Climate Change Part I: Where It Went Wrong & Why It’s Stupid to Still Deny It

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By Bradley Stockwell

1878 World’s Fair: Augustin Mouchot’s solar-powered motor is a gold medal winner and initially receives generous government funding for development. However the funding is soon cut due to a dramatic decrease in the cost of coal production.

1900 World’s Fair: Commissioned by the French government, the Otto company displays the recently invented diesel engine running on peanut oil without any modification to the original design. The inventor of the engine, Rudolf Diesel, learns of this and becomes a leading proponent for the development of biodiesel fuels to spur agricultural development. However after his death in 1913 and with the emerging petroleum market on the rise, the motor is redesigned to run solely on petroleum diesel fuel.

The Egyptian desert 1913: Frank Shuman, the inventor of safety glass, presents a solar power plant which promises to make solar energy—a limitless, renewable energy source—more cost-efficient than coal. He too receives generous accolades and funding from the German and British governments, but ultimately with the outbreak of World War I shortly thereafter, funding is cut and put into the exploding petroleum market, leaving Shuman’s solar collectors to be recycled into weapons.

Detroit, Michigan 1908: Henry Ford’s first Model T rolls off the assembly line and it runs on gasoline and/or corn ethanol. Ford envisions one day however that all vehicles will run solely on agricultural fuel sources. One of particular interest to him is hemp. In 1941 he even constructs a lightweight car that runs on hemp biofuel and is constructed with plastic panels made partially of hemp. Nevertheless the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937—backed by the petrochemical company DuPont—would eventually kill the domestic hemp industry and with the onset of World War II, gasoline engine technology would only see further dominance.

Now that we’re facing down the barrel of a global climate crisis, it’s easy to look back and see where it might have been averted. It’s not like we weren’t warned; as far back as 1896 (read here) the scientific community has cautioned us about the consequences of a fossil-fueled civilization. But humanity’s myopic view of the future has not only undercut our ingenuity, but it now endangers the survival of our species—and many others I may add. However there’s hope and I’d like to pay tribute to this hope by highlighting today and tomorrow’s most innovative and coolest technologies on the frontline in the fight against climate change. But first…

THE PROOF:

Believe it or not, our planet breathes. In the spring, the forests of the Northern Hemisphere inhale carbon dioxide to grow and the amount of CO2 in the air decreases while the amount of oxygen (O2) increases. Then in the fall, when leaves fall and decay, that CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. This same respiratory cycle happens in the Southern Hemisphere, but there is far more ocean than forest in the South. This has been happening for tens of millions of years, but wasn’t noticed until 1958 when the oceanographer Charles David Keeling devised a way to accurately measure the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. However this discovery also unearthed quite a big elephant in the room for humanity: climate change.

You see, CO2 in our atmosphere acts as an insulator for heat sent here from the sun. Without it, our planet would be a frozen wasteland and with too much of it, it’d be hell on earth and the difference between the two is not much—six molecules of CO2 per ten thousand to be exact. Since the formation of the earth, volcanoes have been spewing CO2 into the air. Then water and life came along and the CO2 was absorbed into the oceans and harvested into more organic matter. Over the course of millions of years, this bled our atmosphere of CO2 (which is a good thing when you’re cultivating life) until CO2 comprised just three-hundredths of a percent of our atmosphere—three molecules per ten thousand. And for at least the last 800,000 years this percentage has stayed relatively the same until the rise of the Industrial Revolution. Hmm… anybody see a strange correlation? We know this because we’ve drilled into glaciers and extracted and measured trapped air from that long ago. Since about the turn of the century, CO2 levels have risen a staggering 40%. And as of January 2015, we’ve officially added another molecule of CO2 per ten thousand—four per ten thousand in total—in the span of about 100 years. Earth hasn’t seen CO2 levels this high in over three million years, when horses and camels roamed the high arctic and sea levels were at least 30 feet higher; a level that would drown many major cities today.

While one more molecule per ten thousand may not sound like much, remember the difference between frozen wasteland and hell on earth is only six molecules per ten thousand and life providing oasis sits delicately in the middle at three. And it’s not like the earth is just naturally dumping all this additional CO2 into the air. We know it’s man-made because CO2 created from the burning of fossil fuels is slightly lighter than that of say volcanic CO2.

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This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

The strongest force driving climate change is us. It’s undeniable and those who deny it in my opinion are just too scared to admit it. And it is scary. It’s not like we can keep going along like this and still have another 200 years before we add two more CO2 molecules per ten thousand to the atmosphere. We’ve already set off a chain reaction of sorts. Because temperatures are rising, ground that’s been frozen for a millennia is now beginning to thaw. That ground is densely packed with organic matter and the thawing of that organic matter is releasing more CO2 into the air, causing the temperature to rise even higher and thaw ground even quicker. This positive feedback loop is also happening with the melting of sea ice. As ocean temperatures rise, more sea ice melts and more heat is absorbed into the oceans instead of being reflected back into space, which causes ocean temperatures to rise faster which in turn melts the ice faster. Not only are we contributing heavily to climate change, but now we’ve triggered Mother Earth to follow suit.

But as I stated previously there is hope. We haven’t reached the “point of no return”—the point at which no amount of effort will save us from catastrophic global warming—yet. That point is at 4.5 molecules per ten thousand, so we are damn close. If we continue at our current rate, which is adding two more CO2 molecules per million per year, we’ll reach the “point of no return” somewhere around 2042. But I have faith in humans; faith that we’re too smart and too adaptive to let that happen. After all, we come from a long pedigree of very successful survivors, so let’s put it to use. If not for the sake of saving the world, at least for the sake of technological progression. We know fossil fuels won’t last forever so why not start solving that problem now? Also wouldn’t it be cool if we had concrete that healed itself and roads that talked to us while collecting solar energy? This is just a preview of some of the green technologies and innovations on the horizon that I’ll cover in part two of this series. Until then, stay curious my friends.

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Why Drive-Thru Attendant is The Proudest Position I’ve Ever Held

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By Bradley Stockwell

The further I progress in my adult life, the more I realize what an important role my first job had in building the foundation of it. Let’s be honest, working as a fast food drive-thru attendant just plainly sucks. It’s extremely stressful and degrading; you make minimum wage, have some horrible bosses and you go home every day smelling like greasy meat. I had everything from insults to water balloons to milkshakes to sex toys thrown at me (yes for some reason people love playing practical jokes on drive-thru attendants). I witnessed physical altercations—was even involved in one myself, auto accidents, arrests and people performing sex acts while I handed them their food (completely separate from the sex toys incident). Yet despite all this, I am continually grateful for the preview the drive-thru gave me of the real world in all its ugly and fascinating glory.

Social Skills

Customer service is an obvious requirement of a drive-thru attendant. Since food is a universal need, the walks of life I came in contact with—and had to make happy—was quite expansive. Also if you get between hungry people and their food, be prepared to see some claws come out. To avoid—or if need be remedy—angry customers, I learned there was no one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone has their own individual ticks, stresses and personalities and to succeed in customer service you need to be an excellent reader of people. As a naïve 16-year-old boy who was raised in a nice suburban community, I wasn’t so good at this in the beginning. However by the end of my two-year tenure in fast food, there wasn’t a soccer mom, senior citizen, crackhead, or corporate businessman I couldn’t charm.

Communication

As the drive-thru attendant you’re sort of the quarterback of the team. Every part of the transaction runs through your hands from taking the order, collecting the money and handing the order off to the customer. All three of these things need to be double-checked for accuracy because if something goes wrong, all the blame comes back to the customer’s only point of contact—you. While much of this was dependent on me, the food—the most important part—depended on my kitchen staff. I found out early in my fast food career that having an open line of communication with them was crucial. For me this meant I had to learn some Spanish. Repeating orders out loud in Spanish to my kitchen staff increased the accuracy of them tenfold and I can’t tell you how many times knowing a little Spanish has come in handy later in life.

Teamwork and Leadership

Additionally, I also took interest in my kitchen staff’s job roles. While my initial motivation to get behind the grill and fryer was out of curiosity, it helped me realize some of the challenges and stresses they had to deal with day-to-day—such as getting burned constantly. I even let my kitchen staff take a few cracks at the headset to understand my job also. Although we preferred our own positions in the end, it built rapport between us. Understanding and respecting how each person contributes to the team’s success as a whole was an invaluable lesson that helped me succeed later in management. But most importantly, I found working with people who respect and have a positive relationship with each other can make even the worst job very enjoyable at times.

Stress & Time Management

To this day, it’s hard to put into words the stress I felt during a lunch, or dinner rush. The headset is constantly ringing with nagging customers, orders need to be bagged, drinks need to be made, customers need to be greeted at the window, and it only took one slip for the whole thing to fall into chaos. Along with the above mentioned duties, it was also my job to make sure bags, condiments and cups were stocked and the shake machine and ice bins were regularly cleaned and filled. If these things weren’t done before a rush or shift change it meant disaster. My fellow employees, and most importantly the customers, depended on me getting these tasks done, so I quickly learned not to procrastinate them; to instead get them done in small chunks throughout the day. To also ensure rushes ran as smoothly as possible, I memorized the totals with tax for almost every combo meal and the dollar menu up to ten items that way I could fill orders while taking new ones without having to be in front of an order screen.

Optimism

My most valuable lesson sort of happened by accident. Being a musician, I began treating rushes as performances just for the fun of it. Instead of focusing on how much my job sucked, I instead focused on how many people I could make smile or laugh. If the situation was appropriate, I sang to people over the intercom, did caricature voices and just really tried to be the most entertaining drive-thru attendant I could be. I learned that when I took pride in my job—no matter how menial it was, the day went by a lot faster and at times I didn’t even want to go home.

 

5 Things That Separate Successful People From Everyone Else

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By Bradley Stockwell

Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source

As I’ve said several times before, bettering your business begins with you. Every investment in yourself is an investment in your business. If you’re looking to transform yourself into a successful business owner and entrepreneur, you need to begin acting and thinking like one—and it’s not easy. In some cases it can mean some major life and brain hacking, but once you’ve made these transformations, you’ll wonder how you ever operated any other way. If you don’t know where to begin, you’re in luck. After reading hundreds of articles, biographies, advice columns and using myself as a guinea pig, I’ve narrowed down the five essential things successful people do that others don’t. After all this research and testing you’ll be surprised to learn there’s no great secret. Success comes down to five simple things that you most likely know you should already be doing.

1. They Read More & Watch Less Television

All great thinkers and innovators read and I can’t express the difference it’s made in my life personally as someone who was once a very casual reader. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, I insist it is this. While it may be hard to start, once you’re in the habit you’ll find it’s much more fulfilling than other forms of media because neurologically it’s the healthiest thing you can consume. Numerous studies have shown reading requires, stimulates and strengthens several regions of the brain.

Television on the other hand has shown to decrease brain activity in regions that are particularly important to business owners. When watching television, brain activity switches to the right side of the brain. This is significant because the left side of the brain is responsible for logical thinking and critical analysis. It also decreases activity in your frontal lobes which is responsible for decision making. Brain scans have shown that when people watch television brain activity mirrors that of someone under hypnosis. Maybe all those rumors of television being used as a brainwashing device have some merit. While I’m not saying to stop watching television altogether it’s good to practice moderation and be selective with the programs you consume.

2. They Sleep

While it may be tempting, and sometimes necessary, to tack a few more hours onto your busy day you should calculate the repercussions sleep deprivation can have on productivity, not to mention health.

Studies have shown that reducing sleep by even 1.5 hours for one night can reduce flexible decision-making and innovative thinking by as much as 32%! Also when sleep-deprived your perceived exertion level for the same tasks done while fully awake increases by 17-19%.

I myself have read and tried many methods on supposedly how to operate on less than six hours of sleep and found unless you’re superhuman, they simply don’t work. For me personally, sleep is essential to my creative process. Some of my best ideas have come from my dreams or middle-of-the-night epiphanies. While the amount of sleep needed varies for everyone, sacrificing it for productivity, in my opinion, is counterproductive. So sleep—you’ll be healthier, happier and much more successful.

3. They Learn

Although you may not be in school anymore, there’s no reason why learning should stop. In fact I’ve found learning to be much more enjoyable outside the confines of formal education because I can learn what I want, when I want and how I want. And it doesn’t always have to be a business-related education; learning anything new creates new neural pathways in the brain and as I’ve said previously, the more neural pathways your brain has available the better it works.

Granted this doesn’t mean learning about the latest celebrity gossip is just as valuable as learning how to play an instrument. I’m sorry to tell you, but if it doesn’t feel like your brain is stretching it’s not. The reason why something is perceived as challenging is it requires you to alter your way of thinking, or neurologically speaking, to create new neural pathways.

While this is difficult, finding something you’re curious about is a great motivator. And you’ll find the more you challenge yourself, suddenly the easier and more enjoyable it becomes to learn new things. Intelligence in my opinion is much more an exercise than a gift. While you may think you don’t have enough time to educate yourself, I began dedicating just my lunch break to learning and in the last year I’ve learned how to play the piano and taught myself enough courses in physics to keep a regular blog on it. The world is a wonderful and mysterious place and I encourage you to poke and probe at it as much as possible.

4. They Write

Something you’ve probably noticed if you keep up with business publications is that most successful business owners and CEO’s write. Whether it’s in a journal, book, blog, or guest article, they do this for two reasons. One being that writing is simply a great cathartic release and the other to retain information they’ve learned.

Writing is great for your mental and emotional health. Keeping a journal can give you a safe place to vent stress and process problems. Studies have also shown it improves creativity, self-esteem and memory retention. Like reading, this can be difficult to start but I think what most people get caught up on (or at least I did at first) is that you have to make an entry every day for it to be effective. I’ve found that even one journal entry a week can suffice, however I tend to write more when my life is stressful or eventful.

Writing is also an essential adjunct to learning. It requires you to not only recall something you’ve learned but to also process and analyze its applications. In my opinion, this makes the difference between knowing and understanding something. As Einstein once said, “Any fool can know; the point is to understand.” This is the primary reason I keep regular business and physics blogs whether or not anyone actually reads them.

5. They Exercise & Eat Well

If you want to be a highly productive individual you’re going to need the right fuel. While most people say they don’t have enough time to accomplish the tasks they intend to (so they do counterproductive things like not sleeping enough), the truth most likely is they don’t have the energy to. Just like a race car can’t run off low octane fuel, successful people cannot run off low-grade food. Like any machine, your body is an energy processor and if you input high quality energy, the greater your output will be. As with all these changes it’s difficult at first, but once you make a habit of it you’ll find you’ll actually start craving healthy food over junk.

The second part of this is making your body as energy efficient as possible and that means working out. Once again, don’t get hung up on setting unrealistic goals and think you need to work out every day. You’ll be amazed at what just a little walking, or bicycle riding can do. If you’re close enough to work to commute by these methods, do so. Beginning and ending your day with a little exercise can do wonders.

The biggest nemesis to productivity is stress, hormonally known as cortisol. Your body releases cortisol when stressed and without exercise to burn that cortisol, stress compounds on itself and leads to impulsive behavior and anxiety. Exercise also releases endorphins which help you rationalize problems and increases optimism, energy and memory retention—not to mention you’ll live longer. Also while exercise may be physically exhausting, mentally it is relaxing. Treat it as your alone time to distress from work and home life.

 

How The Great Recession is Changing American Business For The Better

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By Bradley Stockwell

Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source

It’s true; money doesn’t make the world go round—conservation of angular momentum does. However, history doesn’t mark itself by Earth’s rotations but by the movements of the economies that create it. So yes, with this perspective, the cyclical movements of history are governed by money. As a physics student, I enjoy drilling things down to their foundations and at the bedrock of every change in history you’ll typically find the economy. Trends, fashion, technology, music, art, politics, war—are all reflections of the economy. Why is that? Because we as a general society identify ourselves with the way in which we earn a living and when that changes, it has a trickledown effect on everything else in our lives.

The recession marked the end of one era and the beginning of a new and (call me optimistic) better era. Adapting to the recession emboldened us to step out and find smarter ways of making a living; to finally change the many things that led us into the recession anyhow. Thanks to the internet, more people are starting businesses and launching new ideas now than ever. Online crowdfunding has given a platform on which to present and fund ideas and the online business is a cost-effective solution to sell that idea. Great things happen when massive amounts of people start pursuing their dreams—new industries are created (including the alternative lending industry in which I’m currently employed in), business practices are improved and technology advances. In the last five years there’s been an explosion of entrepreneurs and small business owners—many of whom were victims of the recession, who are shaping a better and smarter economy. Thanks to social networking, there’s been a great shift towards the empowerment of the individual; whether it be the products we buy, the media we consume, or most importantly the jobs we hold—every facet of our lives is now becoming individualized. Companies are beginning to see the benefit of having an open ear to not only their consumers, but also their employees, giving rise to a new type of entrepreneur; the intrapreneur. In fact entire business models are now shaped around the intrapreneur such as the ‘sharing industries’. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are allowing people to use their existing resources, like their car and home, to earn a part time or full time living; helping the economy boost itself on its own terms. Not to mention they are also improving the taxi and hotel industries by forcing them to adapt to this new influx of competition. These symbiotic business models, where the company, the employees and consumers all benefit, are precursors for how I think American business will look in the next ten years.

It’s an exciting time to be alive. I believe we are at the beginning of a great change in humanity because of changes happening in the business world. As I stated earlier, when the economy changes everything else soon follows. We’re starting to realize the value of open-sourced sharing of information and the empowerment of individuals. While these seem like conflicting concepts, they’re not. Both need each other in order to create a competitive atmosphere and we, especially as Americans, know competition drives advancement. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City, is the embodiment of this idea and I believe the archetype for the 21st century CEO. Every patent Tesla Motors held was recently released for ‘free use’ to drive the progression of electric car technology. Not only will this certainly spur the success of Tesla, but it will also contribute to the success of a recovering automobile industry and will combat the now present threat of climate change due to carbon emissions. Not to mention Tesla’s direct-sales model is also trying to kill everything we hate about buying a car from a dealership. See everybody wins—the company, the industry, the consumer and humanity.

Why You Are More Valuable Than Any Salary

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By Bradley Dowies

Marketing Director Merchant Capital Source

Even with surmounting evidence of the importance of a good social life, getting exercise and decreasing stress, people continue to prioritize their salaries over their health. However when you apply monetary values on good health it becomes obvious that money is far from everything. A study from the Journal of Socio-Economics used “shadow pricing” (an economics term to estimate the price paid for increments of addition production) to estimate monetary values of potential life satisfaction gained by interactions with friends and family. Here’s a breakdown of what the study found:

  • Going from poor to excellent health: +$463,170/ year
  • Having a better social life: +$131,232/ year
  • A happy marriage: +$105,000/ year
  • Seeing friends and family regularly: +$97,265/ year

That means you could potentially be missing out on $796,667 worth of life satisfaction due to your time and social life consuming job. Now ask yourself again, is that long commute, or that 60 hour workweek really worth that high salary? Despite numerous scientific studies in support of this, I personally had to learn on my own and thought it more potent to share my story than to state studies.

I graduated from college in 2009 in the midst of the “Great Recession” at a time when the job market had been decimated. Although my degree was in advertising and I had intended to enter the field, I was left to make suffice with what was available, and what’s available after an occupational apocalypse? The cockroaches of the professional job market: sales positions. It seems no matter how bad things get, there’s always a need for a good salesperson. I had student loan debt and bills to pay, so at the time I felt I had no other choice. Fast forward two years and I had found financial success in my unintended sales career; I had been promoted twice and had a healthy managerial salary. While my finances were healthy, I was not. I had gained 20 pounds, I was working on average 55 hours a week and had to work most Saturdays. Most days I’d have to skip my lunch, or work while eating it and I was drinking heavily on the weekends. This was the type of atmosphere that was bred at my job; you give your life to the company, otherwise there’s hundreds of other saps willing to replace you because there’s nothing else out there and you should consider yourself fortunate to even have a job.

In late 2011, I had a life changing moment, or what I called my quarter life crisis. I had to ask, “Is this really what life is supposed to be?” After 18+ years of schooling, you get a job and learn to do one thing very well and do it everyday until you either retire, or die. While I had gained financial independence, I had lost my life in the process. I was good at my job, but my life was stagnant. I was no longer learning; no longer challenged and the adult world seemed empty. This was when I realized money would never bring me happiness, only buy the drinks I needed to cope with its misery.

The tipping point came when I was offered a very lucrative position in medical device sales in which I’d be making the coveted six-figure salary at 24 years old. After a long life contemplation I decided not only to decline the position, but to quit my career in sales altogether. Although the job offer was admittedly very tempting and everyone thought I was crazy, I knew I’d be committing my future to a life I never intended to have. I wanted to be in advertising and marketing because it was challenging to me; it was my passion, my joy; it fulfilled me.

After quitting I moved in with my grandmother and took several part-time jobs and internships throughout 2012. Also against the advice of many, I took the savings I had accumulated and traveled to Europe—something I told myself I would always do in my twenties. The trip only galvanized my commitment to the value of my life and was my motivation while I rebuilt my career over the next two years. In that time, I was able to go from a minimum wage intern to a marketing director. While I am not quite making a six-figure salary yet, I feel immeasurably richer than I ever have. My career is now based on my talents, knowledge and ideas as opposed to learned repetitive routines. Your job takes up the majority of your waking hours and if you’re miserable, or not challenged, your life will suffer. Simply summed up by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When I am getting paid for a passion, the work it takes to be successful seems a lot more effortless.

Along with finding a more fulfilling career path, there are a few simpler choices I’ve made that have also contributed to my success. The first was moving closer to work—close enough that I can walk, or bicycle. I never realized the difference starting your day out with a little exercise as opposed to sitting in traffic could make. Instead of struggling with other drivers on the road, I’m struggling with new ideas and planning out my day and by the time I arrive at work, my first hour of work is done. Secondly, a healthy exercise and diet regimen. Being healthy simply allows me to have the energy and mental focus I need in order to be more productive at work. Thirdly was utilizing my lunch as a time to take my mind off work. Whether it’s reading a book, or learning something new, I’ve found when I get out of the office and away from my desk I come back renewed and the second half of my day is more fruitful than if I had not. Lastly, learning and challenging yourself doesn’t have to stop just because you’re out of school. Creating new synapses in your brain helps with problem solving and creative thinking and while it’s not related to your work, you’ll inadvertently find yourself better at it.