Episode 90: Seth Godin, Founding Editor of The Carbon Almanac
Guest Name(s): Seth Godin
Listen to cogent solutions for climate change with Seth Godin, author, dot com business entrepreneur, and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac.
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Episode #90 – Seth Godin – A Climate Change with Matt Matern
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Seth Godin, author of The Carbon Almanac on the show today. Seth, welcome to the program.
Thank you for having me, it’s important that we start by saying, I’m not the author, only the organizer. I wrote it with 300 volunteers in 41 countries. And that’s part of the story.
Well, do tell us so what led you on the path to write the carbon almanac or to organize or be a part of that process?
Well, 16 years ago, I wrote my first blog post about climate change. I’ve written 9,000 blog posts, I’ve one of the most popular blogs in the world. But I figured writing a post about blog about carbon. And climate change would be enough. And apparently it wasn’t. And what I found was over the years, I wasn’t talking about it that much. And the reason I wasn’t talking about it was I was confused. And I felt stupid. And I figured if I was confused, and I felt stupid, other people were too.
And I have a background in making books, interesting books, nonfiction books. And I decided it would be useful to organize people to create a volunteer effort, so that we could all get smart about what’s true, and what’s possible, so that we could do the systemic change that we need to make a difference on this planet right now.
So what then, kind of was the genesis then of putting together this group? And how did you pull this group of 300 volunteers together?
Well, that’s a story into itself, which is, how are we going to, as people who care, do something about a systemic problem that’s caused by industry, because it’s very easy to say, Well, I’m not industry, so maybe I’ll just recycle some plastic. And what we wanted to do was model the behavior of pathfinding of finding significance of showing up for each other with each other, to do it wrong, then do it better until we did it right.
And we did this all online, we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for five months to build a 97,000 word fact check footnoted document that became a best seller in many countries around the world. And the reason we did it this way, so that we could show people it can be done, that we can use community action to make systemic change happen.
So what’s the hope in terms of the book, as as far as what you think the impact could? Or what would you like the impact to be?
So try to imagine some companies that have a trillion dollars worth of assets underground. And they’re doing everything they can to keep the value of that asset as high as they can. They’re making up stuff stuff like carbon footprint, which was a myth, invented by British Petroleum to make us feel like hypocrites, making up the idea of plastic recycling, which was invented by the plastics industry long before plastic recycling was possible. In fact, chemically, it’s not. And 95% of all the plastic that’s been made has never ever been recycled and cannot.
And so what we are hoping will happen, what has already happened with our 40 podcast, with our free kids book, with our photo book, with all the other materials, is that more and more people are discovering their voice. And by finding a voice and speaking up by making it so it’s the first and the second. And the third thing that every elected official gets asked about, that every CEO has to worry about is resilience and sustainability. It’s going to make a difference. And it’s not too late, but we have to hurry.
Well, I definitely think that that’s one of the purposes of my show is to bring bring some light to this area and bring some attention to it. And so and it’s certainly been an education for me talking to dozens of leaders in the environmental area and and to get more educated myself. So let me ask you in terms of why in all Mac why that particular format.
Well, I love almanacs. I did the Business Almanac, the Celebrity Almanac, the Women’s Almanac, back when there was no World Wide Web. And if you wanted to look something up, an almanac was a great way to do it. And the reason I love them is they sort of work the way my brain works, which is apparently because of the internet the way most people’s brains work, which is we don’t have the patience to read a 200 page book anymore. We don’t have the patience to watch a two hour movie anymore. And the beauty of an almanac is you can open it up to any page you want. And there’s gonna be something interesting there.
And what we are hoping people will do what people have already done with the 10s and 10s of 1,000s of copies that are in people’s hands, is you’re handed to someone, you say, let’s talk about whatever page you want tomorrow. And having those conversations at work at home, in our community. That step is critically important, and it is just not happening. And it’s so frustrating for people who understand, to see the silence. The silence isn’t surprising, but we can do something about it.
So tell us about the phrase, “the carbon footprint,” what is the genesis of that phrase? How did it get put out there into the common parlance? And why is it a misnomer?
So one of the great ad agencies of all time, it’s called Ogilvy and Mather. It’s not just called Ogilvy, and they got hired by British Petroleum about 40 years ago, to come up with an ad campaign that would be used to help wealthy privileged people who tended to be early environmentalists feel like hypocrites feel guilty? Because after all, if you’re driving a Cadillac, how dare you complain about an oil refinery, and by putting the blame on consumers by making it so that it’s so tempting to talk about our own carbon footprint?
What they’ve done is reminded us all that we’re all hypocrites, I’m a hypocrite to there’s no question about it. But that doesn’t mean that hypocrites can’t make things better. The solution is not for you to have a meatless Monday, the solution is for you to get your high school to have Meatless Monday, and then to get the whole school district that Meatless Monday and then to have Meatless Monday in your state.
Because when we make systemic changes, when we shut one coal plant, it undoes the, quote, carbon footprint, unquote, of 100,000 people. And that is where the real leverage is not in making individuals feel guilty shaming individuals is not going to fix this problem.
Well, that’s something that I’ve talked about in a number of guests on the program we’ve talked about over the years is that there have been a number of industry attempts to put the focused on the consumer on us as individuals not to say that we shouldn’t do anything, but just that the more systemic changes are the ones that are going to actually solve the problem.
So in terms of that, what do you recommend as far as the things that are most important for us to focus on if we were to take five things, to talk to our congressmen or representatives about what are those things
I only need to list for they are coal, concrete, combustion, and cows, these four items account for more than 80% of all of the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere. And each one of them is hard to live without some of them much easier than others. But the magic of this, of the world we live in of market based capitalism is that the market is really good at solving problems, if things are priced fairly.
And so the easiest thing that we can do, as a community, as people talking to Congress, folks is simple price carbon fairly, make it so that the people who produce things with carbon in them that burn, have to pay the right price for it that incorporates all of the damage they’re doing to everyone.
Because if we priced carbon fairly, every company from Amazon to the little place on the corner would instantly change what they sell how they sell it, and how they price it, and we would make better decisions.
So in terms of that, let’s go just down the list in terms of coal. Seems like kind of the the obvious choice in terms of coal plants belch out tremendous amounts of carbon, what’s being done to to reduce that, and how soon do you think that we can get off of coal in the US as well as in the developing world world? It looks like it’s going to take a lot longer, right?
Oh, okay. So a couple things. First of all, solar and wind now cost less than power from coal. And so we’re not requiring anybody to spend extra to generate the power that we need. The fact is, you’re in the hospital, and you got lung cancer or emphysema, and the doctor says, You should quit smoking. And your answer is, well, it’s really hard for me to quit smoking. I’ll do it soon.
That’s ridiculous. We need to simply shut down the coal plants because the market is smart, and the market is agile. And we will replace them incredibly quickly. China built 52 coal plants worth of solar plants just last year alone, we can do this, we just have to decide.
So in terms of that we’re having from what I understand a bottleneck in terms of getting solar panels into the US because we don’t produce enough here. And we’re having to get them from China, and there’s toys and the production there. So I, you know, it does take the market a little bit of time to kind of adapt. What what do you think about that?
Yeah, well, you know, as we wrap up this segment, I would say really simply, I wish this was easy, painless, and nobody came out behind it every step. But change is never that way. When the internet showed up. It was really bad for the travel agents. It was really bad for lots of other industries. But we went ahead and did the internet anyway.
And this is something like that, which is, yeah, there’s going to be dislocations and interruptions. But what are we waiting for? Exactly?
Provocative. You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Seth Godin author, the author..
Not the author, I’m gonna keep correcting you to get it right.
…the principal person helping put together The Carbon Almanac, which is in stores now, so check it out. We’ll be back in just one minute.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Seth Godin, the organizer and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac. We’re just talking to Seth about coal plants and the cost of, of not changing them out for solar and wind, which solar and wind power now cost less per kilowatt hour than coal?
I guess, then the question is, in terms of batteries, and things of that nature, when when, when a community goes to Seoul, solar, and when they’ve got to have some kind of backup power for when the sun’s not shining, and the winds not blowing? What do you think we’re going to have to do there to solve that problem.
So again, I want to preface all of this by saying I am not an expert on any of these topics, which is why every page of the Almanac is footnoted. There are 1,000 sources, and you can go look up all of the details. Batteries are an extraordinary technological frontier. They’re not like the nine volt stuff we used to buy at RadioShack, NASA just announced a battery.
That is ten times more powerful, higher yielding, and more efficient than the batteries that were used to the marketplace. And technology is really good at figuring out how to solve problems that the laws of physics don’t prevent us from solving. And my personal take on all of this is, as soon as we start to price carbon properly, the attention that will be paid will go through the roof. And we each have the chance not to be perfect.
But to move forward by talking about this every single chance we get. And that is what is missing right now is that the people who are listening to this on their radio that people who are just going to work trying to make a living in term in turbulent times, we need to talk about it, we need to talk about it every chance we get until we understand it. And until the marketplace reflects this, we can’t voluntarily undo 100 years of indoctrination, and systems change. What we’re going to need to do is build a new system. And we have to do it right away.
Because I can tell you one thing, it may seem expensive to switch to something like batteries now. But it’s way more expensive. When the New York City subway system floods, to dig the whole thing out. Because the flood is coming. It already came once before it’s going to come again. It’s very hard to fight the weather. And what we want to do is before we have to fight the weather, show up with a new system that makes things better.
Let’s talk about car carbon pricing and pricing carbon fairly. What What’s your proposal there? What are the proposals out there that you and the other authors editors of the carbon almanac I think are worth moving towards.
Well, one thing we profiled in the Almanac is a group that started 10 or 15 years ago. It was half Republicans Half Democrats, including a former Secretary of State, and what they said is super simple. If you give people a dividend, a check in the mail for the carbon that they don’t use, and you pay for that dividend, not with taxes, but by simply adjusting the price of carbon so that the money doesn’t go to any bureaucrats just go straight from the person who bought the carbon to the person who didn’t, what you’d end up with, is people getting 1000s and 1000s of dollars a year.
As a bonus, if they don’t use carbon, and someone who yet wants to get on a jet and fly a private jet to England, instead of it costing $90,000. It’ll cost $200,000, which is what it should cost. And people will make new decisions based on that information. And the other piece that goes with it is called the border adjustment. And what that means is if something is made in a country that isn’t ours, they have to bring that carbon tax with them, when they bring it to the United States.
The end result of this is that the entire world would switch in a very short period of time, we’re already seeing carbon pricing being adjusted in many countries and municipalities around the world. And the reason is, because it works, it doesn’t work instantly. And it doesn’t make everybody happy in the short run. But the fact is that what we’ve been doing, well, I’ll give you an example.
My neighbor has a landscaper who uses a leaf blower, and the gas powered leaf blower that gets used in one hour, puts out as much carbon as driving a car from New York to Los Angeles. Now what that means that every single person in my neighborhood in my town in my village and on my planet, is going to pay the price of that landscaper using a leaf blower for an hour. And when you add it all up to the millions of hours that are spent, it undermines so much of what we’re doing.
But if the cost of a leaf blower was successfully properly set, landscapers would make a bet a different decision, which is they say why? Electric leaf blowers are so cheap, I’m gonna get one of those instead. Because people care about convenience. And they care about price.
So a lot of things packed in that answer. First off, you had said there was a group of Republicans and Democrats that had come together who came up with this idea of giving people a dividend. And for those people don’t use as much carbon. What was the group? And how can they? How could this be done without some intermediary, measuring the amount of carbon that each person uses.
Okay, so the name of the group can be easily found on our footnotes at thecarbonalmanac.org. Every single page, as I said, is footnoted. And we’ve listed them all there. So I don’t want to give slightly incorrect information. But the measurements super simple. It doesn’t matter how much any person uses, we’re not going to monitor them, it’s just going to be built into the price.
So for example, if Amazon has a choice of requiring its suppliers to pack things in plastic or not, they will decide not to, because the creation of the plastic cost so much money, they’ll just ship you the yoga mat without the plastic wrapping, because they will save money doing it, that when you build the price of carbon into the price of everything that uses it, you don’t have to monitor or surveil anyone, because it’s built right into the product itself. And people will make different decisions. And we know this, the data is really clear that people buy things differently when the price is different.
Well, certainly a carbon tax has been something that’s been on the table, I think back from George HW Bush, and maybe even George W. Bush, it both kind of talked about using it as a way to mark you know, direct good behavior. Of course, neither of them got it in into law, but you know, how realistic is it that that kind of thing gets put into place anytime soon, given the fact that we’ve got a divided government and doesn’t look like we’re headed in the direction of a carbon tax.
You know, it’s interesting, we’ve not we have an enormously successful job has been done marketing taxes as a universally bad thing. And this isn’t a tax in the sense that the government doesn’t get the money and then decide what to do with it. It is simply transfer from people who are buying carbon to people who are not But with that said, I like to think about school zones. There isn’t a lot of argument about what the speed limit should be in a school zone.
There aren’t a lot of people who say I should be allowed to drive my Ferrari at 90 miles an hour in front of the school, because it’s my car, I have the freedom to do that. People understand that the speed limit of the school needs to be lower, because the cost of being wrong of hitting a seven year old is so high that we tolerate it. And I think what we need to do is have humans, citizens, taxpayers stand up and say, Now is the moment, I’m not the one who’s flying a private jet from here to England, that guy is, and he should pay for it, because he’s hurting my kids. And this idea that we can make smart decisions before it’s too late.
As a marketer, I believe that that is possible, I have seen it happen. As somebody who is exposed to the media, it’s easy to believe it could never happen. But we’ve done some amazing things as human beings, it only took us 10 years to pave the earth. Once we figured out it was convenient and fun to drive a car, we paved everything. Well, we can do the same thing here, we can say, we have the capacity, the insight and the will to make things better.
But first, we got to talk about it. And if people have a better method than the one I’m talking about, I hope that they will do it. Because I got no axe to grind here. I don’t care how it gets done. I just know the numbers speak for themselves.
The planet is changing faster than it has changed in recorded history. It is not up for debate. The question is what are you going to tell your kids? What are you going to tell your kids five years from now or 10 years from now, when the places they’re used to going don’t exist anymore. And when there are plus places on Earth where human beings can’t even survive? It feels to me like we owe it to future generations to do something while their spare time.
So in terms of the border adjustment tax, which is something that I had seen written about and kind of campaigned on when I did run for president back in 2020, which made a whole lot of sense to me that, that we should kind of let our manufacturers have a fair playing field with manufacturers and other countries such as China that are big polluters, and say, Hey, if you’re going to allow a company to pollute more in China, you’re going to have to pay the true cost in China.
So you can’t just ship it over here and kind of avoid whatever are more stringent environmental standards. So that kind of makes just common sense that we should all be playing with the level playing field. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. But it seems like a common sense thing that that almost every politician of any stripe could could agree with.
I know I’ve never met a person who met well, who said, I hope the world goes up three degrees Celsius and life becomes untenable. It’s pretty universally agreed that we don’t want that DAP?
Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change with Matt Matern. I’ve got Seth Godin, who’s the organizer and founding editor of the carbon almanac with us today. And we’ll be right back.
You’re listening to A Climate Change with Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Seth Godin, who is the organizer and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac, which is kind of a compilation of a bunch of essays about climate change in general.
Seth, we were talking about the four things that we could do to help change the environment in the most positive way. cold concrete combustion and cows, which, as you’d said, was 80% of the carbon production out there. Tell us a little bit about how we could change the production of concrete. And why is that producing so much carbon?
Okay, so concrete blew me away, I wouldn’t have put that on the top 4,000 until I learned about this. The way you make concrete is you take cement, you put it in a room, and then you use coal and you heat it up for 2,000 degrees. And then you can create concrete. It’s a disaster. It’s 8% of all of the carbon we’re spewing into the world. And we are using more concrete all the time.
Here’s the good news. The good news is they’re coming up with new ways every day, to make concrete better, and to find alternatives to concrete. In many places, they’re changing the zoning rules. So you can build a house with cross laminated timber instead of concrete. And the list goes on and on.
The thing about concrete is it’s worth highlighting just because it’s so surprised think that there are so many things about our climate problem, that people don’t really understand that the dirt, the dirt in your yard, the dirt outside, used to hold enormous amount of carbon just 100 years ago. And what we did using fertilizer and tilling, was we took all that carbon out, and just put it in the air.
So there’s this long list of things that are surprises, and concrete is one of them. As we’ve been talking about earlier, once we start pricing carbon properly, the price of concrete will go up, which will make the alternatives to concrete way more attractive.
Well, I’ve heard of processes that they could use maybe hydrogen to, to make concrete and also hydrogen to make, like the fertilizers as well. So which could be you could they could make the hydrogen from solar and wind power. So they would be not carbon intensive and would help solve those problems.
Right for for your listeners, it’s worth understanding, because a lot of people don’t really get this, there are things that are fuels, where we can just find them and burn them or use them. And then there are things that are batteries, where we can use power to make them.
And then we can take the power back out anytime we want. Hydrogen is like a battery, there isn’t any pool of hydrogen lying around that we can go pump, we can make hydrogen by turning water into hydrogen and oxygen to do that we need electricity from solar or wind.
And then once we have the hydrogen, when we ignite it, it doesn’t release any carbon at all, and turns back into water. So it’s super clean. But you can’t just go find hydrogen, you got to make it.
Right, right. And, yeah, they’re getting better at it making hydrogen more efficiently. But it’s a long way to go. And, of course, if we were to have a breakthrough in making electricity more cheaply, like what what is happening with solar and wind is is keeping it is getting cheaper and cheaper than it makes hydrogen cheaper to make.
And then, of course, if we could have a breakthrough with fusion, as has just kind of been announced this last week, which would make tons of you know, cheap electricity, then hydrogen really becomes the fuel of the future, because you don’t have because electricity is cheap. And then you can make tons of hydrogen, you know, almost limitless wealth. As far as combustion, what are you talking about cars?
Yeah, cars, and all the other things we burned, but cars are huge portion of this. Now, you may have, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. But people may have heard about this whole idea of direct air capture where we’re supposed to filter huge amounts of air through a factory.
And what we get out of it is a sludge of carbon sludge that we can pull out of the air. They just built the biggest direct air capture plant in the world. And its output is equivalent to taking, I believe the numbers 10,000 cars off the road for a day. It’s such a tiny number, that when we think about how many cars there are in the world, we realize that any given car isn’t a problem.
It’s just how many cars we have. And so when we think about transport, it turns out in the last year, the most popular electric vehicle is now the electric bike. And it should be that way for the foreseeable future. And an electric bike is actually more efficient for transport than an actual bike, that eating food to give yourself enough calories to pedal your bike creates more carbon than using a solar panel to charge your electric bike and taking it around. Start rewiring cities so that people are using their electric bikes, it will have a very big impact on how much stuff we’re burning.
So I guess the question is, how are we going to incentivize people to get electric bikes? And what would be the best way for the market to price that?
Right? Well, so I mean, again, we all make decisions every day, if when you walk out to your garage, you know that it’s if you take your electric bike, you’re gonna get a check in the mail. And if you take your car, it’s gonna cost you a bunch of money, you’re gonna make a different decision, and some people won’t, but if we want freedom to make decisions, that freedom is going to be based on what things cost, that’s the way it’s always been in our country.
And that’s the way most of us would like it to be going forward not told what to do. But given the choice, and the carbon pricing model is super simple, it is expensive to build remediation problems for rising sea level, it is expensive to offer air conditioning to senior citizen centers, it is expensive to do all the things we’re going to need to do as the planet warms. Someone needs to pay for that. Well, the people who are causing it are the people who are burning things.
Well, I guess, let’s go to the last of the four C’s, the cows, what what are your What are your thoughts on reducing emissions coming from livestock?
Okay, so first, I know that this is an emotional topic, I hear from people more about this than anything else. And sometimes people try to weasel their way out of it by talking about a magic form of regenerative agriculture that works on very small farms, that involves taking care of cattle differently, etc.
And if we could do that, at scale, I’m not going to argue with you. But it has never been done at scale. And the people who know tell me it can’t be done at scale. But the real problem is this. There are now a billion cows on this planet. And if you are living in a country that doesn’t have a significant industrial base, and you want to make a lot of money in a short period of time, the best thing to do is cut down the rain forest, graze some cows, and get out before turns into a muddy eroded mess.
And that’s what we’re doing through huge swaths of the world. Raising a cow to eat is unbelievably inefficient, and subsidizing all of the inputs of cows. And last year in the United States, taxpayers spent $50 billion subsidizing the fuel and feed that goes into raising cheap cattle subsidizing that is the opposite of what we should be doing, that we are all paying for the fact that we have a billion cows on this planet, and we could get rid of the cows in a week, if we wanted to. It’s not a giant, long term problem.
We have a marketing problem, and a cultural problem, which is that people associate cows with luxury and sustenance, and status. And until we figure out how to rewire the way we think about this, it’s not going to change. But it’s true that every person on earth eats significantly more beef on average, than anybody did 100 years ago. The it’s not natural for human beings to eat beef, and milk the way we do. It is the result of industrialization, and people being marketed to.
Right as people get wealthier, they tend to eat more meat, that’s kind of the way of the world not because they have to, but because it’s certainly a status thing. And it’s easy to do, it’s easy to kind of fall into that process. So what do you see in terms of how do you realistically get the American public and the people across the world to kind of give up their cows, I mean, it’s, it’s kind of a sacred cow. In some places.
It is indeed, again, the very structure of our conversation is the point I’m trying to make, which is we don’t know enough, because we’re not talking about it enough. If everyone knew what you know, and I know this wouldn’t be viewed as a sacred cow, it would be viewed as an aberration.
What people who are listening this to this need to do is not become a vegetarian, or worry about being a hypocrite, but they need to do is get three or four copies of the carbon Almanac and share them and talk about it and drop them off.
We’ve given one to every single person in Congress, give one to your boss, give one to the people who work for you give one to the people at the 4-H club or the Girl Scouts. Let’s talk about this. Because realistically, we’re all going to die from this problem. So realistically, what are we going to do in the meantime? It might have some speed bumps in it, but it’s not going to happen if we don’t talk about it.
Well, I think that this is a good first step towards to having that conversation. You’re listening to a climate change. I’ve got Seth Godin on the program, who’s organizing and founding editor of the carbon almanac. You can pick it up at your local bookstore or online. And we’ll be right back in one minute to talk to Seth about a bunch of other problems regarding the environment.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Seth Godin organizer and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac. Seth, the number of things I’d like to talk to you about. One is the the other information that you have out there free things for kids and podcasts. Tell our listeners a little bit more about that and how they can access this.
So about four weeks into building this as a team, somebody said, Well, why don’t we make one for kids? And I said, Well, Paige, if you want to do that, go ahead. And the next thing I knew there was a team working on it. And now we have a kids edition called Generation carbon, it’s free at thecarbonalmanac.org. If you want to download the PDF, it’s been translated into more than 30 languages. And there’s a print on demand version, which you can get and handout at schools.
It’s being used in countries around the world because kids, kids aren’t worried about what’s realistic, they’re worried about what’s interesting, and what’s possible. So for example, in the book is a simple experiment that your kids can do to understand the greenhouse effect.
Because if you want to know if you understand something, try to explain it to a seven year old, you probably can’t, well, if you have a pad of butter, and a glass bowl, you can explain the greenhouse effect to a kid and they can learn.
And so we’ve got that we’ve got more than 40 different podcasts that have been built. We have a photo book that we did with Getty that contains pictures before and after pictures from around the world of how climate is changing things. The artist, Shepard Fairey who lives in LA, donated four of our covers that are part of it. And I need to mention that throughout the almanac, or New Yorker style cartoons that well known cartoonists also donated so it’s not all gloom and doom, you will find something inside of it.
That will make you think, well, that’s great stuff and appreciate you giving the free stuff to the kids in particular. Let’s pivot a little bit to plastics and we talked about them earlier. And and what do you think we can do to kind of shift our use of plastics going forward?
Okay, so here’s what happens when I explain to people about plastics, recycling, plastics, recycling involves collecting all your water bottles, putting them in the blue bin, and then someone comes and picks them up from in front of your house. And if you are like almost every location in the United States, they collect those bottles, and then they bring them to a place where they burn them. They are not recycling them.
After someone confirms that this is true, they continue to put the plastic bottle in the blue bin. Because we have been trained to look for convenience, at my local grocery store. Lettuce comes in a plastic container. Sometimes grapefruit comes shrink wrapped in plastic.
Now the last time I checked, grapefruit was already in a really useful container. So why are we doing this? We’re doing it because we have been brainwashed into looking for convenience. And the essence of plastic is it is convenient. And the fact is that the people are the buyers of raw plastic and using it to make stuff would rather not. But stores make them do it. Consumers make them do it.
And if we organize and speak up, that will stop. We got by just great with almost no plastic 20, 30, 40 years ago, the plastics industry is watching their sales go up. Even though when plastic is made, we either dump it in the ocean, or we burn it. And we are seeing that we can get around this problem if we speak up. So I know you think you’re doing the right thing by recycling your plastic bottle, but all you’re doing is getting tricked.
Well, I know that in California, there was a landmark law that was just passed this last year about plastics and reducing plastics and there was obviously a lot of industry pushback. But it was from what I’m what I understand a step in the right direction, though. It’s a long ways to go before we’re plastic free.
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, plastic is miracle. And as I’m sitting here in my studio, I see plastic everywhere I look. It’s a miracle. We’re never going to be plastic free. The question is on all the edge cases, and all the places where we can get around it, what are we doing to get around it, it doesn’t make any sense to have an argument shaming someone about a straw.
But it makes a lot of sense to talk to an organization that’s buying plastic by the ton, and challenging them to figure out how to do without.
Right, there are lots of things that you do there, there’s new packaging out there, that’s not plastic that you do, starting to see different organizations using things that are not plastic. And it’s great. So but I think they need incentives, because otherwise, they’re playing at a disadvantage, because the cost of maybe packaging, something in an alternative to plastic is probably higher than, than plastics. Now is the carbon tax efficient to kind of dissuade manufacturers of plastics to or consumers of plastics to use less of it?
So the super simple, you know, my local supermarket has 15 different kinds of eggs for sale. I remember when they were only two, but now there’s 15. Some of them come in cardboard, and some of them come in plastic. How much extra? Would the egg laying facility need to be paying for that plastic container before they would switch to cardboard? Or even better?
How many customers grocery stores would have to say to that, Henry? No, we’re not going to take your eggs unless they’re in cardboard. Not very many. Before you switch, I grew up in a factory that my dad ran. And factory owners listen really carefully when a customer says they’re switching to the competition.
Right? So that’s another call for us to raise our voices and start making complaints and start saying, Hey, we’re not going to buy the stuff that’s wrapped in plastic. And we’re going to going to we’re going to buy the stuff that is coming in packaging that is compostable, versus, you know, the stuff that never degrades?
Yeah, I’ll give you a simple example. Sorry to interrupt. I gave a speech for Amazon, there are a few 100 people there. Amazon has an algorithm, it seems invisible. You do a search for something, and it shows you there 7,000 items in a certain order. How do they decide what order to put those 7,000 items in? Well, some programmer somewhere wrote the algorithm to decide on the sort order.
It might be what’s got the highest reviews, but it might also be what makes Amazon a bigger profit, or some combination? Well, if they add one variable to that sort, which is, which are the items that have more resilience, and are more sustainable, and put them higher in the sword, wouldn’t cost the consumer anything extra. And it would change an enormous amount. How’s that going to happen?
If only 1,000 people reached out to Amazon today and said, not okay with me, it would get someone’s attention. If 10,000 people did it, to quote, Arlo Guthrie, they would think it was a movement. And it is a movement. It’s a movement that will happen if we keep talking about it.
Well, that’s a that’s a very, you know, important distinction to make for the audience, I think, just read a book or reading a book about AI, and how the algorithms are built. And certainly talking to the major companies to rebuild their algorithms, so that they weight things for environmental considerations would make an enormous difference across a wide swath of products that we’re using.
Yeah, and it’s low hanging fruit. And we’re lucky that right now the low hanging fruit is still available. Let’s go pick it.
Right. So what do you see as the next steps for you and this in this movement and and how do you? How do you move your organization forward? And continue to engage the 300 volunteers that you’re working with to have created the carbon almanac? What’s the next steps for your organization?
That’s a great question. You know, the beauty of dandelions is the dandelion doesn’t worry about how long it will last, it worries about where the seeds going to go next. We’re now 1,975 people in 91 countries. We have partnered with over 100 organizations around the world. We’ve been featured by the New York Public Library translated into Chinese and Korean and many other languages.
And now, it’s not one person leading things. It’s more than 1,000 people leading in lots of different directions. We have no profit, we have no income. We have no organization. They’re just a bunch of people who came together to make a thing. And now we are each going off and organize we’re seeing in different ways in different places.
So we are passing the non-combusting torch to you, Matt and to your listeners, and to the people at the 4-H and that the Girl Scouts and at the rotary to say, go organize something, because you don’t need a permit and you don’t need a license, you just need to care.
That’s a great message. Seth Godin, who is also the organizer and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac, check them out online. A great book that he is brought together with 300 volunteers around the world bringing truth and light to this argument or to this discussion that we all need to be having assessed said every day.
So what are your final words to the audience? Seth as we, as we, you know, and, and the program?
Well, thank you for listening, first of all, and now start talking. If somebody if you’re listening to a radio interview, and someone says what’s the one simple, straightforward thing our listeners can do today?
Realize that person got tricked. There is no convenient, direct, easy solution to this problem, because it took us 100 years to build a system that made the problem.
And if you want to fix the system, you got to see the system, then you got to talk about the system. And then you got to build a new system to take its place. And the only people who can do that are the people who are listening today. So I appreciate folks who care. Now I gotta go make a ruckus.
Okay, well, great words of wisdom to close out the year here in 2022. And words, to live by in 2023.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. We had Seth Godin on the program, organizer and founding editor of The Carbon Almanac. Seth, great to have you on the show and great working with you and best of luck moving forward.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
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