Jared and I just jump right into the conversation and about population which I consider fundamental to the environment and frequently misunderstood connected I believe erroneously with eugenics and things like that. I know it’s a divisive topic and I credit Jared with enabling me and for him comfortably talking about it. So credit to Jared on that one. Also, it’s something that people disagree on. If you disagree, I’d love to hear from you. I know that people have projected doom for all of human history so why should we believe that there’s something special about that right now. That’s what Gerald and I start talking about. Soon enough we start talking about what he cares about nature. He’s got a different view of nature than I do which I appreciate hearing. It’s been a while since I heard a different view back to Judith Glazer. I remember back in episode 7 and 12 talking about things in a different way and I got a lot of positive feedback from people saying, “Joshua, I really appreciate this different way of looking at things.” Jared and I talk about different things. He takes on a challenge. It’s a pretty interesting challenge. And let’s listen.
Joshua: Now I want to jump into something a little from our last conversation. And I don’t know if this is going to be controversial or not but we were talking about how population stays stable on islands. Because you study this stuff, now maybe you didn’t get to research it but so for people who don’t know we spoke a couple of weeks ago, a month ago and you care a lot about a lot of indigenous peoples and you were talking about stuff that you know about Hawaii and what was there before Westerners got there and other islands. And something has been intriguing me for a long time and I think it’s very, very interesting is that there are a lot of places where there would be populations of maybe a few hundred, a few thousand, maybe tens of thousands of people and they would stay stable for a long time, centuries at least, maybe millennia.
So the question to my mind, if anyone’s listening to this and they know or if they have hints at how to know, please let me know because I’m really curious how did they keep the population from growing. Because ultimately it feels to me everything… You can make all of the solar power you want, you can make all of the electric vehicles you want, you can reduce pollution as much as you can, ultimately population has to level off at some point and probably go lower than it is today. Now a lot of people are like immediately they can’t stop knee jerk like eugenics and they can’t stop thinking racism and all this other stuff but it’s not necessary. It’s not you know for better or for worse we’re all dying. We’re all going to die naturally and none of that stuff is necessary. So I kind of wanted to bring it up because you and I were talking about it and I got to bring it up at some point. Why not with you?
Jared: Fair enough. Now I think it’s a very, very… Like when you brought it up last time I was like, “Wow, man. I haven’t thought about that one yet.” At least not at the extent of having a good answer for it. And I have studied some of it since I’ve put the question out to a few people that haven’t gotten feedback yet on. And as I said I’ve been out of town. But I am really interested in that because while it is not necessarily always a pressing issue in the very moment with the indigenous cultures that I’m looking on at the time. Obviously, it will be at some point like it always will be with every little micro chasm of civilization somewhere. If you’re on a little island, it’s going to become an issue. In America it may one day become an issue and so on and so on. Like I feel like we have to look at it from a local and a global scenario. Globally we know we’ve got 7 billion people, that’s a hell of a lot and so on. So there’s that discussion and then locally there’s like this space. Does this space have too many? Does this space have too many? You know so there’s that kind of discussion as well.
You know what I think I found I think is that at the time when you could view an indigenous culture in its original setting, so this is back in the day, we didn’t have a population problem. So it wasn’t a big discussion. Now we have a population problem. So I don’t know if maybe it just gotten like maybe that discussion at the level that we’re talking about hasn’t necessarily happened much.
Joshua: Well, in America, I mean the knee jerk responses that everybody says is one is eugenics and they think it’s about racism and about stuff like that and…
Jared: Well, sometimes it is unfortunately but yeah.
Joshua: And then the other one is well, you need a certain ratio of young people to old people to sustain and if you don’t keep the population growing, then like Social Security falls apart and like old people fall apart. And I don’t buy that either because went from a nation of like 25 percent farmers to 2 percent farmers. That’s incredible. Like we have a lot more productivity. We have incredible productivity. I don’t think there’s a transition period you have to go through. But it’s not impossible. And in any case, the alternative is impossible of not just population growth but like certain percent growth per year means exponential growth. That gets really fast all of a sudden. So it just gets derailed into conversations about like it’s absolutely impossible to do anything but keep growing exponentially without considering what are the consequences of that which to me is overshooting collapse and overshooting collapse is nature… The result is through running out of resources or through disease or through wars, then the population decreases in some way that’s going to be a lot less pretty than what we’d come up with on our own if we come up with anything on our own.
Jared: Yes. I mean I think my biggest quandary here like you and I are totally on the same page. Unfortunately, I just don’t know the answer. Has there been a methodology, which is what you asked me. Has there been a methodology in the past that has worked quote unquote you know for a particular society in terms of population control? Like they had an agreement, they had mechanisms, they had whatever it is laws or whatever it is in place that address the population growth in a…
Joshua: Hello? Are you there?
Jared: I am.
Joshua: OK so the last thing you’re saying was “are there mechanisms that address the population issue in a healthy”. That’s where I got cut off.
Jared: Sorry. Yeah, I don’t know. Like the problem is that I don’t think that it was as big of an issue back then as it is now like as a discussion point. Like I don’t know if there are people out there saying, “We need to figure this out.”
Joshua: When you’re ten thousand people on an island it’s really easy and it’s only in the 60s and 70s there’s the ZPG, Zero Population Growth movement, and it didn’t really… I don’t know what happened to it. It seems so fizzled out and there’s a few people I interviewed, a guy Dave Gardner who does GrowthBusters which is a documentary and a community that is forming to look at these issues but you know no politician I doubt anywhere got elected by saying, “Let’s look at the population and see if we can keep it from growing more.”
Jared: Yeah, I don’t know.
Joshua: I mean I’m kind of nervous about putting this on like I was talking to some other people who were really supportive of this podcast and they’re doing stuff that’s similar. I’m not going to say who they are because they’re like, “We don’t want to get into issues that are divisive like that or pretend” you know they want to keep things safe.
And I agree. Politically you’ve got to keep things that people aren’t going to get really angry about for some time but eventually you’ve got to face population. And you know my big resource here is Limits to Growth, the book that it’s widely misunderstood but I think you know captures the basic picture. At least that’s one of my main perspectives on this. I’ve never met someone who’s read it. I’ve never met someone who’s read it and really understood it because it’s got a bit of math in it.
Jared: Oh, really?
Joshua: Or not math but like it talks about mathematical modeling that they do on computers. I’m reading the book, I was reading a book like years ago and for the first time I was like doing they’re looking at this the way that I think is the way to look at the environment and the economy and population and technology and how all these things in it relate and I’m reading and I’m thinking there, “This is how to look at it.” How’s it been that no one else has looked at it this way? And on top of the perspective, they actually put in some numbers and did the math and the numbers are big [unintelligible] so they had to model it in many different ways and widely misinterpreted. People looked at it like the worst-case scenario which they’re just projecting one possible scenario and everyone’s like, “Oh, they are projecting doom and gloom” which they weren’t. They were just doing a number of different possibilities.
Jared: And again, I mean from a timeline perspective this might be the most relevant time to have this discussion. Don’t you think?
Joshua: The longer we wait, the more challenging it gets.
Jared: Yeah, right. Well, and it may not have happened before and seems like we’re having or at least not at a large extent, we’re having a hard time finding more information about it. Yeah, maybe this is the time we sort of put that together.
Joshua: I hope so. I mean that’s part of the reason why I’m taking the risk of talking about it. Maybe these other people are right and if you talk about it, I’m going to lose listeners and people are going to get angry with me. I’m not sure. You know other things that people say, a lot of people have this response of Malthus projected that this is going to happen and for thousands of years people are saying the end of the world is nigh. And so far it hasn’t… You know I’m pretty happy. And so everyone so far was wrong. Why would we expect that now of all the thousands of years of recorded history why should we think that now it just happens to be the time when it actually is the case? Maybe just like ever and before we were wrong or maybe you know Malthus maybe he was right but he got the numbers off so he has projected population problems earlier and then green revolution happen and so forth and maybe we’ll be able to keep it going longer. You know we’ll figure out a way to keep it… Maybe we’ll just always find ways out of things. Or a lot of people say it’s leveling off right now and for whatever reason it’s leveling off and is working out even though we didn’t intentionally do it it’s just happening anyway. I don’t know if I buy that.
Jared: I understand it. I don’t know if I buy it.
Joshua: Even if it does happen, it’s still a coincidence. I don’t want to…
Jared: I think at some level that’s a reasonable part of the discussion but it’s not an answer.
Joshua: Yeah, there is no guarantee it’s going…Because you know the green revolution a lot of people look at that as it saved a lot of people from hunger. But another way of looking at it is that it increased the population that would have leveled off earlier and now if there is… And how did it do it? The green revolution largely turned fossil fuels into food through fertilizer and things like that. And you know powering machines to do beyond what humans could do with their hands. So that now we get a lot of food that the number of calories we’re getting out of it is not much more than the calories we burned from fuel to make it. I appreciate by the way that you’re jumping in this conversation with me because no one talks about it and I hope it becomes a bigger part of the conversation.
Jared: Well, I mean I’m grateful that you brought it up because prior to that obviously I hadn’t really thought about that particular dynamic but I recognize its importance for sure and the relevance today. You know I was thinking about this as I was sitting doing a little bit of research as we’re talking here. I was just trying to find… I just typed in “peaceful mechanisms for population control” which by the way did not bring up a lot of results but I’ll keep looking.
I have a resource that I can talk to. Are you familiar with the Overview Institute by any chance? You know probably a lot of the people that are involved. It’s a lot of scientists, astrophysicists, neuroscientists, anthropologists and so few gurus. It stemmed from Frank White’s book The Overview Effect, he wrote in I think it was in the 70s and he interviewed like 83 astronauts or 70 some astronauts I think. And he found that the greatest thing that they discovered was not necessarily going out, basically breaking the orbit of our earth and going out and looking and the universe was not the greatest thing that they experienced, it was looking back at the Earth and realizing this guy had a concept of like, “Oh my god, this is one living breathing organism. We’re all part of that.” There no division, there’s no lines separating people, there’s no this, there’s no that. It’s like you can’t escape the interconnectedness of it all. It’s like you can go eat a bunch of mushrooms and do that or you can go orbit the Earth. You get that kind of interconnected… You can’t escape the interconnectedness.
So he wrote about that. He started the Overview Institute. From that came a short film by some cool kids called the Overview, 20-minute film a few years ago, amazing. And then that morphed into a two-hour long actual documentary Planetary which is one of my favorite documentaries ever. It’s just freaking beautiful, just beautiful. It’s one of those documentaries that says, “Yeah, here’s the things that are happening and what’s going wrong but here’s our potential” and I like that. I think we need more of that. So anyway, he’s behind all that and he runs The Overview Institute. I’m working very closely with him now in just discussions about possible collaborations and things between the two of us and that might be a question I could pose to the Overview Institute as a research project like to figure out something about this.
Joshua: Please. I mean I don’t know anyone doing anything like this to figure out…
Jared: Me neither. Thanks for kicking it off.
Joshua: Any time. I hope I don’t lose half of my listeners.
Jared: Well, I mean and you know me well enough to know that I think that even with my podcast and things like that I try to be fairly, dare I say, diplomatic. What I really mean by that is strategic in that I want to say what needs to be said in a way that doesn’t push everybody away from us. So I’ll figure that out.
Joshua: Yeah, that’s a challenge.
Jared: Well, yeah and that’s branding. So I can tackle that one. All about how you tell the story.
Joshua: All right. Now I want to go to Leadership and the Environment and you know what’s coming. We’ve talked about this. What I ask at your option, you don’t have to do this. Actually no. Let me take a step back before talking about the challenge. When you think environment, what do you think about besides the population because it’s on your mind right now?
Jared: When I think about the environment I think for me personally with that kind of open-endedness, I’ll take it in my direction, I think about first of all I’ve written a lot about and talked a lot about how environment matters. And I mean that in terms of anything outside of you that is influencing you. So that’s one perspective that I’m coming into this with and then recognizing that our natural environment to me is the most profoundly beautiful gift outside of our humanness that we’ve been given and we are part of that. It’s not separate from us any more than you know the concept of God or Spirit is separate from us. So everything is interconnected like that. And I think that for me when I think of environment I think of an extension of me or me as an extension of it. We are interconnected in that way. So this isn’t something to me that is something out there. This is something to me that is like my skin. It’s part of me.
Joshua: You’re summarizing it and stop me if I oversimplify but I just want to make sure I understand. The environment is not separate from you. It’s a part of you, you are a part of it and if you’re helping the environment, you’re helping yourself.
Jared: Absolutely. And others.
Joshua: The connection between you and the environment is a connection between every living creature in the environment.
Joshua: And so if you’re helping the environment, you’re helping yourself, you’re helping everybody. If others help the environment, they’re helping you, they are helping each other, they are helping themselves. And why not? Why would you not do that?
Jared: Yeah, well and obviously you know the opposite is also true. If I’m destroying the environment…
Joshua: Then you’re destroying yourself, you’re destroying everything in it.
Jared: Yeah, as a humanitarian, as a philanthropist whatever I can’t do it. It doesn’t make sense. There’s a break there in my philosophy. If I say I want to help people but I don’t care about the land. And hey, man, in all honesty it’s really only been like the last five or six years that I have been more of an environmentalist because before I took the very you know maybe immature zealot approach as an activist to really to saying, “Look, there are people out there. Who cares about all this talk about the environment? We’ve got to deal with people.” Obviously, how ignorant was that I realize now but at the time I was in the trenches you know in Congo and Rwanda and whatever seeing us from a certain perspective. And I was acting out as a result of that particular sort of myopic, I think at the time perspective.
Joshua: So how does this change that you’ve gone through in the past few years, how has it affected you? I mean there’s the material things presumedly some things you’re not doing that you used to do and some things you are doing now that you didn’t used to. In what does it is changing your life meaningfully?
Jared: Yeah. Well, it is. It had a really probably the most profound effect really on my diet I guess. The progression of it is this. When I was 15 years old and I’m 40 now but when I was 15 years old I became a vegetarian or vegan actually which back then wasn’t the biggest discussion going around, we didn’t have the Internet you know getting that information out and so on. And I was cycling at the time on road bikes and so on and that was kind of the thing. And getting more in tune with your health. I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins whom I still follow and it rocked me. And I said you know just from where I’m at in my mind in terms of how I care about humanity, animals and everything else it makes sense to be a vegan. Now I was very uneducated at the time, I was 15 years old you know and it wasn’t a big discussion where I lived but I did it, my brother and I did it. And I think that lasted about two-three years and then I just became vegetarian meaning I would eat fish and eggs and dairy really.
So fast forward to now. And over the last five or six years again of recognizing the interconnectedness of it all and recognizing that my eating habits, if I’m eating meat and dairy and so on, all these other animal products, I am contributing to what I now know to be probably the biggest detriment to our planet which is animal agriculture. So for me recognizing that my eating habits was contributing to the one thing that’s destroying our planet more than anything else. And again, you know now when I say planet or people in this particular discussion is kind of one and the same. It’s affecting us you know this thing our existence. I couldn’t do it anymore. So that was about 2, 2 or so years ago. And honestly, again I give a little credit to old Cowspiracy, I watched that film and that was the thing that kind of put me over the edge where I was kind of there anyway and then I saw the film and was like yeah, that was enough information. I don’t ever need to eat meat products or animal products.
So you know so I stopped it then and now I recognize that yeah, my life, my habits, my lifestyle, everything that I do like that has an impact. And I mean obviously I’ve been preaching that from one perspective, from one angle for a long time but now I have new information to add into that and that is the effect on the environment.
Joshua: So your relationship with the environment is tight, interrelated and deep and you’ve done a lot of things that sound like you’re glad that you did and maybe wish you’d done earlier. And so you have a particular challenge that the more you’ve done…. Well, I don’t know I was about to say that the more we’ve done, maybe the harder it is to find other things to do but maybe it’s easier to find other things.
Jared: I’m not sure yet. I knew that we would be exploring that territory. But it is an interesting scenario and honestly too by the way a little shout out to yourself there. You’ve challenged me to cut back on the packaging scenarios so we’ve been analyzing that because I think that maybe is one of my next steps. In our discussions I think about it way more than I ever had before, the packaging, that’s like an area I hadn’t really focused on until you and I started talking.
Joshua: Well, that might be where you go then because…
Jared: It’s scary. It’s like I don’t face scary things in this realm very often. It’s always just like yep, I’m doing that. And this one I’m like, “Oh crap, how am I going to do that?”
Joshua: I’m glad you said it’s scary now because if you take it on I have a feeling that afterward like I’ll bet money on this that afterward you would say one of the many opposites of scary that you…
Jared: You’re probably right.
Joshua: The change is scary not what you get to on the far side because people have lived for thousands of years without plastic, let alone packaging. So let me give you the rules as they evolve, not rules but you know hear, I invite people, at your option to take on a personal challenge because so many people stopped themselves by saying, “If I do this and the meat industry doesn’t change, then it doesn’t matter what I do” or some other industry you know I’m not saying you have to change the world overnight. I’m not saying you have to solve the world’s problems. I’m just inviting you to take on a challenge and it has to be something you weren’t already doing. It can’t be you’re going to tell other people to change. You can tell them that but that’s not part of the challenge. This challenge is for you to take on this change. And something meaning your value, something that you know… I try to avoid myself suggesting the person what they do because you know your values better than anyone else. So does anything come to mind? Oh, and it can be short term and they basically all are short term. But when you do it, think about it, I ask you when you do it, think about considering doing it long term, maybe forever.
Jared: Knowing myself I think that if I think of something here and you know and it happens, I’ll just keep doing it. Because I think that in a moment I recognize it’s richness and sweetness in my life and how much it’s contributed to what I really care about which is to sort of foster that reverence for interconnectedness in our lives that it’s echoed through our lifestyles, I would be inclined to just keep doing it. So I also when I’m taking this into consideration what would that challenge be I’m thinking about that too and that whatever this is, there’s a very high likelihood I’ll just continue to do it forever and make it part of my life because I’ll recognize the benefit to our planet and humanity in doing that.
Joshua: Sounds great.
Jared: Yeah, yeah. I said the high likelihood, that does not guarantee anything.
Joshua: So anything come to mind that has something to do?
Jared: Well, I mean honestly the biggest one and I’ve thought about this a little bit before is the packaging element because you know I have a family, I have three kids and we buy you know from Costco about once a month. Everything else you know we get from local people and from Sprouts organic market and stuff like that. But we still get the stuff from Costco. We still get the stuff where I end up having an entire garbage bag full of recyclables, not recyclable quote unquote but you know the deal on that too. So I’d rather it just not be there to be recycled.
Joshua: Just to make sure. The deal is that something like less than 10 percent of what we call recyclable actually ends up being recycled.
Jared: Exactly. Yeah, I mean that’s the deal I was talking about. My faith in the whole recycling bit has dwindled considerably the more I’ve learned I guess is what I’m saying. I think really what we should do is figure out how to do something other than creating packaging and plastics and things like that. So that’s a big challenge for me but honestly, I think it’s the biggest one that I can think of and it’s the one that I do want to commit to as scary as it sounds. And really the reason it sounds scary, yes, change is scary whatever, however you know me I’d like to embrace the change.
It’s really just like the fact that we live in Nashville and things you know there’s seasonal… Oh, another thing that we’re trying too and [unintelligible] and this is a bonus is to eat more seasonally when we’re in seasonal places. We lived in a tropical environment for 12 years. We didn’t have to eat seasonally. We just ate mangoes and whatever and avocados every day because they were right there in our yard. But here we have been challenged to eat more seasonally and it means I can’t eat the foods I love you know for the last 12 years because they’re not available in Nashville, Tennessee. We are not in the tropics. So seasonal eating is something that we’re starting right now as the seasons changing and making that commitment as a family. And then also I think the bigger challenge for us is to start to eliminate as much as packaging as possible. And I don’t even know what that looks like. But I do want to eliminate that as well. I think that’s the biggest source of like, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but that’s the biggest source of guilt that I have is the packaging scenario because already in terms of regular trash we hardly have anything. Almost all of our trash is recyclable or compost which I compost too. So but again I’d like to eliminate at least half of that recyclable mix.
Joshua: All right. So that sounds like a pretty good plan. I mean it sounds like you are enthusiastic about it.
Jared: I am not making this commitment for you, and for me and my wife. So you get a two for one this one.
Joshua: Well, I can tell you that this is the two big things that I’ve seen that are the monkey wrenches that challenge people, it’s not their resolve, it’s other people, when they interface with other people and when they travel and their world it’s not all under the control anymore.
Jared: Yep, yeah that’s the most difficult time to do it when you’re traveling.
Joshua: Ok. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. I’ll talk to you soon.
Jared: Excellent. Thanks, brother.
Jared: Bye. Peace.
Personal responsibility and action. Too many people in my opinion they feel guilty especially around areas in the environment and they attribute it to others. In my experience independent of the cause, the solution is to act, is to do something, to bring your behavior in line with your values. If they’re not aligned, you are going to feel guilty… Well, let me speak only of myself. When they’re not aligned, I feel guilty and as much as I’d like to say it’s someone else, it’s usually someone else might reveal that I’m acting not in accordance with my values but that guilt comes from inside. And again, the solution is internal, it’s to do something, it’s to bring my behavior in line with my values or switch my values. But usually it’s the behavior that has to switch. So that’s what I really liked about talking with Jared. He is opened and he brings out that openness in others and I think that’s why we have become great friends. So I look forward to hearing how his challenge goes.
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