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522: Abdal Hakim Murad, part 1: Britain’s most influential Muslim thinker
A reader followed up on my conversations with religious figures and authorities from branches of Christianity and Judaism. He wrote
You have presented religious people with «the book». That’s good, and I hope you will find space for a muslim person/scholar and relate it to your concern about the sustainability and climate. I can recommend one person. He is, I believe the leader of Cambridge Muslim College, UK. Abdal Hakim Murad (actually British who converted to islam). He is highly and well respected and also provide guidance on the contemporary society to the community of muslims in UK and also in Europe.
While I know about Islam, I don't know many Muslims, so loved the suggestion and connected with Abdal Hakim.
Beyond his leadership role in Cambridge, England, his personal story and accomplishments intrigued me. The conversation was for me enlightening, especially his insider view of communities that, to the extent I've learned of them, I got a one-sided, American view. He shared of erudite sophistication. We spoke about cultures intersecting and intermingling.
He also share of Islam's long history in Europe, patiently given my knowing little, so if you'd like to learn more and don't know much, I think you'll appreciate our conversation.
Our conversation also reinforced my impression that religious people connect with sustainability and stewardship with emotions mine are closer to: beauty and joy, for example, more than obligation and chore, which I hear from environmentalists. He recounts examples of Islam and sustainability, practiced naturally, not just following a recent trend.
I loved Blake and my conversation so much, I'm releasing our first two conversations back to back. Also, our first one didn't reach to The Spodek Method, so he hadn't taken on a commitment based on his environmental values, so we recorded a week later instead of having to wait for him to finish the commitment. He takes on a commitment in this episode, so he'll come back a third time at least.
We talked about how life brings us challenges. In his case a disease led to losing both legs. For everyone, generations of a polluting culture led to the risk of human population collapse. We won't be able to live as before, and possibly billions won't be able to live at all.
Blake is coming to grips with the extent of the situation and what anyone can do about it. We talk about value, teamwork, training, and how his experience and lessons could help everyone. By the end, you'll hear how he starts considering potential roles he could take on sustainability. As you can hear in the last episode and this one, I see his experiences, beliefs, and lessons could help everyone, especially Americans, who treat changing our behavior and the culture driving it as deprivation, respond with enthusiasm instead of the usual "what I do doesn't matter" or "only governments and corporations can act on the scale we need."
He's thoughtful and shares thoughts he's had before our conversation. You can hear him developing and reconsidering his perspectives during the conversation.
I envision Blake taking a leadership role in sustainability leadership. No one has to act on it. Nearly everyone has chosen not to, to hope someone else will take care of things. Only people who want to make sustainability leadership their calling are doing so---nearly no one. But I see him seeing his potential for reaching people in ways no one else can.
I learned of Blake through the mailing list of the maker of my rowing machine, Concept2. Their piece on him described him as a Paralympic bound athlete. I was impressed, but only thought of him as a potential guest on watching his TEDx talk.
I think my message to his agent describes what I saw in him and when we talked about in this episode:
In Blake's case, I heard a message I've never heard with such clarity and experience I wonder if he realizes how much it applies to stewardship and the environment. It's almost the exact message nearly everyone needs. I can't put it as well as he can, but what he shared starting around minute 3 of his TEDx talk of a system breaking down, where most people would be ready to give up, technology being important, but relationships, faith, support, and laughter being the core of what worked.
I see roughly 350 million Americans and 7.9 billion humans ready to give in and accept a system breaking down. Then I see Blake living the opposite of their resignation leading to a better life, and there's been almost a decade since leading to what I read as yet more improvement.
In my book coming out next year, I quote Churchill's speeches during the blitz -- that it's bad, it will get worse, but we will fight on the beaches, we will never surrender, it will be our finest hour. I heard in Blake's message from a decade ago what America and the world would benefit most from hearing today. I expect it's stronger today.
Since he also just won a silver medal, I also ask him about the training and competing.
Should you prepare for a future of clean air travel, curb your flying, or other?
I saw Terik speak on a panel on electric flight. As Chief Engineer at a company winning awards for battery-powered planes, he knew what he was talking about. He has to know about the cutting edge of various fields, including batteries, aeronautics, and materials.
When the Wright Brothers first flew a heavier-than-air craft in 1903, nobody could have predicted a 747. Are electric planes today at the Wright Brothers stage of development, with electric 747s around the corner, are they at the closing end of that line of development with few advances left, or something else?
The news covers the drone market taking off, advances in batteries, and small planes going short distances. I'm curious about the prospect of planes flying people across oceans. Can it happen? If so, when? If not, why not and what does that mean for a culture that values air travel, or may be addicted to it.
What does someone at the frontier of the field anticipate, professionally for electric flying and personally for spending time with his distant family?
Terik and I cover all these questions and more.
Don't outdoor restaurants sound nice? During the pandemic, New York City allowed restaurants that couldn't host people indoors to serve them outdoors. Many restaurant owners credit the rule for keeping them in business. We neighbors happily supported businesses in need.
The landlords saw the huge profit in keeping this public space for their private property, started raising rents---profiting from a deadly pandemic---and tried to get politicians to give them that public land permanently.
I might not mind if that space were coming from just car spaces, or if restaurants weren't polluting the area so much with plastic, burning fossil fuels to heat the outdoors while California is on fire, other packaging, and noise.
There is a better alternative that no one thought of because we didn't know the city was willing to convert space from parking spaces and open sidewalk. We could turn it to living green spaces: community gardens, playgrounds, farmers markets, bike lanes, public pedestrian spaces, and such. There was already huge demand for such spaces. People wait years for plots in the tiny spaces we have. But search the web for "Manhattan community gardens" and you'll find almost nothing, especially around Greenwich Village.
This program is already raising rents, making new restaurants harder to start. It helps a few individuals while hurting the industry it purports to help.
Those who know New York City's history will see this land grab from the public on par with the failed Lower Manhattan Expressway. People organized to protect what became global destinations: Soho, Nolita, Tribeca, the Lower East Side.
If you have influence with New York City politics, end this program of pollution and destruction.
Nearly everyone I talk to who works on conservation or would call themselves an environmentalist or something like it treats American conservatives and evangelicals as adversaries, lost causes, hurdles, or even the enemy. They love Katharine Hayhoe for being on their side while also practicing a Texas-friendly version of Christianity. They figure she'll fix them for them. (We're scheduling her appearing on this podcast, if you're wondering).
What do conservatives and evangelicals believe? If you're so right, why don't they agree? Do you believe they're stupid, ignorant, gullible, greedy, or what?
I don't think I've heard anyone talking about them from a place of understanding. I only hear them treated as caricatures with beliefs and motivations they only see as wrong, backward, or ignorant. I never hear them describe their beliefs as reasonable or grounded in something understandable.
Frankly, I'm only starting to learn, but I don't believe they're stupid, ignorant, gullible, or greedy. Michael is only speaking for himself, but he's getting an advanced degree at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, training to become a Pastor. He worked and studied hard to reach that level and has devoted his life to it. He's knowledgeable, connected, passionate, and studied.
In this conversation we continue learning about each other. Well I can only speak for myself, that I'm learning from him. I think he's learning from me. My views and goals tend to be subtly different than nearly anyone expects than mainstream environmental views. In this regard he may understand me better since I see values, beliefs, and behavior as the problem. Most environmental people focus on laws, technology, markets, and extrinsic things. I look at intrinsic. They look to study and recount. I look to act and inspire.
Michael and I talk about faith, hope, belief, and more.
Geoengineering Prologue or Epilogue for Humanity?Introduction, context
Our conversation in this episode starts by covering his commitment from last time. After a few minutes, it becomes apparent he picked a commitment based on feeling he had to fix the world---that is, extrinsic motivation disconnected from his heart.
We revisited his intrinsic motivations and came up with a new commitment. Acting on intrinsic motivation is leadership. Your emotions create meaning or not. If you've been acting halfheartedly on stewardship, you may have fallen into a trap of feeling you have to act because the media or whoever warned you that you have to but the warnings didn't connect with you. So you feel you have to act for abstract, impersonal reasons.
No wonder anyone would fall into that trap. Nearly all loud voices on the environment push them. We feel if we don't do enough to save the world, there's no point in trying.
Chad changed his commitment to something more aligned with his connection to nature. See if you can pick up the shift. You'll hear he prefers acting for personal reasons. I predict you'll also hear his motivation increase, even become inspiring. I predict he'll do more and, more importantly, influence more people also to change, by starting where he is, not where others think he should be.
If you've felt obliged to act but not inspired, Chad's experience and our conversation may help distance yourself from that burden
First, I'm so used to talking to people who don't act and try to convince themselves and others that individual actions don't matter, I loved talking to someone inspiring a movement to change international law, making progress, and enjoying the process. If you like meeting people improving the world, you'll love this episode.
If lowering Earth's ability to sustain life is such a problem, why not just make it illegal? Problem solved, right?
It sounds too easy, or simplistic, too naive. Or does it? Genocide wasn't once a crime and now is. Slavery wasn't a crime and now is. Land mines were made illegal and the group to make it happen won a Nobel prize.
Making something illegal doesn't end it. People still commit genocide. Slavery exists today, as do land mines. But so do theft and murder and I don't hear anyone proposing making them legal. We want institutions of law enforcement and justice to help reduce them as much as possible.
I went from thinking the concept was a crazy distraction to supporting it quickly, which led me to find Jojo Mehta, co-founded Stop Ecocide in 2017, alongside barrister and legal pioneer the late Polly Higgins, to support the establishment of ecocide as a crime at the International Criminal Court. Today she's the Executive Director and speaks on it internationally. I hope you also heard about it recently as the media have picked up on it.
In this episode, Jojo goes far beyond the history and goals of making ecocide globally illegal. She laughs within seconds of the episode starting and doesn't let up. She shares her ebullient energy to act, to share her motivation and goals. You'll feel motivated to act, beyond for yourself.
I love her leadership tip to start: find what outrages you most and act with what you love to do. Listen for her full explanation and examples.
Incidentally, the root eco- comes from the Greek, meaning home. Ecocide means destroying our home. Destroying our home is crazy. Or ignorant.