Great Conversations

Rich Roll, 52-year-old ultra-endurance athlete, named by Men’s Health magazine to be among “25 Fittest Men in the World” and the “Fittest Vegan On Earth”, is now full-time wellness & plant-based nutrition advocate, public speaker and host of the popular Rich Roll Podcast. Formerly an overworked Hollywood lawyer (and alcoholic junk food addict), he is a very well-versed Podcast host who always knows the right questions to ask, and literally distills wisdom out of narrative stories from his interviewees.

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I didn’t reach my athletic peak until 43. I didn’t write my first book until 44. I didn’t start my podcast until I was 45. . . . . . At 30, I was certain my life was over. At 52, I now know it’s only just beginning. . . . . . If you feel lost, I’m with you. If you feel stuck, I’ve been there. If you think you’re broken, you’re not. . . . . . It’s never too late. Time has not passed you over. No matter where you find yourself, there is always a path forward. Be patient. Kind to yourself and others. Act in contradiction to fear. Invest in yourself. In time, you will find a spark. No matter how slight, fan it. Build on it. And don’t give up until the dim flame becomes a bonfire. . . . . . I believe in you, even if nobody else does – because the human spirit is boundless. And because higher consciousness is a shared collective, free and always available. ✌🏼🌱 -Rich 📷 @pranalens

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David Bronner, 5th generation in line from a family of chemists, Harvard graduate, 16-year vegan, super cool hippie and “cosmic spiritual being” who went all around and came back to his inherited family cause so he can also “use commerce as a fiscally responsible form of activism”, with soap being the vehicle to deliver his grandfather’s message “We are all one or none.” (that’s why Dr. Bronner soaps are always covered with words of wisdom).

Sustainability is about connectedness. It’s about a holistic perspective of the impact that we have on the soil and the downstream implications of all the decisions we make. It’s not just “organic” or “vegan” or “non-vegan”, we have to broaden that aperture and realize that cascading implications of how all of these things are interrelated in a broader, more holistic way.

– Rich Roll (Podcast with David Bronner)

This is how Rich Roll summarizes David Bronner’s psychedelic experience in Amsterdam which became the revelation for him and subsequently taking up the family brand Dr. Bronner’s, through the sustainability implications of how we raise food and crops for humans on planet earth.

(Having learned to make DIY cold press castile soap myself, I can testify for the honest and sustainable ingredients in a good soap. And I also confirmed a few tricks on making soap after watching this Podcast. 😂)

There are more than a few of Rich Roll Podcasts that have completed transformed my mind with inspirational thought-provoking long conversations, which I often consider to be better than a good book. These long-format interviews are the best way to dive under the superficial talks and interact on a deeper level with great minds and souls:

with Dean and Anne Ornish on lifestyle and well-being

with Nimai Delgado on vegan bodybuilding

with Jimmy Chin and Chai on the making of documentary Free Solo

(also a full podcast with Alex that I watched in awe)

A Plastic Crisis

As the modern convenient way of life was brought to us by the sophisticated developed world, so was plastics. This durable material with a promise of convenience is omnipresent in all society: our supermarkets and refrigerators are filled with single-use plastic packaging. Tribal communities in the most remote fishing villages where stories of how older generations fished with spider web lines now even have access to cheap and ever-enduring nylon. Plastics now lie in the deepest oceans and carry on in forms of big floating garbage patches or microscopic molecules within living beings from plankton, fish, to the bloodstreams of us, human.

Having traveled in lots of underdeveloped countries in South East Asia, I knew very well of the smell of toxic smoke coming out of a burning pile of plastic by the roadside. You can’t really blame the locals. For centuries people were used to getting rid of their (organic) waste by a simple toss to the bush, where everything is returned back to earth. But cheap fast moving consumer goods can now be easily obtained even at local mom-and-pop shops, where habitats are un-equipped with the awareness and ability to properly deal with the leftover packaging these products come in.

In a bigger sense, humans invented and populated an unleashed demon which they don’t know how to tame. I often think the plastic crisis will end up to be the very downfall of our species.

The easy solution – burning – could have the potential to be the “cleanest” way to dispose of large amounts of waste – through high tech incineration. We might all know its shining example in Sweden:

This is a very insightful investigation into one of the best examples in the world of waste processing. In Singapore where I live, it is also one of the most effective ways to get rid of garbage. In a cold climate country like Sweden, incinerators can be a very efficient solution compared to a lot of countries who just dump their waste into the ocean and burn dirty coal for winter heating. It seems like a win-win answer to a combination of problems.

But what this video found out eventually, is that these incineration plants come quite expensive and is inefficient at least half of the year. At its core is a “burning question” and it arrived at a thought-provoking answer I very much agree with: shouldn’t we put our major resources and investments into recycling and reducing waste at its source?

An example of recycling’s future we could look deeper into:

Recycling is the medicine we can take for our early on-set chronic disease of plastic pollution that treats only the symptoms. To tackle the cause of the disease and stop it from its origin, a radical lifestyle change – reducing waste is the only solution and happens to be something everyone can participate.

In Switzerland, I came across a very good example. Swiss household garbage is collected in special disposal bags which residents acquire by paying a substantial fee. Offenders who don’t use these bags or doesn’t follow the rules won’t get their garbage picked up and may result in getting fined. This is the only way to throw away garbage and it comes at a price (like a garbage tax based on volume). This resulted in every single person starts to put their effort and awareness into avoiding waste in the first place. The recycling rate in Switzerland ended up high and organic waste was mostly composted. For those who don’t bother, pay up for the eventual cost of disposal/recycling.

While I should say Bravo to policies like this, there is a long way to go for the rest of the world. I definitely believe it is the governments’ responsibility to ban single-use plastics, which could open up new markets and sparkle new inventions and even brand new industries to fuel the economy.

Western consumerism and mass consumption for fueling the ever-growing economy is done by raping nature, and is sadly now a standard model for the whole humanity and tHis collective disaster has resulted in a global ecological collapse. Nature doesn’t have boarders, so is our own waste and pollution that now chokes the entire earth. Plastics, apart from greenhouse gasses and other toxic waste, is a major end product that will stay around for hundreds and thousands of years. Those who act upon it will be remembered by our children’s children.

In an ideal world in my mind, a punitive tax should be created based on both consumption and waste. People should be taxed for existing on this earth to simply put, because all resources on our planet – land, water, clean air, and clear blue sky, is valuable.

Lessons from 2018

  • Eat well: a whole food, plant-based diet and avoid processed foods
  • Love: the healing process of communication, staying true and connected to all close relationships
  • Power of the Mind: unleash the spiritual potential
  • Move: exercising more

2018 had proven to be maybe the most important year of my life. In this year I: learned to freedive, discovered the power of mind, and started the discovery and journey inwards; went plant-based (aka dietary vegan), exercised more and became even more conscious and informed on well-being; had amazing explorations and expeditions, saw magnificent gentle giants and wonderful tiny critters of the ocean; stayed more in tune with nature, started a brand new cause; asked and reflected more of the ultimate questions: purpose of life and how to find fulfilment; spent more time loving and being loved; stayed true to myself instead of seeking external validations.

In 2019 I hope I continue to get inspired, challenged, and grow; stay nourished by nature and live more consciously, sustainably: uphold a high standard and do better work; find my drive, my purpose, my fulfillment.

Mozart in the Jungle

“The music is not in the notes,
but in the silence between.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“When I am ….. completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Garden City

With skyrise greenery and world class gardens, Singapore’s lush verdant city landscapes showcase a nation with foresight and a deep abiding passion, not only for its natural heritage but also for the spirit of its people.

I’m proud it call it home. (For now😉)

Macro Experiment – Raja Ampat

An almost impossible experiment to shoot the creatures without built-in Image Stabilization hovering in water – for fear of damaging the corals.

Hovering + macro + video + lots of backscatter + no IS – not a good combination. Definitely not recommended and I will never do it again!

Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker, Op.71: No. 12c Character Dances: Tea (Chinese Dance)
The Nutcracker: Scene XII – Divertissement, Dance of the Mirlitons

Common name of the creatures, in order of appearance:

Banded Shrimp Goby
Robust Ghost Pipefish
Spinecheek Anemonefish
Porcelain Crab
Ribbon Sweetlips
Decorator Crab ×2
Bobtail Squid
Decorator Crab
Spiny Lobster ×2
Ornate Ghost Pipefish ×2
Shrimp Goby & Snapping Shrimp (symbiotic relationship)
Striped Eel Catfish
Translucent Gorgonian Shrimp
Black-saddled Toby
Satomi’s pygmy seahorse (smallest known seahorse in the world) discovered in 2008
Chromodoris Nudibranch
Barramundi -juvenile
Many-spotted Sweetlips -juvenile
Baby file fish
Blue Ring Octopus
Loch’s Chromodoris
Blue Velvet Headshield Slug
Squat Shrimp
Ghost Goby
Cleaning Shrimp
Pigmy Seahorse
Algae Shrimp
Mobula Ray
Moray Eel
Slender Pinjalo
Wobbegong Shark
Barred Moray
Silver Sweetlips
Eggs of Spanish Dancer Nudibranch
Skeleton Shrimp
Pikachu (Thecacera) Nudibranch
Pigmy Seahorse
Orangutan Crab
Cuttlefish ×3
Pigmy Seahorse
Commensal Sponge Shrimp
Electric Clam
Skunk Anemonefish

Chasing Coral

Just watched this new released documentary from Netflix called Chasing Coral. It’s about how a group of filmmakers and scientists try to capture the global coral bleaching on cameras. It also tells your a lot about the coral and the whole ocean/ planetary eco system. In the end it’s nothing most of us divers don’t already know, but I think it’s important for people who don’t dive or know much about the ocean to see. And I think that should be EVERYONE. The corals and reefs really come to life and it’s so awesome and moving. This is what I want to do as well as a cause, to call for action and help chip in to turn the tide around in terms of saving our ocean. I completely related to all the people in the film, and can’t help but cried through the whole 2nd half. 😭😭😭

They also have very well thought-out call-to-action on the film website where you can pass the message around. You can also encourage the people around you to watch it as well.

The fight is down to us now. The diving we love, the food we eat, the life we are living, it all depends on you and me. And the corals – they don’t have much time left.

Beginning of the End

There’re a couple of events I have had the privilege of attending that I really felt like I was at the right place at the right time. And this year’s ADEX was one of them. Meeting and listening to Dr. Silvia Earle, Nobel peace prize recipient and 2nd president of East Timor José Ramos-Horta, and people like Brazilian filmmaker Cristian Dimitrus, gave me more than inspirations. It is after time like these I really feel like I learned like a sponge and grew like bamboo.

It’s either a coincidence or the editor of this month’s AsianDiver was following my social media interaction with some filmmakers. 😂 As all this talk about shark fin consumption and sustainable seafood has exactly been my focus for the past few months.

“腹下有翅,味并肥美,南人珍之” (明代李时珍《本草纲目》) There is this sentence mentioning shark fin consumption by “the southerners” in Li Shizhen’s Compendium of Materia Medica all the way dating back to Ming dynasty (1500s), southerners at the time being current Guangdong, Vietnam & SE Asia.

Shark fin consumption, however, has come a long way from being just a Chinese problem. In fact if you go to China now you don’t really see it that much any more. I myself have seen more restaurants in Singapore serving shark fins in one month than in all my 26 years living in China combined. Chinese traditional medicine, like many other traditions, is going through a really tough phase right now in China. There are constant debates going on amongst intellectuals regarding its harm over its value. As for shark fins, with negative media portrayal and celebrity endorsement, it has become a symbol of corruption and has been disapproved by most mainland Chinese. And that’s been for almost 10 years now. (In Guangdong province it is a different story. The list of animals that has been on their menu is even appalling to the rest of China.)

Yet shark products consumption is now epidemic worldwide. The situation is especially bad in Southeast Asia. Go to any Chinese styled restaurants in SEA, Singapore especially, chances are that shark fin soup is a dish proudly listed on the menu, sometimes even as a star dish.

This product, together with manta ray gills, are now mostly marketed to overseas Chinese decedents, among whom the “traditional heritage” is still alive and strong. After living in Singapore and Southeast Asia for over 2 years, I formed a habit of constantly comparing everything with China. It occurred to me that Mao forcing China into cultural revolution and the destruction of Four Olds decades ago might turn out to be a blessing in disguise after all. (Many other gems of heritage destroyed during that time is another topic for another day.)

In some western countries the shark cartilage supplement pills are also widely available from big supplement brands, from which the source being covered up but no-less questionable.

But the worst of all cases are the HK/Cantonese immigrants outside of China, US/Canada/Singapore, serving shark fin soup on wedding and banquet tables as a status symbol still to this day.

To address the issue we must find it’s real source. Instead of blindly blame “China” for shark fin problems, the video in the link below perfectly explains the problem in US. And thanks to people like Shawn Heinrichs and @sharkgirlmadison, more truth can be unveiled.

With all this being said, at the end of the day, when I look at the piles and piles of dead sharks in all these videos, I also know that we are draining the ocean of all its fish. Even if we leave the sharks alone, they might not even find as much food to sustain themselves any more. As with the prediction of many studies, by 2048 we would’ve emptied the ocean with all its abundance. We have much much bigger problems to worry about than just sharks.

But as a great man once said: All great journeys start from a single step.