Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

I watch quite a few TED and TEDx talks and most I never mention anywhere. I think it’s marvelous in the main. Some are BS, some are crazy fabulous, some I begin to watch and click away.

Not this one. Even in spite of the guy who’s greening the world, this has got to be the best TED talk I have ever seen. Perhaps, because it contemplates “greening” human beings in Africa and not just plots of land (though both are imminently important).

“Teach a man to fish….”

I dare you to watch it.

…I dare you to start watching, and then stop. Also, I told all you miserable hand wringing cunts a long time ago that Anarchy Begins at Home.

Here’s a few others videos in my queue, just in case you have idle time.

Be careful out there. Watch that stuff at your own risk. You are in grave danger of changing your mind on a thing or two, and that’s subversive beyond words.

A final word. I told all you hand wringing morons and cunts a lon

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Mike on March 25, 2013 at 12:25

    I’ve spent much of last decade travelling and working in Africa and fortunately came to much the same conclusions to Emesto very early on – it was apparent to me that most of the ‘charities’ operating in Africa were at best ineffective, but in most cases damaging. ‘Charity’ itself is an interesting concept – I’ve seen little charity in the actions of the majority of charity organisations in Africa – they always want something in return regardless of how it is presented (most often your soul – given that most of the charities have some form of religion – theological and/or government – backing them).

    Having said that (and cognisant that Emesto is for most part looking at this from a more macro level) , In my situation – I fully fund (and visit regularly) several children and young adults – that a paternalistic approach is required because they have never had parental guidance in their lives and make stupid decisions regularly – recent case in point – I sent extra money last month to couple of 20 y.o. boys/men so that they could buy new clothes…so they took the money and bought a TV. Even though their fridge had broke a day before they got the money and had run out of blood sugar test strips – one of the boys is type 1 diabetic and subsequently spent 3 days in hospital because he couldn’t measure his blood sugar levels…

    So whats my point after this rambling commentary….
    1. Don’t give money to your favourite NGO to make you fell better – absorb and understand what Emesto is saying – visit Africa with that lense and then do something useful with caveat that paternalism is useful in some circumstances
    2. Realise that whatever you do is all in

  2. Richard Nikoley on March 25, 2013 at 13:52


    Beautiful, sir, and it’s wonderful that an on-scene guy comments first.

    Here’s a secret fantasy. I’ve watched that video 3 times already and each time my desire to actually BE THERE grows. I have a feeling that had I seen this in my 20s or 30s with a BusAdmin degree under my belt and a very good understanding of accounting (I’m the money guy in his Holy Trinity of entrepreneurism), I’d be here now saying similar things.

    But at 52, I can at least put this up for other people who are situated. Hell, contact the guy, contact Mike, and ask: I want to help change the world for fun. And if it’s not fun, you don’t belong there.

    OK, I have another post to draft, because we have bad people who need taking care of.

  3. Gabriella Kadar on March 25, 2013 at 17:02

    From my own experience of being around, foreign aid is nothing more than government money used to keep local industry in the black. It’s just a way to tell the people that so much money was spent on helping people in another country when in reality the money was spent on crap manufactured in the country of origin and shipped overseas to people who don’t want it, don’t need it or can’t use it.

    Case in point: the Canadian government (back in the 1970s) decided to pay the manufacturer of agricultural equipment to send a shipload of tractors and whatnot to Africa. Great eh? The whole shipment was on board a vessel and during the trip across the salt water basically destroyed everything. By the time this stuff arrived, it was rusted junk. It sat at the docks and got even more rusted. Useless. But the government gave funds to the manufacturer and claimed that this was foreign aid. All it really amounted to was subsidization of local manufacture at taxpayer expense.

    Generally from what I’ve seen ‘foreign aid’ by and large amounts to government paid subsidies to local companies. Whether any of it does any good to the ‘target’ is irrelevant.

    Dr. William Osler lectured that we need to listen to the patient because ultimately the patient knows what’s wrong. Same deal with what Ernesto is saying in the Ted lecture. Too much talk, not enough listening. But Ernesto is assuming that the goal of foreign aid is about helping others. It’s really not.

  4. Omnivore on March 26, 2013 at 02:47

    It was a good talk AND it was in New Zealand my home! But I have to say I prefer the other talk you posted about reversing desertification.

  5. Dan on March 25, 2013 at 19:55

    I really liked it AND it was from New Zealand my home country. But I must say I preferred the other talk you put up about reversing desertification. But I’m an ecology geek so I guess I would.

  6. Richard Nikoley on March 25, 2013 at 20:17


    Love you are still around. You’re an old timer, now.

    Darwin’s Table was an awesome name for a blog.

  7. uey111 on March 26, 2013 at 00:41

    I just watched a TED talk about a bit different take on evolution.

    From the name I first thought “nonsense”, but then while watching it seemed to make some sense.
    If you’ve got some time Richard, could you watch it and say what you think about it? I think it’s an interesting alternative theory, that’s worth knowing about.

  8. Mike on March 26, 2013 at 02:46

    @RN you aren’t that much older than me 😉

    A simple action plan for anyone who is serious, and wants to do something useful, create opportunity and bypass the nonsense:
    1. Pick a country, go there, travel outside the cities, stay in local hotels/homes – go for weeks, not days
    2. Find a taxi driver you can trust, pay them well, make them your guide and friend
    3. Absorb the culture, learn, respect it as your own (but never romanticise it)
    4. Find an orphanage
    5. Identify kid(s) 10-12 y.o in that orphanage with ‘potential’ (by that age, v.unlikely they will be adopted and ultimately pushed out the door when they hit 16)
    6.. Define what ‘potential’ is for you – academic, artistic, entrepreneurial et al
    7. Sponsor and *Mentor* them (sponsorship is easy and cheaper than you might think – $30 month for a top end private school in some countries- mentor ship is harder obviously, but more important)
    8. Visit as often as you can, but Internet/Skype/Facebook is ubiquitous and available in most of Africa – I.e. Do your best within your means
    9. Get them out of the orphanage when you can – if younger then sponsor a local family to foster them (caveat: have to be very careful to qualify the foster family – easy enough for it to turn Dickensian in poor countries).
    If older, consider setting them up indpendently – apartment, et al
    10. Consider them as your children (but that doesn’t make you their father/mother !)
    11. Expect things to f@$& up often – deal with it

  9. Elenor on March 26, 2013 at 10:45

    Re. uey111: “different take on evolution” — I LOVE Elaine Morgan! Her book, “The Descent of Woman,” is both excellent and horrifyingly partly “70’s feminism” (the last chapter could gag an aquatic ape!!) But — as Morgan so often points out — SHE is not a scientist: she is asking “real” scientists to actually take a hard, serious look at ALL the anomalies and biological facts that make SO much sense in terms of an aquatic ape! And “real” scientists refuse to even consider the idea! (Gee. Just like so-called “nutrition scientists” about food and humans…)

    There may, in fact, be something or nothing there; but until it’s truly looked at — by *other* than orthodoxy-bound skeptics — her facts and data about the pre-proto-humans heading to the seashore and evolving partway into marine mammals (before turning around and coming back ashore, much closer to being “us”) are tremendously persuasive!

    I LOVE her starting vignette: she follows the wee ape-creatures leaving the receding forests and going out onto the savannah to find food, where they will learn to stand up and use their hands and grow big brains and and and (all the crap orthodoxy tell us ending in “man-the-hunter”) — and a couple of lionesses come by, chow down, and the pre-proto-humans are extinct!

    Pile on about us being the only primates that cry salt tears, that have a layer of blubber (some more than others) that have an actual nose, whose infants can swim at birth (!), who have a diving reflex, who can squint (apes and chimps cannot!) … then add in the only land mammals with a layer of subcutaneous fat had a flirtation with a marine version, who also cry salt tears, (elephants and pigs came back ashore; manatees and seals stayed there… There is SO much there, that “science” refuses to look at!

  10. Ulfric M Douglas on March 28, 2013 at 11:42

    The drive to go and do something in Africa is rooted in the attitudes that make it so pointless.

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