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Changing the world, one mind at a time

You know what I’m going to do in January? I’m going to walk from Adelaide, Australia to Whyallia, which is 381 kilometers. It’s a virtual walk and I have to average over 15,363 steps per day to accomplish it.

I’ve been walking a lot lately. The scenery has been dull (mostly just busy streets and endless cars), but I’ve managed to transport myself elsewhere by listening to podcasts on my iPhone. I’ve listened to TED Talks, This American Life, Radio Diaries, Lake Wobegone, The Sunday Edition, Definitely Not the Opera, Public Radio International, The Moth, Dan Savage, and much, much more. I’ve listened to fiction, documentaries, world-changing ideas, music, humour, knitting, sex and science.

I’ve listened to a guy who does extreme cold-water swimming, a biologist who specializes in organisms over 2,000 years old, a data journalist who designs new ways of visually conveying numerical data, a middle eastern comedian, a boxer who teaches London’s poor kids how to play football, and the grand-daughter of Willie McGee who was electrocuted in 1951 for allegedly raping a white woman.

It’s endless, really. It’s fascinating. I spend about two hours a day walking and listening, and it’s all free.

I was saying to my friend Donna over breakfast recently that I really like TED Talks because I tend to be a little pessimistic about the state of the world and the direction it’s heading, but the TED Talks remind me that there are brilliant, energetic, young people who are trying very earnestly to fix the world’s problems.

It’s got me wondering though about my priorities. I pour most of my own world-changing energy into poverty-related issues. It’s not because I necessarily consider poverty the biggest or most important problem in the world. It’s because I’ve personally experienced it and I know what it’s like, and I see it as a problem that slowly strangles its victims by consistently denying them opportunity, choice, self-esteem and hope. And poverty is so unnecessary, which means we ought to be able to eliminate it if we put our minds to it. I like to think I’m changing the world one mind at a time.

But is poverty a problem in itself, or is it a symptom of a bigger problem? If it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, maybe I should be focusing my energy on that bigger problem. (And I might just do that, if I could figure out what that bigger problem was.)

On the other hand, maybe I should be focusing my world-changing energy on the world’s biggest and most pressing problem, which would have to be the environment. (I feel kind of ill-equipped for that one though. I care about the planet very much, but the problem and solution seem to require a greater grasp of science than I have.)

Anyway. That’s some of the stuff I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s all still tumbling about in my brain.

Happy New Year, by the way. I think I normally do my year-end wrap-up on the 31st, but this year I’m doing it tomorrow. GC and I are making a time capsule tonight!

7 comments to Changing the world, one mind at a time

  • Happy New Year Zoom & GC!. A time capsule you say? Would like to hear more about that… :)

  • Jen G

    Happy New Year! Your blog is inspiring to read! I loved hearing what you’re listening to. All the best to you, GC and the critters.

  • Rachel

    Happy New Year, Zoom, GC and your menagerie. I am so happy to have found your blog. It is one of the sites I go to automatically when I surf.
    Have fun with the time capsule.

  • All the best to you, Zoom, in 2011 and beyond! (I’m glad you’re able to walk again for any distance without excruciating pain and I wish you luck on your virtual walkabout.)

  • I heart the TED talks also. But I hate the feeling of anything inside my ears so I don’t even have an iPod thingy. And I have hip bursitis so I can’t walk for long enough. But it’s a great idea you have! As for the root cause of poverty, I don’t think it’s lack of money – it’s lack of know-how. I once spent a couple of years living on minimum wage where more than half my income went to rent alone and I lived well and even saved money. But I sure didn’t have much, including a car or even a tv. “They” need to have more practical courses in high school, like managing money, living on one’s own, feeding oneself, civic involvement, etc. Maybe you could take the concept of poverty and break it down into constituent components and tackle the roots? I once had a manager who said, no matter how little money he had, he would call himself “broke” not “poor” because you can fix broke but you can’t fix poor. Interesting.

    Happy new year to you also!

  • future landfill

    Hmmm… there’s always the affordable housing trail, helping to solve a whole variety of wrongs. You know who to call…

    I know a woman (and her fella) who go out walking daily and track their distance as if they were walking east from the West coast and west from the East. Then they look up where they “arrived” at that day on Google Maps and explore the town via websites, sending emails, etc. They’ve met a bunch of people who always say “If you’re ever in ‘back-o’-beyond’ come by for a visit”.

  • Nancy

    Hello from Adelaide! Wave when you (virtually) go by my house.