You may take our lives, but you’ll never take . . . oh, you’ve taken that too? OK, will just sit quietly. As Melbournians slowly climb out of hibernated lockdown bleary eyed after a score of zero-case days, talk of gyms and state borders re-opening are exciting many a Victorian. I was going to say Australian, but the Northern Territory barely blinked. Corona? Yeaaaah, I used to date her! Just keep reading, NT, we got plans for you.
A few cool things from the last fortnight: the Science Vs podcast on laboratory grown meat, saving cute piggies and curious cowses; the Letters of Note audiobook on despatches penned throughout history by those pierced by Cupid’s arrow - Emilie Blachère to her deceased photographer boyfriend, Rémi Ochlik, will have you in tears; holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s excellent Yes To Life; Ben Fogle’s wonderful Inspire; and lastly I’ve picked up a book I’ve been looking forward to for ages, Tim Flannery’s The Weathermakers, about human impact on the climate. This caused me to save the world, as you do. I imagine some kind of award ceremony is in order. However, before I get carried away (Beyonce can pin the medal to my chest, I’ve decided), allow me to explain.
Currently our snow caps are melting at an astonishing rate, which is a shame for almost everything living. It’s not just that there will be no polar bears and snow, but less whiteness. As anyone that has ever bought a dark car will tell you, it’s a mistake you only make once: it gets bastard hot. White reflects the suns’ rays back out of the atmosphere. The less cool spots and white you have, the hotter the planet will get.
Unless you’re a Mogwai or me with my milk white skin, light is awesome. The sunlight that reaches the ground is around 4% ultraviolet, 43% visible light, and 53% infrared. Solar panels mostly convert visible light into electrical energy, but they also can make use of almost half the infrared energy. Can we make solar panels white, reflecting most of the visible spectrum whilst also absorbing infra-red rays for power? In short, yes. The Swiss have already designed some, planning to make entire buildings out of it. In Australia, this could be like striking a deep underground well of liquid vegemite.
The Aussies are already planning a $20bn, 120 square kilometre, be-seen-from-space solar farm to power Singapore. Covering an area larger than the city of Manchester, England, it’ll be the biggest solar project in the world. If we increased the size dramatically and use white solar panels, we could reflect more heat, cause cooler air, perhaps even bring rain to central Australia. Alternatively, we could cripple El Niño/La Niña, making it snow in the Amazon. One of them: I don’t have all the answers, stop pestering me . . . jeeezzzzz!!
Here’s the rub. The Arctic sea ice is roughly 5.28 million square kilometres, which sounds big. Or at least until you think about the Antarctic, which is 14 million square kilometres. Australia, a little smaller than Europe, only covers 7.6 million square kilometres, so to be of any use we’d have to cover perhaps a million square kilometres to start with. Or about three quarters of the entire of the Northern Territory. When do we start?
Other less popular planet/humanity saving ideas: everyone be vegetarian four days a week; ban procreation; everyone eat someone else, preferably on the non-veggie days. I mean, you could even create a list. Why not eat a few, right? Can start with the NT, make some space.
Lest We Forget
Remember when Brexit was the shittest thing in the news? They were good days. Amidst a rampaging European second-wave pandemic, a continuing first wave in the US, we have a divisive, all-encompassing US election. The most powerful country in the world has elected a new leader, and the President-elect is a different animal to his predecessor. Contrary to thoughts from both camps, the other team aren’t monsters. Arseholes? Well, sure, but not monsters. To my knowledge, no one has eaten a baby with relish. Maybe with chips or mayo. But divisions in politics go back to your core values, so I thought I’d share mine.
I can’t sex it up, but tax is important. It pays for roads, doctors, carers, police, clean streets, museums, libraries, art, pristine parks with fountains, lakes and flowers. Tax supports those out of work or retirees on their pension. Tax pays (not enough) for teachers, the educators of your children - the literal future of the human race. With tax, governments can spend money on all these things. And if they don’t, we can kill them. What’s that? Oh. We can “vote them out of office”. When companies or even Presidents tax-dodge, that impacts everyone. They are robbing you.
The environment. There are certain scientists I trust - Brian Cox, David Attenborough, Neil deGrass Tyson, The Germans – that believe climate change is real. I’ve seen bleached, dead coral, and plastic in our oceans. Neither is good. Being partial to oxygen, cutting down lots of trees, the perfect machine to produce oxygen, doesn’t sound a good idea. Even fossil-fuel fans admit the black stuff is finite. Embracing green energy will create a lot of jobs; it needs maintenance. We don’t have anything to lose by adopting renewable energy. If, somehow, it’s all a sham, our oil, gas and coal will still be there. It doesn’t disappear if we don’t use it.
I like the idea of some omnipotent power that looks after us, who wouldn’t? But religion has no place in politics or decision making. If you want to believe in a divine cookie-delivery fairy (now we’re talking!), go right ahead, but religious rights don’t beat human rights. Logic and reason seem to be good cornerstones to found a society on. As do cookies and biscuits, all shapes and sizes. It’s important not to discriminate . . .
. . . equality is important. The gender split worldwide is roughly 50%. This means that women should have an equal share of jobs. Of the 220 countries in the world, there are about 20 female leaders. The same can be said for cultural diversity. If 20% of society – across all age demographics – were avid Rammstein fans, I would expect that if I pulled ten people together, two of them would at least not have to google who the fu** they were. When we say Black Lives Matter, what we’re talking about is equality. In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, that’s nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population. There is something fundamentally wrong. Being black or ginger or very tall or blue-eyed doesn’t make you more prone to commit crime. More equal societies do better, simple.
Your list may be different. Different strokes for different folks, life’s rich tapestry etc I would advise against stuffing your face with as much pangolin and bat soup as you can muster as a value per say, as who knows what would happen. But that’s just me.
The Eve of Greatness/Shitness
Hooooraay!! I got a haircut!! Oh, how wonderful life is, post a 110-day lockdown! And a big breakfast in a café in the morning sunshine, what a life! At least I’ll look dapper and wear a satiated smile when Trump is elected again in a few days’ time. Urghhh!! Sure, he’s despicable, but . . . could end that sentence there, really. Would Biden bring a refreshing change? Maybe bland will be nice. Whoever wins, the world isn’t crying out for more old white heterosexual religious men to lead countries. More Ardern, Merkel and Finland’s Sanna Marin please, the latter a progressive, raised by same-sex parents, and the youngest sitting Prime Minister in the world. Conversely the UK has Boris, with his ‘the time to act is now!’ lockdown measures, bizarrely being enacted in a few days’ time, about two months too late. Coincidence that the lockdown is happening on the historical day celebrated for attempting to blow-up the House of Lords? I think not. Guy Fawkes, not all bad.
Talking of leading ladies we wished there were more of, this week I’ve been listening to Hunch, an excellent book by Bernadette Jiwa on observation and idea creation, which reminded me of being out in the US earlier this year . . . Keeeerriiist! That trip seems like a million years ago. 2020 eh? Halloween hasn’t unearthed the Zombie Apocalypse yet, but just wait. Anyway, when Stateside a friend told me of their amazing idea, but they couldn’t reveal details as I would steal it, a common misconception (not me stealing ideas, but of not sharing them). Ideas are lovely, but execution is the thing. Unless you’re the British Prime Minister, anyone can have an idea. In fact, it’s a common theme amongst start-ups that there are no new ideas. It’s your take on it that’s the differentiator. Facebook didn’t create social networking. Apple didn’t create mobiles or touchscreens. To drive home the point (arf), how many car brands can you name? I can think of ten without leaving Japanese shores.
Over the years I’ve heard some fantastic ideas. A friend suggested investing in Bitcoin eighteen months before it hit mainstream. Unfortunately, his English, explaining it as ‘Bidcoin’, meant that neither of us now own our islands. Or flats. Or even cars. Another friend suggested selling collected ingredients for a meal over ten years ago, I even remember where I was when he told me. Simple idea, sure, but meal-packs are now a billion-dollar industry. After visiting Russia where anyone could flag down a car and negotiate a lift, I wanted to see this elsewhere, solving problems of an over-rated, expensive taxi services. The shared mobility industry is . . . well, Uber alone was worth about $82 billion in 2019. By 2030, according to BusinessInsider, the global Robotaxi fleet market will be worth at least US$2 trillion annually. As above, almost anyone can have an idea.
If you have ideas, share them, get as much feedback and points of view as you possibly can. If you think it’s still worth doing, carry out the one piece of advice I give people: have courage, take some risks. Actually, two pieces of advice – work your as off, too. Don’t listen to the inner voice that shouts you down at every corner or the people that provide nothing but negativity. The biggest detractors are often ourselves. You don’t have to be Steve Jobs (thankfully) but see an idea through. ‘I wish I would have . . .’ is a shit place to be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but pontificate about it and you’ll never know.
I’d highly recommend Hunch, and Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan, oh and I’ve just started the emotional Letters of Note on Love read by Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Miriam Margolyes and countless others. Despite listening to them for free on BorrowBox, I’ve subsequently bought all. Insightful and life-affirming, and when do you ever not need that? On the other side of the world, the second-wave is hitting, amidst a divisive, bitter American election and a long winter ahead. If you can’t escape lockdown, maybe your mind can, maybe it will need it for, I don’t know, the next four years. I don’t think you can properly count yourself screwed though until Gal Gadot sings a song at you, so there’s always a bright side.
Octobers’ Reading List:
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