Polio terrorized the world. People died and became paralyzed and there were no defenses to it. Science understood it and eventually Jonas Salk found a vaccine. Just having a vaccine wasn't enough. They needed massive global public projects to disseminate it. Is the connection to our current environmental problems obvious? As I see it, our behavior is causing the problems. If I'm not too full of myself, this podcast's technique, which I describe in my TEDxNYU talk, in a sense inoculates people from inaction on environmental values. It changes people to where they enjoy wasting less and taking responsibility. We don't need a massive global public works, but what if we spread that technique globally. Instead of trying to figure out how to feed 10 billion or how to accommodate billions in third world countries wasting and polluting as we do, what if first worlders reduced our waste by 75 to 90% and the world over we chose to decrease our birthrate to where we lived well below the carrying capacity? We could solve many of our environmental problems and improve our lives. Am I crazy to see the polio vaccine as an inspiration?
People commonly misunderstand the goals of this podcast. I tried in this episode to clear up two common misunderstandings: They mistakenly believe my goal is individual change---to influence one person at a time. They mistakenly believe I act on my environmental values to lead people by example. On point 1, this podcast focuses on leading people through community. You may hear me leading one person at a time per episode, but I'm not picking people randomly. I'm picking people on more people's community than most others. My goal is for listeners to feel, "I'm not the only one doing this. People in my community are too. It's time I acted more." I'm working my way to people known by hundreds of millions of others. I'll note that I offer value to these well-known people: a legacy valued by billions. I walk them through a process that shows them as authentically and genuinely acting, even if they don't know much about the environment, so listeners want to support them, not judge. On point 2, I act as everyone does. I do what I think is right for myself. You probably don't blow smoke in babies' faces or in hospitals. You probably don't kick puppies. You don't do these things to make sure others don't smoke around babies or in hospitals or kick puppies. You don't kick puppies because you think it's right. You're probably happy if your behavior leads others to avoid smoking or kicking puppies, but you'd not kick puppies even you knew you wouldn't affect anyone. I expand on these point, including notes about Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, and a few others. Bottom line: I'm focused on a strategy I think can work where everyone benefits. I'm not just hoping for the best.
Between insects, kelp, vertical farming, lab-grown meat, and other clever options, why didn't we think of them before? Because we had better options! Few meat eaters choose crickets over steaks and hamburgers, but we've squandered what was once plenty with overpopulation. We've become more efficient, but we've lost abundance. With a lower population we could keep abundance.
Here are the notes I work from for this episode: From climate march Went 3 times: Before lunch to participate in organizing group, went to Foley Square. Seemed like tens of thousands, maybe six figures. On my way to a meeting, walking on lower Broadway After my meeting, just ending Didn't hear speakers. In fact, I shared with my sister the impressions you're about to hear and she said the speakers said the opposite, which I'm glad to hear. I'm going on the hundreds I could see immediately around me, the tens of thousands I could generally see, and the few I heard speaking. Ostensibly about children, but when I hear adults saying it's kids, I hear them excusing themselves, not taking responsibility. Why only kids? No secret that country politically divided and adversarial. Fell into political divide calling conservatives and oil people enemy. Easy but won't influence. The people they call enemies aren't trying to pollute and they aren't so clean. I heard Greta is avoiding U.S. politicians. I predict she'll say stop demonizing and making politically adversarial. Missing is addressing the beliefs and systems that many of these people probably sustain. Role models: Mandela and Gandhi. They aren't enemy, system is, which is driven by beliefs. We want to change beliefs, including in ourselves. My message: we'll like and be glad we did, wish we had earlier. Like not smoking: hard to change not to stay. On contrary, will find disgusting.
I share thoughts in today's episode I didn't have the heart to share with family on their way to vacationing in France. In my lifetime I've seen the world change and our understanding of it change from we can't really raise sea levels to knowing with certainty that it's underway and we're causing it. People younger than m used to think and hope that we'd slide by, missing out on the worst, hoping future generations would figure something out. If you're younger than about 80, I believe you know enough that you no longer live in a world where you can honestly believe others are doing it, not me, or plausible deniability. Future generations have figured something out: reducing consumption, reducing how many children to have, enjoying what you have. I've embraced this solution and found that it is fundamentally about community, compassion, empathy, love, stewardship, and what everyone I know values more than willful ignorance or even clinging to those values applied to a world that no longer exists. That discovery of community, compassion, love, and so on enables me to say that if you keep applying those values as you would in the world of the past, you will live to regret knowingly choosing decisions that caused suffering and misery. Living in the world of the past has a certain charm to it when you want to play princess or prince, but no longer when you want to play jet-setter world traveler. Accepting today's world is hard, but acting on it brings joy.
A friend told me the other day that while I could reduce flying, business people couldn't. It's not so easy for them, actually impossible. Did he forget that I have an MBA? That I started a business with an 8-digit valuation, that operated on four continents? That nearly everyone I know flies as a matter of course? Did he not imagine the work I turned down? More likely he didn't think about it. This morning I woke up before the alarm and though about his perspective. The overwhelming response to my suggesting that people can reduce their pollution---a statement of empowerment---is claims of helplessness. Also claims of some solidarity with other helpless people. Today's episode both savagely and, I believe, with empathy and compassion, attacks these false excuses. The trees burning in the picture are in the Amazon, the results of a system our money drives. More details in the episode. The bottom line: more than anything else, I'm talking about empowerment. The results of acting are community, joy, discovery, personal growth, love, family, and so on. That's what stewardship brings, what you can create more of. Starting the shift is hard, yes, but the results of living by your values are your values.
Bugs will infest a plant until they kill it, then when it dies, they die. It's happening to the fig tree and cherry tomato plants in my windowsill garden. If they could keep their population low enough to avoid killing the plant, they could live longer. We seem to be doing the same with Earth's non-renewable resources. From a species perspective, what benefit do we get from fast cars and cell phones if we can't stop ourselves from overshooting the planet's resources and causing our population to collapse. As a species we would not likely go extinct from a collapse, but our global society might not recover. Plenty of human civilizations have collapsed, their ruins covered by sand and jungle, with barely a sign they existed. Do we want such an outcome on a global scale? Avoiding that outcome means controlling our population differently than bugs---seeing non-renewable parts of nature like oil and choosing not to use them, or renewable resources and choosing not to use them to where they become non-renewable, like fish and clean air. Are we smarter than bugs?
I don't like my world being full of junk "food," litter, and pollution, but if it is, I'd rather see it for what it is and feel a disgust that motivates me to change it than to keep myself in denial and passively, complacently accept it. Yesterday's stop at a highway rest stop reminded me how we dump garbage onto the world and into ourselves. Today's picking up litter reinforced it, though I do it daily. So today I discuss disgust, which I hope you all feel, not because I think you'll enjoy the feeling, but, if the world is a way you consider disgusting, I think disgust will motivate you to act. When enough people feel that disgust and act on it by, say, picking up other people's litter until no one litters any more or not buying what Burger King and Starbucks sell until they sell more wholesome food, we'll feel joy and elation at the beautiful world we restore. My game is joy, personal growth, discovery, meaning, purpose, and such through action.
What's the difference between burning rain forests for someone's livelihood and family in the Amazon and paying for people to drill oil that we squander in the rest of the world? I'm not asking to accuse. I see some differences, but not big ones. If you're easily offended I recommend not listening to this episode.
How many kids should you have? I've heard people justify how many kids they should have for various reasons. I think of how decisions happen. We tend to decide first, based on emotions---the wiring we were born with that helped our ancestors live---then rationalize it to make it feel right now that we've decided to do it. If our motivations don't match what we claim our reasons are, might we be acting on motivations that don't help us or even hurt us? In this episode I consider how we might be acting against our interests in deciding how many children to have if we have too many.