Before acting on my environmental values, I felt guilty and helpless. I didn't like those feelings. All the analyzing, raising awareness, and planning, I now look back and see that I was occupying my mind, making busy work for it, to distract myself from those feelings. I could feel I was doing something even when I wasn't. I kept trying to ascribe the cause of the guilt and helplessness to others, but it didn't go away. It couldn't, because they were purely internal: my behavior was inconsistent with my values. No blaming others or waiting for awareness or planning or analysis would change that conflict. On the contrary, they kept me from addressing it. Today's episode tells my emotional journey liberating me from guilt, blame, and insecurity, replacing it with determination, expectation of success, and action.
Lately, I've thought of people who say they can't avoid plastic bags, bottles, flying. I suggest just declining, but they say they can't. Saying no reminds me of Rosa Parks. She said no. She didn't just act on her own as the campaign was planned and strategized, but she did it. She was arrested, which no one will be for declining a water bottle. Why do we honor someone if not to follow when the chips are down? Why remember her if when we feel it's right to say no, we don't? Her actions also suggest that even when many people agree and want to act, a spark helps. It seems everyone wants cleaner air, land, and water. As long as everyone thinks, "If I act but no one else does then what I do doesn't matter," everyone keeps sleepwalking, keeping polluting. She was a leader who accepted her fate of arrest, risking more in context of activists being lynched and killed. We have it easy in comparison. We can say no and lead others at no risk. Also like her, saying no is the beginning or a big escalation. For her it escalated the civil rights movement, including leading to federal legislation of the civil rights acts in the next decade. For you it will lead to polluting less in more parts of your life, living cleaner, and almost certainly federal legislation. Between mindlessly sleepwalking through a polluting life and leading others to pollute less and live more cleanly, which side of history do you want to be on?
People see my apartment and often describe me or my lifestyle as minimalist. I don't like labeling people or being labeled, but if anything, a more apt label would be maximalist. You might see the lack of stuff, but my focus is on values, relationships, self-awareness, free time, fun, joy, mental freedom, physical freedom, simplicity, space, delicious food, beauty, fitness, social and emotional skills, happiness, emotional reward, and so on. You can't see those things, but I focus on them. The more joy I create in my life, the more I want to create more, which a TV gets in the way of for me.
If you haven't started plogging, I recommend it. What's plogging? It's a term the Swedish created for picking up garbage when you run. I've picked up at least one piece of trash per day for a few years. In fact, this podcast began from a former student who, when he heard of my practice, committed to picking up 10 pieces of trash per day for a month. Most people do it by bringing a bag to collect the garbage with. I wasn't sure how to start plogging in New York because there's so much garbage. If I picked up everything I passed I might not make a block. Also, I don't want to run with a bag. Listen to my second conversation with John Lee Dumas and you'll hear how his commitment to picking up trash from the beach near his home inspired me to stop analyzing, planning, and thinking, and act. I have to relearn that lesson over and over. Action raises awareness more than raising awareness leads to action. Actually, planning, analysis, and raising awareness delays action, at least environmental action given that everyone is plenty aware. The environment has been front page news for years so everyone is aware. Certainly everyone listening to this podcast is. The best way I know to do something you don't know how is to start the best I can and learn from doing, then iterate. Picking up every piece of trash is impossible. Planning away from the street doesn't work. I started running and developed rules that work for me. Rule 1: I only have to pick up trash directly on my path Rule 2: Cigarette butts and smaller I ignore Rule 3: Nothing wet or in a puddle Rule 4: If a trash can is not in sight, I don't have to Now I favor plogging to regular running. It's like running with random lunges. My quads tire faster. Sadly it fills you with disgust at the filth people create and tolerate without cleaning. By people, I mean everyone. It also fills you with a sense of civic pride. I make a little game of trying not to be obvious while being obvious. I dream of others picking up the habit. People see it as dirty when it's actually cleaning the world. The people who litter seem the dirty ones to me.
A friend who treats opioid addicts told me about the squalor they live in. They don't see it because they're thinking about their next hit, which will bring them euphoria. They'll steal and prostitute themselves to maintain their habit, not thinking about the filth they live in or whom they hurt to bring their next hit. People don't seem to see the filth we've turned our world into. People seem willing to ignore whom they hurt with their single-use plastic and the jet exhaust they impose on billions of others. The longer I go without packaged food and flying the more people talking about them sounds like people talking about heroin.
This episode is for people who detest Trump. I'll speak to people who love him in future episodes. If you pollute and emit greenhouse emissions beyond the IPCC recommendations, which one round-trip cross country coach flight will nearly do, you personally pulled out of the Paris Agreement so many people criticized Trump for pulling out of. If you defend your flying and other pollution as necessary for your job, congratulations, you used the same excuse behind killing every piece of environmental legislation that's lost. Beyond your actions' effects on the environment, when you tell others to sacrifice for things you don't, you motivate people to vote against you. If you care about issues you differ with Trump on---abortion, gun rights, Supreme Court justices, how the world views our nation---your saying coal miners should sacrifice their jobs while you use your job as an excuse to keep flying motivates people to vote against you. Many people want to stick it to the liberal elite. How to win If you want to win in 2020, do what you want others to do and show how much you love the results. Change your job to enable meeting your environmental values and share how it improved your life. You might not believe it will now, but it will. I know from experience. Or keep polluting, keep your job, motivate more people to vote against you, lose in 2020, and watch more Supreme Court seats filled by people like Kavanaugh and enjoy a wall on our southern border. Read the transcript.
I talk to a lot of people who aren't acting on their environmental values. They explain their inaction in many ways, but one of the top ones is that they claim they first have to raise their awareness or become more conscious. To claim unawareness of an issue making global front page news monthly, maybe weekly, when anyone who has ordered takeout or considered eating less meat or driving fewer miles, everyone is plenty aware of the situation and things they can do about it. Action leads to awareness more than the other way around. People will deny it, but nearly everyone uses the specious, fatuous, self-serving pursuit of awareness as a delay tactic, a smokescreen to distract from action. Sadly, beyond delaying awareness, delaying action also delays transforming the internal conflict they're trying to become aware of into joy, discovery, growth, meaning, purpose, saving money, delicious food, and all I created this podcast to share. If you want awareness, act, and bring more joy into your life. I also read a passage from Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail to illustrate the problem he saw with people delaying action. Read the transcript.
Many people believe that technology will save many of our environmental problems. I've written and spoken on how making a polluting system more efficient will lead to it polluting more efficiently. My recent cross-country trip by Amtrak, which prompted me to wonder what it would take to transform Amtrak into a first-world train system, illustrated the challenges of systemic change and how pushing on one lever won't do it. Do you think just putting faster trains on Amtrak's tracks would create a system with trains running at first-world speeds, which are double Amtrak's current maximum speeds? Not a chance. This episode considers what goes into systemic change. I close with a reminder that despite its difficulties, the first steps are obvious: you and me, here and now, changing our beliefs and behaviors, which will improve our lives. All my changes to live by my environmental values improved my life. I'm talking about creating joy, meaning, value, purpose, passion, closer relationships, more delicious food, saving money, and more. Read the transcript.
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? Read the transcript.
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. Read the transcript.