In Episode 21, Quinn & Brian finally get to the heart of it: What’s the #1 thing YOU can do to affect climate change?
On the mic and down the street, Peter Kalmus, an atmospheric scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Peter wrote a book called “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution” and also he’s got chickens and no longer a motorcycle (BRIAN).
Want to send us feedback? Tweet us, email us, or leave us a voice message!
Peter Kalmus on Twitter
Trump’s Book Club: Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution by Peter Kalmus
Carbon footprint calculator
Citizens Climate Lobby
How to compost
Wirecutter’s Best Composter for Kitchen Scraps
Quinn Emmett on Twitter
Brian Colbert Kennedy on Twitter
Intro/outro by Tim Blane
Subscribe to our newsletter at ImportantNotImportant.com!
Like and share us on Facebook!
Check us on Instagram!
Follow us on Twitter!
Pin us on Pinterest!
Tumble us or whatever the hell you do on Tumblr!
Ok that’s enough good lord
Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.
Brian: I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: This is Teddy the Wonder Dog. Hey, Ted. Our question today is, what is, I feel like this is like the apex of everything, which is weird to do in your 21st episode.
Brian: True. We are not near the end. We're doing this forever.
Quinn: I mean, in some ways we are. What's the single most effective thing that you, a human that is listening to this podcast right now, can do to defeat climate change? We talked to Peter. He's an atmospheric scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California. What? He wrote a new book called Be The Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.
Brian: He's not fucking around.
Quinn: No, he's not, but he's not an asshole about it. He's a really nice guy, which you would think gets some things done.
Brian: I would think. Like I said, off the air already, really connected with this one.
Quinn: I can tell.
Brian: I mean, I feel like I do on a certain level with every guest, but, man.
Quinn: No, I think today was different.
Quinn: People are going to be pleasant ... They're getting a side of Brian they maybe have never seen before. What was weird to me is the first thing he recommended to defeat climate change was to not get a cat.
Brian: He never said that.
Quinn: Okay. Fine. It's not.
Brian: That's such bullshit.
Quinn: But it should be. I mean, there's got to be-
Brian: What's your thing with cats?
Quinn: There's got to be evidence somewhere that cats are disproportionately contributing to climate change.
Brian: That's such ... God, your weird thing against them is, I'm not happy about it.
Quinn: It's equal against, and to be clear, I love all animals. Just not cats. No. Dogs are amazing.
Brian: They are. No argument there.
Quinn: And cats, they're just not.
Brian: I might get a cat, really soon.
Brian: You know why? Because I hate the environment, apparently.
Quinn: Jesus. Fine. Anyways, look, there's some seriously great, easy, and impactful, all three of those at once, recommendations in here.
Quinn: And in his book. Like, what to do with your commute, and also, don't get a cat.
Brian: No, don't. Get a cat if you want to, people.
Quinn: But adopt. If you're going to do it, adopt.
Brian: That's true.
Quinn: The moral of the story kids, less is more. We can all do it. I walk to work now. It's amazing.
Brian: You do. I saw you actually, on the way, but my horn's broken, so I couldn't honk at you.
Quinn: My dog gets exercise. It doesn't feel like much. No one's telling you to get a fucking treadmill desk, as amazing as those are.
Quinn: But you know, 100% everybody can't walk to work. They don't have this type of commute.
Quinn: But if I do nothing, I walk two miles every day. I mean, basically, New Yorkers do that every day anyways.
Brian: All I did was walk in Chicago. I didn't have a car.
Quinn: They just have high blood pressure, and they're angry about things if you don't live there. But not driving in the city is fucking incredible. Right?
Quinn: Besides doing it for the environment. Your life's just better.
Brian: It sucks at first, maybe. And we get into it with Peter, but man, if you just get over the mild inconvenience, or maybe it's a big inconvenience, but there are alternatives to driving your car, and eating a hamburger every day. All kinds of shit that might suck at first, but just start it.
Quinn: You what sucked at first, or at least was weird, or I guess just a change? Wearing briefs. I've committed to this.
Brian: Have you really?
Quinn: Yeah. Whereas, I asked you to read two books three years ago and you haven't read them, you recommended I switch my underwear, and I did it immediately.
Brian: You did it right away?
Quinn: And let me tell you, fucking converted. Right? These are lovely.
Brian: I think it's way better.
Quinn: Here's the thing. I feel more free. But at the same time, more secure, taken care of. I don't know what these are made of. These are the SAXX ones that Wirecutter recommended.
Brian: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Quinn: All the money. I don't know what they're made of, or how they're constructed. They feel like they came from the loom of some beautiful, mythical, Greek siren on a forbidden island in the Aegean Sea. I don't know how I passed her test, or got away on my wooden ship. I'm sure I'll pay for it later, like Achilles and his little ankle, but you know what? Doesn't matter. For now, very pleased.
Brian: Are you wearing them right now?
Quinn: I am!
Brian: Can I touch them?
Brian: All right.
Brian: After that amazing description, I'm very curious what they feel like.
Quinn: How does your lady feel about your briefs? I mean, I guess, she's never seen anything different, because you've just always been briefs. Right?
Brian: I've only been briefs. She's never seen me in anything else.
Brian: And this is what I'll say. I was very excited when I saw her yesterday, because I was able to show her my new briefs. I got some ... Here's what happened. A couple months ago, I ordered some briefs on Amazon. I didn't realize that I ordered bikini cut briefs.
Quinn: We've got to get a picture of this. What were they? We'll put them in the show notes.
Brian: They're just Hanes. They're just Hanes-
Quinn: No, but they're Hanes bikini cut.
Brian: They're bikini cut. They are. I already wear, you could argue, small underwear. They're briefs, but they're even less fabric. Not for any reason, just that I want as little as possible down there.
Brian: But the fucking bikini cut, unwearable. Ridiculous how tiny they are. I can't believe that they're sold for men.
Quinn: Any support there?
Brian: They're so tiny. I ordered the size ... But there's just nothing going on, except like just smash.
Quinn: Oh, I see. I can't have the smash.
Brian: No, no, no. It was very bad. I can't wear those. Plus, they came in all these ridiculous colors.
Quinn: But what did she think? Because it's not your choice.
Brian: Yeah, when she first saw them, I didn't say anything, I just had them. She was like, "What are you wearing?" They were electric yellow, and like her size underwear. I was like, "I'm so sorry. These were an accident."
Quinn: Wait, were they just her underwear?
Brian: They were basically her underwear. Anyway, I have a new pair, they're briefs, but they're just a little more coverage, super comfy.
Quinn: Did you sent them back? Can you send ... Amazon takes most things, but I can't imagine they take men's bikini-cut underwear back.
Brian: I think there was a little note that said you can't return these, yeah, unless they were clearly not worn.
Quinn: Right. You can't return food, and you can't return men's bikini-
Brian: I've still got them. I don't wear them much. They're like those shitty socks, where if they're the only thing left that's clean, okay, fine, you have to.
Quinn: You don't reach for them.
Brian: I do not reach for them.
Quinn: Can I ask you a question?
Quinn: I feel like we're minutes away from it being 1,000 degrees and roaring forest fires here every day until Christmas.
Brian: Oh, god. We're so close. It's getting so hard.
Quinn: How does she feel about your beard?
Brian: Oh, my god. In love.
Quinn: But, but, see, I've always had this thing since I was like 11 and could grow a beard-
Brian: Oh, you were one of those?
Brian: Yeah. I've got a friend like that.
Quinn: I get rid of it during the summer. It's hot. You know? But for some reason, my wife-
Brian: I hate when you do that.
Quinn: Has rather assertively insisted that I keep it this year. I think it's probably because I look like a 12 year old.
Brian: You need to keep it. You don't look good without a beard.
Quinn: I know. It's just out there now. Good thing I have a fucking voice for audio. Thanks, Brian. Anyways.
Brian: Come on.
Quinn: It all comes back to climate change. I do it for that, because it's hot, and it's too hot. That's one of the, besides starting a podcast, my kids say, "What did you do?"
Brian: I did two things.
Quinn: I cut my beard, and I started ...
Brian: Living in a world where it's too hot for a beard is a nightmare. And even though it is too hot for a beard, I will not shave it. I will not.
Quinn: You did before.
Brian: I was forced to.
Quinn: It was awful.
Brian: By the people of Credit Karma.
Quinn: All right.
Brian: She loves the beard. I'm the first person in her whole life with a beard that she's even kissed.
Quinn: Besides her dad? Let's go talk to Peter.
Brian: All right.
Quinn: Our guest today is Peter Kalmus. And together, we're going to answer the question, what's the single most effective thing you can do to affect climate change? Peter, welcome.
Peter Kalmus: Hey, thanks for having me, Quinn and Brian.
Brian: Yeah, thanks for being here, brother. Hey, Peter, tell us real quick who you are and what you do.
Peter Kalmus: All right. I've had kind of a piecemeal career. I went to graduate school in physics, and then I did astrophysics for eight years. I actually worked with the LIGO collaboration, which recently discovered gravitational waves.
Quinn: Oh, yeah. No biggie.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. But around 2006, I started reading more and more about climate change. This was while I was a graduate student. The more I read, the more concerned I got. In 2011, 2012, I made the leap to atmospheric science. And at the time, I was a post doc at Cal Tech in Pasadena. I made the leap about five miles up the road to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and became an atmospheric scientist, and started studying various parts of the climate system and things related to climate change. I should say, I'm speaking on my own behalf here.
Brian: Of course.
Peter Kalmus: Around the same time, the 2006 to 2008 period, as I was getting more concerned, I started to talk to my friends about climate change. Back then, in terms of how people are thinking about climate change and talking about it, it was really a different world back in 2006. I felt really kind of alone. I didn't have a community that cared about it. People in my family were pretty skeptical, pretty silent about it. It was a weird time. I was speaking out and getting largely ignored, and getting increasingly frustrated and feeling like I might be crazy.
Peter Kalmus: My family moved to California. I finished my PhD in 2008, and we were in New York City, then we moved to California. I started gardening, and I started biking. Those two things really kind of started to transform me, and made me realize that instead of just talking about this stuff, I really had to start doing something.
Peter Kalmus: There's this huge question. What can one person do about this global, this huge, ponderous, overwhelming global problem? So then, for the last 10 years, I'd say, I really wrestled with that question. And that wrestling turned into a book, which got published in 2017. It tells the story of these transformations, and a deep experimentation I did with responding as one single mammal on this planet to climate change.
Quinn: But, an important mammal. Can you tell everybody what the name of the book is?
Peter Kalmus: It's called Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.
Quinn: [inaudible 00:10:41].
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. The publisher and I went back and forth with the title for a while, and finally just went for the direct approach, I guess.
Peter Kalmus: One of things that I did was, I decided to drastically reduce my own use of fossil fuels. I did that for reasons that maybe your listeners would be a little bit surprised about. It wasn't just to directly reduce my emissions to the atmosphere. Before I started reducing, I was at like 20 metric tons per year, roughly.
Brian: Is that pretty average?
Peter Kalmus: Which is roughly the US average.
Peter Kalmus: Over the course of three or four years, I reduced that by about a factor of 10.
Peter Kalmus: Down to about two metric tons per year. That's a tiny drop in the global emissions oceans.
Peter Kalmus: So, I'm not under any pretense that these kinds of personal reductions are going to be directly significant to the problem. But the reasons I reduced was I just didn't like burning fossil fuels anymore. So when I had a decision, like to get on a plane or not get on a plane, I more and more started to lean towards not getting on the plane, just because I felt sort of gross doing all that emissions. Once I knew what parts of my lifestyle were emitting a lot, I just didn't feel really that good about doing that emissions.
Brian: That's incredible.
Peter Kalmus: That was the main reason, was just implementing that knowledge in my personal life. And then the second thing was, I started to realize pretty fast that the changes I was making, the changes I made, were not making me less happy. They didn't really feel like huge sacrifices or anything.
Peter Kalmus: They were kind of fun. They felt meaningful. They got me into a lot of new hobbies, like I said, like gardening and biking.
Peter Kalmus: I felt more connected to the community. There's a lot of research that talks about how more connection to community leads to more happiness. I'm like, everyone says reducing your fossil fuel use is like wearing a hair shirt, and it's a huge sacrifice. My experience was directly opposed to that conventional wisdom.
Brian: Quite the opposite.
Quinn: That's awesome.
Peter Kalmus: So, I was like, I've got to talk about this. So, that's what led to writing the book.
Quinn: Sure. I love it, man. We're going to dig into all that stuff. You can be everybody's own personal messiah a little bit, which I think is exactly the opposite of what you were going for.
Brian: Yeah, right.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah, I think of it more as one water molecule in a wave.
Quinn: For sure.
Peter Kalmus: I'm building on what other people are doing. And hopefully, contributing to a change in the collective story. And other people can take what I'm doing and run with it.
Quinn: For sure. But you know what? There's a lot of doom and gloom, and at the same time, good news out there. But I do think there's a lot of room for like, hey, here's some really specific stuff that not only worked for me, and worked for my family, but made me feel awesome. Because, nobody really responds to "We're fucked", in the broader sense. That just makes you go like, "All right. I'm just going to Netflix, then, and not really chill. But, just Netflix."
Peter Kalmus: Netflix, and the old depressed-
Quinn: Netflix, and feel depressed.
Brian: This is perfect, this conversation is perfect, because our whole thing, every episode is what can we actually all do, what actual actions. And you have a fucking book full of them.
Quinn: Right. So, I guess this is the last episode. That's perfect.
Brian: We did it. Yeah. Let's get into our conversation for today. Like I just said, what we want to do is ask questions that get answers that are affiliated with action. Like, what can everybody actually do to help? We want to get to the bottom of what we're talking about, so that everybody truly understands it, and can make some action and take some action to help make this place a little bit better.
Quinn: Right. Awesome. Peter, and I think you alluded to this a little bit. We're going to ask you more specifically, we start with one important question we feel is important, you might not so much, to really get to the heart of why you're here today, and that is, instead of telling us what your life story is, we like to ask, Peter, why are you vital to the survival of the species?
Peter Kalmus: To the survival of the species.
Quinn: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Brian: No biggie.
Quinn: You're here for a reason.
Peter Kalmus: Well, okay. I guess I could take that into a totally different direction than you probably expected.
Quinn: No, that's my favorite kind. By the way, 9 out of 10 people say, "I'm not." And I love to hear why. Let's do this.
Peter Kalmus: All right. Well, I have two beautiful young boys. All right? Right now, they're 10 and 11. They keep getting older on me.
Quinn: It's very strange.
Peter Kalmus: They're kind of absorbing all of the climate change individual response stuff that I'm doing. They're starting to possibly get interested in speaking out themselves. I think that the kids are so, you know, we saw with the Parkland movement, and the Never Again, how powerful, such moral authority that kids can wail.
Peter Kalmus: I would never push them to echo my message, but if they ever decide to start speaking out from their own volition, then I will certainly support that. But they're definitely getting the whole gardening thing. They love the fact that we have chickens. They're totally used to walking to school, it's like a mile away, and biking to school. In the school, they're like little local celebrities, because they don't get dropped off in a car. Everyone thinks that's totally weird, which is weird, because when we were kids-
Quinn: It's so insane to me.
Peter Kalmus: It's totally different. When we were kids, everyone was walking and biking. Hardly anyone got dropped off in a car. It's totally changed in the last couple of decades. So anyway, in a literally sense, they are my contribution to the survival of the species.
Peter Kalmus: And then, there's all kinds of controversy about overpopulation and what we can do on that front. From my point of view, both of my kids were born kind of while my consciousness about global warming and the future, the places that it looks we're taking this planet, that consciousness was evolving for me. So, it didn't really factor in that strongly back then, to my decision to have the kids. And then, we were talking about having a third, and by then, it definitely factored in my decision. Having two kids is below a replacement rate. So, I'm definitely a proponent for smaller families, for empowering women, for promoting contraception globally. Things that we can try to do to make the reality of human population be more on the lower end of the projections, as opposed to the higher end of the projections.
Quinn: Yeah. Well, my third was a complete accident. So we can just play this podcast for him in 15 years, and he'll be like, "Oh, great. I feel even worse." Yeah. I hear you, man. I love that answer. I've got three little ones that are younger than yours. My oldest is very inquisitive and curious and opinionated on this stuff.
Quinn: I told this story early in our podcast, which is, they're so close in age, but all in school, but at one point, on different versions of pre-school and going to activities and such, that we had to get a minivan, as it goes. Despite my own feelings about it all. One day he just goes, "What's climate change?" On the way to baseball, and I was like, "Oh, man. How much time do we have here, pal?" We were talking, and we were looking at tailpipes and things like that, and how it all works. The greatly simplified eight minute version on the way to baseball practice.
Quinn: He, by the end of it, was like, "So, how are we going to get home?" I was like, "What do you mean? I'm going to stay at practice and I'll take you home." He's like, "Yeah, but we can't ride in the minivan again. It's pollution." I was like, "Dammit. We need the car to get around."
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. It's the big dilemma right there in a nutshell. That's it.
Quinn: Yeah. It's five minutes away. But he had made up his mind. He was like, "No, we can't ride in this car anymore." It's the same thing he did when I told him where paper comes from, from trees. He was like, "Oh, guess I'm never using paper again." And again, I didn't push these things on him, but he's just so tuned into it. It's pretty black and white for him. Obviously, life will get more complicated.
Peter Kalmus: To use an inappropriate metaphor, I think-
Quinn: Please, it's what we do.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah, kids, it's where the rubber hits the road on climate, I think. And it maybe a little of a cliché, but for my own personal path, everyone has a different path, but for me, having the two kids was real kick in the pants, in terms of my own concern, my own call to action. So, there's definitely a sense that what I'm doing, I'm doing for them. And then it kind of broadened my whole view.
Peter Kalmus: I feel, in some sense, when I see little kids, I feel in a way I'm responsible for them, too. And also, when I see animals, and when I read scientific papers about coral reefs, I feel kind of responsible for ... Not responsible exactly, but I feel like this is my purpose, is to be here to be kind of like an Earth father. To speak out for all of these beings that don't really have a voice.
Quinn: It's true. I've always felt since we started this newsletter thing a couple of years ago, and the podcast. Again, we're 20 plus episodes in, and it's going great. I just feel at some point, when my children are even a little older and they recognize the totality of what has happened to this planet mostly because of us and the generations before us, they're going to look at us and say, "What did you do to help?" And of course, my answer's going to be like, "I started a podcast."
Brian: A podcast, man.
Quinn: But no, it's the day-to-day actions that really matter. So again, let's dig into that. That's the point for today. We're going to do a little thing we call Context 101 With Professor Brian, which, I mean, Jesus, at this point could mean anything.
Quinn: He does his best. It's all we can ask for, is for everybody to do our best. And we've got Peter here to keep us on track. And hopefully, he doesn't hang up before this is all over.
Brian: Please don't hang up.
Quinn: All right, Brian.
Brian: Here's the deal. Okay? You contributed to this mess.
Quinn: Are you talking to the listeners? Wow.
Brian: Everyone. A little bit, right?
Brian: Literally all of us. And your parents did a ton of damage. Like, let me do my thing. Okay?
Quinn: All right.
Brian: Can you just chill?
Quinn: No, I will agree with you. Baby boomers are a nightmare.
Brian: Right. So anyway, your grandparents, it's like smoking, for example. Let's use that analogy or metaphor or whatever the word is when you're trying to compare stuff. Yeah. So our grandparents didn't really know it was bad, and so everybody just smoked. Then, everybody got lung cancer. Just like they didn't wear sunscreen, and now they all have melanoma or some degree of skin cancer. Then your parents sort of knew it wasn't great, but they didn't have all the evidence, so they just did it anyways. Factories, coal, cars, oil, flying, smoking. Same thing. Suntanning.
Brian: It's all the same. Our generation, we certainly did some dumb shit.
Quinn: Very much so.
Brian: We smoked to be cool. Fucked off on Earth Day. But Jesus Christ, has it come back to kick us right in the nuts.
Quinn: That is true.
Brian: And unlike smoking, or well, actually, it's sort of like secondhand smoking maybe. The point I'm trying to make is, we all contributed to it, to climate change, and it's now affecting all of us. We are all connected. We always talk about this. Everything is connected. It's a very common theme.
Quinn: This is not half bad.
Brian: So, cigarette companies and the fossil fuel companies are certainly 1000% at fault, and knew the whole time, and should absolutely be sued into oblivion. But, all right, anybody who still smokes is sort of an asshole. But contributing to climate change is actually sort of hard to kick.
Quinn: Right. It's a little more complicated.
Brian: Yeah. We've got to go places. We want to fly places. We want AC in our apartments. We need to power our houses. And until super recently, it hasn't really been up to us, or even anywhere close to affordable or technologically possible to make our decisions on how to do this ourselves. And the alternatives, not just smoking or the gum and the patch or whatever-
Quinn: I don't know.
Brian: They're not efficient, and they're way too expensive. The utilities didn't look very fondly-
Quinn: You're talking about solar and such.
Brian: Solar and such.
Quinn: Right. Okay.
Brian: Hydro, wind.
Quinn: Not your choice if you can use hydro or not, hydro power or not.
Brian: No. And if you try to do this sometimes, you're punished for it. Now, the next generation, the millennials are catching tons of heat. But man, they are fired up about all kinds of shit.
Brian: And there's still smokers, but man, they look dumb. Right? The generation after them, whatever they are called, I think just babies, they might just be called babies.
Quinn: I don't think that's specifically what they're called, but that's what we were talking about before.
Brian: We're working on a name. They're actually suing state governments and the federal government. They do not give a fuck.
Quinn: Right. And by the way, I've gone fully to the dark side on this. Every time I hear a baby boomer rip on millennials or younger about their work ethics, I gleefully remind them that these kids are cleaning up their fucking mess.
Brian: Yeah, exactly what they did.
Quinn: It's infuriating.
Brian: So, you've contributed to it. You, Quinn, and you, Peter. I mean, obviously, all of us, we still are. We all are. But what can we do to mitigate it? There's a lot of advice out there. Some of it's awesome, like the Drawdown, the plan by Paul Hawken and those guys.
Brian: Some really good advice. But what we want to do is figure out what you can do right now today, in your life. You are a tiny, tiny little impact on an overheated star in a distant corner of inhospitable infinite space. But this place is fucking glorious. And it's the only bed we've got, so we better do something. And we are making serious progress, but man, do we have a long way to go. Good news is, all the little tiny things that all of us are doing, they add up. And the whole point of this podcast is to do those things, to take action. So, let's get into it.
Quinn: Wow. That was quite the sermon.
Brian: Is it analogy or metaphor from earlier? I always forget which one.
Quinn: Nobody knows. This is not a grammar podcast. That's amazing. Thank you, Brian. So, all right, with that for some context, throwing the blame all around, now let's turn it and say, what's the single most effective thing you can do to affect climate change? So, Peter, take us through this a little bit. What's the first thing you did when you started to overhaul your life?
Peter Kalmus: Okay. Well, let me take a step back. I think we should discuss whether it's even worth doing any individual changes to reduce one's-
Quinn: That's a great question.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Peter Kalmus: Fossil fuel at all. Once we kind of nail that down, then we can talk about the specifics about how to do that.
Quinn: Yeah, let's do it.
Peter Kalmus: Of course, there's a big section of my book about that exactly.
Peter Kalmus: So yeah, I think we've got to stop beating around the bush here. We know that the vast majority of the root cause of climate change is burning fossil fuel. There's a little bit also comes from agriculture, cutting down forests and turning them into farmland. But the majority of it is burning fossil fuel.
Peter Kalmus: So I think it's just remarkable that it's 2018, and so few people are actually leading by example and saying, "Here's how you burn less fossil fuel." Not just as a stunt, not as a one year thing to do a publicity stunt and then write a book. But as a sustained change in the way you live, the way you think about life, the way you interact with the community and your friends.
Peter Kalmus: How can you do this in a system that's designed, is set up to force you, to encourage you to burn fossil fuel? How can live a decent life, a normal life in that system? My thinking is that, when I talk about individual change, a lot of people are like, "Well, we need systems change. You shouldn't focus on individual change. That's a distraction. We need systems change."
Peter Kalmus: I always say, "How exactly do you propose for one typical person, an individual, to push for that systems change?" So, I see a connection between what the collective does and what individuals do. And it's a two-way connection. The culture, the collective culture influences how we think, what we think is possible. And then what we do, we're kind of herd animals. So what we do influences the people around us and gives them cues as to what's possible, and what they can imagine and what they can envision for the future.
Peter Kalmus: So, I think it's just really obvious to me that probably the most meaningful action that a single typical person can take on climate change is to stop burning so much fossil fuel. And to explore that in a really deep way, so get really creative with it, really explore how our lives interact with emissions. A lot of people have a hobby that they put a lot of energy into. People are avid golfers, or avid birdwatchers, or whatever people are into.
Brian: Motorcycle riders or whatever.
Peter Kalmus: Put at least that much effort, as someone who's really passionate a hobby, into this quest, what I find it to be a deeply meaningful quest to learn how to live with a lot less fossil fuel. And then do that in a conspicuous way. That's where a lot of creativity comes in. How can you let people know about it in a way that they will find compelling?
Peter Kalmus: So a key part there is, as you go down this path of changing how you interact with fossil fuels, what about those changes do you find cool, or compelling, or interesting, or sustainable in your life, or maybe just even fun. Maybe something makes you feel healthier, like eating less meat, or biking. Maybe flying less makes you feel less stressed, like there's less trips to plan, there's less jet lag, there's fewer nights in a hotel. You can spend more time with your family, engage with your community more.
Peter Kalmus: So, what's the positive side of this story? You can only really start telling that as you start living it. I find there's just absolutely no way to fake this. Then as you start going down that path, you can look for other things to do. Things like pushing for a policy, for example. I'm a huge proponent of carbon price, specifically carbon themed dividend. So then as you start pushing for those things, you can do it even more authentically.
Peter Kalmus: If you give a talk or something, or you write a piece about it, people are like, "Wow. This person's really serious. They're not just paying lip service to this. They're actually making real changes to how they live." So then no matter what you're pushing for at a more abstract collective level, it's going to come from a more authentic place.
Peter Kalmus: So I guess what I'm trying to say is, my response to the people who say forget about individual action it doesn't matter, only focus on collective action, is that those two things don't exist separately. They're-
Quinn: Right. You've got to walk the walk personally.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. But I don't see a lot of people doing that yet. And I think that part of the problem is that we have a culture of burning fossil fuels. We are socially rewarded for burning a lot of fossil fuel. You fly someplace exotic for vacation, you post about it on Facebook. You do a lot of business travel, it helps you get a promotion. Or maybe you buy a huge mansion and then people get this conspicuous consumption as opposed to conspicuous non-consumption, and you somehow get social points for that.
Peter Kalmus: So we need to turn that story on its head and make burning fossil fuel socially unacceptable. And how do we do that? Well, if people who are advocating for action at a collective level are still burning a lot of fossil fuel in their own daily lives, they're sort of, through their actions, cementing that prevailing culture of burning lots of fossil fuel in place. They don't want to do that, but that's really what they're doing. I think we're very sensitive to what our peers are actually doing. Maybe even at a subconscious level, maybe even more so than what they're seeing.
Peter Kalmus: And if we can manage to do that gradually, if enough people start moving away from fossil fuels and calling for this sort of change through their actions, then maybe that could make some space for the collective change we need. Maybe people actually start voting on climate change, which they're not doing right now. They're voting on other issues. But as this culture starts to shift, I think it unlocks the space for the collective changes that we desperately need.
Brian: Yeah, I feel like saying those two things aren't connected is so wild. That's insane.
Brian: Of course they are.
Quinn: It's crazy. So, where did you start, Peter?
Peter Kalmus: Okay. The first thing that I did was I started biking. At the time, I was commuting from my home to Cal Tech. It was about six miles. I was riding a really gas guzzling motorcycle.
Quinn: Huh. Brian.
Brian: I don't know if you've listened to the pod before, but you sound a lot like me right now.
Peter Kalmus: And again, I was-
Brian: [crosstalk 00:33:28].
Peter Kalmus: Thinking more and more about climate change. It was getting more and more real for me. I was like, "This doesn't feel good to keep burning all this gas. What if I tried biking instead?" And the first time I did it, it felt weird.
Peter Kalmus: It felt weird to be looking down at the pavement right in front of me, this little thin wheel. The first time I did it, it took me a long time. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I think I cut my commute time in half as I optimized the routes, and my muscles got stronger, my confidence improved. And the thing is, I loved it. It just felt so good in so many ways. I was getting exercise. I don't have enough discipline really to get myself to the gym or to even really go for runs. So, building this exercise every day into my life, biking 12 miles a day back and forth-
Peter Kalmus: That was, I just moved from Manhattan where I was walking everywhere, came to California, started driving instead. And so I put on a few pounds, and by biking those went away, and I started feeling better. I remember the feeling of freedom I had when I was a kid and I'd bike around my neighborhood, which again, I think kids are doing less and less of these days. So it was a wonderful feeling. That kind of then, "Well, what else can I change? If that was so positive, what else can I change?"
Brian: Got the ball rolling.
Quinn: Let's get specific for a sec, though. I'm sure a lot of people like, "Yes, but it'll take me too long." Or, "Yes, but I will be sweaty when I get to work." "Yes, but this." What are your answers to those, specifically? Again, knowing that your situation doesn't apply to everyone.
Peter Kalmus: Absolutely, my situation doesn't apply to everyone. Sometimes, we all know that there's things that we feel like doing in the moment, maybe eating a huge thing of ice cream, that we want to do, but we know it's going to make us feel worse later on.
Quinn: Brian does this all the time.
Brian: I literally just did last night. It was amazing.
Peter Kalmus: Right. And then there's things that we don't want to do in the moment, like maybe exercising, that we know is going to make us feel better in the long run. This is just a fundamentally human thing. It applies to lots of spheres of life. I would say, in terms of the biking specifically, give it a try.
Peter Kalmus: It's easy to make excuses. Even more than the sweatiness and the effort involved, it's more the convenience factor. It takes a little more planning. You might have to leave a little more time. You might have to take a change of clothes. It's all doable. But when you have maybe kids to worry about and you're pressed for time, your life's already too busy, it can seem too hard to break over the inconvenience barrier.
Peter Kalmus: But once I did it, and once my wife did it, too ... My wife's name is Sharon. If anything, she's even more of a biking advocate than I am. That was a huge early success-
Brian: That's super helpful.
Peter Kalmus: Was getting her interested in biking, too. She just really embraced it. I think it's just a wonderful thing. It feels great when you're doing it. It makes me happy. It wards off depression. And then, this is really interesting and a lot of people don't know this, but it'll actually add significantly to your lifespan on average. If you take a population, a large population of people and you look at the people who bike commute and you look at the people who don't bike commute, the people who bike commute on average will live, I don't remember what the exact number is, but it's on the order of a year longer. Just because of the reduced risk for heart disease, for strokes, and heart attacks.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Quinn: And the reduced risk of you being flattened by a semi-truck in California on your motorcycle.
Brian: All right.
Peter Kalmus: I think there's a slightly higher risk from injuries. But as more and more people got on bikes, then less people were driving, and the bike infrastructure improved. That will only happen if people start actually demanding by biking. That will go down even more. It's already orders of magnitude smaller, in terms of risk, than not having that daily exercise.
Brian: I have a couple things to say.
Quinn: Oh, Jesus. All right.
Brian: Number one, listen, I can relate to you, Peter, with the feeling terrible about riding the motorcycle, and actually adding, I can hear myself adding pollution to the planet. I don't love it. It really does make me want to change. And while I love motorcycle, I used to ride a bike a lot around town, in between having cars. It really did suck when I got to work and I was sweaty. I was like, "How can I keep doing this? This is hideous. I have to work a whole shift now?" That lasted like three days.
Brian: Then the rest of the time that I did it, it was fine and it just felt wonderful. It is always that, anytime you're making a big change, just the transition that sucks. You can either give up and be like, "Well, nah, I can't do this." Or you just push through a little bit, literally for a couple weeks, and everything is fine.
Quinn: Yeah. And again, there's going to be a lot of people out there, and I think a lot of people do this, where they're not doing it for the climate change. You've kind of got to meet them where they are, which is they just want to lose a little weight, or you just want to get your heart in better condition, or you just want to be outside in nature a little more. Whatever the thing is that also helps them contribute to personally taking on climate change, great. Like you said, Peter, it just felt wonderful.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah, it felt really good. We're not going to save the planet by getting on bikes. I mean, we probably could if everyone did it.
Brian: If everyone, yeah.
Quinn: Sure, yeah.
Peter Kalmus: Not everyone's going to do it. So then the other thing is, since not everyone's going to do it, I urge people to take a look, kind of do a carbon emissions audit to yourself.
Quinn: And real quick actually, on that note, you mentioned you calculated what your carbon impact was, and then taking it down tenfold. Could you actually just back up real quick and actually talk us through how one does that?
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. You need to know how much CO2 is emitted when you burn a gallon of gas, when you fley a thousand miles, when you eat meat versus vegetarian versus vegan for a year. If you buy a hundred dollars worth of natural gas or electricity, how much does this translate to carbon emissions? Right?
Peter Kalmus: So, I looked at seven spheres of how our daily lives interact with climate change. In addition to the things I said, it's also waste. If you throw food into the landfill, it's going to turn into methane. And stuff, buying new stuff. When it's manufactured, they use fossil fuels to create it, so there's a body of fossil fuel in the stuff.
Peter Kalmus: So for those seven typical categories, in my book, I kind of peer reviewed papers, and for most of stuff, I think there's a lot more research that needs to be done on how making our stuff contributes to climate change. But I did the best I could to estimate those conversion factors for the seven different categories. Then you just have to do a little bit of, okay, let me figure out how many gallons did I burn this year. You know about how many miles per gallon your vehicle gets, and you know how far you went, so you can estimate that very roughly. Put in some factor for how many passengers you had. Same thing with flying.
Peter Kalmus: And then maybe it would take about an hour for someone to, once they had those conversion factors that are in my book, to figure that out. I will say that when I first did this in 2010, I was really surprised by what I found. At that time, I'd been planning to put solar panels on my roof. I was all gung-ho. I was like, "This is going to cost a lot of money." Payback for us, we weren't using very much electricity, so the payback was going to be about 30 years for us before we made up the investment of putting the solar panels up there. That's not that great, but go for it.
Peter Kalmus: Then I looked at my own emissions, and I realized that for me, at the time, flying was by far my largest source of emissions. I'm talking like more than three quarters of it.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. And then the second biggest one for me was food, was eating meat. So I'm like, I'm going to put the solar panels on hold and focus on these two areas the most. I'm like, how can I apply this? It took me several years to ramp that down. I had to talk to my parents. I had to figure out how to, they live in Illinois, so I had to figure out how to get-
Peter Kalmus: To them without flying. Another Illinois?
Quinn: Yeah, I love it.
Brian: You guys are best friends.
Peter Kalmus: And then, I'd been thinking for years before, even before I did this, about becoming a vegetarian, just because I don't want to harm ... I know I don't want to be eaten, so I kind of-
Quinn: I don't want to be eaten, either. We have so much in common.
Peter Kalmus: Assume that other beings on the planet don't really want to be eaten either.
Peter Kalmus: I've been thinking about that for a long time. This finally gave me the kick to actually try it. Then I'm like, "Gosh, I like this, too." Being a vegetarian. I just felt lighter. Felt like food tasted better. Grocery bills went down, all that stuff. So once you get this picture of how your daily life is interacting with climate change, that's when you can really decide where you might want to intervene, and what experiments you might want to do.
Brian: And you have this great, we'll but it in the show notes, but on your website you have this great page on there, where you can make a pie chart and you even link to a climate calculator that you trust and like. So, we'll but that in the notes, too, for everybody.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. It's not rocket science, as they say.
Quinn: Easy, rocket scientist.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. I've got friends who are rocket scientists. I'm not. But they literally are, and it's very cool.
Peter Kalmus: But yeah, I think in the environmental movement, there's a little bit too much, like 20 things you can do for the climate. It's just this grab bag of stuff that people can use to feel maybe less guilty. But I think once you really know what are the big things and what are the small things, and you start to prioritize them, and can see your emissions go down, and you know that you're doing everything you can.
Peter Kalmus: For me at least, I have no guilt about climate change anymore. Sometimes I feel frustrated by how little my efforts are. I wish there were having more impact than they are. But at least I don't feel guilty. I think there's way too much climate guilt going around. The prescription for it is so obvious. Just do something.
Brian: Just do it. Recognizing that a lot of folks can't dedicate their whole lives to change, as much as they need to anyway, what would you say is the cross-section there of maybe the easiest thing, but the most impactful change that we can make?
Quinn: Right. Is there a list of three to five, and I recognize that this is the point of your book, but again, what are the easy/impactful things that people can do that are, again, applicable across geographies and demographics?
Brian: Like probably gardening.
Peter Kalmus: Okay. Probably the easiest thing that you can do that would have pretty significant impact is to eat less meat, and to waste less food. Don't ever throw food in the garbage, because it'll go into the landfill and turn into methane. All right? So if you compost it, if you give it to worms, if you feed it to chickens, or if you just try to reduce your food waste in other ways, that's pretty significant.
Peter Kalmus: If you don't fly, then probably another big one would be to drive less, or to drive a more efficient vehicle, or to get an electric vehicle, or to bike more. The average American's biggest emission source is actually driving. And the reason for that is because most Americans don't fly in any given year. Flying is really the domain for not just the globally privileged, but even the privileged, the kind of richer slice of the US population. There's a lot of people that basically can't afford to fly. So if you are flying a lot, for whatever reason-
Peter Kalmus: Then definitely reducing that is going to be your biggest most impactful change. And I know, I think the flying question is super interesting, because people are very attached to it. Let me put it that way. It's really-
Quinn: It's also the most efficient way to go 3,000 miles, or more.
Peter Kalmus: Well, it's the fastest way. It's certainly the fastest way. With the expectations of our society, fossil fuel is kind of like this juice that makes a lot of noise and makes us move around really fast. I think that combination makes us feel more stressed. But it definitely sets up expectations with our families, with our employers, that we're going to be able to fling ourselves halfway across the planet in a matter of hours. Which is, just historically, such an anomalous thing. I mean, and it's just remarkable to me that we take it for granted, that people get on a plane and they're like, "Oh, there's not enough legroom." This is one of the great miracles of [inaudible 00:46:58], to be able to get on a plane and-
Quinn: That's the thing.
Peter Kalmus: And we're taking it for granted. We don't even appreciate it, really. But when you start to give it up, then it really-
Brian: Just that the food could be better.
Peter Kalmus: Makes you question this whole, complex interface between what we think we need versus what we think we want. Whether we-
Quinn: That's the dichotomy right there, isn't it?
Peter Kalmus: Right. Can we afford to take a few days to go across the country versus doing it in a matter of a few hours? The answer is usually yes, we can. We might have to think a little bit about how to manage the expectations of the people around us. And then we might think this is a very special thing then, to travel across the country, so maybe I'm only going to do it once per year instead of many times per year.
Peter Kalmus: The flying thing, I think it hits close to home for a lot of people, which to me, the ethics, the use of fossil fuel, the fact that a lot of people who are really concerned about climate change are still flying a lot. It's a very interesting place to explore, I think.
Quinn: Yeah. It can get pretty contentious.
Peter Kalmus: It sure can.
Quinn: The book's been out for six months, a year almost, something like that.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah.
Quinn: What do you find is the most, this is a terrible word, sticky action you've proposed? What really moves the needle with folks and gets acted upon? Does that make sense?
Peter Kalmus: The most controversial one is definitely the flying. Wow. You know, it's funny, I get comments. The book's had more, I would say maybe more impact than I've expected.
Brian: That's great.
Peter Kalmus: Because, sometimes people just out of the blue will email me. But it's usually different stuff. I have people that are like, "Wow, your book got me biking. Now I'm just biking everywhere and I love it." Which is fantastic. I get people saying, "Now I'm eating a lot less meat," or, "I'm trying vegetarianism."
Peter Kalmus: This is another kind of controversial thing in the book is that I actually say that meditation is a good and relevant practice for people that are concerned about climate change.
Quinn: Talk to me about that.
Brian: Explore that.
Quinn: I'm a big meditator. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Peter Kalmus: Right. Well, I'm not religious. I'm not a member of any organized religion, but I like to meditate. It takes, for me, it helps remove stress. It makes it easier for me to, like earlier I talked about that barrier between doing in the moment, doing the thing you know is good for your long term versus doing the thing that you want to at a bodily level that you know is not good for your long term. It helps overcome that, which is great for one's long term happiness.
Quinn: Do you have a specific tool you use or platform you use?
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. I do a kind of meditation called Vipassana meditation. People call it the kind of boot camp, meditation boot camp. You learn it by going and doing a 10 day silent retreat, where you basically just do nothing but eat, poop, and meditate.
Brian: Did you that in California?
Peter Kalmus: Meditating all day long. I sort of think of it as like a training. Maybe sort of like a Jedi training for your brain, or how pianists have to practice a couple hours a day to stay in peak form. Well, our brains are kind of programmed somehow to react. When somebody does something crappy to us, we reacted. Someone cuts us off on the road, we stick our middle finger out the window. That's a reaction. That's what I call a blind reaction. Or, somebody says something to you that makes you feel depressed, and you roll in the depression. Whatever it is, we tend to react blindly. It's like a rollercoaster. When something good happens to us, we get all elated. When something bad happens, we get all depressed. We're just kind of flying around in the breeze like a leaf.
Quinn: Right. Our brains weren't built for this incredibly distracting world. You know?
Peter Kalmus: Yeah.
Quinn: And this reaction system in a lot of ways is what kept us from being eaten by tigers a couple thousand years ago. So that's great, but we need to recognize that we're not built for this. And like you said, find tools to slow that down and make it a little more long term thinking.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah-
Quinn: Go ahead.
Peter Kalmus: When we roll in those things though, that anger or that depression, we're not happy. Right?
Peter Kalmus: So a great way to get happier is to learn how to observe those things with a little bit of detachment, and be like, "Something bad happened to me. I can feel the depression wants to come on, but I'm just going to watch that, and observe that, and be with that." And then maybe it doesn't stay as long. Or maybe after several years of meditating, maybe it doesn't come at all. You're like, "Wow, there's something that would've depressed me a couple years ago, that doesn't depress me now, or would've made me angry, doesn't make me angry now."
Quinn: And that's not to say-
Peter Kalmus: It's a wonderful thing.
Quinn: Emotions are bad. You're still going to have emotions. But I've been a big proponent of meditating for a long time. I use Headspace, the Headspace platform. It's just fantastic. You can get it on the app store. There's another great one called Calm that's really great. And Headspace kind of takes you into it a different way, which is, I think they give it to you for free the first 10 days. You do 10 minutes at a time, because they always tell you it's very hard to start a habit by saying, "I'm going to work out for two hours today." You're not going to do that. And you're not going to do it every day.
Peter Kalmus: Right.
Quinn: To build the habit and get you into it. But one of their key things with that, and this is a little off topic but I think it does apply, like you were saying, one of their analogies is it's like sitting and watching cars going by and realizing you don't have to get on each and every one of them, as far as your thoughts go.
Peter Kalmus: That's a good description. Yeah.
Quinn: Just taking that step back and watching them, and that's okay to watch them, but you don't have to get on all of them and go for that ride. That's how everybody feels every day, especially these days, where the news every five fucking minutes is something else that is, if you're a human being in any form or capacity, is going to throw you for a loop and make you fucking miserable, or angry, or sad, or just flat out depressed. And like you said, those emotions, when you're constantly feeling them, those lead to shitty decisions.
Peter Kalmus: Exactly.
Quinn: And it turns out, those decisions have a pretty big impact.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. That's exactly right. We can't control the decisions that other people make. We can control how we act. we can control our decisions. The meditation helps me with that immensely. But also, what other people do, say things, it helps me not feel bad about that. I'm just going to keep doing the best I can with a smile. I can't control the decisions that other people make.
Peter Kalmus: But if I get depressed about what's happening on the national scene, or the fact that so few people are acting on climate change, it's not going to help me be more effective. For me, that's what all of it comes down to. How can I be as effective an agent for collective change as I possibly can? Every day, I'm asking myself that question. Burning less fossil fuels still passes that test for me. It's still a key part of what I do.
Brian: So on that note then, as an agent of change, if you could mobilize everyone to the polls, to their city council meetings, to wherever they need to go to get their message to their officials with one focused message, one action point that would have the biggest impact, what would that be?
Quinn: Look, again, the needs are different everywhere. Affordability and geography and demographics are different everywhere. But again, talking to our audience, Progressive/Democrats are just fucking horrific at messaging. So, we're just trying to help here. Again, if you could focus everyone into one thing and saying if we do this one thing, if you ask of your mayors and your city councils this one thing, demand one thing, what would you choose that to be in this next year?
Peter Kalmus: It would be a national carbon fee in dividends. This is-
Quinn: Talk us through that for the next minute or so.
Peter Kalmus: Okay. Right.
Quinn: We've had a lot of different arguments, in sort of an Aristotle fashion arguments, on this whether it's carbon tax or regulations and such. I'd love to hear your perspective.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. Ultimately, I think we need to get to a point where we're not burning any fossil fuel. There's other problems on the planet, too. Overpopulation, resources, water use, which are all related to overpopulation. Habitat loss, which is related also to overpopulation. But right now, I think the urgent thing we need to do is really ramp down our fossil fuel use right away. Also, our methane emissions.
Peter Kalmus: So you could put a price on those greenhouse gases. So anytime you took a certain amount of coal out of the ground, or a certain amount of oil or natural gas out of the ground, you would put an extra price on that. That's the fee, which is based on how much carbon that would emit. You're doing it way upstream, so it's going to affect the entire economy. It's going to make locally grown food relatively cheaper compared to food that's shipped in from far away. Or for food that's grown with less nitrogen fertilizer will get cheaper relative to food that's grown with a lot of it.
Peter Kalmus: Electric cars will start to become more attractive. Renewable energy will start to become cheaper relative to fossil fuels. All of these systems level changes that we need would start to come together, all of them would be pushed at this very fundamental level by making that fossil fuel more expensive. And of course, that's going to cause a gallon of gasoline to be a little more expensive, too. So you collect all that-
Quinn: Which is hard for some folks.
Peter Kalmus: Right. So you collect all that money and instead of using it for this politician's project or that politician's project and having these endless fights over that pot of money, you just give it back to everybody as an equal dividend. Very, very simple. And then every year it gets more and more expensive. You start it-
Quinn: It also is a way to pay for a baby version of universal basic income.
Peter Kalmus: Well, yeah. I think it could sort of turn into that, at least until we start to really get away from fossil fuels. The point is eventually it would all go away when we weren't burning fossil fuel anymore. But I think it could actually contribute to some kind of basic income, in the sense that it would be a little experiment. Then if we like how it goes, then we would learn a lot from that, and we could apply what we learn.
Peter Kalmus: The other interesting thing about this policy is, you need to have adjustments at the border to keep fossil fuel intensive industries from just leaving the country and going somewhere else and polluting freely. If you were importing some fossil fuel intensive good from somewhere else that doesn't have a similar carbon price at the same level, you would add a tariff to that, so that you would be an even playing field.
Peter Kalmus: And the interesting thing is, this would actually encourage international action. Because these other countries would very quickly realize that they could give that money for the carbon price, they'd be giving it to us essentially, so that they could have access to our market. Whereas if they had their own domestic carbon price, they would keep that money in their borders. So pretty quickly they'd realize, "Hey, why are we paying the Americans when we could just keep that?" They'd quickly put their own carbon price.
Peter Kalmus: We've really struggled at the international level to deal with this, with kind of United Nations diplomacy stuff. It has not been the Kyoto Protocol back in the '90s. It just has this ... How many more decades do we need to keep trying that same old stuff before we realize that it's not working. Because, it's not working. But this is a path that could actually lead to real action at the international level.
Peter Kalmus: So, I wanted to say that, because I don't think very many people realize that. But if you sit down and think about it really carefully, start learning about it, you can join Citizens Climate Lobby Group. They've got a lot of great resources online, which will walk you through all of the gory details of this. It really is an amazing policy. It's not the last step that we need to take on climate change, but I definitely think it's the most sensible thing we could do now. And there's potential for it to be supported both on the left and the right sides of the political spectrum.
Brian: Yeah. Awesome.
Quinn: I love it.
Brian: We are getting a little close to time here. Peter, thank you so much for your time today and having a talk with us.
Quinn: Yes. And for writing a book.
Brian: And for writing a book. And living what you're talking about.
Brian: Instead of just gabbing.
Quinn: All right. So, let's summarize what our listeners and action-minded folks in general can do to take action per Peter Kalmus. Easiest/most impactful things are eat less meat and throw away less food. If you've never thought about composting before, it's actually awesome. Yes, it's smelly, but it's really cool, and your kids will love it. We do it at home and it's super fun. I'm sure you can go on Wirecutter or something and find the best composter. They've always got stuff like that. Even if you live in an apartment in New York, there's a way to do it. And there's a way, again, not put your food into-
Peter Kalmus: A landfill.
Quinn: A pile somewhere that will turn into methane, which is bad, bad news. Number two. Again, less flying. It's contentious, it's complicated. We understand. But it does make a difference. Less driving, if at all possible. Of course, that's complicated. You've got to drive around. You've got carpooling. But, do carpooling if you can. Try to bike where you can when it's just you.
Brian: Public transportation.
Quinn: Anything you can cut down. Brian, stop riding your motorcycle.
Brian: Thank you.
Quinn: Anyways, these apply to everybody. And number three is push for a carbon fee wherever you can. Make that your difference. Again, I feel like through the scope of our conversations with folks, progressives, conservatives, anybody that is willing and is working to take action, this has been the thing that has stuck out the most, because yes, it will punish these companies, but the money can be returned to folks in some way, which seems to be one of the larger sticking points. But it can do things like build a new economy. It can build new incentives for people to use clean energies and to produce clean energies.
Quinn: As some of our guests have pointed out, right now, there's not real business incentive aside from saving money, which has made a lot of businesses start to use clean energy, but to develop new technologies around these things. And if you start to do that, and you make it advantageous for them, that's where we might see really awesome systematic change, as well as starting to cut down the emissions ourselves.
Peter Kalmus: Right. And possibly even at the international level.
Quinn: Yeah, exactly.
Peter Kalmus: Which I think is really exciting potentially.
Quinn: Absolutely. And again. We are all connected.
Brian: Yes, we are.
Quinn: All right, Brian. You want to hit him with the lightning round here?
Brian: Yeah. We like to end these things with a few quick questions, if you don't mind?
Quinn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Peter Kalmus: Okay. Sure. Should I go into one of those spaces where I just do the free association?
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Peter Kalmus: Just relax.
Quinn: Just go with it, man.
Brian: These are easy. There's no pressure. Hey, how do you consume the news?
Peter Kalmus: How do I consume the news? I joined Twitter about six months ago to help reach out about the book. A lot of this stuff that I find really interesting, people will post something about some article that someone wrote. And if it looks really interesting, I go there. But we also get, this maybe a little weird for someone who's really trying to reduce his footprint.
Brian: Let's do weird. Yeah.
Peter Kalmus: We get the print New York Times at our house.
Quinn: You monster.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah.
Brian: New York Times. Perfect.
Quinn: Real news, man. Pay for journalism. It makes a difference.
Brian: If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would it be?
Peter Kalmus: Can it be mine?
Quinn: Fuck yeah.
Brian: Fuck yeah, man.
Quinn: If you'd said something else, it would be really weird.
Peter Kalmus: If he decided he hated my book and started tweeting about it, it would make me the happiest person on Earth.
Brian: Yeah, it would be incredible.
Quinn: Wouldn't that be glorious?
Peter Kalmus: Fantastic.
Brian: From what I can tell, your book is full of fake news.
Peter Kalmus: I want somebody to fly over the White House and drop a hundred copies.
Quinn: We can figure that out. All right. And last one. This is kind of a new one. Who's somebody in your life that's positively impacted your work in this in the past six months?
Peter Kalmus: I am going to go with Katherine Hayhoe.
Brian: Get the fuck out.
Peter Kalmus: I think you know who she is.
Quinn: She has been mentioned on every one of our podcasts.
Brian: I think literally every episode.
Quinn: We're working on getting her scheduled.
Peter Kalmus: She's a fellow climate scientist. She's just so good at reaching out to people in this really compassionate attentive way, and meeting them on their grounds, and winning hearts and minds. So, I look to her for how to do that messaging more effectively. She's been super supportive of me, too, over the last six months. She really likes the book. She nominated me to be one of the Grist 50 and stuff.
Brian: Wow. This woman.
Peter Kalmus: To get called out by one of my personal heroes has been deeply meaningful for me.
Quinn: Not too bad. Not too bad.
Brian: That's so great. Hey Peter, where can everybody follow you online?
Quinn: Now that you've joined the cesspool that is Twitter?
Peter Kalmus: It's climatehuman on Twitter.
Quinn: Again, subtle.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. Just the direct approach, right?
Quinn: Yeah. Exactly. Just go for it, man. And the book is Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. Find that wherever you buy books, folks. Which is, I guess, Amazon, or support your local bookstore.
Brian: Right. There you go. We did it.
Quinn: Peter, anything else you want to say? Any last notes, truth to power you want to put out there to our listeners?
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. Just don't get discouraged. Don't despair. Whatever is going to happen in the future, we don't know what that is. We don't know how far climate change is going to go, how bad things are going to get. But if you do everything you can, do it creatively, explore this in a fairly deep level, I think that a lot of people, people that I know who are on a similar path have also found that it makes their lives more satisfying. It takes away the guilt. It takes away the despair. I'd love to hear from listeners about the things that they've tried and that they like, because we're all in this together. If we learn from each other about what works for this person versus that person, it can only be good.
Quinn: Awesome. Awesome.
Brian: I just want to say real quick. I was sort of an asshole in high school, but there were a few things that stuck with me. You are living one of them. One of my favorite teachers had told our class one time, that you can't let the idea that you are just one person and none of your actions will have an effect, crush you or stop you from doing anything. Because if that's how everybody thinks, then that's exactly what will happen. Nothing will change. But if you realize that you really can make a difference, then everybody does, then big things happen in the world. So, thanks for, like I said before, just doing what you're fucking saying, because it's huge.
Peter Kalmus: There's not reason to wait. We can take the bull by the horns ourselves and just do it. And it feels really good.
Quinn: I love it. This is great. This has been a very philosophical day for Brian. I'm really enjoying this.
Quinn: Peter, thank you so much man, for all that you do out there at JPL and with your book. Again, speaking for yourself, but doing it strongly and effectively, and in a very practical way, being a leader on this stuff, man. And thanks for coming on. We really appreciate the time.
Brian: Very much.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah. I really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot, guys.
Quinn: All right. Awesome. Thank you so much, Peter. Have a great day.
Brian: Talk to you soon. Thank you.
Peter Kalmus: Yeah, you too.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today. And thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish washing, or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.
Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp.
Quinn: That's just so weird.
Brian: Also on Facebook and Instagram, @importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So, check us out, follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcast. Keep the lights on. Thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane, for our jamming music. To all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks, guys.
If you had all of the data in the world at your hands, what question would you ask first? That's today's big question, and my guest is Dr. Emma Pierson . Emma is an assistant professor of computer science at …
What if you got the chance to dive to the bottom of the ocean? Would you go? And what would you find there? That's today's big question and my returning guest, one of my all-time favorites, is Dr. Dawn Wright …
We’re taking giving a shit quite literally this week! Our guest is Newsha Ghaeli , the president and co-founder at Biobot Analytics . If you read our newsletter, you’ll have heard me go on and on about Biobot , whose …
It’s always worth revisiting the inarguable fact that our country was designed to be inequitable . And while much progress has been made over time, the powers that be continued to imagine and design new ways of marginalizing,...
We have ignored vaginas for so long. Hear me out. On the one hand, history and popular culture, from god-kings to love songs to movies to fan fiction, are littered with supposedly straight men with a single pursuit: intercour...
I think about time a lot. Some days I feel ancient, some days I can’t believe how old I am. I’ve got kids, too. I can’t believe how fast they’ve grown up already. They love so many things. Swimming. Cooking. …
We are all being pulled in so many different directions. The clock is ticking and we have a climate and virus and society and economy to fix and we’re distracted, all of the time . Not just by all of …
In Episode 124 , Quinn interviews Dr. Elizabeth Ruzzo , a brilliant human geneticist who left the world of academia to launch adyn , her effort to help women find the best birth control for their unique bodies. Family plannin...
In Episode 119 , Quinn asks: what’s in wildfire smoke, what does it do to your body, and how can you stay safe? Our guest is Dr. Mary Prunicki , the director of air pollution and health research at Stanford …
In Episode 116 , Quinn wants to know: why is simply giving people money the most effective way to 1) help them make positive changes to their lives and 2) erase global poverty along the way? To help him understand …