Imagine you were born into a slave holding family. You didn't ask to be born into it. You didn't create the system. You didn't make slavery legal. Every landowner around you would own slaves. You would inherit yours. Would you free your slaves? Have you considered how hard it would be? It's worth thinking about -- how much it would change your life. If you would, without a second thought, no matter the difficulty, what other actions you do that hurt others would you stop? If you don't stop those other things, how do you know you'd free the slaves?
I want to differentiate between telling people facts and what to do or what they should do on one side, and leading them on the other. I see a lot of people telling others what to do. Not a lot of people leading. Martin Luther King led people to choose and want to go to jail to create freedom. That's leadership. He had no authority over them. He didn't convince them to do it. He didn't change their values. He gave them a way to achieve their goals of equality and justice. Well, we moved on that path since we haven't achieved it, but he led them. While he also went to jail, I'm talking about more than leading by example. Even without going to jail, King led people. Eisenhower led D-Day though he didn't fight in it. In neither case did they just tell people what to do or just model what to do. I'm talking about connecting with people's values -- what they care about -- and motivating people by their motivations, leading them to a better life, not just compliance. Almost nobody is leading like that today. As a result, nobody is being led and we, at least in the United States and most of the world polluting the most, are keeping doing what created the problem, choosing not to act productively. Of course, many people are acting productively, but it seems to me they would have anyway. They weren't led. The overwhelming majority of people won't budge from comfort and convenience without leadership.
Many people think if you just reason enough, you'll get to what's right and wrong in a way everyone will believe. This happens in the environment and many other places in life. In the environment, you may believe we should pass a law limiting emissions. When you hear another person suggest that that law might hurt jobs, you might think if you convince the other person through reason, they'll come to agree with you. Experience has shown me, and probably you, that trying to convince people tends to provoke debate. I'll show you why trying to convince others and change their behavior through reasoning usually backfires. Convincing and logical debate often leads people to reinforce their positions and dislike you. They think emotion gets in the way and confuses us from seeing clearly what's right and wrong. They don't understand reason, nor emotion, nor how the human mind works regarding judgment, which this post covers.
How do we elect people, including a United States President, who act on and steward the environment? I'm going to present a plan that I believe can win the next election that transcends the usual divisions that led to today's political situation, political misery, feelings of futility, and filth that we live in in air, land, and water, as well as our bodies. The links and images I referred to: 'Disgusting' piles of trash a fixture outside NYC's first 'green' school, residents say New York City stops sewage train to Alabama after residents complain of ‘horrific’ smell San Francisco’s crisis looks like New York’s future New York City's 1895 trash and sewage transformation [caption id="attachment_10031" align="aligncenter" width="700"] New York City before and after a sanitation transformation[/caption] [caption id="attachment_10032" align="aligncenter" width="620"] New York City 1895: children play by a dead horse[/caption] Buzzfeed videos on getting fit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm7OtVr7yCE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wXbPghYuRs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okM3OYaBQGg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlQ8txalLYg https://youtu.be/TNQ8ZKq9QQo https://youtu.be/c8Q8AyFjWZM https://youtu.be/001Tuiv0tbY https://youtu.be/pioFto9aTEQ https://youtu.be/9tAbhNvWi90 My electric bill [caption id="attachment_10033" align="aligncenter" width="700"] My electric usage[/caption] Martha Graham's quote Here is the quote: The dancer is realistic. His craft teaches him to be. Either the foot is pointed or it is not. No amount of dreaming will point it for you. This requires discipline, not drill, not something imposed from without, but discipline imposed by you yourself upon yourself. Your goal is freedom. But freedom may only be achieved through discipline. In the studio you learn to conform, to submit yourself to the demands of your craft, so that you may finally be free. Over a year to fill one bag of garbage https://youtu.be/L0Ud7gqcIMg Feeding 50 people with no packaging at under $3 per person See the pictures of the event here. Note everyone enjoying themselves.
First world people pollute hundreds of times more than third world people yet the material prosperity doesn't translate to greater happiness. Specifically, according to the National Academy of Science, "The striking thing about the happiness–income paradox is that over the long-term —usually a period of 10 y or more—happiness does not increase as a country's income rises." We could reduce our waste by 75% while improving our quality of life, yet we claim we can't do it. Yet we travel to the third world to change them! Leaders are more effective when humble than proud. Paternalism rarely helps any relationships. In this post I explore how we in the first world act with paternalism and pride to justify our extravagant, wasteful behavior, missing how we could learn from others.
People ask if I think we can make it out of our environmental mess. I don't know, but I act on my values. Many examples of cultural change suggest we can make it, including Smoking Drunk driving Seat belts Leaded gas and paint The ozone layer Bike lanes in New York City My podcast guests My podcast Starting a sustainability committee and more.
How we treat our bodies is how we are treating our environment. How we treat the environment is how we are treating our bodies. The fat and CO2 concentrations aren't the cause of the problem. The are the effects. The cause is our behavior. Our behavior is rooted in our beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. If we want to change the effects, we have to change the causes, which is our behavior and changing behavior is the realm of leadership. Our environmental and obesity-related behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and motivations are more similar than different, they come from similar cultural trends, they have documented problems of disease and death no matter how people change standards to accept them, there's just no changing standards on suffering and death, and the way out is through leadership.
Why do I think about the United States Constitution when my pressure cooker finishes cooking? Or when I leave a room? The U.S. Constitution guides my environmental behavior and has since I learned it in elementary school. Today is U.S. Constitution Day since today in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia and that's why today I'm sharing why I love the document, live by it, and think about it daily---specifically Article VI, paragraph 2, which I read and talk about in today's post: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Neither the environment nor your life responds to your awareness. They respond to your behavior. People who speak the truth say, "I'm telling the truth." People who lie say the same thing. People who are aware say they are aware. People who are unaware say the same thing too. Only we're all unaware of what we're unaware of. Saying we're aware only reveals our ignorance of our unawareness. That's pride. If you want to improve the environment or your life, claiming awareness may sound like progress and may get you social approval, but in more cases it stops people from acting. What works? Humility. Viewing action as skills that you develop and practice. How do you develop skills? Practice, practice, practice. The results? Greatness, authenticity, genuine self-expression, and all the other results of mastery, even from environmental skills. Want results? Avoid seeing awareness as a goal. Act. Do. Develop skills.
People seem impressed when people don't pollute. They say, "That's so good of you!" If not polluting is good, doesn't that mean polluting is normal? I don't think we should see not polluting as special. Let's view it as normal. Here's the Chris Rock routine I mentioned (not even close to safe for work): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0B_ekSrsEk
2 minutes and 53 seconds to show you the trends people are following back to what used to be normal and healthy. Fight against clean and pure all you want. You'll follow eventually. Why not start now and lead?
I recorded this episode to follow up my blog post, also titled Technology won’t solve environmental issues and you know it. This podcast covers a few more angles, but click there if you like a written version.
I recorded this video showing a year's worth of garbage. My point is to show you it's possible. Many people have asked me how. My answers never seem to satisfy them. If you care enough to try, I recommend you try. You're not going to die. Humans have lived for hundreds of thousands of years without food packaging and our modern world makes it as easy as ever to live without food packaging. You'll figure out how to do it, which will answer all your questions on how to do it for yourself. Though I started to live by my values, I continue mostly because It's delicious It costs less It saves time It's more convenient It's more social---I share more meals with friends, colleagues, and family It's more social---I meet the farmers and visit the farm that grow most of my vegetables I eat more volume of food than ever So I'm more satisfied than ever My abs are more defined than ever In other words, by my values, I eat better than ever. Read the transcript.
Why do people who haven't tried it call not flying impossible, yet it was just as challenging for me and I find it one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Being in a system without realizing it makes it easy to confuse that system's values with your own or with absolute reality. What looks impossible is just impossible within that system. To change, it's easier to exit the system first so you don't feel constrained by its constraints. We were born to some strong systems that make not flying look impossible but not flying is simple. You're probably not flying right now. I present a couple cases---one simple, the other complex and expensive---that illustrate what happens when you're trapped in a system versus when you free yourself from it. Here are some links about General Paul Van Riper and the Millennium Challenge 2002 Wikipedia on Paul Van Riper War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general in the Guardian Interview with Frontline Interview with Nova Wikipedia on the Millennium Challenge Read the transcript.
This morning I volunteered to pick up trash along the Hudson River. The experience included baby geese, a crab, lots of plastic and waste, and people not connecting their behavior with all this garbage.
This episode asks some personal questions that are challenging if you haven't thought them through enough to act on them. I think they'll help you live by your values if you do. Which is easier, for a slave owner to free his or her slaves or for you to stop using disposable water bottles and food packaging, flying around the world, turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater in the winter, and so on? If you had slaves, would you free them? I think most people would say it's a lot easier to avoid plastic than to free slaves, but they would also say they would free their slaves -- at least when no one can check. But they don't act environmentally. If you believe you would make the difficult choices hypothetically, will you also make the easier choices here and now? Read the transcript.
Do you care about the environment? Do you care about leading? The Leadership and the Environment podcast NYU's School of Liberal Studies invite you to improve both at a Panel of Leadership and Environment Experts Tuesday, April 3, 6pm – 8pm NYU Silver Building, 100 Washington Sq E (at Washington Sq N), room 405 Free, register here Featuring Vincent Stanley Vincent, co-author with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company, has been with Patagonia since its beginning in 1973, including executive roles as head of sales or marketing. Informally, he is Patagonia’s chief storyteller. He helped develop the Footprint Chronicles, the company’s interactive website that outlines the social and environmental impact of its products; the Common Threads Partnership; and Patagonia Books. He serves as the company’s Director, Patagonia Philosophy, and is a visiting fellow at the Yale School of Management. He is also a poet whose work has appeared in Best American Poetry. Robin Nagle Robin's book, Picking Up, is an ethnography of New York City’s Department of Sanitation based on a decade of work with the Department, including working as a uniformed sanitation worker. She is also a clinical professor of anthropology and environmental studies in NYU’s School of Liberal Studies, with research in the new interdisciplinary field of discard studies. She considers the category of material culture known generically as waste, with a specific emphasis on the infrastructures and organizational demands that municipal garbage imposes on urban areas. Since 2006 she has been the DSNY’s anthropologist-in-residence, an unsalaried position structured around several projects. Her TED talk gives a quick overview of and more detail about her work. RJ Khalaf RJ is a senior at New York University pursuing a degree in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in Politics, Rights, and Development and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Recently named one of NYU's most influential students by Washington Square News, he is the President of the NYU Muslim Students Association and is a Dalai Lama Fellow. RJ is the founder and director of LEAD Palestine, an organization that aims to inspire, motivate, and empower the next generation of Palestine's youth through a hands-on and fun leadership-based summer camp. Joshua Spodek Joshua PhD MBA, bestselling author of Leadership Step by Step and host of the award-winning Leadership and the Environment podcast, is an adjunct professor at NYU, leadership coach and workshop leader for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., and founder of SpodekAcademy.com. Free, register here
After sharing my "after" stories about after taking on my environmental challenges, in this episode I share the "before" situations.
Our world is filled with systems based on beliefs that made sense in the past, but that evidence contradicts. Growth and technology are contributing to environmental degradation. The invisible hand doesn't win against the tragedy of the commons. And so on. We didn't create these systems but we can act to create new ones based on new beliefs, such as accepting having enough, or considering the results of our actions on others more, say, when we pollute or expand into new territory. Actions are easier when we adopt beliefs that will work in the future, based on what we know about the planet that we didn't before. In this episode I look at our world from a future where we've made things work to guide our actions today. Read the full transcript.
I describe the big picture of this podcast. So far I've influenced a few people to make modest changes. The big picture for this podcast is systemic change on a national, even global level. I'm not just hoping to achieve it. I have a strategy. It's different and I expect it to work more than the existing strategies. I describe how you can help. Read the full transcript.
I coined the term Enron Environmentalism to explain the gap between what people say they value about the environment and what they do. If you're an American, you probably practice Enron Environmentalism. Sadly, it's the opposite of self-awareness and integrity, as this episode of the podcast shows. Learning the opposite will improve your leadership, your life, and as a side effect, your environmental impact. Here are the articles I mention: My Inc. article: Are You an Enron Environmentalist? From Energy Policy Journal: Does pro-environmental behaviour affect carbon emissions? From Environment and Behavior Journal: Good Intents, but Low Impacts: Diverging Importance of Motivational and Socioeconomic Determinants Explaining Pro-Environmental Behavior, Energy Use, and Carbon Footprint Enjoy the episode. Read the full transcript.
My friend told me this show angered him -- hearing people act as if little changes were significant... not knowing not to get new plastic bags. I shared some of my thoughts on people making trivial changes and what motivates me. I expect I'll share more personal thoughts on leadership and the environment as I develop my voice.