most important and fundamental considerations about the environment: What works The basic cause contributing to all environmental problems Earth's carrying capacity An attainable bright future A means to reach it that has worked on a smaller scale It feels to me like a solid TED talk.
People are criticizing politicians and others over handling Covid-19. I don't blame or criticize people for not knowing how to handle particulars of this situation, but we can respond more effectively. Some parts of the situation are unique to Covid-19. Some are endemic to crises. We can learn from how people handled past crises effectively and ineffectively. Today I talk about John Kennedy learning from the Bay of Pigs disaster to lead through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Important urgent tasks like sourcing ventilators are important, but if we miss learning the important non-urgent things to prepare for the next situation, which likely won't require ventilators, we'll find ourselves here again.
My notes I read from for this episode: I chose to stay at my mom's outside the city Why? Read stories, saw difference between places with SARS and MERS experience versus not NY and US woefully underprepared govt, corps. People didn't get it Not worried about my health, but system Advice is distance What could happen Closer to Italy than China or Iran Talked to friend in medicine Talked to friend who had been following most US lacks central authority Why not? Mom is 76. Stepfather close. I could unknowingly bring disease Solution isn't possible for everyone. On the other hand, everyone who can slow spread should At first felt privileged But hard to find precisely Having mom? Having mom still alive? Her living outside the city? Many other situations doesn't help. That I can afford to go somewhere else? Normally couldn't but situation demands it. Like many, I can't afford. My largest source of income last year was corporate speaking, which is all disappearing In any case, able to relocate possibly for months results from work at pruning unnecessary, which anyone can do I don't have kids, which enables a lot, but a major factor in not having kids is not being able to afford them. Feels like the opposite of privilege, not being able to afford something Still, people have told me I'm privileged for it. Candidly, it feels that way, but I can't put my finger on it. My family isn't loaded. If middle class is privileged, I guess, but then everyone outside poverty is privileged. Back to Covid What made case for me was seeing scientific models that what we're seeing with minimal testing implies far more we haven't tested, which implies far more who can transmit but haven't shown symptoms, which could be you or me Biggest problem would be if we don't learn from it. Biggest lesson so far: can't not fly -> can not fly Because however big Covid, scientists have predicted pandemics based on overpopulation and over travel for generations They've also predicted a lot more to come. Best course beyond this pandemic is to implement globally what Thai people did: lowering birth rate globally to around 1, 1.5 children per woman. In the immediate, follow expert advice, of course