Understanding Our Place In The World

Check out these interactive maps from Our World In Data, you can play with the timeline to see how things have changed over time. Thanks to Effective Altruism for sending this out in their newsletter.

Our place in the world

Regardless of where you are in America or the developed world – and regardless of how you FEEL about your place in the world – the fact is that you are more well off than the vast majority of people on our planet.

So how can we spread the love and share these advantages with those less fortunate?

Consuming less and giving more

We all have our own reactions to information like this, and it’s important to power through the guilty feelings and move on to actually taking action. Even if it’s a small action, it makes a big difference to know you are doing something rather than nothing with all of the advantages you’ve been given.

My own personal solution is to intentionally limit my income by giving away a large percentage of it. This has several benefits for myself and others:

  • Limiting my income reminds me to stay smart with money and not be wasteful. This helps me to be grateful and happy.
  • Giving away a percentage encourages me to keep growing my business. Instead of being ok with doing a “good enough” job and making ends meet for my family, I am motivated to keep building and growing so that I can make a bigger impact.
  • It takes away the “guilt” of feeling like I should be doing more. I know that I’m making a positive contribution to the world, and it feels good.

Our impact on the environment

We have so many advantages, and yet we are causing most of the damage to the environment. Surely we can make this more of a priority, not only for ourselves and our children, but for people all over the world who are going to be hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change in the near future.

On a positive note, it’s encouraging to see that CO2 emissions in the US have decreased in recent years. I hope we continue to lead by example in this way.

Things to consider

How can we be more mindful of the advantages that we have in our daily lives? By noticing the small things, it takes the focus off of what we DON’T have and helps us be more grateful for all that we DO have.

How can we learn how to be happy with less? By consuming less and needing less, we make it easier to be generous with our excess of resources.

How can we design our lives and businesses to provide for our needs while also producing extra for others?

Climate Change Is Real, So Let’s Act Like It

We all know about climate change. But most of the time it feels like more of a concept than reality. Today I came across an interview with Joe Romm, author of Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know and the blog Climate Progress. He did a good job giving a comprehensive overview of the tangible effects of climate change that I don’t often think about, the kind of stuff we “know” in theory but don’t fully understand what it will be like when it actually happens to us.

Climate science is legit.

It’s constantly scrutinized. It’s peer-reviewed. The models are evolving as we continue to learn more and make real-time measurements all over the world. It’s really not up for debate any more, it’s simply a fact about our future. Climate change will affect us directly in our own lifetime, and you know it absolutely will affect our kids in theirs.

Climate change is already happening now, and the effects are irreversible.

It’s much easier and quicker to melt ice than it is to refreeze it. Every single glacier and iceberg that melts today (and they absolutely are melting today) is not coming back, because it would take around 1,000 years to refreeze the ice that has already melted as a result of climate change so far. If we continue our consumption habits and climate change continues, the effects will be increase exponentially until the world as we know falls apart. However, by taking action now, we can slow that process down significantly, giving us time to adapt our current infrastructures and improve our technology to find new solutions.

“Once in a lifetime” weather events are going to happen more often.

Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are examples of recent rare weather events that had devastating consequences. Right now, we are able to react to these disasters, provide relief, and rebuild. But as these disasters occur more frequently, the annual costs of relief and rebuilding will be enormous, and people will move away from disaster-prone areas such as the coasts. On that note…

The refugee crisis is just beginning.

Even with slight increased in temperature, large portions of our country and our neighbors will become unable to support agriculture and comfortable human existence. People will move to areas with better opportunities. How will you feel when the population of your city doubles or triples in a short period of time? The infrastructure cannot handle it. Everything will be crowded, your cost of living will skyrocket, schools will be overrun… it will be annoying at best and terrifying at worst. But we will have to adapt. This will be the new normal.

Climate change will have a much bigger impact on poor and developing countries.

For wealthier countries such as the US, we have the resources to adapt our cities and systems as the environment changes. It will be unbelievably expensive, but we can do it. The real victims of climate change will be the vast populations of people in developing countries that will be destroyed by weather events or forced to migrate in order to survive. Since “once in a lifetime” weather events will happen more often, we won’t have extra resources to help poorer countries recover from natural disasters. We will be rebuilding our own.

The clean energy revolution is already happening now.

Developing countries are skipping the step of building coal-powered electric plants and going straight to individualized energy creation and storage with solar panels (or wind power) and lithium batteries. When you look at the 50-year future of building a new coal power station, burning fossil fuels cannot compete with the lower initial investment and long-term maintenance savings of solar and wind. The next step will be clean transportation, using clean electricity to power electric cars.

Knowing the facts about climate change can make you rich.

Climate change will change the world over the next 25 years, similar to the way the internet has over the past 25 years. Regardless of your political stance on climate change, knowing what is coming can help you make smart decisions and wise investments… like being an internet pioneer in the 90s.

What can we do?

For me personally, I want my business (and my existence) to make a small difference in the world for good. I care about people and the environment. Climate change affects both. How can we use our time and resources to make an impact on such a big problem?

Sexy Problems

Solvable problems in other countries are attractive because we can easily see and measure the impact of our contributions. Oh yeah, and they also make us look pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty… pretty good (see below).

As social entrepreneurs, it is important for us to create a story with our giving that our customers can quickly recognize and adopt as their own. These are “sexy” problems. This is a strategy we implement in our brands, and you should too. Sexy problems are an excellent gateway to raise awareness for consumers about how our purchases impact other people and the environment.

But let’s not forget the problems in our own neighborhoods that seem more difficult to change. Even if it’s not sexy. Even if you can’t put it on the label or blog about it on your website. Don’t forget to invest in your own community.

How can we use our collective creativity as to take small steps towards progress on “unsexy” problems?

Read the full article here: https://brightthemag.com/the-reductive-seduction-of-other-people-s-problems-3c07b307732d (If nothing else, be sure to check out the article to see more pics like the one above from the Tumblr “Humanitarians of Tinder”)

Our Single Story of Africa…. and Other “Countries”

It’s a simple thought, but for some reason surprisingly difficult to remember: Other people and places around the world are diverse and complex, just like we are.

We all live in a “bubble” to some extent, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just reality. I know a lot more about what happens in my own house than my neighbor’s, and I know more about my neighborhood, my city, my country… because I experience it every day. But the vast complexity of what happens outside of my bubble is usually summed up in little snapshots that do not tell the full story.

In this TED talk, novelist Chimamanda Adichie explains how she was confronted with the “single story” of Africa commonly understood by Americans (when you think about the continent* of Africa, what images come to mind?). Interestingly, she also recalls her own “single stories” she has unknowingly held about other groups of people.

How can we empower others to tell their own stories? Maybe we can become better listeners (and more active listeners, since these stories are not widely broadcasted) to hear the stories told by others in their own words.

*P.S. I am not immune to this thinking. While editing this post, I discovered that I had actually used the phrase “country of Africa” here without even thinking about it. The point is that we shouldn’t feel bad about this kind of stuff, but by identifying it hopefully we can be more effective in our attempts to make the world better.