Author Archives: ProteusMorrill

Politics (Climate Week #2)

In case you didn’t hear, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday. She was 87.

While the death of a Supreme Court Justice is usually a big deal, a Justice dying six weeks before a Presidential election makes it a bigger deal.

It’s impossible to predict what effect this will have on America – but considering that America is already dealing with a pandemic, an upcoming election, racial protests, and a massive economic downturn, I’m less than optimistic. People are already very stressed out, even without a massive change to America’s highest court.

I’m not focused on any of that. Justice Ginsburg’s passing is a tragedy, and the effects of her passing will be felt for decades to come. But it has very little to do with stopping climate change, at least directly. As much as I’m tempted to spend the next week reading about the implications of a Supreme Court Justice’s passing, I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to do what I was going to do anyway: trying to find a solution to climate change. Especially a solution that doesn’t require the support of an unpredictable federal government.

Alright. Back to work.

What if Climate Change Isn’t Real? (Climate Week #1)

Last week, I wrote about how I’m dedicating my life to stopping climate change – whatever it takes.

But then there’s a problem: I’m the kind of person who can’t help but generate counterarguments to everything, and have questioned pretty much all of my beliefs at one time or another. Because of that, I can’t help but ask myself the question:

What if climate change isn’t real?

There’s a lot of people who don’t like that question – especially climate scientists and environmentalists, who regularly get told by climate skeptics that climate change either isn’t real, or it’s not a very serious issue. But while the question might be annoying to those who deal with climate change the most, it is a valid question: What if climate change ISN’T real? What am I supposed to do then?

Right now, I have every reason to believe climate change is real:

  • I don’t have a good reason to doubt the current model of atmospheric physics, where carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for keeping Earth at a livable temperature.
  • I don’t have a good reason to doubt that humans have released over a thousand gigatons of greenhouse gases (not just carbon dioxide, but also methane and others) into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.
  • I don’t have a good reason to believe that observed temperature changes are caused by a different part of the global climate system, like changes in cloud cover or increased solar activity.
  • I don’t have a good reason to believe that climate scientists have been lying to the public for decades about climate change, or that there’s some kind of international conspiracy to promote climate change for evil purposes.

While all of those things are possible, I don’t think they’re likely.

I do think that fossil fuel companies have every incentive to lie to the public about climate change, fund climate skepticism/denial where it isn’t justified, create the false impression of a debate, and do everything they can to avoid losing money from government regulations that lower greenhouse gases. One of the books I’m going to be reading in the near future is Merchants of Doubt – if the book is to be believed, fossil fuel companies have worked with the same scientists who spread doubt about things like smoking and cancer in order to spread doubt about climate change.

I have to ask myself which I find more likely: Is our entire understanding atmospheric physics wrong, and climate scientists are all fools/lying/members of a conspiracy… or does the fossil fuel industry not want to lose money due to regulations? Both are possible, but I find the second far more likely. To be clear, I don’t say any of that to hate on fossil fuel companies. I suspect that even the greenest climate warrior would be tempted to do the same thing if they were in the position fossil fuel executives find themselves in. But I think I’ll write about that idea at a later date.

Back to the question: What if climate change isn’t real? Maybe the data was incomplete. Maybe our model of atmospheric physics was wrong. Maybe climate scientists ARE part of a conspiracy. Maybe all of our efforts to stop climate change were wasted, because it turns out climate change wasn’t real or wasn’t very serious.

If that was the case… I would be a very happy man.

Why? Because of a different question: What if someone solves climate change tomorrow?

If I open the news tomorrow and someone has the perfect solution to climate change, I would be relieved. Relieved beyond belief. The oceans won’t rise to engulf the homes of millions. The ecosystems of the world won’t radically change in response to climate change. We won’t get the mega-storms, droughts, famines, and resource wars that¬† climate change is predicted to bring. We can implement this perfect solution someone has found, and then we can spend our time and energy solving the many other problems humans face.

And if someone proves climate change isn’t real or serious… then the world would look just like if someone had solved it. The disasters of climate change won’t happen, millions of people won’t lose their lives, and we can spend our time and energy on other problems.

It might not be intuitive, but the day where a scientist proves climate change isn’t real/serious, and the day where someone has found the perfect solution to climate change, look exactly the same. Either one would be one of the greatest days in human history.

What if climate change isn’t real? I hope it isn’t real. I desperately hope that it isn’t real. I hope some scientist comes along and conclusively proves that climate change isn’t real, or isn’t serious, to the satisfaction of the world’s climate scientists. That scientist would deserve the Nobel Prize, and a central place in the history of science. While I would love for this scientist to come along… I can’t afford to wait for that to happen, and have no reason to believe it will.

I have every reason to believe climate change is real. I have every reason to believe it’s going to get worse. Right now there is no large-scale solution for climate change, and I need to try to find one if it exists…

Whatever it takes.

LIFE UPDATE (Climate Week #0)

I recently had my 25th birthday. While that would normally be an important day, recent events have made it more important than usual.

Let me tell you a story.

It was the middle of August. I’m scrolling through reddit like I normally would, when I find this Reuters article. The gist: Greenland is melting fast, faster than yearly snow fall can rebuild the ice. It’s melting fast enough that even if we radically lowered carbon emissions, it’s going to completely melt over the coming decades. That means an average 6 meters of sea level rise.

That’s about 20 feet. That’s… not good, to put it mildly. The article doesn’t say it, but if Greenland is on track to melt, Antarctica probably is too. And that means far more than 6 meters of sea level rise.

This is a depressing article… for most people. But when I read, I felt something different:

A crushing sense of purpose.

You see, I’ve been concerned about climate change for years. At one point, I was actively researching a solution for climate change… and then stopped. A distraction here. A pandemic there. You know how it goes. For the past few months, when I haven’t been rethinking my life, I’ve been playing games, reading books, watching Netflix, and definitely not thinking about climate change.

And then I read about Greenland, and realized… I can’t do that. The best evidence I’ve seen says climate change is real. I’m open-minded, but I have every reason to believe it’s going to get worse.

The storms will grow larger. The droughts will go longer. The heat waves will get hotter. The forests will burn faster. The seas will rise, and the deserts will move to meet them. If the worst predictions come to pass, the Earth will be transformed, millions will die, millions more will become climate refugees, and billions more will suffer the consequences if climate change isn’t stopped.

I reject that future, and substitute my own.

I’ve made a decision: I have to find a solution if one exists. I can’t sit by and do nothing while the world burns and the seas rise. Climate change needs to be stopped, and I need to do whatever it takes to solve it. Not because it’s my destiny; I don’t believe in destiny. And it’s not about me being a perfect fit for the job either; to paraphrase a famous videogame quote, even the wrong man in the right place “…can make all the difference in the world.”

I intend to be the right man.

This is my promise to the people of the Earth, to all of my descendants, and especially to myself: I will do whatever it takes to stop climate change. I will work with anyone if it means stopping climate change. I will pay any price, bear any burden, and march through the fires of Hell if that is what it takes to stop climate change.

“He who has a why can bear almost any how.”

So what is this going to take? What does this mean? It means I can’t play around anymore. I can’t play video games; climate change is not a game, and there is no reward for failure. I can’t watch pointless videos or read pointless posts on reddit; every hour browsing the internet is an hour wasted. I can’t waste time on pointless drama – personal or political – when there are millions of lives at stake.

The habits of adolescence are not sufficient for the task at hand.

I need to read every available book on climate change, and any book that will make me better able to solve climate change. I might dislike the author or disagree with their political views, but those are unimportant when millions of lives are at stake. The absolute best books I read will get added to my book recommendations.

I need to learn everything I can about climate change, and every possible solution for solving it. Even if the solution is unpopular or has taboo tradeoffs, it needs to be considered; there’s too much at stake to not be open-minded. Whatever I learn, I’ll write about here… when I’m not actively trying to solve climate change.

I need to turn myself into a person capable of solving climate change. I need to work long hours (50 hour weeks, 70 hour weeks, 100 hour weeks, more if necessary), and make those hours count. I need to be able to work longer hours than I’ve ever worked, focus more than I’ve ever focused, read faster than I’ve ever read, and be more organized than I’ve ever been. I need to be smart, capable, and free in all the ways that others are not if I want to have any chance of solving this.

I need to not use social media very much if at all, except in ways that directly and indirectly lead to climate change being solved.

I need to be as healthy as possible, so I can devote as much energy as possible to this. Being healthy is not the same as being competent, but anyone who’s ever been sick will tell you that it’s hard to work long hours or solve hard problems if your body is getting in the way. I need to sleep well, eat well, exercise, and get all the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy living. And I need to experiment with different health habits; what works for you might not work for me, and vice versa.

I need to be a focused writer. Anything I write about going forward either needs to be directly related to climate change, or needs to be indirectly helpful for solving climate change.

I need to not worry as much about current events, whether it’s a pandemic, election, or anything else. Those things will either resolve themselves, or become so bad that I’m forced to worry about them. It’s not because those things are unimportant, it’s that I don’t have time to focus on them with millions of lives at stake.

And it is millions. In the days ahead I’m going to be writing about just how bad climate change is going to get. You can’t predict the future with certainty, but you can look at probabilities… and the probabilities aren’t looking good unless a solution is found.

But that’s a topic for another day. I wrote all this just as much for myself as for anyone else, and I’ve already written a thousand words.

TLDR: My name is Proteus Morrill, and I’m going to solve climate change no matter what it takes.

Write About Something Important

For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing and posting an essay on this blog everyday. I started this with the intention of writing and posting something for everyday in July. I tried it last year in July, and wanted to try again this year.

I’m discontinuing this practice of posting everyday, and will most likely not practice this again in the future (on my own time, at least).

I started it with the intention of following my own advice, writing everyday to build a writing habit, and to get to a million words faster – the idea being that you need to write a million (low quality) words before you can master writing. While writing everyday is an excellent habit to have, and getting to a million words might be a great goal, it doesn’t replace something very important for great writing:

Having something important to say.

Out of everything I wrote, probably the two posts most worth reading were a reflection on patriotism, and reflection on using disagreement to become mentally stronger. Everything else was either a continuation of similar themes, or ended up as generic self-improvement advice I’ve been thinking about lately. Helpful for getting my thoughts in order, but maybe not as much value for other people.

There’s value in lowering your standards, and just publishing as much as possible to see what works. Quantity is great, but you need to balance that against a genuine pursuit of Quality. There’s stuff that helps you (essays that get your thoughts in order, or reach a writing goal faster), and then there are things that have a chance of proving massive value to everyone who reads it.

Publish a lot. But try to make sure it’s something worth publishing.

Clean One Thing Everyday

It’s really easy to put off cleaning and organizing.

You’re a busy person, working and living your life. You put things off. You’ll clean your mirror tomorrow, you’ll sort through those papers another time, so on and so forth. You do this most of the time… and over time these things build up.

Eventually you get sick of the mess and do one big clean-and-sort, but 90% of the time your living space is a mess.

New rule: clean or organize one thing a day. Just one thing. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or take very long. It can be a small thing, and take 5 minutes or less. Just find one thing in your environment that is disorganized, or dirty, or just a little rough around the edges. Get it looking how you would like it to look. Repeat this until your living space is consistently clean and organized.

Obviously the better habit would be to clean and organize things the moment they become dirty or disorganized, but that can be difficult habit to maintain if you’ve rarely done that. Start small.

Clean or organize one thing everyday.

The Internet is Built to Distract You

The internet is the greatest distraction engine the world has ever made.

Endless videos on Youtube. A constant stream of pictures from Instagram. Just one more episode on Netflix. Memes and political rants from people you went to high school with on Facebook. Fake stories on Reddit. Blue checks being sarcastic on Twitter. Video games played with thousands or even millions of people through Steam.

And let’s not get started on the adult side of the internet.

All of this endless content is combined with algorithm upon algorithm, designed to keep you scrolling longer and make you addicted to their services.

Yes, addicted. The modern internet is designed to make you an addict. Constant entertainment. Constant novelty. Constant distraction. If you let it, the internet will make it basically impossible to do productive work, or anything else that requires focused attention. We’re amusing ourselves to death, with all of the consequences that implies.

Use the internet for a few purposes: educating yourself, making money, connecting with others, and self-improvement. Avoid the endless cycle of addictive entertainment as much as possible. Do other things besides stare at a screen for 12 hours a day. Go outside. Talk to your family. Play with your pet. Read a book. Make money.

You were not born to browse the internet. You were born to live, and thrive.

Alright, back to Reddit!

If It’s Important, Do It Everyday

One of the most important ideas I’ve ever heard is a quote – it might be based on something Tim Ferriss said, but I can’t find the original.

If you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities.

How do you “find time” to eat? Or sleep? Or shower? Or go to work? You “find time” (or really “make time”) for these things because they are important. They’re priorities, and you’re going to do them everyday (or nearly everyday).

Too many people have things they want to do or know they need to do… but either never do it, or do it so infrequently they might as well never do it.

You want to build a business? Prove it. Make time for it, and put in the hours everyday.

You want to read 50 books this year? Prove it. Make time for it, and read everyday.

You want to learn a second language? Prove it. Make time for it, and practice everyday.

You want to get fit? Prove it. Make time for it, and workout everyday (or maybe every other day, depending on your fitness plan).

You want to be a writer? Prove it. Make time for it, and write everyday.

You want to get into an amazing relationship? Prove it. Make time for it, and do something to improve your dating life everyday.

You want to be a meditator? Prove it. Make time for it, and meditate everyday.

There’s lots of things you could do in a day, and a few really important things you should be doing.

Make the important things a priority. If it’s important, do it everyday.

Seek to Change Your Mind

Do you believe everything you believed 10 years ago?

I certainly don’t. I’ve changed my mind on a lot of things over the years. Politics. Economics. Philosophy. Religion. What humans are like. How the world works. What kind of person is a good person, and what you need to do to live the good life.

If you had told my high school self the sheer number of topics I would end up changing my mind on, let alone the¬†actual changed beliefs, I wouldn’t have believed you.

That’s not surprising or unusual. Even if you know, on a rational level, that it’s possible you’re going to change your mind in the future, you don’t think it’s likely. “I’m a smart person, and my beliefs are great, why would I change them?”

Because you don’t know everything. Because you don’t know about every belief, idea, position, or philosophy out there. And because even when you do know about other beliefs, you might be so emotionally invested in your current beliefs that changing over to something better is extremely difficult.

With all of that in mind, I think people should seek to speed up how often their beliefs change. You’ve probably changed your mind about at least one thing in the past 10 years. Chances are, you didn’t expect it or want it – but the belief changed anyway. And if you couldn’t predict which belief would change 10 years ago, how could you possibly predict which of your beliefs will be different 10 years from now?

Read books you disagree with – you might not disagree with them as much as you think. Listen to all kinds of opinions, including opinions you think are wrong, offensive, or ridiculous – they might not be so wrong, offensive, or ridiculous. Seek out new ideas, new life, and new civilizations and different perspectives – they might become your own in 10 years. If you get exposed to other ideas, seriously think about them, and don’t change your mind, you’ll have strengthened your ability to think. If you seriously consider other ideas, and change your mind, you’ve (hopefully) replaced one belief with a better belief.

Seek to change your mind.

Be Consistent. Be Consistent. Be Consistent.

Success requires consistency.

In order to get good at anything, or build anything meaningful, you need to be consistent. You need to practice skills, put in the hours, and stay focused on one idea or activity for long lengths of time.

If you’re trying to get good at a skill, but you never or rarely practice, you’re not going to get good at it. If you’re trying to build a business, but you never put in the hours, it’s never going to get off the ground. If you want to have a successful blog, but you never sit down to write, you won’t have a blog to show people.

There’s a saying out there, that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s most often said in the context of challenging traditions or promoting innovation – but taken another way, success requires being a little insane. You have to believe that consistency works – that if you practice and put in the hours, you’ll reach some level of success.

Obviously, success is not guaranteed to anyone – life isn’t fair, and you’ll occasionally run into people who live to stand in the way of others. Since life is unfair, failure will remain an option. If you are never consistent on top of that, failure is guaranteed.

To be honest, I mostly understand all of this from the experience of not following this principle. For most of my life I’ve been resistant to practicing anything, bouncing between different focuses and losing interest in most things quickly. As a result… I haven’t been nearly as successful at anything as I could have been. I don’t like saying it, but it would be worse to not admit it.

Don’t make my mistake. Put in the hours. Practice. Be a little bit insane. Be consistent, and get the results you’re after.

Write Lessons for Your Younger Self

Chances are that right now, you are at the wisest you have ever been.

Whatever beliefs you might have had when you were younger, you’ve had time to reflect on them and change them to beliefs that are better.

You’ve had experiences your younger self didn’t expect, and you’ve hopefully learned from those experiences.

You’ve read books your younger self wouldn’t have enjoyed, agreed with, or known about.

You’ve gone through education, both formal and informal, and that has changed you.

All of these things have (hopefully) left you wiser than your younger self. The question is: what do you do with this wisdom?

Write it down. Write down the lessons you’ve learned that you wish you could give to your younger self. Figure out what lessons would have given your younger self an edge, or allowed them to avoid critical mistakes. Turns these lessons into concrete principles that you could teach your younger self.

Obviously you can’t actually go back in time and give these lessons to a previous version of you – but you can teach them to others. Whether it’s “students” learning something you have experience with, friends and family about to make a mistake similar to ones you’ve made, your children, or simply random readers of your blog, figure out the lessons you’ve learned and teach them to others. Get feedback. Make your ideas better. Reflect on your principles. Make them even better. And even if no one listens to you, you can at least try to make yourself a little wiser by having concrete lessons and principles to look at – and improve as time goes on.

You can’t change the past, or give the lessons you’ve learned to your previous self. But you can reflect on what you’ve learned, and make the world a tiny bit wiser.