—Systemic change begins with personal change—

(Formerly Leadership and the Environment)

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583: Growthbusters called me extreme, so I responded

May 21, 2022
My solo episodes are a podcast-within-a-podcast: my views on relevant topics. Volume 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17
Solo Episodes, volume 18

583: Growthbusters called me extreme, so I responded

The notes I read from for this episode:

Notes for Growthbusters comments

  • I love the Growthbusters documentary and helped fund making it free online. I listen to every episode of the podcast. They know I love them and their message and I would only comment on them out of love and support.
  • They quoted and commented on an email I sent them and have to comment back.
  • They’ve hosted me on the podcast. Dave Gardner has been on mine. We’ve become friends and have many mutual friends and colleagues who agree on our environmental problems and that more solar panels and windmills won’t solve them.
  • They’re serious but fun and funny, plus geeky, like me.
  • Recent episode, number 69 coincidentally for the immature out there like me, read an email I sent commenting on a previous episode’s guest. The guest had reduced his consumption based on one among many environmental problems, global warming, trying to consume little enough that if everyone lived that way we’d keep to 1.5 degrees Celsius warming.
  • Regular listeners will see my problems. The small one: Why only look at one symptom? Global warming results from our behavior, which results from our beliefs, images, role models, stories, . . . culture. If we don’t change our culture, we’ll resist and push back on living in what we consider deprivation, sacrifice, burden, and chore.
  • The big one: why present living sustainably as deprivation, sacrifice, burden, and chore? It’s not, as I’ve learned from getting a lot closer, dropping my footprint over 90 percent in under three years. More importantly, I recognize that most of 300,000 of homo sapiens history we’ve lived sustainably. Yet more importantly, I’ve learned that our ancestors didn’t live on the verge of starvation or working non-stop, except when human culture made it that way. Most of the time, things weren’t paradise, we faced challenges, but cultures that ours colonized—and if you use computers, drive a car, fly, and order takeout, you’re a part of this culture, though you don’t have to be, or at least you can try to live sustainably and exit it, otherwise, as long as you pay for unsustainable things, you’re helping drive it—most of the time other cultures lived with higher or at least similar marks of health, longevity, stability, resilience, and what we value.

Here’s a clip from that podcast episode, reading my email.

[play clip]

A few comments

  • First, I loved Dave’s laugh at “There’s Josh for you. He is really good at living a small-footprint lifestyle.” Dave knows me and how I live. It was a friendly laugh. He knows I listen to every episode.
  • “Lead by example”. I’m not leading by example. Experience has taught me that people can look at someone doing what they could and lie to themselves that they can’t, that there’s something special about me that I can or about them that they can’t. Lying to themselves is easier than facing the guilt and shame of hurting people. Believing themselves helpless means they can believe they aren’t responsible and can keep doing what they were doing.
  • I’m living by my values. I’m happy if people see me as a role model, but I don’t expect it. I lead in other ways.
  • “Being extreme.” Here’s the quote that I have to comment on. And it will lead to a gut check with Dave and Stephanie.
  • “Extreme” implies values, as does “middle ground” and “balance.” Everyone is extreme by someone else’s views. They are extreme to Newt Gingrich. Should they balance his values with theirs?
  • Nobody calls me extreme for using zero heroin or killing zero people, but zero is as extreme as I can go.
  • Everyone I talk to says they are balancing, that extreme is too much. What are you balancing with if one side is sustainability? How can the answer be anything but growth and unsustainability? People will say family, work, making money, but it doesn’t change that they are fueling growth and driving a system we are trying to change. Nobody said changing systems is easy, but systemic change begins with personal change.
  • Our greatest challenge is not finding theoretical solutions on degrowth. I can give you dozens of plans that would work if more people agreed with them. But they don’t, because they’re balancing other values. They’re living by other values.
  • If we want others to live by values like sustainability and stewardship, how can we influence them if we live by the excuses they do? If they hear us live by growth, why shouldn’t they? What’s the difference?
  • Every person who resist degrowth agrees they prefer clean air, land, food, and water to polluted and nearly all say they have to balance, not be extreme.
  • I would only ask this challenging a question if I had discovered that every step toward sustainability, while often hard at first, improved my life and that there is nothing special about me in how being humble to nature reveals our shared humanity, what we love and makes us thrive.
  • When I hear someone say I’m extreme, it sounds like calling a parent who changes their child’s diaper every time as soon as they know it needs changing extreme. Parents change their lives far more than I have. In all my sustainability work, I’ve never gotten someone else’s poop on me, nor paid tens of thousands of dollars for others’ education.
  • If you own a pet or garden, you’ve changed your life more than I have. If you own a car, you’ve sacrificed more. If you eat takeout or McDonald’s, you spend more on your indulgences than I do on my basics.
  • “It’s okay for Lloyd to set an example of living a 1.5 degree lifestyle that many many people aren’t close to.” My point isn’t the logistics of how to do it, nor the tactics, strategy, or mission, but above all our values and character. No one raises their kid halfway. We do it out of love, passion, joy, fun, and all sorts of reward, no matter how much poop, vomit, injuries, failing grades, and challenges of family life.
  • My goal is to help people live by values of stewardship and freedom our culture has led us to suppress so much we think we should balance them with dishwashers and flying to vacation.
  • If you want to experience the world, get rid of your bucket list. If you want to love your family, don’t fly to visit them rarely.
  • I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing too hard on them. On the contrary, I believe that all of us, when we switch cultures, will wish we had earlier. Am I overstating myself or speaking out of ignorance, not being a parent, that I feel like I’m suggesting to a parent who abuses their child that they’ll prefer not abusing it? I don’t want to suggest nature or Earth are human children, but we sure are abusing them.
  • When you pursue sustainability enough, you go through many transitions. One big one is from thinking of yourself first, as in “but I want to see my family” to justify flying or “but I had a headache” to justify buying water in a plastic bottle, as one of my NYU students did this semester, to thinking of the people displaced from their land, actually helpless to stop our pollution from entering their lungs, stomachs, and arteries.
  • If I sound uncompromising, it’s because nature is uncompromising. Too many people measure their sustainability action by how much they feel like they tried. That’s why they say it’s so hard, so that every little bit counts for a lot. But two things. One, nature doesn’t respond to your feelings, it responds to your actions. “How much did you pay for pollution?” is the main question, along with “How much did you pay to displace people from their land and kill wildlife to extract?”. Exxon, Trader Joe’s, Apple, and other huge polluters can’t do anything without our money. Whether you can change systems or not, how much are you helping drive that system is a matter of values and character. So I’m only expressing nature’s lack of compromise. If we could bend the laws of nature sometimes, maybe I would.
  • Two, it’s not hard! It only looks hard until you commit and sweat the withdrawal. Then it’s easy, so easy our ancestors did it for 300,000 years without even the wheel. Once you commit, everything falls into place.
  • I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes:
    • “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.”

Show Notes

582: Gaya Herrington, part 2: How to change systems

May 20, 2022

Gaya gets systems, how to change them, and not fall prey to rationalizations that sound tempting but are self-serving excuses like "individual actions don't matter" or "only governments and corporations can act on the scale we need." I loved this conversation for her knowledge and experience in what will reverse humanity's pattern of lowering Earth's ability to sustain life.

She shares and elaborates on major points like that technology is just a tool that serves our goals and values. While we value growth over sustainability, technology will accelerate our pattern of lowering Earth's ability to sustain life, not decrease it. We share our frustration with technology fans who misunderstand how technology affects our systems, thinking making it more efficient will lead to less pollution despite centuries of increased efficiency increasing pollution.

She shares about the value of individual actions to change culture and oneself, including her picking up litter with her family. She shares how sustainability creates joy since we are social.

She hints at her upcoming book, which is available now.

581: Dr. Ambrose Carroll, senior, part 2: cultural differences on how we view the individual

May 17, 2022

Ambrose and I start by reviewing his commitment. After a bit, as best I can tell, we talked past each other. Every now and then, the Spodek Method doesn't resonate and this conversation looks like one of them. His description of how he sees the world and my read don't seem to overlap.

I suspect he felt I didn't understand him or his world. I read him as guarded, not sharing his personal views and feelings. I think it might be interesting and possibly fun to hear it as a third person. I tried to understand what he was saying and tried to clarify. He sounds like he was doing his best to speak to be understood. It just didn't reach me. He described how the black community operated, but I felt like he viewed me as unable to understand, being empowered and entitled, whereas people in that community were traumatized and not taught what they could do.

His main point, as I understood, is that they "need more steps." I just couldn't get what he meant. I felt like he was trying to explain while keeping me separate and excluded, not explaining to include me.

Sorry I couldn't write more clearly what to expect. Again, I suspect it might be fun, as a third person, to understand both of us better than we understand each other.


580: How wrong your beliefs making you fear living sustainably

May 11, 2022

Aren't we living in the best time in history? Don't we have to keep pressing forward to avoid returning to medieval serfdom or the Stone Age and everyone dying young?

No. History, anthropology, and archaeology show these beliefs wrong. Humans weren't living on the verge of starvation or nonstop working all day long. Other cultures than the one we descended from enjoyed more health, longevity, abundance, resilience, and freedom than we do, but we keep telling ourselves stories to make ourselves feel better.

579: Derek Marshall, part 2: Running for Congress, sharing honest personal experiences

May 7, 2022

You've heard every politician pay lip service on the environment. They talk abstractly about carbon dioxide levels, solutions to spend more money, and something about a future improved by electric cars and solar panels (conveniently missing how these "solutions" pollute). How many share their personal experiences? How many share their vulnerabilities we know they have?

Derek shares his personal experience honestly facing environmental challenges himself. What does it feel like to see a plastic bag roll by in the wind like a tumbleweed in what was supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, untouched by people? How does it feel when humans' predominant effect on once-beautiful nature is poison? Do we face our feelings of helplessness, thereby enabling ourselves to do something about it, or deny and suppress them, claiming "solutions" that pollute actually clean, not because they do but because claiming they do mollifies our feelings?

How do you run a campaign polluting less? What if your volunteers want pizza, but its disposable packaging pollutes? Will activating them to make preparing food part of the event engage them more? Will they enjoy local fruits and vegetables more? Can campaigning clean, boldly and honestly become a competitive advantage? If a campaigns ignores its personal impact, can you expect it will stop not caring after getting elected or will you expect it will find ways to excuse polluting after elected? Can Derek run his campaign clean to win loyalty and votes?

Hear Derek face these challenges, the only way I see anyone can solve them.

578: Warren Farrell, part 2: Sex, race, and intimacy: How to listen and communicate

May 3, 2022

This episode is available on video.

Before our conversations, I tended to see Warren as mainly focused on issues where men and boys suffer that society doesn't see, downplays, or ignores. I still see him as a rare luminary on such issues. As he mentions, many people, up to the White House, seem unable or unwilling to consider the possibility.

But I'm seeing him focusing on solutions, both systemic and individual. We start this conversation on communication, especially about listening, especially in conflict. We transition to communication tips, especially for men and boys, using ourselves and our challenges as examples. I hear passion in him for helping couples, especially from a man's perspective. Not just passion, effectiveness.

He shares about the origins of the Boy Crisis in society and the importance of effective communication, often lacking. We focus on suicide and rates between males and females versus between people of different races, children raised deprived of fathers, fathers whose responsibilities imposed by society force them to show their love by sacrificing time with family, which sounds heartbreaking for them, yet more so for their children. He explores the consequences to society.

He describes how people exclude men and boys and our problems from considering helping us, even (especially) from groups promoting inclusion.

I predict you'll find this episode evokes compassion and opens your eyes.

577: Michael Carlino, part 6: Discussing the moral case for fossil fuels (and more)

April 30, 2022

If you've been following Michael and my conversations so far, you know to expect thoughtful, considerate conversation coming from different perspectives. Each time we find deeper understanding, share more, and listen more. You won't be disappointed this time.

In this episode we talk about concepts from the book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and the philosophy behind it. Since I've started reading the Christian Bible, we talk about Romans and Philippians a bit too. Despite our different backgrounds and views about the universe, we agree on many ways we believe we can improve the world.

576: Nakisa Glover, part 2: The need to feel heard and act

April 27, 2022

Nakisa talks about her community in Charlotte, North Carolina, the environmental and social challenges it faces, the level of engagement, the biases in difficulties in engaging for people who work long or unusual hours, advantages to big businesses, and other challenges. She also talks about her work facing these challenges, organizing and enabling people to solve them.

We talk about civic engagement beyond voting, acting beyond in election years, and running for office. In this episode, you'll hear from her experience and perspective what you face motivating and leading communities on the receiving end of polluting industries, historically locked out of politics, not knowing how to start, but needing to start if they hope to reverse those historical trends.

You'll hear her enthusiasm, which I see increasing since her being discovered to attend the conference she described in her first episode.

I think you'll like the commitment she chooses. I can't wait to hear her results.

575: Chef Douglas McMaster, part 1: A restaurant with no trash cans because it produces no trash

April 25, 2022

Doug is the opposite of the catastrophe we've made of the food industry. He created a restaurant with no trash cans; not for the customers, not for the staff, nor for suppliers. Talk about a role model.

You can do it too. He can't do it for you. Neither can I. Only you can do it for yourself, but now you know you can. Step one: try. Step two: don't stop.

Regular listeners know my disgust and disdain for how much garbage comes from food and doof industries. The streets of my once beautiful neighborhood and city are covered with litter, the overwhelming majority of it coming from places profiting from producing more garbage and doof than food. Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Frito-Lay, Dunkin' Donuts, every takeout place, and nearly every coffee shop, plus more. Millennia from now, our descendants, if any survive, will continue suffering from the poisons we create.

Beyond sharing how he did it, Doug shares his passion motivating him and satisfaction rewarding him. You can hear the camaraderie developing as two guys who discovered the joy of not abdicating and capitulating share what we discovered. I think I can speak for Doug that neither of us will return to our old ways of wasteful consumption.

You'll enjoy this joyful episode of living joyfully sustainably, or doing our best to reach it.

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