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
Popular downloads include
Episode 000: the back story:
260: Creating the Muhammad Ali of the Environment
I started this podcast with the goal of creating a Mandela of the environment---a role I considered essential but saw no one remotely approaching it.
Lately I've seen the opening for an easier but more effective role---a Muhammad Ali of the environment.
After resetting during conversation 1.5, Caspar returns with his son and wife---Columbus and Nicola---for a touching proper second episode.
The three of them approached the challenge as a family, though you'll hear how Columbus led his parents in many ways. It sounds like he had tried for some time to guide his parents. Now that they committed to act, they heard him more. I see this trend a lot when people commit---that they realize they could have acted earlier and that acting brings them closer to relatives and others in their communities.
Columbus steals the show, having studied, cared, and acted on the environment, patiently bringing his parents along. I hope all the parents who tell me that kids make acting environmentally harder. In the Craven family, the child is leading the adults.
We talk about sailing, their having sailed around the world, gardening, school, and more. They sound to me like they're just getting started.
After recording three episodes (248, 250, and 251) on Alan Weisman's Countdown, I read his earlier book, The World Without Us, which I found equally tremendous. In it, he considers what would happen to the Earth if humans suddenly disappeared. How isn't the point, but what the difference between a world without us from that world with us tells us about ourselves.
The book and author won many awards and became a New York Times bestseller about a decade ago when it came out. I remember when it came out but not why I took so long to read it.
His writing I found a joy to read. He researched people, animals, plants, places, and so on beyond what you'd expect. You can tell he loves reporting what he's learned and making it useful.
Do you want to reach your potential? Do you want to get past seeing your properties as limitations?
Larry shares going from being what he is and we all are -- regular people -- to living his dream. An elite dream.
My biggest takeaway from the conversation you're about to hear is accessibility and desire to help. That is, Larry Yatch wants us to get that what he did, we can all do. You may not want to become a SEAL, but to become your version -- that is, what you dream for yourself. And he wants to help enable you to do it.
Whatever your doubts or insecurities, you have something you will love as much as he loved what he did and loves what he does. Clean air, land, and water might not be it for you as they have become for me, but I bet you'll get a lot more out of acting on them than you'd expect.
Larry cuts to the core of leadership. He's precise. He wants you to understand and practice effectively, not to kind of sort of get it.
I used to think military leadership was simple. There's a chain of command. Just tell someone what to do and he does it. That's not even close. It's based in social and emotion skills of teamwork, training, and things that apply to all teamwork. Whether you perform at his level or not, the rewards of living by your values, will be worth it.
On a personal note, I don't know how my performance compares with his, but to the extent it does, I've found putting the effort in to live by my values liberating, joyful, creating community, connecting.
Why bother not flying if you're one person out of billions? Aren't you just missing out and suffering without meaningfully changing anything?
These questions flummoxed me for a while. The longer I act, the more I realize the answer.
Most people answer that little things add up or that it's like voting. I won't argue with those answers, but I think they're small effects. I've evolved since earlier episodes and my TEDx talk to find more important reasons.
This episode shares my bigger reasons for personal action: you learn to act environmentally the way you learn any activity: practicing the basics. Don't act and you don't learn. If you want to influence others and you don't do what you lead them to, you lose credibility. They'll follow your inaction more than your words.
Personal action doesn't guarantee they'll follow, but it gives you a chance. Without it, I don't see much chance at success. Would you take piano lessons from someone who can't play piano?
Here are some notes I used for today's episode:
Podcast: Do you ever go to the gym or some activity you've done enough to master, and someone new shows up and starts giving advice to people, beyond not knowing what they're talking about -- not even knowing they don't know what they're talking about?
If you don't act sustainably yourself, you don't know what you're talking about. I used to let slide comments that one person's actions don't matter. Then I learned to distinguish. Now I see personal action is essential. Would you take piano lessons from someone who can't play? You know the person at the gym or fitness activity giving advice who clearly doesn't know what he or she is talking about? That's most people talking about environmental action.
What it takes is not just an idea of what will lower emissions or produce less plastic. On the contrary, action leads to understand the issues. In particular, people's motivations, relevant emotions, world views. If people believe electric planes will solve airline emissions problems, no amount of data will influence them. We all have such blind spots. Our world is built on them.
Community motivates. If your community believes or practices one thing, changing it means facing community challenges. Experienced leaders know how to face and overcome those challenges, not engineers.
Creating a sustainability committee for my building and trying to get it to collect food scraps, a program New York City is bending over backward to help buildings do, the co-op board resisted for all sorts of reasons that experienced people could rebut with data. Still they resist. People laud me for taking over a year to fill a load of trash, but that personal change would be small compared to a building changing.
But community change requires knowing my results from my personal change or I'd give up. The challenge with the board isn't lack of facts. They aren't bad or backward people.
Because humans learn through experience and they lack experience, most people proposing solutions don't know what they're talking about. I met someone this morning who talked about how authentically and genuinely he, his company, and the company's famous founder-CEO committed to sustainability. Then, as we walked from the cafe where we met to his office, he ordered a coffee from a different cafe, which he got in a single-use disposable plastic cup, explaining to me that he skipped the straw, yet got a second plastic lid. This man has not experienced the personal change that leads to living authentically and genuinely. He's the guy at the gym who read a few books before going for the first time telling longtime regulars how to improve their form. A man telling a woman about pregnancy. A woman telling a man about being drafted.
Fitness, and sustainability, comes from practice, consistent refinement, and such. It is as much mental as physical and nothing substitutes for experience. Resilience, persistence, focus, empathy, compassion, and so on are the tools of the trade. Yes, you must start and end with science, systems thinking, and nature, but until you push yourself to where you find the joy, glory, simplicity, and value of acting sustainably yourself, you're talking gibberish.
I've recorded a few posts about how what many people call minimalism is really more maximal. From the outside it looks like minimizing stuff.d People who practice it, as I see it, don't focus on stuff. Getting rid of it is a means to an end. The end is more emotion, relationships, and connection---family, community, faith, and other things that bring meaning, which people prefer more of. They maximize those things.
Joshua Becker stands out as one of the main figures in that world. Millions of people have read his blog and books and taken his courses to do just those things.
In this episode we talk about how he started and perspectives that help. We talk about family, god, the bible, my first love, seminal moments in his life, and more.
Why not get personal?
Since this conversation, I read his book. People had already called me minimalist, but his book led me to find more material impediments to living by my values. I've gotten rid of more things, including the letters I talked to him about, which I wrote about here in Thoughts on reading my love letters to my high school girlfriend after 30 years and Update on the love letters with my high school girlfriend.
No matter how much you learn and practice in maximalizing your life, you can always learn more, in my experience at least.Here's my review of his book The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own:
Makes simplifying and minimizing simple, accessible, and meaningful
I've you've thought about reducing your stuff and wondered about the freedom you know it will bring, this book will help you start. Getting rid of stuff doesn't have to be hard, but it often seems that way. People love Joshua Becker's book because it makes the process simple, accessible, and meaningful. People already describe me as minimalist, though I've thought I have too much. By the second chapter, this book helped me find another level of stuff. Getting rid of it is like a breath of fresh air. On finishing the book, I'm planning to start a non-profit I've meant to. I'm not sure I'll get to it, but just thinking about it is a better life than worrying about stuff I don't need. Joshua's personal stories, especially the opening one realizing his garage junk kept him from his son, make it personal.
Following up episode 253, I address race, sex, sexual preference and other difference people use as excuses to stop listening or understanding over.
Here are my notes I worked from:
Podcast: Race, sex, sexual preference. I mentioned the race of the people who mugged me and my friends and who punched me in the jaw. Mayhave sounded unnecessary, which I suppose would raise questions as to why I mentioned.
Because people keep bringing race, sex, and such up with me.
Talking about race is a minefield outside a few platitudes in this country, especially for whites. They keep losing their jobs. Maybe talking about it will bring me down before I reach being well-known. Well, if it brings me down, it brings me down, but as it stands, people use preconceived notions to stop hearing me, as I'll describe in a second, so what do I have to lose?
Changing culture to change billions of people's environmental beliefs and behaviors means people collaborating across all divisions so we have to figure out how to overcome these preconceived notions.
Some listening have preconceived notions they'll never change. I was watching a documentary on Evergreen State College in 2017, where they said anyone born white is racist no matter what. I'm not going to try to engage people with such fixed views.
Once a student in leadership class, after I mentioned my top leadership role models -- Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK, the next usually being Ali and Barkley, eventually Thoreau, and among living I usually mention Oprah first -- said "All your examples are white men." Let me go through the list again.
Story of single moms from Bronx and Brooklyn who loved my stews and the respite they bring.
So I think people are out of touch with their experiences and with mine. No one has asked me what it's like to have someone threaten you with a wrench in your face or a large rock or to have your bike stolen multiple times. Or to live in a neighborhood where they give out welfare food freely because nearly everyone there is on welfare.
Look at any of my activities. Accessibility has been critical since service and leadership gained importance. Fitness: I've spent not one penny on all my burpees and bodyweight exercises. In over a decade I've spent about $100 on kettlebells, $500 on a rowing machine, and that's it. I spend 30 minutes a day on calisthenics and about another 30 minutes a day on other exercise. The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day, so I'm saving time and money.
Back to my mentioning race. A racist might conclude skin color determines behavior, but that's not why I mention it. I presume anyone in the same circumstances would behave roughly the same since we seem to share the same emotional and motivational system but different environments.
But I do note that in today's world and all of human history, people with different physical attributes like skin color, sex, whom they're attracted to, physical size, and so on have grouped themselves differently, producing different behaviors.
As best I can tell, people look at me and figure: blue eyes, fair skin, fit, straight: he doesn't understand suffering. He's never suffered for his skin color, sex, fitness, or sexual preference. It occurred to me recently that people might think the Ivy League degrees mean privilege, which I confirmed by asking some people.
So I mention the skin color of the people who mugged and assaulted me because I was suffering and I seemed to have been picked out for my skin color. I've spent years of my life as a racial minority and one without power, certainly as far as a child could tell. My point is not to win an oppression Olympics, but not to accept preconceived notions in any direction because of skin color.
I also mentioned my assailants' sex, though I doubt people would call me sexist for pointing out my assailants were male.
Even my blue eyes and blond hair, at least it was blond when I was young, didn't change that in my seven years of Jewish day school I was taught that I would have been sent to the same ovens that my grandparents' relatives were gassed in. And as someone who doesn't believe in any stone age myths -- as far as I can tell I was born this way -- that forcing religion on me against my will, plenty of people call that oppression.
I've seen zero people with my religious beliefs in the White House and maybe one or two in congress, none in the supreme court. Not many in business leadership.
My sexual preference, while healthy, has been illegal many times in history, including a capital offense at times. People have certainly treated me with derision for being born this way, including people in groups claiming to be the most inclusive and supportive. Living in Greenwich Village, a parade goes almost outside my doorstep that celebrates nearly every preference, but not mine.
I could go on, but my point is not to get into details. I expect the more I describe places I couldn't go, people I couldn't talk to, times I was targeted, times I was in a powerless minority, the more some of you will say he's so out of touch, he might as well say, "some of my best friends are" whatever you want to accuse me of.
My point is that as long as people keep asking to understand me better and where I'm coming from, if people are also going to reject my experience and message from preconceived notions then let's get past those notions. We've all suffered. We've all gotten lucky breaks. As far as I know, no one who suggested I didn't understand others' challenges hadn't had their life threatened at knifepoint as I did.
And the people they said I didn't understand, at least a couple examples so far, loved my results. Maybe I did understand them across race and sex lines.
I'm trying to increase that understanding, I hope by giving some depth about me beyond what you see in a picture. I do my best to assume depth in you. I hope you will with me too. You yourself probably wouldn't, but plenty of people have condescended to reject what I say for accidents of my birth that don't fit their notions anyway.
I'll tell you what we do all share: air, water, and land, which we're polluting and overusing by a population beyond what nature can support. Distrusting each other and misunderstanding basic natural processes will keep us from the most important strategies to maintain humanity: lowering our consumption and lowering our birth rate.
Plenty more, but those are the big problems that mindless distrust undermine.
I hope this message helps contribute to seeing each other as humans with rich and multifaceted selves but common emotional systems. It feels terrible to be misunderstood and prevents cooperation.
Here are my notes that I read from for this post:
My greatest triumphs, my greatest shames.
When I share personal stuff people always write how they like it. I think it's less important than learning the joys of stewardship and recognizing that flying any time you want or having blueberries 12 months a year doesn't improve your life, but it may help people understand where I'm coming from and maybe hold off a bit on saying, "yeah well you're privileged."
I'm not sure if people will consider these stories unimportant or learning important things about me. Maybe sharing such things are essential parts of leadership.
Tia has been active on the environment for a long time, working with government, non profits, as an individual, and since birth deeply connected with federal and state government. And of course Earth Day from the start. We covered topics including planned obsolescence, politics, carbon taxes and accounting, Vince Lombardi, Brent Suter from the Milwaukee Brewers, Oprah Winfrey, and individual action.
Many people, when considering acting on their environmental values, say how much they're already doing, implying isn't it enough already. They miss what I hope came across with Tia: Acting on your values improves your life. You gain from it.
Describing acting environmentally that way may sound abstract. It's more delicious. It saves money. It connects you with your community.
The switch to acting instead of reading, writing, analyzing, debating, etc can challenge, especially in a world designed for convenience, but past systems are decreasing the amount of life and human society earth can sustain. After switching, you won't want to go back.