April 4, 2022

Peer Pressure Works

Peer Pressure Works

Over the past few years, more and more voters have cited “action on climate” as a reason for voting the way they do.

From Data for Progress, in October:

  • Over two-thirds of voters (68 percent), agree that the U.S. should lead the world in addressing climate change so other countries will follow suit.

 

From November:

  • Roughly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) think that the U.S. should invest in cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy sources rather than ramp up fossil fuel production and continue relying on foreign energy exports

 

From March:

  • When asked about changes to infrastructure in light of the IPCC report, an overwhelming majority (81 percent) of voters, said they would support government investments to increase the climate resilience of our buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures

 

But here’s the thing, and I think you know this, and it might even be you: lots – lots – of voters who are registered, and even those who do vote in presidential elections – don’t turn out for midterms.

Much less for state and local races.

Even registered voters who list the environment or climate as their most important issue do the same. Millions of them don’t turn out.

Success might not actually be about identifying and focusing on one specific issue, campaign, or candidate. It might come down to how we want to see ourselves, why we wear those little “I Voted” stickers, how we identify, and our behaviors.

And that’s what the Environmental Voter Project is all about.

My guest today is Nathaniel Stinnett.

Nathaniel founded the Environmental Voter Project in 2015 after over a decade of experience as a senior advisor, consultant, and trainer for political campaigns and issue-advocacy nonprofits. 

Hailed as a "visionary" by The New York Times, and dubbed "The Voting Guru" by Grist magazine, Stinnett is a frequent expert speaker on cutting-edge campaign techniques and the behavioral science behind getting people to vote. 

Nathaniel has held a variety of senior leadership and campaign manager positions on U.S. Senate, Congressional, state, and mayoral campaigns, and he sits on the Board of Advisors for MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative

And he’s here to help me understand the EVP’s mission and tactics, and how we can help them achieve their goal of turning out more climate-focused voters this year and in the years to come.

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Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett, and this is science for people who give a shit. Over the past few years, thanks to organizing, thanks to a lack of meaningful progress leading to storms and heat, flooding and fires, thanks to air pollution and frankly, just more transparency around how the halls of power work or don't work and are influenced, more and more Americans and more voters have cited action on climate as a reason for voting the way that they do. From data for progress back in October, over two thirds of voters, 68%, including nearly all Democrats, a majority of independents and a plurality of Republicans, agreed that the US should lead the world in addressing climate change, so other countries will follow suit. From November, roughly two thirds of voters think that the US should invest in cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy sources, rather than ramp up fossil fuel production and continue relying on foreign energy exports.

Quinn:

And from March, when asked about changes to infrastructure in light of the most recent IPCC report, an overwhelming majority of voters, 81%, 89% of Democrats, 83% of those invaluable independents, 73% of Republicans said they would support government investments to increase the climate resilience of our buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures. But here's the thing, and I think you know this, and it might even be you, lots and lots of voters who are registered and even those who do turn out to vote in big presidential elections every four years, they don't turn out for midterms, much less for the state and local races that are always going on. Even registered voters who list the environment or climate as their most important issue, do the same, millions of registered voters don't turn out. Some new reports have shown that these folks are likely to fall in the 18 to 34 year old range. I don't anymore. And are more likely to be women and less likely to be white than the general voting population.

Quinn:

And this matters for so many reasons, and definitely at the federal level, for protecting the majority of policy makers who actually want to do something about climate mitigation and adaptation. But it really matters at the state and local levels where absent substantial federal policy, states and cities and towns are setting the course for climate action, because climate is, when you really come down to it, the air you breathe, the water, you drink, the heat you feel, the food you eat. Keeping the jet stream going, or the ocean from rising, those are important of course, they're admittedly though tall tasks.

Quinn:

And honestly, it's just not moving the needle for voters and for policy. People come out for things that they interact with every day, jobs and incomes and food and schools and more. So you're just more likely to care and feel like you can take action about things that you can touch and feel, that are affecting your everyday life. And those actions add up, you can interact with them. So how do we get those voters to turn out? It's a great question. Contrary to everything I wrote above, success might not actually be about identifying and focusing on one specific issue, campaign or even candidate. It might come down to how we want to see ourselves, about why we wear those little, "I voted." Stickers, how we identify with ourselves and our neighbors and our behaviors. And that is what the Environmental Voter Project is all about.

Quinn:

My guest today is Nathaniel Stinnett. Nathaniel founded the Environmental Voter Project in 2015 after over a decade of experience as a senior advisor and consultant and trainer for political campaigns and issue advocacy nonprofits. Hailed as a visionary by the New York Times and dubbed, "The voting guru." By Grist magazine. Stinnett is a frequent expert speaker on cutting edge campaign techniques and the behavioral science behind getting people to vote. He's held a variety of senior leadership and campaign manager positions on US Senate, congressional and state mayoral campaigns. And he sits on the board of advisors for MIT's Environmental Solutions Initiative. He's formerly an attorney at the international law firm of DLA Piper LLP, he's got a BA from Yale, a JD from Boston Law, and he lives in Boston with his wife and probably two wonderful children. Nathaniel's here today to help me and you understand the EVP's mission and tactics and how we, the shit giver community, can help them achieve their goal of turning out more climate focused voters this year and in the years to come.

Quinn:

Nathaniel, welcome to the show.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Thank you, Quinn. I am so psyched to be talking to you.

Quinn:

All right. Well, let's see if I can't ruin that completely. Nathaniel, we like to start with one important question to kick off this fiasco and set the tone for the conversation a little bit. Obviously, we're living in a moment of great stakes either way, but instead of saying, what are your superhero powers? Tell us your life story. I like to ask Nathaniel, why are you vital to the survival of the species? I encourage you to be bold and honest. You are here for a reason.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Let me say that the Environmental Voter Project is so vital, because we're building political power for the environmental movement at a time where political power will likely determine the future of the climate crisis. Let's step back a minute here. I think it's so important to stress that the climate emergency is largely a political problem. Let's be clear, we already have sufficient policy solutions and technology to solve the climate crisis, right? We know how to create and scale clean energy. We know how to curb pollution, how to have clean transportation and buildings in agriculture, we know all this stuff already. The problem is that politicians lack the will to lead and implement these solutions that we already have, because it's usually easier for them to win elections by ignoring the climate crisis than by addressing it.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

We in the climate movement need to recognize the importance of raw political power. And I know it makes people uncomfortable to hear that, but it's naive to think that politicians are ever going to lead on climate unless we force them to, by voting in such overwhelming numbers that their political futures come to depend on us. You got me riled up right off the bat here Quinn, but that's why the Environmental Voter Project is so vital, because every single day we're turning non-voting environmentalists into consistent voters, so that eventually politicians will have to lead on climate or else they won't get to be politicians anymore.

Quinn:

I mean, it sounds pretty great to me. So I think we're done here.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

All right. All right.

Quinn:

Great. I'm in. That sounds perfect. Awesome. No, I appreciate that it's a wonderful perspective. Usually, people cackle at me and then we'll get something actually really telling and beautiful out of it and that checks the box, certainly. So I want to set the stage for folks. Obviously, we have a very active and activated community, much more likely to take action. But there's still plenty of folks who, especially in things like midterms or in a state like mine, Virginia, which seemingly votes every fucking year, turnout has been a problem that's plagued elections for years, especially in midterms, right?

Quinn:

I'm curious, again, setting the stage, what is your team discovered are the most significant obstacles, let's start with obstacles, to turning folks out, for example, for the midterms? Is it a lack of messaging? Is it because there's not as much national coverage about when elections are, not a big, sexy name at the top of the ticket. Or using example, Donald Trump, a lack adversary to vote against? Is it a lack of paid time off for voting for all of our hourly workers? I'm curious, again let's set the stage for what we're up against society-wise.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's a great question and I'm going to answer it, but right after I answer it, let me also tell you that the obstacles, although they are very real, might actually be less important than you think to turn out. First, let me answer your question, because it's a really good one. The biggest obstacle to turn out is voter suppression efforts.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And this is something that is important to people who care about climate and environmental issues and here's why. Based on our research at the Environmental Voter Project, but also research by pew and the Yale program on climate change communications and lots of other organizations, the people who care most about climate and environmental issues are more likely to be young than old. They're more likely to be people of color than white, and they're more likely to make less than $50,000 a year than more. And what do those three groups have in common, young people, poor people and people of color? They are also the only groups that are ever the objective voter suppression efforts.

Quinn:

Yeah.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

I mean, if any government entity anywhere is trying to make it harder for someone to vote, chances are they are either targeting young people, poor people or people of color. And that right there Quinn, is the beating heart of the environmental movement.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Those very real voter suppression efforts, whether it's making it harder to vote by mail or reducing the hours of early voting or making it so that you need to travel 120 miles to get to your polling place.

Quinn:

Taking away the ballot boxes.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah. All of that stuff is a real obstacle to overcome. But to get to the second thing I wanted to say Quinn, I don't want to minimize these obstacles, because they're very, very real.

Quinn:

And increasing.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And increasing, absolutely. And evil, I mean, let's call them what they are, they are evil.

Quinn:

Yeah. I have no problem with that.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And they degrade democracy. Just because we know what the obstacles are though, doesn't mean, and we're going to start getting into like really nerdy behavioral science here-

Quinn:

Oh yeah. We're going to get there.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Awesome. It doesn't mean that the way to improve turnout is to try to address those obstacles.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

So yes, we should make it easier to vote. But just because those are the biggest obstacles, it turns out that the way to get people to vote actually might not be talking about that stuff. It might be to use really different behavioral psychology tools to message to them in really, really weird ways that we can get into if you'd like.

Quinn:

Sure. I mean, just because there's a ballot box in every corner doesn't mean people are going to turn out. It makes it more likely that those people can, they're accessible, if they're going to turn out. But behavior change is a hell of a thing and it's like putting a gym on every street corner, it doesn't mean you're going to go start working out after the new year. I'm excited to dig into that, that makes a lot of sense. It seems to always be helpful to really understand when people get frustrated with the lack of federal legislation and this and this, to really understand how the power structures work for example, and how they trickle down into your state and your local governments and again, the accessibility and availability of to vote, to organize things like that.

Quinn:

It is helpful to set the stage, but it is a different question then, right? Because let's say we magically go back in time and put the voting rights act back together. We still have to get people out. We still have to get them to be engaged. So I'm a big fan and we're frequent partners with groups like Swing Left and others, but what you guys do is different. And for folks who aren't familiar with the Environmental Voter Project, what's so cool is you are explicitly focused, and please correct me wherever I'm wrong here, on behavior change. So it's not turning out voters for one campaign or a candidate or a party. I imagine folks out there are very familiar with, even if maybe it's not phrased this way, but with behavior change, there's been so much popular literature, right? In the past few years around it, like Atomic Habits, which is just perennially at the top of the lists, right?

Quinn:

On the other hand, again, the evil side, learning how our behavior can be programmed in social media and on our phones and things like that. I know the National Institutes of Health I believe, has their science of behavior change program, that's got to be 10 years old now, something like that, trying to understand again, what works in the short term, but also what sticks. The point is, I don't think what you guys are doing is obscure, I think it's interesting in that it seems to be the first time it's been applied, at least most specifically in this way. We can go back to how the Obama team first used Facebook and all kinds of things like that. But I actually, want to start before we get super nerdy, our entrance into nerdy-

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah, yeah.

Quinn:

I want to know why you? So what is it about this particular method of voter turnout behavior change that works for you? Why do you Nathaniel, all have to do this?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah, it's a good question, because I'm not a data scientist, I'm not a behavioral scientist. But starting in law school and then certainly while I was a practicing attorney, I took tons of leaves of absence and I was always running campaigns and advising campaigns, big and small. And because I wasn't a paid consultant, I got to work with whomever I wanted and my paycheck didn't depend on a particular technique or a particular strategy or a particular tactic. And I started to just fall in love, purely as an amateur, with really cutting edge targeting techniques that allowed campaigns to individually identify people who cared about particular issues. And then even more interesting to me, was the efficiencies you can get when you're able to target people who you don't need to persuade of anything.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

So if you're able to target someone who cares so much about climate or reproductive right, or some issue that you don't need to waste time doing the expensive, messy startup stuff of politics with them, you can just go right into turning them from a non-voter into a voter, that really excited me. And it particularly excited me Quinn, because I've always cared deeply about climate and the environment. And I realized very early on from all these campaigns that I was working on, that the environmental movement had a huge turnout problem. There were a lot of people who cared deeply about climate, clean air, clean water, environmental justice, and they didn't need to be persuaded of anything, but they weren't voting and so what they needed was a purely behavioral intervention.

Quinn:

And can I stop you there? How did you discover that fault in our system that these folks just weren't turning out? You can come back to the fact that you don't have to convince them in anything, because for anyone who's ever volunteered and been in the debates of, "What's the most efficient use of our campaign's money? Is it mailers or calling or texting or door knocking?" It's all trying to convince people of things and you're skipping over all of that. But I'm curious how you got to that moment of wait a minute, why aren't these people voting?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

It was totally by chance as these things often are. I had just finished running a mayoral campaign up here in Boston where I live and my wife and I were expecting our first child to be born, so I was taking some time off. And I was chatting with a friend of mine, who's a pollster. And I was looking over some of his polling data with him. And this was in the lead up to the 2014 midterms. And what was interesting about this polling data, it asked Americans what their top priority was, it split it out into two sub-universes. One was people who were likely to vote in the 2014 midterms and the other was just all Americans. And when I looked at the likely voters in that midterm, sure enough one or 2% of them listed climate and the environment as their top priority, which is what I expected. That's what I had always seen in any election I worked on, whether it was Senate or mayor or city council or anything.

Quinn:

Sure. It was 2014.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Right. But then when I looked at the other subset that was all Americans, it was four or 5%. And that made me think, "Huh, I wonder if the environmental movement doesn't have a persuasion problem as much as we have a turnout problem." And I don't want to pretend like this was a Eureka moment, no, it was just the very beginning of an itch that made me start looking at more data and more data and more data. And I was also coming from a campaign world, where I realized when you have limited time and limited money and your only goal is to get the majority of votes on a Tuesday in November, you can't talk to crappy voters. You don't care what non-voters think.

Quinn:

Right.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And so I started to realize, wait, if most environmentalists are non-voters and campaigns can only really talk to likely voters, well, that means that there's this enormous pool of untapped political power that by definition campaigns aren't going to go after.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Maybe we need something new. Maybe we need a nonprofit that doesn't care necessarily about winning the next election, but instead cares about sort of the long term growth of this environmental political power.

Quinn:

How did you first quantify what this missing block really looked like? I guess, whether that was local to those 2014 midterms or ongoing, when did you realize the scope of the issue?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

So in 2015 when I had realized, okay, I think there's some there, there, and I had traveled around the country talking to all these nonprofits, they realized I was onto something and no one was addressing this. I rented access to voter files and started looking at what's called, predictive models. These are essentially like actuarial tables are for the insurance industry. They're models that help you predict the likelihood of each individual, or in this case each individual voter, how likely they are to care about particular issues. And this is how campaigns target people now. They don't target large demographic groups, they build scores, they build likelihood scores for each individual. And so what I did was, I started looking at these predictive models that were built to find environmentalists. And I started to realize, okay, if we use these predictive models to identify people who care deeply about the environment, wow, there might be as many as 12 or 13 million of them who skipped the 2014 midterms, who are already registered by the way, they're already registered to vote, they just didn't show up.

Quinn:

Wow.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And then I started looking back at other huge federal elections and I realized like, oh my God, this is an enormous pool of potential political power.

Quinn:

And it's all relative. I mean, to be clear, how many people vote on a good year is it...

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah.

Quinn:

What was the last year I'm trying to remember?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Let's take midterms for an example. In the 2014 midterm, 83 million people voted.

Quinn:

Right.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

In the 2018 midterm, 118 million people voted. So there are two things to take from that, first of all, just overall, even at the highest level of turnout for a midterm, only 118 million people vote. So if there are 12 million environmentalists who usually skip midterms, that's a big effing number.

Quinn:

Yeah.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

But the second thing to bring away from it is what you brought up earlier Quinn, it's that huge delta, right? I mean just from 2014 to 2018, the last two midterms that we had, we went from 83 million voting to 118 million voting. And those denominators are what people never talk about, right? Like all the talking heads on CNN, they're always talking about the numerators, "Is this candidate going to get 48% or 49% or 50%?" They never talk about 50% of what. And we have control over that too. And there are all of these non-voting environmentalists out there who if we just shovel them into the marketplace, if we flood the zone with environmental voters, it can really start changing things.

Quinn:

So at this point now you know, one, you have to operate separately from campaigns, because again, if you've ever worked on these things, you know on any given day, they're just strapped for cash. They don't have time to pursue these newfangled methods of these mythical voters who really give a shit about something, but are either registered or can't turn out for whatever reason, so you have to operate independently. You know you don't have to have again one of those, if you've ever knocked on doors, there's no better feeling than you stand there and you talk to somebody for 20 minutes and you've still got a hundred more doors to go.

Quinn:

But at the end of it, they're like, "All right, it sounds right. I guess, I'll check that guy out." And maybe they didn't at the beginning. And you're like, "That's one. I think I convinced one." The odds of them turning out are pretty fucking low. But you don't have to do any of that, but at the same time you realize, but I also have to invent an entirely new way of approaching these folks, because this is just not the way campaigns are run or the methodologies that are funded. So how do you get to that? How do you get to, "Okay. I got to get these guys to turn out." What do I do?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

You make it sound far more heroic and hard by using the word invent.

Quinn:

You're welcome.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

The truth is, we're taking the easy route, Quinn. I mean, trying to change minds and trying to change opinions, that's hard.

Quinn:

Oh yeah.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's messy. Moreover, you can't really test it, right?

Quinn:

Right.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Whereas changing behavior, I don't want to claim it's easy, but it's a hell of a lot easier. And what's more important, is you have public voter files. And what that means is, we know who votes and who doesn't vote, so if what you're trying to do is change behavior, you can run on experiments and see which messages actually boost turnout and which don't. Whereas if you're in the mind changing game, if you're in the persuasion game, I might convince you, if you're running for governor, I might convince you to hire me. And then you pay me $20 million for advertisements that you think look awesome. But at the end of the day, none of us know if my advertisements did anything.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yes, we have to come up with new behavior oriented ways of messaging to these people. But the truth is, the whole world is at our fingertips, because we're bypassing all this hard, messy part of politics. And now, we can just be completely agnostic about our messaging. We can go to academia and go to behavioral economists and behavioral psychologists and hell, I mean, we could talk about chocolate chip cookies now-

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

If that was the best way to turn these people into consistent voters.

Quinn:

Right, because they already love chocolate chip cookies [crosstalk 00:23:23].

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Because they already love... Right.

Quinn:

You're speaking directly to me.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yes, yes. The Environmental Voter Project, I mean, there's a lot that makes us a weird nonprofit, but one of the things is we don't even talk about the environment, we don't. Not because we don't like doing it, but because it's not a very good way to change people's behavior. What we are able to do, because now we know we just need a pure behavioral intervention, is just figure out what are the tools that Fitbit uses to get people to exercise more often? What are the tools that utility companies get people to reduce their electricity consumption? What are all of these behavioral tools we can use and apply to this political problem? But we actually don't need to use the language of politics anymore, because we bypassed all that persuasion stuff.

Quinn:

So this is so interesting on the surface and when you dig down, it seems very clear what a uniquely American opportunity this is. And I want to illustrate where I'm coming from on this. So when you work on campaigns or you listen to the pundits, whatever it is or you look at an election, you go into this thing, whatever the candidate is, 48 million people are going to go vote this way, 48 million are going to go this way. You're fighting over everybody in the middle. You get all this pulling, this is people who give a shit about the economy, people give a shit about the environment. This is what's going to move, the Democrats get crushed, because they've got this big tent. They can't figure out how to have one fucking message in a hundred years that's cohesive, under literally the worst marketing anybody's ever have.

Quinn:

And look at the recent Virginia election, right? Virginia has had so much progress in the past six, seven years. And then they get shellacked and you've got... Because immediately after it's... Well, it's because you talked about parents rights in schools and this and all this. And it comes down to this thing, when people always ask me here, "What can I do?" Right? They're reading about the jet stream or it's COVID and we all feel so impotent, because we are just told literally, just stay at home or it's cancer or whatever it might be. And usually my answer to folks is, Nathaniel, what can you do? What is the section of your interests and your skills? Because you're just much more likely to take action when it's one of those things. And if you tell me those things now, I mean, at this point I can tell you 75 different really legit things you could do with whatever that intersection is, right? But what it also comes down to, is Americans really give a shit about how we're seen, right?

Quinn:

About how our neighbors see who we are and our school boards and our companies, how we see ourselves. I mean, every midlife crisis, right, is about the story we've told ourselves who we're going to be and then it never works out. Sorry. But that matters and I think that's why you have all of these popular your atomic habits and all these things, not that everyone needs to change. But we all want to be better, we want to be this thing we see ourselves as. I mean, whenever the New York Times gets so much shit for going and finding the independent voters in the diners, right? And those people care about being labeled that way. And you are saying, "I've already got people like, no, I care about the environment, but for whatever reason I don't go vote." And now we've got to convince them here's how you go out and do this thing, so you can be seen as someone who's actually instrumental in this, seen as someone who you're trying to impact this thing. Am I off base?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

No, you are so on base. You are so on base. And I think we have this predilection, not just in modern society, but certainly in the progressive movement, towards rationality. If you're trying to change someone's mind or trying to change their behavior, what you need to do is rationally convince them of the importance of X. And the truth is, we are much more social and societal animals than we are rational animals. And you're absolutely right, we care deeply about how we are viewed by our peers and how we fit into other societal norms. And that is the crux of almost all of our behavior change messaging. What we do not do, as odd as this sounds, is try to convince people of the importance of voting, because the truth is, I mean, whether you're a mathematician or not, most people know that the likelihood of their one vote making a difference in an election of tens of millions, is pretty damn small.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And so getting into a conversation about the importance of your vote Quinn, in one election is not where we want to be. Instead, we want to figure out who is Quinn and maybe more importantly, who do you want to be and how do you want to be seen? And then how can we leverage that to change your behavior? So what are some examples? You brought up the variance of going and knocking on someone's door. If any of your listeners have ever canvased for a campaign, chances are they have asked a voter to sign a card promising to vote, it's called a voter pledge. The reason those are so powerful, is because of this normative societal approach that I'm talking about. If you can get someone to promise to take an action, that's like a trap closing on them.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Because what that allows you to do, is go back to them right before election day and say, "Hey, Quinn, I just want to remind you that you made a promise back in April, that you were going to vote. And on Tuesday, well, that's your opportunity to follow through on that promise. And we know it's important to you to be an honest person who keeps his promises." Well now, instead of me trying to convince you of the importance of one vote, I'm equating the act of voting with whether you're an honest person or not. Now, is that a little creepy? Yeah, but it also works, it works.

Quinn:

Yeah. But also in the scope of election shit that's happened in the past 10 years, creepy is pretty relative, [crosstalk 00:29:09].

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's a good point. That's a good point.

Quinn:

You got Cambridge Analytica on one side and, "Do you want to be a good person?" Is another one and they're very different things.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

They are very, very different. That in a nutshell, is how we approach this messaging. We figure out how do our targets, these non-voting environmentalists want to be seen? And how can we use that to change their behavior? So we use things like peer pressure, we'll text them and be like, "Hey, did you know last time there was an election, 127 people on your block on your main street turned out to vote?" Just pure juvenile, playground crap, but it works, yes, peer pressure works.

Quinn:

Sure. By the way, it's the same reason we got the little, I voted stickers, right?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Totally.

Quinn:

You go into the office and not only are you proud to be there, but you're like, "Look, I did this." And you're looking to see if everybody has it. I mean, I remember, oh God, what was the election? Who was the candidate? Was it Obama? Who didn't... Was it a debate? I mean, I'm a goldfish at this point, but didn't have the American flag pin on or something. Everybody who put on Instagram their blurred out vaccine card, right?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Right.

Quinn:

We want to be seen as someone who's part of these things, who's doing the right thing. And so it makes so much sense, right? I mean, this is like high school drama.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Totally, it absolutely is. And this is something that Madison Avenue has known for decades, right? You don't sell beer by telling people the ingredients in the beer, you sell beer by saying, "Don't you want to be like this cool dude who drinks Dos Equis?" Well, they go and buy Dos Equis, right?

Quinn:

A hundred percent, hundred percent. So paint a picture for me, you guys, let's say we've got November coming up and you're focusing on maybe Arizona or something like this. I imagine you've got a menu of options, of things that you work from. And I imagine there may be some ranking as to what is most effective in the most places, a lowest common denominator. What is your go out the gate strategy if there is one? Or is it just super flexible?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

We are active in 17 states. And what we do, and I won't name all 17, but your listeners can go to environmentalvoter.org and check out our map. But because we're not focused on one off elections, because instead we're focused on over the long term, dramatically increasing the number of environmentalists who vote, regardless of the election. What that means is, we find states where there are huge numbers of these non-voting environmentalists. And then we live there and we then use every election as an opportunity to change behavior. And when I say every election, I mean it, we have contacted people for library trustee races.

Quinn:

It sounds like our friends at Run For Something.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah, totally, totally. And that's not to say that library trustee races are unimportant, they are important.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

But they're not that important to environmental policy making, but they're very important if you're trying to change people's habits.

Quinn:

That's the key.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And so the first thing I want to stress is what we do not do with the Environmental Voter Project, is keep our powder dry and only talk to people once every two years, that is not how you change behavior. Instead, we have already in 2022, contacted voters for I believe, over 85 different elections, because that's how you change behavior. And so when we look ahead to 2022, we are going to continue to be active in all of those elections. Many of them are battle grounds, the Arizonas and Georgias and Pennsylvania's, but some of them aren't. Some of those states are Alaska and Kansas and Massachusetts. And the reason we're still active there, is one, climate policy isn't just made on the federal level, it's made on the state and local level, but two that's how you change habits.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And then to answer the second part of your question, not only will we be using every election this year to change these voters habits, so specials and locals and primaries, but we will have volunteers knocking on doors, making calls, writing postcards. We internally, will also be doing direct mail and digital advertisements. And it's still not clear whether we're going to spend $2 million on this state or $200,000 on that state, that stuff is still flexible. But we already have over 6,000 volunteers who are helping us and boy, do we have room for another 20,000. We've got plenty of work for volunteers to do over the next seven months to make sure that he hit an apex of turnout in November.

Quinn:

And it makes sense. I mean, going back to like you were saying, whether it's a school board race or city council, whatever it might be. Again, I think of my offline and published online conversations with Amanda Lipman at Run For Something. And if you're not familiar with them at this point, I guess, you haven't been listening, or maybe you're new. But Amanda, their organization runs specifically with progressive candidates under 40. It's always above 50% folks who identify as women and people of color. And again, it is school board, it's city council, it's state legislature, state Senates, et cetera, et cetera. And one, that's because that's how you build a progressive bench from the bottom up. And two, it's just a drastically more efficient use of a campaign's money and a donor's money, right? I mean, it goes just so much farther. She won't give me the straight answer, but it's preposterous, right? As opposed to setting on fire for some Senate race in Kentucky, that we're just literally never going to win, feels fun, but it's not going to happen.

Quinn:

At the same time, it's so funny, because you said, "It's not funny, it's dark." When you said, "Well, climate change is, whether it's policy on the federal level or the state level." There really isn't federal at this point, the sticking point is very clear. And states and cities and localities are doing so much and the stakes to do it are so much lower. And this is again what we always come back to and what the Democrats get hammered from, it's like run on a climate ballot. It's like, no, you have to run on the things that people... The water they drink and the air they breathe and the food they eat and the jobs they have and whether their city block is hot. These are the things that people interact with on a daily level. Are there jobs doing these things in their hometowns, right? Is their water clean? And I just think this all seems to be so effective. It seems not only a huge opportunity, but so much more effective than the way we have been doing things.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

It absolutely is. I mean, these are the highest leverage opportunities for a few reasons, for a few reasons. One, again, let's think about the denominators of how many people vote. I mean, you're lucky if 10 or 15% of registered voters vote in local elections. What that means, is just teeny little shifts in turnout-

Quinn:

Oh yeah.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Among people who care about the environment, can change everything. Take it from a guy who has run plenty of mayoral campaigns before. Mayors do polls too, but they're going to focus on public schools and potholes, if the only people who show up to vote in mayoral elections are people who care about public schools and potholes. Not that those are unimportant, but believe me, if environmentalists and people who care deeply about climate start showing up to vote, those issues will begin to matter. Pardon me for getting into the weeds a little bit more here, Quinn.

Quinn:

Please let's do it.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

This is such an important aspect of policy making and politics that most Americans don't understand. Let's nerd out and talk about voter files.

Quinn:

Great.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

I think most people understand that who you vote for is secret. What most people do not know, is that whether you vote or not is public record, it's public record. And not only is it public record, it is quite literally the essential building block to how all campaigns are run and all policy is made. All I need to do is open up my laptop and look at public voter files. And I can see by name and street address, who has a history of voting in the particular election that I want to try to win. And if I have limited time and limited money, you better believe I am not going to bother talking to the people who have proven over and over and over again that they don't show up to the election that I want to win.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And so what that means is, simply by voting, simply by voting, you become a first class citizen and you start driving policy making. Even, and I want to be clear about this, even if your candidate doesn't win, because petitions simply don't care about the preferences and opinions of non-voters, they don't. And I know that sounds cynical, but it's just the truth, it's just the truth. And so yeah, the other reason why voting in these local elections is so important, is because your mayor knows whether you vote or not. And simply by voting, you become someone who can drive policy making at the local level. And that's so empowering and important for any issue that you care about, but certainly the climate crisis.

Quinn:

So let's dig in a little bit to the methodologies that you guys have adopted and I imagine iterated over time, 17 different states and a million different races. There's all this debate in psychiatry about, for instance, what gets someone in their forties or fifties who maybe has never exercised very much, to commit to doing something like that? And I know one side and I deal with this on a family level, is, "Okay, grandma or grandpa, do you want to be around for the grandkids? Much less, have a catch with them or play outside or something like that?" There's an argument that those envisioning, what do they call it? Positive future benefits, I think. Does that work?

Quinn:

But I also again, and I just happen to have a who's stock full of wonderful folks, psychiatrists, psychologists, et cetera, et cetera. There is often this question, and it's become public about how so many psychology studies can't be replicated and things like that. It reminds me of where we are right now with things like deep learning, right? Which is even the folks who design the data and design the algorithms, which, oh, there's a whole alignment problem behind that, but they often don't even know what drives results, right? Even if they wrote this thing, it's this black box, right? And so I'm curious what your team has found to be as much as they can, most measurable when it comes to employing these tactics, to get these folks who give a shit to turn out on election day.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Again, we're very lucky that there is this thing called the public voter file, because it allows us to run randomized control trials. What we do is, as an example, let's say we identify 1 million super environmentalists in Florida who are unlikely to vote this fall. What we do not do, is immediately start sending our behavioral science informed messaging to all 1 million of them.

Quinn:

Okay.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Instead, before we talk to a single one of them, we randomly remove about 20% and hold them aside in a control group that we never ever talk to.

Quinn:

Okay.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Then the remaining 80%, the remaining 800,000, they're the ones that we call and canvas and text and mail and send digital ads to. Then the election happens. We still don't know how we did. But about two months later, public voter files get updated. And at that point we can turn out in our control group to turn out in our treatment group and know what our isolated sole impact was on turnout, while controlling for all outside variables.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And what that allows us to do, is not just measure our impact, but also run experiments where we can test, okay, let's just deliver on message to this part of our treatment group and another message to that one and another message to that one. And we are constantly running experiments like this, to figure out which messages over which media, work best with which subgroups of these non-voting environmentalists. The first answer is, we can actually get very precise data on this. But the second part of my answer is, oh boy, does it vary depending on who you're communicating with-

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And the medium over which you are communicating with them. So let me give you a few examples, one thing that we found works very, very well is loss aversion. So this is a common behavioral psychology concept, the idea behind which is sometimes the value of getting something new is less important to someone than their fear of losing something that they already have. So how do we use that? Well, what we do is, we reach out to people who we know are unlikely to vote in this year's midterms, but we also know that they voted in the higher turnout presidential election last year. And so instead of making voting this fall seem like something new and big that they've never done before, instead we say, "Thank you Quinn, for being a good voter in voting in 2020, make sure that you don't ruin your perfect voting record by not voting this fall."

Quinn:

We're going to take your sticker away.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

We're going to take your sticker away. Loss aversion.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

But that's something that only works with certain segments. We also use some of the peer pressure techniques that I mentioned before. We even get really aggressive and for some people we mail them copies of their personal voting histories and yeah, that rubs some people the wrong way. But screw them, I'm not on the ballot, I don't need them to like me.

Quinn:

And also again, it's all relative, on the list of like dark things to do, it's not the most. And the end goal at this point, is fewer things on fire.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's right. That's right. And by the way, the reason sending people's voting histories to them works, is because they buy into the societal norm that being a good voter is important. We're nudging them to do something that they already want to do. This is the difference between shame and guilt, we're not publicly shaming them. We're not saying here's your voting history and we mailed it to all of your neighbors. No, it's a private one-on-one conversation and that guilt would only work if deep down these voters actually wanted to be better at voting. And you better believe we're going to take advantage of that, if it can alter the course of the climate crisis.

Quinn:

I think about one of my best friends is working in this really cool research hospital in Southwestern, Virginia. And he's been in the job for again, time is a flat circle., so I don't know, at this point, 5 years, something like that, could be a hundred or two. He's not in medicine, but because it's a research hospital, one of the things they're trying to do, and I think this is applicable in a lot of places in the US, certainly, but also specific to where he is in Southwestern, Virginia is they get a lot of folks that don't go to the doctor for primary. They certainly don't go see specialists. They probably don't have healthcare. And if they do, it might be Medicaid or Medicare somewhere, or they fall in between and they just can't afford it on the market. And if they have been to a doctor at any point, they don't take their medicine.

Quinn:

So here's what they do, they consistently come to the emergency room and here are the two things that happen. It makes them bankrupt and it also bankrupts the healthcare system, but also on a more acute level, it just fills up the emergency room with folks who might be having chest pains, a lot of times it's indigestion, things like that. But they're making it more difficult for folks who really needed to come in. Someone who is very sick, actually having a heart attack, having a baby, whatever it might be. And so one of the things he's always been working on is, how do we just get fewer people to come to the emergency room and how do we get them to stop coming? And a lot of the times that means how do we convince these people to just take their fucking medicine that we give them when we leave?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah.

Quinn:

Because that is this fundamental first principle, if you want to call it, of you're not going to convince them by saying, "Listen, you're making the American healthcare system more costly." They don't fucking care about that. You can't even convince them to take their medicine. What is the in? And it seems like that is such an applicable thing, where you go, sometimes we just have to go deeper and mail them their voter file record and be like, "Aren't you proud of this? Do you want to keep being seen as this person?"

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah. Again, there's this enormous bias towards seeing ourselves as rational actors, but even more importantly, seeing the only valid way to convince somebody of something as being rational discussion. And the truth is, we are far less rational beings than we think we are. And that's not to say that we're shallow or anything like that, it's just who we are. Here's an example, you and I are both fathers. No matter how confident I am Quinn, in being a good person, you damn well better believe that I want everybody in the world to think that I'm a good father.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Does that make me callous? Does that make me shallow?

Quinn:

Right.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

No, it's just who I am. I don't want to be thought of as a shitty father, I want to be thought of as a great father.

Quinn:

A hundred percent, but I also spend half the day thinking I'm a shitty father.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Right.

Quinn:

I will do whatever I can. I'll have a fight with my kids about something, I spend three days fucking marinating on it and they're goldfish and they forget about it immediately. I mean, I'm sure they'll have therapy bills in the future, but I will do anything then, to improve on that record internally and publicly.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Right. That's who we are as social and societal animals. We care about how we are seen. And that doesn't make us shallow, it's just who we are. And so if you're trying to change people's behavior, you need to take that stuff into consideration.

Quinn:

Where have you and your team failed the most consistently over the past... You've been at this for a little bit now, where do you just keep running into walls?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Two places immediately come to mind. First, was right when I started the Environmental Voter Project. I thought that we would do two things, so first I thought we would do what we're currently doing, which is identifying already registered voters who care deeply about the environment, but don't vote that often and we would improve their voting behavior. But then I thought the second part of our work was, hey, let's use these same techniques to find unregistered environmentalists and get them to register to vote, which is also important and boy, did we suck at that.

Quinn:

On the ladder?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

On the ladder, on the registration part of it. We came to realize really quickly that these predictive models that we build to identify super environmentalists depend on having really rich data sets. And when you're going after people who aren't yet registered to vote, there's a lot less data out there about them. And so it's harder to accurately identify environmentalists. And then even when you do, even if you found them, unregistered voters are more likely to move, their phone number is more likely to be wrong. Our contact rates were abysmal. And so we decided, you know what? I don't think we can come up with a smarter way of registering environmentalists to vote. Let's not do that, let's do this other thing. The second thing that we've struggled with, and we continue to struggle with it, in fact, I would say the entire progressive movement struggles with this, we've gotten really good at individualized targeting. But nobody, as far as I know, has cracked the nut of accurately targeting likely Spanish speakers, it's really, really hard.

Quinn:

And it's an incredibly diverse group. I mean, one of our first failures, is that we treat them as a monolith and they could not be further from that. And understandably, they don't respond well to that.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's exactly right. But as a threshold matter, I mean, before you can even experiment with which messages work best with which of the many and varied subgroups of Spanish speakers, you need to be able to identify the Spanish speakers.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And that is really, really hard. It's much easier using various ethnically popular surnames to identify groups of Asian American Pacific Islanders, or even to identify people who are likely to belong to various religious groups. But it is really, really hard to accurately identify likely Spanish speakers. And that's something that we who spend so much time communicating with voters by phone and text message and canvas and digital ads and direct mail, I mean, all of this stuff, we really want to know who we need to communicate with in Spanish, before we can even get to the point of experimenting with which messages work best with which subgroups of people. And it's something we continue to struggle with, now we're going to keep going but it's hard.

Quinn:

Sure of course.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah.

Quinn:

I imagine and I feel it from the outside certainly, but just in talking to folks, and again, just spent 14 years in Los Angeles, which I think for something like 27 different countries is the second biggest congregation of native peoples from those countries than anywhere else, right? It's wild how cosmopolitan... Maybe Houston's more than that now. But the point is, on the one hand, the huge, broad, incredibly varied umbrella that fits under that banner of potentially Spanish speaking folks does over-index on giving a shit about the environment, right? And that is both historically, but especially now, I mean, as much as immigration is down, because we're monsters, the number of subsistence farmers who are having to call it quits from everywhere and are coming and that's what they've got. Or because they are food workers anywhere down the food chain, whatever it might be. I just had a wonderful conversation with Jessica Hernandez, who wrote Fresh Banana Leaves, talking about her family's experience and being displaced twice, what it means to come here. And you see, why are we focused on conservation when it should be restoration? All these different things.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's exactly right. No matter how much of that research is out there, I still find and I imagine you still find, that most people, even within the environmental movement, imagine the typical environmentalist as a white, suburban dude driving around in a Prius and a Patagonia quarter zip.

Quinn:

And I have to imagine that's incorrect.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

It is so incorrect. It's the Latina grandmother outside of Tucson now. I mean, obviously there are all sorts of environmentalists, but if you're just talking about which demographic subgroups are the most overrepresented-

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

In the environmental movement, we're talking about Asian American and Pacific Islander women and Hispanic women. That's the face of the modern environmental movement.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's it.

Quinn:

And it's so interesting, because I had on a couple years ago now, which is crazy, the young woman who's running for office again, Jessica Cisneros, down in south Texas, and she lost the first time to a brutal democratic incumbent, just awash in fossil fuel money. And she's running again, but it's so interesting because again, she's worked in immigration law and is very focused on the climate, but she's not talking about it much. And it's so interesting, because she has to find a way to find that group of folks who didn't vote for her last time, to turn them on. Again, that's within the democratic ticket and now they've got a runoff going on and that seems like such a specific encapsulation of that going again. It's this huge, wonderful varied group of people, the folks who are directly Cuban or descendants of Cuban and what their baggage is on that side, which is understandable or whatever it might be. But the point is, we're just failing to reach these folks on something that they really care about and that is a nightmare.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's absolutely right. And that power dynamic that you highlight, it's so important to stress we're not just talking about middle of the road voters or non-voters. No matter who you are, no matter how conservative or liberal, you need to go where the voters are or else you aren't going to get to be a politician. It's the brutal arithmetic of how democracy works. Even when the environmental champions win, even when the so-called right person wins, they're not going to spend their precious political capital on something that voters don't care about, they're just not, they're just not. Even when you have great candidates, they need to figure out how am I going to get to 50% plus one?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And they're going to look at their polls of voters, not non-voters. And they're going to look at their predictive bottles of voters, not non-voters and figure out what they need to talk about. And right now, there aren't nearly enough voters who list climate or the environment as their top priority. And until we address that, we are never, ever, ever going to get the climate leadership that we so desperately need, we're just not. The good news is though they're out there. These non-voting environmentalists are out there, we just need to go get them.

Quinn:

Absolutely. On that note, let's focus on some action steps that folks can take. How do folks get involved most effectively with you guys? I imagine there's a donation side, there's a volunteer side, maybe there's a data side. You tell me.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Thank you for imagining that, Quinn. Please go to environmentalvoter.org. You can sign up to volunteer and we will train you online. You can then whenever you feel like it, make calls and we'll provide tested behavioral science informed scripts, where all you're doing, you're not trying to harangue someone to vote for X or Y or Z, you're helping people vote. It's an easy ask, but we're you the language that we know works. So the first, is sign up to volunteer. Second, yes, we would love to have you donate to support our work at environmentalvoter.org. But third, I would just say, even if the Environmental Voter Project, isn't what floats your boat right now, do something.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

We are never going to get the next seven months back, Quinn. And these upcoming midterm elections, not to get too dramatic here, but we need to call out the truth. They could very easily determine the future of democracy and the climate crisis. And so when you are sitting down on your couch seven months from now, watching election returns roll in and you are sick to your stomach with anxiety like I'm going to be, oh my God, you don't want to have any regrets. I promise you, you don't want to have any regrets. Do a favor for that future version of yourself and get in the game over these next seven months. Volunteer for the Environmental Voter Project, volunteer for a local or state or federal election, because these elections are everything.

Quinn:

Yeah. Again, I come back to the example of the recently or going to be future grandparent, who says, "I'm going to want to play in the front yard. It's like, well, you can't fix that once it's time to play in the front yard, the receipts are in, you've done it, so now's the time. I think often too, my children were supposed to do a fundraiser for school to raise money for their library and instead of spending the past week and a half knocking on doors, they decided to do it in the five minutes before the bus came this morning. And I said, "Guys, I understand you're frustrated, but you know, I don't know what to tell you. We can't go back in time fix this. I told you every day, we could do this." So do it, like you said, do your future self a favor, know that you, what's the quote? "Left it all on the field." That is super helpful.

Quinn:

I'm going to ask you last few questions and then we're going to get you out of here. You got a democracy to save here. We ask everybody these, they're fun and illuminating. And again, I try to come at everything from the perspective of other folks who want to support your mission, but also just a lot of folks who are looking out there going, "What can I do?" And often, that can mean even backing all the way up to identifying a moment in their life and maybe they haven't even found it yet or didn't realize it. And so maybe they can be inspired by years where they just went, "Oh shit, I can do something. Look at that. I turned zero to one." So my first question is always, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? It could be solo or with a group, whatever it might be.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Honestly, Quinn, I don't think I've had that moment yet. I'm not trying to be humble, I'm just trying to be honest. I don't want your listeners to think that change makers are always brimming with confidence about our role in the world. I am very, very proud of what the Environmental Voter Project has accomplished and continues to accomplish. And by any objective measure, we're having an enormous impact. But I honestly, can't say there's ever been a Eureka moment in my life, where I've said, "This is it, I'm changing society."

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And that's probably just the way I'm wired.

Quinn:

Sure.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

But I bet there are other people who are wired like that too. And I guess, what I'm trying to say is, that you can have an enormous impact on the world even if you don't feel like you're having an impact on the world.

Quinn:

I like that. It's good. We've gotten such a huge, wonderful variety of answers from folks who feel the same way, who feel like they haven't found their people yet or who were like, "It was seventh grade and I stood up in the lunchroom, total bully. And I was like, fuck, yeah. I can stand up to people." And now they're a public defender, whatever it might be. So I love the gamut. Boy, it's a different podcast conversation, but I was thinking of the idea of the great filter, we can talk about this offline. Anyways, Nathaniel, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

Quinn:

She's our seventh guest.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Oh, no way. Okay.

Quinn:

Yeah. Way back, way back.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Go back and listen to episode seven, guys.

Quinn:

I was terrible. She's amazing as usual.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

She's a marine biologist and a policy expert and a writer and podcaster and activist, but she's also on our board of advisors at the Environmental Voter Project. And she just consistently gives good, unvarnished advice that makes us a dramatically better organization.

Quinn:

That's awesome.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And she takes being an advisor really seriously, and she's just so consistently thoughtful and helpful and honest and boy, are we lucky to have her.

Quinn:

That's awesome. She's an incredibly special human being and we are all very, very lucky to have her in the fight and just on this planet alone. Nathaniel, what is your self-care? What are you doing these days when you're not trying to turn out environmentalists to vote? Because it is important that we take care of ourselves, it's a long fight.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

It is. I think similar to my previous answer, it's important to be honest, I don't want to pretend like I'm consistently good at self-care. I fill a lot of my downtime with work. But there is one important thing that comes to mind, so I'm a really early riser. I usually wake up at about 4:00 AM.

Quinn:

Okay.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And although my children are also early risers, I usually get about 30 or 45 minutes to myself. And my best self-care is man, drinking hot coffee while reading a book, not my news or the email or box scores or social media, but just three or four times a week, first thing in the morning, I can sit by myself, drink coffee and read a novel. And that is golden, that is golden.

Quinn:

I think any parent would agree. I mean, any unbroken amount of time where you're reading a book is like, I'd pay any amount of money for that.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah.

Quinn:

That's awesome. I'm an early riser, but that is pretty impressive, four o'clock is no joke.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Yeah. I don't know if impressive is the right word. I wish I didn't wake up at four, but yeah.

Quinn:

Anyways, I hear you. I was a college swimmer, so I'm very aware of the literal and the metaphorical darkness of getting up that early. On that note, our last one is always, what is a book you've read in the past year that has opened your mind to a topic you hadn't considered before? Or has actually changed your thinking in some way? And we got a whole list up on bookshop of guest recommendations.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Oh, cool, cool. I will check out that list. I recently read The Overstory by Richard Powers. So he wrote it a few years ago, won the Pulitzer prize for fiction, I think. And it is an extraordinary novel that follows a few people in their unique interactions with trees. And it's not just a great story, it also really helped me become more aware of these magnificent, beautiful, complicated things, trees, that are all around us, but we often ignore them on a daily basis. Man, I just loved The Overstory.

Quinn:

I prefer, these days to Try This, This Way. Which is, I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened that book. I was like, "This is long and everybody loves it. I wonder what it's about." And wow, it's not what you probably would expect both in structure and in content. But God, it is beautiful.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

It is so beautiful, isn't it? Yeah.

Quinn:

Yeah. That's an awesome recommendation, I love it.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

And it's just I feel like it gave me four other sets of eyes. I feel like I just look at trees in the world in a different way, because of that. Not because it's some scientific treatise, it is a story, it's a story, but it just really made me start looking at things in a different way.

Quinn:

I love that. I think you would enjoy one of my other favorite guests, they're all my favorites, don't tell them [inaudible 01:02:42]. Her name is Dr. Beronda Montgomery and she is fantastic. And she wrote this little book that is so cool. It's called Lessons From Plants. I'll send you the link. And it's just basically, hey, on the one hand, look how fucking cool plants are and all the things they do. But also, look how difficult inherently it is for them and we have made it for them. Essentially, you think behavior change is hard, try being planted in a pot and you're in the wrong part of the room and you can't tell anybody. And so you have to bend towards the light whenever you need to, but oh, you can't go to the fucking gym. She's incredible and her writing is so beautiful and wonderful. And again, you'll blow through it. But it gives you that perspective, it is impossible to read that book and then walk outside the same person you were when you walked inside.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Awesome. I will totally check it out.

Quinn:

It's so cool. And she is a hero and a tremendous person. Thank you for sharing. Where can our listeners... So again, it's environmentalvoter.org. Is that right?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

That's it, environmentalvoter.org.

Quinn:

And I imagine you're lurking Twitter, like the rest of us. I think we follow each other. What is your handle?

Nathaniel Stinnett:

I lurk on Twitter. It is Ncstinn so N-C-S-T-I-N-N.

Quinn:

Beautiful. We'll throw that on the show notes for folks. Nathaniel, thank you truly for all that you've done and you're doing for finding this weakness in the matrix, that hopefully we can continue to exploit for everybody's benefit and for coming on the show, I appreciate your time.

Nathaniel Stinnett:

Thank you Quinn, for your curiosity and your research and your platform and just everything you're doing. And I hope we get to have more conversations like this.

Quinn:

Yeah. When we're done, when it's all fixed, it'll be great. Talk about something entirely different. It'll be fantastic. Awesome, Nathaniel, thank you so much.

Quinn:

Thanks for listening to the show. A reminder you can send feedback or questions about this episode or some guest recommendations to me at questions@importantnotimportant.com. Links to anything we talked about today are in your show notes in your podcast player. If you want to rep any or shit your giver status, you can find sustainable t-shirts, hoodies and a variety of coffee delivery vessels in our store at importantnotimportant.com/store. You can subscribe to our critically acclaimed weekly newsletter for free at newsletter.importantnotimportant.com. Our theme music was composed by Tim Blaine. The show was edited by Anthony Luciani and the whole episode was produced by Willow Beck. We'll see you next time.