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: KING HENRY V 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.
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. Act. Get experience. Find the joy. Live the joy of environmental stewardship.
I've read and thought about animals going extinct. My friend and guest Lorna Davis in her TED talk talks about her love for rhinos and passion to save them. I reviewed Poached by Rachel Nuwer and I've spoken to her about poaching. I see poaching as horrific and hope it ends. But I read about how we lose wildlife. Some poaching, but even if we ended it, another greater force will keep destroying them until we deliberately act on it globally. Threat to wildlife is a little poachers, but mainly farms. History seems to treat civilization as pitting peaceful agrarian parts of humanity against violent fighting ones. But our rules and hierarchies grow more and threaten more. War and violence aren't separate from agriculture. Agriculture has led to growth and systems of ownership, rights, and organizing people to keep growing in number and using land, water, and resources. Our armies serve our expansion, creating war when we expand into other people's territory. Our colonies expand into new territories. We junk them too. People ask why I don't live in the country. I don't want to augment the pattern we've done for millennia: People find an area overcrowded They move to get away from it all They become a beacon for others, effectively becoming a colonist We pave over what was once beautiful Necessarily to protect species, we have to lower our population. Not settle to a higher number like 10 billion when we're already over capacity. We have to lower our population, meaning, if we don't want nature to do it for us with famine, disease, and other ways involving suffering, lowering our birth rate. I couldn't talk about lowering birth rate before learning about nations doing it successfully, as I described in my episodes on Alan Weisman's books (episodes 248, 250, 251, and 258), especially Countdown. These nations lowered their populations not with coercion or forced abortion like China's one child policy, nor racism like eugenics, but voluntarily, producing prosperity and stability. Rhinoceroses, great barrier reefs, and maybe a million other species may lose numbers for proximal reasons like poaching or sea temperature, but ultimately human overpopulation does it. With rhinos, we use the land they would live on. They aren't on a given plot the moment we fence it off, but they lose land they need to live off Artificial fertilizer and other technologies enable us to fence off more and more land. I love the farm my CSA vegetables come from and the food I buy directly from farmers at farmers markets I shopped at when I crossed the country last fall in LA, Ventura, Houston, and almost Atlanta. I consider them the best way to shop for food. But we have to see unchecked farming and the laws, militaries, colonial practices, finance, and growth unchecked agriculture produces as the source of extinctions. I'm not saying stop farming. I'm saying not to look at agriculture as a system as peaceful and agrarian. I'll come back more and more to lowering our population. It's not just poaching. We can't farm more without causing more extinctions.
1: The villain. People think nature, government, or corporations. It's beliefs 2: The solution. People think technology, market, innovation. It's changing beliefs. 3: Reduce, reuse, recycle. People act as if recycling helps. It only helps as part of reduce, which means not growth 4: How solving feels. People think chore, deprivation, sacrifice. It's being a part of something greater, simplifying life, applying what Victor Frankl said. Community. 5: How to lead. People think it's facts, figures, doom, gloom, blame. It's identifying what individual cares about and connecting that passion to action, starting where they are. If you want faster, it's as fast as possible, many will surprise. 6: I thought people deeply wanted to try. People want leadership, to follow. They say only 10% necessary to change, then society flips. 7: Morality and ethics. Everyone is doing what they consider best and right. May not know but ignorance isn't evil. What would you do as head of Exxon? Call someone evil who thinks they are doing best and you lose ability to influence. Empathize and you have a chance.
My notes I read from for this post: Yesterday I posted my interview on a site that strongly supports Donald Trump. I do not. Yet I described it as one of my favorite interviews. What gives? The conversation prompted thoughts on environment and politics. Read my post on the conversation and listen to the conversation for context. For more context, the guy who hosted, Rob, his profile says "Vote Red To Save America!" on Twitter, where he describes himself as "The Conservative Black Cowboy." In videos, he wears a Make America Great Again hat. Doing these things openly in New York City may only mean you're looking for a response, but I think it also means genuine, strong feelings. I read that he genuinely and authentically wanted to know about me, my history, and my actions -- not to attack or criticize but because he saw in me something he hadn't before but that he liked. His site criticized others as dupes for scientists looking to save their money among other what I would call attacks on climate activists, but he seemed to hold back from saying there were no environmental problems. I read that he was looking for a voice and story worth listening to. I may have misread him. As one person, he doesn't represent the right or Trump supporters in general, but I don't think I misread that a lot of people like him would welcome How unwelcome I felt in a blazer and collared shirt at the climate march. I suspect I impacted the environment less than most but felt unwelcome until I spoke with a friend. I don't remember the details and may have misread so can't say for sure. Even so, I consider people dressed for business the ones the crowd should have felt most comfortable since they influence so much that pollutes. Instead, it felt like there was a leftist political machine that seized on an issue to empower themselves and beat the others. That view treats others as if they want to pollute as primary goal. But no one wants to pollute as primary goal. Everyone on the left I've met pollutes more than I do. Should I conclude they pollute as a primary goal? No, they haven't figured out how to reduce their pollution yet so they keep polluting. In the meantime, they enrich themselves at the expense of others helpless to defend themselves. Just like people on the right. If I say people on the left don't care, they would say they do and something along the lines that you have to break some eggs to make an omelet and I just don't understand them. Were I to keep pushing, they'd get angry, say I don't understand them, and disengage. My ability to influence or lead them would drop through the floor. I wouldn't understand that they do care. They do want clean air, land, and water. If I understand that they care and find ways to help, they'll follow, which I do on my podcast in hundreds of conversations. Well, people on the left say people on the right don't care, but don't afford that they would say they do and something along the lines that you have to break some eggs to make an omelet. People on the right conclude those on the left just don't understand them. Those on the left keep pushing, getting everyone else angry, to say I don't understand them, and disengage. Their ability to influence or lead drops through the floor. Centuries of systems and beliefs make it difficult to live sustainably, as do uncertainties and risks. Plus our population makes it impossible, as far as I can tell, for humans to live sustainably. We all want to act. The most anyone can do is as much as we can. I find the most effective way to help people do as much as they can is through listening, understanding, and supporting. Frankly, I suspect that when the right turns their ship around and embraces environmental action, which will happen faster the more the left stops treating it as a political weapon, they wouldn't surprise me if they achieved more.
Here are the notes I read from for this episode: Ways I was wrong I usually start my story about acting more sustainably with my personal challenge to buy no packaged food for a week. In my second TEDx talk I describe how that challenge emerged from stopping eating meat, then hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, and foods where fiber had been removed, which was my proxy for overly processed food. I talk about my love for the beauty of nature, which I describe when people ask me what I ask guests, "What I think about when I think about the environment." But I hadn't shared some longstanding thoughts that didn't fit the narrative. Not that I hid them, I had just grown out of them. I rewatched a movie called The Doctor, starring William Hurt, about a doctor who remained so aloof from his patients that, however brilliant, charming, and funny, his bedside manner made being his patient miserable The movie recounts how his sickness leads to seeing the lack of caring and vulnerability in the hospital system As my tears streamed down my face watching the movie, I saw vulnerabilities I protected. Efficiency, just living in cities I thought technology would arise that would solve our environmental problems For example, fusion seemed an obvious solution. Young enough widening or building more roads seemed a solution to traffic jams, at least while I sat in them. As I learned what city planners learned, I discovered that roads often create congestion, after a brief period of relieving traffic. Carbon sequestration Birth rate reduction and China only example That I wouldn't like unpackaged food or not flying One person couldn't make a difference People wouldn't like it
I posted a few Clips from my speaking at Google to my blog. They didn't video record the whole event, but I did get the audio, so today's episode is my talk there on how to start a podcast on the environment. For better or worse, it's over two hours and the audience wasn't miked so you can't hear everything, but attendees loved it. My first goal was for attendees: How to start a podcast---in particular, how to create your first episode. The difference between zero and one episodes is huge, so I designed my talk to minimize the barriers to that first step. Behind-the-scenes stories of Seth Godin, James Altucher, Nobel laureate Seth Shelden, McKinsey’s Global Managing Director, and other guests intersperse. I share my podcast and overall environmental leadership strategy, explaining why I go for the guests I do. I share lots of anecdotes of podcast guest, including some early ones, for those of you who recently joined. I share my background on my life as it relates to environmental leadership. They booked me for over two hours, so I'm not sure how many of you will listen all the way through, but those who do will hear lots of nuggets and you'll hear me unguarded. The room was as full in the end as the beginning, so attendees found value. I've appeared on one attendee's podcast already and several others met with me since, so I think it helped. Attendees weren't miked so hard to hear them but I think you'll be able to reconstruct their questions from my answers
People talk about leadership causing ripple effects and hope that environmental action may lead to ripples. I see the potential for more. People like acting on their environmental values when they do. They just don't like being coerced or being made to feel shame or guilt. Few like going first. If most people like acting by their environmental values, someone going first may cause everyone else to crystallize into the new behavior. By crystallize, I mean that many people will change their behavior fast and across a wide scale. I can't guarantee society will change that way that fast, but I believe I see signs suggesting it will. I start today's episode with an example of podcast guest Navy SEAL officer Larry Yatch, his wife, and his sons without trying leading strangers to pick up other people's garbage from the beach. Since few people wake up and decide to pick up others' garbage, this behavior tells me people want to do it. I believe society only needs a few or even one well-known person to act to cause a major shift.
My perspective on personal action continues to evolve. In conversation with someone at an event this evening, I started realizing the meaning in asking what each of us can do and the meaninglessness of asking hypothetical questions, which make up a lot environmental talk. It this episode I talk about meaningful questions to ask instead of theoretical ones about things you can't do anything about.
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 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.