Community. Support. Vision. Resilience. Experience.

We believe these elements of leadership turn feeling alone and complacent into action.

We turn despondence to resolve, confusion to confidence.

We bring leaders to the environment.

They share what works. Less facts, figures, doom, and gloom. More reflection, self-awareness, connection, support, and community.

We help leaders create an environmental legacy.

Upcoming guests include

  • Brent Suter, MLB pitcher for Milwaukee Brewers
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD and multiple #1 NY Times bestselling author
  • Nir Eyal, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Hooked and Indistractable

Hear my editorials: Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3 | Vol. 4 | Vol. 5 | Vol. 6 | Vol. 7 | Vol. 8 | Vol. 9 | Vol. 10

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Episode 000: the back story:

293: Alan Weisman: My Greatest Source of Environmental Hope

February 20, 2020
Alan Weisman has worked on seven continents and in more than 50 countries. He is the author of six books; his most recent, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, is now in 13 foreign language editions. Countdown (Little, Brown and Co., 2013) was awarded the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the 2013 Paris Book Festival Prize for nonfiction, the 2014 Nautilus Gold Book Award, the Population Institute’s 2014 Global Media Award for best book, and was a finalist for the Orion Book Award and the Books for a Better Life Award. Booklist called Countdown “a riveting read… a major book… rigorous and provoking.” Alan’s previous book, The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), was a New York Times and international bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Orion Book Award, the Rachel Carson Prize, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and winner of the National Library of China’s Wenjin Book Prize. It was named the top nonfiction book of 2007 by TIME, Entertainment Weekly, and Canada’s National Post, and has been translated into 34 languages. Alan is a co-founder of Homelands Productions. His radio pieces have been heard on NPR, Public Radio International, and American Public Media. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Audubon, Mother Jones, Discover, Condé Nast Traveler, Resurgence, and in several anthologies (including The Best American Science Writing 2006, The Best Buddhist Writing 2009, A Passion for This Earth, and Moral Ground). He is also the author of An Echo In My Blood (Harcourt Brace, 1999); Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World (Chelsea Green Publishing, 1998); La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986); and We, Immortals (Pocket Books, 1979). Alan has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Colombia, writer-in-residence at the Altos de Chavón Escuela de Arte y Diseño in the Dominican Republic, the John Farrar Fellow in Nonfiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and a professor of writing, journalism, and Latin American studies at Prescott College and the University of Arizona. Among his radio awards shared with his Homelands colleagues are a Robert F. Kennedy Citation, the Harry Chapin/World Hunger Year award, and Brazil’s Prèmio Nacional de Jornalismo Radiofônico. He has also received a Four Corners Award for Best Nonfiction Book (for La Frontera), a Los Angeles Press Club Award for Best Feature Story, and a Best of the West Award in Journalism. His book, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, won the 1998 Social Inventions Award from the London-based Global Ideas Bank. Alan and his wife, sculptor Beckie Kravetz, live in western Massachusetts.
Alan Weisman

293: Alan Weisman: My Greatest Source of Environmental Hope

Alan Weisman's book Countdown changed my strategy to the environment. It ranks among the top most influential works I've read, watched, or come across, up there with Limits to Growth.

Why? Because when you look at environmental issues enough, and it shouldn't take too long these days, population always rises to the top as one of the top issues. Many people today hear about projections that the population will level off around 10 billion. Actually, the ones I see project that the population will keep growing exponentially then, just slower than now.

If you only look at one issue---only climate, only deforestation, or only extinctions---they seem possibly solvable, but they're all linked. Solving several at once---say meeting power needs while the economy falls apart and food becomes scarce---looks impossible.

Also, since nothing deliberate limits population growth, we're lucky if it levels off. We aren't choosing where to level it off and 10 billion looks three to five times what the Earth can sustain. Cultural changes could promote more growth. Many populations are promoting maximum growth today---very powerful religions and autocratic rulers for example.

I don't want to rely on luck for our species' survival. Besides, my research into what Earth can sustain says that we're over the limit. If we're heading toward a cliff, simply maintaining our speed and not accelerating doesn't stop us. We have to decelerate.

Despite the convergence of all these issues, for years I held back from talking about population. People don't like others meddling in their personal lives. I don't want the government in my bedroom. People overwhelmingly associate population talk with China's one child policy, eugenics, and Nazis. I did too. I didn't see how I could improve a situation by suggesting to avoid misery later through misery now.

Still, I knew some cultures---island nations that lived centuries or longer, for example, or the bushmen in southern Africa whose archeological record went back hundreds of thousands of years---kept their populations level, so they must have developed some mechanism.

In some past episode of this podcast, with Jared Angaza, for example, I pondered aloud how to find out how they did it, though it may have come up when I was a guest on his podcast. I could only wonder what worked but couldn't promote what I didn't know.

Countdown changed all that. Alan found and reported on numerous examples in today's world of cultures lowering their birth rates without coercion, without top-down government authority, voluntarily, desired by all participants, leading to abundance, prosperity, peace, and stability, the opposite of where overpopulation takes us.

Countdown tells stories of 21 places, some promoting growth and results aren't pretty and some where they've lowered birth rates and they're remarkably pleasant, even prosperous and stable. He talks about the top ones in this episode.

We have tough times ahead of us. One change simplifies everything---a smaller population achieved voluntarily, peacefully, joyfully. Alan has researched firsthand more than almost anyone. He has more than enough reason to despair if he wanted to. If he's not, I conclude that everything he's found nets out to say we can do this.

Family planning, education, and contraception seem technologies and practices that can work more than carbon sequestration, solar planes, and everything else. They're cheap, they're available, they make sex more fun, they've overcome cultural resistance outside the gates of the Vatican!

Read his books and Limits to Growth.

I'll do my best to bring him back.

Show Notes

292: The environment is the outward manifestation of our beliefs

February 18, 2020

Here are the notes I read from for this episode:

  • Outward manifestation
  • Been saying lately
  • When you see pollution, dingy skies, sea levels rising
  • Any one person listening may not have
  • But if American, likely more than nearly anyone
  • Less technological, more social and personal
  • Results from our behavior, from our choices
  • From our beliefs, stories, images, desires
  • Opposite would be stewardship, caring about others first, service
  • Why leadership matters
  • Crazy part is harmony with nature simplifies life
  • Creates joy, community, connection
  • Not about guilt or shame, just perspective
  • In all fairness, some past systems
  • I'm just like everyone else. When I think of something fun and polluting, I think, maybe it won't matter, the plane was flying anyway
  • That's the cause of global warming and our climate problems
  • Maybe I'll get away with it. Maybe my contribution won't count
  • You can blame it on lots of things, but that attitude and ones like it are at the root of that behavior
  • The outward manifestation of that thought is pollution

291: Lorna Davis, part 2: Can an Executive Buy No Clothes for a Year?

February 16, 2020

Lorna's challenge is one of the longest and most personal at over a year.

I also couldn't wait to bring her story to you most because within weeks she was reporting the joys overcoming the challenges. We've become friends through her challenge. Within months she started sending senior executives my way as her sharing her challenge with them led them to follow.

In other words, Lorna didn't experience sacrifice or burden. She experienced personal growth and friendship. At least as I heard.

Don't take my word. Listen for yourself.

Maybe because we met through guests Tensie Whelan, NYU-Stern's head of sustainable business and Vincent Stanley, director at Patagonia, she's outgoing and friendly. Or maybe from her experience leading, which she describes in her TED talk that came toward the end of her year buying no clothes.

In any case, I keep having to remind myself she's from the C-suite of Danone, a 30 billion company, and that she helped Danone USA become the largest B-corp yet.

If anyone could claim to need clothes, she could. Listen to what she found instead. I hope you find similar relief from compulsion---saving money or time, connecting with family, having more fun, etc---as well as what else she found and shared.

290: On Excessive Self Interest, from Thomas Kolditz

February 13, 2020

I ask people their reasons for polluting activities like flying, take-out, taking taxis or ride shares where public transit serves. They consistently tell me that they love these things. They love visiting family, seeing remote places, etc.

If you feel similarly, you're about to face some tough love. These motivations came to mind while listening to Thomas Kolditz on a podcast I listen to and that has featured me. He is one of today's premier leaders and leadership educators. A few words about him:

Tom Kolditz is the founding Director of the Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University–the most comprehensive, evidence-based, university-wide leader development program in the world. The Doerr Institute was recognized in 2019 as the top university leader development program by the Association of Leadership Educators. Prior to Rice, he taught as a Professor in the Practice of Leadership and Management and Director of the Leadership Development Program at the Yale School of Management.

A retired Brigadier General, Tom led the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point for 12 years.

I heard him on The Leadership Podcast, hosted by Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos (who interviewed my in 2017 “What An Ivy League Degree Can’t Teach You.”).

I recommend only listening if you're prepared for some straight, sobering talk on what those motivations mean.

I also include a quote from that conversation about our sorry state of leadership education, which I relate to our sorrier state of environmental action education.

289: Rob J. Harper, part 1: The Conservative Black Cowboy I met at Google

February 11, 2020

Most people will find my conversation with Rob unexpected, but talking with someone with his experience and views has long been one of my goals. People keep associating the environment with the political left, but everyone wants clean air, land, and water.

Regular listeners know Rob from my appearing in a video episode, A Different Look At Climate Change, at as in Trump's Make America Great Again. Rob supports Trump enthusiastically. In New York City, identifying oneself out of the mainstream reads of a heartfelt deliberate decision.

I dislike what I see as the left's coopting the environment as a wedge issue. I don't see trying to beat the right as working. I also don't see combining the environment with things the right dislikes as effective, especially given Trump winning the last presidential election and his environmental views and actions.

If you think the quote I started this episode with of Rob describing the effect of Al Gore's personal behavior on the right is unfair or irrelevant, I suggest that you're missing that leadership means understanding what motivates those you want to lead. To learn their beliefs and views.

For context, I recommend listening to my episode describing how we met, episode 266: Thoughts in my MAGA interview, and my appearance in his show.

It's a long conversation, but if you value people you wouldn't expect to communicate learning and sharing with each other, you'll love this episode. Rob shared a lot of conservatives' motivations around the environment. He also shared some personal environmental values and is acting on them---not because I told him facts, figures, doom, gloom, or to think of the children or other ways I hear people frankly as I see it bludgeoning others to comply.

I can't wait to keep talking more and to hear his results. Actually, I can't wait to collaborate more if we can. Partly I want to keep learning perspectives I don't know, as much as everyone I know who works on the environment hates Trump.

I hope this conversation starts a collaboration to help conservatives enjoy acting on the environment, to share their actions from joy not coercion. I hope to help make environmental action and legislation as non-partisan as traffic.

288: Vince Lombardi: What It Takes

February 10, 2020

Nearly everyone treats acting on the environment as a burden or chore---especially would-be leaders who don't do what they say others should. They lead people to inaction.

Effective leaders don't discourage. I find role models to inspire me.

Vince Lombardi tops many people's lists of all-time top coaches. The NFL named the Superbowl trophy after him. His teams dominated the game.

He shared the core of his ethos in a short essay, What It Takes to Be Number 1. It is an ethos of integrity, of finding your best and living your best. Acting on the environment in this time of crisis brought out my best and continues to. I am acting to bring out the best in you and everyone. I haven't accomplished what Lombardi has, so I'm sharing his message and applying it to acting on the environment.

I won't tell anyone to stop spreading facts, figures, doom, gloom, and coercion, but I think they'll get more results sharing something more like Lombardi did.

I believe it will be more effective. It will be a lot more fun too.

Here's his essay:

What it takes to be number one

By Vince Lombardi

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

287: David Katz, part 1: Stopping ocean plastic

February 5, 2020

David's TED talk has over 2 million views. I recommend watching it to learn about his project, Plastic Bank, though he describes it in our conversation.

Regular listeners know my views on importance of reduction first. I wanted to know if Plastic Bank's putting a value on plastic, increasing demand. His TED talk talks about turning off the valve if you're flooding, but maybe he's just moving the water around, not shutting the valve.

But you'll hear in our conversation that he clearly states his goal is to stop virgin plastic production.

David is leading, working with people, beliefs, goals---what I believe is where we should work.

Most people tell me what they can't do on the environment, how others have to change, why they shouldn't change.

David shares the opposite---how to live how you want in every way.

286: Paul Smith, part 2: At the edge of my seat

February 4, 2020

We'll hear about Paul's experiences with eating out, eating at movie theaters, using prepared food, and his changing views on waste that came from experience. Involving his wife too.

You'll also hear me several times feel at the edge of my seat, which I attribute to his story-telling and story-telling-teaching. I asked him if he created that effect on purpose or by accident, and we'll get to hear his answer.

285: How to take initiative, on the environment or life

February 3, 2020

Click here for the video of this episode

". . . but what I do doesn't matter . . ."

Regular listeners know I can't stand this phrase. If you're like most people, you want to act on the environment. You want to make sure you make a difference and fear wasting your time or doing pointless work.

I felt that way before I started the path that led to this podcast. Taking initiative overcame it. I wrote my book, Initiative, on taking initiative based on the course I've taught at corporations and NYU to stellar student reviews and videos.

If you want to make a difference on something you care about to help a community and people you care about, the exercises in this book are the best way I know.

Today's episode is a conversation with Dan Zehner, who did the exercises. Yes, I'm promoting the book, but to help empower this community. I didn't record it intending to post here, but found it so relevant to a world where one of the most common responses involves the phrase "but what I do doesn't matter" that I decided to share it here.

Joshua Spodek's Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work), 3d cover

Initiative teaches anyone to create more of what you love, get closer to your family and loved ones if you want, create community, develop social and emotional skills, connect with the top people in the world in your area.

Went from below middle manager to realizing his dreams, spending more time with his family, wasting less time on uninteresting things, and going into business with one of the top people in the world to serve people and a community he cares about.

He felt he had no other choice. He didn't see opportunities he now considers obvious. His world turned from scarcity and lonely struggle to abundance and progress with friends.

Questions Dan answers

What if I

  • Don't have time?
  • Don't have money?
  • Have too many ideas?
  • Have too few ideas?
  • Can't focus?
  • Don't want to start a company?
  • Don't like to take risks?
  • Don't know anyone who can help me?

What if my husband/wife/family is my priority?

What about all the problems in the world I should work on?

How is Initiative's process different than all the other resources out there on entrepreneurship?

What's wrong with other methods?

What's the experience like?

Where can I learn more details?

Click here for the video of this episode

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