Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Can Technology Save the Earth?

Humans as a species are obsessed with finding cures or fixes for our problems, but rarely ever address the underlying ills. It’s like taking Tylenol every time you have a headache and ignoring the contributory conditions that set off the headache in the first place. How much Tylenol can you take? How much toxicity can your body process before reaching an impasse? Meanwhile, has Tylenol helped change the underlying condition at all?

Technology is like Tylenol. It’s cheap, convenient and scalable, and serves as a terrific cure for many of our ills. I’ll bring in Jevon’s Paradox here. It’s a universally accepted fact that when something is affordable, we will simply use more of it and/or use it more frequently, with little regard to the consequences. Fast food is a great example.

In terms of environmental impact, take the simple example of cell phones. I just read on digitaltrends.com (http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/mobile-phone-world-population-2014/) that in 2014 the number of active mobile phones worldwide will reach 7.3 billion – that’s more than the current population! Sure, cell phones are cheap and phone plans are attractive, and you simply cannot discount the convenience or utility of owning one. But what is the overall environmental impact of a phone, from production to use to disposing/recycling. (I wonder if there’s a life cycle environmental impact analysis (LCA) on cell phones out there.) Multiply that by 7.3 billion. Phew! And that’s just one product. Imagine the combined impacts of the gazillion products on the market today. Can the natural systems sustain that level of abuse?

Let’s examine the resource depletion aspect of technology. Technology, as we know, is the way by which natural resources are converted into goods and services that have practical utility: food, beverages, clothing, shelter, transportation, etc. The higher your affluence level, the more goods and services you will buy and enjoy. We do understand that Earth’s carrying capacity is a finite number. So, what happens when we run out of natural resources? Are we going to revert back to the lifestyles of the ancients? For how long? Can the natural systems recover from human abuses? How long will that take? Are we eventually going to lay down the sword like defeated warriors and prepare for death?

We gloat about technological advancements, I confess I’m a tech gloater, how it has helped change the world for the better, yada yada yada. True. But technology can only advance as far as the laws of physics will allow. Then what? Should we continue to rely on technology as the ultimate problem-solver?

My personal belief is that we should each take responsibility to reduce our individual footprint, starting today, in our homes, with ourselves, our families and begin to prioritize needs vs. wants, and make an attempt to fit our needs into our surrounds as opposed to tailoring our surrounds to fit us. Your brain is what you need to develop a vision. Technology is a tool, and when used appropriately, it can help realize that vision.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Someone once asked me, "I'm such a good person. Why do bad things happen to me?"

Imagine that you're driving in a shiny new car when you unexpectedly hit a patch of slush on the roadside. The next thing you know, your car begins to hydroplane. Your blood freezes in your heart. The splashing mud and dirt creates abstract art all over your car. Your visibility is hindered and you are in imminent danger of losing control.

What are you going to do? Are you going to obsessively worry about your brand new car now dunked in dirt?

No! You first steel yourself with a deep breath, continue keeping your hands steady on the wheel, and when safe, put steady pressure on the pedal to maneuver your car out of the slush.

Then you drive to the car wash.

Let's face it. "Bad" and unexpected, unpleasant, unwanted things happen in real life. I believe that one of the primary reasons bad things happen is so that we can learn from them. Unpleasant incidents and relationships offer invaluable teachable moments. Drawing from the above hydroplaning example, the experience was likely out of the ordinary and scary, but on the positive, you picked up a life-saving skill.

More often than not, bad things happen so that we can take a second look at our lives and innovate ourselves. We see the outside world with our physical eyes, but have we taken a moment to glance in, within ourselves, to uncover our authentic selves? We hear all the outside sounds, but do we also hear our inner voice, our dreams, our passions? Are our inner dreams and passions guiding our external actions and behaviors? Are any old belief systems holding us back from achieving our best?

A bad experience is simply an opportunity to jam the brakes and perform a mental audit to understand what needs to change and how to change it. It's an opportunity to shatter the proverbial "boxed in" thinking so that we can find alternate solutions to problems with which we wrestle.

One of humankind's favorite pastimes is wallowing in self-pity. We allow ourselves, all too frequently, to get caught up in storms of anger, jealousy, greed and fear. The fog of negative thought constantly stirs toxins into circulation, disengaging us from our inner core. A bad experience pushes us to ask hard questions of ourselves: Are negative thoughts, emotions and people holding me hostage? Am I really a victim or am I playing victim to justify my bad behaviors? Am I undermining my strengths? A bad experience is an opportunity to let go of toxic emotions and leap into the orbit of positive thinking.

A bad experience also serves as a gratitude developing tool. It's okay to question if we're being realistic about our expectations of ourselves and of others. It's always a good idea to evaluate if we're taking our surrounds and those in it for granted. Also ask: Am I grateful for what I have? Am I giving back to the world more than I am taking from it? Am I giving at all? Gratitude is a powerful precursor to developing compassion and joy.

Yes, we are good people and sometimes, bad things happen to us. How we perceive bad things is a choice. When bad things happen, we could just get up and walk away as if nothing happened or we could open our mind's door to the possibility of insight and use the insight to create a life of purpose, passion and fulfillment.