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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.

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We help leaders create an environmental legacy.

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  • Brent Suter, MLB pitcher for Milwaukee Brewers
  • David Katz, founder Plastic Bank

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:

279: Role model and global leader Mechai Viravaidya

January 25, 2020
The episodes here are a podcast-within-a-podcast: Joshua's solo unique views on relevant topics. Volume 1. Volume 2. Volume 3. Volume 4. Volume 5. Volume 6. Volume 7. Volume 8. Volume 9. Volume 10.
Rants, raves, and monologues, volume 11

279: Role model and global leader Mechai Viravaidya

Here are the notes I read from for this episode

I've said we don't have many role models. Well I found one. I was wrong. I'm going to tell you about a man I briefly mentioned in one of my episodes on Alan Weisman's book Countdown.

He exposes the absolute self-pitying lie that what one person do doesn't matter. Also the lie that government has to act first, or corporations. On the contrary, the fastest, most effective way for them to act is for people to act first. Yes you, here and now can make a difference.

This guy made enormous nation-size headway in the face of government lethargy and complacency on one of the most challenging issues. Most people won't even talk about population and most people enough to realize how it underlies every other environmental issue.

Then most people can't stop their knee-jerk reactions to the same misconceptions. They associate it with

  • China's one child policy
  • Eugenics
  • Forced sterilization and abortions

Despite most fears and misconceptions, this man made enormous progress. He's not the only one, but I'm starting with him.

From his biography's back cover:

In Thailand, a condom is called a "Mechai". Mechai Viravaidya, Thailand's condom King, has used this most anatomically suggestive contraceptive device to turn the conventional family planning establishment on its head. First came condom-blowing contests, then T-shirts with condom shrouded anthropomorphic penises. Then condom key rings followed by a Cabbages and Condoms restaurant, When it comes to condoms, no one has been more creative than the Condom King.

To equate Mechai with condoms or family planning alone underestimates the man and fails to capture his essence. Mechai Viravaidya is engaged in a relentless pursuit to improve the well-being of the poor by giving them the tools to lead a fruitful and productive life. His achievements in family planning, AIDS prevention, and rural development are a means to an end - the alleviation of poverty in Thailand.

Mechai's journey From Condoms To Cabbages - from his roots in family planning to his goal of poverty alleviation - has spanned 34 years. Along the way, he has been labeled a visionary iconoclast and cheerful revolutionary. He is also an ordinary man from modest origins.

From Wikipedia on Mechai:

Mechai Viravaidya is a former politician and activist in Thailand who promoted condoms, family planning and AIDS awareness in Thailand. Since the 1970s, Mechai has been affectionately known as "Mr. Condom", and condoms are often referred as "mechais" in Thailand. From the time that he began his work, the average number of children in Thai families has decreased from 7 to 1.5.

in 1966 started to work in family planning, emphasizing the use of condoms. In 1973, he left the civil service and founded a non-profit service organization, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), to continue his efforts to improve the lives of the rural poor He used such events as holding condom blowing contests for school children, encouraging taxi drivers to hand out condoms to their customers, and founding a restaurant chain called Cabbages and Condoms, where condoms are given to customers with the bill.


The Population and Community Development Association (PDA) is a non-governmental organization in Thailand. Its goal is to reduce poverty through both development initiatives and family planning programs. Originally called the Community-Based Family Planning Service, it was founded by Mechai Viravaidya in 1974. In the early 1970s, Viravaidya was the Minister of Industry but became frustrated with the government's inability to implement a national family planning policy. In his work with the government, he identified a direct correlation between Thailand's poverty and population growth. His immediate concern was the high population growth rate of 3.2%, which equated to approximately seven children per family.

Initially, the PDA sought to reduce population growth by focusing on efforts both to combat child mortality and to encourage family planning. Viravaidya deduced that family planning would not be widely adopted in Thailand if children did not survive. Therefore, his solution to controlling population growth, which was at 3.3%, was to target maternal and child healthcare. At the same time, the PDA made various methods of birth control accessible to rural populations. The PDA discovered that birth control pills were used by only 20% of the population because getting them required access to medical personnel. To target the remaining 80% of the country, the PDA invested in multiple initiatives - including the popularization of free condoms, increased access to birth control, incentives for women to not become pregnant, and slogans to encourage smaller families.

The Thai family planning programs met notable success. By 2015, total fertility had dropped to 1.5 children per woman. Following on the drop in unwanted fertility, the poverty rate dropped sharply; from 32.4% in 2003 10.9% in 2013.

The Population and Community Development Association has used many different strategies to promote its programs. Often the strategies are considered unique or creative. Some of these strategies include:

Efforts to make condoms more accessible & remove the stigma associated with them, like

  • Holding condom balloon blowing competitions
  • Creating a Captain Condom mascot
  • Making condoms available at associated Cabbages & Condoms restaurants in lieu of mints
  • Educating children in school
  • Having Buddhist monks sprinkle holy water on condoms
  • Overseeing a "Condom is the Girl's Best Friend" campaign
  • Having police officers distribute condoms in a "Cops and Rubbers" program

Encouraging vasectomies by

  • Making donations into a community fund for every vasectomy performed
  • Holding a vasectomy lunch for Americans in Thailand

Increasing the availability of birth control pills

  • By utilizing floating markets to provide contraceptives/birth control pill
  • By training of local shopkeepers to prescribe birth control pill

Educating the population about HIV/AIDS

  • By using of military radio stations

Encouraging development

  • By making micro-loans available to general villagers at relatively low interest rates, especially for villages that use contraceptives
  • By creating village banks operated by (mostly) women within the village community

Show Notes

278: I have an environmental dream

January 20, 2020

Here are the notes I read from for this episode, along with the text of the speech:

You might know I gave a series of talks at NYU that preceded this podcast

One of their themes was parallels between the US civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and environmental action. Who would have expected it to succeed to the extent it did, however far we have to go?

One attendee, a friend who is black, told me once I talked about it, as a friend he listened, but as he put it, as a black man listening to a white man, he disengaged. He advised me to drop the analogy or I'd lose more people than I'd gain.

I took his advice but now disagree with it. However great the differences, the parallels are too great and if I lose people for how people view a white person discussing civil rights, one of us will have to learn and resolve the problem.

Today being the day the US celebrates MLK's birthday, following my recent application of Henry V's St Crispin's Day speech to environment, I want you to consider a few parts of the I Have a Dream speech.

Let's remember the context. 1963. Nearly a decade after the Montgomery Bus Boycott and many could say no progress had happened.

No one could have known the Civil Rights Act would pass the next year and that King would become the youngest honoree of the Nobel Peace Prize.

People did know that they were being jailed and lynched. People disagreed on strategy. Young men were being drafted and sent to die in Vietnam. Many had lost hope. Every step forward seemed to lead to a step or two back.

King could have talked about the situation they were in. He could have debated what would work or not. He could have dwelled in the present. In other words he could have spoken like most today speak about the environment: doom and gloom, facts and figures.

Instead he shared about a dream of a better future, which helped create it. No we're not done and plenty got worse for many people. Likewise we'll have to face environmental problems increasing for decades maybe centuries to come.

But I think we should learn from him what motivates people and replace what discourages them with it.

Today many speak and act with despair about the environment. Nothing will make a difference. Nobody cares. Too little too late. Let's pick up King's speech near the end

277: The joys and challenges of leaving addiction

January 19, 2020

Here are the notes I read from for this episode:

  • I recently recorded conversations with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Eat to Live
  • Rewatched The End of Dieting and a part captured me
  • About stopping a habit, the stages one goes through
  • Though he talks about food and diet, the same stages and challenges appear in living by your environmental habits.
  • He starts by talking about how when you start -- eating in his case or avoiding packaged food, not flying, etc if you act on the environment.
  • He describes everything I went through, from feeling like I couldn't, like I made my way harder or worse, like others could do this, not me
  • All the way to how I came to love it, find the old ways disgusting
  • What he talks about the joys, he's speaking from experience that anyone can have, of more of what you love at less cost, more convenience, and so on.
  • He says taste buds change. They do. You will find packaged food disgusting and fresh fruit unbelievable.
  • That change will happen in other areas. You'll see buying packaged food unpleasant, same with unnecessary clothes
  • You'll replace those things with spending time with people you care about, building projects, connecting with people.

After the conversation. . .

  • I don't know how it sounded when he said you would stop loving the ribs or cheesecake a la mode, or when he mentioned how people say I want to live fully, but that the SAD made your life worse
  • When you identify your deep motivations and act on them, you'll go through that experience too and you'll love that you did.
  • I recommend trying. Nothing is motivating me to influence you except that I think you'll enjoy life more after the change
  • I believe you'll wish you had earlier.
  • Why not start now? Sit with someone to help you follow the steps in my first TEDx talk and start improving your life.

276: Service. stewardship, and the huge rewards they create

January 18, 2020

The notes I read from for this episode:

Service and giving back using Jason McCarthy GORUCK guy on Jocko.

  • Friend, Dan Zehner, knows Jason
  • Told me about his episode on Jocko Willink's podcast
  • One section resonated with me because it described what I feel
  • He speaks as a veteran and starts by describing owing
  • Jason says elsewhere in the conversation that military service isn't unique in providing these results. Other kinds of service do too.
  • The sense of service and stewardship, and the depth and meaning of teamwork and community seem similar.
  • I hear how most people describe the interaction with the environment, grasping to reusing disposable cups.
  • They sound like they feel shameful and guilty, as if someone else and not their behavior, was causing the feelings
  • Listen to Jason. Wouldn't you rather sound like him?
  • Beyond feeling better about personal action, think of the potential to lead, to create that feeling based on effective results in others
  • Imagine helping transform American and global culture, or your local community, to become clean, to foster and value stewardship, community, and connection
  • Who wouldn't want this?
  • The recording starts with a question of Jocko
  • Hear how much Jason wants to share the meaning and purpose of this activity
  • By the way, speaking of Dan, we became friends over his doing the exercises in my book Initiative, which led him to create his life's dream project, meeting the top people in the field in the process, and partnering with a dream partner. I'll include a link to his blog, where he is recording his experiences doing the exercises.
  • If you want to do something meaningful with your life and haven't found a passion to build it on or how to bring it to life or your work, I recommend my book Initiative. Do I sound passionate about my work? This podcast resulted from what it teaches.


  • He talked about building a bridge between worlds, giving back. Maybe I'm projecting, but I see stewardship, especially environmental stewardship, overlapping with what he talked about. It's service.
  • We who have acted on our environmental values have to build a bridge to because judgment, guilt, shame, facts, figures, doom, and gloom aren't what we're about, or at least not what I'm about
  • Stewardship for me is joy, community, connection, meaning, value, importance, purpose, and passion.
  • The stories I know of people who have acted bring out those things.
  • Let's make environmental action more about these things. I consider it my responsibility.

275: Go Big

January 14, 2020

Here are the notes I read from for this episode:

If you are thinking of doing something to act on the environment, go big. Instead of thinking the littlest thing you can do, think of the future and go big. What's the biggest thing you can do?

Not for others. For what you think is right. For how the future will look back on us. For how we look back on slavery. Would you free your slaves if you were born into that system as a slave owner? How huge a change, but what else could you do? Don't you expect you'd feel good about it?

What can you do on that scale here, affecting billions and all future generations? Think big.

My experience suggests not flying for a year, endeavoring to buy no packaging. Don't turn on your air conditioner or heater all year. You get the idea. Not straws. Selling your car, as Dov Baron did. Not buy clothing for a year like Lorna Davis. Pledge never to eat animal products again like Tom Szaky.

You get the idea. Not straws. I predict you will love the results and, however big your commitment, you will consider it small after you do it and want to do more. Your community will admire you for it, emulate you, and make you a leader. You'll probably get hired or promoted for it.

274: Applying Leadership and the Environment in corporations

January 10, 2020

This episode describes how I train corporate and institutional leaders in environmental leadership.

Here are the notes I read from:
  • Talking with more and more corporations lately, describing how I work with them
  • Putting it here for easy reference
  • You'll see among podcast guests many corporate and institutional people
    • Lorna Davis of Danone C-Suite
    • Dominic Barton 3-time Global Managing Director of McKinsey
    • Beth Comstock, former CMO of GE (when Fortune 5), on Board of Nike
    • Bob Langert, former Head of CSO at McDonalds
    • Vincent Stanley, Director of Patagonia, where he's worked since 1973 and professor at Yale School of Management
    • Tensie Whelan, Director of NYU-Stern's Center for Sustainability and Business, former President of Rainforest Alliance
    • Col. Everett Spain, West Point's Head of Leadership
    • Col. Mark Read, West Point's Head of Geologic Engineering
    • Marine Corp 3-star General Paul Van Riper
    • Michael Werner, Google's Lead for Circular Economy, formerly similar role at Apple
  • Gave two talks in 2019 at Google, another at Citi and other banks, IBM, Boston Consulting Group, Coca-Cola, Lululemon
    • John Lee Dumas, entrepreneur
    • Dov Baron, leadership guru
    • Marshall Goldsmith, Dorie Clark, Alisa Cohn, #1 coaches
  • Behind the scenes, developed a lot with coaching clients at McKinsey, Exxon-Mobil, Columbia Business School
  • Guest on, a staunchly pro-Trump site, which talked about me supportively on 3 consecutive episodes
  • Very business friendly because business can benefit from this
  • Most common response is: I thought it would cost money or take time but it saves money and time.
  • Most of all for the executives I work with, it replaces not knowing what to do when you have to act but fearing being called greenwashing or hypocritical
  • for the company, it boosts morale and gives a competitive advantage. Think of how Patagonia can charge a premium.
Context: most companies hear demand from customers, employees, shareholders, and media to be more sustainable.
  • Almost necessary for top talent. Patagonia doesn't have to advertise new positions. Exxon has to pay top dollar
  • Just today I talked to a guy who runs a business Exxon wanted to hire. He quoted them a high price because he didn't want to work with them.
  • Action usually comes from junior employees. They're younger and face more of their lives with potential catastrophe and they've invested less in old ways
  • Easy to think senior decision-makers can just change, after all everything points to acting
  • Decision-makers are often most vulnerable
  • We've all heard people and organizations called greenwashing and hypocritical
  • However well-meaning, accusations make choice for executives easier not to act and risk losing job or company value, even if they want to act
  • They think they have to be perfect, an impossibly high bar
  • They only have to show they are doing their best, a lower bar, but they have to show they are doing it genuinely and authentically.
  • I enable this, as you can hear from the conversations with the executives I mentioned
  • For example, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia behaves far from perfectly, but he hides nothing. As a result, people support him for his flaws instead of attack, because they see themselves in him
  • If you act without sharing yourself, people judge your actions against perfection.
  • If you share yourself---that's what leaders do, they allow themselves to be vulnerable---then they support you
  • I've refined my technique over hundreds of projects with executives and leaders in business, politics, culture, eduction, military, etc
  • I will describe two parts: the building block, which I describe in more depth in my first TEDx talk, which describes the environmental leadership process with one person.
  • One person won't change a culture, so I'll describe the second part, which uses many building blocks to transform a corporation.
The Building Block
  • The building block is a 4-step process to ask what people care about, have them create a way to act on it, make it manageable, and add accountability, where they report how it went
  • It goes well and they want to share. They know that when they share what they care about people connect with it.
  • If their employees just heard, we're going to use less plastic, well that might mean they're trying to save money
  • If they hear their CEO sharing trying to do his or her best, they see him or her doing what they want to do themselves. By supporting the CEO, they support themselves. So they don't attack, they support.
Building corporate culture with the building block
  • Still the CEO is one person. I do the building block with a team including several executives and a few junior people who will implement the results.
  • We pick an audience to hear the recordings, which could be just the team if they're private, employees if their goal is mainly morale, clients if their goal is sales, the public if PR. The point is someone has to hear for accountability and to motivate depth, but the team chooses for its goals.
  • I do the building block with all ten people (could be half a dozen or a dozen). Most tasks take 2 weeks or a month
  • I meet with them in a month, ask how it went, how it affected them emotionally, their relationships.
  • They always learn. Then I do the building block again, this time restricting the task to in the office.
  • We meet again after they finish their second task. Now they've collectively done 20 tasks, the second usually bigger and more rewarding than first
  • Third meeting we meet as group for a half to full day exercise
  • Based on experience and teamwork, this exercise leads them to create a team exercise based on experience, that the company will implement, usually led by the two junior people who have been part of this engagement from the start
  • I don't know the company. I don't create the project. They do. I'm like a basketball coach. I don't put the ball in the hoop. The experienced people do.
  • I know how to lead individuals and a team to face and overcome the unique challenges of environmental leadership -- feelings of shame, guilt, helplessness, anxiety, futility, and so on.
  • When they bring to company a project, they aren't saying do as I say, not as I do. They're saying: hear my humanity and struggles. I did my best, grew to learn, and am sharing joy and discover with you. Community, connection.
  • I'll leave off here for now, but I wanted to share the professional, executive work I'm doing.
  • If corporations and governments aren't involved, we'll get almost nowhere.
  • I want to engage and activate them so they love acting, get competitive advantages, boost morale, attract talent, etc for acting more sustainably.
  • If they don't their competitors will, so why not enjoy it and act first?

273: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

January 9, 2020

I understand why historical reasons lead us to look to scientists, journalists, educators, and legislators for leadership, but they don't know how to lead. They may excel at their crafts, but sharing research however accurate, or stirring controversy, spreading facts and figures, and chasing votes rarely inspire people to change their behavior.

I've long looked to Mandela, King, and Gandhi as role models. I'm increasingly looking at leaders who inspire people to act against challenges when they would otherwise feel hopeless, futile, defeated, and complacent.

Henry V's speech to the outnumbered British in Agincourt, as Shakespeare recounted, stands the test of time. Now that the science is overwhelming---look at nearly any beach in the world to see we're losing to plastic as just one example---we need motivation and inspiration to act more than more science.

I draw on Henry V's sentiment and apply it to our situation. Here's the text:

What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark'd to die, we are enough

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.


By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.


No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:


We would not die in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.


He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'


Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words,

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;


We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:


And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

272: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, pumping iron, and the environment

January 6, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg knows about lifting weights and exercising because she does it. No amount of reading, watching TED videos, debating, or analysis can match experience.

People who only read, research, and academically learn about performance-based activities don't know what they're talking about.

Any parents out there? I don't have kids. Am I qualified to advise you on how to raise your kids? I bet you learned more in the first ten seconds of parenthood than I have in decades of life.

People who have only learned academically about the environment don't know what they're talking about. Sadly, their ignorance of what causes our environmental problems doesn't stop them from advising people. That ignorant group includes everyone who hasn't acted significantly---that is, nearly all Americans. Likely nearly everyone alive.

Anyone regular exerciser will tell you the benefits beyond what a book can. Ginsburg doesn't exercise because if she doesn't people will die. She does it because it improves her life, contributing to her mental and physical sharpness.

Likewise, anyone who seriously acts environmentally may have started to overcome shame, guilt, or averting some negative, but they keep doing it for the benefit to their lives.


Get experience.

Find the joy.

Live the joy of environmental stewardship.

271: Vanessa Hering, part 1: Champion body builder, vegan, Ivy MBA

January 5, 2020

Vanessa's original post said she

Wanted to be a better advocate for veganism: so I trained 1.5 years and won the UPENN body building competition.

When asked why, she wrote

For the animals, for health, for the environment.

Never thought I would have the amazing privilege to be educated at an Ivy League school like University of Pennsylvania, but being there I had to use the opportunity to showcase the possibilities of a plant based diet: and how you can thrive with this lifestyle!

My peers will go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, ceos, and I wanted them to see me on stage winning this as a vegan.

My classmates come to the show with signs that said #plantprotein because that is what I always hashtag on my Venn Hering Instagram 

I also wrote my masters thesis on plant based diets and the link between toxic masculinity and meat consumption. It was selected by a panel of academics as the best in the class!

Progress is happening and I wanted to be a part of the movement :)

So I asked her about these things, the back story, the results, the hopes, and the dreams.

Her food pictures in Instagram are incredible, by the way, different but similar to my famous no-packaging vegetable stews, so I loved them.

Also watch her videos.

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