KEW Episode 71: Sustainability



From the dictionary:

1: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed sustainable energy resources; a sustainable water supply

2: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources sustainable agriculture/farming/techniques

3: able to last or continue for a long time sustainable development/growth

Have you ever noticed the hustlers around you? You know, the people working two or three side gigs, driving Uber Eats every evening, and staying incredibly busy? Some of these folks get little sleep and are very proud of their ability to work excessive hours and multiple jobs. They seem to have infinite sources of energy and an amazing ability to keep going. These ‘hustlers’ don’t really HAVE to work that much, it’s just their path toward having enough money (whatever ‘enough’ is, see Episode 20: Enough for more on that).

You have probably also noticed the folks who have to work that hard and for that many hours JUST TO GET BY. I have a lot more sympathy for this second group because it’s not their choice. See Episode 13: Slavery for more on THAT.

Regardless of the motivation, be it surviving or thriving, you probably see many of these people doing or achieving seemingly impossible things during the same 24 hour day you and I have.

This is what I’m getting at with this Episode.

To these people I always think to myself, “This isn’t sustainable”.

At first I thought maybe I was just making excuse for why *I* couldn’t achieve as much as these folks in my 24-hour day. These levels of achievement and work hours can make one feel inadequate. But this goes beyond jealousy or envy. My concern is for the long-term.

Because, sure, anyone can hustle on the short term. We have all had short periods in our lives where we have to work extra hard and extra long. The first six months of raising children, for example. That time at work when you’re working toward a promotion. Writing your book.

But with these efforts, we believe the struggle is short-lived and will END in the not-to-distant future. This makes it ok.

What I’m talking about is the people who don’t get this.

So many things are UNSUSTAINABLE. Meaning, they are too SOMETHING (intense, demanding, heavy, difficult, strenuous, etc) to be continued for a long period of time.

Sprinting up a hill

Consuming alcohol

Not sleeping

Carrying heavy weight

It’s just physics. Yet many of us try to beat the system. And not only does this concern me, for our individual and collective welfare, but it’s CHEATING

You heard me. Long-term, life threatening, dangerous sustained effort is CHEATING. It’s Gaming the System (and for more on THAT, see Episode 3: Gaming the System).

When something isn’t sustainable, it is a signal that you’re doing something wrong. Or, you are making a sacrifice over a short-term.

You can’t sacrifice continually. It doesn’t work like that. Once demand exhausts supply the game is over. There is no ‘going into debt’, only bankruptcy.

These are the basic principles of physics, ecology, and economics.

Yet, everywhere you look you will see people undergoing intentionally unsustainable activities. To get richer, prettier, healthier, or more powerful.

We think we are gaming the system, but we are really harming ourselves and others.

I hope you enjoy this episode and choose to like, subscribe or follow. The best place to stay up to date is by following my blog, subscribing to the podcast or the YouTube channel.

Podcast audio download: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9512717-kew-episode-71-sustainability.mp3?download=true

or subscribe via your favorite app. (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc.)

YouTube video: https://youtu.be/zeGCtwBmpL0

The podcast and video are identical content if you haven’t figured that out already.

KEW Episode 62: Change (cont)

Apparently I didn’t say quite enough about change in last weeks’ Episode 62: Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG! because when I say down to record this weeks’ Episode I just kept talking about CHANGE.

Change. It’s the one thing we can count on.

Since the Big Bang, the universe has been changing. Changing forms. Changing states. Changing composition.

All around us, change is driving the universe. The Earth. Our behavior. The seasons. . . .

Yet, many of us resist change. We don’t like it. It messes up our scheduling. We OBSESS about predicting the future. The popularity of the Weather Channel is a great example. We believe we can predict the future and CONTROL change. Or even omit it altogether from reality.

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if that’s the state of nature we are shooting for. To have every day be as predictable as the last. The literal Groundhog Day of life. And on the one hand, it’s easy to see how comforting that predictability would be, but also how COMPLETELY BORING life would become.

And I get it. We resist change because it ISN’T predictable. And that makes us feel unsafe. And feeling unsafe is scary and sad. So we are afraid. So we want the fear to go away. So we attempt to CONTROL, and remove change from the world.

But that is literally insane. It is as asinine as removing oxygen from the atmosphere. Not only is it impossible, it would kill us. And I’m afraid the path toward minimal change will similarly cause our demise.

In fact, I believe our resistance to change is somehow related to (or the cause of!) many of our human problems.

In this Episode I continue exploring why change is bad, and further develop my hypothesis about how change is related to the Are vs Should Problem.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9139084-kew-episode-62-change-cont.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe and get every new episode automatically every Friday via your favorite podcast app (I use Spotify).

Episode also on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/e1DMgsrlfLs

Where you can subscribe to my channel and similarly be reminded each week.

Thank you for your support, comments, likes, and follows.

Preview KEW Episode 62: Change (cont.)

I’ve been talking a lot about how change is a FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF LIFE. Biological entities have DNA which builds our bodies and defines our unique abilities and deficiencies. But more than that, DNA is the mechanism that perpetuates and propels species through TIME by allowing adaptation to changing environmental conditions. The universe is always changing and anything wishing to persist needs a way of dealing with those changes. Biological things, like humans, have DNA to do that very job.

So a main assumption of the Are vs. Should Problem is that change is fundamental.

Another key assumption is that DNA is how we navigate that change – as individuals and as a species.

And my point in Episodes 61 and 62 is to point out a HUGE problem currently plaguing the human race:

We are currently RESISTING change, rather than embracing it.

And, I’ll argue, THIS is a major contributor to MOST of human problems.

From world hunger, to climate change, to our obsession with war. . . . it’s all about NOT understanding the need to change. To react. To modify. It’s literally in our nature. And when you fight your nature, you’re going to lose.

Full Episode coming Friday right here at KEW. Please subscribe to the KEW podcast and/or to my YouTube channel, and follow this blog for updates. You can also check out KEW on Medium.com.

Preview KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, But Resisting Change is WRONG

This week I’ll continue to drive this point home. Change is a NATURAL element in all biological systems. Our very nature is dependent on and affected by constant and continuous change. The abiotic environment of the universe is constantly changing as matter and energy change forms. Luckily for us, we have DNA that facilitates adjustments to respond to these changes and life can persist through time.

Understanding and dealing with the Are vs Should Problem is contingent upon change. To the extend that we RESIST change, we must learn to accept it and deal with it. Luckily, it is a PART of us and has been for millions of years. All we have to do is remember. And I’ll add that it is ESSENTIAL to remember, if we want to succeed as a species.

Seriously. The path we are currently on where we minimize and try to avoid change, reward conformity, and value the continuing status quo is causing many of the problems we face. By embracing change we can solve these problems, improve our lives, and advance the human race. That will be much of what I’ll discuss in upcoming episodes.

Full Episode this Friday, right here on KEW.

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

“We went from modifying our behavior to suit the Earth, to modifying the Earth to suit our behavior”

I’m sure I didn’t make that phrase up, but it does describe what I think is a critical flaw in human evolution. Starting maybe 12,000 years ago, we changed the way we live. In the beginning, the alterations to our ways of living were subtle and had mostly beneficial consequences. In the past few hundred years, however, things really started taking off. The industrial revolution. Interchangeable parts and mass production. Severe capitalism and wealth accumulation. For lots of reasons outside my comprehension, humans ‘ramped up’ the shift toward modifying the Earth to suit our needs. And we also changed our needs quite a bit.

My background in Evolutionary Biology gives me keen insight into the interaction between individuals and their environment. I accept Natural Selection as the best model we have to describe this back-and-forth process. Individuals enter the world with slightly different characteristics, and these differences have a differential ‘fit’ with the environment. This fitness differential translates to reproductive success, and the DNA associated with fit individuals is passed on to future generations. This describes a natural interaction of individuals and the environments in which they live.

When individuals figure out how to ‘game the system‘, the process changes. Humans learned how to ‘trick’ the environment by modifying elements to increase ‘fitness’. We invented medicine to help us live longer. We created machines to rapidly exhaust natural resources. And all of this seemed well and good until it didn’t.

In his seminal, “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garritt Hardin talks about how humans mistakenly assumed we would be unable to exhaust the Earths’ resources. We thought the abundant food, water, space, and fuel on planet Earth could never run out. Until they all did.

The idea that we can modify the Earth to suit our needs without any negative consequences is similarly short-sighted. And that’s what Unnatural Selection is all about.

Link to original post: https://chrisburcher.com/2021/03/26/kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection/

KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

I am currently working on a larger project that will connect my background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with personal growth, psychology, and finding more joy and fulfillment in our lives. In Episode 43 I introduce some evolutionary evidence that every individual human is born to discover their uniqueness (despite how ‘woo woo’ that sounds), and how NOT doing so goes against evolutionary theory.

I didn’t coin the term Unnatural Selection. People have used it, generally, to describe forces that affect evolution but are not necessarily a part of ‘regular life’. These forces become selection pressures when they influence the ability for a species to persist. For example, invasive species can be physically moved to new areas where they did not evolve and wreak havoc on the species living in that area. These selection pressures are some feature of the invasive organism that gives it an advantage and with which local species did not co-evolve. These forces often include predation, habitat use, aggression, or other forces that negatively impair local species.

The point of the term unnatural selection is that this novel selection force did not co evolve with the species it is affecting. Most of the time this disconnect is about time or space. In the invasive species example, the organisms didn’t occur in the same physical space (like a continent, island, or area) and so the issue is simply about relocation. Other times the unnatural condition is about time, and the obvious example is climate change. Many argue that human activities are a natural part of our evolution, but the key difference is the amount of time it has taken for these changes to occur. Sure, if human induced global changes occurred over millennia, the earth and its inhabitants may, indeed, have plenty of time to coevolve. But the sudden nature of temperature and CO2 changes over the past 100 years did not allow for such a response. Hence, the selection forces are unnatural.

That’s a long way to go to explain the basis for my argument, but well worth it I hope.

So the main argument I am making in this episode is that humans have imposed a few other unnatural selection forces upon ourselves. If you watched Episode 43, you will know that the main force I consider unnatural is that of conformity. Despite the evidence (which I find compelling, obviously, though you may not) that our DNA, by its very nature, demands that every human fully realize our uniqueness, yet human societies impose the opposite.

Societal norms, religions, laws, politics, and even the popular arts impose forces that encourage conformity. Because it is our nature to NOT conform, but to be UNIQUE, these forces are unnatural. Sure, norms and laws are important. Driving on one side of the road, wearing clothes, not punching people in the face. These are good things. Here I’m talking about mechanisms that discourage people from being different or to behave ‘like everyone else’. On the obvious end, ‘white people are better’ is an unnatural selection force. On the more obscure end, publishers requiring all books to be written according to a set of approved literary rules may result in really, really great books never being published.

The essence of unnatural selection is the intention to make everyone the same, and to make life difficult for those who insist on expressing their individuality. You probably won’t have to think very long to find examples of this in your own life. I have experience mdany examples in my life, and maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to me.

Therefore, the ultimate travesty of unnatural selection is that the ideas, thoughts, and creativity humans need to survive the future may never come to light because they will be discouraged and effectively ‘weeded out’ of society. As the world becomes more crowded and less hospitable to humans, it becomes increasingly necessary to find unique ideas and approaches that will alter that path. Solving human problems, or any problem, REQUIRES unique viewpoints. As many as possible.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Your comments and thoughts are welcome and encouraged as I develop this idea further.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8198092-kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection.mp3?blob_id=37045344&download=true or via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/hGtkOih1EC0

Preview KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

In this episode I continue my larger project of explaining why humans are meant to realize their individual uniqueness. Here I explain what I call UN-natural selection, or the propensity for humans to deny their uniqueness and why this is something we most definitely should NOT be doing.

Natural selection is simply how organisms respond to their environments through time. For the first few billion years or so animals modified their behaviors to suit their environments. More recently, especially in the past 100 years, humans have increasingly modified our environments to suit our behavior. While this may be a natural shift (lotta room for discussion there), the RATE we have introduced this shift is astronomical in comparison to the previous few billion years.

Short preview video here: https://business.facebook.com/kpluseiswise/videos/126710689399751/

Full episode right here this friday.

FLASHBACK! to KEW Episode 6: Competition

Often I think competition brings out the worst in people. In ecology, natural selection can be thought of as a solution to competition and the problems it creates. In fact, competition is the mechanism that, when avoided, leads to speciation and biodiversity.

In sports and economics competition is often viewed as fun or even critical. Here I argue that competition is important, but can be taken too far; to the point where it can negatively affect us as individuals and as a society.

Link to preview video: https://youtu.be/bftCj3AfB4Q

Link to Full episode release page: https://chrisburcher.com/2020/05/29/kew-episode-6-competition/