This Sustainable Life
554: Sea walls won't protect us from our garbage. Stopping polluting gives us our best chance.
My notes that I read from for this episode:Sea wall for Manhattan, like Holland: expensive, huge, likely won't workControversial already. Natural solutions might work better.Let's say they worked.On Staten Island, Fresh KillsAlso everywhere, all coasts unprotectedNow think of Cancer Alley Gulf coast, oil refineries and global toxic dumpsAll that pollution will be dispersed to seas and biosphereI'd guess hundreds of thousands of yearsThink of the sufferingChallenge is more than energy. Also thermodynamics. Everything will disperse.Best solution: stop using fossil fuels now.Yes, we'll face problems, but we'll solve switching problems more easily than global garbage.Not an option: keep going as we are and maybe the problems won't happen.
553: Gaya Herrington, part 1: How far have we passed our limits to growth? What does that mean?
Five months ago, Gaya's work led to headlines like Yep, it’s bleak, says expert who tested 1970s end-of-the-world prediction. The 1970s predictions weren't exactly predictions, but the headline refers to the book Limits to Growth. If you're not familiar with it, we start by talking about it. We both consider its views and analysis among the most important.The book simulated possible outcomes for humans on Earth. Those outcomes varied from lots of happy people to billions dying. The authors' goals were to show what patterns we might expect.Still, people since have wondered if we and Earth have tracked any of those outcomes. Gaya's work does just that and shows that we have a slim chance of avoiding collapse, but a good chance of hitting it. I am amazed at how well those models track so many measurable outcomes in disparate areas.Our conversation covers her research, what it means, how to understand it, her work with companies, systems, solutions, and how these things affect our personal lives.Limits to Growth, Gaya's work, and what to do about them are among the most important things we can understand. Beyond Growth, Gaya's summary of her workMIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule., a Vice article on her workUpdate to Limits to Growth: Comparing the World3 Model with Empirical Data, Gaya's original results
552: Hilary Link, part 2: colleges and universities talk sustainability but rarely act. This college president does.
Hilary describes her commitments as achieving some success and some failure, but learned from both.We start with her personal experiences and memories of ice skating and cross country skiing as a child leading to her sometimes painful lessons today. More than just ice skating again, she took lessons with her child. Listen to her for the lesson and why it was painful, but I'll share that she learned to wear a helmet.She also talked about driving less, which led to what she could do with her community not to accept that not driving has to be hard, but how to improve the situation. She talked about eating less meat, which I heard creating more connection within family.From the personal, we moved to the systemic. As the president of an august institution and connected to peers at peer organizations, she can influence within Allegheny and among university presidents and across academia. It's nice to talk about change and sustainability. It's nice to change institutions. But she points out, everyone sees what you do and your personal behavior affects others.I don't think this episode is the last we'll hear of Dr. Link. I believe she'll implement some of the ideas that came up during her actions and this conversation. Stay tuned.The Game Changers documentary on elite athletes and not eating meat.Bea Johnson's episode on this podcast with links to her TEDx talks and books. Her family of four produces less garbage than I do alone.
551: Chad Foster, part 4: Flying to skiing, but not camping in the back yard
In this episode we talk about how to lead people, but I can't help notice on listening afterward how quick and easy it is for him to fly his whole family across the country several times a season, but impossible to pitch a tent in his back yard. Whatever effect I've had on other guests, it's not happening with Chad.What he shares about leadership, I agree with and his life transformation to adjust to circumstances he couldn't have predicted, we can all learn from, so I recommend listening (sorry about the sound quality on my microphone). He lost his sight, which hasn't led to a worse life, as best I can tell. We're losing our ability to eat meat, have as many babies as we want, and fly without these actions causing others to suffer and die. But unlike losing an ability most people would not want to lose, eating more vegetables and living more sustainably benefits everyone, especially people with lungs.No meaningful change has happened with this guest. I haven't connected with what the environment means to him.
550: Rick Ridgeway: A Life Lived Wild: K2, Everest, and places no human had seen
Prepare to be awed at Rick's stories of adventure, discovery, nature, and humanity. He has summited K2, Everest, and more. He's visited places possibly no other human has. And he's an experienced, brilliant storyteller, so shares his experiences with a vitality that can only come from living it. Hear what it's like for animals that have never seen humans to approach him.His interactions with people show up too, including Sir Edmund Hillary, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and North Face and Esprit founder Dave Tompkins, and more.He shares what it's like at altitudes where each step requires summoning all the willpower he can just to take the next step.For background, before recording, I checked with him if we could talk about his thoughts on his role as a role model promoting activities that impact the environment, like all that flying. I was glad to hear he was open to it. It just worked out that the stories he shared were so engaging that we didn't get to the topic, or to do the Spodek Method. I hope in a future episode. Still, he shared plenty on his environmental views and work.He just published his latest book. As captivating as I found this conversation, the book's stories transcend them. Beyond individual stories, it's composed with threads running in and out that create a greater message than a collection of stories.Rick's home page, with links to his movies, books, and moreHis latest book, Life Lived Wild, with links to his othersOne EarthTomkins Conservation
549: Abdal Hakim Murad, part 2: High and low tech in the new green mosque in Cambridge, UK
Many people and mainstream society seem to view technology as the solution to our environmental problems---and the more and the newer the better. Abdal Hakim and I agree technology isn't the glowing solution many believe. It can play a role, but as part of a mix, including low-tech and non-tech components.This topic led to the new green mosque in Cambridge that he helped make happen, how to mix technologies and harmonize with its location. It won awards and created networks and support from the community.He shared the role of sacred spaces in life, less available now, as well as natural spaces. Nobody dislikes trees, but there are fewer around than ever for many people.He also shares his commitment on reducing meat with a widespread social and Muslim perspective.Cambridge Central MosqueThe World Architecture Community article, The UK’s first green mosque: "The Cambridge Mosque", with lots of pictures
548: Erik Bottcher, part 1: a New York City politician awesome enough to pick up litter
Erik Bottcher is my elected legislator. New York City's council presides over a budget bigger than most countries'.Yet I met him picking up litter. He organized weekly clean-ups when the city dropped its sanitation budget during the pandemic. He also sees the problem not as too little cleaning up but too much supply of packaging that becomes litter.Let's pause for a moment. How many politicians have you heard of who bend down and pick up litter, week after week? I think the world would benefit from all of them doing it.We talk about changes to the city we'd like to see. He shares about growing up gay not in Manhattan but the Adirondacks, then coming to the city and how that affects his governing.
547: Michael Carlino, part 4: What does Christian scripture say about population?
Michael is becoming a regular. Would I have expected an extended conversation with a doctoral candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when I started? I don't think so, and I don't think many environmentalists engage with evangelicals and conservatives. I think you'll hear genuine friendship, mutual respect, and mutual desire to learn from each other. I think you'll hear actual learning.In this episode we took on a topic we expected to disagree on: population. This time I asked more questions, learning his views and the views of scripture he follows, though I shared my views too.What does the Bible have to say about population? Where do we agree or disagree? What common ground is there, if any, and what can we do about it?
546: Maxine Bédat, part 2: Systemic Change Begins With Personal Change
Maxine shares her experience with her commitment across the country. She moved partly to enable living by her values. People often suggest it's easier for someone living in New York not to fly since I have access to so much culture here, but access to many cultures only matters if you value it. Not everyone does. I hope you live where you can access things you value. If you don't, no amount of travel will overcome that you live where you don't like.I mention this because Maxine could live by her values better not in New York. She sounds like she's still flying a bunch, she didn't commit to avoiding flying (yet). As we talk about in our conversation, we build up to bigger changes through smaller ones.Note how often she describes the discomfort that changing to acting on her values liberates her from. I believe we all feel that discomfort when we know we're acting against our values. We know when we're polluting. No amount of rationalization that "everyone else is doing it", "the plane was going to fly anyway", "what I do doesn't matter", and so on can quiet our consciences.I heard her composting commitment liberated her from feelings and behavior she didn't like. Not that she couldn't change any time, but the commitment from our conversation kick started a change. I expect she'll keep developing, maybe not monotonically, but steadily.Vogue: Maxine Bédat Urges the Fashion Industry to Make a Change Now, Not in 2030Maxine in Harper's BazaarElle: Maxine Bédat Unravels The Lies of Greenwashing The author of Unraveled on why she doesn't subscribe to the term "sustainable fashion."Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment