This Sustainable Life

5/1/2021

455: J. B. MacKinnon, part 2: What happens when you pay for quality?

Ep. 455
Our world values cheap and disposable---in food and doof packaging, furniture, cars, and near the top of the list, clothes, especially fast fashion. The world is paying for it in the sense of overfilled landfills, plastic disrupting endocrine systems of animals including us, oil wells everywhere, garbage patches in the ocean, and so on.I see us paying the price. We're always craving. Stuff always breaks. We feel compelled to buy new phones when the old ones should have kept working. We're obese from snacking. We're twisted up inside polluting while trying to convince ourselves we're not.J. B. MacKinnon's new book The Day the World Stops Shopping examines this part of our culture and for this podcast he committed to go against that trend by buying a quality pair of jeans from a place he knew the sourcing, labor practices, and everything else, the opposite of fast fashion. He also paid significantly more for them.Was the premium worth it? Should you do the same? What can we learn from his experience?We talk about these questions and he experience from many perspectives. Here's the description of his new book, The Day the World Stops Shopping:"We can't stop shopping. And yet we must. This is the consumer dilemma."The planet says we consume too much: in North America, we burn the earth's resources at a rate five times faster than they can regenerate. And despite our efforts to "green" our consumption--by recycling, increasing energy efficiency, or using solar power--we have yet to see a decline in global carbon emissions.The economy says we must always consume more, because, as we've seen in the pandemic, even the slightest drop in spending leads to widespread unemployment, bankruptcy and home foreclosures.Addressing this paradox head-on, J.B. MacKinnon asks,What would really happen if we simply stop shopping?Is there a way to reduce our consumption to earth-saving levels without triggering an economic collapse?At first, this question took him around the world, seeking answers: from America's big-box stores, to the hunter-gatherer cultures of Namibia, to communities in Ecuador that consume at an exactly sustainable rate. Then his thought experiment came shockingly true, as the coronavirus brought shopping to a halt and MacKinnon's ideas were tested in real time.Drawing on experts ranging from economists to climate scientists to corporate CEOs, MacKinnon investigates how living with less would change our planet, our society and ourselves. Along the way, he reveals just how much we stand to gain.Imaginative and inspiring,The Day the World Stops Shoppingwill empower you to imagine another way. (From Random House Canada)J. B. MacKinnon is a journalist and writer who lives in Vancouver. He is also the author of the nonfiction booksDead Man in Paradise and The Once and Future Worldand is the co-author of the bookThe 100-Mile Diet,which popularized the local food movement.
4/29/2021

454: Richard Rothstein: Racial segregation in generations of U.S. law

Ep. 454
Today’s guest, Richard Rothstein, is one of the experts on how the law has clearly and explicitly kept freedom, prosperity, longevity, opportunity, and more from people based on their skin color. This is no hard-to-believe conspiracy, tenuous claim, or cancel culture labeling. He shows laws in black and white the law says you can’t rent to blacks. Across the country in many spheres of life for generations. No secret. Plus he traces the repercussions that occur when one group can do things another can’t and how they ripple throughout society.Is his material valuable? Here’s one measure. I’m happy that my book Leadership Step by Step has over 100 reviews, averaging close to five stars. I know a lot of authors, editors, and book marketers. People seek that three-digit barrier. Richard wrote The Color of Law, a book on laws. That’s like a book on accounting. His book has over twelve thousand reviews, overwhelmingly five-star.As usual, I bring you the personal and leadership aspects of the work. I’ll link in the notes to some videos of him describing his work to whet your appetite to read the book. I’ll focus on bringing you him and the story behind the story.VideosRichard Rothstein discusses The Color of Law on Fresh AirRichard Rothstein in conversation with Ta-Nehisi CoatesFrom his book page:In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north.As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods.The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.
4/19/2021

452: Book Update #1

Ep. 452
Started thinking of book when I worked on initiative but put in background, expecting podcast to improveThat's been the case.Started getting serious about a year ago.You may have noticed a lot of guests with backgrounds in abolition: Eric Metaxas, Adam Hochschild, Manisha Sinha, Andres Resendez, Richard Rothstein (more on racial injustice)That's because abolition became major issue, then George Floyd amplified issueSo spent months talking with people and figuring out approach. Everyone said, “Josh, you could cure cancer, but if it touches on these things people will think you're trying to use someone else's issue.” or they'd say “You couldn't possibly understand, or at least people will think you can't” or they'd say “Some things you just don't talk about or compare because they're in another category.”So I went with people who devoted their lives to these issues and learned a ton.Next step: started writing outline, then text, revised three times.Started a writing workshop. Kicked writing into overdrive. Wrote a few thousand words a day, reached 45,000 words plus a proposal and very positive reviews from people who read.It's also why I haven't posted as much to podcast. Focusing on writing and editing.Still, felt out on a limb. No one has read the full manuscript but some people have highly praised the proposal, including a NY Times bestselling author whose book you might know, who said it was one of the best he'd read.So I'm confident I'll get a publishing deal. I understand from when you sign to books in readers' hands about a year. But finish writing after six months, so will start promoting then.What is is about? Partly my views on sustainability.Whom it's for, core message, promise to readerExercises to walk you through enjoying living sustainably, becoming a steward, then how to lead others.Not about facts, for reader. Everyone says it's like nothing they've read but very important.Anyone interested in helping promote mission book is a part of, contact me. I'd love help reviewing and editing it.I hope I covered top line. If curious, let me know what more I can share.Side effects: shoulders and forearms hurt. Some back pain. Eye fatigueBut more than satisfied with result so far. Helped me clarify a lot of my thoughts and how to present them.I hope and expect this book to be of historical value. Builds on everything here.
3/23/2021

449: Chad E. Foster: How Do You Handle Huge Challenges? Not Big. Huge.

Ep. 449
How do you face challenges? Not little ones like a pandemic lockdown for a year. Big ones.Regular listeners hear me talk about role models like Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela in the context of handling life challenges. During the pandemic, for example, I recognize there was suffering before, there will be suffering after, and there's suffering now. Our challenge is not to take on things outside our control since we can't, but to figure out how to respond, not just to the world but within our hearts and minds.We're locked down. Nelson Mandela was locked down for 27 years. If he could create meaning forced to break rocks, I can find meaning in my home, able to go out every day, with access to communicate with everyone, access all the culture ever digitized, and so on.In the context of sustainability, do we just give up? How do we find hope and resolution to act even when everyone around us says what they do doesn't matter or that only governments and corporations can make a difference? What role models can we find.Today's guest, Chad E. Foster, lost his eyesight as a teenager, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an executive for Red Hat, the world’s largest open source software company and securing over $45 Billion in contracts throughout his career.He is the first blind graduate of the Harvard Business School leadership program and did what Oracle said could not be done; he built a software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people. His direct and confident style, combined with a go-for-it inspiring belief system (he is an avid downhill skier… and that’s not a joke), has made him a high-impact speaker for leaders at companies such as Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, GE and Microsoft.He also skis double black diamonds, which he talks about learning.From Chad's Quotable Quotes page:Happiness is not a feeling, happiness is not an emotion, happiness is a decision that each of us make every single day when we wake up.You do not know what you cannot see when you cannot see it.The facts are far less relevant than the stories we tell ourselves.Life without obstacles removes opportunity for growth.If you’re not getting outside of your comfort zone, then you’re not growing.Life begins outside of our comfort zone.You have to take advantage of your disadvantages.It is a great time to go blind.This stuff is so easy I can do it with my eyes closed.All of us are blind. Blind in some aspect.Don't let other people define your vision of your future.If you never dare to be great, you'll always be mediocre.Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing something despite the presence of fear.If you're not failing from time to time, you're not aiming high enough.
3/20/2021

448: Robert Bilott: The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

Ep. 448
Your blood contains PFOA, also known as forever chemicals. They cause cancer of several types, birth defects, and more.Dupont and other companies produced this stuff after learning it caused harm and dumped it into our environment. As best we can tell, they chose enormous profits over the health of their employees at first, and eventually all Americans and all humans because this stuff takes millions of years to break down and accumulates in our bodies.We know because Robert Bilott, today's guest, took on a small farmer's case. His cows were dying, we now know from water poisoned from Dupont dumping these chemicals. They pulled on the thread and the whole sweater unraveled. Robert's story became on par with those in the movies Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action.The highly-reviewed 2019 movie Dark Waters featured Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins playing him, his wife, his coworker. The New York Times featured him in its 2016 magazine article The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare. The most personal account is his 2019 book Exposure.In our conversation I tried to bring out what we who want to conserve our environment could use: what is it like to face something we feel is right, to fix a great problem, to act on our values, even when it seems like we will have to swim upstream?Because regarding sustainability and nature, we all sense how much easier swimming upstream would be.Or would it? The more I act, the more I find new role models like him who make the choice I feel right more clear. Listen for yourself. Would you like to feel about your life and family how he feels about his? Could acting even when it's hard help?People often call my not flying or taking two years to fill a load of trash extreme. Not by the standards of role models like Robert. The more I act, the more I find people like him and the closer I feel to them.Maybe I could fantasize about living in a world where I could act without caring who feels the consequences of my actions. Not really, because I find caring for others creates value, not ignoring them. In any case, I don't live in such a world. Everything I do connects me to others. I've come to find that connection improves my life, even if it means not flying or ordering takeout.I've got a long way to go to reach his level of giving and his level of getting. He said he wouldn't change a thing.Exposure at Simon and SchusterThe New York Times 2016 profile of Robert Bilott: The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst NightmareThe Intercept: The Teflon Toxin How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA