343: Chad Pregracke: One River, One Piece of Garbage at a Time
Many people suggest people as guests who are doing “environmental things”. They don’t know my strategy with this podcast, which I describe in my solo episode Clarifying my strategy. The crux is that I focus on leadership and bringing leaders to the environment before focusing on the environment. I consider our behavior the problem to change. Environmental degradation results from behavior.
Most people are trying to make some process more efficient, like making cars electric or use less plastic in some process. That’s management. It accepts the values of a system that pollutes, and generally augmenting and accelerating it: Uber doesn’t decrease miles driven. It increases it.
Chad started Living Lands and Waters, a non-profit where people get in the river and clean garbage. It started with just him and grew to huge. Here are some videos profiling their work.
I looked at what Chad does and can see what others might: one person won’t make a difference, even the organization won’t, it doesn’t scale. Silicon Valley wouldn’t get it.
Read former guest Anand Giridharadas‘s Winners Take All to get how sickening “doing well by doing good” is. Anand treats the problem of contributing to the problem while feeling you deserve thanks for acting like you’re solving it. He on economic disparity, not the environment, but the pattern is the same.
Chad shows the joy, community, and connection in doing the work—that is, he’s changing the values we act on. You can tell because he works himself, with his hands. He doesn’t tell others to do it instead, in part because he enjoys the work. He met the woman he married picking up garbage.
I heard a guy doing what everyone says is tilting at windmills, enjoying it. He’s changing culture by living the change and bringing others on board.
In a world many people throw up their hands and lament that they can’t make a difference, he’s enjoying himself and cleaning the world, leading others to change. If you say, “But it’s not enough,” well, do your equivalent. He outperformed his expectation and he’s enjoying himself.
I brought him on because I envision a world where, like him, everyone does their part. That’s cultural change. Cleaning the world and keeping it that way means changing culture. You can be jaded and holier than thou. Or you can get your hands dirty, work, and enjoy a life of stewardship, responsibility, joy, community, and connection.