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cover art for 757: Dr. Anna Lembke, part 1: Dopamine Nation

This Sustainable Life

757: Dr. Anna Lembke, part 1: Dopamine Nation

Ep. 757

Regular listeners know I see our relationships with many activities that are enabled by pollution as behavioral addictions like gambling or playing video games. Thus, I bring experts in addiction.

Anna's book Dopamine Nation is one of the most accessible I've read. She covers the scale of addiction, how much it's increasing, how it works, her personal history with her own addiction, and the stories of several of her patients.

After she describes her background, we start by talking about the shame that accompanies addiction and makes it hard to share about, including our personal experiences of it. We cover how much our culture and economy have embraced addiction. It's profitable, after all.

She describes in lay terms how addiction works, how it disrupts homeostasis and the results, for example tolerance. She talks about the paradox that as we create more material abundance, we see more anxiety, depression, and other problems. We find addictive things lead us to feel we're treating our problems, but more often add to them.

She asked me about avoiding packaged food, doof, and other sustainability experiments. I read she asked out of genuine curiosity, recognizing I'm not just doing it for myself. I think she wants to practice sustainability more and is looking to learn how.

We talk about our culture. She identifies commercially-driven epidemics for profit. You can tell I enjoyed this conversation.

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  • 760. 760: Adam Alter: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

    52:42
    Adam treats dependence and addiction in some ways different and unique than past guests who have covered addiction. One way is the business side. For example, early in this conversation, he talks about how people at companies that create products designed to addict, like cell phones, tablets, and the apps and games on them, don't allow their children to use them. Yet they gleefully reach trillion-dollar valuations based on making it difficult for children or anyone to stop using their products.Is this pattern not outrageous? Adam reinforces about how widespread the patterns are.The result is growth in addiction beyond anything before and people keep finding more ways to addict. People often feel isolated and helpless. Addiction wrecks your self-esteem. We miss that our culture supports it. Adam shares how they keep us coming back for things we don't even like.Adam teaches at one of the world's top business schools. He doesn't oppose business, but he explores our culture's addiction problems. He elaborates on the problems, research, and possible solutions.At the end, I ask him his thoughts about the viability of contracts and society when people can control others as predictably and effectively as by coercing through threat or violence. We as individuals are outmatched by corporations and institutions able to control people this effectively with big, long-term consequences.Adam's home pageHis book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
  • 759. 759: Bruce Alexander, part 1: Rat Park, Addiction, and Sustainability

    01:02:18
    I start by describing how podcast guest Carl Erik Fisher, author of bestseller The Urge, reviewed my upcoming book Sustainability Simplified as a subject matter expert on addiction. Carl mentioned how my book suffered from what Bruce describes as the demon drug myth. He pointed to Bruce's work as seminal, so I started reading it.I'd heard of Rat Park and later remembered Johan Hari mentioning Bruce in his TED talk where he said "the opposite of addiction is community". I couldn't wait to talk to Bruce. Carl introduced us. We spoke. Bruce clarified the demon drug myth. I described how addiction and doof figure in my sustainability leadership work.In our conversation, Bruce described how working with self-described junkies in the early 1950s led him to reinterpret the common wisdom "proved" by experiments that some chemicals addicted people, end of story. He then described how he created Rat Park, which showed a lot more nuance and alternative explanations. You can read about Rat Park on Bruce's page or this comic book version, but his description in our conversation is engaging and thorough.Then he shares how people continue to stick with the old view of addiction and drugs. It's easy. It takes parents and others off the hook.He describes new views of addiction. You won't see addiction the same after. If you want to stop polluting and depleting yourself and help people you know and communities you are a member of, this conversation will change how you view it forever. You'll approach it with more understanding, empathy, and compassion.Bruce's home page, aka Bruce K. Alexander's Globalization of Addiction Website
  • 758. 758: Peter Singer, part 2: A philosopher approaches sustainability

    46:43
    I started by sharing my experience giving after reading Peter's book The Life You Can Save. I confess I only read it after our first conversation, but loved it. I feared reading a book by an academic philosopher arguing a point would be dry and boring. Instead it led me to donate to causes. Then, even though I didn't donate for recognition or personal benefit, the organizations I donated to contacted me with gratitude, connected to me, and one even invited me to its annual dinner.Then we talk more about flying, following up our last conversation. From Peter's perspective, I view flying too black-and-white, not considering someone's reason for flying or what benefit it might provide. I don't challenge that perspective. I'm just looking to learn from my guest. My book treats that perspective.Then I share my new take on his drowning child analogy as it relates to sustainability.Other topics too, but we close with our mutual appreciation for calm conversation and democracy, both lacking these days.Peter's home page
  • 756. 756: Kimberly Nicholas: How Fly Less? Fly less.

    48:43
    Kimberly has, by dramatically reducing her flying, improved her life, living more deliberately and consistent with her values.I met her when she was a panelist at an event on promoting hurting people less by flying less. I invited her as someone to explore her journey of reducing her flying. In our conversation, the shared how she went from learning the possibility to promoting staying grounded. Many stages overlapped with mine, from the analysis paralysis of not starting to finding more travel experience despite less flying, or rather because of it.She shared how you need to act to see what we have to do, not just to change ourselves but to change culture. After being in room where Paris Agreement was signed, she realized, we have to do what the signatories agreed to. It means action, not just talk. She realized that every nation, company, and individual has to live sustainably (to which I add: we'll love it even though from our current perspective it looks like sacrifice).The point of acting on important issues is to know how to lead others. Science, facts, and lecturing had their role, but have to act on emotions to motivate and sustain action.Much of what she said was music to my ears.Kimberly's book Under the Sky We MakeHer Substack newsletter We Can Fix ItHer home page
  • 755. 755: Stefan Gössling: Busting self-serving myths about flying

    01:03:42
    People who fly think most people fly, but it's more like a few percent. A small fraction of people fly, let alone across oceans or multiple times per year. If you fly, it's probably your action that hurts people most through its environmental impact, but you probably rationalize and justify it. Unlike many other polluting activities, most of the money you spend on flying goes to polluting, displacing people and wildlife from their land to extract fuel and minerals, and lobbying governments to pollute and extract more.Stefan has been reporting and publishing on flying for decades longer than I've worked on it. I met him following a panel he participated in hosted by Stay Grounded on the impacts of flying on people and wildlife. That talk was on frequent flyer programs, but Stay Grounded works on many related issues.After sharing his background, Stefan talks about his research. My biggest takeaway: People believe a lot of myths about flying. Partly the industry promotes the myths, but people will do whatever mental gymnastics they have to to accept those myths, even when they're blatantly false. Some things Stefan shares:Around 2 - 4 percent of people fly in a given year outside their countryPeople who fly think more like half the population fliesFlying is heavily subsidizes, so poor people help fund rich people flyingAirports and airlines are often supported and bailed out by taxesPoor people are hurt moreStefan shares more information in more detail. Despite knowing much of it, even I was outraged anew at new things I learned of how much flying hurts people and how much people who fly pay to cause more of that suffering, while telling themselves they are helping. Of course, they aren't choosing to fly from reasoning things out. They want to travel without effort, feel inner conflict at hurting people, and try to resolve their inner conflict by rationalizing and justifying their choices.Here is the post I refer to, documenting the travels of a guy whose email newsletter I subscribe to: What do you think of this person’s flying habits? (part 1).Stefan's home pageHis page at Linnaeus University, including links to his recent publications.Some recent publications:Are emissions from global air transport significantly underestimated?. Current Issues in Tourism. Status: Epub ahead of printNational tourism organizations and climate change. Tourism Geographies. Status: Epub ahead of printOn track to net-zero? Large tourism enterprises and climate change. Tourism Management. 100. 104842-104842Net-zero aviation : Transition barriers and radical climate policy design implications. Science of the Total Environment. 912A review of air travel behavior and climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews : Climate Change. 14 (1)
  • 754. 754: (Aunt) Trish Ellis and (Niece) Evelyn Wallace, part 1: Not Even Cancer Holds Her Back

    01:16:14
    "What I do doesn't matter" is one of the more common sentiments of our time. We use it to avoid acting when we see problems. A similar rationalization not to act: "I have faith that younger people will solve our environmental problems. After all they will be affected more." People say these things to avoid acting, avoiding personal responsibility.If anyone can say she deserves to relax and not have to work on problems, nobody would tell someone with incurable cancer she can't spend her time how she wants. Trish has incurable cancer. She worked her whole life to enjoy her retirement. She didn't grow up planning to act on sustainability. She didn't plan to take my sustainability leadership workshops, but her niece, Evelyn, and sister, Beth, told her about taking the workshop so she did.In this episode, you'll hear Trish sharing why acting on sustainability and leading others is spending her remaining time how she wants. She once envisioned flying around in her retirement. She could and no one would judge her. But having learned that she can make a difference from the workshop, she's acting on sustainability. Living by your values and helping others live by theirs isn't deprivation or sacrifice.The above is my read of Trish's situation and motivations. Listen to the episode to hear her describe why someone who could do anything she wants and doesn't have to care about people far away or younger finds helping future generations and people far away she'll never meet the best way to spend her precious time. Then sign up for a workshop to create as much meaning in your life.
  • 753. 753: Martin Doblmeier, part 2: Sabbath and Sustainablity

    58:45
    A blackout struck New York City and a large part of the U.S. northeast in 2003. It happened only two years after 9/11. How could we not first wonder if it was terrorism. I had been at work at the time. After waiting maybe an hour, we all walked down the stairs and went home. Phones worked for a while, so I called the woman I was dating and coordinated to meet at her place. I ended up hitch-hiking a ride there.The people who gave me the ride were having a great time. In a big van, they were picking up people here and there, navigating intersections with no traffic lights. We all had a great time, which continued when I reached my girlfriend's place. Later I heard of people dancing around bonfires and so on.For months afterward, when we saw someone we hadn't seen since the blackout, we asked each other's blackout experience. I soon noticed that nearly everyone enjoyed themselves.At first I thought it odd, since we suspected terrorism at first. After a while, I realized technology wasn't the unalloyed good I had thought it was. I started telling friends I was thinking about taking time off from things that used power regularly. One person responded, "You know, orthodox Jews have been taking time off from technology every week for thousands of years."Martin Doblmeier returns for a second conversation to talk about his latest movie, Sabbath, which explores the day of rest in culture. The movie explores several groups each of Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and secular communities. It covers history, stories, motivations, and many relevant viewpoints.You'll hear me in the conversation considering how to manifest and explore this concept in my like. I predict you'll consider bringing more sabbath to your life. Since recording the conversation, I've been thinking about how to manifest some regular rest in my life, seeing if I can bring others in on it.Whether you act or not, you'll appreciate how Martin's movie provokes introspection. How did most cultures lose this day of rest? At what cost did we lose it? Do we want to restore it?Watch Sabbath onlineMartin's site: Journey FilmsUpcoming screenings and eventsEducational materials, including many thought-provoking and conversation-provoking questions and discussion points
  • 752. 752: Dave Kerpen, part 1: Delegation for leaders and entrepreneurs

    42:04
    Dave and I go back years, to when we both wrote columns at Inc. I'm surprised I didn't bring him on before. He helps entrepreneurs, leaders, and aspiring leaders develop social and emotional skills, as well as college students aspiring to internships.We recorded now on the occasion of his new book, Get Over Yourself! How to Lead and Delegate Effectively for More Time, More Freedom, and More Success, on improving your skills working with others, like all his books. He shares stories of himself and clients, often personal, leading to practical advice.Sustainability requires changing American and global culture, which requires entrepreneurship and leadership.Dave's page, which links to his books and how to book him for a one-on-oneApprentice