The power of integration

So, this is nominally a podcast recommendation for a recent episode of This American Life, called “The problem we all live with.” And, it’s a great episode of a great podcast. Even more, it touches on something I think often about: why we sometimes don’t do the right thing, even though the data are in front of us.

However, the real reason I’m sharing is that a recent discussion of Black Lives Matter got derailed into a discussion of whether or not systemic racism even exists. (To be fair, the phrase white privilege was thrown about a bit, but I don’t think it’s a good one.) And, if I have to say it, I’m coming down on the side of systemic racism does exist and, no, cops shouldn’t kill black people with impunity.

This podcast is great, though, because I think it demonstrates that the system is not so much “built to favor white people” as a lot of people in the discussion suggested, but that there are a lot of things coming together from overt racism, to a fear of ‘urban kids’ and the crime we’re sure they’ll bring with them, to the inequity of how education is funded in the U.S.

When I think of systemic racism, it’s stories like this one — as well as the innumerable black bodies laying in streets — that I think of. Give it a listen.

From Tree To Shining Tree

In Radio Lab’s latest (lastest in my queue? I’m falling behind) episode, you get to hear about trees communicating, sharing, saving, adapting. I don’t think that any of it is anything that I hadn’t heard before in one place or another, but there wasn’t a moment of it I would have cut… and I was sad when it was over.

Give it a listen! The episode is named From Tree To Shining Tree.

This Podcast changed the way I think

It’s a big headine to deliver on. But, it’s also true.

I recently discovered the Tim Ferriss show (via his appearance on Freakonomics) but the first podcast of his that I listened to blew my mind with the guest’s (Sebastian Junger‘s) level of insight.

The discussion touches on gender and, specifically, manhood. But also on ‘traditional gender roles’ discussed in a way that I’ve never heard them discusses so respectfully (there is no mention of kitchens, if you worry about that kind of thing).

Even more, the podcast touches on war, on veterans, on why some veterans refuse to go to PTSD counseling and on what you can do if you say “I’d like to support veterans without supporting the war.”

I genuinely think that listening to this podcast upgraded my own level of humanity, and I think it will upgrade yours, too. Listen to it, already!

Problem Solving: Rich Roll Interviews Sailesh Rao

On a recent Rich Roll Podcast, Rich Roll (the host) interviewed Sailesh Rao. It’s a podcast episode worth listening to.

I’m going to try to summarize the salient points from memory, but here’s what you need to know: Sailesh Rao is an engineer who did some amazing stuff that I don’t really understand before becoming convinced of the threat of climate change. He worked briefly with Al Gore (translation: gave Al Gore’s presentation) but thought that Gore’s analysis of the causes wasn’t — and these are my words now — deep enough. So, he went on to found a group he calls Climate Healers.

Spoiler alert: there is a lot of criticism of animal agriculture and cheerleading of veganism in the first part of the podcast. And, since I’m also frequently plant-based, I think it’s worth listening to.

If the rah-rah veganism bit is not for you, the podcast is still worth listening to. In fact, it’s the second part of the interview that I recommend.

In the second part of the interview Sailesh recounts efforts that Climage Healers made to help rural Indians use less wood when cooking their food. To me, the amazing insights were hearing the iterations of his designs for first a solar-stove, and then a more efficient stove, and then. . . well, the solution that seemed to work best was shockingly simple. (I say ‘seemed to’ because, at the time of the taping they had not yet returned to India to measure uptake of their solution.)

The takeaway from the whole thing for me is that having a better idea is not enough. What is required is a better idea that people like more.

In fact, the Climate Healers home page has this quote from Buckminster Fuller on it, that seems to sum the lesson up well:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.