Breathe

In his podcast, Akimbo [https://www.akimbo.me/], Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth used the atmosphere as an example to discuss how human beings think about the future and making changes.

Scientists have been measuring the changes happening to the atmosphere, and those changes are undisputed. This observed increase is believed to be the continuation of a trend which began in the middle of the last century with the start of the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuel, combustion and the clearing of virgin forests are believed to be the primary contributors.

Along with those changes, we can also easily infer the negative impacts of having too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The question is why is it so difficult for humans to do something about this atmospheric cancer.

Part of the reason for the difficult change is that the issue is portraited as a political one, rather than a scientific one. The leaders at major industrial companies, the major contributors of CO2, have decided to turn the issue into a political discussion because they do not wish to upset the investors and only wanted to maintain the status quo. When this issue becomes political, the industrial companies are no longer on the hook to take the initiatives to solve the problem. They have an escape from the responsibility and can use lobbying to influence the outcome in their favor.

Humans are not good at thinking about the future. We are, however, capable of putting an enormous amount of effort into last-minute emergencies. Human nature also does not like percentages, and most of us do not want to understand probability. Those things make it difficult to talk about how the world is going to be in twenty years. We further complicate the issue by make it political. That turns the scientific fact into about who is going to win and who is going to lose.

Let us not forget the fact that people in developing countries often live near the ocean. Those people have the smallest voice in this conversation and are going to be the most impacted. What we have on hand is a clash of science, industry, and politics in a way that makes it very difficult for our culture, our humanity, to react and respond appropriately.

We organize our culture around the idea of the easiest thing to sell, the easiest thing to talk about, and how do we keep things the way they are. We want to avoid the uncertain leap into the future at all costs.

Another easy thing to do in our culture is to create division. We divide ourselves by arguing with each other, pushing the other away, and saying “You are not on my team so go away.” We happen to have a media system that profits from such division.

One approach to address the issue is to portrait it like a chronic degenerative disease. What we have here is atmosphere cancer. It is a disease because it is scientific, it can be measured, and it is easy to test. Although we cannot deny it exists, but, if we hurry, we have an opportunity to do something about it.

We need to realize that change is the fuel of capitalism. The disruptive changes often lead to the next breakthrough to the next opportunity, which gives us a chance to make things better by making better things.

We need to resist our innate desire to put off the inevitable death at the end of the road and instead say “people like us do things like this.” What it means to be “people like us” is that we’re going to be thoughtful about what is obvious and clear. What it means to be “do things like this” is that we must be in sync about what something like this is. We have the opportunity to see what is happening and to open the door for the kind of innovation that can help make things better for everyone.