The President of Chile and Tompkins Conservation Sign Historic Pledge to Create 11 Million Acres of New National Parks in Chile

photograph by Jimmy Chin

photograph by Jimmy Chin

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, leader of Tompkins Conservation, today signed a pledge to dramatically expand national parkland in Chile by approximately 11 million acres. The proposal represents the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country; the area to be protected is three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined.
 
This proposal will help create the “Route of Parks,” a 17-park network spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn that Chilean citizens, nature lovers, global adventurers and tourists from around the world can enjoy. The Route will safeguard Patagonia’s wilderness and provide a boon to economic development in the South of Chile, with the potential to generate US$270 million in annual, ecotourism-related revenue and employ up to 43,000 people in the region.

Blu Skye is proud to support Tompkins Conservation and our other clients in things that we can touch, taste and feel.


To celebrate this historic event, Zach interviewed Erin Billman on the significance of this announcement. Listen and subscribe on iTunes using this button, or on the SoundCloud player below.

 

10 in 2 (yeah, we already changed the name) - Week of March 6

1. Beetles-be-Dunn. UC Santa Cruz music professor, David Dunn, has designed a device that uses sounds broadcast inside trees to disrupt the feeding, communication, reproduction of bark beetles. (universityofcalifornia.edu)

UC Santa Cruz music professor David Dunn listening to bark beetles. Credit: Courtesy of David Dunn

UC Santa Cruz music professor David Dunn listening to bark beetles.
Credit: Courtesy of David Dunn

2. If you want to solve a big problem, make it bigger. Sustainable Business pioneer, Paul Hawken, has “The World’s First Comprehensive Plan to Reverse Global Warming”. Hear all about it Wednesday, March 29th at the Applied Innovation Exchange in SF (Eventbrite)

3. When you live on an island with no oil... Electric cars are getting solar roofs. New Priuses in Japan are finally getting the tech that we have always imagined as a no-brainer. (thinkprogress.org)

CREDIT: Panasonic via NewAtlas.com

CREDIT: Panasonic via NewAtlas.com

 

4. When you live on a continent with lots of oil... Crude oil could be flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline as early as next week. (NPR)

5. Post-Post Modernism. Los Angeles-based artist, Jennifer Bolande put up photographs on billboards along California’s Interstate 10 en route to Palm Springs. Each billboard is a unique image taken at the site, in an attempt to reconnect the space that the rectangle of the billboard has interrupted. (Juxtapoz)

photo via Lance Gerber

photo via Lance Gerber

 

6. Our one Trumpian reference for the week. EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming  We pledge to only refer to him by his new name, Scott Prove it.(CNBC)

7. We like low tech solutions. Check out the Oggun... a tractor built using open-source technology and exclusively off-the-shelf parts in Alabama could be revolutionary for small family farmers all around the world. (Greenhorns)

 

8. Shell game. We gave Shell a hard time last week, but we try to give credit where due. This week CEO Ben van Beurden said,  “This is the biggest challenge we have at the moment as a company ... the fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.” (independent.co.uk)

9. By all means, deregulate. Everyone is distracted by Trump. We think it is important to focus on that insanity, but just as important to not lose sight the everyday environmental injustices: the water in Flint’s water is still tainted with lead, the great barrier reef is bleaching for and unprecedented second straight year, and fracking in the US is still only done in poor neighborhoods.

10. Bio Building. Lego is researching a pivot to make its billions of bricks out of corn and wheat, instead of petroleum-based plastic.  I think this is the memo that Shell must have gotten. (WSJ)

 

As always, audio report availabale on iTunes, or wherever you get your pods.

Blu Skye Sustainability Report - Week of February 27th

^^Podcast version of this weeks report

  1. Science vs (un)common sense. Earlier this week the ‘science guy’ Bill Nye argued that climate change deniers are delusional, so Tucker Carlson invited him onto FOX news show. The resulting chaos is a perfect snapshot of the current debate or lack thereof. (YouTube

  2. Along these same lines... In his address to the joint session of congress on Tuesday night, Trump had a lot to say about climate change.  *sounds of crickets*

  3. The drum beat for a “Calexit” is getting louder. The blog “Wait But Why” argues that if California were to succeed from the Union, it could innovate a new democracy in the same way that Apple reinvented the phone.  (Wait But Why) As an aside... apparently, the person who coined Calexit lives in Russia. Conspiracies everywhere.

  4. How containers changed the world: a new 8-part podcast by Alexis Madrigal focuses on how global trade has transformed the economy and capitalism by looking through the lens of the Oakland port (iTunes)

  5. Evidence of the Know Do Gap. In 1991, Shell produced a documentary on global warming called Climate of Concern outlining the very outcomes we’re seeing today. Despite this, in the last 26 years Shell, like all fossil fuel companies, has failed to meaningfully shift the trajectory in business or policy. (The Guardian)

  6. It’s Zinfull. Pending legislation would prohibit public schools in Arkansas “from including in its curriculum or course materials or any books authored by or concerning Howard Zinn. Howard is best known for his book, ‘A people’s history of the United States’ that tells America's story from the point of view of America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers (Zinn Education Project)

  7. Trailing best practices...99 Percent Invisible details the art of crafting beautiful wilderness trails, where the “‘natural’ appearance is the byproduct of extremely conscientious design”. (99percentinvisible)

  8. Not a good sign. In an advertised $99 deal for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart readers, an offer called “My Patriot Supply” will overnight an exclusive “4-week survival food supply” kit. Get it while you still can from their online shop. (Breitbart)

  9. Changing the world one cow at a time. Stonyfield, the leader in organic yogurt sales in the US, just became the largest yogurt brand to be certified as a B Corp. At the same time, it announced the creation of a Mission Director focused on changing the world. (Stonyfield)

  10. From the mouths of babes. A fifth grader named Bria came up with an advertising idea for Tesla. The idea caught the eye of Elon Musk on Twitter, and he says they will adopt the plan. (The Next Web)

10 in 90 - Week of February 20

We are adding to our podcast arsenal with a debrief of each week in sustainability news that caught our attention.  The news will be read by Jib Ellison and released to all podcatchers each Friday, with blurbs and links to the stories appearing here.


1.       Breath and weep. The air is consistently worse in major cities in India than in major cities in China. Both places suck and are getting worse. (New York Times)

2.       On a positive note. A recently released “Youth Solutions Report” showcases 50 youth-led projects linked to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. Cool projects like Arbio, which focuses on having local people fall in love with their rainforests. And Wintervacht, where co-founder Yoni’s mom suggested she make a coat out of old wool blankets for her boyfriend Manon. They’re now leading a reuse movement in Netherlands (Youth Solutions Report)

3.       Sailing away. According to a recent Greenbiz survey of more than 400 companies, 60% will stay the course even with Trump administration headwinds, while another third say they’re going to need to tack somewhat.

4.       Jobs, jobs, jobs. Nexus media tells us that a former Navy officer who earned a Bronze Star while serving in Afghanistan, Nat Kreamer,  who is now Chair of Solar Energy Industries Association, has committed to hiring 50,000 vets by 2020.  (Nexus Media)

5.       Fake fake news. The NYTs reports that a retired government scientist blasted his former boss on a blog, which then got reinterpreted as proof of climate conspiracy. “How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data,” the Daily Mail headline said.  The scientific community swiftly shot down the accusations and affirmed the accuracy of the research. (New York Times)

6.       The end of facts. According to Joe Brewer on a recent blog post in Medium, Humanity is on the brink of another Dark Age and we had better prepare our knowledge stores for what is coming.

7.       Proof that California is another planet. Fast Company tells us that Kevin de León, the leader of California’s state Senate, has introduced a bill that would transition the country's most populous state to 100% clean energy by 2045, and require hitting the 50% mark by 2025.  (Fast Company)

8.       Can you say ‘deregulation’? Someone at the NYTs read 6000 pages Scott Pruitt’s emails when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma. Their findings? Our new head of the EPA closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups to roll back environmental regulations. Despite this, the emails are unlikely to cause Mr. Pruitt significant new problems. (New York Times)

9.       It's official, we’re in the geologic history books. WESLEY YANG, in the NYT magazine, explores whether the coining of the term for the “Age of Man” – The Anthropocene – is good science, or simply good politics. (New York Times Magazine)

10.   Market making. In a world first,  Laureate Education, a higher education company, and a legal B Corporation raised $490 million in its initial public offering. B Corps by law don’t have to maximize shareholder value. This shift has the power to make positive impacts on communities and the planet in ways that governments can't or won't. (Shareable)

Episode 10 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Real Future Fair - Keynote Speaker Mae Jemison

Two weeks ago I attended the Real Future Fair at the Oakland Museum of California. The annual fair is focused on "Creative conversations on how technology is changing our world". I recorded the keynote speaker and edited it down to what you need to hear. Mae talks about interstellar travel, and her goal to make sure we are traveling outside of our solar system within 100 years. She does this in a way that I did not expect: by connecting it to the benefit of the planet that we currently occupy. "Everything that we need for an interstellar flight, is exactly what we need to survive as a species on this planet."

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST VIA ITUNES OR GOOGLE PLAY

@maejemison

First woman of color in space, Physician, Scientist, Engineer, Explorer & Futurist. Leader 100 Year Starship. 

 

 

 

Episode 9 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Jennie Bernstein

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Here are a few of the ideas you can expect to hear about on this episode:

  • Jennie is hopeful about starting a career in sustainability despite the current political atmosphere, because, "it might be grasping just for a really convenient silver lining but I would like to think that there's going to be doors opening in places that we wouldn't have expected to see opening where this is not our political reality"

  • Jennie is pursuing a career in sustainable urban planning because she sees that path as having a profound impact on both environmental and social justice. Saying "approaching sustainability without an understanding of humans as a part of nature really undermines a lot of the potential ."
  • On our political divides, she strongly believes in "the power of dialogue and conversation and analysis and sharing of knowledge that can bridge that polarity" 
  • She would love to see us scale down our efforts, and focus on local communities, rather than trying to force ourselves to look at our national biases all at once.
  • Jennie is very interested in the concepts of adaptation and resilience.

Episode 8 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Andy Ruben and the future of the sharing economy

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(full transcript of Zach's interview with Andy Ruben)

 

ANDY: I think it is so easy. I live in San Francisco. It is so easy to live in San Francisco and assume that I am right in my views and that half the country is wrong. And I think that that is I think that is an easy way out and ultimately will be ineffective for the progress that we need to make right now.

 

ZACH: Welcome to the Blu Skye podcast. I'm Zach Winter. This week I spoke with Andy Ruben Andy has been a TED Speaker. He's been featured on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. And in the New York Times. He has testified before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives as an expert in business and sustainability. So clearly this appearance on Blu Skye’s podcast is huge for him - joking - I was extremely lucky to get this opportunity to speak with him. Andy was the first Chief Sustainability Officer for Wal-Mart and he starts this interview with a story about his experiences there and how that led him to where he is now. He's currently co-founder at Yerdle company's mission it is to fundamentally change our relationship with material things. I hope you enjoy his words.

 

So I'm so glad to finally be talking to you. I've heard your name thrown around in my circles you know repeatedly ad nausea basically for years and years so I'm really...

 

ANDY: Likewise I’ve heard great things about you, and it's good to finally be connected.

 

ZACH: So I have all these questions for you but you know, I’m going to ask you a little bit about Yerdle and what's going on and stuff like that. And then I also want to just talk about what, what's happening (Trump) and what that effect may or may not have on the movement that we are both involved in and what we can do about it. And you know... that stuff.

 

ANDY: Awesome. I thought maybe you know I thought maybe I could share if it made sense and you'll be able to edit this right?

 

ZACH: So yeah, of course there's not going to be like just straight up.

 

ANDY: Good. My partner Adam makes me do everything in one take and it is tough. I love it though.

 

(music)

 

So I thought maybe I could share a story from an experience I had in Walmart. This is probably, boy, I don't know probably 10 years ago now and experience at Wal-Mart that really stuck with me around consumption and the amount of stuff in the world and where we're heading. So if I could maybe share that story it's actually a story about a store visit in Lamar Missouri and then we can go from there. Kind of leads into everything about Yerdle that leads into what I see as interesting about reuse and what's next. So let me let me share it fully and I will lean on you to edit away of course

ZACH: Yes. Say as many “likes” and “ums” as you want and I will cut em in (out).

 

ANDY: Awesome. So this was again it was about 10 years ago, it was back to school. I am sitting in the shotgun side of a car with a regional manager and we are we're going to spend a full day seeing stores, which you know is something that executives at Wal-Mart did, I would say, every other week. Spent the day in stores and the first store that we're going to see we're in a car we're driving into Lamar, Missouri. Lamar is a town of a few hundred people. And I'm basically clutching this cup of coffee and a shotgun side because his is ungodly early in the morning. We pull in the parking lot very traditional. We walk into the store and all store tours you end up seeing a dozen stores in a day. The first store is always the best store because nobody knows you're coming. So it's the only store that you really get a sense of what the customer sees. So very typically we walk in the store. They get on the intercom they page the store manager, the team, and we start this store tour around the perimeter of the store which is kind of the it's a daily practice that store managers will do just to to observe is everything well set up for the day. And we start in consumables which is very typical and consumables you look at things like in-stock. Right. It's apparent that over you know since the late 70s Wal-Mart and other retailers like Wal-Mart have gotten so good at replenishment. Right so you buy a thing a band deodorant and there's one right behind it on the shelf to make sure that they're never out of stock because being out of stock really costs sales. And it's one of the things that a lot of Wal-Mart to to be very effective against a competitor like Kmart is we got into the 80s because of the systems that have been built. We walked from there into action alley and we start, you know you look for the pricing in action alley, and what most retailers do is they want to start with a low price point and you slowly move up in price point so that customers don't get, don't get scared by high price points right. Kind of like you walk into the retail environment in a store and Lamar looked awesome right. The pricing was really well done. Skipping a few more stops we end up in the middle of the store which is the photo counter. It's that counter kind of dead center and in this store they've got things like. Now they've got iPhones. At the time, It's back to school and we're looking for graphic calculators and the store manager from, not the store manager the photo center manager is behind the desk and the regional manager I'm with says “how are graphic calculator sales?” And this is the part that I will always remember. Right, so what he was talking about is that every retailer in the world looks at comp sales (comparable sales). So they want to know how are sales this week compared to a year ago. Better this month compared to a year ago and we were asking about graphic operators and we're carrying with us what's called the Morning Report. It's this big thick binder of paper that's got every sales number for every department in the store and we're flipping through together to look for graphic calculators and we finally find graphic calculators and use uses kind of his sheet and he looks over he looks at the comp. And it was flat. In other words, the store in Lamar Missouri had sold no more graphic calculators that year. Then they had the year before. And why I remember it is it was just dead quiet. And I'm thinking to myself being on a store trip you know I'm kind of an I'm an up and comer I want to I want to do well in the company and I always thought about things like this and like what if I was. What if I was that department. You know the photo manager. How many calculators can you sell in Lamar, Missouri. When do you reach the point. Everybody has a graphic calculator and that seniors are just passing them on to juniors right that people are going to college and passing them down. And if I was set up with the challenge of increasing sales by 5 percent year of graphic calculators... How do you keep that going? And I remember, what sticks with me is I'm thinking “I don't know” but there comes a time when I don't know how you sell more of those calculators and then I walk away from that store visit and I thought about it over the course of the next several days and weeks and I kept thinking like it doesn't quite make sense yet this is just the way the world is. It's like one of those things that a lot of us see where when you think you see something really important but you look around and no one else seems to think there's anything there and kind of lull yourself back to “maybe we'll be fine like maybe this is just how it is.” And there are always more calculators to be sold. That's a story that really sticks with me in terms of the world that we've constructed around us has been this way for a relatively short period of time. But we all assume it's been like that forever. And there is a point that those things start to change.

 

ZACH: It's a very striking story. You know I can see I can now see how that led you to all eventually years later right.

 

ANDY: Yes absolutely. So it. What I started to see several years later this is about five years ago now so 10 years ago. I had walked the aisles and had that graphic calculator experience. And about five years ago I left to start Yerdle and what I was seeing because Yerdle is a platform. Right? It's the objective the mission that we're on is that one out of four items a quarter of the items that we get. Don't need to come from a new supply chain. They can come from other customers. Right. So they come from people like us who are no longer using those graphic calculators. And what I was seeing at the time is I was seeing the beginning of Relayrides right which is now Turo. My friends you know we're starting AirBnB. You know I was watching Uber being started. And at that time when you talked about you know the biggest competitor to a Hilton hired or Marriott would be someone using your unused room. Five years ago that would have been a joke here and right now it is the single biggest thing going on in in the in lodging right is that basically utilization of these extra rooms that we have. And so it's you know I was seeing the emergence of this thing that's now called the sharing economy which is part of again another term the circular economy. And it struck me that was just like graphic calculators that the same way that we use a car more of its life because of services like Lyft right in Juno and Uber the same way that we use excess rooms more. We will also get more use out at the graphic calculators that today are sitting in drawers, just as our friends are buying new ones.

 

ZACH: It's kind of brilliant. It seems so simple but it also was not even a thing that anyone was thinking about before I get that time right.

 

ANDY: And to be honest the five years ago I expected this space of everyday things use this space of women's apparel and kids clothing and graphic calculators. I expected that to have the same trajectory as lodging or travel and ride sharing an Uber and it has not. So lodging and transportation have moved much farther much faster and the world of everyday things, the supply chain to things and are the kind of that billion items in the U.S. alone. That sit idle in our closets in garages. That space is not broken out. In other words, people in the Target boardroom are not talking about this as a major threat in the way that people in the Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott boardrooms are talking about Airbnb. So I think that there I think that there are some additional elements of this space that make it different than those spaces. But because I know how much that mom in Lamar, how much it matters to her and Lamar Missouri to save a hundred dollars on a graphic calculator or for her son going back to school. I know that it will happen. I've seen it. I mean I've seen that over the last five years in this space. You know it's going to it's going to happen differently then, it's going to require different things to make that happen than the services that exist today. We're not there yet. But it will happen.

 

ZACH: What about... I think the thing that I think of when I think of the sharing economy is what gets written a lot about is the interplay of regulation and what... How do you see that interplay?

 

ANDY: I think it's I think regulation has a huge role to play. We're in the timeliness of this right. We're in a, we're in the day after the election. So I think it's I think it's fair to say today that I feel less confident today relying on regulation to solve this than I did yesterday. It is that that I've always been but that might be today compared to yesterday but in the general arc of my short career my last 20 years is that the place that I play in is a pace of kind of corporations and business. And there's a unique role for corporations in business to play. While it doesn't address everything we still need regulation. I've been very focused for my career on it on the part of that kind of ecosystem that corporations can play in why I like about the world that I'm describing about everyday things is that it is a customer for the most part sustainability over the last 10 years. We've been talking about what I will call in an admirable way I will call eco-efficiency. Right. We have found ways behind the curtains of these companies like Marks and Spencer and Wal-Mart and Target and brands that we love. These companies have found ways to remove cost in with more efficient stores with more efficient trucking with better cutting of apparel. But essentially it is removing, It's basically creating efficiency in the production of these items. What is yet to happen and is the big opportunity I see looking forward, is not about how we make these products with less input. It's about how we get more out of the products that we've already made. So imagine two Patagonia jackets, both made as well as you could make a jacket, as fully considered as it could be, one of them gets worn by five people within an inch of its life. And one of them lives its entire life in a closet. Those two items have dramatically different footprints and we are just on the verge of having the technology and the tools to know the use of an item, and even more importantly as a brand to be able to affect that. And a final part of this getting back to the role of corporations when Patagonia is one of the many leaders that I that I expect to see here soon start to want all of their items back and start to make use of those items coming back. I would hate to compete with Patagonia because they're just going to be more competitive. And so, of the past 10 years of sustainability have in many ways been have affected the cost of items and the cost of business. They've been non-customer facing. Whereas when a brand like Patagonia is an example and a brand like Patagonia it can bring in a whole new set of customers because they want their items back because they're well made and they can now sell them for less money a second third and fourth time to a new customer that couldn't have afforded Patagonia before. That is a competitive business model. Now we’re customer facing. And now we're in the competitive dynamics that I've watched, we've all watched, Airbnb compete with an Uber and Lyft. That to me is not one that companies can sit out because they will sit out at their own peril. And I I look forward to that as a father.

 

ZACH It's a really interesting idea and one of the things that makes me think of is like how right? like what's the what's the actually the chain that gets Patagonia it's jackets back?

 

ANDY: Yeah. So this is this is where all the fun is. If anyone listening right now remembers e-commerce in the mid-90s right 1994, 1996. My experience in 1995 trying to buy something online is you’d accidentally hit that backspace button and all your information would go away. Right like there was there was so much work that took place in the late 90s in the early 2000s to get to the point that we're at now where a player like Amazon has created so much value in better serving customers that they are really just they are kind of they're working hard for it but they're mopping up the investments they made in the early 2000s. Right they're playing those out. So it's there's a lot of work to be done in that and there are a few players that are already taking big steps. So Green Eileen with Eileen Fischer is a good example where any day of the year you can bring back an Eileen Fisher garment any Eileen Fisher store and they will hand you a five dollar kind of Eileen Fisher gift card for that item. And then they will clean. They will inspect the item and then they will sell it. They will resell it they'll sell it a second or third or fourth time through their stores. Patagonia does the same thing in Portland. Right, so we're just seeing the beginning of brands starting to do this to figure out how to do this. I want to distinguish the two examples I just gave from the box in a store that you just bring back whatever you're done with. Dump it off. These are not brands that are just providing a way to recycle goods. These are brands that are producing items and creating economic models to bring their items back to be resold. It's almost like if you think of an iceberg. It's almost that when you think about the past 40 years, brands and retailers have only been utilizing their items in stores and warehouses. And if you think about after you sell a Patagonia item that item can go through five different - if it's a kid's jacket - there might be five different girls who get to wear that jacket that is everything below the surface of the iceberg. And as brands start to realize that they can they can keep track right of those items forever, right, as they change hands again and again and again as they can bring those items back into their stores by having someone pick them up return shipping whatever it is they bring the items back and sell them a second, third, fourth time that they were be more competitive in keeping track of their customers at finding new customers and understanding the use of their items.

 

ZACH: It's super interesting. And one of the first things I thought of when I woke up this morning on this November 9th the day after Election Day was the vows that president-elect Trump has made to disband the EPA and basically undo all of regulation. Do you think that in a climate where there's less regulation disincentivizes companies to make the sort of changes that you're talking about.

 

ANDY: You know the changes that I'm talking about have a market incentive that once one company does it, once one company in your industry does this and starts to make real economic gains for their shareholders by doing this, right by keeping track of all items in perpetuity that you make. You will be less competitive if you don't do it. So regardless of regulation right, regulation would certainly raise the playing field as a playing field. Without regulation. You know I think the choices are basically either A in your industry like apparel or outdoor goods you just hope that no one does it. Option B is that you start exploring this space of re-commerce because odds are someone's going to do it and if you actually believe that's going to happen you want to be exploring the space you want to be understanding if you're happy or not when this future happens. And so, I think that regardless of regulation I'm talking about a competitive dynamic that that doesn't require regulation. That being said there is quite a bit of state regulation regardless of national politics. State regulation, there was and I'm no expert in policy here but there are there is a bill in California about requiring companies to have basically it take ownership of their items. Post-sale. There is some national legislation that doesn't look like it will fare as well in the next four years but looking at the, I believe it's a $3 billion bill that the taxpayers hold for fashion alone for our landfills. Right so we every year as a nation spend three billion dollars of taxpayer money on burying clothes that corporations sell and the customers that we choose not to want. And so there is definitely the likelihood that government regardless of where it is will look at those companies and say companies are making plenty of money. We need money. Let's have the companies pay for things that we have to pay for based on their actions. I would hope that that regulation gets done in a way that drives innovation so that that regulation happens where if you if you're able to take back your items for example like Eileen Fisher that you would not be subjected to that additional tax that would be ideal. I don't think we can rely though on regulation happening nor it being written in a way to really drive innovation. And that's where I come back to markets. Let's go after both.  They're not mutually exclusive.

 

ZACH: Totally. Do you see it as possible or likely that we'll be able to decouple sustainability and the green economy from politics.

 

ANDY: No no. By anything that is anything that is big enough to make a difference in this world we will come up against the way we operate as a society. And the existing systems in place and that's where for the early companies that had shared rides and ridesharing and you know I mean initially it... you know insurance became an issue. Now we will deal with the gig economy in what portability of benefits right, in a career track looks like there are a host of regulations based on the, you know, regulations tend to be designed for a system that existed in the past and the systems that we're talking about the changes that we're talking about are big enough that they will challenge the models that we regulated for 10 20 30 sometimes more years ago. And so I don't think that it is possible for any of these shared-economy spaces to smoothly sail through this and be big enough to be interesting without pushing up against regulation designed for an older model.

 

ZACH: What are you what do you see the sharing-economy. I mean you can speak to this in any way you want but I'm curious about where you see the future as in your world.

 

ANDY: Yes I'm going to focus on this. I'm going to focus on the everyday things the things around us right recommit us of. Kids Clothing and women's fashion and graphic calculators. How I see that playing out is that, I mean it's it's happening now. Anyone who thinks this is a thing of the future e-commerce selling an item more than once is growing five and a half times faster in the fashion industry than e-commerce and e-commerce in fashion is growing incredibly quickly. Right. So e-commerce of clothing is growing gangbusters and recolors is growing five and a half times faster. So it is happening now and the change that I'm seeing is that there's always been a niche group of us right, in society, be it the U.S. or elsewhere that relies on thrifting, right, in and buying things that are that have been pre-loved to pre-worn. What's happening with technology in mobile is that experience to find that item we are looking for is getting easier and easier and as we keep making it easier we will get to the point that you can find the same graphic calculator. You know that's been used by a student for a year or that is new off a factory line the new off the factory line will look the exact same as the one from last year although it will be $150 and the one that was used for a year would be $50. And the only question is from a retail perspective. Are retailers going to be customer-centric enough to be a player in helping customers get that value. Are brands who make those calculators can be involved in that system, but it's not a question in my mind of if that happens we will do that because it is just it's just better. It's better in every which way. Because it's it's better from, as  as one of my mentors talks about, Paul Hawken. It's better according to physics. From just basic physics. And so in that way we will all find a way to do that. And it's happening now the question what has not happened at this point. Is that the companies that we do business with today the companies that we depend on the Wal-Marts the targets the Amazons the Patagonias just starting. Those companies have yet to truly get into this space and really serve this need in a  serious way. But I know from the from the space that I'm in that they are right now. And if you're in a company that is not I think there's a cautionary tale that can be looked at e-commerce.

 

ZACH: When I saw that Facebook was announcing their marketplace the first company I thought of was was Yerdle. Can you talk about the effect that Facebook's new marketplace platform has on Yerdle.

 

ANDY: Yeah I mean first of all let me just mention as someone who's not connected directly to Facebook the fact that they launched this marketplace and it is the center button in the Facebook mobile app. They took they took messenger out of that position and put marketplace in that position. I applaud them and I am so excited by what they just did. They've got a platform with 1.8 billion people and the excitement that I have around that. I mean for Yerdle, we're a million plus members. If I'm making a bet on this space happening I'm going to bet with 1.8 billion over a million. And so I think the excitement that I had around that around that launch was tremendous. There's a lot of work to do. There's a lot of learning for them to get this right. But that's exciting. From a Yerdle perspective, we've recently announced for the last four years we've been focused on a peer to peer platform. Right so making it easy for people to post a graphic calculator and find a graphic calculator. We have recently announced that based on our mission of 1 out of four items coming from someone else we are handing we have already done it now we've handed that platform back to our most active members. And we are now as the year old team focused on working with the brands that are interested the sustainability-minded brands who are interested in re-commerce. So we have now shifted our attention toward focusing on those brands and making them successful in re-commerce based on the belief that to make this thing big it's going to happen from the brands that really get behind it and do this as a business. And so the Facebook move relative to Yerdle is less of a direct issue because of the move we've made to go away from the peer to peer platform over to the B2B space with brands.

 

ZACH: And what does that look like for you. Like what is what is the platform then look like with the marketplace in the hands of the users and you guys focus on brands how does that mean that we're going to start seen Yerdle coordinated trades on Facebook between brands and people. What does that actually look like?

 

ANDY: No they're two very two very separate businesses. So the the only connection in there is what we have historically spent time on and where we're heading now. But our members have taken the Yerdle platform and they've actually elected to run that on a Facebook marketplace. So they've taken the platform it is completely a member run. They're doing that on Facebook. They've decided that Yerdle has no role in that. We are focused on working with brands that want to build this under their own brand name.

 

ZACH: Oh I see, I see. I got it. So for example then it would be you know, it would be Patagonia on the Patagonia Website having a relisted store of the re-commerce items.

 

ANDY: Yeah that's exactly right. So that is the model that the excitement that I have looking at this world and seeing where things are going is brands themselves building this into their existing business model. And as they do that other brands will either go out of business or figure it out themselves. It's the leverage that I see to drive this and accelerate the progress of it. And we are taking a learnings, Yerdle we are all taking the learnings from our past four years operating a peer to peer platform and bringing those to like-minded companies that want to be doing this.

 

ZACH: It's nice. I love the vision.

 

 

 

ANDY: It's been a beautiful experience for the last four years and as we have already been for several months now on this path of working directly with brands. What is so exciting about this space is that the role that these brands can play when I say brands I'm talking about people who produce items as well as retailers who sell items. These people have existing relationships with a huge customer base and they have the ability to make this so much easier for customers which is the biggest friction point. When I look at everyday things the biggest thing standing in our way right now. I will get the graphic calculator from someone else used when it's as easy as going to Amazon when it becomes as easy to get the graphic calculator were used. I will get it used. And we are working on making that happen.

 

ZACH: I operate under the assumption that most the people that listen to this podcast are either passionate about sustainability or working on sustainable issues or you know younger generations that are that are new to the game. What what is your advice to those people as a seasoned expert?

 

ANDY: You know for a number of years so I was fortunate enough to be at the right point at the right time to be the first leader in kind of initiating with Blu Skye, Wal-Mart's efforts. Alright so I was the inside person at Wal-Mart and in a relatively short period of time I became more enamored with actually being myself and giving advice to people to go directly into the business line as opposed to a standalone sustainability function. So I think what's I think what sustainability provides is it provides a lens in my view to see a much longer time horizon and a much greater system effect. And when you can understand what those dynamics look like for the area that you're work in inside a main line business with the leverage you can end up with much smarter for the world for society as well as economically much smarter plan and smarter opportunities right near-term opportunities can provide very quick wins longer range innovations and ultimately you know a few game changers that just change the way we do things. So my advice for people is to leverage the lens in the learning of sustainability that time horizon the system effects. But I would advise I do advise people to spend their time then in the mainline business because that's where that's where the dollars are. It's where the influence in the scale exists.

 

ZACH: And my last question for you is something that Blu Skye uses a lot in our work and I'm sure you've heard the question before but what should I have asked you about that I haven't?

 

ANDY: It's what we haven't talked about that continues to strike me is the need for real leadership. And when I say leadership I'm not talking about the president of the US or a CEO of a company I'm talking about leadership from inside organizations in any role of an organization truly talking about leadership I'm talking about people who are willing to do the really hard work who are willing to, seems relevant to the last 24 hours, who are willing to to miss right to to not succeed in what they were going for. But to really go for something because of their values and because of what they believe. I have more and more admiration for this quote from Theodore Roosevelt's quote about it's a little bit gender biased but man in the arena right his is credit goes no credit doesn't go to the critics who sit on the sidelines. Credit goes to  the man, the person in the arena. And when I look out and I see leaders he them CEOs of companies like you know Rose to CEO of Patagonia, or honestly Eileen Fisher, when I see leaders who are being bold in taking bold direction in terms of the future without that drives me, and I think there's a real vacuum of that type of leadership out there and anybody can exhibit that type of leadership. And part of that leadership is listening, right, as well as having that vision. And bringing people along with you. And the day after the election that we just had I think that is more needed than ever. And I think it fits just not for the societal and political state. I think it fits for in my estimation how much we've worked on these issues from sustainability and how much less progress we've made over the last 10 years compared to what I would have hoped.

 

ZACH: It's a very thoughtful answer. And I'm also... I'm optimistic. I think that seeing Donald Trump get elected as president is one of the best motivators for liberal thinkers and movers that I could possibly imagine you know just my Facebook feed is full of people committing themselves on the record to becoming activists for the first time in their life and I just think it's really interesting and it's kind of heartwarming.

 

ANDY: Yeah that the quick comment I would make about that I would offer for anyone for anyone listening is… I think it's really important right now to it so much. I think it is so easy. I lived in San Francisco. It is so easy to live in San Francisco and assume that I am right in my views and in that half the country is wrong. And I think that that is I think that is an easy way out and ultimately will be ineffective for the progress that we need to make right now. And so I would encourage anybody who truly cares about the progress right now to spend more reflective time thinking about how split divided this country is and that says something that we need a lot more time in understanding where people are right now. And that is just it is way too easy and I would not consider leadership to simply sit in San Francisco and say we get it and other people don't. It's just naive.

 

ZACH: It's super true. I think you're 100 percent right. We should maybe all move for a month...

 

ANDY: I couldn't I mean I so appreciate the 10 years that I spent in Arkansas. I don't know if everyone should move or not. I just think that listening, listening is really important right now and it's it's so much easier for me to say than it is for me or anyone else to do. I just think it is more important today than it's been it's been in some time anywhere in the world.

 

 

ZACH: Yeah. I agree. Well, Andy I can't tell you how fun it's been talking to you. I really appreciated the things you said and that you were willing to take the time to do this. It means a lot to me.

 

ANDY: Likewise. It's a great conversation. Anyone listening right now makes me hopeful right that people, people care enough to have this conversation they care about what this world is that we will leave for our children and the role that we play to leave this place better than we found it.

 

ZACH: Perfect. Alright, man. well have a good day. I hope that San Francisco doesn't wrap you in its bubble too much.

 

ANDY: It's a bubble I really appreciate today. it feels very comfortable, it feels very united. Very good. It's good to talk to you. Yeah thanks. We'll talk soon.

ZACH: All right perfect. OK. You too.

ANDY: Bye bye.

ZACH: So before I go I just wanted to leave a little note for the listeners. I know I've been jumping back and forth to students who are looking for jobs at Blu Skye, and people that I consider to be leaders in sustainability, and I'm going to keep doing that. That is unless you tell me that it gets too confusing. So please send me feedback about how the show is going whether you are enjoying it, what you like the most, or which you don't like. I really want to hear from you. Thanks for listening to the Blu Skye podcast. If you enjoyed this or any episode, please leave a review wherever you are listening. See you next time.

 

Episode 7 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Alexis Madrigal is a beautiful nerd

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ALEXIS: The idea that Donald Trump ran a campaign based on building a wall when there is already a frigging wall, was such an incredible thing to me. It was so, it became so real that people don't know about actual places in the same way that perhaps we used to. That the digital layer we've laid on top of all these things which we thought would be like additive, might actually be like subtractive in the sense of knowing about things.

 

ZACH: This is the Blu Skye podcast. I'm Zach Winter. Last week I had a conversation with Alexis Madrigal. I think the things that he has to say are extra important now given what happened last night. His words about the disdain that the left has for the right feel extra poignant.

 

ALEXIS: My name is Alexis Madrigal. I’m the editor at large of Fusion which is a cable and digital network. And I work in live in Oakland.

 

ZACH: So I have a very serious question for you first, which is based on my perusing of your Twitter feed over the past week, which is what's your favorite color of Draymond?

 

ALEXIS: I'm definitely just a straight up Draymond Green fan, and I have... I mean I think Draymond Red is probably also one that I would like which I think of as like Draymond’s out partying persona, just like pushing it to the max at all times. You know I do think of that as a fun dream to hang out with.

 

ZACH: Good answer. I'm curious about your relationship with sustainability on a general plane. You know, I know that you work on a million different subjects that are in some ways tangentially related other ways not, but I know you got your start and you literally wrote a book on the future and past of sustainability.

 

ALEXIS: Yeah well I think about it I guess, I am interested in the general sense in big human technological systems and the way that I got into that really started in the 90s with the Internet, watching the Internet you know get built piece by piece you know kind of first with really basic networking and telnet, and starting to use these services like Gopher. I remember there was a time when you know you would be like “wow I can pull up a library catalog in Australia”, And that seemed like a significant thing. And then you know watching the web get built on top of it and all the different technologies and things that have come since then. A lot of that just kind of lay dormant in my thinking for a long time having watched the construction of this new and very significant socio technical system, and when I got into journalism for real in the mid-aughts there were people who were blogging at that time in ways that I thought were like very exciting, like they were types of writing where it was like an attempt to kind of understand that big systems. The guy that I think you must specifically named Geoff Manaugh and he, Geoff was really working on a thing called Building blog (BLDGBLOG) that kind of took the idea of architecture and like really like stretched it and distorted it and ran it through all kinds of filters. And it let let you see the kind of built environment as one kind of crazy set of systems you know almost like like a network of networks kind of approach to architecture. And at that time also, you know, I was pretty consumed with climate change as a threat to... certainly the nonhuman world and then also the human world particularly the most vulnerable people in the human world. And so when I started digging into climate change really where you end up as you go deeper into sustainability is like in the back-end and infrastructure of the world. You know, the coal plants the, oil pipelines the transmission infrastructure, the way that engines are built, the way that supply chains internalized costs... like these like incredibly in some ways - to some people boring things that kind of infrastructure is really like those are the systems that need to change in order to meaningfully reduce the systemic emissions beyond what any one person can do by you know driving less or eating less meat or whatever, any of these things. And so that's kind of my relationship with that with sustainability in greenness and climate change in general is still a lot of the same things. I'm still interested in these back end systems. I think that may be what has changed a little bit is that, you know, just things are changing more slowly than I think we hoped. I think that the technologies that I cover in the book have done, some of them have done well some of them have not. Biofuels have been kind of a big disappointment no matter what the source of them was. I think you know solar PV has done great. I think thermal solar like the big fields of solar has been a big disappointment. You know, I think it's just you realize that changing these big systems takes forever. And so I kind of try and build it into my daily practice of doing journalism to think about these things. But I think, you know, it's going to take decades. And I think we need to understand it is that length and size of project.

 

ZACH: And I think that's what draws me to your work so much is that you always work that in somehow. Right. And I constantly struggle with those things myself. It's like, I'm working on sustainability issues, but I'm equally passionate about social justice and I'm constantly struggling with that connection between those two. I mean obviously they're very heavily linked but they often get lost in like some people depart and study one or the other and they don't often come together and I think you're bringing them together in a way that's super interesting. I just graduated from. And we're back to school and got a degree in organization development. And when my favorite professors who was helping me with my thesis told me that the topic of my thesis literally didn't matter and who I was and what I was interested in would come into my work no matter what I did. So I'm curious about you and what are the topics that that creep into your work no matter what I think you just spoke to them, but maybe expand a little.

 

ALEXIS: I think some of it is. This core understanding of the world that like the person who controls the spreadsheet ends up controlling the outcomes of many decision-making processes. I think that definitely is true in all kinds of environmental reporting, and also in all kinds of technological stuff, and so figuring out who is controlling that spreadsheet and what assumptions are baked into it and into those models has become a huge huge part of all my work. I think a real interest in and respect for the people who are doing work. Whether it's like the people doing your InstaCart orders, or like longshoremen or truck drivers. Even to a great extent, you know the people running the dirtiest coal power plants, the people who are in the mining industry, the people who do, you know, drilling and fracking. I think I think that there's a very there's a strain of kind of distaste for people who are like working in the sort of like extent  on energy industry or in like polluting industries that I actually find kind of gross, because you know like a lot of those people are interested in transforming their own industries, a lot of those people understand the issues really well and really really deeply. And I think you know a model for that for me has been you know John McPhee’s respect for geologists whether you know the New Yorker writer and book author you know, whether they worked for Shell or the USGS or whatever, he understood them as in their own professional class of workers who you know ended up in these different places but actually shared a lot of commonality and an outlook that could be explored and I think you know, a lot of the best science and technology studies scholars in the academy I think have been really good at doing that with like how did the managers of big utilities think about their job and what it was that they were doing and trying to understand the problems that they were solving. Understanding that we have a new set now and that that's going to require like resetting some of the assumptions and values that exist in the current energy industry.

 

ZACH: That's really well put. First thing that made me think of was that This American Life episode that I think was This American Life (edit: it was Invisiblia) where they interviewed the consultant who had gone into Shell a long time ago and they kind of - moral of the story was that Shell had gotten all this consulting help on how did how to be better humans essentially. And BP didn't, and that is what indirectly led to the Gulf spill.

 

ALEXIS: I mean I've you know met with a lot of different people. You know geologists, executives in the well industry different kinds of people. I think one of the key problems, I think of the way that we tend to approach those guys, is to be like “well there are one thing that the oil companies” and that reduces the incentive for the good companies and the good people within those companies to like actually meaningfully improve the way that their companies do business because they're just like “well, everyone's just going to think we’re the oil companies anyway” even though certainly within that industry people don't think that way. You know, I mean a great example of this from a while back was when Jim Rogers of Duke Energy decided to try and get out in front on a lot of climate change issues and Clive Thompson wrote a great profile of him in the late-aughts for the New York Times Magazine. And I think that it was it was a very interesting time you know, and an interesting play, but you kind of need some of those leaders on the inside.

 

ZACH: You know it's the same thing happened to Dave Greene of NRG. He's a friend of Blu Skye. But the other thing that makes me think of is I was listening to W. Kamau, and Hari Kondabolu last night and they were talking about the Cleveland Indians and how they think we need to remember that every person within that organization is not behind that logo and offensive team name. So we have to we have to come at it with a level of respect if you actually think that that needs to change.

 

ALEXIS: Totally. I mean, you know when you look back at when I was writing my book and working on that stuff that kind of I mean pro technology is a too weird thing, but at least technology agnostic set of green thinkers who were thinking like “how are we going to transform the world and our cities and our energy industry and our transportation” all those things you know and I think about that - what happened to the people who were doing that. I mean some of them went on to do other kinds of journalism, report on other systems. Some of them you know are in still in that climate change blogging game like Dave Roberts at VOX now, whatever. But a lot of the people who are really interested in that stuff went deep into the weeds. They work for, and within the companies. They work for and within Walmart, they work for and within the building companies, and software companies and they're the people who are kind of like driving the legs like getting a lot of these changes done and I think you know when I when I hear you say that you're interested in you know organization management or you know, I assume some of that is like organizational transformation, change management, things like that. But it's just such a necessary part of what's going to happen. I mean I think that even you know climate people underestimate the scale of organizational change that needs to occur. I mean you're going to need literally tens and hundreds of thousands of people to do this work here now and do it inside the very companies that right now you know pollute the most, create the most emissions, etc. and so I think I think I think a ton about that is how many of the people who used to be foregrounded in media coverage etc. now aren't because they're just so deep in doing the actual work of transformation.

 

ZACH: Yeah, I think about it a lot to you know being a sustainability consultant, I work with a lot of you know, corporate sustainability reps and people like that, and people within business and I'm always of their quality and their passion and their brain really. And if these people can't solve this faster then, who can?

 

ALEXIS: Right? Right?


ZACH: And it's a constant area fret for me.

 

ALEXIS: Right right right. I know. I know. Well you know I mean it's just it's just the scale of change, you know. It's kind of unfathomable, I think. You know I mean in part because the current infrastructure is unfathomable. You know I mean there's a guy that Bill Gates loved, Václav Smil, who I think is like a really challenging read for most sustainability people, not because he's like a dense writer, but because he sort of feels like you know no one's gonna fix shit. That’s like his basic position, honestly. He is not always right. I mean he states everything. So but if you go back and look at his record like oh, he's right you know, naysaying isn't always the thing. But I do feel like what I really have taken from his work, for example is just like he'll just lay out like here's the scale of materials handling that occurs with like oil on this earth. Like, if you want to replace this system, consider what it means to move this much shit around the earth. Consider what it took to build that. And I think that most  people don't. And I think a lot of what I'm working on right now is a series around the Port of Oakland, which of course is like about all of the machinery of global capitalism kind of when it literally comes to dock in one local place. And when you look up at one of those ships with all those containers and all of that stuff in it and you think that's just one of like 11,000 ships like that all over the ocean. It's just one of dozens that's going to come into the port in a given week. You know and you realize like how many chassis, for example are necessary to move all of those boxes to different places on the port and then out into the world and then within each of those boxes there's all these things that they need to like all the scale of all of that. Every single piece of that supply chain will eventually need to be improved and it's emissions will need to be reduced. Everything like that will have to change. And I just think, you just look at one boats-worth and you think like “wow that would take a lot”. And then you think of all of the boats anything that you know that you think that there are constantly in circulation at all times. There's just, there's a lot to be done.

 

ZACH: It's true. And I think you just hinted at it there. You've hinted other places too that I've read where you are talking about getting into audio production. Do you have a project that's already out that I haven't been able to find, or is that something that's in the works?

 

ALEXIS: it's in the works. it's in production right now. There'll be a teaser out in a few weeks and then it'll probably drop in the very beginning of 2017. The first week of January will be like kind of an eight-episode thing about the Port of Oakland, know global Trade, and also the future of work comes up a lot. You know you know there's a lot of interviews and things that the people actually doing the work in and out of the port. And what it will mean to have you know increasing amounts of technology come to bear not just on the waterfront but like in the warehouses and you know in the automated trucks and things like that.

 

ZACH: I'm super excited. I don't think I could even express how excited I am.

 

ALEXIS: It's going to be pretty good actually. I mean I wasn't sure when I got started and it's a really hard thing to report on because it's just a lot of secrecy around the port but like security as well it's just like negotiations between shippers and terminals and longshoremen and just like as with many things in climate change and industries, there's not like some media person who is like waiting for you to call. The person who approves interviews is the president of the company who has an AOL address. You know what I mean. It's stuff like that.

 

ZACH: I give people a hard time when you know of those AOL addresses. But I can't stop myself. I read that you're a co-founder of Always Read the Plaque. Could you talk about that? I think that's one of the best projects that not many people know about that aren't already 99% Invisible listeners.

 

ALEXIS: So you know 99 Percent Invisible is, founded by Roman Mars. (hello, beautiful nerd) It's an amazing podcast about the material world and just stuff and the way that stuff is designed and made in and exists in the world. And you know he had an episode that centered around an individual plaque you know, just like a historical marker out there in the world. And you know he basically gave this maxim, like “always read the plaque”. So right before we had our first kid a few years ago I got really excited about this and I was like “Roman we gotta build this website, will collect these plaques and and just be this place for all these amazing stories and we can report some of them out.” So we started to build this thing out, got pretty far with it and then had a kid and like I sort of fell off the face of the earth for a few months. And you know funnily enough people kept submitting plaques though you know from from different places in the world and there it's just kind of natural filtration mechanism of people who submit tended to be the kind of people who had a good nose for an interesting story. And eventually a guy named Kester Allen came along and said “can I take this over?” basically like “I'm a developer I can make this into a real Web site that's functional and that I love this stuff and I'll just do it because I want to help.” So he did. He built it into the real thing that now exists and you know he cuts like partnerships with different places that have pictures and stories of plaques, like a bunch of civil rights plaques recently came on from the south. I'm still submitting them. The one I liked most recently I happened to be in downtown San Diego. And I ran into this one for the Callan Hotel from 1878. And so I’m just reading here “In 1886 Till Burns leased this structure as his ACME Saloon. Here he kept his menagerie which included a wild cat, noisy monkeys, an anteater, and his pet bear who escaped on at least two occasions. The bear was also known to lick the face or even take a bite out of a passer-by. The saloon closed in 1907 after a shady history from 1928  to 1941, the Nippon company owned the building and ran an import business, however, this was lost due to the Japanese internment during World War 2. The Calland Hotel opened in 1943.”  To me, it's just like, oh my god... That took a lot of turns in 50 words. You know? I will say just to relate that my work together. Try and try and find some throughline there. I have come to really really appreciate and see almost as a form of political resistance to this sort of fact-free and kind of puzzling lack of knowledge and kind of rise of know-nothingism in the world, to really kind of know about places. I was recently at the Mexico/US border down in Tijuana for some time and really just felt like it was important to just stand near the border wall like to be a human perceiving that place to watch the trucks going back and forth across the commercial port of entry, to watch people, you know how it actually worked. And I think that just as we increasingly know about things in more and more abstract ways, you know, kind of from knowing the place as a building, to reading a book about it, to seeing it on Google Maps and possibly looking at a Wikipedia entry. You know like there's like the idea that Donald Trump ran a campaign based on building a wall when there is already a frigging wall was such an incredible thing to me. It was so, it became so real that people just don't know about actual places and the same way that perhaps we used to. That the digital layer we've laid on top of all these things which we thought would be like additive, might actually be like subtractive in the sense of knowing about things. And so that's kind of what the Port of Oakland story is really all about for me. You know it's that let's actually know how the port works. Not in the abstract like you know the IKEA furniture drying of this thing of like a ship comes in, drops container. But like really no how does this get done. Kind of filling in the cartoon drawing that we increasingly have about most of the world just because there's so much stuff to know. And because we can have such a thin layer of knowledge over so many things and pretend we know a lot more about how the world works than we do. That really going to places and like seeing that kind of initial journalistic impulse and authority of like “I was there and I saw this thing and this is how it works.” Like that's really that's what I want to focus my work on over the next decade probably. And not to just shout out McPhee for the second time in 20 minutes, but I feel like John McPhee sense of like, “I want to see things. I want to actually understand how a truck drivers business works” like who else does that? You know, it's so so rare to have someone take the time to learn this great shadow geography that is the world of stuff the world of material things, that world of places that you know aren't made for our consumption, like restaurants and cool you know, the High Line in New York and whatever we end up fighting about all this shit about these places that are made specifically for us as consumers, but non-consumer places you just end up knowing less and less about them.

 

ZACH: I'm really happy that somebody with your platform in your background is working on that, it's really exciting. I want to talk about Real Future Fair because I know that's coming up. I am going to release this episode that before that happens. So you know, what are you most excited about and what is it?

 

ALEXIS: Real Future Fair... Real Future is just sort of the technology crew for Fusion. Now you know it's a lot of bigger stories for Real Future. It's pretty investigative, there's a lot of really good reporters and Future Fair is kind of where we bring together a lot of the strains of thought that we're interested in, both kind of like far future kind of thinking, diversity and justice within the technology world, kind of thinking. You end up calling it “intersectional futurism” where you're trying to essentially figure out which things are changing in the world that could lead to future systems of oppression or future new freedoms. And that's really what Future Fair is about, is like bringing together these different kinds of people like who are all kind of thinking about the future: how to build it, how to live within it, how to make it more just, all all in one place. And so, we see a lot of stuff at Real Future that we don't see connected up. You know, when people are thinking about the future of labor from the Labor side, like from labor unions or whatever, they're not often in conversation with the Ubers of the world of the people who are thinking about automation or you know it's like they're not they're not even mixing in the same places. We see that in a lot of cases that people who are talking about diversity in technology are not mixing with the people who are thinking about the far future of artificial intelligence, like we just want to like create a space where these people can all talk together. Because it doesn't take very long to understand that like the future is created socially, you know, it not just created like by development of technology. What are my favorite examples of this is that in the 1950s you know there's this great book by this guy when interviewed like all of the leading scientists and technologists about what the future was going to be like, and the opening scene is these women playing pinochle, having never entered the workforce. But within, like these crazy domes with their like husband flying back and forth to the office in nuclear powered helicopters you know And you're like, “welllllll you possibly want to consider that social change might occur as well.” And so that's that's a big part of the kind of work that we're trying to do, is to have those conversations occur in the same place.

 

ZACH: So I saw Zardulu on list. And I was going to ask you about where where she fits in. It's a “she” right? Do we know?

 

ALEXIS: It’s Zardulu.

 

ZACH: But I think you explained. I think I understand now where Zardulu fits.

 

ALEXIS:  We feel like artists are processing a lot of the technological possibilities really in interesting ways and in different ways than other people. I have a friend Robin Sloan who lives here, a couple blocks from me and like the way that I just give this like really short example of the way he thinks about neural networks, these things which are starting to dominate a lot of different types of problems within technology. You feed a lot of data into them these networks of sort of neuron like entities come up with new solutions to what that data is, and how to use it. For computer scientists who are doing these things they want to use the same corpus of data so that they can compare how well their different neural networks work. But if you're like a novelist or a writer or an artist who's like creating these things one of the things that he's realized is how important for the output side of it, corpus selection is. And so it's just a really different way of thinking about it. They want directly comparable quantitative things, whereas on the artist side of it or the you know just the person side of it you want interesting outcomes. And a lot of that is dependent on the corpus that you put in. And so he's been working a lot with how to create interesting corpuses for these neural networks to chew over. I think that's just an example of how a different perspective may help everybody understand what it is that they're doing.

 

ZACH: That's wild. That guy lives down the block from you?

 

ALEXIS: He's even a novelist. It's this North Oakland, South Berkeley vibe's.

 

ZACH: Amazing. That is my of birth, right here.

 

ALEXIS: Oh really? Alta Bates? Oh man. My son and daughter were both born there.

 

ZACH: So I'm feeling guilty that I'm keeping you from hydrophones. Only one last question. What is was one thing that I haven't asked you about that I should have?

 

ALEXIS: I mean I think like maybe the thing I was thinking about it ahead of this was what would I do differently if I were writing Powering the Dream which is my book about green technology. What I would do differently in it, and I think what I honestly feel like I've devoted a lot of time in that book to the big solar plants, solar thermal plants, which basically use mirrors to heat up water which acts as you know, sort of like drives a turbine like you would in a natural gas plant.

 

ZACH: Like Ivanpah, right?

ALEXIS: Yeah exactly. I think I spent too much time on that. I think I did not spend enough time working through the solar PV scenarios. In part it was because they were really interesting stories of battles between two different types of environmentalists: people who wanted to get solar plants built, and people who wanted to protect desert tortoises. And I found in reading through all of the legal proceedings around Ivanpah, I was just like “this is an insane thing” like you know there is there's literally hundreds of pages about like the way that they did the surveys for desert tortoises you know and I just ended up feeling like if that's the way that we were going to approach to build out of new lower emissions systems, we were never going to build shit you know. And so I think I went harder at that than I should have and I should have spent more time going over the PV stuff because that's turned out to be like a really interesting place. I also think I should have spent more time talking about battery technology. I kind of tried to get into battery technology through it through basically material science R&D, and the way that it was increasingly being done in computers and not as a bench science, but I should have just like just been like “batteries are such a big deal and we'd have no idea how we're going to do this.”

 

ZACH: Well don't punish yourself too much. I think that you're doing really good work. No you don't need to. You don't need to be hard on yourself for that. Thanks for listening to the Blu Skye podcast. If you enjoyed this or any episode, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever you are listening. See you next time.

 

Episode 6 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Thomas Donovan

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Here is a link to Thomas's resume, and below is the full transcript of the interview.

 

THOMAS: If we're not getting to the airport where are we trying to go?

 

ZACH: Welcome to the Blu Skye podcast. I’m Zach Winter. Blu Skye is a strategy consulting firm that operates on the assumption that environmental and social responsibility are the only business opportunities that are truly sustainable. If you please go get many more applications then you have job openings. In order to highlight the excellence of a few of those applicants. I called them up recorded the conversation and I'm sharing their stories with you. This week I talk with yet another job seeker about circular economies, The long arc of history, and our collective blindness.

 

ZACH: Just something for the top of the podcast that is like, “here’s who I am”.

 

THOMAS: Absolutely. My name is Thomas Donovan. I am a senior at the University of Southern California. Coming from the East Bay Area. And, I'm about to start a graduate certificate in sustainability here at USC which is a bunch of math classes that I'm really excited about. And in the long run hoping to get involved in the strategy sustainability space.

 

ZACH: I'm curious about what drives your passion for sustainability specifically, sustainable business consulting.

 

THOMAS: Absolutely. I think that's a great place to start. So I think for me personally. The whole idea of sustainability and environmentalism as like a specific thing didn't really occur to me until I came down to school cause, I grew up in the Bay area pretty much grew up in the foothills of Mt Diablo where I was kind of outside all the time and pretty much took that for granted. And, coming down to the University of Southern California which is in South Central Los Angeles. It was not so much a culture shock, as an environment shock where I went from kind of being so used to trees and streams and suddenly being surrounded by just this concrete behemoth which made me realize that the patterns of development that we're seeing happen across the globe are often pretty ugly. And, in my courses through the business world, I kind of realized what was the result of that. And saw where my skills and interests kind of best lay, which ultimately drove me to become interested in the whole world of sustainability.

 

ZACH: What what do you see as the as the single greatest barrier that we have towards a truly sustainable world?

 

THOMAS: I think you can cut that in a number of ways but, in an abstract kind of macro sense, I think right now. The business, the private sector, even the governments are really set up to operate on a time horizon that rewards the short term success. You know we're thinking in terms of. Financial quarters or years when we really need to be thinking in terms of decades and centuries. And that kind of concept really manifests itself in all sorts of ways in terms of the regulatory impacts that companies have as well as the way that they go about doing their business.

 

ZACH: So if I give you two billion dollars in a team of 50 people. How would you use them and those resources to...do anything, really?

 

THOMAS: That's a that's an interesting question. I don't know if others have thought about that before. I do think the whole reason that we're even able to be as successful as we have been throughout our history as a species has really been kind of a story of technological innovation. So I think moving forward. That also is our best hope for kind of a salvation. So I really think that if I had two billion dollars and 50 people. I'd put as much of that as I could into really investing in some sort of an accelerator or some kind of an innovation lab where we tackle... All right. What are the stickiest issues? What are the wicked problems, technologically speaking that are separating us from moving into a kind of circular sustainable economy and that might be on the energy side you know how do we become competitive with carbon based fuels? Anything that we might need to tackle would be where I direct that money for sure.

 

ZACH: It's a good answer. And I'm also a big believer in technology. But people often push back on me when I say similar things. In that, a lot of people believe that sustainability is not a technology or a data problem. They think it is more of a communication slash behavioral science problem. And I'm wondering if you agree with that and how?

 

THOMAS: I think at the end of the day technology and the communication things will ultimately go hand in hand. Because. Essentially for change to happen I think we need to essentially make the business case for sustainability. And you can go about that one of two ways. Either, you can effectively communicate and articulate the opportunities that do exist right now, but maybe a little bit more hidden or difficult to unlock which is what I think Blu Skye does such a good job of doing, or what I'm hoping is that in the next 20 years we'll really start to see some breakthroughs where there are exciting new technologies that fundamentally offer a better option than the current extractive, exhaustive practices that we have in place. But no matter which is more important to ultimately need to work together effectively in order to create the change that we undeniably need.

 

ZACH: People working in sustainability often expressed that they feel like corporate sustainability consulting can feel like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Do you ever have a similar feeling? I mean you're not a working consultant yet but I imagine you will be and how do you plan on reconciling that?

 

THOMAS: I really like that question. I think rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. That's that's an easy stance to take. And then I think that by and large what we've seen come out of sustainability work to this point. Has, to some degree obviously it's moving the needle. But we've never really seen a shift in the paradigm. And that's the unfortunate fact of the matter. But on the other hand, these problems we're facing and our knowledge of these problems on a scientific business level, are still so young in the overall history of our species. I think, actually, I used to be a history major. So I always try to put things in terms of like a historical context. And I think that when you're talking about change on a societal level like what would be the necessary steps for a real sustainable revolution. That societal change takes a great deal of time in maybe the same ways that it took the ideas of the enlightenment many years before they manifested themselves in really kind of pushing forward an effective form of democratic government. If we look at the length of human life, let's say it lasts 80 years. It would only be three human lifetimes before we were all the way back at the Declaration of Independence. You know, sustainability and the environment is still a problem that's only existed in maybe one lifetime on  a macro level. So for that reason I have a lot of hope that the ideas that we're seeing really kind of begin to grow and set in at this point will effectively manifest themselves in the coming years. And whether or not they do we'll kind of be the defining question for our generation.

 

ZACH: I love your optimism in the face of my doom and gloom question. Aside from sustainability what political or cultural issues are you most passionate about.

 

THOMAS: Obviously along with kind of seeing the environmental issues that Los Angeles has as a city. When I came into school here in South Central, it's pretty it's pretty apparent when you come here for the first time the immense social, socio-economic issues that exist in the south central area. You know, we have Compton, Watts, Inglewood, all within a mile or two from campus. And so, in the same way that I think our issues with sustainability are kind of, they stem from our collective blindness to posterity and being able to think about the generations that come after us. I think that these socio-economic issues that we see right now. Come from a similar sort of unwillingness to see the truth of what's going on in these communities. So I'm part of an organization here at USC called Troy camp, and what Troy camp does is we essentially partner with there are seven schools we work with in the south central area and every week we offer programming where we go into these schools offer tutoring, we’ll play soccer, we have theater and dance classes. And it's essentially a mentorship program where we can kind of help share our insights and make these kids really understand that they do have the opportunity to strive for a college education and whatever sort of life they would want after that. So for me the kind of socio-economic issues particularly as they relate to children in education are really important.

 

ZACH: There is a question I want to ask you that I haven't quite fully formed yet. But I can tell you at the preface is. Do you know Bill Mcdonough? He is an author and sustainability guru. And he essentially calls for us to move away from the idea of doing less bad. Like that is a lot of what sustainability consulting is, is minimizing the bad. And, he makes a call for more good, not less bad. And he exemplifies that with this amazing allegory that is, you know, a lot of what we do is akin to getting in a taxi, and telling me telling a taxi driver “I don't want to go to the airport” like you're not you're not actually seen anything about what you do want to do. So I'm I'm just curious about what your thoughts are on that.

 

THOMAS: Absolutely. I think that really kind of cuts to the core of this kind of very interesting moment we're at right now, where a lot of corporate responsibility really is it is just mitigation work. Where the impacts are still ultimately negative and they're just making progress towards those. And I do think that at a certain point we'll reach, and that point maybe right now, is how can we make a fundamental change to the operating models of the organizations that kind of run the world. You know, move from a linear kind of extractive model, to a circular model and, the idea that “I don't want to go to the airport” is just entirely without direction. That's kind of where a lot of these organizations are you know they're still they're still incentivized to make profit and they're just trying to mitigate that overall impact. That actually reminds me of one of one of my favorite professors here at USC. He is a professor named Adlai Wertman, and he's in charge of social entrepreneurship lab here and essentially he works with organizations who are mission aligned with an impact mission. So they're not out to make profit, they're out to achieve their goal while remaining viable. They're not always nonprofits but they're sort of business-minded organization that is still goal oriented but no longer thinks in terms of profits but it thinks only in terms of impacts. And I really think that's the direction that we ultimately need to move into as a society. It's to sort of, realign what our values are and what our goals are. So we would know if, if we're not getting to the airport where we where we try to go?

 

ZACH: You brought it full circle. Good job. What have you been raised to be afraid of?

 

THOMAS: Raised to be afraid of... Obviously as an undergrad at USC, graduating soon and going into the business world and probably in the top percentile of the most fortunate people on the planet Earth. Right. And I think, most people you might have on the show who are in a position to make the changes that they really care about, that sort of agency and control over their coming years is pretty unique. And, one thing that I've kind of been raised to fear is allowing the lifestyles that we have access to in terms of wealth and luxury to really sort of, consume what we're actually accomplishing in our time here. And I think... That's another thing that when I spoke about the kind of. Career life trajectories that you often get shot out of business school and go into investment banking, consulting, you can kind of get trapped in these in these linear parts of you know, you get promotion you buy a bigger house and you kind of, there's this game that gets played and there is no real stop to it. There is no way to get out. And so I think, always kind of remaining aware of where we're at, and what we value is kind of the best way to do that. There is a quote by Aristotle that says “the unexamined life is not worth living, and I think. I've been raised to kind of never stop examining, because as soon as you do, that's when you can really start to get away from yourself.

 

ZACH: Great answer. What have I not asked you about, that I should have?

 

THOMAS: Ooh. That's a good question. Something I always like to talk about. And actually, the means through which I met the professor that I mentioned earlier, Adlai Wertman, is a club that I'm really passionate about here at USC called Peaks and Professors. And the club is as simple as the name. We're essentially an organization that brings together the best professors on campus with some of the best students. And we put together our excursions of all sorts, hikes backpacking trips, we’ve done a surf trip, we've done some yoga trips. And, you have a really awesome opportunity to kind of engage with some really, really intelligent people at the cutting edge of their fields while you're out hiking in like the best casual informal environment. Where you can really kind of understand where they're approaching these problems as a person and what they really see as the biggest challenges. And it's through experiences like that that I've been kind of able to develop my own kind of life path and life goals. And we're actually hoping to start expanding to other colleges, so if anyone has similar interests and might be interested in getting that started at one of their own campuses, we're in the process of getting our first colony set up at Stanford. So we're always looking for more people to get involved in that.

 

ZACH: That’s a really cool program. Blu Skye actually runs something similar that we call Confluence where we get 15 different business leaders from all walks of life and geographical regions and bring them together and take them down the Tuolumne River. Jib Ellison, the CEO of Blu Skye started his career as a river guide. His love of nature kind of informed his work that he's been doing to this day, s he still loves the river and gets on it as much as he can and that's part of his master plan. So, it sounds really similar actually to what you're working on.

 

THOMAS: That's really awesome. The Tuolumne is an incredible river, and the spaces that you can just sort of access in a purely fun out there is environment. I think it can be more productive than a boardroom.

 

ZACH: That's the idea. Nailed it.

 

If you want to get in contact with Thomas, head to the Blu Skye website thats, BLUSKYE.com. There you will find a full transcript of this interview, as well as a link to his resume.

 

Thanks for listening to the Blu Skye podcast. If you enjoyed this or any episode, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever you are listening. See you next time.

 

Episode 5 of the Blu Skye Podcast - Zilong Wang and the Timeless Lesson of Compassion

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Google Play

Zilong's blog is here: http://www.journeye.org/

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

ZILONG: It really came as a big relief when I realized two things. One, that the world does not need saving and two, I do not need to be great.

 

ZACH: This is the Blu Skye podcast. I'm Zach Winter. This was a special one for me to record and a little different than previous episodes. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with my friend and comrade Zilong Wang, whom I met when he became a blue sky employee a few years ago. He has since left Blu Skye and is on a pilgrimage around the globe on his bike. To say that Zilong is unique, does not go far enough. His kindness, patience, and depth is special, and I hope a small part of that comes across in this interview.

 

ZILONG: to introduce oneself, first I wish I know myself and to know thyself might be the project right now or for a long time to come. And I think I know the journey that I'm on right now better than I know myself. So I introduce that journey. Right now I'm on the journey to the east and it's an open ended the pilgrimage around the world as much by bicycle as possible in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time. I am right now six to eight months into the pilgrimage which started in the Bay Area in California on February 29, 2016. And now I am in across from the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad in India.

 

ZACH: Zilong, you done a trip like this before. Maybe maybe not like this but you rode your bike across the U.S. to actually come work a Blu Skye. How has this this trip differed from that first bicycle trip that you took?

 

ZILONG: The first bicycle trip was right after college as a rite of passage. About 3000 plus miles from Massachusetts to San Francisco. That journey was very much an unintentional pilgrimage. It didn't have a clear intention of being a pilgrimage of inner discovery and outer service but it turned out to be that way. So was almost like a rehearsal. And after that bicycling journey I never thought I'm going to do a long bike trip again. I even gave away the bike shorts and ended up have to buy another two pair of bike shorts for this trip this journey that I'm on currently and this journey, the journey to the east is very much an intentional pilgrimage with the vows that I have deliberated on and with as an answer to a calling that came to me in early 2015.

 

ZACH: I have read those vows. It's hard for me to imagine taking similar vows myself. Can you talk about what those vows are?

 

ZILONG: Yeah. Those, there are six fous. They are inspired by many traditions. This set of six foulis is closest to the five precepts that are given to lay Buddhists. So I have essentially the five precepts minus the no lying and plus that no meat eating and no commercialization. the other for being no killing, no stealing, no sex, and no intoxicants. So this journey is very much intended to be a journey of cultivation, and I feel like these files are my baseline protection. These vows are my insurance policy and my protectors. And so far they've kept me safe and sound all along the way.

 

ZACH: I'm glad they're working. I want you to be safe. Which reminds me that I just read on your latest blog that you have abandoned bicycle as your mode of transportation. Can you talk about that?

 

 

ZILONG: Yes. It's not abandoning a bicycle as a mode of transportation. It's putting the bicycling on pause and will resume bicycling next year from Europe back to China. That's the intention. But for the past few weeks in India I have decided to not continue bicycling because it is just physically not safe. And it has also been very timely ego check because bicycling has never been an end in itself. I just wanted to travel as slowly as I am spiritually ready. The more spiritually prepared I am, the slower I will be able to travel. I would have been inspired by people who walked around the world for peace or even going on a three year bowing pilgrimage, taking three steps and one full prostration bow for three years and I know I'm not ready for that level of cultivation, so I wanted to go as slowly as I could. But coming to India I realized that bicycling in India is not the safest or the sanest way to practice equanimity. There are other other ways to test the limits of the  mind. And this is not the most physically safe way. I have developed a narrative around being the cycling Pilgrim. To have a cycling taken out of the pilgrim really make me question who and my or what I am doing and the heroism factor is taken out. It really make me question what is this journey really about.

 

ZACH: Thats awesome. It’s good for you. That was what I saw. What struck me most about what you had written was the ego check part. I loved that.

 

ZILONG: It's a slap on the face from the universe just at the right time.

 

ZACH: Another thing you wrote. Actually I think it was your interview that was posted recently. You wrote something that I've actually been using as a question. In previous interviews that I've been doing recently. I stole it from you, I don't I know you didn't invent it either but the quote is something about you left sustainability work specifically with Blu Skye because -  you're not alone in this -  but a lot of people and yourself feel like sustainability work is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Can you talk more about that?

 

ZILONG: The decision to leave this field has many layers and for some time I have been blaming the field for saying that this type of work is not it, doesn't address the root of the problem, et cetera. But as I go more and more on the journey I'm realizing the problem is not that the field... is that I am not ready. There are many ways... So to reach to be a monk to meditate in a cave is the easiest, to meditate in the corporate board room is the hardest. I have not developed the basic muscle to maintain my prayer and my awareness. Even in the meditation hall. So when I'm put in a much less conducive environment of the business environment, then I frequently lose the balance of my mind and can no longer be in touch with the prayer that that could heal. So maybe one day I would even return to this line of work but hopefully coming back with a different preparedness.

 

ZACH:Great answer.

 

ZILONG: There have been Sufi saints who were butchers and Chuang Tzu, one of the Taoist mystics, wrote about this butcher that he have found oneness, realization, through cutting up a cow when he cut up a cow, his knife, he has been using the knife for 20 years without needing to sharpen it. He feels that how the knife goes through the tendons of the cow without even touching the bone as if a knife going through water etc.. So if it is possible for a butcher to find the Tao in butchering then it should be possible for a consultant to find the Tao in helping companies to become better agents of change. But I realized that I haven't even gotten the basics down and have tried to skip ahead to do the advanced course work. So now am getting back to the kindergarden by being a monk in the world.

 

ZACH: I don't know if you need to think about it as a as a regression right. Maybe it's maybe it's a progression that's just yours.

 

ZILONG: That's right.

 

ZACH: I've been talking to mostly students so far for this podcast. Young people that are just getting their careers started. I want to know from you what you what you see as the greatest deficit in corporate sustainability consulting. Like where, where should young people be focusing their their passions and if they feel like they want to make a change in the world? And it doesn't have to be related to sustainability right, it could be anything. Where where should young people right now be focused?

 

ZILONG: Yeah. They say the revolution is an inside job. Meaning that it really is what happens on the inside. And I think this generation of young people is getting an intuitive sense of it. We've been looking outside for the problem for the answer for a long time. And if we've been running around to look for the answers for a long time, but maybe all along the answers have been looking for us. We are just so busy running around that we cannot to hear the call of the answers. So I feel the best thing that I can do personally is to slow down, so that the answers could find me and to really look inside we're actually all the root of the problem and the ultimate solution lies, and to look inside it doesn't mean to sit and navel gaze all day long, though some still this practice is definitely required. But the biggest breakthrough that came for me is to turn the searching light from the outside inward. And there I saw all the problems and all the answers. It definitely is hard for young people to do that because we are in such youthful haste and want to see change happen want to make change happen. But I feel blessed to have the opportunity through the help of noble friends around me so that they hold up a mirror so that I can really see myself as part of the problem and solution.

 

ZACH: That's a very Zilong answer and I love it. Off topic a little bit. But I hope related. You can answer it any way you want. What have you been raised to be afraid of?

 

 

ZILONG: Chinese culture in general is afraid of deviance from the convention. But I'm grateful that my parents have gave me the room to do exactly that. I don't really feel like I have been raised with much fear and I have really deep gratitude for my parents for giving me that they're probably the biggest fear that I had, is not my fear but my ego's fear. The ego feared that would not that he would not be grand. That he would not have an opportunity to, quote, save the world. So it really came as a big relief when I realized that, two things one grow to doesn't need saving and two, I do not need to be great. And those two realizations gave me much relief. Essentially took me off the hook of ego for a bit.

 

ZACH: I love it. You know and Blu Sky is focused on sustainability and this podcast is mostly focused on sustainability but I want to know from you what, aside from sustainability, what political or cultural issues are you most passionate about?

 

ZILONG: So in a sense just like a soul might be reincarnated into different bodies, all the different problems they all essentially have the same core. I feel like saints and teachers across ages throughout history you have to try and address the same problem, that root problem, of the greed, hatred, and delusion as the Buddha called the three poisons. They keep manifesting a different problem. They used to be imperialism. It could be racism. It could be climate change. It could be political elitism. Fundamentally they’re all disease of the heart and mind in the soul. Saints and activists and leaders of each era choose the most relevant issue as the teaching point of that era to teach the timeless lesson of compassion and kindness and harmony. So I feel like all the issue is essentially, one issue, and they all have the same solution and they manifest as so many different problems and solutions in the daily world which give everyone an opportunity to participate. So I myself right now am on a journey of discovering how those roots of poison lie within me and how this ecological and spiritual to me that's so palpable in our time is giving us all an opportunity to eradicate those roots.

 

ZACH: What is a personal opinion that you've had and then changed within the last year?

 

ZILONG: About Donald Trump supporters. I know Donald Trump is a pretty hot topic in the U.S. or in the world media and when I was earlier this year bicycling for a few months through the U.S.. Before I started I don't know any Donald Trump supporters personally, and I had the impression that if someone were to vote for Donald Trump they are probably well they're probably out of their mind. But along the journey I met quite a few Donald Trump supporters who have shown me the utmost kindness they have taken me into their home invited me to dinner. And let me sleep in their yard or pick me up on the highway when I'm stranded. All of them are nice, reasonable, kind hearted people. And for every belief they hold that there is a very good reason behind it. So that's one view that I have changed it put the human face on the Donald Trump supporter and I was at their mercy. They helped me when I was needed, or totally dependent on the kindness of strangers. In those moments I cannot dismiss them as crazies. I have to listen to them, and when I listen I just see/hear a brother, hear a sister and everything they say makes perfect sense.

 

ZACH: I feel you. I mean I've gone through a similar revelation. That was not born from being in contact with Trump supporters because as you know in Northern California there are not many. But I've, you know, read some things recently which which reminded me how important empathy is in specifically that way. Right. Like all those views that you may see as racist or misogynist or nationalist, all have their reasons behind them. Not to say that they're right but that there are very valid and real reasons for wanting to vote for somebody like Donald Trump so I really appreciated your answer right there. I think that's all the questions I have Zilong. I want to know lastly if you have anything else you want to say or if you have any projects you want to plug or how anybody listening to this might get in contact with you should they want to find you.

 

ZILONG: There really is no message that I want to send through this pilgrimage because I feel like so much of our problem is because everyone has their own message and they want to add it into the airwave, which is already overcrowded. I wish. I pray that I develop the ability to listen, to hear so that I can be present and that at least, there is one less message out there. And along the journey when there are things that move me either moving through me, or have moved me I sometimes share them on the blog. And which is journeye.org as in journey to the east, so there was journey. Plus the letter “e” dot o-r-g. That's one way I stay in touch so that the things that I'm learning is not just for my own benefit but also hope that they would resonate with others if they come across. But I really pray that we all have this space and the privilege in life to go on a journey to know thy self, to be dependent on the universe, to be one. I definitely feel very grateful for the support that I have received and to a large part from Blu Skye for the leeway that I had when I was an employee to go to do meditation, to go to take on service project and the ongoing friendship and support of my former colleagues. It's a most special place and I'm very grateful for all the comrades.

 

ZACH: Well, we love you very much here.

 

ZILONG: Thank you, brother Zach.

 

ZACH: Please stay safe and we'll be reading your blog.

 

ZILONG: And likewise. I look forward to hearing more of Zach's podcasts.

 

ZACH: Thanks Zilong.

 

ZILONG: Bye Zach.

 

ZACH: Thanks for listening to the podcast. If you have enjoyed this episode please leave a review you on iTunes, or wherever you are listening. See you next time.