(Formerly Leadership and the Environment)
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Leadership turns feeling alone and complacent into action.
We bring leaders to the environment to share what works. Less facts, figures, and gloom. More stories, reflection, self-awareness, connection, support, and community.
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600: Etienne Stott MBE, part 4: What it's like rebelling with Extinction Rebellion
Following up last conversation with Etienne, on Extinction Rebellion's mission, strategy, and tactics, this time we talk about his path from disengagement to becoming a Rebel---that is, playing a significant role in Extinction Rebellion and committing a major part of his life to it.
I don't know many others who have committed and dedicated so much personally, with such dedication and passion, to making sustainability one of their priorities or the priority. Most people seem content to talk about it and get outraged but not act.
Etienne shares about peaceful civil disobedience, pressuring the state, his personal risk, coming to terms with engaging so fully, talking to loved ones about it, and more of the personal side of preparing to act. He knows his history and title lead many people to listen to him more, though it could also lead people who disagree to push back harder. The Olympics and patriotism mean different things to different people. He has stature, but many people may decry him for that reason.
It meant preparing himself, emotionally, socially, intellectually. If you're thinking of acting, you can learn from Etienne's experience.
Here are the notes I read from for this post:
I indulge in asking Bill about his and his wife Laurie's passions, filmmaker friends, goals, and so on. He talks about passionate peers he's worked with like Michael Pollan and Paul Stamets. The names Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen come up too, as two other people who appeared in his movies. He explains the value of celebrity.
He shares his storytelling techniques not to make political films or push people, despite covering fields others treat more bluntly. He and Laurie share nuance and subtlety. Also joy and appreciations.
He takes an interest in the Spodek/AIM Method so I describe it to him, not just do it. I hope everyone practices it and spreads the joy, fun, freedom, and rewarding emotions and experiences that connecting with nature does.
Josh Martin started to do his commitment to shop at the farmers market, but it didn't connect. I think we didn't connect it to his experience of the environment.
We decided to find a new commitment by connecting more intrinsically. We spoke on sustainability, nutrition, health, sports, and many things, him from the position of an entrepreneur former athlete, me from a troubleshooting perspective. The result was covering many topics, eventually leading to a new commitment. My read from his tone at the end is that the new one resonates more for him.
One of the main discoveries of this podcast is that with rare exception, everyone cares about the environment. What's separating most people from acting isn't a lack of facts or lists of "ten little things" they could do for the environment. The lack leadership, meaning the tools leaders use, especially connecting with their intrinsic motivations. In the case of the environment, everyone has intrinsic motivation.
Hitting people over the head with facts, numbers, and what to do devalues their intrinsic motivation. I find the opposite works better: listening, empathizing, stories, and such.
Sandra took responsibility when she didn't have to, as the Executive Director of NYC Pride, to respond to my requests to talk to an organizer. Longtime listeners and readers of my blog know that last year, I was disgusted by the garbage covering Washington Square Park the morning after New York City's 2021 Pride March. I posted pictures and video with the quote from another person in the park I saw that morning, "Pride destroyed the park."
It turns there are two Pride Marches and the other one ended in Washington Square Park, not the one Sandra organized, but she knew not everyone would know to distinguish them, the public could associate the mess with the whole community, and, in any case, both polluted too much.
Beyond responding, we met in their headquarters with about a month before the March. They were very busy. We talked about what they could do this year and for the future.
We also did the Spodek Method you are all used to hearing me do with leaders as guests on this podcast. We didn't record that first conversation, but agree to record the second---that is, this one---where we'd cover what we didn't record and she would share the results of that commitment.
She also put me in touch with other staff to incorporate sustainability more in their efforts. It remains to be seen how much happens. Can they follow in my footsteps to improve participants' experiences by reducing their pollution ninety percent in under three years? I hope to help them do it. Everyone benefits.
Watch Jason's Not Just Bikes videos. I've watched them all. They're informative, engaging, funny, researched, provocative, and keep you coming back, but not like Netflix stuff designed to addict.
After you watch a few, listen to our conversation. In our conversation he shares more depth than his videos of his motivations, how he makes the videos, interacts with his audience, feels frustration from some, learns from others, and more. He shares how life could be versus how it is. In this conversation he shares more about his wife and children, which drive his passion and choices probably most of all.
We also bond on how our searches for a better life revealed huge cultural myths that, if we never try living differently, we never think to question or consider alternatives could exist. If, before trying to live differently, anyone asked, we both would have figured anything different than how mainstream North America taught us must be worse. Beyond worse, incomparably worse, even life-threateningly worse.
The when we tried, we found it better. The myths fell apart. Yet one frustration arose and grew: nobody believes us. Words can't convey what Beethoven's ninth sounds like live, how a ripe fruit in season tastes, or how freedom from oil dependence feels.
But at least in this conversation, I believe we understood each other, so you can hear what freedom and connection sound like and mean in ways no addict can understand. I think you'll enjoy what we share, even if we're both frustrated at how misunderstood we feel by most people, even (especially) when we're inviting them to open themselves to something they'll enjoy more than their blissful ignorance.
Etienne Stott is using his Olympic gold medalist status to augment his impact acting on the environment, including working with Extinction Rebellion on peaceful civil disobedience. He's been arrested, spoken publicly, and more.
When I started acting on sustainability, I looked for organizations to work with, but found none doing the leadership that I considered essential but i couldn't find anyone doing. I only learned enough about Extinction Rebellion to see it wasn't doing what I thought I should. After all this time I figured I should learn more what they do, so emailed Etienne to ask if he'd describe the organization.
Before he started explaining, he asked if I was recording, so I started to. Etienne then extemporaneously but thoroughly described Extinction Rebellion at the mission, strategy, and tactical level. He isn't just following some trend. You'll hear he researched the organization and what it does, reflected on his values, and chose to act deliberately.
This episode describes Extinction Rebellion from a researched, thoughtful insider's view.
"Your story is truly inspirational": feedback from an attendee.
The government advisory Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board invited me to speak on sustainability leadership Wednesday. I spoke on what led to my experiment going off-grid in Manhattan, two-and-a-half weeks at the time. Here's the video of the presentation, which includes the slides I refer to, though here is the Venn diagram and here is the footprint chart.
Here's the audio for that presentation. It starts a bit slow, but stresses one of my main discoveries, that my method goes beyond shifting your mindset. It leads to a cycle of continual improvement. Looking back, I see the pattern. My challenge to avoid buying packaged food for a week gave me the humility and curiosity to question sacred cows like that flying is good and expect that experimenting will yield results that idle speculation won't.
I describe the difference between living by my values and leading others. I don't think you can lead people to do what you're doing the opposite of. Living by your values is necessary to lead others. Otherwise you don't know what you're talking about.
Then I describe what I did after learning to live without a fridge for most of the year: buying a battery, buying solar panels, testing them, and using them.
Then I describe my results: physical, emotional, skills, my evolving connection to nature, and so on.
Finally I answer audience questions.
Including their greatest proponents, nearly everyone thinks of and uses solar, wind, and other so-called renewables wrong if their goal is to reach sustainability or to stop reducing Earth's ability to sustain life. They all pollute in manufacture, transportation, installation, maintenance, recycling end materials, and disposal.
I'm not saying we can't or shouldn't use them. I'm saying using them as we do is exacerbating more problems than we're solving.
Their shortcomings don't come from a lack of insight, innovation, or ingenuity but physics. I'd love to hear of any evidence giving hope around the need for pollution to create, use, and handle at their ends of lives renewable technologies. In the meantime, we don't need them to pollute less, including dropping fossil fuel use over 90 percent in a few years.