—Systemic change begins with personal change—

(Formerly Leadership and the Environment)

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Leadership turns feeling alone and complacent into action.

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679: Alan Ereira, part 2: The world through Kogis' eyes

March 24, 2023
Professor of Practice at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David (Athro Ymarfer Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant) Founder/chairman of the Tairona Heritage Trust, working to amplify the voice of the Kogi (Kaggaba) people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. In Alan's words: I have worked for many years making historical documentaries, mostly for the BBC, and writing books on history. From 1995 I worked closely with the late Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) making documentaries and writing. I now concentrate on writing history and contributing to anthropological works.  I am involved in the UNESCO/BRIDGES initiative to bring perspectives together from humanities, social science and traditional knowledge, to inform research, education and action for global sustainability. The Kogi (or Kágaba, meaning "jaguar" in their language) are an indigenous group living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in northern Colombia. Their culture has continued since the Pre-Columbian era.
Alan Ereira

679: Alan Ereira, part 2: The world through Kogis' eyes

I was very curious to learn more about the Kogi and Alan's interactions with them.

Alan is deeply involved with their joint project to learn to restore nature as they have shown they can. "Restoring nature" doesn't do justice for what they are doing. They are also sharing different ways of seeing and interacting with the world, which, as I understand from Alan, is not how they see the world.

Alan starts with a couple descriptions of how the Kogis view things differently than Europeans, including in ways we wouldn't have suspected were different. How does a medieval castle look to someone who has never seen a stone building? If they see something a typical European sees daily, how much else are we misunderstanding? What are we missing?

Their process for planting includes steps before planting of contemplation. What are they doing? What are we missing? Can we learn from them? Can we learn from them before we wreck them and ourselves?

What else about nature are we missing? How common are their views to other cultures that our polluting culture hasn't wrecked yet?

Show Notes

678: My talk to the International Society of Sustainability Professionals

March 20, 2023

The International Society of Sustainability Professionals invited me to speak to their New York Chapter. Here is that recording. We "whooshed" out the participants' words, so it's just my speaking. Their mission is "ISSP empowers professionals to advance sustainability in organizations and communities around the globe."

I described my work, my path to get here, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, how you can't lead others to live by values you live the opposite, and concepts relevant to sustainability leadership.

I didn't take them to task as much as I could have for living unsustainably, undermining their credibility and trust.

677: Roz Savage, part 1: It's Doable and You Can Do It. One Oar Stroke at a Time

March 14, 2023

Roz could have stopped at rowing solo across oceans to world records, awards, and national honors.

She didn't. She had done those things for a purpose: helping make our world more livable, less polluted. They gave her greater skills to appreciate her purpose and implement it better.

As with most people, the challenges looked insurmountable to her. But unlike most people, she had once made a list to row across an ocean and, finding no impossible steps, she did it. Over and over. It's easy to look at her today and figure, "of course she could do it. She's an ocean rower. She was born that way," or something like that. But before she did it, she was a disgruntled employee and spouse looking for meaning and a way to improve her world, not a record-holding athletic champion.

So also unlike most people, she looked at what sustainability would take, saw no impossible steps, and knew she could help achieve it. That's my read.

I would have been happy to host her for the athletic achievements alone, but they were all stepping stones for greater service to humanity.

She describes her latest book, The Ocean in a Drop and her life experience and goals.

676: Paulina Porizkova, part 1: No Filter

March 11, 2023

One of the most famous supermodels, Paulina needs no introduction.

She's here because mutual friends introduced us and her recent book, No Filter, that tells a different story than you'd expect of the once-most-highly-paid model. It deserves the positive reviews from the New York Times and elsewhere. As she describes in our conversation, she spent formative years behind the iron curtain, ingraining in her how to thrive with less, not more, which she caries with her until today. She also wasn't always considered beautiful. I'll leave you to read the book to learn about the toilet bowl incident we allude to in our conversation.

In any case, you'll hear someone much more approachable, humble, and resilient that you'd expect.

We recorded in the winter. She agreed to meet me in Washington Square Park to pick up litter together when the weather warmed up. Since models make great role models, the event could help change minds, behavior, and culture. I can't wait to tell you how it went.

675: Derek Sivers, part 1: Leading versus Exploring Frontiers

March 8, 2023

I bring leaders from all areas to sustainability. The challenges to changing culture to sustainability aren't in technology, science, journalism, activism, or politics, though all those fields are relevant. Their practitioners generally aren't skilled in what changes culture: the social and emotional skills of leadership. Most people don't know that living more sustainably improves their lives, not the reversion to the Stone Age or Mad Max apocalypse our culture teaches us to fear.

From the start of the conversation, Derek distinguished that he sees himself as an explorer, not a leader. He's exploring the frontiers of life following his whim or what he finds around him. He suggests that leaders give more direction to others to help them follow. He acknowledged with a "touché" that he does have a lot of followers, one of my main measures of a leader.

The next day, he posted to his page some related thoughts in, Explorers are bad leaders, which sparked lively debate in his comments. Many suggested more overlap than you might think.

His distinction led me to consider my role. I hadn't thought about seeing myself as exploring the frontier, but I have been. When I've had the option of leading others and exploring more frontier, I've generally chosen to explore more frontier.

Some examples: avoiding packaged food seemed impossible and took me six months to start. When I succeeded, instead of helping others follow that difficult challenge, sharing recipes and how I did it, I then chose not flying. Avoiding flying seemed harder than avoiding packaged food. When I succeeded in making a better life without it, instead of helping people along, I unplugged my fridge, then my apartment.

Maybe I'm exploring the frontier of sustainability more than leading. Still, it's funny to call a frontier territory where all humans lived for 300,000 years. I'm working on developing leadership skills and techniques that work.

Anyway, listen to the episode to hear how Derek got me thinking about my role and what's next for sustainability. We geek out on emacs, vi, and such things. I think I can safely say he sounded intrigued and will likely be back.

674: Oliver Burkeman, part 1: Time Management and Sustainability for Mortals

March 3, 2023

Oliver's book Four Thousand Weeks deserves the incredible praise it gets. I've recommended it to many friends and can't for the life of me put into words how he refines and changes how I look at time, priorities, how to choose what to do, why, and how to feel about it.

The best I can come up with is that instead of worrying what I'm missing or craving doing what I can't, which leads to a life of feeling like I'm missing out and scarcity, it leads me to construct and build, which makes me feel abundant. I can enjoy what I am doing instead of missing what I'm not. It forces me to think deeper questions than just what would increase my productivity. Productivity doesn't help if I'm pointed in the wrong direction.

His views resonate with me because I've transformed similarly in how I look at consuming natural resources. Stopping flying, for example, led me from craving visiting places I heard of to realizing the best I can do is enjoy where I am with whom I am as much as possible. The result: I get the life value I wanted without polluting. If I do travel, things I would have disdainfully dismissed as small, like biking somewhere and camping overnight bring me more value than trips I flew to.

I think it's fair to say we connected meaningfully and learned from each other. Listen to hear for yourself, but I think the Spodek Method resonated with Oliver more than most.

673: Jim Oakes, part 2: Can We Go From Abolition to Anti-Pollution?

February 26, 2023

My passion for the possibility of doing for pollution what abolitionists did to slavery: transform it from something normal, as if part of nature, to forever seen as wrong. The more I learn the difficulty of conceiving of the Thirteenth Amendment, banning slavery, let alone passing it, the more possible a parallel amendment on pollution seems.

Jim and I continue our conversation on abolition's history, mainly from the vantage point of his book Freedom National. I understand a lot more of the history of thirteen slave colonies becoming thirteen slave states then a nation of free and slave states, then with the Thirteenth Amendment, a free nation of thirty-six free states. Jim knows it backward and forward. He helps clarify that history for me and you.

Then we consider applying lessons from history to today. Jim also clarifies what a movement today would need.

I love finding history so relevant.

672: Chris Bailey, part 2: How to Calm Your Mind

February 22, 2023

Bringing back Chris for first time since five years ago. Since then, his last book got big, as we briefly discussed.

We started talking about meditation and at a high level, framed the conversation to come on how the mind works, outside our control, though we don't notice. More framing: we talk about intention and action, meaning and purpose.

The topic of his new book How to Calm Your Mind is interesting to me because I see billions of people on autopilot, sleepwalking into polluting ourselves into oblivion. We spend most of our lives reacting, avoiding the feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, and often guilt and shame keeping us from facing that we are powerful, not powerless.

Chris shares a moment of anxiety, becoming burned out that prompted his research into calming down. That moment was performing on stage in front of an audience.

His research found that a book was missing and he wrote it. He describes how to calm your mind and to avoid losing our calm and our cultural imperative to achieve more, absent a measure of enough.

We share our experiences in our journeys. Calming one's mind and pulling back from "more" and chasing dopamine overlap with sustainability.

671: How Pulling Off a Challenging Day Off Grid Feels

February 17, 2023

Last night I had trouble falling asleep because before getting in bed, I noticed I had to record two podcast episodes first thing in the morning but I wanted to cook some stew, the forecast was for rain all day, and didn't think my battery had enough charge to pull everything off. Plus I had lots of computer work to do, which would use more energy from the battery. I could always rely on my "cheat" to charge my computer and phone at NYU, but I prefer not to. I'm trying to avoid polluting. I also didn't have enough time between calls and obligations to walk to NYU without possibly missing the beginnings of calls.

I found more and more ways to avoid needing battery energy. Toward the end of the day, I realized I not only would I achieve everything, I wouldn't need to go to NYU and use any grid power.

I happened to have a call just when some sun shone before sunset; not enough to charge from but enough to make me feel great. I commandeered the beginning of the call to share how I felt, recorded it, edited his parts out, and here it is.

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