Digestable #26: The Original Anti-Vaxxer, How Green is Cycling?, Russian Trolls, The Trouble with Optionality

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another edition of Digestable, the short, weekly email where I share information, ideas, and what’s new with me. This edition was emailed to subscribers on October 10, 2021.

Check it out!

  • How Green is Cycling? Well, it depends what you eat! Seb Stott did a deep dive comparing the carbon impact of walking, cycling, e-biking, and driving. His model factored in Life Cycle Analysis (including manufacturing) and the carbon cost of fuel/food. There are some surprising findings:
    • Cycling has a carbon footprint less than walking or getting the bus and less than a tenth the emissions of driving. About 21g of CO2 per km.
    • About three-quarters of cycling’s greenhouse gas emissions occur when producing the extra food required to “fuel” cycling, while the rest comes from manufacturing the bicycle.
    • Electric bikes have a lower carbon footprint than conventional bikes because fewer calories are burned per km despite the emissions from battery manufacturing and electricity use.
    • If you eat a diet entirely of beef, the carbon foot print of cycling is GREATER than driving due to the carbon impact of producing beef. This analysis is obviously considering conventionally farmed beef, as regeneratively farmed beef has a NEGATIVE carbon footprint. This speaks to the massive gains we can realize by supporting regenerative agriculture.
    • Not included in the carbon calculation is the BLISS experienced while riding your bike or the perks of burning FAT instead of fuel 🙂 Credit to Shane Parrish for the link.
  • The Original Anti-vaxxer: This professionally produced podcast episode by The Atlantic tells the story of Henning Jacobson, a Lutheran Minister in Massachusetts at the start of the 20th century. Henning had an adverse reaction to an earlier vaccine and took his fight to refuse the small pox vaccine all the way to the US Supreme Court. The result of that trial has set the precedent for the rights of the individual vs the [perceived] public good that stands to this day. That precedent has unintentionally led to shocking legal outcomes since then, such as enabling the forced sterilization of “imbeciles”. You may be surprised to learn, as I was, of the midnight vaccine raids of the early 1900’s, and the questionable contents of the small pox vaccines (puss from cow pox boils??). Hat tip to Camille Lorieau for the link!
  • You Are Following Russian Trolls on Facebook: I’m showing up late to this party, and it turns out I’ve been awfully naïve about how foreign disinformation campaigns are at work right around me.

    How it started:
    • KGB Defector Yuri Bezmenov Explains Russian Psychological Warfare Strategies: In this 13 minute video from a 1985 interview, Yuri Bezmenov, summarizes the Russian “ideological subversion” process which aims to “change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that in spite of the abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their family, their community and their country. It is a great brainwashing process that goes very slow.” He states, “The main emphasis of the KGB is not in the area of intelligence at all. Only about 15% of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage and such. The other 85% is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or active measures … or psychological warfare.” Step 1, Demoralization, is a 15-20 year process which he claims in 1985 is, “basically complete”. Thank you, Orianne H. for the link!

      How it’s going:
    • A Houston protest, organized by Russian trolls: In 2016 there were two protests organized across the street from each other in Houston. On one side, “Heart of Texas“, a Facebook group against the “Islamization” of Texas. On the other side, members of the Facebook group “Save Islamic Knowledge“. The catch? This protest and both Facebook groups were conceived and organized by fake Facebook accounts from a troll farm at 55 Savushinka Street in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The organizers of the rally encouraged members to “bring their firearms”. Credit to John Mark Comer for highlighting this story.
    • In 2019, Almost All of Facebook’s Top Christian Pages Were Run By Foreign Troll Farms: 19 of Facebook’s top 20 pages for American Christians were run by Eastern European troll farms overseas. Collectively, their Christian Facebook pages reach about 75 million users a month — an audience 20 times the size of the next largest Christian Facebook page.
  • Concept I’m Pondering: “The comfort of a high-paying job at a prestigious firm surrounded by smart people is simply too much to give up. When that happens, the dreams that those options were meant to enable slowly recede into the background. For a few, those destinations are in fact their dreams come true—but for every one of those, there are ten entrepreneurs, artists, and restaurateurs that get trapped in those institutions . . . The shortest distance between two points is reliably a straight line. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you. – Mihir A. Desai, Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

    Myself and a number of friends routinely wrestle with the fear that our comfortable, rewarding jobs may be at best, a compromise of our dreams, or, at worst, dangerous diversions. Are we here just for a season? How can we tell when our current job is no longer enabling our dreams, but is lulling us into complacency? What should you do when your dreams are not apparent to you, but you know that what you are doing is not it? Mihir Desai throws down a convicting challenge from the world of finance in his short article: The Trouble with Optionality. (Credit to David Perell for the recommendation.)

Thanks for reading. If you know someone who would like to receive these types of updates I’d appreciate it if you shared it. Should you come across anything noteworthy this week please send it my way!

Yours truly,
Jeff

P.S. My son, Ariel, and his wife, Emilie, have started a website and blog to highlight their adventures. Check it out and get caught up!

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