This Sustainable Life


352: The War of Art and Nature

Ep. 352

I loved Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. I found it inspiring. It had a property that qualifies for me that something qualifies as a work of art: it said something I always knew was true but that I'd never seen expressed that way."

I mention it for two reasons. One, I recorded a podcast episode with Steven the other day, which led me to reread the book. Two, I found the book applies to acting in stewardship. Substitute a few words and new meaning emerges, mainly changing art to stewardship. Most of the rest follows.

I describe the analogy in this episode's recording. I share a few examples. I hope it helps motivate.

I recommend The War of Art to nearly anyone. I recommend it especially to people who want to work on the environment.

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433: Adam Hochschild, part 2: Abolition then and pollution today

Ep. 433
If you've followed my development on how to view acting on sustainability, you've seen a marked change when I learned about the British abolition movement of the late 1700s and early 1800s. Today's guest, Adam Hochschild, wrote about that period comprehensively in his book Bury the Chains. We talked about it in our first episode and in more depth this time.Until I learned about this movement and this group of people, not unique but important actors, I saw few to no role models of what Adam points out is rare: people devoting themselves to helping other people become free.We present ourselves as potentially suffering from environmental problems, but we are benefiting from ignoring how others suffer for our way of life. You are almost certainly more like the absentee landlords and shareholders in companies profiting from slave labor thousands of miles away than like the people suffering.Adam's book gives us role models of people who said, "I could benefit and even though everyone around me does so, I cannot support or benefit from this system. I will make it my life's mission to end it." In their cases the distant sufferers were in the Caribbean. In ours it's Indonesia, the Philippines, India, southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, and most of the world.This time I picked up on the importance of slave rebellion, telling me we have to connect with people on the receiving end of our disposing of plastic and the exhaust from our cars, jets, and power plants.I also wanted to learn about the personal side of the people Adam portrayed. How did they persevere through discouraging times? We're facing discouraging times. Most of us could in principle pollute a lot less, but our culture creates resistance.The more I learn about abolition, the more I find their movements and results relevant and inspiring. How better can we honor their legacy than to use it to reduce suffering today? To me, learning that people faced resistance like we face and overcame it as we'd like to. We have the benefit of their history. If you'd like to lead yourself and others to reduce suffering by changing culture and systems, I can't recommend enough to learn about people who have succeeded before.

432: Matthew Stevenson, part 2: What can environmentalists learn from disarming racism?

Ep. 432
Many people talk about responding to threats or people they disagree with with empathy, compassion, treating everyone with respect. In practice, I see people doing the opposite. They don't feel, "I'm right, you're wrong." They feel "I understand reality, you don't. I have to teach you." or often they feel they have to force them.Likewise, on the environment, nearly all environments try to convince people who disagree with them through lecture, facts, figures, and charts. When that doesn't work, they resort to shame, guilt, eventually disengaging and trying to outpower them through legislation.Matthew Stevenson did the opposite. He practiced what many preach and it worked. In our first episode, which I recommend first, he shared how he worked and his mindset. The more I heard, the more fascinating I found it. More to the point, the more practical and effective I found it.The word convince, by the way, comes from the root -vince as in vanquish, to defeat. Attempts to convince generally provoke debate. After all the person was already right in their own mind before you talked to them. Maybe you're wrong. If you aren't open to it, why should they be? When was the last time someone defeated or vanquished you and you said, "Okay, now I agree with you and I'll follow you."I invited Matthew back because he shared how to do what many of us talk about and we know great historical figures practiced, but few of us know of people-on-the-street role models we can follow.Would I have predicted when starting this podcast, this effort to bring leadership to sustainability, that I would talk about a white nationalist website Storm Front with an orthodox Jew? I doubt it, but I find him one of the best role models for me. Most guests I think of as role models for listeners, experimenting sharing environmental values most of us don't, acting on them, doing what almost no one has yet so we can all learn from them.With Matthew, he's doing what I endeavor to. It's emotionally incredibly hard when I feel I know I'm right or that I understand reality but they don't to end up condescending or sounding self-righeous because I feel self-righteous, it's hard then to conjure up humility, empathize, listen, and get to a place where they're right and I'm wrong.So he's a role model for me. His strategy took a long time but it worked and the solution is enduring. Plus he laughs and jokes about it.He didn't convince, vanquish, or win. He made a friend.

431: I sang every day for two months, unplugged (still going)

Ep. 431
What do you do if you use less power? No social media? No listening to music? No TV?Sound like a fate worse than death?Inspired by guests on my podcast who find amazing activities to live by their environmental values, I committed to turning off all my electronics to sing every day. I've almost never sung in my life beyond Happy Birthday and The Star Spangled Banner so I'm mortified to play my remedial results live, but I love it. I know I'll keep going so today's recording isn't the end.I recorded singing a couple songs at the beginning. to record I opened the laptop, all other times I sang with the power off. At night I had to open the door to the hallway to read the words until I started singing outside during my daily walks picking up litter.So far I've spent zero dollars on it. The first two weeks I sang fifteen minutes a day. Later I shifted to at least one song, so a few minutes a day.Today's episode starts with my describing the experience and a few stories, then with neither pride nor shame, I play the "before" recording, then the "after."The track listing:Before14:42 The Beatles, Across the Universe19:30 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently WeepsAfter22:40 The Beatles, Across the Universe26:28 The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps28:44 John Denver, I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane31:26 Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi33:01 Spandau Ballet, True36:12 The Cure, Pictures of You38:54 Earth, Wind, and Fire, September42:19 Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land