—Systemic change begins with personal change—

(Formerly Leadership and the Environment)

Community, support, vision, stories, role Models, experience.

Leadership turns feeling alone and complacent into action.

We bring leaders to the environment to share what works. Less facts, figures, and gloom. More stories, reflection, self-awareness, connection, support, and community.

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617: Janet Allaker: A long-time listener shares what This Sustainable Life means to her

August 18, 2022
Janet has listened to This Sustainable Life since close to its start. This summer she took the initiative to write me to say: I absolutely love your podcast which I've been listening to since 2018. You have inspired me to pollute less and really enjoy the process. Have you ever considered having "listener episodes" where you do short interviews with 3 or 4 listeners? I would love that. Hearing about how they found out about the pod cast and how it's influenced them. I think tales from "ordinary Joe" can be just as inspiring if not more than famous names. I thought her proposal sounded great so I invited her to be the first listener-guest. She accepted. For her bio, in Janet's words: I grew up in southern England and came to Sheffield, Northern England for university in the 1980s. My main reason for staying in Sheffield is the close access to the Peak District national park. I've worked in academia, healthcare and charities and more recently for the UK government department for work and pensions which covers welfare and employment support. My hobbies are yoga, modern jive dancing and walking in the Peak district.
Janet Allaker

617: Janet Allaker: A long-time listener shares what This Sustainable Life means to her

Janet shared how she found This Sustainable Life, what kept her coming back, the guests she liked, and how it's affected her. I wish I had recorded episodes with listeners before to learn what you all like, don't like, and want more or less of.

Listening to it after recording, I consider our conversation one of the most accessible for new listeners. Janet described various aspects of it that I suspect will resonate with many listeners.

One thing that hit me was how the podcast restored her enthusiasm to act. Years ago she acted as much as she could on sustainability, to the point of picking up fruit rinds people had littered to put in compost. She didn't act for internal reasons but external, so she burned out and stopped acting. Then she found This Sustainable Life and it restored fun to acting. She does it for the joy of it, which keeps her going, gives her energy, not feeling like giving up.

Plus she did the Spodek Method, so you'll hear what she commits to do more.

If you are a listener and would like to be a guest, contact me and let me know.

Show Notes

616: Michael Lombardi, part 1: Culture, Leadership, and Football

August 12, 2022

Leaders who know how to lead and change culture know culture eats strategy for breakfast.

This concept figures strongly in Michael's book, Gridiron Genius. When most people watch football, they see the game, maybe the game plan and strategy. We see it on the scale of a play, maybe a game involving twenty-two men on a field, maybe also the coaches and trainers.

Michael sees each play in the context of the game, season, and overall culture of football as it evolves over decades. He knows the key players, coaches, owners, past players, their careers, their relationships, and their families if relevant.

To understand and change culture doesn't come from just telling people what to do. It means listening, understanding, testing, trying, failing, coming back, succeeding, relationships, and using tools like stories, beliefs, images, role models, not just carrots and sticks or instruction.

To hear Michael talk football reveals levels of leadership and culture beyond what most of us ever see, honed through decades of living and loving the game and everything in it. I hope the application to sustainability is obvious. You'll hear in his sharing what fans miss when television hides the full game why I can't stand people thinking they're leading in sustainability by coercing, cajoling, convincing, or seeking compliance.

Give everything you've got because you love it. Reach your potential. Break past what you thought your potential was to new possibilities.

615: Living off the grid without solar either (as all humans once did)

August 9, 2022

Regular listeners know I started an experiment disconnecting from the electric grid. I began May 22. Then on July 22, I posted an episode that the solar panel or battery broke, or both. I didn't see how I could continue so said that after I finished recording, I'd declare victory, reconnect to the grid, cook lunch, and move on.

Regular listeners and readers of my blog know that I posted about keeping going. What gives? Did I stop or not?

I'd meant to record an episode explaining that I kept going without even solar power, though still using my "cheat" of allowing plugging my computer and phone at NYU. Recording my second episode with Michelle Nijhuis, I got to share that story, so I'm posting it here. She lived off the grid for fifteen years, so had plenty of relevant experience.

614: Michelle Nijhuis, part 1: Living off the grid for 15 years

August 8, 2022

Where was Michelle Nijhuis all my life?

She lived off the electric grid for fifteen years and I was about two months in, so we shared stories of the experiences. She did it much longer and her fiance had to assemble everything from scratch. I'm only two months in and can use off-the-shelf parts, but I'm in Manhattan, so can't set up a permanent system. Some similarities: connecting with nature, learning to respect power, living with less resulting in living more. Michelle shares her challenges of connecting with the human world when disconnected to a power grid, but I don't think you'll hear regret.

I have to correct myself: I said kilowatt-hour when I meant watt-hour. My battery isn't 1,000 times bigger than I said.

It's hard to put into words the benefits of living without electrical power at the touch of a button. I recommend turning off your power every now and then. I wish I had earlier.

613: Our Next Constitutional Amendment

August 1, 2022

My proposal and rationale for the next amendment for the United States Constitution.

It will sound crazy, impossible, and too hard at first, as it did with me. But the more you consider it, the more the objections will fade. It is the right tool for the right job. Nothing else is.

I'll write more about it later. For now, just the audio.

612: Sebastian Junger, part 1: Humans Thrive on Mutual Dependence, Feeling Needed, But Our Culture Isolates.

July 29, 2022

When I wrote up my experiment to live with my apartment off the grid in Manhattan for a month, I looked up what I did the morning I started. My library records show I borrowed and listened to Sebastian's book Tribe, then my browser history shows I watched a ton of videos featuring him. Soon after I read Freedom, watched Restrepo and The Last Patrol.

His work makes you question your values, the values of our culture, and what you do about it. In my case, his exploration to why in a culture of material plenty, that according to, say, Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now or The Better Angels of Our Nature, which say life is the best its ever been, in head-to-head competition, people who know civilization choose to live in other places. His books and our conversation clarify and refine the conditions, but the main appeal of not-civilization is feelings of mutual dependence and feeling needed. Our culture isolates. With affluence has come anxiety, depression, and suicide.

His research and writing helped me understand why I enjoy each step of polluting less. People from the outside read me as extreme, but America pollutes extremely much. I've reduced over 90 percent, but I still pollute. I'm finding myself not extreme but traditional.

Sebastian shares the main points of his books on community, mutual support, feeling needed, war, love, and more versus isolation and anxiety. At the end we talk about how to restore what we've lost and the prospect of changing culture to sustainability, which looks promising.

611: Etienne Stott, part 6: Activism and Leadership

July 27, 2022

In this sixth conversation between an Extinction Rebellion Rebel and a home-grown sustainability leadership (I hope) leader, we explore more of the life of someone who has devoted himself to solving our environmental problems.

We continue comparing and contrasting the approaches, learning from each other, developing friendship, sharing the challenges, and sharing why we do it.

If you, listener, haven't yet decided to make sustainability your priority, I think you'll find everyone needs your help. I hope this conversation helps influence you. Whatever else you're working on, clean air, land, food, and water will help.

I hope Etienne and my conversations help reveal it's a deeply rewarding life.

And hearing from an Olympic gold medalist who sees this work as the most valuable he can do is pretty engaging.

610: Abortion and Sustainability

July 23, 2022

Here are the notes I read from:

  • 40% of pregnancies are unplanned. Overpopulation is a major problem for environment so it's a topic for this podcast.
  • Girlfriend who pressured me into unprotected sex and got pregnant
  • Not only women's issue. Men have as much value to add as anyone who hasn't been robbed or murdered to speak on robbery and murder.
  • Her power, reversing her word, pressuring, irresponsibility, tear
  • Financial abortion. If you support abortion, it's consistent and will help you win your case
  • Stories of pro-lifers getting abortions
  • Many men who support abortion and many women who oppose it
  • What if someone believes unique human life begins at conception
  • To me, fertilized cell is not a human being. Like an ant, not an anthill, nor are a dozen ants or even thousands. Yet at some point an anthill forms. Or a cloud. Water vapor everywhere, yet where cloud begins in space or time not clear.
  • Somewhere clump of cells becomes human capable of suffering, before nine months.
  • If you believe the cells don't become human until late and don't accept that others could consider it murder, have some compassion. It may help to learn that many past cultures, including likely yours into the twentieth century, and many others today consider infanticide after birth within days, weeks, or even longer acceptable. How do they look to you? Would you kill a born baby? Can you see that others might see you that way? What would you do if you saw a parent preparing to kill a baby already born that was viable? What would you say to a society that left twins to die from the elements or hunger?
  • Democracies debate life, death, self defense
  • Seems to me a conflict to resolve democratically. No scientific proof
  • Let's say you're absolutely right and not a unique human life at conception or even until birth. People can vote however they want. Can you at least acknowledge their point of view? To lead, you have to go where they are. You're losing. Maybe reconsider your tactics.
  • Likewise, say you can prove unique life begins at conception. Still not well defined. When sperm enters egg? Can't be. When DNA combines? If DNA doesn't finish combining, you'd allow some birth defects to be killed. My point is you still haven't found a hard line
  • Or what if we can clone humans from one cell. Then you must do everything possible to keep that machine running and build as many as possible.
  • Both sides keep pushing toward greater extremes, listening less, not more, trying to circumvent democracy. Stating more extreme positions.
  • I think democratic debate is best solution at high level. Also practically, I think it will win you more support and disarm opponents more.
  • I can't help mention a creative solution from The Satanic Temple. It's making abortion a religious ritual protected by law that health care providers apparently have to honor. If all it takes to force by law a doctor to give an abortion is converting to a religion, I suspect TST may see an influx, new religions may start forming, or existing religions will begin their own rituals. I'll link in the text.

609: Finishing My Off-the-Grid-in-Manhattan Experiment in Month 3

July 22, 2022

Having just started month three of living off the electric grid in Manhattan, technical issues led me to stop the experiment. I'm not sure the problem, but connecting the solar panels to the power station, it doesn't charge. I don't know how to diagnose it without another power station or solar panel I know works to find the problem.

Here are the notes I read from:

  • Last use of electronics off-grid before cooking lunch with pressure cooker, which will mean reconnecting the apartment's master circuit that I disconnected in May.
  • I knew I'd feel dirty because I would cause pollution.
  • Up and down stairs, sleeping in heat, knee injured
  • The hard part wasn't living traditionally. My food was more fresh. I lived with more meaning and purpose.
  • The hard part was living in a different culture, even if just me, than America.
  • I lived by Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You and Leave It Better Than You Found It.
  • As for America, by its fruit shall ye know a tree. What are America's fruits? Not Do Unto Others or Leave It Better.
  • American culture: more men with breasts and fewer sperm than any culture in history.
  • But choice made for me: Power station broke, the computer battery, then charger, now either power station or solar panels.
  • Yesterday had to postpone two meetings.
  • Used power from last time it charged down to six percent on station, about an hour on computer, though longer on phone.
  • Will cook stew, declare victory, and keep using little, especially the fridge.
  • I expect to make twelve months without the fridge
Earlier episodes on the experiment: Plus I spoke to a city government advisory group and talked about leading up to it.

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