People want pure, clean, safe air and water but keep polluting. We want to steward this beautiful Earth we inherited. Many feel If I act but everyone else doesn’t, what difference does it make?
Leaders help create meaning and purpose. Leaders help people do what they want but haven’t.
This podcast brings leadership to the environment—replacing doom and gloom with acting on your values, joy, and integrity.
You’ll hear leaders act on their environmental values, struggle, and then say: I wish I had done this earlier. Thank you for getting me to start!
Upcoming guests include
Popular downloads include
Our first in-person expert panel featured
Episode 000: the back story:
189: Nadya Zhexembayeva, part 1: Sustainability is not enough
Nadya and I mostly talk about business and sustainability. She describes what she saw growing up in the dissolution of Kazakhstan, where she saw the opposite of sustainability.
I can't describe what she saw, but you'll hear the craziness of collusion, economic collapse, political collapse, and so on.
She talks about how business works best when sustainable. I tend to agree. Tangential to what Nadya and I covered, when companies influence government to distort a market -- say with subsidies for fossil fuels, paying for a military to maintain supply lines that everyone pays for, roads that I agree I benefit from but don't use nearly as much as others yet I pay for, and farm subsidies for meat, I could go on -- unsustainable companies can profit.
So companies that pollute but the public pays to clean up, or for other reasons we don't accurately account for their costs, can sustain themselves profitably while not have a sustainable business model.
As a matter of accurate accounting, a prerequisite for capitalism, I support taxing pollution and extraction. I can't believe people who support capitalism aren't clamoring for these taxes, while relieving taxes in other places -- I'm not saying more taxes: accurate taxes.
Anyway, Nadya loves business, as she describes and she cares about environmental sustainability.
We talk about this sort of thing: accurately, mutually beneficially, creating value.
I'm glad she values meaning and how we can create it for each other in the style of Victor Frankl. She talks about how we treat sustainability as a chore. It's not enough.
She talks about he we need to create meaning in everything, certainly our environmental action. I agree. That's why I name this the Leadership and Environment podcast, where leadership means involving meaning, value, purpose, passion, joy -- missing from the conversation, crowded out by coercion, compliance, doom, and gloom.
Proctor and Gamble produces a lot of plastic and waste, which makes them very interesting to me. An old me would protest. The leader me sees the opportunity to support change if they aren't changing and help motivate it if they are.
Not just reduce waste---also to help increase the joy, meaning, and purpose in the process---what the "leadership" part of this podcast's title alludes to.
Steve Sikra has worked there nearly 30 years. He knows their history and practices backward and forward. He's very enthusiastic.
He talks about systemic change and overall reduction. I'm not sure it's P&G's main goal. Or rather, we see the relevant systems differently. One of my main discoveries in environmental action is the difference between raising efficiency and lowering overall waste. I cover this difference in episode 183: Reusing and recycling are tactical. Reducing is strategic, which I recorded after this conversation with Steve. Probably this conversation with Steve helped me get to episode 183.
Working on efficiency may lead to no change in total waste. Raising efficiency often increases total waste while making people think they're decreasing it, which leads them to do more. I'm not speaking about P&G since I don't know the data, just describing a pattern.
I've read studies showing that our overall efficiency has increased and contributed to increasing total waste. I'm not saying don't increase efficiency, but to focus on lowering waste first, then increase efficiency if it helps.
I'm glad to hear that P&G plans to decrease using raw fossil fuels. I'm also glad to hear Steve's passion and dedication. We had great conversations leading up to the recording, talking about sidchas, burpees, and other passions we share.
Mark seeks transitions---what most people avoid, certainly around leadership and the environment---and loves them. He shares them with the world. Listening to his podcast and reading his results, they're working.
Change can make for a great life, as much as most people prefer to do what they always have. You'll hear him embracing challenges, learning, seeking understanding. He seeks action and people who act.
He's just over 21, but I hear experience beyond those years, I think because of the challenges, and doing them publicly. Putting yourself out there forces accountability on you, which gets the job done. I recommend it.
On personal change, he recognizes that emotion, not the outside world, is usually the biggest hurdle. This view, applied to environmental leadership, points to working on the beliefs and emotions driving our environmental problems for solutions.
Too many of us look to others to act first or relying on technology---that is, not to where Mark looks. Our culture treats acting on your values as a chore. Listen to Mark to hear the joy, growth, meaning, purpose, and things I think we want in life more than plastic bags. Acting on your values is not a chore.
Yes, parts of change are hard. Very hard. You'll hear the decisions he's had to make, though you have to listen hard because he's mostly overjoyed.
I'm glad he was as open on the environment as he was because I think he shared what many are too scared to: that he doesn't know much about the environment.
But for all he didn't know, he still cared. Environmental action isn't a matter of expertise or facts. Anyone can compare a garbage dump to a forest and figure out which you want more of. The question is do we act.
Mark has acted so far in life. Let's hear how he approaches environmental action.
Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
This post is about being a part of something greater than yourself, than all of us, benefiting us all, and benefiting yourself -- one of the great feelings and experiences available to humans.
I happened to read four documents around the same time that illuminated each other and our attitudes toward acting on the environment. Our complacency in the face of a danger threatening many times more lives than Hitler is all the more glaring when compared to the honor and service of the men who defended the free world storming Normandy.
The documents were
From the Guardian article
Chelsea pensioner Frank Mouqué, 94, was a corporal in the Royal Engineers who landed on Sword beach and whose job was to dispose of bombs on a stretch of land beyond the parapet next to the beach.
“We approached Sword beach in a landing craft. We had all of our gear on our backs and a rubber ring around our stomach to help keep us afloat. Let’s face it, the landing was very gory. You didn’t have time to think, survival instinct kicked in,” he said in his account published on the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s website.
“After reaching the beach, I ran up towards a parapet, and searched for mines. After 12 hours of being on the go we were exhausted and then had to dig a foxhole to sleep in. We had to dig six foot down and two foot wide.
“I slept outside for the next year or so, we had no protection from the elements. We had an oversized gas cape to go over our clothes and all our gear. We rarely slept lying down. Each time we slept in a barn we were ravaged by fleas – so even that was no good.
“It was a different time: I wasn’t a hero, I was a little cog in a big wheel. When you add all those little cogs together – then we became important. We all worked together towards peace.”
From the Guardian article
“We knew something big was afoot because there was an armada of boats in Portsmouth harbour. That was a giveaway.
“The VHF radio was a one-way system. When you raised your lever to transmit, the recipient couldn’t make any interjections until you had finished, and said: ‘Roger and out.’ or whatever. Then they would raise their lever, and transmit their message”.
On D-day she was in direct contact with the wireless operators on the allied invasion fleet as they stormed the beaches.
“When they raised their lever, I could hear very loud, sustained gunfire. It was really so bad that you thought: ‘Oh my God. There’s a battle going on.’ You knew. You thought: ‘God, men are dying.’ The reality suddenly hit you. For a rather naive 17-year-old, I think it was terrifying. But it was a job. You got on with it.
“The messages were all in code, so you didn’t know what was being said. But you could hear the gunfire, every time the lever was lifted. I’ve never forgotten what I heard. Never.”
I'm not going to copy the sections of the book I quote, but here's the long article its author, David Wallace-Wells, wrote that prompted the book, The Uninhabitable Earth,,Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
Here are the passages from my email exchange.
An excerpt from a friend who had stated intent to avoid flying for a year:
I'm still investigating traveling to India via boat but so far, it seems to be very expensive (even on a freighter that accepts passengers) and not safe for single female travelers-my partner does not want to travel anymore so she's not flying as much as she used to. Most crew on freighters are men and the trip takes a month.
An excerpt from my response:
I don't understand how people can separate their actions from the front-page environmental news. How they can see pictures of, say, the air in New Delhi and not connect that they are polluting thousands of times more than the average person there. I'm surprised at how easily they can dismiss consequences they don't actually see.
Anyway, let me know if I can support you. I didn't write the above about you but because you're one of the few people I can share such thoughts with who I think wouldn't take it personally but might also think about it.
One thing that might help regarding India. North America is a stunningly beautiful, diverse land with equally beautiful and diverse people. No one could possibly sample it all in a lifetime. For whatever India offers, there's just as much unknown a train ride away. Before I sail to Europe, it looks like I'll sail to Mexico, Puerto Rico, or places near Florida, and probably at almost no cost, using Findacrew.net, where I've met friendly people offering spaces on their boats, though I haven't taken them up yet.
If I always think of what I'm missing, I'll never be satisfied. If I enjoy what I have, I'll always feel joy.
An excerpt of her response to mine:
Hey Josh-- I hear you. Unfortunately, the research I'm doing in India is really important to me. I was invited to go back to India after last year's visit. I am doing my activist affordable housing work in my own city and doing much more walking to get places.
While it's easy to contrast the service and honor with our behavior today, concluding that we are acting with the opposite, which I guess would be selfishness and dishonorably, I see something different, focusing on the man's statement,
"I wasn’t a hero, I was a little cog in a big wheel. When you add all those little cogs together – then we became important. We all worked together towards peace.”
Our inaction on our environmental values robs us of our potential to transform ourselves from cogs who aren't heroes to becoming important, to work together toward peace.
The opportunity of acting on our environmental values---which I have felt in picking up other people's garbage daily, creating community, meaning and purpose without the distraction of flying, discovering the deliciousness of nature by avoiding packaged food, and so on---is to be a part of and contribute to something greater than ourselves.
We as a species will suffer from the ignorant behavior of our parents and our tragically informed but complacent behavior, but whatever disaster awaits us, we can ameliorate it. There are degrees of disaster, differences between a billion unnecessary deaths and five billion.
The difference may come through arbitrary accidents of how nature unfolds or it may come from our acting together.
The opportunity is for all of us to act as part of something greater than any of us or even all of us---one of the great feelings humans can experience---helping all of us and helping ourselves.
We did it at Normandy 75 years ago. I can't wondering if the greatest legacy of the under-appreciated defenders of the free world might be to show how we can team up under adversity and become like brothers and sisters. Men risked their lives and died in that endeavor.
All we need to do is replace flying with enjoying the area around our homes, as people have done since humans became sapiens, to lay off the air conditioning, to eat what food we buy and not let it spoil, to favor broccoli over Hot Pockets and beef.
The greatest joy humans can experience versus throwing away another coffee cup every day. How is that choice not obvious?
Why not make it for yourself once and for all?
I subscribe to almost no newsletters or video channels, but I subscribe to Dr. Greger's Nutritionfacts.org. More than subscribing, I promote it. Watching his videos is a highlight of my Sundays, when his newsletters go out, and I've watched hundreds of them.
Regular listeners know that food began my move toward environmental leadership, as well as loving fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, and food without packaging nor its fiber removed. I've never eaten food so convenient, inexpensive, social, and, most of all, delicious.
Several years ago I started finding videos from Nutritionfacts.org, hosted by a medical doctor on a mission to make nutrition information simple to understand and act on for everyone. The videos present digested but not dumbed-down medical research on nutrition-related topics, generally peer-reviewed in short segments usually under 10 minutes.
It turns out that maximally nutritious food overlaps nearly perfectly with food that minimally impacts the environment.
You might not guess from the beginning of our conversation that we'd talk about almost being attacked by a hippopotamus in Botswana, with crocodiles, and apes that might rip your head off, nor family triumph and tragedy, the Amazon, exploration of the world, external and internal.
Jonas lives a wonderful life and it wasn't handed to him.
After covering his tremendous accomplishments, we turn philosophical, but also about action.
Then we spend more time talking about his perspective on the environment, and how his views formed along the Amazon, Botswana, Texas, Mexico, and his own stroke, his brother's death, his art, and more.
I don't know about you and I don't want to reveal his personal challenge, but I would love to go on a nature walk with Jonas, not just for the adventures he's had, which suggest he'd have more adventures again, but because he cares. He'd do it out of passion, which I expect he'd share. Then again, wherever we are -- city, suburb, exurb, slum, gentrified area -- somewhere is the most natural context we have available to us.
I recommend his New York Times article, What I Learned From a Stroke at 26: Make Time to Untangle, before listening and follow the links he mentioned after.
I finally saw how to see reducing versus reusing and recycling. The distinction is subtle until you get it. Then you see that missing it leads people to counterproductive behavior and, egregiously, feeling good about that counterproductive behavior, leading them to do it more.
I read yet another person posting about recycling who didn't realize or address that if we keep producing plastic, it won't matter how much we reuse or recycle, we'll still choke ourselves with it.
The pattern and view I describe in today's episode applies for mercury, CO2, ocean acidification, using up resources other species need until they're extinct, and so on.
Actually, it's more, because reusing and recycling increase supply, which lowers the cost. The place to look for the effect of recycling is not at the specific case. Yes, if you recycle a given water bottle it will stop that bottle from polluting, but lowering the price by putting it back into circulation leads to more uses, like individually wrapped apples and other waste. It's like the fat on an obese person who keeps eating more calories than he or she uses. You get rolls on top of rolls and fat stuffed between all his or her organs.
We're bursting at the seams with plastic, and everyone stops at recycling or reusing while we produce ever more. Same with CO2, mercury, etc.
I've tried to figure out how to explain that feeling good about counterproductive behavior accelerates it.
Today's episode shares the view I came to recently. The title describes it:
Reusing and recycling are tactical. Reducing is strategic.
When last we heard from Dov, about a year ago, he had limited driving his James Bond Jaguar, enjoyed the experience beyond expectation, and said he was considering getting rid of it.
For a year I've wondered what came of his commitment.
Many people "forget" or give up on commitments to bring mugs with them to cafés. What could I expect from a guy who aspired since childhood for a specific car to show the world he arrived from the ghetto to success?
For people who insist remembering to bring a bag to a grocery store is impossibly difficult, surely anything about a car is too much.
But Dov isn't anybody.
Tomorrow my book Initiative launches. Launching a book takes incredible time and attention. Letting yourself get distracted is a disaster because you may not catch up in time.
My mind is saying, "Stay focused, Josh. Post about the book and nothing else. Dov's episode can wait."
My heart says, "Dov's story may be the most remarkable and meaningful of your podcast. Don't wait."
My heart won.
Actually, they both won because this podcast is the direct result of my taking initiative in my life, creating the results the book is about and Dov's results outperform my expectations. This episode shows me what can result from leading people to share their environmental results and act on them.
Dov's experience shows what happens when you take initiative. You discover your values. Only acting on your values reveals them to where you can reach your potential.
My experience creating this podcast created the same result in me: unearthing latent passions, acting on them, attaining results I never would have expected.
If a man gets more value from getting rid of a car than keeping it, what are the rest of us capable of getting rid of and thereby improving our lives?
This episode is about initiative, action, and passion.
My book, Initiative, launches in two days.
In it I start by describing how Shark Tank, other media, and other parts of our culture that claim to promote entrepreneurship actually discourage it.
A few months ago, I met Mark Cuban, one of Shark Tank's main figures, at NYU-Stern and saw him playing his Shark Tank role with students presenting.
I was impressed with Mark and initially with the format, but then things changed, which I describe in today's episode.