Kamal Meattle: How to grow fresh air


Kamal Meattle is an Indian environmental activist and CEO of Paharpur Business centre & Software Technology Incubator Park based in New Delhi, India.


Kamal is allergic to Delhi’s polluted air. He discovered a combination of 3 indoor plants that can filter it, and give him all the fresh air he needs.

  • Areca Plant in the living room: converts CO2 to Oxygen during the day. You need 4 shoulder-high plants per person, and need to wipe the leaves daily in Delhi (maybe weekly elsewhere).
  • Mother-in-Law’s Tongue in the bedroom: converts CO2 to Oxygen during the night. You need 6 waist high plants per person.
  • Money Plant where necessary removed formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals from the air.

With these 3 plants, you can live indefinitely in a sealed room by rebreathing the air. Kamal had these plants installed in a 50,000 sq ft office building in Delhi. While in this building for 10 hrs, 42% of people’s blood oxygen increase by 1%. It is the healthiest building in New Delhi, and its occupants have

  • 52% less eye irritation
  • 34% lower incidence of respiratory issues
  • 24% fewer headaches
  • 9% less asthma

Human productivity also increased by 20%, and energy reduction by 15% (due to less air requirements). As more humans move to buildings and buildings are one of our largest energy sources, this recipe for fresh air could reduce that significantly.

My Thoughts

Good recipe if you live in a polluted city, and useful conclusion for all offices with large air-conditioning requirements.

Joy Sun: Should you donate differently?


Joy Sun is a veteran aid worker and COO at http://www.givedirectly.org


As an experienced aid worked, Joy often felt the urge to give money directly to the poor (rather than through programs). However, she believed that her programs would benefit them more: by spending money for the poor rather than letting the poor spend money. Recent research shows that this is not true – when people are allowed to spend money themselves, pregnant women will buy food for stronger babies, businessmen will invest directly in their business and increase their income. Studies showed people didn’t spend more on alcohol, or slack off and work less. People prioritised their own needs well, and usually got a direct benefit.

It begs the question: are aid workers worth the extra cost? Are the poor better at spending their money than we are at choosing what they want? As an example, in India a program gave livestock to the ‘ultra-poor’, and 30% then sold their livestock for cash. To add to the inefficiency, for every $100 spent on livestock, another $99 was spent in administration of the program.

New technology allows us to send money directly to the poor. This payment amount could allow people to send money directly to the poor. Joy’s latest program will firstly verify how poor a person is, then sell them a cheap cellphone and donate $1000 per family directly to them. It avoids issues of corruption, and allows people to invest in themselves.

Aid efficiency tends to have a very low threshold of success- we tell ourselves that it is successful if we do some good. Or that we are better off giving than not giving. This increases the amount lost to plane tickets, reports, studies. The new bar should be “can we choose how to spend this money better than the recipients?”.

Direct money cannot eradicate disease or build up institutions, but could be a more efficient way to improve the lives of individuals. Joy believes in aid, but isn’t convinced that most of it is more efficient than directly giving to the poor. She hopes some day it will be.

My Thoughts

Very thought-provoking. As someone who could donate more, but is cynical of the agencies delivering programs, the idea of direct payments is intriguing. I am also curious how this aid impacts those who do not receive it: are whole villages targeted, and if so does it simply cause inflation? Or does involvement in this aid pick winners? I admit my ignorance of economics in this area. I would also be concerned about the verification process – giving money is a concept that is open to fraud, and donators should feel confident that it is being given to those who need it.

Nonetheless, I agree with her that it is a very good way to bypass inefficient organisations and government corruption.

Derek Sivers: How to start a movement


Derek Sivers is best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians.


Derek shows a video of a crowd forming around a single shirtless dancer (the leader). He dances alone for a while, then someone else comes forward. They dance together for a while, and are embraced as equals. Then a couple more come over and start dancing, and soon a large crowd forms around them.

So what can we learn from this?

  • As a leader, you must encourage your first followers. Embrace them as equals and treat them well.
  • The first follower is the one who turns someone from a shirtless nut into a leader. The leader will get the credit, but the followers are brave for getting it started.
  • Once a group is formed, the rest will start flocking towards it. Suddenly it isn’t weird or risky – if they’re quick they can still be part of the ‘in’ crowd, rather than feeling left behind.
  • For this reason, an early follower is a special kind of leadership.
  • If you see a single person with a good idea, be that first follower.

My Thoughts

Fun short talk, with some nonetheless useful messages. Nearly half of the video is the opening and ads that accompanied older TEDs.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Why lunch ladies are heroes


Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the author/illustrator of countless children’s books and graphic novels, including Good Night, Monkey Boy, Baghead and the Lunch Lady series (http://www.lunchladycomics.com/)


Jarrett, an author and illustrator, went back to his old primary school to attend an event when he noticed that Jeannie, a lunch lady who used to serve him was still working. He approached her and had an eye opening conversation about Jeannie’s children and grandchildren. Lunch ladies don’t actually live at the school, as he once believed.

Jarrett was inspired to create the Lunch Lady graphic novel series. There was a positive reception from the kids but also from lunch ladies who were grateful for the message behind it. The role of the lunch lady in popular culture has not been a popular one and Jarrett was doing something about it. The popularity of the series led to the creation of School Lunch hero day, where kids got creative about how to thank the people who serve them food.

That is the lesson of this talk: It’s important to say thank you. Cafeteria workers, who collectively serve 5 billion school lunches every year certainly deserve appreciation for their work. “A thank you can change the life of the person who receives it, and it changes the life of the person who expresses it.”

My Thoughts

The message of this ted talk was fairly straightforward (be sure to communicate your appreciation), but used an interesting an unique anecdote. This is isn’t a ted talk that I’m planning on rewatching in few months, but nevertheless it was a good reminder.

Sally Kohn: Don’t like clickbait? Don’t click


Sally Kohn is a liberal political commentator, community organizer, and founder and chief education officer of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank. Kohn was a contributor for the Fox News Channel.


The internet can be a nasty place, and has been shown to be much worse if you are gay, a woman, or a person of colour. Sally herself has found a fake twitter account which accuses her of being a bull dike, a man hater, and someone who only talks to spread her ‘perverse sexuality’.

However, if everyone hates this, we can change it by making a small sacrifice. People are no longer passive receivers of a media run by elites – no longer is the world divided into media creators and media consumers. By reading twitter or posting to a blog we are making a public act. We decide what gets attention by clicking on something – algorithms will decide that is what you need to see more of.

60% of Americans think America is becoming incivil, but they also click these the same ridiculously worded rumour-mongering articles. In an increasingly noisy media landscape, there are more incentives to make as much noise as possible. The tyranny of the loud encourages the nastiest comments. We need to change the incentives.

When you see someone abused, do something – drown out the negative with the positive. And don’t click on nasty and inane stories – it only encourages more of them. Clicking on them will force more stories of the same to appear.

My Thoughts

Good advice to all – however I disagree with her about ‘doing something’ to online trolls. By ‘being a hero’ and fighting nasty comments, you are giving them merit. By responding to a nasty article or a nasty person, you are triggering another incentive in both the article and the trolls. The articles are nasty because that generates controversy – by responding to an article you are feeding that controversy.

Beyond that – spread the word to others. Don’t click on garbage – it only encourages more garbage.

Martin Rees: Can we prevent the end of the world?


Lord Martin Rees, one of the world’s most eminent astronomers, is an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and the UK’s Astronomer Royal.


The Earth has existed for 45 million centuries, but this is the first where threats to the Earth could conceivably come from humanity. The political will to deal with these catastrophic threats is weak – instead we focus on minor hazards such as plane crashes and chemicals in food. In the same way as we pay a premium for car insurance, doesn’t it make sense to plan for these threats?

It is likely that common people will have the capability to design biological organisms this century. These could be misused by people looking to do immense damage. Regulation cannot prevent misuse, since there will always be a country where anything is possible.

People were concerned when the particle accelerator came online, but this has been done naturally many times. Of more concern is the truly new technologies being developed.

Martin suggests that a core question is existential – is a 100% death rate from a disaster significantly worse than 90%? Some would suggest it is only 10% worse, but Martin says it is immeasurably worse. He can’t believe that humanity is the last link in an evolutionary chain. Even on an astronomical or evolutionary time scale, there is still a lot of life left in the Earth (~5 billion years), and future evolution may develop faster on a technological time scale. Surely even a 1 in a billion risk of human destruction should be mitigated. While some threats are pure science fiction, others are improbable but possible.

To study these risks, Martin has established a centre to mitigate these existential risks at Cambridge university. It makes sense for at least a few people to think about these issues.

My Thoughts

Martin talks well about the risk management approach we need to take to deal with unlikely but catastrophic events. However aside from biological terrorism, he does not delve too much into what issues he is particularly concerned about, or possible solutions. I am curious to see what comes out from his studies.

Clint Smith: The danger of silence


Clint Smith is a slam poet and educator whose work blends art and activism.


In a 1958 speech, Martin Luther King said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. By being silent you allow ignorance and hate to take hold – silence is taken as agreement with what you are hearing. As a teacher Clint teaches his children about the danger of silence and encourages open communication in his classroom with the following commitment:

  1. Read critically
  2. Write consciously
  3. Speak Clearly
  4. tell YOUR truth

Clint reflects on his own failures to tell his truth. For lent one year Clint gave up his speech, and realised that he had refused to speak up so much that he may as well be silent. He talked of times where he ignored or held his tongue against a gay friend being bashed, ignored a homeless person, let a woman insult his “unintelligent” students at a fundraising event. He speaks faster and louder – in slam poetry style – on what he could have said to help these people against ignorance. Silence is not about picking your battles, but letting them pick you. In the end, silence is the sound you make when you’ve already lost – when you’re already dead “run out of body bags”.

Live every day as if there is a microphone under your tongue, you don’t need a soapbox, you just need your voice

My Thoughts

Worth watching – he speaks very quickly and powerfully with a lot of message for such a short talk. I will take his message on board and not be afraid to talk against wrongs.