I consider Mechai Viravaidya my top role model for sustainability leadership.
As I described in a recent episode, We Can Dance Around Environmental Problems All We Want. We Eventually Reach Overpopulation and Overconsumption. Before learning of Mechai Viravaidya, I knew only of China’s One Child Policy and eugenics. I couldn’t talk about population when I thought the cure was worse than the disease.
Learning of Mechai changed everything. As his biography’s back cover, states.
In Thailand, a condom is called a “Mechai”. Mechai Viravaidya, Thailand’s condom King, has used this most anatomically suggestive contraceptive device to turn the conventional family planning establishment on its head. First came condom-blowing contests, then T-shirts with condom shrouded anthropomorphic penises. Then condom key rings followed by a Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, When it comes to condoms, no one has been more creative than the Condom King.
To equate Mechai with condoms or family planning alone underestimates the man and fails to capture his essence. Mechai Viravaidya is engaged in a relentless pursuit to improve the well-being of the poor by giving them the tools to lead a fruitful and productive life. His achievements in family planning, AIDS prevention, and rural development are a means to an end – the alleviation of poverty in Thailand.
Mechai’s journey From Condoms To Cabbages – from his roots in family planning to his goal of poverty alleviation – has spanned 34 years. Along the way, he has been labeled a visionary iconoclast and cheerful revolutionary. He is also an ordinary man from modest origins.
He made the cure more fun than the disease, along with peers in other nations, including Costa Rica, South Korea, Iran, Mexico, and other nations.
You may hear my tongue-tied in this conversation because of the reverence I hold for him. I cover him at length in the manuscript for my next book. When I host Oprah, I expect I’ll do fine in comparison.
I could write more about him, but I recommend learning more of him from all the resources below.