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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.


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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.