This Sustainable Life


531: Scott White, part 1: The Founder/CEO of an Energy Company on Sustainability

Ep. 531

Two of this podcast's top goals are

  1. To bring leaders to share and act on their environmental values, from any area, but especially polluting fields
  2. To help change culture from expecting sustainability is a chore or burden to expecting joy, lightness, freedom, and reward. Both happened in this episode.

On the second, you'll hear when I invite Scott to act, he had something in mind (he knows This Sustainable Life!). It sounded extrinsically motivated so I asked if it connected with the values he had just shared. As we spoke, more personal things emerged. Do you hear a different level of interest and depth of motivation for his second task? Does it sound intrinsic and more motivating?

I heard between the two commitments the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic, between leadership and management. Most of what passes for motivating people on sustainability in the media sounds to me more like coercion, implying people don't want to do it.

On the first goal, Scott is the CEO/Founder of a company that sells fossil fuels. He chose to change his company. I haven't evaluated the effectiveness of his change. Plenty of companies and people, even with the most sincere intentions, mean to reduce pollution but don't. I'm only looking at him for leading his organization. How hard is the change? How easy? What does it take? How can we motivate more people and organizations polluting less?

One lesson: companies want to follow consumer demand. If they don't hear it from you, they don't know to act. It helps no one for consumers to stay silent about their interest to pollute less. Communicate your interest so power companies can hear.

He's taking risks and trying. He sounds like a role model.

I would have liked more emphasis on reducing use. Nothing keeps fossil fuels in the ground like not taking them out in the first place. Here's my last electric bill:

$1.44 for the customer charge. The rest is fixed fees I can't do much about. On life values, I'm as healthy and happy as anyone I know. I couldn't have imagined lowering this much, but now it's normal. Since systemic change begins with personal change, this change allows me to help others achieve it.

If a power company had helped, I could have lowered long ago. Could IGS help consumers and businesses live healthily and happily consuming less, like most of the rest of the world? Are power companies motivated to help consumers reduce consumption? How many Americans realize that less power will improve their lives?

While I'm at it, here's my evolving footprint compared to the U.S. and world.

I see power companies as able to influence consumer behavior. Is it in any of their interests to motivate people using less? A lot less? If so, how?

More Episodes


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

Ep. 612
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.Sebastian's Home PageLots of videos featuring Sebastian