Here are the notes I read this episode from: I see human population decreasing the Earth's ability to sustain life and human society. I have a goal of increasing that ability. Actually two goals: my other goal is for people to enjoy the process. This isn't about coercion but joy. If our human population is over what the Earth can sustain, then restoring that balance. Many people view CO2, methane, plastic, and the like as the enemy. We use them, we like them, or making them. They have no volition anyway. They react to our behavior. Some identify Exxon, Trump, or other people. But we spend money on Exxon and we do what Trump does. Paris Agreement example, SUVs, take out Some identify inequality. Poverty and outsourcing make it easier to pollute But we had inequality before without so much destruction. Some identify lack of education, but scientists pollute. US is educated and pollutes. Not an intellectual issue. An emotional issue. Our emotions and motivations result in part from systems, but we could change the systems and we aren't. Sure some people are changing systems within their companies to make them more efficient, but I've spoken in many episodes how increasing efficiency doesn't lead to reducing total waste. Our emotions result from our beliefs, which are the goals of our culture. The enemy, if that's the right term, are beliefs driving our economic system, driving growth and externalizing costs. Also beliefs leading us to keep doing what we're doing. Here are the biggest enemies against maintaining or restoring Earth's ability to sustain life and human society First the common ones, then the biggest of all If I act but no one else does, then what I do doesn't matter These little things aren't worth doing but these big things are too big I'll make this process more efficient (while making the overall system pollute more efficiently) Satisfying this desire now will lead me to do it less later. Government should change, or corporations, or others first. There should be a law to change my behavior Acting sustainably is a burden, a chore, a distraction from what I really want to do Acting sustainably hurts jobs Maybe in general I shouldn't but this time is justified. Not growing means stagnation, instability, a return to the stone age, early deaths, women in chains, and losing all progress. I can't change my values. Society can't change its values. I'm behaving this way for logical, rational reasons (as opposed to wanting an outcome and rationalizing it however your mind can, however unconsciously) These enemies are within us. Being in us makes them insidious but it also makes them completely within our abilities to change. Change these beliefs and everything will follow. There's still the question of time, since we don't have long and manifesting the change takes time. But if you hold these beliefs, you are almost certainly decreasing Earth's ability to sustain life and human society. If you think changing your beliefs won't change much, I suggest that not changing them vetoes everything you do. More importantly, life with the opposites of these beliefs is happier, more joyful, less guilt-ridden, connects you with people more, creates community, builds community, and is healthier. The opposite is Acting on my environmental values creates joy, community, and connection Taking responsibility for how my behavior affects others connects me with people and creates community Stewardship brings joy and connection Pollution and waste create disgust What I do matters
Here are the notes I read from for this episode. I've talked about what I call The Worst Problem in the World for about ten years, so I'm used to it and worked from scarce notes. The problem Example: Germans and Jamaicans In environment: people say others don't care Makes people feel misunderstood, disengage, makes you seem judgmental Repels people we want to help most What to do instead: respond with curiosity When I don't understand someone, I can learn from them My multi-month conversation with a skeptic taught me more about my understanding than with any supporter More than improve understanding about environment, helped me improve my ability to lead others
The notes I wrote and read from for this episode: Leadership means changing beliefs and goals. If you're doing anything else, you're following and perpetuating the system that created the results. Greater efficiency, recycling, reusing, etc are following, just accelerating, unless you change the goals. Are you clearly and overwhelmingly opposing growth and externalizing costs? If not, you're polluting. My most important goal is not efficiency. It will come if I achieve my goal. I talk a lot about how growth and externalizing costs produce pollution. My goal is not to reduce population and take responsibility. They will come if I achieve my goal. My goal is to change the beliefs that cause the behavior that produces the results. If you lower the population but keep the beliefs, we'll get back here. If we change our beliefs, the change will come. Only if we change our beliefs will change come. "Be fruitful and multiply" and "you have dominion" and "growth is good" and "a rising tide lifts all boats" . . . these are the causes of environmental problems. And one more, beneath them all: "acting in harmony with nature is a burden or chore." Change that one belief to "It's a joy, delicious, community, and connection" will change everything in time. Absent that change, any other change will revert, unless it changes that in some way. Nobody is doing it so I am. Whether I am succeeding or not I don't know, but I consider it the most important goal, now that the science is clear.
Here is the text I read from for this post, but I would just listen to the recording. My environmental role models Why my role models? Because people keep saying what I do is inaccessible. That it's too much or extreme. That they need to balance. Well everyone believes they're balanced. I have to balance too. My difference is that I keep moving toward my values. Instead of letting Americans, the most polluting people in history, be my comparison, I find new role models. It's community. Once you start polluting less, actually putting effort in, not just straws or the latest trendy thing, but based on your passion, you'll find role models and keep doing more to live by your values because you'll like it. Bea Johnson Author of Zero Waste Home, which I read and recommend as well as 4 TEDx talks Family of four, less than a load per year My response to everyone who knee-jerk responds, "Oh, you don't have kids. If you had kids then you'd understand." Well, she has two kids and avoiding garbage brings them together, as it will everyone who tries instead of claiming helplessness. Her book on zero-waste living led me to find new waste to get rid of, including cutting down on mailings. Emailing and calling places to remove me from their lists is satisfying and returns control. Her TEDx talk on why we should recycle less is the first big public statement I know of to avoid recycling as much as possible in favor of not polluting, since recycling is polluting unnecessarily. Of course all living requires polluting, but recycling is closer to full waster than to benign. Her clean home and family camaraderie inspire me. She's been a guest on this podcast and we email periodically. Kris De Berger His site called Low Tech magazine inspires simple living minimizing relying on fossil fuels. He shows what is possible, especially what we used to do, often easily, that we then replaced with fossil fuels, like how to move 100 ton blocks of stone, growing plants before greenhouses, and many fun things we've traded for a sedentary, polluting lifestyle. You know how it took decades for people to realize building roads created traffic, not relieved it? He finds similar patterns, like how our push for energy security is making us less secure and increasing efficiency often leads to greater total waste. He does what he talks about. For example, he runs a solar-powered server, he installed a shower that uses a fraction of a regular shower. He shows a low energy future is possible and desirable. I invited him to be on the podcast but haven't heard back. Lauren Singer Did a TEDx talk, probably the first I saw of all the people's here so inspired me early She also cites Bea Johnson as a role model She was the first person I'd heard of creating a mason jar of landfill waste per year, which enables me not to compare myself with Americans on my waste, which is meaningless because they are about the most trash producing in history She went to NYU and students of mine knew her or were connected. I forget the details. I invited her as a guest, but we haven't finished coordinating She started a store for products that replace disposable stuff. I've met a couple employees from the time I cooked for 50 people in Brooklyn North Farms with almost nothing to throw away after Rob Greenfield His YouTube channel is the best source of his work. Reminds me of Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me. Rob is nearing the end of a year eating only food he grew or foraged. He did a lot of attention-getting stunts to call attention to our culture's waste. This project shows a level of maturity that suggests significantly more to come. He rides his bike a lot. I've considered moving to Orlando to participate, especially when I interviewed Orlando's mayor for this podcast. He's been a guest on this podcast and we email periodically. David Gardner Host of the GrowthBusters podcast Besides running for office, he's one of the only people I know to promote reducing the population It's his passion. He's taking on one of our biggest taboos, or sacred cows, which is also the most necessary change necessary to pull out of our mess. It also may be the most misunderstood or overlooked part of our environmental problems. People just assume because the population is increasing less -- not decreasing -- that things will work out. All relevant signs I know of say we're over the carrying capacity already, making collapse imminent. He's been a guest on this podcast and we email periodically. I've been on his too. My mom and sister For food and gardening
People littering is creepy, like a tick or other parasite. It gets under my skin. I don't like it, but if I want to help people stop their parasitical, tick-like behavior, I feel it helps to understand them. Leadership rests on empathy, which sometimes means understanding the feelings and motivations of people who do things you consider disgusting or creepy, like buying coffee in disposable cups knowing it pollutes but acting ignorant or like it doesn't.
Here are the notes I read from to make this episode, sometimes diverging from them. Why I don't call our environmental situation a crisis. People think scientists will solve something or engineers will create a solution and we can go back to before. We will never return to this lifestyle, which, by the way, is a tremendous advance if you value happiness, stewardship, enjoying what you have, and compassion over craving what you don't have and not caring how you affect others. Within your lifetime, planes will never fly you without severely hurting others. Same with having more than one child, eating meat, eating to being overweight especially eating factory farmed or industrial farmed food, and you know the top things. Some rich people will be able to do what they want because edge cases always exist, but for most people, today's way of life is nearly over. I repeat, you'll be glad after the transition for the same reason cocaine users are glad to kick their habits even if it meant the end of partying like they used to. The sooner we get this shift into our thick skulls, the sooner we'll stop trying to retain what is resulting in opiates, sugar, alcohol, other addiction, poverty, dissatisfaction with our communities where everyone feels like they have to get thousands of miles away several times a year, etc. Never in human history could we get far from home without major effort. Now we feel entitled to it. And the result is dispersing what would be community into I don't know what to call the opposite of community. Loneliness? Why are we surprised at all the addiction? I'm familiar with Steven Pinker's work that we're living in the best time ever, but I'm not comparing to a past including two world wars and dropping atomic bombs on each other but a future in which we steward the land, air, and water based on cultural values and practices currently talked about but actually practiced by nearly no one. When we get it through our thick skulls and actually practice them, we will replace growth, meaning always wanting more never content with what you have, with enjoying what you have. Plenty of human societies have lasted far longer than since the industrial revolution without growth, whereas ours is destroying the Earth's ability to sustain wildlife and human society in a couple centuries. Economists removed from regular life don't get this. We will also replace externalizing costs, which means dishing off your waste to others, generally who are helpless to defend themselves, with stewardship, or taking responsibility for how your behavior affects others. Any parent knows that taking responsibility means that yes, you can't party and travel like you used to, but the joys and rewards are greater. It's hard to start, but when you say, "I'm going to do whatever it takes to make this baby healthy" you overcome every challenge that comes, no matter how prepared you felt. In fact, the bigger the challenge, the greater your feeling of reward. The challenges of environmental stewardship is nothing compared to parenthood. Today polluting pollutes not only defenseless, but ourselves. We have filled the world withs that much garbage, greenhouse gases, and poison and we have so filled the world with ourselves that we can't escape it. The result of that shift will be a world with abundance for all, with a stable population well below carrying capacity, for reasons I described in episode ?. That means for several generations we'll have on average below 2 babies per couple and our economies will shift to a steady state economy, as other, more enduring and stable cultures have done for longer than we've been around and without the opiate addiction. There will be problems. There will be wars, but not threatening all of human society or millions of species. Anyway, I wanted to share why I think of the environmental situation as a shift or transition, not a crisis.
I've been sharing the sentiment of how people today seem to think of our times versus how people from other times would see now. I expect they'd view us with horror, disgust, and disdain. We can change how we act. We can turn this situation around. Today's post reprises that perspective. Here are the note I wrote that I worked from: People say homeless live better than kings before. TVs, fly around the world, any fruit or vegetable any time of the year, music any time you want, meat without meat, etc. They think any one from any time would prefer now to then. That we live in the most wondrous of times. Sure there are some disagreements, might not like this politician or that social problem, but materially, they think we're better than ever. I think future generations will not envy us but look at us with horror and disgust, maybe disdain. That we chose to go to Paris all the time and destroy Earth's ability to sustain life and human society for our fleeting selfish pleasure. If they live in a world we polluted, I suspect they will wonder how we could have neglected caring for others in exchange for polluting with little to show for it but social media pictures that look like everyone else's, addiction, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, not seeing our families under the guise of seeing our families because flying separates us, otherwise we wouldn't have to fly to see them. Eating whatever we want and not caring that we destroy the land and water. On the flipside, those of us who change, I believe they will look back on as heroes if we turn things around. If they live in a world only a little more polluted than ours because some of us, maybe you, took a stand against the prevailing winds, stood our ground, and dare I say, enjoyed our communities, connected with people around us. What does it say about your community if like most people with a certain amount of discretionary income, you say "I have to get away from here sometimes?" Annually. Probably more than annually? Today is our chance to enjoy each other, unmitigated by material junk, craving to be elsewhere, neglecting others, and externalizing costs. If you haven't, give it a shot. Create your world. Think of something you care about, think of a way to act on it, and act, without waiting for someone to tell you what. The more you figure out the more value you'll find. Let me know how it goes.
When we pollute, we think we act for the reasons in our minds that justify that behavior, but those reasons generally come after we choose, motivated to justify behavior we consider wrong. Most environmental analysis looks at the science of what pollutes more or less. Today I look at the mental processes and emotions behind choosing polluting behavior. Almost always pollution results in separating yourself from others---you don't want to pollute your world. Avoiding polluting connects you with others because you account for your effect on them. Acting sustainably and regeneratively build community and connection. I suggest that when you get this pattern and internalize it, you will stop trying to justify what you've been doing that pollutes and that those behaviors and results will create disgust in you. You'll prefer that disgust to the blissful ignorance it replaces.
I believe many people believe we live in an age of wonder and that people from any other time would envy us. I believe future generations will not look at our flying and pollution not with envy but with horror, as we look at slave holders and people who didn't resist Hitler. The sooner we get that into our thick skulls, the sooner we'll enjoy life with less craving, excuses and acting like spoiled brats. How many spoiled brats do you know where you think, I like how spoiled that person is, I'd like to be like them? But they don't know it, do they? So we don't know it either, spoiled brats that we are, telling ourselves we can't live without eating pizza in Napoli before we die while putting local farms out of business eating vegetables flown from wherever. Or could we live so future generations see us how we see Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, or Oskar Schindler?
People keep describing my environmental actions as praiseworthy. I think they do it to make it seem harder and less accessible to do themselves what they expect will be hard, deprivation, sacrifice, and not what they want to do. Making what I do sound good makes what they do normal. I prefer to see not polluting as normal and polluting as abnormal and worth changing. I feel that praising someone for not polluting is like praising someone for not kicking puppies or abusing their children. I suggest seeing not kicking puppies as normal and kicking them as abnormal. This episode explores this perspective.
A few words on growth and how people misunderstand it, especially economists. I start by talking about my window garden cherry tomato plants and how the inability of the insects eating them to regulate their growth and up destroying the plants and thereby their own population. Can we outdo bugs? I'm not sure. An educated friend showed surprise to me that his having four or five kids is one of the biggest effects he could have on the environment. How can we not get this? People don't seem to think in this area but instead parrot knee-jerk irrelevancies that distract from that if we don't control our population, nature will for us, which will be painful on a scale we've never faced. We can replace the cultural value of growth with enjoying what you have. When I learned to enjoy what I have more, growth started looking more like craving. I haven't seen craving make for a great life.