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Climate Activism By Design with David Johnson, JSM / Lawyer, Author, Stanford Lecturer

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In this interview, Corinna connects with David Johnson, a professor who teaches Design Thinking courses at Stanford University’s D-School (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design) and Negotiation at Stanford School of Law. They discuss his journey from law to design thinking and climate activism.

As he says, we need a billion climate activists — but we’re not going to get them — so he has crafted a solution to help create the change we need. David proposes a new system by which we can capitalize on the network effect and create a “greenprint” that will turn small groups of well intentioned activists around the world into a force of nature that can create real and lasting change — with the goal of preserving and protecting our home planet.

About David Johnson:

David Johnson is a lawyer, writer and professor. He teaches Advanced Negotiation at Stanford Law School, and Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. Across the last 20 years he has also practiced law in Silicon Valley, primarily as General Counsel for tech companies and, most recently, a non-profit foundation. His client list included some of the biggest names in science and technology: Apple, Caliper, Google, McKesson, Sankyo Pharma, and The Computer History Museum.

Last year, during sabbatical in Singapore, he wrote a keynote article for the Singapore Academy of Law, Design for Legal Systems. Now back at Stanford, David is working on a book applying design thinking to climate change activism, working title: Climate Activism by Design. In addition to writing and teaching, David is an avid skier and sailor, and a diligent but decidedly average tennis player.




Works Mentioned:

Grady Booch on Object Oriented Design:

Paul Hawken’s Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation (coming Sept. 14, 2021)

Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Episode Time Stamps:

00:00 Introduction

03:45 From Law to Design Thinking & Climate Activism

06:02 Design Thinking — What is it?

08:36 People And Groups As Catalysts For Change

13:26 The Challenge Of Unintended Consequences

17:27 Creating Networks Of Activists To Create Change – A “Greenprint”

25:08 Voting With Your Dollars

28:17 On Regeneration and Paul Hawken’s Work

32:49 Is Social Entrepreneurship Becoming Mainstream?

34:57 Advice for Activists

41:08 What We Can Accomplish

46:40 Our Role In Creating Change

49:30 Call To Action And Activism

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Hello fellow do-gooders and friends, I’m your host, Corinna Bellizzi an activist and cause marketer who’s passionate about social impact and sustainability. 

In today’s minisode, we’re going to talk about health care and health equity. As we get started — I want you to think about your health journey — and the health care experience of those you love.  

Thanks for joining today’s conversation. Step one. We’re here. We’re thinking about health care. We’re thinking about health equity! Now, for step two. I’m getting ready to share my personal story. Whew… It’s tough to consider doing that — so taking a step back… where is the healthcare system today? 

There are some that have worked hard to make it seem like access to health care is a privilege, and one that we should all pay for directly out of our pockets and through our employers. But this poses serious problems for people who lose their jobs and suddenly have to come up with gigantic monthly fees just to cover the most basic care. Let’s put ourselves in those shoes for a moment.  You might qualify for medical, medicaid or medicare, what if your doctor isn’t on that plan?  You might have to change doctors — and if you have a specific health problem, that can make navigating that change even harder.

The system is thoroughly broken. 

So as we think about this, I’m going to share a personal story. When I was 18, I was already out of the house, living on my own while I went to a community college, and without a real healthcare plan. I worked at a local retail shop selling sunglasses and earning about $9 an hour — including commission. It was barely enough to keep rent paid, gas in my car and food in my belly. 

And I didn’t have health insurance. I went to planned parenthood for my annuals and paid on a sliding scale given my income. They were my healthcare provider. 

And then… I contracted HPV — human Papaloma Virus — also known as genital warts. I know. Disgusting. I noticed some bumps where they shouldn’t be and visited planned parenthood. 

I was really really lucky. Not only did I find the warts early, I also happened to visit a Planned Parenthood near Stanford in Mountain View. 

That location had doctors from Stanford who completed part of their residencies at Planned Parenthood. 

Typically the treatment for HPV for those that don’t have great insurance includes essentially burning the warts off with Acid and hoping they don’t return. Unfortunately, as the doctors shared with me, that usually aggravates the system, and they can come back even stronger — if they don’t get all of the warts in that first treatment. And if they don’t get it all — then I could end up with cervical cancer or ovarian cancer. It was serious. 

So… They gave me an option. If I was willing to be an example for Stanford Medical students, and essentially have my vagina on display to a gallery of students observing the diagnosis and surgery, I could receive cutting edge laser surgery at Stanford Hospital. I would only have to cover what I could afford, which they estimated to be about $160 given my income level and expenses. 

What a miracle. 

Yes, I had to say goodbye to modesty, but I was also given an incredible gift. Cutting edge surgery, covered by Stanford at their cutting edge facility. Follow up appointments with Stanford doctors would occur at Planned Parenthood. I was incredibly lucky. 

That was 26 years ago. I have not had an abnormal pap since. They got it all.  

Now why do I bring this up? Health Care has become a polarizing issue in the US. There are some who say that having universal health care is akin to socialism. Many villainize Planned Parenthood, calling the doctors who work there “Baby Killers” and picketing in front of their offices. What they don’t understand is that Planned Parenthood offers vital services to those that cannot otherwise afford care. Those people would otherwise not get the help they need, because they simply cannot afford it. They wait until it’s too late. Until their warts have turned into cancer. 

Which leads me to this summer. I have access to healthcare. Really good health care in fact. And this July, I woke up one morning to discover a dark, weirdly textured spot on my left cheekbone, just below the temple. 

You know, where a baseball cap essentially STOPS protecting you from the sun. Because I have good care, I immediately reached out to my doctor’s office and got an appointment for the next day. 

I went in for an appointment where they took specialized photographs of the area and sent it off to dermatology. And I waited. 

A month later I hadn’t heard back — so I had to make a bunch of calls, ending up with the wrong people 3 times, and then finally connecting with someone helpful who promised me I’d get a call back the next business day. The phone didn’t ring. 

A week later, I see a note in my in-box. The results from Dermatology are in. Apparently there had been a paperwork error and they had to work to find my file. It took 6 weeks for a diagnosis.

And I have great health care. 

The conclusion? I have pre-cancerous “lesions”,  technically called: actinic keratosis. I’ve been prescribed a special cream that I will apply two times a day. There are very detailed instructions about how to apply the cream, cleaning procedures, etc. Side effects may be really unpleasant, but this early in treatment — I’ve applied two doses — I can’t say if that will be the case for me.  

In a couple of weeks, these lesions “should” disappear. I will heal. It won’t turn into the full-fledged melanoma skin cancer that took my grandmother’s life. It won’t, because I have access to great healthcare and I have the agency and privilege to take care of business when I see a problem arise. So many people lack those vital resources — and it simply should not be that way.  

We need to fix our healthcare system. We need to provide solutions for people who don’t have insurance — so they can get the care they need when they need it — and so they know they can access it when they notice something weird with their health. 

We need to create a system that protects those without. That catches them before they tumble to the ground. 

So, call me a socialist if you want — but it’s my belief that access to solid health care is the hallmark of a society that cares for its people. Of one that has evolved to ensure we are all treated equally. Equal access. Equal rights. And I think we need to keep this conversation alive between election cycles. 

So I ask you — What do you think about our current healthcare system? What do you think we can or should do to change it for the better? I want to hear from you! Send me an e-mail or message me on Instagram or Facebook. 

When you visit our website, Care More Be you can even send me a note directly from our Contact page. 

Share your experience, thoughts and ideas — and if you do — I’ll glady share those thoughts on a future show. And don’t worry — I’ll protect your anonymity using only your first name, or giving no name at all, as you prefer. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the curtain — and I want to thank you for listening to Care More Be Better — and being a part of this community we’re building. It’s my firm belief that by having difficult conversations, and by sharing stories like the ones I did today — that we can inspire others to act. So again, 

Thank you for being a part of this pod and this community because, together, we can do so much more.

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