Analects of Sustainability Leadership (words to live by)

May 25, 2023 by Joshua
in Leadership, Models

Analects are selected miscellaneous written passages, often words to live by. Here are ones on sustainability leadership, many I created. I’ll keep update the following as I develop new ones.

You can’t lead others to live by values you live the opposite of

Systemic change begins with personal change

To cross the finish line of the marathon of changing a system, you first have to cross the starting line of changing yourself. Otherwise you aren’t in the race.

If you make a polluting system more efficient, you pollute more efficiently, even if you lower it in one area.

If you do something that kills people and you don’t want to kill people, you have to stop doing that thing.

Imagine you coached a sports team where every member of the team expected to choke during the finals. They’d sabotage themselves all the time. Since nearly no one can imagine a world where everyone lives sustainably, nearly everyone sabotages sustainability efforts.

We can’t collectively live sustainably if every one of eight billion of us lives unsustainably.

People generally get the problems with living unsustainably. Have you heard anyone propose as a solution: to live sustainably? I haven’t. It’s off the table.

Describing a counterproductive practice: Stepping on the gas, thinking it’s the brake, wanting congratulations.

Describing a counterproductive practice: Speed reading bedtime stories to your kids.

Our problem isn’t a lack of technology or legislation. It’s that we think living sustainably is a worse life.

You know yourself best, but I suspect what you want in a leader includes integrity, credibility, character, experience, vision, honor, humility, authenticity, genuineness

Flying to a sustainability conference is like learning to play piano by hitting it with a sledgehammer.

Rich people say poor people can’t do things as a reason for them not to.

People see the correlation but get the cause and effect backward. I’m not able to live more sustainably because I have the time and money to. I have the time and money from living more sustainably.

Technology and legislation aren’t good or bad. They augment the values of the people wielding them.

One flight will bring you to a distant relative; flying in general will lead you to live flying distance away, decreasing your time with family and raising the cost.

One flight enables you to enter new markets; flying in general forces businesses to compete everywhere all the time, decreasing the number of competitors and therefore innovation, yet raising costs.

Technology and laws don’t have value. They aren’t good or bad. They amplify the values of the people wielding them.

People don’t want to do small things. They want to do meaningful things.

It’s not small versus big but intrinsic versus extrinsic.

When a polluter says they want to help the poor most, watch your wallet.

Everyone believes what they are doing is right, even if it hurts people outside their knowledge, so suggesting they stop feels like asking them to stop doing what it right.

If sailing across oceans was good enough for Darwin, it’s good enough for me.

I’m pointing to a brighter future. They keep looking at my hand. (And the New Yorker wrote about the dirt under my fingernails, which you get when digging deep).

Talking to people about environment is like talking to addicts about people they hurt.

People are addicted to polluting, depleting behaviors and trying to lead an addict to acknowledge their addiction or that they are hurting others (or themselves) is like trying to catch a fish with your bare hand. They will say or do anything to avoid saying they’re addicted or hurting people.

Fountain Pen

When I tell them I save money not flying they say but they want to enjoy life. When I say I enjoy life more not flying they say they can’t afford it.

Ending polluting may seem hard, but the only thing worse than ending pollution is not ending it.

Home cooked tastes better, even when it tastes worse.

If you give a bunch of economists and engineers a hard problem and a budget in time and money, they’ll use up all the time and money, come back, and tell you they need a little bit more to solve it.

If you’re not going to die, analyzing and planning just delay.

If you think you have to solve all possible theoretical problems before starting, you never will. If you start, you’ll only have to solve the actual problems that actually come up.

Constraints breed creativity.

If your economic theory says Hawaii couldn’t work, it’s wrong.

Never call doof food.

You tell me what you expect to lose when you kick an addiction and I’ll tell you what you’ll get more of.

There is exactly one solution that works: every single person on Earth living sustainably. We know it works because it did for 300,000 years. Nothing else does.

You can’t live unsustainably and have someone else live extra sustainably for you.

If you see a dominance hierarchy, look for the resource being controlled and the prevention of alternatives.

It’s not their responsibility for me to be understood.

Everyone can do what I did and am doing. If you’re poor it benefits you most. If you’re rich you can do it more.

If you can wipe your face with it, I can wipe my butt with it.

When a polluter says polluting helps poor people most, watch your wallet.

If you want a brighter, safer future when less energy will be available, reduce you dependence on it.

If you think they deserve to catch up to us, you have it backward. We have the responsibility to reduce polluting and depleting to sustainable levels. If you think that reduction lowers your quality of life, you have it backward. Simplifying and clarifying will improve your life.

Flying is rich people heroin.

The top obstacle to living more sustainably is having resources, especially time and money.

The problem isn’t in poor countries, the symptoms are. The problems are the rich countries.

Nature isn’t dangerous and trying to kill us. It’s abundant, safe, and trying to sustain us.

Useful views

For 300,000 years people thrived without polluting. If they figured it out, we can.

For 10,000 years people lived on this island.

People lived on Hawaii for at least 500 years without growing, as did many other cultures. If your theory says growth is necessary, it’s wrong.

Victor Frankl wrote of bliss and love of his experience in Auschwitz. Is my situation as bad as Auschwitz? If not, I can find bliss and love in it.

What if someone else felt they needed to fly/use a/c/etc and them doing it required knocking down your home, putting you into a refugee camp for the rest of your life, poisoned your ground water so you had to drink tainted water and food for the rest of your life, and you child had to work in a dangerous mine?

If you solve this problem, you will have the opportunity to solve it for everyone. The world craves your solution.

People on Skid Row think they can’t change either. Can they? No addict does until they can.

Imagine a CEO, politician, or friend said, “I can’t solve sexism or racism all by myself, so I’ll keep being sexist or racist since me changing won’t make a difference”

I could only live my life, so I reduced 90 percent in 2.5 years of my life. If I lived yours, I would have reduced 90 percent in 2.5 years from yours; probably more since you had more to reduce.

Any parent, pet owner, or gardener has changed more than I have.

The problems governments and corporations can’t solve, but drive everything

You live flying distance from a spouse

You live flying distance from your parents or children

Your work requires you to fly

You live in an environment that requires a/c

You have a child and must buy them disposable things.

You live in a place that requires driving to work or to get food or other life requirements

Your neighborhood lacks acces to food, only doof.

Someone else’s neighborhood lacks access to food, only doof.

You don’t have time to sit down to drink coffee so you have to buy disposable.

You don’t have time to cook so you have to buy takeout or eat at restaurants.

You have three kids and three jobs so only have time to work and buy takeout.

Someone else has three kids and three jobs so you only have time to work and buy takeout.

You believe food at farmers markets, CSAs, and coops cost more and take more time than doof.

If cities reduced car infrastructure, you believe the following people would suffer: old, infirm, families, sick, police, fire fighters, ambulances, first responders

You believe the economy requires growth or we risk returning to the Stone Age

You believe bottled water helps the poor.


(For now short notes to myself. I’ll have to edit them)

Scams: carbon capture, offsets, green growth, decoupling, cap and trade, hydrogen, solar, wind, nuclear, fusion, etc. All tamed energy.

Lies: that lower population or market growth means stone age or apocalypse, eugenics, picking who lives or dies, government in the bedroom, just happens or happens enough by educating women and girls.

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