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358: Bald versus plastic

July 9, 2020
My solo episodes are a podcast-within-a-podcast: my views on relevant topics. Volume 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
Solo Episodes, volume 14

358: Bald versus plastic

Here are the notes I read this episode from:

People keep acting like I'm different, that they have to balance things that I don't when acting on the environment.

So I'll share a recent decision I made. People I tell have sounded intrigued and delighted to hear it so I'll share with you.

First sensed hairline retreating at 19.

Not much for maybe a decade following, I don't remember.

Maybe 10 years ago started using minoxidil.

Don't know if works or not, but used as insurance. Not insanely expensive.

Tested on thinning in back, so even less sure if it works.

Over the past few years noticed it becoming my greatest plastic consumption.

Thought more about stopping.

Even stopping flying was reversible. Never decided to stop forever, just kept finding that it improved my life not to fly. Constraints breed creativity.

Stopping minoxidil not reversible. Might not do anything. Might go bald. I don't want to go bald. I like my hair.

But I'm pitting purely my vanity against reducing plastic pollution.

Last bottle of last 3 month supply was running low. Kept thinking about it. Risk balding, but maybe no difference.

Last American president elected bald was Eisenhower. Have to beat Hitler to get elected. Women complain they get judged by appearance, but men do too.

Felt helpless, yet also recognize the alternative is simply to live with my genes. What chemical shitstorm is in that stuff anyway?

But the bottom line was every time I've chosen to live by my environmental values, it's improved my life. I used to have faith, but faith is belief without evidence. Between avoiding packaged food, avoiding flying, picking up garbage daily, plogging, all of which I thought would worsen my life, they've all improved it.

So I made a deal with myself to flip a coin. Heads I'd keep it. If every 3 months I flipped, eventually I'd have to end.

I started making deals with myself -- just get to 50 years old. It's so little plastic compared to everyone else. Just one more time. I found out you can buy the raw ingredients on Alibaba. What if I found a great price? Rite Aid had almost half off online. Another place even lower prices, but then more packaging.

So I flipped the coin. Tails on the first try. I made a rule only flip a coin when I can't decide any other way, then never reverse that decision or it undoes the value of coin toss's decisiveness. Still I started bargaining with myself.

Are you getting how hard I found this decision? I was deciding in the moment a choice to affect me possibly for the remaining several decades of my life.

I didn't refill. I still went to Rite Aid intending to buy another box, against the coin toss, but the low price was only online. I was going to break my rule, but didn't because of circumstance.

Within a day I could feel new breeze on my forehead. Maybe coincidence, but maybe I'll end up bald in a few months. Maybe it will recede a bit and stop. Who knows?

I don't see a path to this choice improving my life, but I'm going with it. Talk about your first-world problems, right? But everyone goes through similar decisions too. Should I buy the coffee on the way to work in the disposable cup? Should I take a subway or shared ride?

We all do mental gymnastics to rationalize behavior we know is against our principles. I do. My difference today versus me years ago is that I've moved my balance toward stewardship. Each time I do, I find it improves my life. Before long I find role models beyond where I am. I learn from them, for example Bea Johnson, whose family of four produces collectively less trash than I do.

The world will see the results.

Show Notes

357: Steven Pressfield: The war of art and nature

July 6, 2020

Steven Pressfield's War of Art is a perennial bestseller. If you haven't read it, I recommend reading it, even if you delay listening to this podcast. Well, listen to this episode since it will prepare you.

Before I read it, I could not have imagined someone writing it. I can't think of another book like it. It's helped countless people start acting on passions.

Steven shares how the book emerged---things you won't get from just reading it. After we finished recording, he told me how he shared new things in this episode and he's appeared on many podcasts.

I also commented on how the resistance he described to the individual on the verge of creating translates almost perfectly to two places, the individual acting on his or her environmental values as well as us in our communities, as a nation, as a species. Listen to hear his comments on that observation, and why his response made me feel so honored, flattered, and motivated to follow up.

He's friendly. We spoke a bit after stopping recording. I asked him about an op-ed piece I'm working on that I feel expresses myself well and will serve the world but many people will object to. It feels great to hear from someone who has inspired so many to weather those risks to be true to yourself. Resistance looms large nonetheless.

Anyway, I don't recommend that many books, but I recommend War of Art.

356: I was assaulted again this morning. Can I talk about it?

July 5, 2020

While I was jogging (actually plogging) along the Hudson River around 7:30am, a person not wearing a mask stepped into my path, blocking me, saying the person's shoes had been stolen. The person seemed to let me pass, but then threatened me and threw a bottle that shattered at my feet as I ran past. I kept running, the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my adrenaline high. I don't know if the person had a weapon.

I describe more and some of how it affected me in the audio.

I was first going to say I was threatened since he didn't touch me. I'm not a lawyer so I looked up the definition. According to's page on Assault Torts and Injury Law:

legal scholars define assault as an intentional attempt or threat to inflict injury upon a person, coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, which creates a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact in another. Notice the words “attempt” and “threat” above. In tort law, assault does not require actual touching or violence to the victim. We use another term for the touching or contact: “battery.”

Here are the notes I read from:

  • The story from this morning running
  • Happens all the time, not daily but throughout my life
  • I don't think he did it because black, but I suspect were I not white it may not have happened. Can't say this time.
  • When I stayed in Atlanta
  • Friends say, you can say to us but careful with others
  • Shared about mugged childhood, but still happening
  • Maybe there is a secret white suburban life I don't know about
  • Recently white friends have started sharing how they've been mugged
  • Consistent with Dov's saying how sharing stories will lead to others feeling they can share too
  • That's all background. Here is my point: every time I bring up suffering or being threatened, while I may get some listening, the other person always says, remember others have it worse---not that person, not even someone with their skin color
  • So they don't know from experience but they're telling me as if I haven't heard before, and they're presuming to know my experience
  • I don't know anyone's experience but mine, but everyone absolutely everyone dismisses it without asking, presuming it's the caricature in the mainstream.
  • When I hear white people talking about BLM, George Floyd, there's always this mea culpa. Maybe they are guilty, I don't know. I never hear them speak about their problems. Maybe they have no problems, maybe I'm unique, but that people open up with me when I share and they hear I'm not white supremacist or racist---though in today's world white people even mentioning race without saying how they are allies or something making up for guilt or things like that---then they tell me about their experiences, but they insist on my respecting their confidence, which of course I do.
  • So much of what I hear from white people sounds so similar and
    inauthentic, I don't think they're being open, honest, or candid. Maybe
    many are as privileged as they say, but people have told me about being attacked, their lives threatened with weapons, and so on.
  • I think about risks maybe not every day, but all the time. And when I
    don't, some guy walks into my path, throws a bottle at me, and threatens me.
  • For a while I feared sharing messages like this because people might
    suspect I'm turning into a white supremacist. I came to terms that if
    people think that about the opposite, I can't let their preconceived
    notions hold me from acting for equality.


355: I balance values the same as anyone

July 3, 2020

People constantly suggest they have to balance different values as if I didn't. It came up in a recent conversation so I shared about it today.

An element I factor in is how my pollution affects others---not just what I know about or wish I contributed, but what I actually contribute. Yet people think I factor in nothing else.

It's weird to learn people see you as one-dimensional. If they felt others viewed them as they see me, they'd be insulted.

354: Harvard Global Health Institute Director Ashish Jha, part 1: Front Line Pandemic Leadership

July 2, 2020

If you've followed sensible, expert advice on the pandemic, you've probably read or seen Ashish Jha in the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, Washington Post, and everywhere. On Tuesday he testified to the US Senate.

He's Harvard's Global Health Institute's Director. Over 200,000 people have taken his online Harvard courses, which you can for free. Over 80,000 took Ebola, Preventing the Next Pandemic and over 120,000 took Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety. As it turns out, we were college teammates on the ultimate frisbee team.

I'll link to a few top articles by him. With so many interfaces between the pandemic and us---health, government, research, policy, etc---you can read a lot of his views and experiences from different sources.

I wanted to bring the personal side of leading on the front lines and top levels of a pandemic---how do doctors and public health experts feel about people not following advice, facing triage decisions, how to be heard, and what affects a doctor personally. We talk about leadership, the intersection between the pandemic and the environment, which overlaps with his directorship and courses, and more.

By the way, he created his Ebola course five years before this pandemic and predicted much of it, as did many. If predicting what's happened so far isn't enough reason to follow his advice, I don't know what is. Let's wear those masks

353: I don't want to act on the environment

July 1, 2020

I think I've accidentally led people astray, sharing how much I enjoy acting in stewardship. I would prefer doing anything I wanted whenever and wherever, on my terms---that is, if I didn't have to consider how my behavior affected others, especially those powerless to stop my effects from hurting them.

Today's episode shares how I'm doing on the personal level what science suggests---no magic, nothing personal, just following the advice that makes the most sense. On the social level, I'm leading other people, corporations, institutions, and government. I'm not making things up or denying.

I'd rather play sports, cook, hike, meet girls, and so on. But science shows the state of the world and the risks to come. I refuse to ignore or tell myself what I do doesn't matter. So I act as best I can in stewardship.

352: The War of Art and Nature

June 30, 2020

I loved Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. I found it inspiring. It had a property that qualifies for me that something qualifies as a work of art: it said something I always knew was true but that I'd never seen expressed that way."

I mention it for two reasons. One, I recorded a podcast episode with Steven the other day, which led me to reread the book. Two, I found the book applies to acting in stewardship. Substitute a few words and new meaning emerges, mainly changing art to stewardship. Most of the rest follows.

That recording is in the editing queue so should be ready in July.

I describe the analogy in this episode's recording. I share a few examples. I hope it helps motivate.

I recommend The War of Art to nearly anyone. I recommend it especially to people who want to work on the environment.

351: A Rough Day in New York City

June 28, 2020

Today was a rough day for me in New York. Most of my solo episodes I start with a point. Today brought me down enough that I decided to share more openly some thoughts I get when seeing situations that look hopeless and are deteriorating. I wouldn't listen to it if you feel down.

Normally I try to support others. It occurred to me, I hear almost nothing back from listeners, friends, family, or the world providing hope or support. More commonly people seem mystified that I or anyone would try to live sustainably when they could instead eat, travel, buy, etc with nary a thought of stewardship or empowerment.

Below are my notes reminding me of a few things during the day to cover while speaking. As I'm writing these words, fireworks---that is, loud explosions---are going off within a block or two, unofficial.

  • Helicopter since 5:20
  • No masks
  • Litter everywhere, every meal
  • Just saw Story of Plastic
  • Nobody seems to care. We can go a day without water, but 8 oz bottles
  • Police everywhere
  • Mayor absent
  • President exacerbating
  • Why bother?
  • Am I missing signs of mainstream effective action?
  • Plastic production higher than ever

350: Jonathan Herzog, part 1: A candidate acts with genuineness and authenticity

June 23, 2020

I haven't taken political stance because I am working to removing wedge-ness from environmental policy. I'm working for people to see laws about how people affect others through the environment as we view traffic laws. We don't see red lights as red tape or bureaucrats telling us what to do. They make our world safer even if they slow us down sometimes. One day we'll see keeping mercury out of fish and other pollution similarly.

I met Jonathan in person practicing democracy---gathering signatures in my neighborhood. I learned of him after meeting Andrew Yang, whose candidacy I valued.

Last year I heard Andrew Yang speak and liked his message enough to read his book, The War on Normal People, and learn more about universal basic income. I listened to Andrew on several podcasts until I felt I understood what he was campaigning for and why. UBI, for example, has had centuries of support across the political spectrum. Who knew?

I talked to Yang's campaign people about helping with their environmental platform. (I'll talk to any politician about their environmental platform, since they could all use help). One of the outcomes was meeting Jonathan, gathering signatures a block from home. I like people acting in my world with passion, genuineness, and authenticity. Read Yang's book to learn the platform and what's driving it.

In a tradition of successful people, Jonathan had left Harvard before finishing to support Yang's campaign, then to run himself in New York City's 10th district, where I live. He cares. He also acts personally on the environment, as you'll hear in this episode.

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