Blog

21: Defending Beef

Back in the summer of 2021, Hisho recommended to me a book entitled "Defending Beef: The ecological and nutritional case for meat" by Nicolette Hahn Niman. Intrigued, I read it.

And there's a lot to talk about!

So much, in fact, that I specially created a very complex public show notes document, available at defendingbeef.fflinks.tk. I specified all the for and against arguments, my take-home advice, and lots and lots of citations.

In terms of recording, Sandhya wasn't available on the day of recording, so I pulled in my friend Clement. He doesn't have a special interest in beef, but when I went over to his house recently I saw he got a snazzy microphone.

I wasn't sure what episode I wanted to record that day, so when we decided on Defending Beef, all we had to go off was my PDF of Kindle highlights and notes.

We went on for almost two hours talking about only a small subset of the book. But I think we really covered what's important and what to take home from the book. In addition, in my document that I created (see above), I covered some of the other points too, and at the end of the podcast I summarised the other chapters.

This was also the first time that I used my microphone. It's a Shure concert mic that my parents had from when they performed in a band. I used their old mixer, too. I must say I was impressed with the quality, but unfortunately I cannot hold a mic in one hand and a pop filter in the other whilst navigating the show notes, so you'll have to excuse the odd plosive.

After recording I doubted if I would ever be able to edit such a monstrosity, as I did have technical difficulties with headphones, at one point I even flung my phone onto the ground by pulling accidentally on the headphone wire. (Note to self: charge your headphones).

However, once I sat down to edit it wasn't too bad. I cleaned it up, but otherwise let the conversation flow, deliberately leaving some of the interjections in (it's a debate, after all). However, Clement had cut out half an hour of silence in the middle, messing up my alignment, and Hisho had his headphones unplugged for the first 40 minutes. Annoying, but not unsurmountable problems.

I stayed up far too late making a gif of a cow jumping across the YouTube thumbnail of the episode. (But I'm very happy with how it turned out).

Overall, I appreciate that the book comes from an ex-vegetarian environmental lawyer rather than some internet troll who thinks plants feel pain too. But I worry that her encouragement of meat consumption from sustainable cattle will stop people from going veggie or vegan, and hence fuelling the market for unsustainable meats like feedlot cattle or pigs and poultry.

Additionally, I did learn a lot about nutrition science.

To see the full breakdown of the debate, and to see scientific sources on both sides, visit defendingbeef.fflinks.tk.

See ya! 😊

9th January 2022

20: Bitcoin and NFTs

We had been quite behind on the recording schedule for a while, even recording Episode 18 on the day of its release. However, with this one I knew I had Episode 19 already recorded, which could give us a much-needed leg-up in our recording schedule. We recorded one week after Episode 18 came out, although Sandhya didn't pick up the phone 😢. It was quite short but I think we covered everything necessary. The edit was simple and pain-free, so I hope you enjoy this comparatively short episode!

Update: So the blog is always about the shenanigans, and there amazingly seem to be shenanigans for every episode... except this one. But fear not, listeners, for of course I gave myself more work to do. I spent far too long designing an FFcoin and making an entire library of FF pixel art images, despite the fact that I could never release them, at least until Ethereum (which would be the platform NFTs and an FFcoin token currency would be based on) transitions to the far less energy-intensive Proof of Stake system.

Thoughts: The basis of Bitcoin's security is that, instead of trusting people, governments, or institutions, we can instead trust computational work. This computational work is in the form of guessing and checking SHA256 hashes until it starts with a number of zeroes (this number of zeroes is determined such that finding the right guess takes 10 minutes). Whilst from a mathematical standpoint I am wowed by the genius of this idea, and of the Bitcoin whitepaper in general, but from an environmental standpoint it seems completely pointless to spend Terawatts of electricity doing pointless calculations just to verify transactions on a ledger that is objectively worse than something like Visa in metrics like time to verify a transaction and transactions per second. Plus, if you forget your Bitcoin hardware wallet password.... (have you seen the statistics about lost Bitcoin?) Ultimately, cryptocurrencies are really interesting and perhaps promising, but I think we have to focus on sustainability, and finding decentralised trust systems that don't rely on Proof of Work - like the Ethereum transition to Proof of Stake.

Boxing Day, 2021

19: Heat Pumps with Michael Thomas

Heat pumps are perhaps the most overlooked climate solution, but their potential for decarbonising are homes is amazing.

I'm so excited to announce our first professional guest interview! Michael Thomas founded Carbon Switch, a company which encourages the uptake of heat pumps for home heating. I found out about him from a Vox video about heat pumps, where he was interviewed. When I was planning out this episode, I thought he might be good as a guest, so I looked him up and reached out to him to ask if he wanted to be a guest on the show. I was very happy when he replied and we found a recording time that worked. I did have to miss my sister's music concert though 😬. The recording went very smoothly and I edited it a month or so later the week before it came out, as I knew the edit would be easy. Overall, a really great episode with a very special guest.

12th December 2021

18: The Problem with Renewables

We were already cutting it quite tight, planning to record just a week before release, but both Hisham and Sandhya were unavailable that weekend (plus I had exams) so we rescheduled to the day of the release. We welcomed Electrical and Electronic engineering student John Lucas onto our show and he was an excellent guest. Because of the time constraints, I kept everyone on the meet until their files showed up in the shared Google Drive. Predictably Sandhya was the first to leave. After finding his password to his Google account, Hisho uploaded his. Only John remained. He had recorded his audio to Audacity, which was refusing to export. It just didn't respond. Luckily it had an auto-backup function, but upon restart it refused even to save the project. After many minutes (hours?) of troubleshooting it finally turned out that John's double-VPN-file-server setup wasn't doing him any favours, and with that sorted we were good to go. I finally got around to editing in the (late) afternoon and got the episode published a mere 5 hours late. I experimented with using the left and right channels (rather than the usual mono podcast) to express tangential remarks and corrections - so listen with headphones and let me know what you think.

28th November 2021

17: Biofuels are Liarfuels

This was pretty smooth IIRC.

14th November 2021

Season 2 - House of Cards

Season 2 is all about the built environment - energy, urban expansion and waste.

And yes, I did design and print a deck of cards just for that photo.

16.18: Halloween Special

(FYI 16.18 is phi * 10)

I've always been fascinated by the Halloween celebration. I've lived in Australia, Sri Lanka, Malawi and the UK, and in each country it's been celebrated differently. But one thing links them all: costumes and candy. Personally, I've never bought an outfit specifically for Halloween. We had a "dress-up box" full of random stuff we'd picked up at the op-shop (read: second-hand) in Canberra, and every I just found some stuff in that to use as a costume (it was a witch most years). I once even went in my dressing gown as the "grim reaper." Anyhow, I was incredulous to learn the huge scale of devastation that consumerist Halloween practices have on the environment. From costumes to candy wrappers to single-use decoration, the negative impacts of Halloween are widespread. However, this podcast is called Fighting Failure, not Explaining Failure, so in this episode we dive into the ways you can enjoy your Halloween celebrations without the spooky effect on the climate.

🎃

31st October 2021

Episode 16

Episode 16 is the final episode of Season 1 of Fighting Failure. We recorded - miraculously - two whole weeks before publishing - but this was not without great effort on my side to convince everyone! I wasted half an hour before the podcast started trying to make the word "Coexist" out of emojis (☪🕐E✡ℹ☯✝), but it was more religious-tolerance style than animal and human coexistence. Anyway, after recording I waited one and a half weeks to edit (secretly thanking Hisho for taking forever to send in his recording), but it was in the half term (yay) so no pressure. In a way it made editing more enjoyable because I was listening to the content afresh. I was very happy with how the edit turned out - 34% of recorded content was cut, giving you guys a nice 33 minute episode (Maths question: how long was the original recording?). While editing I stumbled across the phrase we mentioned - "Coexistence Mindset" - which I thought perfectly encapsulated the idea that we were trying to get across in the episode. Do enjoy and see you next time in Season 2! (except for the Halloween special)

24th October 2021

Episode 15

There's not that much to say about the making of this episode. Recording was pushed back a week (because of an embassy event), then forward a day (because of a tech rehearsal I had). Recording was uneventful, as was editing. But there are some interesting things that we've done this episode that we hope will give you a better experience. Firstly, I recorded in a fort under my desk surrounded by blanket/doona/duvet/comforter (choose your word) to reduce echo and I think it worked really well. Secondly, we are now hosting our show notes through Notion. This means that we can have images, links, videos etc in one place for each episode. It makes it easier to work with on our end and better to look at on your end. Head to shownotes.fightingfailure.earth now!

10th October 2021

Episode 14

We're all back at school after the summer holidays so everyone's busy. Hisho's in Year 11 in the IB system so he has a lot of work for his Personal Project. I'm starting learning for 10 GCSEs. Sandhya's very busy too. We want to continue the fortnightly release schedule we established over the summer, so I wanted to record two weeks in advance. However, on the day Sandhya said she had time constraints and Hisho said he couldn't do it at all due to an upcoming deadline. With a heavy sigh on my part we pushed back the recording to the weekend before release. I informed Hisho that if he couldn't make this one he wouldn't be in it. On the day he informed us that he was going to the lake for a long weekend. But we forged ahead without him, and understudy Taran Caston was able to sub in for him - and he did very well! Additionally, due to renovations, I was in a different space, so the audio might sound different. Or maybe not. Adobe Audition's de-reverb is surprisingly good. We had a great discussion about Palm Oil, and I must say this is among my favourite episodes. Enjoy!

26th September 2021

Remastering Episodes

Fighting Failure has been a learning experience for me and for everyone involved. Other than one episode of The Improv Challenge which was edited in Shotcut (a free video editor), I had zero experience editing podcasts. Similarly, almost all the skills needed to create a podcast were picked up along the way: editing, making artwork, publicising, hosting. This means that a lot of our earlier work just wasn't as good. In particular, Episodes 1-2 (including φ) had very strange audio - I think I set the AutoGate filter too high. These episodes did have quality check listen-overs, but somehow this terrible defect escaped my perception. Listening to them today is painful. Since the first episode is where many people start with a podcast, and since I was proud of the actual content within them, I have decided to re-edit these first episodes using the original audio (which I am so glad we kept). Episodes 1 and φ are already up, and 2 is coming soon. I have edited the original podcast upload so they should still appear at the bottom of your feed. I realise that it is an Internet 'tradition' to leave up old and bad content so I will leave the old audio on YouTube for old time's sake. If you originally failed to listen to these episodes then I recommend you give them another shot.

Keep sharing the climate l💚ve,

Oscar.

12th September 2021

Episode 13

It's already difficult to find a time to record when Hisho and Sandhya are 10.5 hours apart. But for this episode, Hisho's cousin Emily - who has just been accepted into the University of California to study Marine Biology - was booked in to guest, and she lives in Arizona, which means that early morning for her is late night in India. Kudos to Sandhya for putting up with late nights while Hisham was in the US.

I was away for my Duke of Edinburgh expedition so I wasn't able to witness how it unfolded but from what I can see it went very smoothly. I joined in the last 10 minutes when I got home and I had a great time talking about the one point they hadn't already mentioned 😜. I edited it in the last 2 hours before I had to leave for my holiday so it was a very rushed edit. I was also annoyed to find that the audio somehow got out of sync halfway through! Anyhow, I finished the edit in the nick of time and hopefully it sounds good!

Update: When I got back from my holiday I decided that the edit just wasn't good enough so I went over it meticulously with a fine toothcomb so I now know that it does sound good - to me, at least.

12th September 2021

Episode 12

Another simple blog. Sandhya and I recorded without Hisho as he didn't turn up at our recording time - we needed episodes before I went away. It was a really interesting episode to talk about and I think it's really great that so much of the paper we use nowadays in packaging and books comes from recycled paper - a real tribute to recycling efforts worldwide. Having only two people talking, this episode was blissfully simple to edit - just cleaning up, really. Please do give it a listen - it's only half an hour 🤗

15th August 2021

Episode 11

There's less to say about this one than Episode 10, as its recording came about as a side-effect of efforts to record Episode 10. As I mentioned last time, we were trying to record Episode 10 but Hisho couldn't come, so we ended up recording Episode 11. This was Sandhya's first time hosting an episode, and she did a stellar job. Theo was also really good considering he had no notice he would be on this episode. It was relatively simple to edit as well, which was a bonus. Awesome!

15th August 2021

Episode 10

So Hisho is still travelling in the United States and as always finding a recording time was difficult. My pal Theo Ansell was booked to guest on this episode so we had to find a time that worked for four people. Hisho didn’t have time to write show notes, so I did an outline and Theo fleshed it out from there. This worked out better than you might expect as both Theo and I were really interested in this topic. I was going on holiday soon - I am writing this from a train platform in rural Scotland now - and wouldn’t be able to edit, so we had to record enough episodes to tide us through the summer months.

To further complicate matters, Theo and I had Duke of Edinburgh expeditions on both weekends before I went away, meaning that our usual recording time was not possible. After struggling to find a time to record that worked for everyone, we finally settled on Monday 3:30 BST. The day rolled around, and everyone except Hisho was on the meet. He texted saying he couldn’t make it. Sigh. We decided that we couldn’t waste this recording time and so Theo became a surprise guest on Episode 11. We recorded the same time on Tuesday and everyone made it succesfully.

It was a really interesting topic and I’m so glad we covered it. When the time came to edit, I was gutted to find that Theo’s audio wasn’t nearly loud enough. On my audio editor it barely registered above background noise levels. This was especially confusing given that his audio was actually really good in the call. I struggled for hours to try in vain to make it sound decent. I ended up just silencing the parts where Theo didn’t talk and turning up the volume by almost 20 dB. I subsequently spent all day editing it to make it really interesting and easy to listen to. I also got Theo to re-record some of his longer speeches so hopefully it mostly sounds good now!

I think this topic is really important so please do listen to it and implement some of the solutions. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan, but I think reducing cheap meat intake is a really great start towards a healthier, happier planet.

1st August 2021

Episode 9

Breaking news: PLOUGHING YOUR SOIL is bad for the environment

Tillage is actually one of the biggest problems in agriculture! Listen to find out more...

Finally, what I've been waiting for! A smooth podcast release. Although I unfortunately couldn't make the recording (and nor could my fill-in - thank you, internet), the 2-person discourse made for much easier editing for myself. I edited it rather swiftly - in fact so swiftly that it was finished before Episode 8. Which wasn't really that helpful. But anyway. The episode was scheduled to release almost 2 weeks in advance which gave us a chance to record some episodes before everyone goes off for their summer holidays - we're that dedicated to your entertainment and education.

If you have any feedback to give us it is more than welcome via the usual channels Twitter/Instagram DMs, email, or Discord.

18th July 2021

Episode 8

Kiss the Ground

"Do enjoy the episode 👇 as it is a super important topic, and see you next time for Episode 9. Hopefully the gap won't be as long this time as we've already recorded it!"

Oscar Archibald, 16th May 2021

It is now the 4th of July (hello Americans) and only now have we released Episode 8. Almost 2 months later. What's my excuse this time? First of all, my audio for Episode 8 was corrupted. So we had to find a time to record again. And you can guess how that turned out. And then I had exams. Lots and lots of exams (I did well I'll have you know). In addition to exams I have had lots of other stuff on to do with the end of term. And of course procrastination. But it's here now. Episode 8. Basically a drawn-out praise of an incredible documentary (it's a good episode, I promise).

I pinky promise Episode 9 will come in two weeks time because not only have we already recorded it but we've already edited it. Hopefully we will return to a fortnightly release schedule by recording and editing ahead of time.

If you have any feedback to give us it is more than welcome via the usual channels Twitter/Instagram DMs, email (we can now send email from that email address), or Discord.

4th July 2021

Going Vegetarian

So after our 'Vegetarianism and Veganism' I was left considering my eating of meat. I also listened to an excellent talk from a teacher and my school, and the final nail in the coffin was an excellent book called 'Farmageddon.' I started having the veggie meals at school and soon after I officially went vegetarian.

Although my main reason was environmental, I think ethically, for me, eating meat was questionable - I wouldn't kill an animal myself, and I definitely wouldn't eat a dog or a horse! I guess I feel more morally correct now. The third reason is somewhere between the two - feeding animals uses food (unless pasture-grazing) that poor people across the world could eat, and there are other problems along that line.

I have gone fully vegetarian (even verging on vegan; I have mostly removed dairy from my diet), but I still support 'flexitarianism' - eating sustainable meat and fish only a few times a week. I do agree that some meat eating can be sustainable, but for me I liked having a blanket rule.

It's useful having veggie meals always available at school, and naturally breakfasts are vegetarian, so the main hurdle has been dinner. Luckily, my parents have been very supportive and catered to my new diet. Not eating gummy lollies was difficult but luckily Fruit Pastilles recently went vegan, so I subbed that in. Still waiting to get non-gelatine marshmallows, though (they do exist). I did feel more virtuous refusing these things, though.

Overall: I would recommend vegetarianism, but any reduction in meat is a bonus, so don't feel that you need to go all the way at once.

9th June 2021

Episode 7

What you put on your soil - Fertilisers

Compared to Episode 6, this wasn't nearly as hard to record - if I remember correctly, the process went relatively smoothly. However, once we put our microphones down, it became a bit harder. First of all, we (as usual) had a hard time getting Hisho's audio out of Malawi, but even once I had the audio files, I didn't have time to edit! Every weekend I had volunteering, rowing and DofE so once I had done my homework I didn't even have time to procrastinate, let alone edit. I finally found a free afternoon and did a simpler edit - so I made all the interchanges sound natural, but I didn't aggressively edit the speech itself, so you'll have to tolerate a few uhhms and aaahs for this one 😉.

Do enjoy the episode 👇 as it is a super important topic, and see you next time for Episode 8. Hopefully the gap won't be as long this time as we've already recorded it!

16th May 2021

Episode 6

What you put on your soil - Pesticides

This episode was a bit of a roller-coaster to make! We were supposed to record, as usual, on Sunday morning (or afternoon for Sandhya), but not only did Hisho have a tight schedule, so would have needed to record at a different time, I had forgotten it was my brother's birthday until the last minute, so I couldn't make the recording. We rescheduled for Monday, but then Hisho had some guests. We postponed yet again to Tuesday, when for reasons I can't remember we couldn't start recording until 11:30am UK time, 2.5 hours later than usual. We tried to use the Discord voice channel feature to broadcast our podcast live, but that was an absolute failure! Then Hisham had to take his sister out for lunch, so we reschedule to 1:30pm UK time. We managed to get on a Meet call that time, but we were still plagued with terrible lag - I managed to edit it out so it sounds smooth, but there were many times when we confusedly interrupted each other because we were hearing 5-10 seconds old audio.

View transcript below.

6th April 2021

Discord Server

Saving the climate is a collaborative effort, so we wanted to be a part of that collaboration. We created a Discord server where any member of our community can join in and discuss climate stuff with everyone else - or even just hang out with our friendly community.

In the #ideas-and-feedback channel people are free to contribute to the podcast that they love so dearly.

We also hope to do live podcasts on the server so people can listen in live while we record - umms, aahs, pauses, y'knows and bloopers included! We will still be recording and releasing an edited version later on.

5th April 2021

Understudy Program

At Fighting Failure we love our community, and as part of an IB programme (that Hisho is dealing with) which encourages us to engage with our community, we have decided to each take on a couple of understudies. The role of the understudy will be to interact with the community, help with research and show notes, and of course fill in if one of us is away. We also hope to give them some time on the air so they can develop their podcasting skills.

5th April 2021

Switching Merch Suppliers

Fighting Failure is a podcast about the environment and how we can save it. Especially for a podcast that looks down upon consumerism and fast fashion (#keepthingslocal) we increasingly thought it was disingenuous to sell merchandise. Although we argued that it was 'sharing the climate love,' - and that is true, showing off this merch is a great way to inform people about the environment and keep comfy - when we found out about TeeMill (the only merch company Greenpeace would use) we thought we had to switch. We didn't want to be caught out for talking the talk but not walking the walk. So even if you can no longer get a Fighting Failure fanny pack, and fewer colours are available, as we always say - you have to make sacrifices for the climate. So I hope you go out and grab a sustainable t-shirt, but if you don't want/need one, don't feel pressured to get one. Sharing this podcast is enough.

4th April 2021

Blog started - 4th April 2021 - so things that happened before this point (e.g. previous episodes) won't be shown.