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April 12, 2019 - Guest: Leonard Wallock & Public Square

Topics: the Great Green Wall in Africa, a Carbon Tax proposal, Mindfulness in the Military

Show Details

On this episode of Solutions News, Rinaldo talks to Leonard Wallock, along with Dana Wallock and Ellia Limón about their exciting non-profit public discourse project, Public Square. Topics on the show include the "Great Green Wall" that's being built at the border of the Sahara desert, how instituting a $100/ton carbon tax would be an economically viable way to curb carbon dioxide emissions quickly, and how the military is turning to mindfulness training to improve troop readiness and overall well-being. We also feature some great "didyaknows".


The Great Green Wall:

The first story this week is about the Great Green Wall, a cooperative project between 20 countries along the southern border of the Sahara Desert in Africa. The countries are building a wall of trees, miles wide, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the Red Sea in the east. Though the forest is only 15% completed currently, the newly created ecosystem is already having amazing results. Groundwater supplies and depleted wells are being replenished as are animal and plant life. This project helps the environment and it also helps to stop the progression of the Sahara Desert southward.

A Carbon Tax:

The second story this week focuses on the idea of a carbon tax as a possibility to fund environmental solutions. If we think about trash and material pollution in society, there is a precise system to deal with it. It would be completely irresponsible for a restaurant to dump all of the trash and excess food they have onto the sidewalk at the end of a night. But in the same way, a factory is not held responsible for the huge amounts of carbon dioxide produced during industrial processes like making cement. Clearly carbon needs to be taxed and in a substantial way. A tax at $100 per ton or carbon would just be enough money to pay for capturing and storing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through Direct Air Capture. While a larger investment might be needed to rapidly reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, this would get us much closer to where we need to be. A carbon tax incentivizes people and corporations alike to reduce their carbon footprints. The added costs to fuel and food in the meantime can be returned to the public as a tax credit or annual payment to help offset the increases, so the net result would be a zero $ out of pocket cost, with a huge environmental benefit. Sweden did it in 1990 with a $130 per ton carbon tax and we can too.

Mindfulness in the military:

Our last story about this week is about the importance of mindfulness especially in stressful or chaotic situations. Specifically, the military has been considering more broad mindfulness training for all soldiers, not just officers. After experiencing combat, veterans who have mindfulness training are much better off than those who have no training or those who try to treat issues like PTSD with medicine. Studies of soldiers who undergo mindfulness training during basic training are similarly much better off than those who do not receive the training. In the short term, mindfulness leads to more effective rest after exercise as well as lower levels of stress. In the long term, mindfulness leads to better focus and fitness up to 24 hours after rigorous exercise. Studies have also found that mindfulness leads to a better quality and quantity of sleep. However, to truly feel these benefits, mindfulness must become a routine that is practiced regularly rather than a trick to only be used when you feel stressed.

A living barrier of trees along the southern border of the Sahara’s Sahel desert
A living barrier of trees along the southern border of the Sahara’s Sahel desert

Leonard Wallock

Leonard Wallock is the Executive Director of Public Square, an organization dedicated to convening highly informative and interactive seminars led by distinguished commentators exploring innovative policy solutions to the critical issues of our time and inspire the next generation of civic leaders.  Dr. Wallock holds a BA in history from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in American urban history from Columbia University. 

While teaching undergraduate history courses both at public and private colleges in New York City, Dr. Wallock lectured on behalf of the New York Council for the Humanities and co-directed Columbia University’s Seminar on the City. After becoming a tenured professor at Hunter College, Dr. Wallock accepted an administrative appointment at UCSB to serve first as Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, then as Program Coordinator for the Taubman Symposia in Jewish Studies, and finally as Associate Director of the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life. Across these administrative roles, Dr. Wallock programmed over 300 free, educational public lectures and forums for the local community. Dr. Wallock also served as a primary fundraiser for these educational programs, raising over $4,000,000 through matching grants, foundation grants, endowments, individual donations, and institutional co-sponsorships.

Leonard Wallock, Our Guest on April 12, 2019
Leonard Wallock, Our Guest on April 12, 2019