Entering Exploratory Phase

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been exploring causes that could mean a lot to me. I’ve been open minded, getting involved, and most importantly, learning. Whether third world issues like clean water with charity:water, education with FIRST Robotics, or donating too much money to politicians. I’ve met with some awesome people who dedicate a huge amount of time to making the world a better place.

For the indefinite future, climate change will be my main focus. Why? If we don’t solve global warming, more and more people will be without water. If first world countries collapse, education as we know it will only become more difficult. If our infrastructure degrades because of natural disasters, no amount of entrepreneurship will save us after it’s too late. But climate change is such a large problem, how should I tackle it?

Here’s my strategy:

I’m going to go in with a completely open mind, exploring four areas of global warming:

  • Science
  • Politics
  • Public Relations
  • Business

I’m going to try and split my time equally among the four categories without being too predisposed to either. My goal will be to speak with and learn from experts along all of them, read books, and pay attention to the news. This is all a bit daunting, so I figure some kind of strategy will be helpful. I would love feedback and thoughts.





    • Scott Willoughby
    • November 20th, 2012

    An excellent area of focus fro your philanthropy, John. Did you see the recent report by the World Bank on the projected impact of climate change on the global economy? Pretty sobering stuff: http://climatechange.worldbank.org/content/climate-change-report-warns-dramatically-warmer-world-century

    • B-White
    • November 20th, 2012

    So, since you are soliciting, here are some thoughts…

    It seems that the climate change issue is sort of a chicken-egg thing. Will a slower rate of climate change help people live better, healthier, happier lives? Or will more people living better, healthier, happier lives lead to more thoughtfulness about the climate and the ecosystems in which we live? What’s the end goal – slower rate of climate change, or improved quality of life for more people?

    I emphasize “slower rate of climate change” because you talk about “solving” global warming. I’m not sure that it is really something that is solvable.

    The facts are that, inevitably, global climate is going to change, and change dramatically – regardless of what humans are doing. Even if we could put an immediate stop to everything we do that may be leading to changes in climate, the climate would still change. There is ample evidence that vast cycles of global warming and cooling pre-date our existence on this planet. It’s part of nature.

    Now I’m not suggesting that what we do as a species is not producing an effect on climate. It seems pretty clear (at least to me) that the types of activities we do at scale (fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, water use, etc.) are certainly going to contribute to overall alterations in global climate. And I’m certainly not suggesting that, metaphorically speaking, pissing in our own thermos is advisable. It isn’t. But the fact that climate is going to change independent of our actions is a given. It’s the rate at which we think it is changing based on our actions. And compared to what?

    So some questions, and thoughts…

    First, by how much do you think endeavors aimed at minimizing human-produced climate change can stave off the inevitable? Tens of years? Hundreds of years? Thousands? Millions? Because there are certainly (and inevitably) going to be great periods of warming and new ice ages ahead for the planet, whether we’re here or not. Is the goal to somehow help prevent the climate from changing sooner than X date? To prevent it from changing at all from what it is today? I don’t think you would seriously suggest that. So what’s the rate of change that is acceptable? And for how long should the climate remain at a static change rate?

    Which leads to the second question – what’s the actual end goal? Is it slowing or preventing climate change, or is it improving the lives of people who live on this planet?

    If improving quality of life is the goal, then awareness and focus on smarter and more cost effective resource usage, prevention of illness through environmental contamination, reducing war, famine, political strife, and providing education and economic stimulus activities that allow coming generations to steer their efforts toward improved living seem to be excellent activities. The smarter and more resourceful we are, the less acts of nature – earthquakes, volcanos, fires, floods, etc. are going to negatively affect people. Improved technologies, and better educated humans can certainly mitigate many problems. Violent acts of nature have always happened. They always will. Is time better spent trying to prevent them, or helping people learn to live with and through them?

    A particular side benefit may be that better education and greater opportunities for learning and thriving may help in slowing the immediate rate of global climate change. But ultimately, it can’t stop it. It’s going to happen. And whether it comes sooner or later, will we have the resources and knowledge to continue our existence in a peaceful and prosperous way?

    So perhaps simply focusing on helping people live better, longer, healthier and happier lives today (via more water wells, reduction of preventable diseases, better educational opportunities, more efficient energy technologies, etc.) – and contributing to the development of knowledge, technologies and infrastructure that will be needed to allow human beings an opportunity for better and more productive lives on this earth tomorrow is an OK goal in and of itself.

    Sometimes it is a lot of successful, small battles that win a war.

    Just my $0.02. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for your post. You bring up a lot of good points, and since you’ve posted I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and rereading what you had to say. At the same time I’ve been reading a book that goes into great detail about the natural climate change events in the past and future.

      Ultimately, as you say, there is no “stopping” or “preventing” climate change. The climate will be a changing. Man has contributed through use of fossil fuels. The climate will continue to change, while man will continue to use fossil fuels.

      What I need to do is figure out how I can get involved to minimize our effect of any potential catastrophic changes , and help lead society to adapt as quickly as possible to changes that are already in motion. In a battle between man and earth – earth will win and be just fine. But society in any way we know it may not be.

      What scares me is not over the next thousand years, but this will effect us in our lifetime. We will live to see what we’ve sown. I want to help us get in front of that. 🙂

    • NewDeveloper
    • December 5th, 2012

    Hey there John, not sure if you remember me from Reddit. Good stuff! I also have been donating to charity:Water, and a few others as well (my general rule is, every time I go out to eat or grab Starbucks, I will donate that exact amount to a charity that I support.). Anyways, one areas of global warming comes from our industry, and we don’t give much thought to it. I currently work for an NGO in Seattle involved with this issue, and find it fruitful and enlightening, and oddly it encompasses all four of your criteria. I’d love to sit down and talk about this sometime over coffee or something, if you’d like, since it seems you’re very serious about the issue.

    One of the issues we don’t think about is our electronic waste. I’ll get straight to the point, and explain later on a few things. When we recycle our electronics, a good portion of our electronic waste ends up in Africa, China, Vietnam and other parts of the third world to be burned up to get to the precious metals that comprise our electronics by slave child labor. A large portion of people believe they are doing good by recycling, but in fact they aren’t. There’s a right way to recycle, and a wrong way, and sadly the wrong way is being used quite more often.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_waste#Electronic_waste_substances gives a good list of substances that comprise our electronics and the 50 million tons of waste each year that are going into the air and atmosphere, as well as water supplies. This doesn’t bode well for the people locally who are physically affected (cognitive retardation, breathing problems, birth defects, etc.). Guiyu, China is a crazy place that looks like something from a 70s movie about the future — it is, however, a reality. A simple search on Google Images will show you some pretty sad pictures.

    There have been a lot of excellent policies for making companies, as well as countries more accountable in their carbon footprint and how they are affecting the world. More policies are being developed by experts in the field(s) with the thoughts of our children, and our children’s children in mind.

    I am also happy for our industry. Companies like Google and Facebook who are trying to make their large server farms more green in terms of the amount of power, heat output, and the use of renewable energies that make the servers tick is getting some spotlight and they are being held more accountable. Apple designing products that are environmentally friendly helps a lot too.

    I have entered the exploratory phase, and am currently working in and amongst it. It’s been great stuff, and I have met some intelligent folks in the field from the University level up to the Industry level. I’ll be proud to look my child or grandchildren in the face one day without having to show them how beautiful the Earth used to be, because it will still be beautiful.

    • Hey!

      That’s awesome that you’ve been donating to charity:water, and that’s a really good model.

      I’d love to sit down and grab coffee. I’m John @ Vechey dotcom.

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  1. November 25th, 2012

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