Posts from the ‘Science’ category

Building Resilience in a Changing World

If you know me, you know I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Mostly, they’ve been for business, fundraising, and entrepreneurship, with a smattering of science.

comic about ebusiness conventions with what you need to know versus what you want to hear

Sums them up, except for the one I just went to! Which was amazing.

Check out the conference’s title:


Building Resilience in a Changing World

My alma mater, good ole (not really, the program’s not even six years old) Bard MBA, offered us a free ticket to the conference a week ago. I had to read the title three times before I realized how amazing it was. I think that I just couldn’t believe that a conference existed for my three favorite things (and probably in this order): Science, Business, and Education. And Resilience! Wow. They sure knew how to push my buttons.

I tried to talk myself out of going to it, because I was still strapped for cash at the time. And I’m in Maryland and the conference is in VA and that’s sooooo far away. Like on the OTHER SIDE of DC.

Then I realized that it would be my first conference in the epicenter of politics, and arguably, America. So I jumped on the ticket, and so did someone else, and the program ended up gettings tickets for both of us. YAY!

The morning of the conference, I got up at 5am, made it out of the house by 6, and got to the train station by 6:30am. Then I tried to pay for my ticket using the machine. But it wasn’t accepting Mastercard. So I tried my Visa. And it wasn’t accepting my Visa. I went to the window, and she says, “They did a system update this morning, and now the whole country’s machines aren’t accepting Visa or Mastercard.”

“Well, that’s all I have. I don’t have any cash on me.”

Fucking Amtrak. I don’t understand how some businesses are in business.

She waves me to the ATM, and I grudgingly head over, knowing that I’ll be paying a fee of at least $3. Already, this trip is getting expensive.

Then the Capitol One ATM eats one of my debit cards.

Gif of conan doing the suck it motion.

Fuck you, Capital One.

Well, I saved myself a fee.

I try to talk myself out of going to the conference again, saying, “Maybe it’s not meant to be.”

Then I feel gross for letting obstacles get in my way. There’s a difference between, “I know I shouldn’t get on that plane, because I know I will die” and “What a pain in the ass.”

If you don’t know what the difference is between those feelings, I encourage you to become one with the universe.

So, I call my Mom, and ask her to come back, and she dutifully sits in hellish traffic, and I grab a wad of “just in case” cash that I stash in my car. Actually, I probably shouldn’t have told you that.

Thanks, Mom.

It feels weird, cause I’m not saying that sarcastically.. Oh, being a 90’s kid.

Finally, I make it to VA, sadly missing the beginning (and the breakfast noshing and networking), and awkwardly creep into the side and sit on the floor. I feel like a kid wearing my bright red pants and sitting on the floor, but whatever. I was close to the front and had a perfect view.

Here are my cleaned up notes from the talks I went to. Keep in mind, I was late, so if you look at the agenda, I missed a bunch.

Biggest regrets: Being late, even though there’s nothing I could have done about it. Not being able to be everywhere at once – during any symposium or workshop, at least a dozen were going on and you had to choose only ONE! Every talk felt like the best talk and discussion I’d ever been to. I can’t even imagine getting to go to all of them!

Talk 1 – Panel on Sustainable Infrastructure: Building Resilience in the Face of Disasters

*What do social scientists learn?

What do sociologists know?

2017 needs to become the “new normal”, the baseline from which we gauge everything now from natural disasters to resource scarcity. We can’t say, “100-year” anything because it’s probably “every year everything” moving forward.

How many resources does the private sector offer to natural disaster stuff?

Who within an organization assesses an emergency response in the aftermath? In all sectors, is it a department? Leadership? How do we know how well we did and what has room for improvement?

The world needs skills-based volunteering and money. No more giant piles of socks, although they’ll take the socks.

Are the people who make money on natural disasters, like construction and building contractors, incentivized and actively blocking disaster preparedness?

How is the mental health of impacted communities being dealt with, if at all? If it is, does it include resilience training or education on climate change and natural disasters?

Will natural disaster areas with repeating occurrences or high-risk result in people moving? (This was later answered. Unless you’re Japanese, where apparently they aren’t in complete denial, the answer is no).

Natural disasters tend to occur, at least in the US, where property values are highest – ocean/waterfront. If counties are responsible for where the rebuilding occurs after disasters, and the risk and impact is offloaded to everyone, how do we educate or incentivize counties to build elsewhere? We need a counter-incentive, and it probably has to be beyond education. Will is ever become illegal to live in certain areas, post-disaster? Because it’s costing all of us.

What’s AI doing for weather? Is there or will there be a degree for sustainability AI? (This was later answered by one of the head people from The Weather Channel. AI’s doing a lot, but unclear on the degree/major.)

Talk 2 – Resilience of Nature-Based and Built Infrastructure

Will government job hiring ever move to problems to solve versus jobs to fill?

“Resilience Scientist” – is that a thing?

*Resilience has become conflated with risk. The 1973 definition of resilience is

Resilience = a stable system -> disturbance -> stable system

The key point is that stable also means a desired system. Because nature will always go back to a stable system. But what we want and what nature wants are not necessarily aligned.

How do you think about defining the boundaries of a resilience system? Graham Cumming has a paper from 1973 about it. He defines the types of boundaries as spatial and spatial regimes.

How conservative are scientists and engineers when they assess the damage/impact? (The answer was extremely. Which is alarming.)

The following bold text are names I made up for the talks. I didn’t write down the actual names and am too lazy to look up every single powerpoint I saw.

Japanese Resilience after the Tsunami

Technology to recycle and reuse disaster debris is a thing! They did it all over Japan.

How different was the prediction and reality of recovery of Japan? Their goal was to rebuild the city better than it was before – more resilient. But also as quickly as they could.

How does Japan’s response to their natural disaster compare to the rest of the world? (It’s actually an example of what to do, but what they did is realistically not even close to what needs to be done.)

How many people can realistically fit in Japan’s shelters? It reminds me of the Titanic. Are there enough boats? Is underground even safe?

Coastal residents were moved to higher ground. They didn’t just rebuild near the coasts, which had the highest property value, like American counties do. In fact, they are rebuilding whole towns 8 meters (that’s over 26 feet!) above sea level.

Soil Matters!

CO2 is the glue that binds soil together. Soil loss and erosion are happening at 20x the rate at which soil is being made.

What’s Happening in Brazil?

How do we quantify sustainability? Using the Envision Rating System, which has about 60 criteria. The next edition will have more. Are they the only folks assessing response post-disaster? They are using drones to see the impacts.

In Brazil’s Amazon, absentee stakeholders plan the infrastructure with zero input from the people who live there. They are building hydroelectric dams all over the forest, but the communities right next to them don’t get any electricity!

What the Army Isn’t Doing About Climate Change

Smartgrids are super hot right now and most people think they’re the answer. But they don’t work for big problems, only small, because of the central control. Picture a hierarchy – what happens when the top is cut off?

Why is everything assessed in silos? When do they bring it together?

Are network systems similar to systems thinking? (the answer was no, they didn’t even know what that was.)

(He also presented a diagram of a smartgrid and the silos that we currently operate with, pointing out the flaws with both. When he failed to present a network or other model, I asked, “Why isn’t it a network? Why isn’t it 3D?” The answer was that we don’t have the visualization technology for those things right now. And even though we know it’s the best solution, we can’t use it, because we can’t easily visualize it. YIKES! Hellooo000oooo Systems Diagramming! It’s not 3D, but it’s a great next step! The speaker was well aware of the limitations, and lamented that he and other scientists in the army are now being largely ignored.)

A Panarchy’s Adaptive Cycle

Ecology is obsessed with the conservation phase of a panarchy’s adaptive cycle.

diagram of panarchy's adaptive cycle

OMG he’s voicing one of my biggest frustrations with environmental science, nature preservation, and ecology!!!

All of the investment after a natural disaster is focused on how quickly we can get ourselves back to the original stable state. Faster is considered better. The key point here is “original”. We are incentivized by speed, not resilience. Our paradox is that we strive to preserve that which must change. A solution is “creative collapse,” new feedbacks in the system. For example, controlled burning of grasslands. This prevention creates a means of co-existence.

Talk 3 – Climate Changes Health: Justice, Equity, Mitigation, and Activism

Many resources can be found at, including The Environmental Health Handbook.

Scientists in the 1920’s predicted that we’d be feeling the impacts of climate change in 100 years. (OH DAAAAAAMN)

Fact Sheets – Climate Change Health Tools to Communicate the Problem

How has the NIH not listened pollution or heat on the lists of the top causes of deaths in the US? (This was later answered. It’s because it’s very difficult to quantify the health impacts of pollution as there are too many impacts and sources of pollution. YIKES!)

MIssissippi is being hit hard by climate change. But the states nearby dont care. Why don’t they care more? Is it because half of these states are too far from the Mississippi to be, erm, educated or open enough to understand it?

How do you deal with the psychological phenomena of how saying facts cause people to believe the wrong thing with even more conviction?

Can we tax properties with property tax based on how well the property’s land drains water? Would this money help with when the properties in high-risk areas are destroyed?

Canada has a CO2 tax that goes into income tax refunds. The recipients have the option to put the money back into the community! Yay!

When talking with low-income folks, health does help to open the door. Talk about it in the context of loss of income. Also, just listen.

Good examples of dealing with hospital hazardous waste are the organization, “Practice Green Health,” Kaiser Permanente, and The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

(This was the most disappointing talk I went to. On the one hand, I didn’t realize it would be a lecture about how to do activism. I fell asleep for a lot of the talk. On the other hand, I asked them what phrases or talking points resonated with low-income folks, and they refused to give any other than “talk about the health impacts and how that affects their income.” When I have canvassed, one of the most useful things I’ve gotten out of it is what key phrases resonate with people. If they are spending all of this time talking with stakeholders so they can make their reports, surely they’ve learned more than generalities! Talking about generalities doesn’t teach us anything. They’re scientists for crying out loud! Tell me how much pollution or natural disasters costs in hospital bills and missed work when a low-income person’s child gets sick or injured. They should know this number. Also, this is my biggest frustration with lecture. Give me a case study! Give me concrete details and results!)

During a networking portion, I milled around the foyer, creepily looking at people’s name tags. I was mostly looking for NASA, NSF, and other cool stuff. Much to my dismay, almost everyone had an academic nametag. Disappointed and confused, I asked someone who was running a University booth (they had some booths in the foyer) what the heck was going on. He said that because of the surprise furlough the day before, many government employees couldn’t fly out that day. Some changed their plane ticket, and some couldn’t make it for other reasons. When I asked an army person if they thought the administration did it on purpose, given that this conference was all about something it was adamantly against, their response was perfect. “I don’t think they gave it that much thought. I think it was just a coincidence.” Conservative response from a government representative or the administration is really that lacking in strategy?

homer pretending to be thinking


Talk 4 – Panel on Resilient Infrastructure and the Sustained National Climate Assessment

How can we identify the early adopters in government among the sea of laggers? Are there any early adopters? I suppose they’re the ones at this conference.

Why aren’t we just assuming the worst-case scenarios and using the best technology that exists right now? (This was later answered. Turns out, it’s just too expensive. So, the places that are doing it right are building in stages toward the worst-case scenarios.)

Given that almost everyone is predicted to live in cities, has anything thought about building cities in the most high-elevation parts of the country? I think we should be at least thinking about this now because these high-elevation points are probably incredibly difficult to build on in their current states, such as mountains.

A town or city’s fear of being on their own when a disaster strikes is incentivizing governments to work together. Yay!

Can you use wells when they are underwater? Or does the sea ruin all the groundwater pretty quickly?

Maybe I can move to the highest elevation part of the country and get elected into office.

What the world needs is for theoretical scientist to move to applied science. What are the usual applied science degrees, job titles, or fields?

Scientists can be useful by adding comments and feedback to existing, open-source climate change help and guidance documents. This reminds me of how the book, The Martian, was written. He just started writing and posting it around and all sorts of scientists starting telling him, “Actually, if this were to really happen, it would happen this way…”

How can we get communities to trust models if they don’t trust evidence? (BEST QUESTION OF THE CONFERENCE!)

Is there a good foundational material to build floating cities on? I need to hoard that material.

We need to ask already fucked up areas how they have adapted, if at all. Not just natural disaster areas, but also areas starting to be affected and how they’re adapting. One of the speakers used farmers as an example. He went to speak with them as stakeholders, and they were full of all sorts of useful ways of getting around climate change.

Do we need to be building everything for the 100-year scenario?

If everything is already happening a zillion times faster than predicted, can’t we also realize that it’s too late for the 1 degree C goal? Can we finally just accept that and get to work?

Ironically, finance does think about things 50-100 years out. It’s also helpful to look at 100 year old companies.

Will high elevation property skyrocket in property value?

How quickly does sea level have to rise before the government uses eminent domain to seize the land because it’s “necessary”?

One of the speakers mentioned that when his house was destroyed, he hasn’t bothered to get it insured because there’s nothing to insure. But I wonder, can you insure not just the property, but also the land lost if it ends up underwater? Because, doesn’t the land itself have value? And like a destroyed house, underwater land won’t be salvageable.

Talk 5 – Panel on Teaching to the Future: Education for Sustainability

What if sustainability and resilience were part of gen-eds at colleges? Why aren’t they already?? A ton of the folks here are from academia!

How many scientists are in elected office?

He’s talking about how in the 1970’s, the sustainability movement thought they were apolitical and convinced themselves that climate change was. Many folks wrote books about how sustainability has to be political, but they weren’t listened to. It reminds me of a recent blog post by Laura Gitman, arguably the best professor at Bard MBA. It matches perfectly how the sustainability movement regrets being apolitical in the early days – perhaps things could be different. Laura says she wonders if making the “business case” for sustainability all this time was the right move. Instead of appealing to capitalist interest in the bottom line, she and other sustainability consultants could have created momentum around the triple bottom line much earlier. Over time, values have been completely removed from capitalism. You’ll hear more about that later, when an ambassador from France gives a talk. Please read her blog post. It’s extremely insightful. And at this point, history repeating itself.

There is a Green Tea Party in Georgia doing good things.

At Penn State, scientists and teams doing interdisciplinary work are being rewarded just as much as depth-based professors. Currently in academia, scientists are pigeonholed into deeper and deeper research of one thing because that is rewarded in grant money and tenure. It’s the safe way to go. An example is one of my former employees, who had spent her entire career studying Vitamin D. At Penn State, they reward professors for doing valuable work, regardless of how safe it is or how much grant money they get. I’ve posted a deeper explanation in my Deep Thoughts section, but I often wonder if the grant system has done more harm than good.

Bill is a biochemist who wrote an article about how we don’t need to discover new science, but need to rediscover old science. PREACH! (I tried to find this article, but couldn’t figure out the right search terms).

We need to prioritize knowledge and what needs to be learned. Right now, we’re just mindlessly studying whatever with zero intention. (More on this later).

Business is so much more efficient in impact and getting people to adjust mindsets. Even CIE is doing this. Why is this conference so much about academia and not about business? Why are the only business speakers I’ve seen so far from Mars junkfood and a bank!? – how to get out of doom and gloom and do something about climate change!

Dr. Debra Rowe – a rockstar and my hero. She tells it like it is and what we can do about it with specific detail! Are you listening

National Science Foundation – they’re embracing Centers of Excellence! Shout out to Rocky Mountain Research Station, who came up with it! NSF says they’re doing it to be healthy learning and work environments for everyone.

Scientists can’t be “unbiased” anymore because it’s not even scientifically accurate. No one’s unbiased, so science isn’t and has never been unbiased. We need to BRING IN VALUES, because sustainability is really about values.

Boldness, Genius, Magic, and Power!

Talk 6 – Achieving an Integrated Surface Transportation System for All Users


The 2017 Environmental Excellence Awards. What cities, towns, whatever did the best stuff this past year. Learn from them.

Collaboration always makes things go way quicker.

Head to the FHWA website for tons of resources, including anything from how to talk about climate change prep to how to facilitate a collaboration.

Environmental Justice Fact Sheets

Sign up for their newsletter to learn about Successes in Stewardship. For example, the West Coast is helping the East Coast with what to do about salmon.

CSS – Context-sensitive solutions. It’s the holistic development of projects. The FHWA has guidance docs for how to do collaborations for consensus, creativity, and flexibility. Wow!

Public Transit

What about roads and the oil industry? Is that why our public transit and rail system sucks? (This was later answered…an undefinitive probably.)

They are thinking a lot about self-driving cars in the future. They don’t have any projects on how long it will take.

Will self-driving cars increase overall transit system use? (They are doing pilots all around the country. So, maybe).

EJ Screening Tools Peer Network Summary Report. (This symposium track has too many links to keep looking up. Look it up yourself!)

NHI Fundamentals of EJ Course

The Why & How of Measuring Access to Opportunity, A Guide to Performance Management

The Purple Book – assessing socioeconomic activity

They don’t have an opinion on gentrification or equity, their job is to share case studies, best practices and tools, and meeting multiple objectives. In a way, whatever ends up in the documents are their opinions. One solution that a state could do that seems to work is subsidizing housing. One factor of assessment is how many jobs can someone reach in their locale? Especially from public transit.

What’s an example of a health impact? Is it like getting to the hospital or the impacts of VOC’s?

Aren’t tolls a form of capitalism and decreasing equity? Are there subsidized toll lanes?

Measuring Multimodal Network Connectivity, Like Bikes + Cars

How much do they talk with companies and their distribution systems? UPS, Walmart, Amazon. Are companies helping?

Are more bike lanes increasing biking or are people still complaining about the creation of bike lanes? Well, in some cities, they don’t have to! Road Diets are when car lanes are narrowed to add bike lanes. This reminds me of when I first moved from Maryland to California and was like geeze, these are some skinny lanes! Also, natural disasters in Houston actually increased bike use.

Small Town & Rural Planning – make better use of the shoulders for bike lanes

New administration is heavily focused on rural networks. (WTF? What about low-income urban areas like West Baltimore??)

What about teaching people how to bike on highway-like lanes? What’s the etiquette?

They are crowdsourcing traffic data.

Why wasn’t Seattle on the map of cities that need attention cause of bike fatalities. (Because Seattle’s so safe for bikes.)

Deaths decrease and traffic flow improves when you go from 4 lanes to 3. (How neat! I am now thinking about this everywhere I drive.)

The website even has a pretty picture library for people to put in their powerpoint presentations.

Talk 7 – Ambassador Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States

This talk was not very good in general.

But I got very mad when he said that it’s easy to get things done in America because all we care about is money. He claimed that “France’s barrier is that it’s culturally theological.”

Well, Mr. Araud, maybe America and the world wouldn’t be such a climate change shitshow if we hadn’t taken out the theology, or had at least included some values!

sailor moon crying

Are shitty, religious values really better than pure greed?

Sadly, like I’ve noticed at many other conferences, no one remembered him dropping a bomb, and most people laughed when he had. SIGH.

Ugh, moving on.

Accidental Talk 8 – Co-Designing Community Resilience: A Hands-On Workshop to Launch New Community Science Projects

Like any good conference, some of the schedule rooms had typos. I ended up in the wrong room, and much to my disappointment and surprise, was seeing an introduction to Design Thinking. But before I realized that, something gelled for me that I had mulling over the whole conference.

The speaker in this design-thinking workshop started with some work he’d done with malaria. They wanted people to stop getting malaria, and instead of collecting a bunch of data about mosquitos and the weather and geographic concentrations of malaria outbreaks and whatever else, they just looked at what times of the year malaria outbreaks occurred. Turns out, whenever humidity got to a certain level, there would be a humidity outbreak. This! they could work with. Turns out, it happened at extremely predictable times, so they could take preventative measures with drastically fewer resources and huge impact.

Then he said something that blew my mind:

If you accomplish the goal with correlative data, you don’t really need to know the causation.

Oh, snap! Science just got p0wned.

You see, in business, government, and any sort of stakeholder engagement, folks are realizing that a top-down approach doesn’t work.

Top (CEO’s) –>other people in the hierarchy –> Bottom (factory workers). We are now realizing that in addition to listening to everything our customers have to say, we need to listen to the people who are on the ground floor! Because they know substantially more about the business than the disengaged top. Finally!

So in this context, the goal is to have a “Bottom-Up Approach”.


In science, it’s currently a Bottom-Up Approach.

Let’s collect a shitton of data –> Let’s use the data to determine what the risks are –> Now that we know the risks, let’s work on mitigation and prevention

THIS NEVER WORKED. And in order to survive, we can’t do anything this way anymore.

Check this out:

What’s our goal? No more malaria. –> Malaria comes from mosquitos. When are there the most mosquitos? –> What data do we need to collect in order to know how to mitigate this risk? Mosquito populations explode when a certain humidity threshold is met.


To bring it full circle:

If you accomplish the goal with correlative data, you don’t really need to know the causation.

We really shouldn’t give a shit about the causation if our problems get solved!

There were several themes that kept repeating throughout the conference.

  • The problem with government conflating risk with resilience
  • The importance of focusing our efforts on the local level
  • The signs that we were already seeing of climate change, such as California’s Sonoma County burning down or New Orleans now being the southernmost city on the Mississippi because the other got swallowed up by sea level rise.
  • The need for better ways to communicate, collaborate, and especially for the scientific community (and IMHO EVERYWHERE), cross disciplines. DOWN WITH SILOS!
  • Science is becoming irrelevant in the face of climate change
  • Courageous satire. So many great examples of witty, heartachingly truthful satire said by some of our country’s grittiest, tenacious, and generous people.

Many folks had presented about these topics and potential solutions to them. I wish they could have seen each others’ presentations, because almost every problem I heard was solved in another presentation.

So it occurred to me that while I was in college, student-designed majors were frowned upon.

“Oh, you’re doing a student-designed major? Have fun being unemployed.”

Now, I realize that they were geniuses! This is how education should always have been! It’s the whole point of MOOC’s! All majors and education in general should be student-designed!

Learn the skills that are relative to the problems you want to solve and the impact you want to have in the world. Why pigeonhole ourselves into a “discipline” or “field”? If you think about it, IT’S A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME!

Just like collecting random data with no direction. It’s all about the goal! The direction! It seems so obvious now.

Talk 8 – The Backbone of Sustainable Infrastructure: Cooperative Ownership & Public Banks

After scribbling down all of these revelations, it finally sank in that I was not in the talk that I wanted to be in. And that I already knew most of what was going to be taught, even if it was in a different flavor.

The speaker announces that we’re going to do an icebreaker (it is, after all, a room of introverts :P). Turn to your partner and introduce yourself, answer some questions, and tell them about yourself. WOMP WOMP

I turn to my partner and say, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be the biggest asshole right now. I just realized that I’m not in the talk I had intended to be in, and I’m going to leave. I’m so sorry.”

She said no worries, and sat there for a second with no intention of getting to know anyone. I wasn’t going to let her totally off the hook, so as I was walking out, I said to the two folks on the other side of her (because there was now an odd number of people at the table), “Hey, I’m heading out. So you two are going to be a threesie.” They turned to her to include her, fully accepting her into their duo, and I hustled out the door.

As I walked into the talk I’d meant to be in, of course, it was exactly my turn to introduce myself to the room because everyone else had just finished their introduction.

I asked what were the three things they wanted me to say about myself, and they told me.

“Hi, my name is Heather Bowden, and I have a biology and nanomaterials background (I mean, I wasn’t going to say Marketing Director. It was a conference for scientists!). I am here because I just moved to Maryland from Seattle and fell in love with cooperatives while I was there.

One of the panelists immediately chimed in with, “Seattle! Why on earth would you leave Seattle?”

So frazzled from being late, I muttered, “Oh, you know. Mental breakdown.”

Fortunately, everyone was half asleep and didn’t notice. But sheesh, I gotta work on keeping my cool.

One panelist was from Amalgamated Bank, which has a sustainability practice.

Another had a book called, “The Public Bank Solution” and a talk show.

There was also a guy who knew stuff and worked with the author at The Public Banking Institute.

Apparently, some of them were also last minute panelists, like at so many other talks, all because of the furlough

shaking fists angrily

Damn you, Voldemort!

Public Banks – finance infrastructure internally by the people, which results in projects requiring half the cost. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s been proven all over the world.

Big Ideas

1) Banks, not governments, produce vast majority of the money supply.

In the UK, banks are not intermediaries. They create money digitally through loans and extending credit. It’s kind of like funding prosperity because it’s community development and infrastructure at half the cost.

This idea is a great example of rediscovering old knowledge, at least for America.

M0 – Coins, $

M1 – Coins, $, checkbook money

M2 – Coins, $, checkbook money, CD’s and Long-Term investments

M3 – Coins, $, checkbook money, CD’s and Long-Term investments, and Shadow Banking.

Shadow banking is why 0.1% of people who almost all of the wealth.

2) While creating a banking system, it should not fund fossil fuel infrastructure. We need to convince banks to divest because it’ll put the biggest dent into the fossil fuel industry.

3) We as creators for credit, can create financing we want because money determines policy. We need to reclaim democratic control of money by moving into a new paradigm. Logic won’t cut it. It needs to include the emotional, national, metaphysical, and faith. We need to empower ourselves to speak openly about these things. (Sound familiar? Re: Laura Giftman’s post on the Triple Bottom Line).

We need to find ways to finance each other, such as nationalized banks for public interest.

Myth: Money is scarce. FALSE. Money is not scarce, it’s just in the control of a small group.

Don’t try to go head-to-head with bad power. Come up with something better!

The Bank of North Dakota is a 98-year old bank that was fine through the financial crisis. In fact, it was in the black! It’s the only state-owned bank in the country. The Wall Street Journal said that it was more profitable than the top 3 big banks combined. In their charter, they say that they don’t compete with local banks and actually are have to partner with them!

Book – Killing the Host

The current banking system is just like a cartel run by the mafia.

Budgets should be moral documents.

Google: Davos Forum, Global Alliance for Banking on Values, B-Corp certified banks to choose from

In Germany, banks only invest in the community, so it’s low risk.

New Jersey is getting a state bank. Probably. Almost certainly.

Banks are corporations and can therefore be Benefit Corporations and Social Purpose Corporations as legal entities.

What would the language of the policy be to prevent regulation that allows banks to create new financial instruments as others are made illegal (only after financial collapse…)? It reminds me of pesticides, where every 80 or so years, a bunch of people get sick and die, the pesticides are made illegal, and they’re just replaced with new, just as bad ones. What policy could get us out of this terrible cycle? (Answer: It’s not possible :()

In Conclusion

The speakers at almost all of the panels were super good at telling tangible and illustrative stories.

There were a few heated (probably more like warmed) debates, but for the most part, everyone was on the same side.

Some were getting cynical, but most were still resisting cynicism.

The three main takeaways were: focus on the local level, interdisciplinary is a bazillion times better than silos, and resilience is our goal – not just getting back to baseline (which as we saw in the beginning of the conference, is now 2017).

The last talk was The John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science, Policy and the Environment. John H Chafee isn’t around anymore, but his bff’s son was around to give the talk.

I’ll do my best to share the story Senator Sheldon Whitehouse shared with us to end the conference on a positive note.

When the furlough happened, the Senate was handed a memo saying that the furlough was happening. They were not included in the conversation whatsoever, along with the other brand. The Senate, turns out, includes a lot of climate change sympathists. But thanks to good ole super PACs, they feel like their hands are tied. Cowards.

Except for the day when the furlough was announced. Senator Whitehouse said that the Democrats and Republicans were so fed up with being ignored by the executive brand and excluded from the conversation, that they met in the middle and got something done IN AN HOUR. Which never happens. The Senator indicated that both sides of the Senate were teaming up to finally use their checks-and-balances power, as the Senator noted, was the whole point of having it in the first place.

We’ll see what comes of it.

I hope to go again next year. But a part of me wonders if there will even be anyone left to attend. It could be cause all the scientists are finally fired. Or science is scrubbed from academia. Or we experience that mass human extinction a decade sooner than predicted.

I’m not going to edit this because it’s 12:30 am, and it’s bedtime. Whatever state this blog post is in, I’m sure you’ll get the jist, if you make it this far.

If any of us make it this far ::dramatic pause::

Just kidding.

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Are Aliens My Life Purpose?

Well. You never know who you’ll meet on tinder. Fortunately, I’ve met some of the most interesting people since I’ve been in NYC.

alien guy meme with what if aliens were visited by aliens?

Not even the ultimate inception!

What follows are my thoughts on the whole exposing aliens thing that’s happening right now. If you haven’t heard, all that shit about aliens and UFO’s is probably true.

I’m not surprised. Since I’m relentlessly curious, I’m relentlessly frustrated. So, this isn’t helping haha.

Some of you may have heard me say late last year that only an alien invasion would bring humanity together, or at the very least, help us get our shit together. This aligns with one of my core values which is to never waste a “crisis”. But I don’t want for it to unite us under a one-world regime. Instead, I want for it to help us realize that there are more important things than ego, insecurity, identity, and greed. And I’d prefer a meet and greet that leads to much good and positivity over an invasion.

Speaking of greed, these zero-point energy vessels indicate that free energy has already been developed and hopefully soon, will be accessible. It’s possible that the reason why all of this has been kept hidden and thousands have been murdered to protect secrets, is greed and money in the energy industry. Seems kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? And this makes it a HUGE sustainability issue. I’ll be more glad than mad if this all pans out to be true, but it would also mean that we have FUCKED our planet for no good reason.

On the bright side, it looks like I’ve finally found a niche I’m relentlessly passionate about. What’s the intersection of aliens and sustainability? 😛

I’d love to see one of the life forms from an evolutionary biology perspective. Is CRISPR old school?

And after spending enough time in Silicon Valley talking with former biotech CEO’s, I’m perfectly aware that when it comes to healthcare, big pharma and insurance companies’ favorites thing to do is shelve cures. They are only interested in treatments because the longer we live while we’re sick, the longer we’re profitable. Hopefully, keeping these kinds of things hidden will also be exposed and perhaps even melded with the healthcare technology that exists “out there”. Here’s to immortality!

I’m also excited for interplanetary (and who knows what else) space travel. ET anthropology. How I can spend two years on a planet and a thousand will pass on Earth, and how aliens even deal with those kinds of issues. And whole bunch of other things. I knew there were more important languages to learn than just Earth-based ones .

What are you excited for?

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Have You Been Gaslighted in the Workplace?

movie poster for gaslight about gaslighting


a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.

I have always felt like a villain and maybe gaslighting my immediate family is why. But I was gaslighted many times in my youth. I wonder if it’s like molestation, where it’s passed on from generation to generation.

The more I learn about gaslighting, the more I think that at least half of people do it regularly, and that almost everyone has done it at least once. There’s intentional and non-intentional gaslighting, and regardless of the intention, the effects can be extremely detrimental.

After college, I started a company to eliminate animal testing in the United States. The European Union had just done it for cosmetics, and I was convinced that I would do it across the board in the US. I thought that if the US did it, the rest of the world would follow. Instead, I experienced over four years of binge eating, my best friend and I getting gaslighted by a coworker, being too afraid of people to leave my house, and more. It all kept piling on top of each other, and I didn’t deal with any of it. The first decade of adulthood felt like a nightmare that was just about to end, but never did.

I thought Seattle would be better. I really did. Like a new start. I found a city and people I wanted to be a part of.

I’ve had 8 jobs in the last 3 years and lived in 10 places, several of which were very unsafe, and one where I got gaslighted and attacked by a roommate. I couldn’t complain because I always had a roof over my head, but I failed at everything except having more trauma. I had three years to build at least one business or have one job in Seattle, and I failed. I kept getting panic attacks and deep depression and would quit. Or I’d get told to lie, which I fought against adamantly, but was ultimately let go even though I tried to persuade with alternatives. Or I’d feel the strongest pull that I can’t describe to stop doing what I was doing and start doing something else…to the tune of over 100 times. Throughout, I tried desperately to find work. But after the first few jobs, I started freaking out that I was going to get fired and had nightmares. The nightmares caused more anxiety. The anxiety caused more…you get the picture.

This past July, I shared with a business breakfast group that I was struggling between staying in Seattle or moving to New Jersey. A friend who was an executive coach and therapist offered to give me a free session.

At the beginning of our session, she asked me to start talking. When I said, “IBM”, I got tears in my eyes. She said, “let’s work on that.”

When it was all over, she leaned forward, put her hand on my arm, and said, “Heather, you have PTSD, and what happened wasn’t your fault.”

On July 25th, I was diagnosed with PTSD from getting gaslighted by a guy at IBM for two years when I was in my mid-20’s. A week later, I found out that my other coworker experienced the same and is recovering too. It’s such a shame cause she was a brilliant physicist/geneticist/chemist who is now struggling.

For those two years, he accused her and me of doing bad research. He had made a nanoparticle that to this day, I feel tremendous sadness over being lost. Its results were mind-bogglingly amazing. You could put just about any drug or compound into the nanoparticle and target different parts of the body. It was so nontoxic that it defied any other nanoparticle before it. For months, I brought him and our team pictures, videos, and test results that had us all believing that we’d in some way helped to save the world from disease.

But we ran out of the chemical. So, he made some more, and all the test results were different. He was notorious for making interns cry, being extremely manipulative, and angry. He gaslighted me and my colleague, who was also my best friend, for two years. He said it was our fault that the results were all different and would “work with us” to figure it out. In my second year of having the company, he convinced IBM to downgrade my contract from annual to quarterly. All year, I had panic attack after panic attack until I was afraid to leave the house. I was terrified my contract would be terminated with no notice, and desperately did whatever he wanted. I felt like my entire livelihood hinged on him, and he had complete control and power over my ability to pay rent and be successful. I thought he dictated my whole future.

By the third year, he was fighting for it to be downgraded to monthly, which thankfully, I fought and didn’t happen. But by then, the whole IBM research block knew what was happening. I begged other departments for work so that I could work my way out of this group, but they all said they didn’t have anything for me. (I found out a few months ago during coffee with one of them that they were afraid of giving me more work. They thought that with all the pressures, demands, and drama from this guy, that they were doing me a favor :().

I went through the hell of uncertainty, doubting myself, proving myself, and ultimately, no longer trusting myself and losing all confidence. Possibly, worst of all, I started to become afraid of people. I was isolated and alone, and the only other person who understood was going through the exact same thing. And not once did it occur to me to just quit. Novice business owners don’t realize that we can choose our customers!

In the end, this guy admitted that he had taken bad notes in his lab notebook and couldn’t reproduce the nanoparticle. I’ll never know if he wanted to save face, was afraid of losing his job, or had experienced similar abuse during his PhD (like many PhD’s do, another issue that angers me). He died unexpectedly in 2015 from a random drug complication.

I was so alarmed by being diagnosed with PTSD that I consulted with another therapist and a counsellor. They each independently gave the same diagnosis, along with depression, anxiety, and a bunch of other fun stuff. Turns out, PTSD is super common. The more I learn, the more I wonder how different the world would look if kids became self-aware and learned to cope with life positively from the very start. Well, duh.

Three weeks ago, the counsellor told me that I should get on section 8 housing, disability, and check myself into a year-long PTSD program at a hospital. I said, “But I shouldn’t have to do this! I shouldn’t have PTSD!”

She said, “But you do. Can you work?”

“No, it doesn’t seem so.”

I felt and still feel tremendous shame.

Before this, I’d aced every interview and been hired at every job I’d ever interviewed for (except for one, where I immaturely smoked a blunt with my friend before the interview and didn’t get the job because I kept asking, “What was your question again?”) Most of my jobs were retail and in the food industry, and I seized every opportunity and broke records. Not to mention that I landed a $323k contract with IBM to launch the business in the first place. Work was the last part of my life that was untouched by panic, fear, and despair. But ultimately, this, too, got sucked in.

A week ago, I moved back to Maryland to live with my parents and experience safety for what feels like the first time since 2011.

Since then, I’ve learned that as rampant as gaslighting is in personal relationships, it is just as rampant in the workplace. In the workplace, it’s typically referred to as workplace bullying. But it’s so much worse than that, because bullying is usually obvious. Gaslighting happened chronically, right under my nose, and I didn’t know how it was affecting me until it was too late. Gaslighting can involve scapegoating big time, so that I felt like it was my fault. One of the “coping” strategies of trauma victims is to believe the trauma was their fault. It gives us a sense of control, but also shame. I thought that it was my fault for not being smart/aware/insightful/perceptive/confident/tough/and so on forever and ever enough.  It wasn’t until the first therapist said, “Picture your younger self sitting next to you. Look at her. Was it her fault?”

No. It wasn’t.

Anyway, I’m in MD for the foreseeable future and focusing on my mental health.

Gaslighting by higher ups is well-researched, and gaslighting by peers is just starting to gain recognition and research.

Workplace abuse has been described as behaviors directed at an employee, with the intent to harm him or her. It negatively affects the person’s work and occurs regularly, over a period of time (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011). In those individuals targeted for abuse, cross-sectional studies report depression, difficulty sleeping, and symptoms of burnout (Nielsen & Einarsen, 2012). In terms of consequences for employers, these behaviors have been associated with employee absenteeism, illness, legal and medical costs, early retirement, and general workplace instability (Hershcovis & Barling, 2010). Boddy, Miles, Sanyal, and Hartog (2015) find that employees in bullying situations tended to arrive late for work, leave early, and take longer breaks. (Popp, Social Intelligence and the Explanation of Workplace Abuse, 2017)

It’s illuminated the “dark side of emotional intelligence,” how psychopaths and sociopaths can harness their emotional intelligence for evil without feeling bad about it.

But in one of the articles I read, the author points out that it’s not the psychopaths and sociopaths (1/25 people) that we necessarily need to worry about. Their damage can be far-reaching, but there are many more folks who are close to psychopath and sociopath. This is more consistent with my life experience; I don’t think that just about everyone I know is a psycho or sociopath, but I do think that most of them have gaslighted someone else at some point or another. I don’t think that this guy was a psychopath or sociopath, because when his daughter was born in the first year of my company, he suddenly became a real human being. He thanked me for my work because without it, he would have lost his job. I also don’t think I’m a psychopath or sociopath for gaslighting my family as a teenager.

Here’s what missing for me in the literature so far:

  1. Is gaslighting learned or manifested?
  2. Once a gaslighter, always a gaslighter?
  3. Can a gaslighter be gaslighted? “Good people rarely recognize evil, as this kind of behavior is incomprehensible to them” (Temin, 2010).
  4. Is screening out gaslighters our only option? Because I was a gaslighter :(.

I don’t want gaslighting in the workplace (and in general) to be another “psychological phenomenon” that costs too much time or money to address. I always don’t want for all gaslighters to be doomed to have no career or hope, as I often feel. I have yet to see the dollar impact of it, and think that this is almost impossible to measure, much more than how effective employee trainings are (versus numbers of hours trained).

As a kid, I always wondered why common, traumatic life events would create villains in superhero stories. Thanks to gaslighting, I now know. TV has always been a giant pain in the ass for society. Netflix recently released several television shows that are built around inaccurate assumptions about how mental illness works and is treated, idolizing the power of gaslighting, and good old hypernormalization of harm.

My biggest takeaway at the moment is the recognition that my gut instinct isn’t garbage like I thought it was. When I joined a startup last year, my body had the same reaction to a new salesperson that I had felt with the guy at IBM. My quality of work plummeted as I increasingly became more confused, defensive, and afraid. Reading one of the articles was a play-by-play narrative of what had happened – the new employee had gaslighted me out of that job.

For the record, the new guy was happy to lie.

Most of this happened within the last two months. Per a classmate’s idea, I think more and more that HSP’s like myself and about 20% of the population are a huge opportunity. A few forum comments yielded how difficult it is for us to find work and living environments that allow us to thrive. Our industrialized and capitalistic society was not built for humans with feelings, so it reflects that in every aspect.

About a year ago, I had the idea to create a coworking and living space that was designed for HSP’s. Many of us are freelancers or self-employed, I almost never feel safe or secure, and we can all agree that scents, loud noises, and toxic environments don’t work. I worked on it until a few weeks before an old roommate attacked me, when it got put back on the backburner. I still think this would be an interesting experiment, but want to think bigger. The reality is that many HSP’s have already sheltered ourselves away, limiting our impact and benefit on society. The pain is just not worth any amount of money or work.

Is there a place for us? Can villains become good guys? Is there hope for “toxic people”? How can we all coexist? Is any of this worth the effort?

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Mindless Self Indulgence

The Time Paradox? Sounds Contagious

I recently took Zimbardo’s Time Paradox quiz and found the results so unsettling, that I emailed the man himself.

I took your Time Paradox assessment. Other than present hedonistic, I ranked the opposite of ideal on every other scale. I have long suspected this, but am stuck; meditation helps incrementally. Will you please send the assessment answers that someone with an ideal time paradox would have? I’d like to experiment with patient, intentional, paradigm shifts of each question over a period of one month. Please send me the ideal responses to the assessment. I will happily share the results with you. While I don’t have an official background in psychology, I took many psyc courses during my bachelors in Biology.

Dr. Zimbardo, Stanford Prison Experiments guy, emailed me back that very same day, less than a month after his debut on Tim Ferriss.

What is the time paradox? I’m not going to link the book cause Amazon reviews said it was mostly academic, and otherwise useless. But here’s what you need to know:

The Time Paradox is not a single paradox but a series of paradoxes that shape our lives and our destinies. For example:

Paradox 1
Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives.

You ever have a conversation with someone, and when it’s over, you start replaying the conversation in all of the ways that it could have been better? All of the ways you could have been more compelling, likeable, smart, or witty? It’s living in the past, in an unhealthy time paradox. Playing into feelings and hangups and giving them power is a form of indulgence and can lead to depression. So, it’s starts with no longer indulging, which takes effort until it doesn’t.

tetris comic

Indulgence, aka left and right snakes, are not welcome here.

Earlier this week, I discovered a future time paradox with the same result.

After a happy afternoon and evening with someone, I subconsciously continued the conversation in my head to ask all of the questions I didn’t think to ask. But I had to stop when I couldn’t speak for the other side. This was very frustrating as I’d never had this problem. I kept getting a stick shoved into the spokes of my bicycle wheel brain that said, “But you don’t know what his answer would be. The conversation is just…over.” Then I became annoyed as I have no desire to get to know someone over the phone, and up until now, curiosity and patience have not gone hand in hand. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I have spent a LOT of my life having conversations with other people in my head. And I’ve talked with others who have too. #staypresent

Two things happened. I realized that I wasn’t replaying conversations, and instead trying to continue them. Hey, that’s better than normal! The other was that I had no control. Hanging out was over, and no amount of curiosity or impatience would get it to continue. That’s just the way it is. So I let go. Time will pass before we see each other again (and I’d sure like to). But even this, I cannot control. All in all, I’m happy with how this turned out.

OMG! I’m happy and let go. And I didn’t even have to do ayahuasca!

Some would say that thinking about this at all is indulgent. I have to disagree. What if you just suck? And no matter how different you wish it was, you’ll just always have to try?

This is how I’ve seen life lately, and I gotta say, the most useful thing I’ve done is accept it. And write. Cause I can peel myself like an onion much more quickly than anyone else can. I’m also reading Grit, and the reality is, I don’t have a lot of it. Well, not enough to do what I want. Oooobviously, I’m going to build it up, which thank god, the author says is possible. But the bar is pretty low at the moment. I’m pretty sure boarding school sucked up a big chunk of my grit, which is why I’ve been bringing it up lately.

grit book cover

Making up for lost time here.

Finding Common Ground

Earlier this week, I was talking with a recovering crackhead about the business he wanted to start. I don’t say recovering crackhead to be crass or politically incorrect, but because that was his identity. And recovering crackhead is concise.

I asked him if he’d gone to the library yet, the one thing standing between having enough money to start his business and not. He said no, “I need to get a library card.” I prodded, and he came up with more reasons.

I asked him what he says to himself when he thinks about going to the library. He responds, “I’ll go tomorrow”. What else do you say when you don’t go? “I fucked up…again.” I asked him if he saw himself as a fuck up, and he immediately responded, “No, not a fuck up. I just fucked up again.” Then he paused, seeing the story he’d been telling himself for a long time. It was a tender moment.

Several times, he mentioned that the values of his business were honesty, dependability, and something else. Each time, he got the same look in his eye as when he said he’d fucked up again. Finally, I asked, “Can you tell me a story about each of these values? Something you could say to a potential customer?” He couldn’t. I said, “I know that for me, the values that I used to hold onto were ‘aspirational values’. They were values that I wish I had or that I saw in other people and got jealous of. But they weren’t values that I actually lived into because they were the values I struggled with the most. They were wannavalues. And I struggled with them because I was getting rewarded for not having them.” He looked at me stunned for a moment, and then laughed. “You hit it right on the head.”

His story was that he was a fuckup, and that by living into it, he got to be right that he was a fuckup and avoid responsibility. He had gotten to the point where he was a good person doing what he knew he was supposed to do for society and family, but he had a barrier to doing it for himself. His values were indeed, aspirational values, but it didn’t mean that they were inaccessible to him. He could choose new values that were current, or he could stick with the old aspirational values intending for them to become authentic. Either way, he could choose them for his business because the business would be a reflection of him.

When our time was up, I realized why I grow so much when I’m around other people – human relatedness through vulnerability and authenticity.

I never experienced either of these growing up. I think it started with my parents’ generation. Many of them believed that good parenting was pretending that they never did anything questionable or bad, and that they had grown up perfectly without making any mistakes. I looked carefully at this when I was in grade school. The most mature and wise kids had parents who admitted their hangups and failures – and their learnings! These parents allowed authenticity and transparency to serve as common ground with their kids, and as they got older, relatedness. Unintentionally, it was built on a foundation of acceptance. And because of that, these kids grew in leaps and bounds. Whenever I could, I called them my friends.

It’s possible for parents to lead by example at the same time as being real.

I have tried many times to read the autobiographies of supposedly inspirational people. Each time, I’d toss the book aside after a chapter or two and say to myself, I have nothing in common with this person! I may be imperfect, but at least I’m not inauthentic! Only after listening to Tim interview over a hundred people who have respect in some field in circle, I realized that everyone’s just as human as me. Tim does his best to bring out their authenticity, and this is what enabled me to listen. Turns out, authenticity doesn’t come naturally, is a muscle that must be exercised, and no matter how hard we try, we won’t always be authentic to ourselves or others. Everyone is a fuckup to someone in this world, so we may as well do what we want.

Thanks to Tim’s work, for the first time in my life, I experienced inspiration from another person. Well, a real one at least.

jean grey as phoenix

I think we’ve finally moved on.

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Why Do Values Even Matter?

I hate it when folks tell me their dreams because it usually ends up being meaningless for both them and me. You know what I’m talking about.

Michael Scott from The Office saying No! God! Please! No!

Tell me more.

But I’m going to do it here, because I have a point. And it will probably be awkward. But you’re cool with discomfort anyway <3.

Last night I had a dream that I was on another planet where the affluent lived. I was pretty sure Hunger Games had an equivalent, so for those of you familiar with that, it was like the Capitol mixed with the aristocracy of European feudalism.

At first, I was trying to create awareness guerilla-warfare-style by sneaking pictures of the price of their affluence. Horrifying, graphic imagery. But it wasn’t working. Everyone ignored it.

So then I started thinking, Age is the problem! They need to be younger for them to be open. I thought of my dad and other folks who think that being set in their ways and closed off are points of pride. Affluence can also bring this privileged mindset. Like they’ve earned the privilege of being “done”. I think they’re actually just done with being uncomfortable (please read this).

picture of carl from the movie up

We’re too rich or old to have to deal with discomfort.

But while trying to show a picture on my cell phone to a young boy (way too young, like 7 or 8), the picture wouldn’t come up. And in that moment, in my dream, I asked myself, Does awareness make a difference?

I know from personal experience that seeing images doesn’t make a difference. I once watched a youtube video on commercial livestock and became a vegan…for two months. The video made me SO uncomfortable. And I regularly say to myself, “I should probably watch that video again,” but I don’t. I’m just too afraid of the discomfort.

I also know that awareness can be crippling. Too much awareness, for me, results in stress eating. Which is not sustainable.

Since awareness didn’t work in my dream, I shapeshifted to try discussion.

While masquerading as the younger princess, the older princess quickly became suspicious. Talking about anything other than gossip during a long walk through the garden was a red flag. Not only did she ask, “Why are you bringing this up?” But it was also clear that she hadn’t thought about it before, and it was making her uncomfortable. Discomfort brings fear of change, and change might mean less privilege. It’s subconscious, but you get the idea.

So I woke up with gut-wrenching hopelessness.

We rationalize anything and everything.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and predictor of Trump, said,

“Once you realize that everyone is completely irrational, your life gets a lot easier.”

I disagree, because I don’t think that we’re helpless to our irrationality. In fact, we have complete control over our rationale and rationalization. And I’m all for life being easy, but not if it means assuming that everyone is weak-minded and helpless.

It all started in grade school, where we were taught how to think critically – critical thinking. Critical means criticism, and criticism results in defense or justification. Reasons.

In 8th grade, the captain of the high school debate team tried to recruit me three times. He was impressed with my on-the-fly rhetoric while we all waited for the bus. I thought I was too cool for school (my reason), so I always told him no. But I loved how persuasion only rested on one’s ability to promote compelling reasons, whether they were rooted in reality or not. For many years, before I actually informational interviewed 9 of them, I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought that law was all about rhetoric. Fun fact: The debate captain’s now a lawyer, and I’m getting my MBA. After being a scientist.

Rhetoric reminds me of scientific proof. If you want to butter yourself skinny, there’s proof that it works. Here’s anecdotal proofHere’s scientific proof. Rhetoric means anything’s possible. Because if it can be rationalized, it can be possible.

But rhetoric always has an agenda – to persuade. And when other people’s reasons don’t align with mine, they become irrational because I can’t rationalize their reasons.

I was trying to persuade in my dream. I had an agenda – to get the 0.001% to see my point of view, adopt it as their own, and to act on it. I don’t know if I came from one of the shitty planets or somewhere else, but I definitely hadn’t lived their experience and wasn’t in their club. And because of that, I was limited in my ability to rationalize – I can only rationalize based on my experience. That could include compassion or empathy for someone else’s experience, but it’s still just my experience.

So, instead of “everyone is completely irrational”, I propose that, “Everyone’s got reasons,” and we’re powerfully rational.

So what do we do?

For me, it always comes back to shifting mental models. Or starting with an earlier point in the system.

Why is our country divided on values?

picture of a tweet about values

Ruh roh.

In the past two years, I’ve discovered my values. I won’t bore them with you because they haven’t done me a lick of good.

But through discussion, I know what I’m going to try next. This discussion was the melding and crashing of the two Sustainability MBA’s with Sylvia Raskin, CEO.


  1. The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
  2. A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Yikes! Deserve? Worth? Usefulness? Judgment?

What comes before values? What’s earlier in the system? What’s more…basic? Fundamental? Human?

Let’s give Principles a try.

  1. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.
  2. A fundamental source or basis of something.

So, what do we know is fundamentally human? What are our Principles? The Principles we all share?

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