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What does simple prosperity look like, and why should it be the new normal we aim for? In this episode, host Corinna Bellizzi sits down with an environmentalist, filmmaker, and author, David Wann. David illustrates the ideal of sustainable living and simple prosperity in his new book that pushes for change with the power of story and fiction. Tickling the Bear: How To Stay Safe In The Universe portrays that small band of colorful change-makers on the cusp of building a new society. Tune in as the two dissect the story, the characters, and the important lessons you can learn. David also shares his experience living in a cohousing community and offers insights on the healthy change we need to make to save the future against the climate crisis. Stay tuned.
About David Wann
David Wann is an environmentalist, filmmaker, and author. Dave has written ten books and produced five TV documentaries about sustainable lifestyles and designs. He’s a proud dad and husband, an amateur musician, and provides organic vegetables for neighbors in the cohousing neighborhood he’s lived in for 25 years. His most recent work, “Tickling the Bear: How To Stay Safe In The Universe” aims to push for change with the power of story and fiction.
02:55-09:31: David on Co-Housing Communities
09:32-13:26: Affluenza: How Overconsumption is Killing us—and How to Fight Back
13:27-20:51: David’s Message of Hope For Facing the Climate Crisis
20:52-25:18: Tickling The Bear
25:18-34:10: Developing The Characters of Tickling The Bear
35:00-42:56: Sustainable Agriculture and Healthy Eating For The Future
42:57-54:05: Achieving and Inspiring a Sustainable Minimalist Lifestyle
54:06-56:09: Contact Information
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David Wann On How To Create Simple Prosperity Through Sustainable Living
I invite you to care a little bit more so that together, we can all be a little better. Building a community of do-gooders is a big part of our aim here. I have already had the pleasure of connecting with people all over the globe. If you want to learn more about what you can do to get involved and be a part of the change that you hope to see in the world, I encourage you to visit CareMoreBeBetter.com. Sign up for our newsletter. You will receive a five-step guide to help unleash your inner activist as your welcome gift.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I encourage you to reach out. Send me a note through the website or you can even click the microphone button in the bottom right-hand corner and leave me a voicemail. Ask any question, suggest a topic or introduce me to someone that you think we should see featured on this show because without community suggestions, several of the guests that we had featured you would never have heard from. This will be the second episode that explores the power of fiction to move for positive change as we connect with the environmentalist, filmmaker and author Dave Wann.
Dave has written 10 books and produced 5 TV documentaries about sustainable lifestyles and design. He is a proud dad and husband, an amateur musician and provides organic vegetables for neighbors in the co-housing neighborhood he has lived in for many years. His most recent work, Tickling the Bear: How to Stay Safe in the Universe, aims to push for change with the power of story and fiction. Dave, welcome to the show.
Thanks so much. I am glad to be here. I admire your approach, which is similar to mine. It is about people making positive changes and that if we can convince them, it will be much more pleasant to create a different world. It is going to be easier for us to adopt a new way of living than it is to prop up a broken way of living. We can do better. We have changed things over the course of humanity’s history and we are going to change it again.
Before we discuss your new work with Tickling the Bear, I have a few questions for you that relate to your present state and history. I understand we were in the middle of harvest season for you in the mountains of Colorado or perhaps planting season. Let’s start with a snapshot of the co-housing community that you live in. How did it come to be and what is it like to live there?
It is an effort that is the biggest adventure of my life. Many years ago, I was experiencing a breakup and I began to look around and see where I am going to live next. If I could choose a place, this co-housing idea seems very interesting. Co-housing is an idea that was pioneered in Denmark and they call it living communities there. I was very much interested in the idea that it could be a sustainable model community. I joined a small group of 5 or 6 people who were going to create the whole neighborhood. That involves buying the land, getting a developer and building our own neighborhood under the ethic that we wanted to live in. It has been very exciting. Many years later, we are still figuring out a way to get along.
We call it Harmony Village but it is not perfectly harmonious. It has the intent to be as good as it can be. I am very much tuned into the idea. I am a person who wants to be looking at satisfying needs rather than reaching for unattainable wants. The neighborhood that I am in and the garden that I work along with other neighbors are bulls-eye. They are the jackpot in terms of meeting needs. They are like mother’s milk. They provide everything that humans need from communication to leisure, expressivity, creativity and security. That is a new part of what I am now becoming reinvolved in. Let’s talk about neighborhoods and building all neighborhoods better. That involves the people who will live in that neighborhood or live in that neighborhood.
I wrote a book called Superbia! long ago. I am trying to bring back many of those ideas that any neighborhood anywhere could adopt some of the same principles that we use here. You could provide a list of who lives in the neighborhood and you could begin to say, “I have this skill. I can share this skill.” You can begin to have your potluck dinners and eventually, you can begin to buy a house in the neighborhood. Why not use it as community building?
I interviewed Ethan Welty, who is a cofounder of Falling Fruit, an organization that logs where fruit trees are all over the world and enables people to then go harvest them when they are in fruit so that falling fruit does not go to waste. It is an admirable approach. He also lives in a similar community in Sweden, where it is much more likely to run into these communities. That is incredible and I would like to see more of them.
I am noticing especially in city centers where it is very expensive, like New York or San Francisco, that some co-housing units where there is more of a community basis around them are cropping up but a large part of that is because of affordability. Often they are occupied by single people instead of families. It is more amenable to that. I wonder what your thoughts are about where we are presently and if you are aware of any projects that are presently underway that incorporate a lot of the basic framework for what you have there in Colorado?
I am still plugged in to the people who brought the idea back from Denmark. Two people who were architectural students in Denmark were going to have a child and they decided, “As architects, what can we build that would provide a good upbringing for a child?” It is a village. It is a thing where people can live the way we have lived for 99% of our time as humans, in small clans of up to 25, 30 people. It is a family. I am still plugged into the co-housing end of things. I am very much involved in the new urbanist movement, for example, the talks about when you build a neighborhood, “Let’s build it with the front porches or good efficient windows. Let’s build our houses right.”
I am fascinated by this idea of existing neighborhoods. We already have built a stock. Some of it is rather shoddy but we are still stuck with 100,000 homes already built. I am interested in seeing if I can start the spark to say, “I have this book called Superbia! and I also have a material online now that says there are not 31 easy and slightly harder things to do that could make your neighborhood safer, more satisfying and add dimension and satisfaction to your life.”
I plan to read that book. I have not dived into it quite as much as some of your other works at this point. You coauthored a book called Affluenza: How Overconsumption is Killing Us—and How to Fight Back. It became a bestseller and was also an acclaimed PBS series watched by more than 10 million viewers. What did not we learn through this work and how can we finally learn it? That is a big question but it is a thing that I have been left thinking about.
As we discovered in Affluenza, we presented what we all know instinctively, that we are way over the edge of sanity. Erich Fromm, one of the most influential psychologists of our time, said that 1 million people believe in a pathological way of living does not make it sane. America has gotten swept away by a certain formula and that is heavily reliant on consumption. I think that there are dominant institutions in the economy and this whole script that we have been given, yet it is backward. It does not provide what we are as people in our psyche, in our gut, hands and hearts.
We have not designed a world where we can fit in well. We refuse to make any changes. My mission has been as a salesman for sustainability. How can I convince you that if we slow down a little bit and if we begin to look at what it is we are dismantling, we will begin to see that if we keep from dismantling it, that is all we need? All we need to be happy in this world is a strong culture where people work together and a nature that is on the rebound. As you have interviewed Paul Hawken, he is very strong on the idea that we can restore and regenerate the world that we have destroyed. That is a strong piece of the message that we carried away from Affluenza.
It needs to change and that change does not have to be scary. We can do it if we work together. What I was talking about with the 3-step program, a boiled-down 12-step program is first acknowledging that we have a problem. That is what they do in Alcoholics Anonymous, “I got a problem.” The second is to say, “How do I solve this problem? I am here working together with these other people providing support to them and receiving support from them. As a communicating species, let’s work together.”
Things need to change, but change does not have to be scary. We can do it if we work together.
Step 1, acknowledge that we have a problem. Step 2, seek support and begin to work as a team globally. Step 3, change our identity. That is what a person who has experienced alcoholism finally does, “That is what I used to do. I am not doing that anymore. I have a new identity now. I have been clean for twelve years.” We have to begin to put the pieces together, showing that there are very successful ways to acknowledge that we have a problem and begin step by step to create something better.
One of the core elements that we discussed when I interviewed Paul Hawken was the reality that without hope, people do not act. It is very easy in this particular era to get dissuaded from hope and to feel like there is not very much you can do because the fact of your individual actions will have an impact of 0.00000003% if you were to live in a treehouse. Comparing that against what happens from this industrial world where we are creating a lot more carbon than wherever drawing down, we are creating a lot more other greenhouse gases that we will not even be able to draw down.
People get into this moment where they feel trapped, unable to make a change like it is too much effort and they can throw up their hands and give up. What would you say to that person who might be overwhelmed by the enormity of the climate crisis or the climate challenge that we are all facing so that they can re-engage and start to feel they too can make a difference?
The heart of it is personal identity, which is bruised right now on a global scale and if we begin to say, “I have made promises to myself over the course of my lifetime. I am going to see if I can stay on track with what I said I was going to do.” In many cases, most people want to help if they can. Find your niche and do the best you can at that and spread the word that, “I have an idea.” It is a global suggestion box. When you are changing a whole civilization, you want to move. I have two slogans. One is a quote from Gandhi, “Speed is irrelevant if you are traveling in the wrong direction.”
That is part of the acknowledging piece but then the idea is, “What do we want?” We want to meet our needs. We have been thinking that, “We already got needs met so let’s move along to these wants.” We have not got the needs met. We need to be self-aware to the extent that we can say, “I do acknowledge that we need to do some work here. I am going to change my personal identity such that maybe that big car is not what I want to have as my symbol of status.” This is anthropologically true. Humans need a sense of status. They need a sense of belonging in the group. They can get that status by being a very kind, generous person.
I am driving a beat-up car but that is not what I want you to be judging me by or giving me respect by. I want you to give me respect because I care about you and that is why your podcast is right on in terms of the way I am thinking. If we can begin to change our personal identity or at least regroup in the way we think of ourselves then you make up the decision that you are going to change. You are going to seek out these people in your neighborhood and in your workplace who are like-minded because now the conversation is, “We are changing now.” I have known from many years of writing sustainable books that can’t preach at people but you can say, “Here is what I am learning.”
You find other people who are thinking the same similar things. You are not just an individual anymore. Now you are beginning to get a critical mass of people who are creatively building a new world. You begin to link up with them and you begin to give them a sense of personal power. That is happening now. I am not going to call down the whole ability of us to make change because we can but when we are changing our personal identity and we are empowering ourselves, let’s make it clear that we are also going to do what we have always done as humans, which is get with the tribe.
I am seeing this happen in various parts of our political structure, which is badly bruised. I see people who are saying, “We are MoveOn.org. We are going to work together to create and to go for this one goal that we are working towards. I agree with you that climate change is it right now.” We need to be asking the question for everything we do. How is this going to have an effect on climate change? To go back to what I was saying in terms of respect and status, if we change the symbols of our civilization, that changes the whole paradigm then we start to build things in a different way.
We start to build good communities. We start to manufacture cement and steel and all these other energy-intensive things to meet the climate change need that we have. We need to be having political people step forward. That involves that individual who has this new identity. All of a sudden, you are going to the political caucuses. All of a sudden, you are going to say, “What do you think about climate change? That is up at the top of my list here. I will not elect you unless you have an honest and helpful answer on that.”
We need politicians to be part of this whole huge change. As a matter of fact, it is very necessary that we elect leaders who can understand what the problem is too. As individuals, we group together, we begin to get like-mindedness, we begin to be better informed by media like your own and we empower ourselves. If we do not quite reach that level and we still do not feel hopeful, you work on willpower and then say, “I am not sure if it is all going to work out.” It is not going to be very satisfying if you are moping around and saying, “I am going to last it out here.”
You are going to feel much better if you have a sense of pride rather than shame. That is one reason why I began to look at the idea of not just providing facts in my writing but also providing role models and providing people who get it. They are gradually moving forward with the lifestyle that can I intrigue other people too.
Let’s talk about Tickling the Bear. Could you share a brief synopsis of the story and more about why you chose to write this as a work of fiction as opposed to yet another nonfiction piece of work?
The writing of nonfiction work has to be telling a lot of the bad news. I worked at EPA for a long time, for ten years and I was the person who had to write the articles about the Superfund site and etc. It gets to be a lot of research and work to be coming up with this and then even defending yourself. When I came up with one article for the Rocky Mountain News, the editor changed the title to, “Chicken Little says the sky is falling.” You get worn down by that. I also had a guy from Denver Business Journal who said that I was a threat to the world as we know it because I was a columnist at the Denver Post for a while.
I agreed with him. I do want to change the world as we know it. I wanted to do some writing that was in my advancing age. I wanted to have a bit more fun, at least for a while, more smiles per hour. I began writing a novel. It took me five years to write because I am a great procrastinator when I am given the opportunity. I noticed that five men in my neighborhood passed on. Some were old and some had a disease. I began to think, “What would it be like if you knew that you that could be dying?” We all need to be thinking that. We all need to be not evading our mortality. We need to be celebrating our life all the way to the end.
I thought, “I am going to write a book about a guy who has been diagnosed as having a potentially fatal disease. I am going to build a world of people around him that say, “I don’t think so.” His daughter tells him, “You are a healthy person. If you have a 5% chance of survival by this diagnosis, you are in the 5% who are going make it because you have always exercised and eaten well.” The protagonist is a guy whose life is threatened by a virus. I came up with the virus idea before COVID. I call it BC, Before COVID.
I wanted to build role models around him. One guy is a dropout from Wall Street. Another guy is a dropout from Silicon Valley. They would rather live their lives than try to amass money and, in some cases, without ethics. They create their own jobs and own lives. That is the key point in this book. These are people who are creating their lives rather than letting their lives be created.
You are talking specifically to my heart here. I am in Silicon Valley or close enough to it to call myself in Silicon Valley. This is where I spent my teen years. I am in Santa Cruz County. I went to college here and I am not leaving anytime soon. I live here. I have a home here. My husband works in high-tech. I went to Santa Clara University for my MBA. I was one of two lone people who were not hoping to work or continue working in tech in some capacity.
“What would it be like if you knew that you could be dying?” We all need to be thinking about that. We all need to be not evading our mortality. We need to be celebrating our life all the way to the end.
I thought, perhaps in going through my MBA, that I might one day pivot to working in that industry. Through the entire course study, I only felt like I was doubling down on wanting to do something more in natural products, feeding people and giving them the right sustenance affordably because I have spent a lifetime in this career path. I also think that there is value in that for humanity. You are working specifically to feed people in your community with the forests you are building by planting fruit trees, even if they are orchards. You are working to feed people within your community with this forest farm perspective that is more regenerative that sequesters carbon instead of doing a bunch of tilling.
I am curious for you to talk a little bit more about how your book might integrate some of these ideas and get people thinking about them differently so that it is not just, “It is some hippie commune off in the Colorado mountains or some community often in Sweden or Denmark. That is not what we do here in America.” Do you see what I am saying?
I do. Let me continue on with the idea of who my characters are. I wanted them to portray people who can trust each other and people who are a modestly self-assured thing. My sister lives in Palo Alto and I am not calling down Silicon Valley but it is a certain lifestyle that is beyond the means of many people. I wanted to create people who had built their own lives. One guy is a Japanese herbalist and he wants his son to join the business. His son is the one that dropped out of Wall Street.
Another person, the protagonist who is ill is a professor of Future Studies. He is working on a project where they are coming up with a time capsule to be delivered in 200 years. Another person is an activist and is going to run for state senator. Another person is something like yourself, dealing with cultural artifacts and bringing them into the world for their sense of meaning. The fourth person, the protagonist’s brother is a good worker. They do have a farm in Northern California and he is working on a huge totem pole that celebrates the culture of Northern California going back 10,000 years, the biological aspect of where they live.
These are people, in a nutshell, who care about things. This is in keeping with your title. We can’t get anything done unless we care. As I wrote the book and I developed these characters, I was thinking, “I hope people can laugh out loud at this, cry on the sly and ponder themselves silly. I want this to reach people and have them think about how they might be similar to these people riding their bikes around the city, having salmon Sundays and get-togethers where they say, “Let’s eat a little less meat.” The point is that it is not preaching. If there is any preaching, I am not doing it anymore. It is people living their lives and like life, there is some sex in the book. It is a novel portraying the world of people who are independently creative.
This question comes up for every author of fictitious works but people wonder if the characters happened to be based on people from your life or perhaps other people that you might admire. Perhaps there is a Paul Hawken in the book. I do not know. I am curious to see how you develop these characters. How much of yourself are you putting into them? As every author will say that, “There is something of myself in all of the characters.” I am wondering if there is a particular set or individual that resonates with you differently than the other characters that feel more like home to you.
I had another podcast ask me the question, “Are some of these people your friends? Are you in some of this?” Absolutely. You are, more or less, in all of them. I told my daughter, “You are not that daughter.” The fact is you are coming from the place of your lens on the world. The protagonist, a professor, was a guy who was my professor when I got my Master’s Degree in Environmental Science. He was a rambling guy. He took the bus down to the classes. He would, in fact, invite some of the honor students to his house for a salmon fry or something. He would ride his bike around Boulder.
He is a model for who the professor is. I am into herbalism as a preventive way of looking at things. Maybe I am a Japanese herbalist. Not that I know that much. I know people who want to be active politically so the woman from Denmark is the one who I had in mind there. They had people that I know who are politically active. It is true to operate it off of what you know. My greatest pleasure in putting together the story was to take the favorite little vignettes from my own life. I admit it.
Some of these romances in the book are directly out of my life. Some of them are close but that goes back to the idea as I close the loop on one romance, it brought tears to my eyes because I was thinking, “This is what people can do if they are taking care of each other.” The guy who is the Wall Street dropout and who is very strongly considering joining as father’s herbal business, Kibo, which means hope in Japanese, does something incredible. He traveled all the way to Borneo as his friend’s health continues to decline to find a possible indigenous cure for the virus that Mark has. In a novel, they can do that. They can go all the way around the world and march into the Borneo forest to find the indigenous cure. I enjoyed being somewhat fantastical as well as retelling the story about my girlfriend from high school.
I wondered in a way if you had been inspired by the medicine hunter, Chris Kilham, who I interviewed a few episodes ago. He is someone I have known for many years in the Natural Channel and has traveled all over the world to help find medicines of all sorts around the globe. It was such an interesting walk through history to learn from his perspective how the world has changed in the years that he has been out there doing all of this good work. Working to document where our herbs come from and the wage disparity and how it affects people on the ground level in different spots around the globe.
In terms of herbalism, I have not listened to the podcast yet but I have been very interested in this because it seems to be such an obvious piece of our daily life. We are drinking herbal teas. We were willing to go back to that length. We understand that we are what we eat. Many of us realize that it is very valuable to be eating natural things. Our prescription drugs are based largely on natural products. It seems like an informed consumer of the right herb at right time needs to come into the mainstream, along with the idea to get rid of processed food.
I am on the way to removing dairy from my diet. Let’s say that I have loved milk my whole life.
I had to give it up too.
I still have a bit of dairy in the form of cheese or yogurt from time to time but I have been working to get my husband to also give up milk because I have made my transition to plant-based milks. So far, I like oat milk. I am using non-GMO milk but I like it in my coffee which is part of the reason it is my replacement but I do not use milks in much else aside from something like yogurt.
I am trying to transition to a more pure diet of whole foods and less meat than I used to eat because the more I delve into this climate activism piece, the more it is hard to deny the impact we have and even making the right decision, working with local farmers and getting responsible meats is very difficult and the supply is not endless. If everybody was to eat that way, we would not necessarily have enough. Making the judgments about, “How much meat do you need? What is overconsumption?” We have been told a book of lies about the nutrients we need. We do not need 2,000 calories a day and most of us, far less. A fireman firefighting in a wilderness might need 3,000 or 4,000 in a day.
For most of us, we do not need that. We also do not need all the grains to hold us over. We just need to eat differently and more healthy fats, nuts and seeds in addition to fruits and vegetables, which we should not necessarily limit ourselves on. Also, a variety of lean meats or proteins can help us be sufficient for the long-term. Whether that is going to lagoons and tofu or going to rice and beans or going to some lean meats like fish. We make those choices for ourselves but getting to a point where we have a sustainable community that can exist for the next generation, thinking about the world that my children will live in is undeniable that we all have to make certain changes in order to adapt for that future to ensure that we are living and breathing when it comes.
That is a huge change that we are going to be making. I had the pleasure of doing a TV documentary called Sustaining America’s Agriculture. I got a year of pre-research on it. I went to 25 of the country’s best farms. I am seeing that these skillful farmers are changing. As you were speaking, I wanted to mention something that was one of the most exciting interviews I have ever done, that is to go to the Land Institute in Kansas or West Jackson. At that time and still is working on transforming agriculture from a seed-based, annual crop, into perennial crops.
That is the sweeping change that I like to see. Let’s think about just reinventing agriculture and housing. Let’s look at it in terms of a long shift that we are going to make. Gradual shift, like you say. We are going to be adding fish maybe twice a week and beginning to look at other things that can pop us up. Another story that that occurs to me is I was doing another documentary called Mega-Cities. We were in the heart of Los Angeles, where there was a guy giving spirulina tablets to these destitute kids. He saw an incredible jump in their vitality and their ability to be quiet in class and etc.
The redefinition of a life well-lived is at the top of the list for how we get started.
It is both the little changes and the huge changes that we are working on. In the garden, what I am working on is telling people, “I am not tilling anymore. I am hand digging close to an acre.” I want to keep the carbon in the soil and I am growing a lot of cover crops to put more carbon back into the soil where it has been for millions of years.
It has changed my approach to weeding. I am like, “It is not doing any harm there. It is its own little cover crop that weed there. I will just trim it back a little bit.”
This gets back to what you were talking about. I remember talking to you and telling you that I came across the word apocaloptimist. It is possible for us to realize it does not all have to happen at one time right now. For example, we are making the transition to renewables but as Biden has said, we are still going to be using some fossil fuels. We have our sights set on what we want. That idea of putting something before us that is a major goal on a mission that can give us a renaissance too is going to help empower people to say, “We are going to do this.”
The emotional content is what is going to change us. That is why I wanted to write fiction because fiction, if you think of all the novels that have changed history, Aldous Huxley, Orwell and Dickens, going back a long time, a lot of these authors have changed the way people think. I am hopeful in that regard that we can and will make a change but we have to keep reminding ourselves, “This feels good while we are making these changes. I feel proud of myself now.” Rather than having an emotional sense of shame, all of a sudden, I am realizing, “I have pride.” That is more of a draw. That is telling the positive side of things in a novel.
It’s going to be more compelling to people than to be told, “We are never going to make it.” That is the way I live my life. I have my down days but I bounce right back. To get beyond this, you’ve got to keep yourself busy and be doing something that has a sense of purpose. You’ve got to be doing things that meet your needs to communicate. I am very strong on the idea that we knowledge that we Americans are not meeting our needs. We tend to think that we have everything going. We spend the most money per capita. We have the biggest GDP. We have the most debt. We have the most infant mortality.
For many other reasons, we are not at the top of the pile. We have a challenge that enables us to be creative and realize that there are some very different ways of doing it. They are all going to be okay. It is going to be more comfortable to live a lower-stress life. In terms of the whole metabolism of our civilization gradually slowing down and realizing how good it feels. A material sense that is spoken of as being throughput, we are going to have fewer things going through our civilization. We are going to say, “Our paradigm has said that the environment is inside the economy. Everything is inside the environment.” To go along with something that we know to be fake news, “You can become happy if you consume this and this.” It’s a lie.
Let’s talk for a moment about living this more sustainable and minimalist lifestyle. We are both seeing this trend. All of us are aware. You are seeing a resurgence in slow fashion coming back to the forefront as opposed to this fast fashion, change every week. The throwback to the ‘80s mom’s jeans has even meant that some old Levi’s are found in warehouses and then recirculated as they were back in the ‘80s. They are more durable. They last longer and are not full of these elastic fibers that are plastic that breaks down quickly and means that you have to buy a new pair of jeans. Some things are starting to turn. We are seeing that tide. We are also seeing this trend where people are replacing their gas cars with a new, bright and shiny Tesla or a new, bright and shiny electric vehicle, thinking they are changing the world.
I have some qualms about this particular thing because if we are automatically recycling what was old and moving right into the new, bright and shiny, we are having to capture rare earth minerals to fuel that vehicle or that machinery. We are now pushing the gas guzzlers into a lower traunch of the economic sector who then suddenly buys them because they are cheap and then can’t afford to fuel them and now are stuck and not able to move around the world. These unintended consequences can start to ricochet or have a domino effect and then further harm those in a lower economic sector.
I wonder what your thoughts are about that and how we can shift our thinking as a community and as a nation to encourage people to care more for the underdog. That person is not going to be able to go out and get a Chevy Volt like the one I had for a few years before turning it in after the lease expired. They are going to be less capable of going out there and getting even a used Tesla. That is not on the horizon for many people. How do we make this more real?
As we long suspected some of it comes down to when you hit the wall, you make a change. When we hit the wall with the pandemic, a lot of people did start to change. There was much less expenditure on clothing and skin creams because we did not have to encounter other people quite as much. Things can change and it will come down to economic distress but that economic distress gets people on public transportation. It begins to have people wearing these watches saying how many miles they walked.
If it becomes fashionable to be healthy and that is what we are both about. People change because not only do they have to but they are beginning to see the you-know-what has hit the fan and now we need to change. Piece by piece, they will begin to go to the used stores and drive. I am the guy that I mentioned who drives the old car. Two Volvos in a row, I was the guy who was driving the Volvo. This gets into a feeling of mine that if you look at what the value is of a small house or a beat-up car, as you begin to change, you are beginning to see, “That Volvo is the safest car on the road.”
I do not have to worry about anybody stealing it. I am not ashamed of it. It is great for camping. It has got a six-foot bed in the back, one of the station wagons. For many years, I took the sense of pride that I was keeping that vehicle alive and I did not have to be buying something manufactured. Much of it is about getting the mind open and then having people say, “Not only am I willing to do this but as I linked up with other people who are like-minded, we are all thinking that this is a good idea to begin jumping on the bus.” I held back on riding the bus until I got on and I made an adventure out of it.
I wrote a story for the newspaper about my backpack and my whole thing about riding the bus to work. So much of it is about what we think of ourselves and what we are not only willing to do but what we also have to do. Think about the idea that a small house not only has a very shorter mortgage period but it does not require as much maintenance. You can fix it up the way you want. If it is a house that happens to face south, you can have your solar energy on it and your passive solar as well.
We are talking about the content of an earlier podcast I have with Dr. Vimal Thomas George, who wrote the book Health in Flames, which is a plea to Americans to consider putting away more money and spend less of it. You can get out of debt and even become financially independent before you are in your retirement years if you take these approaches if you buy a smaller house or even a condo because that is what you need as opposed to what you might want. You are living a little bit more meagerly throughout your life and flipping on your head what you consider putting away each year so that you are not a slave to the job of 9:00 to 5:00 until you’re 65.
You remind me of my friend, Vicki Robin, who wrote Your Money or Your Life. You should have her on your show because she has lived that life very well. She made the point that by putting aside this money, Joe Dominguez was able to retire extremely early. If you think about the idea that, “I am going to consume less money. That is going to mean I am going to go into less debt because I am not going to be consuming as much.” You get into the second tier, which is, “If I have less debt, I have less interest on the debt.”
The pandemic taught us that we could put money aside. My special hobby during the pandemic was investing in green energy and green materials. I had a ball and I said, “I am helping these companies become stronger by putting my $200 every couple of weeks into this fund.” I watched it to go down plunge in a couple of weeks and it has bounced back.
This is market volatility. Especially in times like what we are seeing happen in Ukraine, uncertainty hits a global empire and suddenly, markets respond in funky ways whether or not we want them to. Sometimes you have to sit tight and wade through it but I have kept all my investments where they were. Like you, I searched for green energy and things to invest in because I put my money where my mouth is.
It is interesting going into the backstory of where the lithium comes from and telling my friends about it. If we communicate each other about what we are excited about, we can’t make a change until we are whole people, until we are excited and passionate people. If we can’t make it quite to passion, at least interested and curious people, we bring our strengths and as it is happening during the pandemic, maybe we can lose that job because we can find another job. Let’s find a job that we enjoy doing and we have just given ourselves five days a week. We may have given ourselves a job where we can be co-owner in that business. We may find a job where we can have a four-day week.
You have to first have a big dream. You have to have a vision of where you are going and create a scenario for how you might get there.
The market can do certain things. I am skeptical that it can do everything but I think that our preferences, if they are intelligent, can begin to drive the whole thing. If we hold up in front of our noses, what it is that we want, we can go get it. The redefinition of a life well-lived is at the top of my list for how we get started. That brings me back to another piece of our conversation. In order to build a co-housing community, we have to first think, “What do we want?” During one of our sessions it was like, “Let’s sit down on the living room floor here and talk about what place that we want.”
The guy who was the designer of the neighborhood who still lives here said, “I would like it to be a Southwestern Santa Fe style community.” Somebody in that living room said, “We are going to have that. I can hear that mission bell going as they have in Santa Fe. My parents happened to have a bell on their barn floor and we can have it.” We are dreaming. Dreaming is not a bad thing. It is fun. Dreaming and visioning, we need to give ourselves permission to be excited about this new vision and to infuse our excitement to other people and for them to understand that we are working together to create a new vision of how humans should live.
You asked before about Paul Hawken, one of my characters. He is in there because this is exactly what he is thinking too. He thinks that we need the vision of using the seed, a seascape or the perennial polyculture. You got to first have the big dream. You got to have a vision of where you are going and create the scenario for how you might get there. You are finding out you are making progress not only in the community level but you see now the whole state of Washington, it is one leg coming out at a time.
As we prepare to wrap, I wonder if there is one thought that you would like to leave our audience with and share the best way to get in touch with you because I understand they can pick up your books on Amazon. If there is a specific way that you to be contacted, why don’t you go ahead and share that?
I have begun to rebuild my mailing list. If people go to my website, DaveWann.net, they can join this mailing that I am going to be doing every three weeks. It is borrowing from my non-fiction books. There are little pieces of wisdom that I drew from other people and dreamt up myself. DaveWann.net gets people involved with my mailing list. I am on Facebook if people search for DaveWann.Author, they will be able to find this new offering that I am putting forward and maybe we can have a dialogue together, “Dave, I liked that idea but have you ever thought of this?”
Those are two ways of keeping up. I do strongly recommend the book Simple Prosperity. This book has more or less catapulted these characters that I put characters that I created into the world. It is almost like they jumped out of that book and jumped into the novel. I would certainly like to have people look at that book. Affluenza still has some resonance. It is an old book but it has a lot of common sense and a little bit of humor too.
Thank you so much, David, for joining me.
Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
Readers, it is time for that simple ask. We have had this incredible discussion with David Wann that I hope has gotten you thinking. You can reach out to him via his website DaveWann.net. His latest novel, Tickling the Bear, portrays that small band of colorful change-makers that are on the cusp of building a new society, one in which simple prosperity is the new normal. That is the world that we are all seeking to build here. I encourage you to go out and check out both of those books.
Thank you, readers, now and always, for being a part of this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. We can even regenerate Earth. Speaking of, if you want to dive deep into that entire concept of regeneration, I did record an eleven podcast series covering the book, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken. You can listen to the entire series if you go to my website CareMoreBeBetter.com. You can just look under the category of regeneration and you will find them all right there. Thank you for being a part of this community.
- Dave Wann
- Tickling the Bear: How to Stay Safe in the Universe
- Ethan Welty – Past Episode
- Affluenza: How Overconsumption is Killing Us—and How to Fight Back
- Paul Hawken – Past Episode
- Chris Kilham – Past Episode
- Sustaining America’s Agriculture
- Dr. Vimal Thomas George – Past Episode
- Health in Flames
- Your Money or Your Life
- Simple Prosperity
- Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation