13 Apr April 13, 2020 – Story of More Hope Jahren and NextWave Hire Phil Strazzulla
There has been a lot of ‘more.’ Most people can see that in their own lives.
Dr. Anne Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a three-time Fulbright Fellow, a brilliant writer, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and author of The New York Times Best Seller, Lab Girl. She is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. Jahren’s new book, The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here, where she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet is an essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.
“When you are looking at the economic data, it’s really hard to build a thesis around these good times going on much longer.” at 3:55
“A lot of people in the world of real estate started in single family and moved to commercial. You will never hear about the reverse.” at 8:00
Phil Strazzulla, Founder of SSR and NextWave Hire, is a software engineer and entrepreneur focused on educating and enabling busy HR and Talent Acquisition practitioners to connect with more of the right candidates and HR softwares through knowledge sharing and community building. He believes that crowd review sites can be useful, but it doesn’t take long to uncover their bias. He founded Select Software Reviews with a hope that their content will help customers buy the right tools and stay up-to-date on this changing landscape.
Highlights from Hope’s Interview
Talking about my book, The Story of More, there’s been a lot of more and I think most people can see that in their own lives. Like a lot of professors at the university in earth sciences or geology, as we used to call it, I got asked to teach a class on climate change. My first thought was, “Oh, geez, I don’t want to add yet another piece of timber to the fire. Everybody’s so set in their ways, who’s going to convince who. I had a car that leaked oil pretty bad so I thought who am I tell people about these sorts of things.” But then I thought, one of the nice things about being a teacher is that you can teach things the way you think is best, and you tend to teach things in the way that you learn them. What I said to myself is, first things first, I’ve got to learn about this stuff.
Well, I turned 50 this year, so I set out to study the last 50 years. I thought about global change, which I think is a better word than climate change. I think it describes better what’s happened, because most people will agree that everything around the world has changed in many ways; in ways they can see and maybe in ways they haven’t heard about yet. So, I looked up statistics, which is part of my job as a scientist; to analyze data. I sat down and I looked up all the statistics that are available from the agencies that you and I know; the EPA, USDA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Census Bureau, the International Agency for Atomic Energy, the World Health Organization, just on and on from all these agencies.
I downloaded gigabytes and gigabytes of data, and I just looked for patterns in how things have changed over the last 50 years; how the way we eat has changed, the size of our families, the size of us, the amount of stuff we throw away, the number of hours that we work, the amount of gas we burn in our cars, and the things that people talk about. Temperature, is it going up, is it going up everywhere? The composition of the atmosphere, has it changed? The sea level, has it changed? Also, the stuff we do, because looking back in my own life, I remember this memory from being a kid in the 70s. So if you want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I remember you opened up the fridge and there was preserves or jam or whatever, that my mom had spent the summer making, and it was in a glass thing, and it had wax paper on, and it had a rubber band held on there. But if now you walked into your kitchen and decided to make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, what would the jelly come out of? You will squeeze a big plastic thing, perhaps. So, there’s an example of how somewhere along the line, all those things; the jelly jars and all that business, they all got replaced by plastic; by just a few plastics.
There’s about 30 different plastics with different chemical compositions, and they’ve all been invented in the last 50 years; since I was born. They’re everywhere, right down to the jelly that we used to make the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is something that sort of slipped into our lives. It’s not like we remember the day that we first got jelly this way as this big event in our lives. I can illustrate all kinds of small little ways that our lives changed that were actually a reflection of much bigger changes around the world. So about 10% of the oil that we import goes to make plastics, and that 10% is up from almost 0% from when I was a kid. That’s actually a fairly big use of fossil fuel. That’s just one more way in which we’re consuming fuel that is pretty invisible.
What my book does is tells you the story of each of these little things; how these new sugars that we find in our foods got invented and how our foods got loaded up with them, how everything tastes sweeter than it did back then, how we all stopped cooking just because you don’t save much money by making your own food anymore, how we all kind of stopped cooking and started buying convenience foods? Now these are little choices we make every day, but they reflect much bigger things going on in companies in the United States, but also in companies around the world, and then that reflects different ways of moving around fuel, food, resources, and all that has come back to affect temperature and melting and sea level rise, etc. So I try to lay that out as best I can with simple stories that give you simple connections, that you can either agree or disagree with, instead of what you find in a lot of climate change stuff that it is downright preaching or sermonizing at people or telling them what to do or whatever. But as a teacher who had teachers for parents, I really believe that what you do is you learn stuff, you teach people what you know, and you let them decide for themselves. That’s my hope for this book, and I hope people will give it a spin and then get back to me on what they think of it.
What actually bothers me more is that there’s a lack of respect that’s grounded in amongst science, and you see this in the terrible mess we’re in when trying to even talk to each other about the climate. You see this assumption that people can’t keep up with if you explain it outright, so you just got to tell them the way it is and tell them the way you know. That’s never been my experience. When you take the time to talk to people, you start from experiences they have in their own lives, you can find common ground. You might not walk away agreeing, but you can find some insight into why they believe what they do. Why I believe what I do is, we got to stop fighting about this and start talking about it. I want to go back to the days when people were talking to each other instead of just fighting.
Science isn’t done by democracy. It’s not like every one of us scientists get to think about something and then we vote as to whether this is right or wrong, and if enough of us believe it, that makes it true. It’s just the way we do other things, but science just doesn’t work like that. I believe that, and so you won’t find me as part of those hockey stick people cliques that challenge someone’s views. You shouldn’t believe what I say just because of how I’ve been lucky enough to get some recognition and some awards along the way. I’m a hard worker, that’s true. But what I want is for folks to decide based on a respectful explanation of how I came to believe what I believe, and moreover, how I saw it reflected in my own life, and maybe you see it reflected in yours. That has to be fun to read. A lot of this book is stories about what it was like growing up in Minnesota 50 years ago. Now, everybody grew up somewhere, but just getting that jostle to think about, what did I used to eat when I came home from school and what do my kids eat now? These little changes we went through that are actually reflective of much bigger things. I don’t expect anybody to believe what I think just because I’m supposed to be an expert in this. I wanted to write a book that talks to people and tells them in their terms, respectfully, with the idea that you can understand this if somebody would just take the time to say it. That what will you come to, once you’re done. I’m the kind of author that gets a lot of letters from my readers and it’s a joy. I’m sure people will come back to me with what they think about. And it’s funny in all the right places. There’s some ridiculous stuff going on with climate change, etc.
The chapter on cars, I could not resist to put in a big long section on the awful terrible cars I’ve dealt with through my life. Some people love cars, but cars have tried to mess with my life in so many different ways. The last car I bought busted on the way home from the dealership, and I had to have it towed out. I’m not going to tell you the brand name, but it could have been any brand and it would have done that to me. I just hate cars. I’m just trying to be funny but I hate cars like angels hate the devil. There’s something about them, and maybe that goes a little way of me later in the chapter talking about how we drive so much more, how they burn so much more fuel, where that fuel comes from, it comes from some not very friendly countries, how we’ve gotten more and more into what is essentially a dependency on foreign resources. So, there’s all these aspects to it.
But you should know at the beginning of this that I have no love for cars. I had a car once that wouldn’t turn right. It would only turn left because the back door would fall off if you’d turn right. I couldn’t afford to get it fixed, so I had to skip a series of turns to get to work without going right. I also come from a family of people being tortured by cars. I remember my mom used to get nervous when we got out of the city limits because she said over and over, you can’t drive this thing any further than you want to walk home. When we did get past the city limits, she tensed up like nothing I’ve ever seen. I thought someday we’re going to have cars that don’t do that, but there aren’t any in my life. Don’t get me started on cars.
Do you know who has all those things that have adverse effect on the climate? Some of the people that are preaching at you about climate change? The hypocrisy of a global climate change summit where everyone flies there is just ridiculous. This is why I don’t get invited to these, because this is just not my part of the clique. I do say that a lot to my colleagues, that we’re not going to get anywhere on this until we start to address hypocrisy. If you have a lot of misfortune, you live in a small place, the AC is busted, your car’s busted, you can’t drive anywhere, you never get a day off, you don’t fly anywhere for fancy vacation, your carbon footprint is probably pretty darn small, and it’s probably a lot smaller than the person who’s preaching at you about the fact that you should lower it. People are darn sick of that! There’s plenty of books about climate change out there, and I had to say to myself, does the world need one more? I came to the fact that what it needs is a different one; one that can speak respectfully to people, and take into account that there’s all this more, these are the ways which I believe it’s leading to climate change, and these are the things that we can do.
People are just trying to solve more with a different kind of more. But a lot of what I said in my book is that there isn’t a free lunch, we got to start talking about a story of less. That’s what the whole third part of the book is about, is the story of less. The problem with the story of less is it’s not going make anybody rich. It’s not going to make people that know how to build fancy buildings rich. How long has it been since somebody has said, it was Jimmy Carter, I don’t know what you think about him, but for what it’s worth, he was the last president who got on TV and said, “Tighten your belt, turn down your thermostat, put on a sweater etc.” You got to give credit where credit is due because I think that is the last time we heard. It doesn’t matter if you do these things for your pocketbook, or for nature, or for climate change, or to get your teenage daughter off your back; it doesn’t matter. If you can cut back on energy, you’re going to have those benefits in a lot of different ways.
What I think we need is practical information. A lot of people want to save energy, they want to save money, but what should you do? What’s the worst thing in your house? It’s not your Netflix, it’s not the electricity you’re using on your Netflix. If you want to save money, if you want to save electricity, if you want to lower your footprint, go down and try to get a smaller hot water heater. Lot of us have hot water heaters that could that could fuel an entire hospital or something. That’s what’s really driving up your bill and taking a lot of energy. Also, your AC. If you can keep your house just a degree warmer in the summer, if you can keep it just a degree cooler in the winter, you’ll be surprised how much of an impact that makes. Those are the kind of things that I encourage people to start talking about, and families need to talk about these things.
Maybe you’ve got a granddaughter that’s really energized by Greta Thornburg and the whole movement, and that’s her thing. Maybe you are the generation that is more pragmatic; you got to keep a job, you got to get to your job, you got to get there on time, etc. But both of you can come together, walk around the house, look at what uses [Unclear] that people should know these things. There’s a lot of benefits trying to get your head wrapped around less. It’s not possible with everything we do, we do have constraints on our lives, but I would argue that if we could live just fine back when we were using the wax paper and rubber bands, we could probably do a lot more than we do today. I do believe that!
When you say this word “believe”, it really does sound like a religion or something. It’s not, it’s science. It’s not about what you believe, it’s about what you do. You can believe in the in the strongest in the recommendations in the world, but if you’re not willing to follow them yourself, then that’s not going to help your cause. I hope you will give the book a spin because I just think it’s something that this whole thing has been missing. If you want to contact me, I’m easy to find on the internet. Tell me what you think. You’re free to tell me how wonderful it is, but I really would like to know if it changed your thinking or if any of the stories brought back some nostalgia from your younger days as well.
You can find me very easily on Twitter @hopejahren. You can search on that and you’ll probably get my blog. I’m on Instagram which is a fun way to share. The Story of More is available in paperback only because who needs the extra expense of a hardback? It is at all the different stores and all the ways to get it. Also, you can hear me read it out loud on audiobook, and of course you can get the eBook as well if you don’t want to use up that paper.