093: Want to win elections? Clean your neighborhood. Be a steward. (transcript)

October 8, 2018 by Dani Mihaleva
in Podcast

Joshua Spodek headshot

I care about the environment and I act on it. I’m going to talk to you today about how do we elect people including the United States president who act on and steward the environment. I’m going to present a plan that I believe can win the next election that transcends the usual divisions that led to today’s political situation, political misery, feelings of futility and the filth that we live in in our air, land and water as well as our bodies.

I’m going to start off with six points. First, I want to mention that when I say we, “we” means people willing to act to clean the environment which I consider one of the major issues of our time. It may not be the most urgent at the moment but it is an important, non-urgent problem and important, non-urgent problems are the most valuable to work on in the long term. What I say may sound Liberal or Democrat but I mean people willing to act to clean the environment which I know includes people across the political spectrum. I’ve developed this plan for a while. It’s still a first iteration but I think I’ve captured a meaningful core that can achieve more than any other strategy I’ve come across. As a work in progress I welcome suggestions but most of all I welcome people acting on it. I’m not just talking. I’m sharing some of the biggest and best improvements I’ve made to my life achievable by anyone at zero cost and time and money, probably saving both and showing how you can change the world here and now to the president of the United States and beyond. Also, I hope providing motivation for people to do what they’ve long wanted to.

I want to start with the six points. Point number one. Cavanaugh was just sworn in. Whether you like it or not Trump is tremendously influential. He will go down in history as having influenced the United States and the world tremendously. He’s influential and he’s not going away. There are many perspectives to look at what he’s doing. From an environmental perspective I believe he is contributing to a lot of problems for people’s health, for people’s safety, for future generations. You’ve read the news. You know what I’m talking about.

Point number two. Conservatives and Republicans value cleanliness and purity. This is according to Jonathan Heidt’s research. He’s been a guest on my podcast which shows that Democrats don’t even register that value, the value of cleanliness and purity. Research by Jonathan Heidt and his peers that he talked about to me on my podcast shows that when framed in terms of cleanliness, purity and stewardship conservatives care and act equally about the environment as Liberals. Watch Jonathan Heidt’s TED talks on his work on moral foundations or read his book The Righteous Mind for more background. But my point is that if you want to influence Conservatives and Republicans and these are the people who are voting against the initiatives that I believe are important for cleaning and purifying the environment, they value cleanliness and purity and you must speak in their language and what matters to them. They as I value stewardship of nature. This gift that we were born into, this beautiful, wonderful, clean, pure world which we can lose if we don’t keep it clean and pure, if we don’t steward it effectively.

Point number three. Liberals and Democrats are talking about but not acting themselves to clean the environment. They are telling others what to do but not doing it themselves. They want to pass laws but are not getting popular support, which I call authoritarian. They are supporting whether they mean to or not seeing environmental action as hard and non-desirable, as distracting from what they want to do because they fly around as much as anyone. They litter. They produce lots of garbage.

Point number four. New York City, San Francisco and similar, mainly coastal cities are filthy. They may be cleaner than the 70s or other times but that is a tremendously low bar. We could be cleaner. It matters. If we are not stewarding where we live, people elsewhere will look at that and say, “I don’t want to be like that and I won’t vote like them. I’ll vote against them so that I will not become like that. I don’t want to live in a filthy place.” We could be cleaner.

Point number five. Americans are overweight and obese. Some may claim genetics and other reasons but the science is clear otherwise.

Point number six. People who care about the environment have no practical agenda to influence people who are not already influenced. They don’t act consistently with their goals themselves and so they’re vulnerable to be called elitist and hypocritical. I would add authoritarian as I said before because pushing for laws without popular support is authoritarian.

So those are the six points that Trump is powerful, influential. Conservatives and Republicans value cleanliness and purity and that has to be the language that we speak and the actions that we live by. That Liberals and Democrats talk but do not act themselves and so open themselves a lot to criticism for being hypocritical and elitist. New York, San Francisco and other liberal cities are filthy. Americans are overweight and obese. And people who care about the environment are not acting effectively. It’s not working and you can tell by looking who’s in the White House, who’s working in the Supreme Court and so forth. So I’m not suggesting the following is entire platform but a major piece of it. This is the platform I propose to win elections, clean up where you live and how you live including pollution, litter, greenhouse gas emissions and your choices of food. This strategy can beat Trump. I mean literally pick up litter and put it in the trash. Clean up what you eat so you cut way down on packaged food. Eat more vegetables and fruit. Eat clean, become clean. Live in a place with clean air, water and land. I mean literally pick up litter and put it in the trash. I don’t care if it’s yours or anyone else’s. Pick it up, make it so your neighborhood is so clean anyone in the world who looks at that place says, “I want to live there.” Clean up your diet, clean up the way you live so that everything is so clean that people say, “I want to live like that person. I want to be like that person.” Fighting Trump, calling him names is not working. Calling names gets Liberals viewed as hateful, angry and powerful as does the environmental hypocrisy that they live by. It’s not working. You can tell it’s not working by looking at who’s in the White House. As long as the rest of the country sees coastal cities as dirty, maybe they’ll come to see Broadway shows but they’ll fear becoming that way and they will vote against those communities.

I recently just searched “Conservative and New York City” on the web. Here are the top headlines I found that came back on the first page of results. One headline said, “Disgusting piles of trash, a fixture outside New York’s first green school,” residents say. That’s a story about a green school that is a school that’s designed to be more ecological and friendly to the environment. “And outside of it are piles and piles of trash,” the news reports. And another story is, “New York City stops sewage train to Alabama after residents complained of horrific smell.” So it’s saying that New York City residents are creating sewage that they are shipping to Alabama. So those two stories were from Fox and here’s one from the Post. The headline is, “San Francisco’s crisis looks like New York’s future.” So that’s a story about how the streets of San Francisco are really dirty and the politicians are making it more that way and New York is becoming that way. Think they’re wrong? Well, about the messiness and the dirtiness I don’t think that they’re wrong. Not that that matters because people vote by that perception. That’s the perception people have of these places. We can change that perception.

Imagine New York City is so clean. It looks like Singapore. Imagine people not wanting to litter because they just don’t litter because it’s so clean that every bit of litter would make a difference. Unlike today where there’s litter everywhere. I don’t know if you know, I pick up at least one piece of trash per day every day. I’ve been doing it for years. Man, you learn a lot about people when you pick up their garbage especially when it’s not your own. You see where people throw things away. You see something into how people live, how they’re not stewarding the environment. And when you become close to it, you don’t want that. You want to change that and it will change how you live at home. It will change how you live. When you pick up other people’s trash, it’s humbling, it’s clean. Look, you could wear gloves if you want but it will change how you live when you do this. Imagine everyone you vote with fit, no longer complaining it’s so hard to eat healthy and supporting each other to become more and more fit all the time. I’m not saying you can’t express yourself how you want. I’m not saying you can’t be whoever you want to be. But obesity and self-indulgence repels the people you want to vote with you. The people who don’t vote with you, if they see you as obese and overweight and they see you self-indulgent, it doesn’t matter how you see yourself.

Think of how they vote because that’s what’s happening. Think of how you can motivate yourself to get a new president to the White House, to get new Supreme Court justices. Think of how that can motivate you to do what you’ve always wanted to do. It affects everyone around you. So the same things they read as making excuses and they can vote however they want. And Trump just named another young Supreme Court justice. So how’s your current strategy working for you? On the contrary, to not being able to express yourself cleaning up our air, water and land and bodies it requires humility, discipline, dedication which people look up to, especially the people who are not voting with you. It builds community and that’s the point. The more you do, the more people will join you.

I want to be very clear about this creating mental freedom. It’s about freedom and in the words of the great dancer Martha Graham, called the Picasso of dance, and she’s talking about dancing but she could be talking about anything including you living the life that you want to live for yourself leading others to follow. These are her words, “The dancer is realistic. His craft teaches him to be. Either the foot is pointed or it is not. No amount of dreaming will point it for you. This requires discipline, not drill, not something imposed from without but discipline imposed by you yourself upon yourself. Your goal is freedom but freedom may only be achieved through discipline. In the studio you learn to conform, to submit yourself to the demands of your craft so that you may finally be free.” What she’s talking about is freedom, mental freedom that you can achieve by living by your values and not kind of living by your values, not thinking, “Oh, well maybe no one will notice if I pollute” or “Maybe this one time I get take-out is not of a big deal.” Every little bit counts. That’s the relevance of saying, “Either the foot is pointed or it is not. No amount of dreaming will point it for you.” And what getting those details down and living so that your foot is pointed. That means that you turn off the light when you are not in the room, that you eat what’s healthy and you don’t eat what’s unhealthy. What that does for your life is that it creates tremendous mental freedom, tremendous freedom.

And it’s not just Martha Graham. Let’s look at Bob Marley quoting Marcus Garvey. I know you know these words, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” We can do this. This is about freedom which you’ll never attain following marketing. When I was a kid bottled water was a frou-frou European luxury. People today consider it a healthy alternative that they can’t live without meaning that they see non-water as normal. The marketers have won. They have led an entire culture to view water as special. That is not freedom. It’s the opposite of freedom. That’s the freedom that I’m talking about regaining – the freedom to live by your values. Conservatives and people who don’t act on the environment will notice. People can say all body types are beautiful, all they want and there are differences in what people find attractive or not but people find cleanliness beautiful and they find fitness beautiful. And I don’t just mean Conservatives and Republicans. And when it happens we can lead the world.

Right now people call McDonald’s and Starbucks American culture and their peers of Frito-Lay and Keebler and all those… They are destroying the air, water and land that we share. People identify Americans as obese and exporting obesity, heart disease, diabetes pollution, global warming and so on to the world. We can lead the world to see America as throwing off the shackles of a system that’s making us obese, filthy and dependent. And what can we replace it with? You know people have reclaimed terms like gay, queer, dyke, things like that. How about make America clean and fit again? How about being able to say, “drain the swamp”? Because there’s a swamp in D.C. He talked about draining the swamp and he’s making a swamp and we can win by saying, “Make America clean and fit again” and saying, “drain the swamp”. Because he’s not clean and fit and he’s making a swamp. And if we don’t clean up our act and we’re not fit and we live in a swamp, we can’t say that. But if we are clean and fit and we don’t live in a swamp, we can say that and we can take away what is winning for him. Because what are people who oppose cleaning the environment and becoming fit going to do? They pollute and they are obese too. Opposing doesn’t make sense. If they follow, if they start cleaning things up, we win. Not to mention saving billions to trillions on health care, sanitation and subsidies.

You know I’m going to post on this site a bunch of videos I recently saw from Buzzfeed. This is a site that caters to people that they call social justice warriors. And these videos show people getting fit. Running a marathon and loving the change. People don’t think it’s possible but once you get started it becomes normal, it becomes desirable. You don’t want to go back and it means you can win the next election. You will love the changes that you go through. You’ll be proud to look back with disgust at buying things in plastic what you used to do, at buying fast food. I consider recycling environmentally benign when it’s not. I look forward to seeing… You know consider rich neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods are already clean but they’re not clean by the people who live there. I want you to imagine rich people going to poor neighborhoods because they want to clean so much and their neighborhoods are already clean. Giving money is one thing, that’s nice, but showing up, giving time, bending over and picking up garbage in poor neighborhoods, in slums. It’s tough to call a humble person elite. Can you imagine people from the Upper East Side of New York City or whatever neighborhoods where you live going to Harlem or wherever and picking up garbage? That will change people’s views. That will get people to change their votes. We can do this. New York City has done it before.

I want to put pictures up on the site of pictures of a several-month transformation in 1895. I am going show you two pairs of pictures a few months apart. In the first of each you can’t even see the road. What looks like mud in these old black and white pictures is garbage, sewage, even dead animals. There’s actually…. In the right-hand picture, you see a couple оf months later it’s completely cleaned. We can do this. We can clean our land, water and air. We can clean our bodies. There’s another picture I am going to post of a dead horse in the road because it was so unclean that animals would just die in the road. We may not have that today but plastic lasts for hundreds of years, sometimes thousands. And in any case, if they could clean that filth up, we can clean ours up. And once it’s clean we can keep it that way. I’m also going to post a graph of my electrical use for the past year from the New York City power company Con Ed. You’ll see I average under one point five kilowatt hours per day. Now that’s just me by myself. A family of more would use a bit more but you should get economies of scale. You can do this. I live a very happy life. I love the way that I live and that’s all the power that I need. I’ll link to my videos of how it takes 16 months to fill one small bag of landfill garbage which I hope to raise to two or three years for the next time.

Earlier this week I cooked a dinner for 50 people with fresh, healthy food for under three dollars a person. And I’d say about half of that was leftover so it’s really half that price. And everything I did was replicable and so-called food deserts. So this is totally accessible. There’s nothing elite in this. On the contrary, it’s local, it’s empowering, it’s community based, it’s educational, it saves money, it saves time. It connects with the land, water, air. It’s healthy, it’s clean, it’s pure. It’s available to everyone. That’s what we can run a campaign on to show the swamp in D.C. and all the state capitals that the tide has changed. We’re no longer just talking. We are cleaning up our act. Saying that we care without acting when politicians see that no matter what people say, when the price of gas drops and SUV sales go up, they know that when people say one thing and do another they vote with what they do. How do we know? Look who’s in the White House. Look what’s happened to the EPA. Look what happened to the Supreme Court. Sadly, they represent American voters, not just Trump voters, most of America. When Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement he was representing the behavior of most Americans. Whatever we say, whatever you say about not polluting, about being clean, about keeping CO2 levels down, the average American pollutes hundreds of times more than people in other countries where they are plenty more happy than we are. We are not showing that we are happier than they are.

So again, the people in the White House, the people in Congress they represent American voters with regard to energy, with regard to pollution. How can we tell? Besides the SUVs, we’re nearly 80 percent overweight and obese. If you say that there is nothing you can do about it, that that’s just the way things are or this is some sort of fat shaming or something like that and we’re buying diet books more than any other kind of books so we know that most people don’t want to be that way and believe that they can change. If you can’t muster up the nerve to change for yourself, how about for your nation, for your community, for your friends, for your future generations? Use your indignation and outrage. I live in New York City. When Trump was elected people were outside in the street saying “Not my president! Not my president!” Well, he is the president. Use your indignation and outrage, not just a march in the street to chant but to pick up garbage from the street, to buying fresh fruits and vegetables knowing that every choice that you make signals the world, signals your community, signals your friends, signals people who are not voting with you. You’ll only get more healthy. You’ll breathe cleaner. You’ll lead the world. You will live more with your grandchildren, with your children. You’ll save money. You will change culture. It can start here now.

How many more Supreme Court justices do you want to lose? How many more EPA chiefs do you want to come from the fossil fuel industries? How many more treaties do you want the richest nation on Earth going backward on? How much do you want the US to lose competition to develop solar, wind and other renewables? How much do you want to empower yourself? How much do you want to know that your kids are healthy living in healthy communities, enjoying nature, clean and pure to be stewards of the land? We can do this. What does it take? Every day, pick up one piece of trash. Start that way and then tell everybody else what you’re doing, get them to do it too, spread this far and wide. Next time you go shopping go for the fresh produce. Learn how to cook. Get yourself a pressure cooker. I recommend it. Don’t buy things in packages. It starts a little bit. It’s hard at the beginning, yes, it’s hard. But do you want to win an election? It’s not going to happen without you taking action. And there are not a whole lot of things that are working right now. This can work. You can see the change happening immediately upon doing it. Pick up other people’s garbage. Share this with friends. Get other people to pick up that garbage. Make where you live so spotlessly clean that anyone who values cleanliness and purity and stewardship of the land, air and water that they will say, “I want to be like that person.” Be fit, be fit for yourself, be fit for your communities, be fit for your future generations, be fit for a healthcare system that’s projected to spend I believe trillions on diseases of access. Be fit and clean for the next Supreme Court justice, for the next election, for your government to do for you what you want it to do for you, not work against you. Most of all, act for your mental and physical freedom to live in the world that you want to live in. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Don’t let that phrase just be an empty platitude.

Let’s win the next election. Let’s get the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court acting to protect our land, sea and air. Let’s make this a world that we want to live in. Let’s start today. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow. Let’s pick up other people’s garbage. Let’s not create garbage ourselves. Let’s not waste energy. Let’s cut down on or energy usage and still improve our lives. I’ve seen reports that people in Germany which is already much cleaner than the United States per capita can reduce their pollution 75 percent without changing their quality of life and we’re using more than that. That means that we on average can reduce our energy use, our pollution by over 75 percent while keeping our lifestyles exactly how they are. That’s how we can win the White House. That’s how we can win Washington D.C. That’s how we can make America clean and fit again. That’s how we can drain the swamp. That’s how we can build a community. Let’s get together on this. Let’s clean up our world, our communities, our selves, our bodies. Let’s win this one.

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