—Joshua Spodek's adventures in stewardship—

446: Wondering how you can make a difference? Action begets action.


I noticed a trend among podcast guests that the people who have already acted the most on sustainability find new things fastest. By contrast, people who do less say they're already doing all they can, or at least all they can think of. That's backward, or would be if you thought there were a limited number of things you could do. The so-called experts who themselves haven't acted promote big, Earth-saving projects which of course I support, but they end up knowing only big, complex things. Most people can't think of what to do when they want to. That the people doing the most find more to do fastest suggests the more we act the more we want to act, the more we know what we can do, the more we enjoy nature. How big or small you start matters less than if you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you'll keep acting and eventually reach big. You'll also share with others. Big acts that we share add up.

443: Nobody understands what’s so bad with climate change


Here are my notes I read from for this episode It hit me recently that nearly nobody knows what's so bad about climate change. I've started asking people and nobody knows. Actually, of the dozens I've asked, one knew, though it took prompting for her to say it. Everyone gets sea level rise, biodiversity, loss of coral reefs. I'll grant we have to move cities. But I'll respond that after some loss, we'd rebuild, which could create meaning. I'll grant more and bigger hurricanes, but I'll respond that we'll learn to build hurricane-proof buildings. Katrina's losses in lives and property, while tragic, are nothing compared to the material gains. Most people see fossil fuels brought billions out of poverty, longevity, prosperity. That trade seems worth it. You've maybe read books like The Uninhabitable Earth or ones describing the hellscape we may turn the Earth into, but most people see science and technology able to fix those problems. We'll live underground or undersea. To describe the problem I have to retell a story regular listeners have heard before. My friend Kevin and the elk. Climate change means looking back doesn't work and the collapse increases. I'll describe the problem in simple terms. It may sound moralistic or ethical, but I'll just state it like if I drop something it will fall. The sun rose this morning in the east and set this evening in the west. Dogs growl. Cats purr. And climate change would result in billions of people dying. This result is why I devote myself to changing course. My podcast is practice leading people. I plan to use my book to help lead more people and to launch big-time to reach the most influential people in society. Business people should get this most. They know how markets can drop in recessions and that companies can have to downsize. They know the pain. The problem with them is that they think, "well, we recover from recessions." They don't distinguish between people losing jobs and people losing lives. So I don't agree with the trade with Katrina, because we don't only lose thousands of lives. But as long as people see that as the loss, climate change doesn't look so bad to them. It looks bad to me.

439: How to Fix Texas


Here are the notes I read from for this episode How to fix Texas Just got off conference call a Texas attendee couldn't attend because her power was out. There are helpless people suffering. I empathize with them and feel compassion. I support helping them. If we want to prevent future suffering, we have to look at systems. That's not ignoring present pain or loss. It's preventing future pain and loss. In that call, one person had been in touch with the Texas person. She told us of ice forming inside her house and other problems. The present attendees lamented each mention of a problem as if she were suffering some horrible hardship. For tens of thousands of years, humans have lived without power including in the cold, including sudden, unexpected cold. Is it not obvious that what we call technology and innovation has made us dependent, needy, and the opposite of resilient? I'll repeat that people in hospitals, homeless, elderly, and others have always needed extra help and they do today. Nothing of what I'm saying suggests neglecting them. But she also talked about our Texas friend tweeting. However spotty, she has the internet. Let's talk systems. NYTimes headline: A Glimpse of America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids: Systems are designed to handle spikes in demand, but the wild and unpredictable weather linked to global warming will very likely push grids beyond their limits. While the proximal reasons may be technical, the systemic cause is our dual focuses on meeting demand no matter what and growth but not focusing on resilience. The result is that when demand is always met, we grow (population and consumption) until we hit problems like this. Then we build more capacity. It costs a lot to go from 99.99% uptime to 99.999%, but we do it every time. The savings to go from 99.99% uptime to 99.9% is also huge. Most of the world does fine with under 99% and we could too if we built our systems and lives to handle power going down sometimes, even unpredictably. Hospitals, elderly, etc would need special treatment. The rest of us could reduce our needs and learn from how people lived all the time for hundreds of thousands of years. We'd save tons of money, live healthier, and pollute a lot less. We'd learn to treat nature with a bit more humility and respect. Listen to my episode on why I unplugged my fridge. I didn't do it because I expected my power savings would amount to anything divided by 7.8 billion. I did it because other cultures as well as humans for hundreds of thousands of years thrived without power. While some disasters, like Vesuvius erupting, we can't defend ourselves against, we can prepare for cold without polluting. My main results for unplugging my fridge? More delicious food from increasing my skills and experience preparing it. Saving money. Increasing my freedom, decreasing my neediness. Again, repeating my compassion for helpless people in pain now, whose rescue and support I support in the moment, I suggest seeing this weather as impetus to make your life more resilient, less needy, to support a power grid more resilient and less brittle but, and a culture not so entitled, spoiled, dependent and needy that its answer to everything is something polluting more, deepening that entitlement and being spoiled. If you can't live without power dropping for a few days even in terrible weather, and you aren't someone that lions would have eaten in previous eras, you're part of the problem. Fix yourself without drawing more power and polluting everyone else's world. If your society suffers from the only way it handles problems is to use more power, polluting more, leading to suffering from by people who aren't polluting so much, which for Americans means the entire rest of the world outside Saudi Arabia and its oil producing peers and maybe some insanely rich tax havens in the Caribbean, fix your society. Changing culture and systems begins with changing values. In this case from coddling, spoiling, externalizing costs, and ignoring others' suffering to resilience and freedom.

438: Avoiding Creating Garbage, Advanced Edition


When they hear I take two years to fill a load of trash, people ask how I do it, what's in my trash. In this episode I share a couple stories from last week of facing things entering my life that would result in my having to take responsibility for trash---acquiring a new cell phone and acquiring bagged food. I've done things like these processes enough to know that they result in joy, community, and connection. It may sound like too much effort or annoying. Regarding too much effort, I put the stories in context of how much people put effort and time into TV and gyms, which my practiced lead to saving time and money, resulting in plenty to spare. Regarding annoying, I used to think so, but you'll hear that my interactions as they happen, not how you might erroneously imagine, result in more understanding. Some day our culture will prevent things like these interactions happening. We'll look at single-use packaging how we look at asbestos.

436: You’re right, it’s not fair!


The notes I read from for this episode: It's not fair! Back from picking up litter Forecast, a few inches of snow Just want coffee, not to dispose. Ancestors could Just want to travel, not pollute. Don't want to think about others all the time Just want to relax Tons of trash from last snow Asked cafe to ask people not to litter around trash Not our responsibility, city, customers Someone else, some other time, never me, never now Yet improves life So no, it's not fair. Others got to do without thinking what if we do, we hurt others, people far away But any parent knows responsibility improves, stewardship If we live by their values, tragic If we live by values of cultures that have endured, joy, community, connection So no, it's not fair, but what will you do about it What will you do about your contribution? Not zero. Lament? Take responsibility? Live in past? Create future?

431: I sang every day for two months, unplugged (still going)


What do you do if you use less power? No social media? No listening to music? No TV? Sound like a fate worse than death? Inspired by guests on my podcast who find amazing activities to live by their environmental values, I committed to turning off all my electronics to sing every day. I've almost never sung in my life beyond Happy Birthday and The Star Spangled Banner so I'm mortified to play my remedial results live, but I love it. I know I'll keep going so today's recording isn't the end. I recorded singing a couple songs at the beginning. to record I opened the laptop, all other times I sang with the power off. At night I had to open the door to the hallway to read the words with my apartment lights out until I started singing outside during my daily walks picking up litter. So far I've spent zero dollars. The first two weeks I sang fifteen minutes a day. Later I shifted to at least one song, so a few minutes a day. Today's episode starts with my describing the experience and a few stories, then with neither pride nor shame, I play the "before" recording, then the "after." The track listing: Before 14:42 The Beatles, Across the Universe 19:30 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps After 22:40 The Beatles, Across the Universe 26:28 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps 28:44 John Denver, I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane 31:26 Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi 33:01 Spandau Ballet, True 36:12 The Cure, Pictures of You 38:54 Earth, Wind, and Fire, September 42:19 Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land

429: What about jobs?


"What about jobs?" people often ask to counter proposals to constrain some activity. Today's episode answers. Here are the notes I read from: What about jobs? People out of work drain on society, not so happy Store near me that sells trinkets Of any value? I'd prefer a hug, shoulder rub, or make me dinner Many stages to make: plastic from oil, factory to make, transportation, store clerk Factory, put near landfill What about trucks and boats? Better to drive and sail around in circles Absurd, but actually better world paying to do worthless work with more hugs, shoulder rubs, and home-made dinners, oil in ground, people not displaced, skies clearer Classic historical case of buggy whips If legislated, people wouldn't die. People out of work now clamor to work. People love to serve. I don't know where people's faith in entrepreneurship goes. Constraints breed creativity. Need problem to exist to solve it. If you wait for planned jobs to exist before demand, will never happen. If you keep going in counterproductive industries, we'll destroy Earth's ability to sustain life and society. Economists are incredibly wrong in this area, especially free-market, Ayn Rand types. I'm studying Edwards Deming. Japan: government and industry post WWII did what would be anticompetitive in U.S., but transformed nation and world, more happiness and products, no shortage of competition. Have you seen pictures of Sao Paolo before and after banning billboards. So I'm pretty sure that if we outlawed just producing dioxins and PFOS and carcinogens and created some jobs programs to teach Initiative, which would be enough, or something better if you know, as other nations without our addiction problems do, we'd improve the world by everyone's standards, including the free-market, Ayn Rand types. I think at the root is a belief that people want to be lazy. I just don't see it in at least 99%. If last 1% say 5% scare you, are you really going to let your fears of 5% of people drive economic policy to ecological ruin? I would much rather have shoulder-rubs, dinner made for me, or to make dinner for her, hugs, and what entrepreneurs come up with than destroyed planet. Remember, all those trinkets mean extracting oil for materials, to drive factories, truck, boats, etc to deliver, $1.6B to haul away.

426: Why unplug?


I'm in my second month since I unplugged my fridge. Why unplug it? Not because I think its power makes anything more than a negligible difference. This episode describes why. Here are my notes I read from: The other two reasons I unplug the fridge. The first was after reading Vietnam and much of the world ferments, I was curious to learn fermentation. Second is reading how much backup power a grid needs to maintain perfect uptime. Resilience. Each bit after 99% costs a lot more. Alternatively, 95% requires almost no backup. Third is to learn and grow myself. Neediness and entitlement, especially to things that hurt others and nobody needed for hundreds of thousands of years, doesn't make me better person. Do you know anyone spoiled? Do you describe them as "You know what I love about Kate? She's spoiled and acts entitled."

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