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Why Small-Scale Climate Solutions Won’t Work | Dr. Robert Eberhart (Stanford PhD)

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Due to the sheer scale of the climate crisis, many efforts dedicated to environmental preservation seem all for naught. Small-scale climate solutions, even though established with good intentions, cannot simply catch up with today’s rapid ecological decline. Let us hear from Dr. Robert Eberhart, associate professor of management at the University of San Diego, on how to solve this alarming problem. He explains how to get rid of individualism and entrepreneurial ideology that prevent us from achieving collective impact. Dr. Eberhart also discusses how to rebalance our economy and build a better world by taking action against big banks, privatizations, political oppositions, and the destructive MAGA mindset.

 

About Robert Eberhart

Care More Be Better | Dr. Robert Eberhart | Climate SolutionsRobert N. Eberhart is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of San Diego, where he studies how entrepreneurship shapes society. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University. His research spans topics such as how institutional change has complex effects on new firms and how an ideology of entrepreneurship affects society. He won awards from Responsible Research in Business and Management (2020), Organizations and Management Division Best Theory Paper (2017), Outstanding Scholar Award at SCU (2017), and Best Paper Award at the Western Academy of Management (2016). He is also visiting faculty at Oxford University, where he explores space entrepreneurship. He served as the Vice Chairperson of the U.S. Dept. of State and METI’s Japan-US Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council.

 

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/reberhart/

Guest Website: https://www.reberhart.org

 

Show Notes: – Raw Video

Looking Back – 01:56

But as we get started, I’d love for you to tell a little bit of your origin story. Well, your success in entrepreneurship of international wines to the entrepreneurship of space.

 

Santa Clause Hypothesis – 05:29

How do we escape that and build things that can work? And I think as we start this discussion, let’s give some examples. What is a small scale solution that really probably won’t. Sure.

 

Why It Fails – 08:19

Well, there’s several things going on here. One, and it’s fundamentally our orientation of solution.

 

Privatization Problem – 11:26

How do we then integrate? I mean, that’s why the problem is so big, right?

 

Education Curriculum – 15:53

At the same time that Joe Biden in the office has signed up on more new projects for oil fracking and oil exploration than I think anybody on the left really anticipated.

 

Opposition – 22:30

I’m kind of thinking about this from a more kind of global perspective. One of the things that Paul Hawkins said when I had him on the show when he was discussing his work in regeneration.

 

Gerrymandering – 35:04

I think partially a lot of things have happened. And part of it is beyond my say, certainly gerrymandering is a problem.

 

Voting – 36:47

I think this gets to one thing that is on everybody’s mind because it’s an election year and that is how we vote.

 

Entrepreneurial Ideology – 48:51

I wondered if you have any kind of closing thoughts that you’d like to share with our audience, particular tools that you might recommend that they look at as I’ve somewhat set the stage with my reading list with Noam Chomsky and Lives of a Cell, which are perhaps two very different approaches.

 

Episode Wrap-Up – 59:26

To find out more about Robert and Everhart and his work, visit RobertEverhart.org. Or you can just go to show notes.

 

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Why Small-Scale Climate Solutions Won’t Work | Dr. Robert Eberhart (Stanford PhD)

Welcome to another interview episode of the show. We’re going to talk about how and why certain climate change solutions, especially those that are small in scale, simply won’t work. We’ll explore why as we seek to discover what it will take to build solutions that are larger in scale and can do what we hope and reverse global warming.

For this discussion, I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of my favorite professors of all time, Robert Eberhart. I got to know him when he taught Social Benefit Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University for MBA students like me back in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Robert Eberhart serves as an Associate Professor of Management at the University of San Diego, where he studies how entrepreneurship shapes our society.

He is also an out-of-this-world visiting faculty member at Oxford University, where he explores space entrepreneurship. He earned his PhD at Stanford University and was the Vice Chairperson of the US Department of State and METI’s Japan-US Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council. With that, I’ll bring him right up.

Welcome to the show, Robert Eberhart.

It’s great to see you again.

Looking Back

It’s great to see you too. I know we could talk about so many things, and we probably will bridge topics. As we get started, I’d love for you to tell a little bit of your origin story, your success in entrepreneurship of international wines to the entrepreneurship of space.

I’m happy to discuss that. I came up as a Silicon Valley executive and then eventually started a company in Japan, taking advantage of my Japanese language skills, which I had learned in graduate school when I was a kid. I had selected wine as one of the many commodities that we were going to sell based on a very technical solution to inventory control and management.

In a process that we can go into if you want to make it long, but over seven years, we became the largest independent distributor of California wines in Japan. We’re also distributing in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Mainland China. In fact, I remember in Mainland China, we had a license to import wine and everything except human body parts. I remember it said that.

I sold it in 2007. I was invited to do a bunch of other things, as you get when you’re a successful entrepreneur. After a discussion with my family, I told them, “I want to do what I want to do this time.” I went back into research. I eventually got my PhD at Stanford when I was 53. I started and engaged in a career in research, which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly. The teaching has been wonderful, especially when we have spectacular students like you.

I personally loved how you made all of our learnings real. I remember one of the core questions that you asked in our social benefit entrepreneurship classes. You were like, “Does it really work? Should it?” These are the big questions that you really need to think about as a cause-oriented marketer and a cause-oriented entrepreneur. It has to. When you take this research perspective, you’re seeking to prove a hypothesis or disprove a hypothesis. It either works or it doesn’t.

Many of the innovations that we’ve heard about and that we’ve talked about even on this show may seem really cool but may not move the needle in the way that you intend them to. In fact, as we talk about this and as we really deepen our understanding of what is a small-scale solution versus one that’s larger, I wanted to share this statistic that I learned about through a podcast on NPR, researched it, and in fact found that it was true.

Santa Clause Hypothesis

If my household, for example, were to live a zero-waste lifestyle, consume no petrochemicals, meaning we bike or walk everywhere, use public transport or green efficient transport, no plastic goods, and compost all of our table scraps while growing much of our own food, the impact we would make would be akin to 0.000000003%. This is a rounding error. How do we escape that and build things that can work? As we start this discussion, let’s give some examples. What is a small-scale solution that probably won’t?

We can think about this a lot. I really appreciate you staging the question as a hypothesis. Let me start by saying what we call much of this offered climate solution. We talk about it in terms of what we call the Santa Claus hypothesis. You can easily disprove Santa Claus without resorting to how reindeer propels or what color his suit is. You can simply show the number of homes he has to visit in a particular given time and show he has to move faster than the speed of light. Disproved.

We have the same approach when we want to think about climate change. Probably the right way to put it is that all the carbon removal, sequestering, and mitigation efforts in the world are taking tens of thousands of tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s great, except we have to take up two gigatons of carbon.

That’s a huge difference.

It is ten billion tons annually if we’re going to do it in the next 10 or 20 years. We’re at 0.00005% of that. Of all the plants that we have, various sequestering through concrete, smokestack mitigations, or all kinds of things, we have to have 50,000 times that and spend something. Some people estimate over $10 trillion or half the United States GDP annually to get this going.

It’s important to understand that we’ve been making this mistake, pouring carbon into the atmosphere for 150 years. Other countries are trying hard to catch up to us in terms of dumping. What’s the net effect, even given all our efforts, our intentions, and everything else? In 1960, we had about 320 parts per million of free carbon in the atmosphere. In 2024, we’re approaching 450. It has been a steady increase without change over that whole time. The question is, why are we failing? That’s what I want to address here in a minute. Is that okay to go far?

Sure. It sounds like a plan.

Why It Fails

There are several things going on here, and it’s fundamentally our orientation of solution. Let me point this out a bit. We are thinking that these solutions are individual or individual organizational efforts. In other words, if I recycle, if I buy an electric car, if I pay a carbon fee on my airline, or if a company comes up with an innovation that will sit on the back porch and suck carbon out of the air, all these things are individual efforts. The problem is when you’re dealing with spending $10 billion to trillions of dollars of expenditure and getting out this much, if you think about it, that has to be governmental. That has to be societal level. We have to all do this as a coherent whole.

Let’s think about that a little bit deeper. The weird thing about this, and it’s part of the way, and I’ll talk about it in a little bit, the way we’ve come to think of things, we’re looking for a magic bullet that is an innovation that will magically solve this problem for us. It’s like waiting for AI that works. It’s always the next rev. The problem with that is that small-scale doubled is still small-scale.

The other problem is we have the innovations in the world that we need if we’re going to solve this problem. I’ll give a quick example. I’m not suggesting that we do this. The governments of the world could decide through the United Nations or some other agency, “We’re going to ban all internal combustion engines and ban all internal combustion power plants. We’re going to ban them and replace them with solar, wind, nuclear, and whatever we can develop.

We’re going to shut down the coal-fired plants. We’re going to shut down the gas-fired plants. We’re going to replace them with other plants. We’re going to make a goal in 10 or 20 years that every mode of force in heating is electricity and every electricity is generated renewable or zero carbon.” We have all that technology. We can make those decisions. The reason that seems impossible to us is the problem. It’s because we know we can’t get everybody together to say that. It points out that the problem is not technical, entrepreneurial, and innovative. The problem is social and political.

What have we done too? We’ve privatized much of our energy. You’re talking about making a private company take on a giant investment instead of having it be a public utility. The example here in California being Pacific Gas & Electric. They haven’t made all of those upgrades and changes. In my local area, I’m preferentially paying into a system that is green energy.

However, there is still latent waste in the system. We still have outages and rolling brownouts or windouts. That is what I’ve been referring to them as because PG&E has to shut down the grid if it’s super windy for fear of igniting a new fire that could then burn our forests up, create more carbon in the atmosphere, lose more homes, and destroy more livelihoods along the way. This is one small example of that.

Privatization Problem

You also have that societal problem of people pointing the finger instead of taking accountability. We do that across cultures. We’ve moved much of our manufacturing to China and Asia. The vast scale of pollution that we see there, we’re responsible for here as much as the stuff that we’re generating in this space. How do we then integrate? That’s why the problem is so big, right?

That’s exactly right. You put your finger on the right problem when you say the privatization of much of the public utility system and the motivation becomes profit rather than service. It divorces it from policy goals. In addition, we point at China, but we’re the ones that move our factories there. It becomes finger-pointing. What’s interesting to note is that when we focus on these individual or minor things, we end up creating resistance.

Care More Be Better | Dr. Robert Eberhart | Climate Solutions
Climate Solutions: When we focus on individual problems in our society, we end up creating a resistance.

 

I’ll give you a really good example. We all know there has been a discussion about how gas stoves are bad. They generate carbon. Banning gas stoves isn’t going to help much. It does make a lot of people angry to suggest it. It makes it sound like, “Carbon’s going to impose on me.” The point is we lose a lot more than we gain because we’re not thinking. Large social changes take place over a long period of time from consistently making people see how it’s to their benefit to do it.

In my lifetime, there have been two very large social changes in the world. One of them was around 1980 when the old idea of government and industry cooperation fell apart. It became privatization, monetarists, and market forces. We live in a world where we’re all privatized, banks are in control, and all that stuff. That was a big change. It took a decade for people to change their minds from the collective idea of NASA, moon launches, and all that kind of stuff into SpaceX.

The second change, and we’ve seen it happen in yours and my short span here, has been the rise of MAGA. That’s an immense change. I would’ve never imagined many years ago that 40% of the population in the United States would depart from American democracy. It took decades of them seeing it to their benefit to do that to get them there. We can understand it and talk about sociologists, but what it is and the point of our discussion is that we can make a large social change. We have to understand how those happened and replicate those conditions.

We can make a large social change by understanding how positive movements happened and find out how to replicate them.

Also, how long they take.

They take a decade.

Education Curriculum

We know that it’s going to take a decade. We need these changes because we need to accelerate the amount of carbon that we’re cap trading and ultimately dramatically reduce the emissions that we’re creating at the same time that Joe Biden in the office has signed off on more new projects for oil fracking and oil exploration than anybody on the left anticipated. We’re grabbing more oil out of the ground than we did in the last administration. What do we do about that? How do we shift so that there isn’t this level of new oil exploration?

Everything you’re pointing out here is very smart. We can make changes quickly, and we have seen that in the past. For example, you were a student of mine. You expected to have homework, right?

Yeah.

In 1958, did you know that in California, homework at high school was illegal? It was banned.

That seems so preposterous.

It seems preposterous, but it happened and became part of our system when in the threat of the Sputnik challenge and the need to educate students in engineering and math. The law was changed and homework was imposed. All of a sudden, it is a belief that’s what we ought to educate. We need to do that kind of thing too. Where we need to start pushing, I believe strongly, is at junior high school and high school levels. We need to be putting in a nationwide push to make people aware of, sensitive to, and see it to their benefit that, “We’ve done this before.”

Let me give you another example. I’m old enough. I am older than you. I remember when cities, and I grew up in Southeastern Michigan and was born in Detroit, were choking full of carbon, smog, and carbon monoxide. The government banned emissions. They banned excess emissions and required catalytic converters and all that kind of stuff.

The cities in the United States are immensely cleaner because of that, but it’s because people said, “That’s the right thing to do.” We need to educate people. We need to think of education programs that aren’t limited to what people think but the possibilities of a better earth and faster growth through this stuff. We start working at schools and the curriculum.

We need to educate people and understand that education programs are not the limits of what people think.

I’m here in California. My son was in a play in 3rd grade, and he’s entering 4th grade, that was all around the climate. He played an energy-efficient refrigerator. It’s something as simple as that. Being part of the curriculum, he is used to hearing about these problems and challenges not only from within my household but also from school. They have a living lab where they’re growing plants, which also is something that is really helpful for integrating some of these learnings. In addition to that, when he gets into junior high and high school, it’s a part of the planned curriculum for our community. That being said, it varies so much from state to state.

We’ve seen this movement towards even wanting to privatize our education system and remove funding for public education. This is what scares me most about the MAGA mindset because regardless of whether or not Trump is a successful candidate who ends up in the presidency once more, that mindset still exists. The groundwork that has been laid by decades of right-leaning politicians has said, “We want to pull more of these resources away because you shouldn’t have to pay for your neighbor’s kids to go to school.”

That will be the lesson that’s critical. It is that we need to recreate a collective sense that we’re in it together. To me, it’s a lot more important than teaching people about solutions. Since we’re supposed to be talking about solutions, we changed the energy structure of the Southeastern United States during the depression of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In other words, instead of trying to persuade them, bring them in by spending money and improving their lives. Make collective actions seem effective.

We can complain about Biden, but one of the things he did well was the climate change legislation, which was not enough money but a record amount for that effort. There’s enough support in here, but we have to bring other people into it. One way we can do it, I believe, is not by saying, “You guys are wrong.” It is by saying, “Here’s a bunch of money to transform. I’m going to give you more income and more benefits.”

To go to the side, one of the reasons we had a strong belief in collective action in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, was the legacy of World War II. We organized and defeated an enemy. Since the ideas of individualism arose in the ‘80s, we’ve had a worse problem. We have recovered before. We can again, but people have to see benefits, not costs.

It’s almost like we have to come together across all these cultures and across all the divides of borders to say collectively, “This is the enemy. That’s global warming. How do we fix that?” It’s getting on these sides where you have the MAGA far-right and then you have the far-left. Neither of them wants to connect or talk. We’re not getting buy-in from one side or the other. You have more friction. With that friction comes a lot of resistance to change. When you have too much disagreement and not enough alignment, what happens? You only get things through Congress that everyone agrees on. What do we agree on?

It’s supposed to be that way. We should agree on more.

Opposition

I’m thinking about this from a more global perspective. One of the things that Paul Hawken said when I had him on the show, when he was discussing his work, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, which is the goal here, is he pointed out that a lot of individuals who have been working class throughout their lives are coming from a standpoint of fear. That fear motivator is what’s keeping that divisiveness so strong and an unwillingness to hear how we might solve these problems together. Part of that is even right down to the job.

We could take, for instance, transportation. My uncle was a truck driver for years. He’s retired. We know that transportation is going to change dramatically over the course of the next decade. In fact, there are already tests in communities in Europe where they have fully electric hauling vehicles, some of which are automated and can drive down the road for you without the driver in the seat. There’s this need to also consider job retraining and taking people and introducing them to skill sets.

One of the things that Paul had mentioned was that there’s this whole shift towards green energy, installing things like heat pumps in your homes and improving your HVAC system so they aren’t as costly so that you can run them more efficiently. As we make this full-sweeping transition to a green energy lifestyle in many communities around the globe that are less at risk of going down because you have wind and things like that, but that also are more responsible from an energy consumption perspective, we’re going to need skilled laborers who can do this work.

These are some of the jobs that aren’t likely to get replaced by AI. If we’re going to fear the big baddie of technology in the room, we’re going to need people to do this work. What is your thinking around that? Do you see another solution that perhaps could get us thinking about where we can take this as we head forward?

All that is right. One of the important things you said is if we’re going to build these new transportation things, and let’s assume that they’re going to be demanded, that the factories be in places that we need to convince people that this stuff isn’t beneficial to them. I don’t think Elon Musk is deliberately putting a Tesla factory in Texas to convince people that climate change needs to be fixed, but it will have that effect because people will start seeing their economic future be in electric cars. We need to convince people.

One thing I want to bring up here that is important is that we have to recognize that there is an active and well-funded opposition. For example, why don’t we have high-speed rail in California? There’s no reason we don’t have it. If you had high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it would probably triple California’s GDP. Instead, we have different airlines throwing tons of carbon into the air, plus all the driving to the thing and all the effluent of an airport.

The reason is the financial system spends a lot of money to keep the system alive. They fund things like Fox News and other things to broadcast the message of individualism, that the left is crazy, and all these things. These people have an awful lot of money. They’re active because the system benefits them. They like putting factories in China and getting low wages. They’re like, “What do we care if there’s lots of carbon going out there other than the general thing?” We need to think about how we can rebalance our economy. We need banks and investors, but how do we balance it to where it’s back to where it was, which was 3% of the economy, instead of where it is, which is 10% of the economy?

One of the major arguments that we need to put to bed is this whole idea that what leftists are advocating for is socialism. What we are talking about here is holding big companies accountable too. What we’ve done instead is make them too big to fail. We have these monopolies that are so entrenched that the government comes and saves them. What’s the government? The government is our tax dollars. Our tax dollars are funding the success of these big multinational companies. Sometimes, they pay back, but sometimes, they frankly don’t.

In the meantime, what we’re exposed to is rampant inflation and other challenges that impact our real lives, whereas if these larger companies were taxed appropriately or if they were part of the solution and we didn’t build a system that made them too big to fail. We’re in what is more of a socialist capitalism. We’re creating big companies that operate as socialist organizations in a way by saying, “You can be too big to fail, and we’re going to go ahead and foot the bill for that.”

I would personally rather that my dollars go to fund somebody’s education so they can be part of the solution than fund more success at a bank that will never really care about what I’m doing in my home and that is more likely to do things like fund oil projects around the globe. That’s the reality we live within. Chase Bank is the number one offender in that arena. Frankly, a lot of us bank with them. What do you do? You have to find another solution. Even finding out about the other solution is so hard. What bank is responsible? I moved to a local credit union.

They’re certainly not going to buy advertisements to tell you. That’s the thing. One of the things that probably makes this most real to most people, and I tell them, is that we have less than half the number of public companies in the United States than we did several years ago. They’ve become bigger and more powerful. Their interest has become their stock price. One of the things you’ll see many companies do instead of innovating solutions and making things is buy their own stock. If the best thing they can think of to do with their money is to buy their own stock, that means they’ve run out of ideas.

Care More Be Better | Dr. Robert Eberhart | Climate Solutions
Climate Solutions: Instead of innovating in solutions, corporations buy their own stock. It is the best thing they can do.

 

They can award dividends.

That’s right, and they get richer. The point is that it’s their interest to keep the system going. I don’t blame them as people. They’re acting in their own interest. We have to make sure that you can’t pile up large piles of money. The first thing, and this is saleable and is part of the solution, is we need to tax much higher, particularly if you’re buying your own stock and other practices. We also need to stop letting these companies accumulate and become large monopolies. Silicon Valley used to be the hundreds of companies that were competing. Now, it’s 5 or 6 companies that dominate the landscape.

We all know what the solution is and get there. We need to not get rid of but mitigate against the opposition, which is the modern financial system and companies. You realize they get together in groups and say, “We all have to solve carbon,” and then they put $14 into a fund and say they’re doing it. We need to get to the point where people feel comfortable and don’t get other messages so that we can get messages through. It’s like, “You need to work together. There are positive benefits for you. We can get money to you. This will benefit all of us.” With the opposition, they don’t see it because they’re given the opposite message.

Hear, hear. I’m thinking of things like British Petroleum or BP. What did they do? They helped consumers think that the carbon issue was their issue while taking no responsibility for it themselves. They’re saying that they’re working on green energy and something like 2% of their R&D dollars are going towards that. I’m not current on that number, but I’m sure it’s around that still. The last time I looked, that’s where it was. Also, the last time I looked, that’s where funding for female-founded companies was. It was 2% of VC dollars going to female-founded companies.

You’re right. There’s a lot of this counter-messaging going on. In putting together our positive programs, we need to also mitigate against the opposition because that slows us down and convinces a lot of people. It adds another thing. We ought to be careful what we choose to advocate so we don’t feed into their narrative.

That’s why I worry about the gas and electric stove stuff. It suggests that, one, we are advocating for individual solutions rather than collective. Second, it feeds into it that we’re going to take away something from them. It’s not that it’s wrong, but it’s defeating. We need to really get there because we are getting tons of messages. You see it on campuses.

On my campus, for example, there’s this sign saying, “A rainfall begins with a single drop.” That’s not what causes the rainfall or the single drop. That’s the message of individual action. Rainfall is a highly organized thing of air flows, moisture flows, and cyclone phenomena in the atmosphere. It’s a big collective effort to make rainfall. We need to transmit those messages that we all need to work together because we do.

The challenge I see here too is that we don’t have a very good way to activate as groups. We’re getting less good at that with the rise of social media. You’d think that we’d be even more connected and more able to activate, but what has been seen time and again is unless we get in person to collect, convene, and push for change, these things become a wish and a dream. It’s easy to dismiss.

I even sometimes wondered. I get all these electronic petitions coming my way. If those electronic petitions do a single thing versus the ones that I see set up in front of the store and they’re asking me if I’m registered to vote, and if I am, are making me aware of specific issues, I feel like that has more of an impact on me personally. That’s because I’m like, “You want it to be on the ballot. That’s great. What can I do to help with that?” There’s something about this in-person interchange that we’re losing.

It throws us into our, you know, individual little silo where we’re getting our own information and our own view of the world. It was probably better information when it was a set of editors who decided what the news was, but that had its own problems too.

People who listen to the nightly news together are at least on the same page, right?

Gerrymandering

That’s right. A lot of things have happened. A part of it was beyond my sight. Certainly, gerrymandering is a problem, the lack of competitive districts. In the district that I grew up in the middle of Michigan, when I was growing up, it was reliably purple. You couldn’t tell. Every two years, it switched parties, Democrat or Republican. It has become so solid. There’s no way they’re going to elect anything but a Republican forever. Other districts have become pure blue. That polarization is because of silos, but other people have studied this more. We have to figure out where we can affect change. Gerrymandering might be one. Taxing might be another.

We have to take a long view and start chipping away at this. It was chipped away from us over a very long period of time by very smart people. We need to be smart and equally strategic. We need to realize that for the Supreme Court to alter it, it is going to take a decade. We need to involve elections. We need to change schools and change funding. In other words, my view is we take all the energy trying to find little solutions that are not going to work. If we at least act collectively and craft the social-political solutions that will, eventually, we will get there.

Voting

This gets to one thing that is on everybody’s minds because it’s an election year, and that is how we vote. I spent much of my time on a live stream on TikTok with Dr. Jill Stein, who’s the Green Party candidate for president. They’re working hard to get on every ballot. In our two-party system, we all know she has a zero chance of ending up in that seat. That’s a problem too.

There are voting systems in other countries and even certain municipalities where you can have a vote-off or vote your preference. We had a vote like this when they wanted to replace Gavin Newsom in the state. There was a vote-off, like, “Who would you pick if you’re replacing him?” There was something similar when Arnold Schwarzenegger made it into the governorship here in this state, replacing Gray Davis, who was a very unpopular governor.

This is the fifth-largest economy. We have a huge chunk of the population. A lot of commerce comes from the state. That said, we don’t have a global system yet that would allow someone like Jill Stein to get into the White House, even if across party lines many people might agree with her politics. She makes a lot of sense when it comes to some of the core issues that we face from an economic perspective or from a political barrier perspective.

When we’re saying things have become so my side, your side, and nothing in between, she could be a uniter if she stood a chance, but we’re where we’re at. How do we get to a place where we can shift things? I’m not saying you’ll have the answer for that, but even the people reading this show can begin thinking about how we can change our voting systems on a regional basis. It’s going to have to start with regional and then go to more of a national basis so that we can have a real election.

The message that has to go to Jill Stein, who I do admire, and others is she can only harm.

That’s really tough.

You can only take votes away from Biden. Trump voters aren’t going to move to her. This election will be won, as it was in 2020, by 50,000 votes total. You can easily imagine that. It’s not that we shouldn’t have different candidates. It’d be great to have some younger candidates. It’s that we don’t have them. Trump is a lifetime criminal, a demagogue. He is opposed to our form of government. It will end 250 years of United States history if we do, so we can’t make that choice. I tell my children, who are young adults and are frustrated that two old guys are running, “One old guy means that you’ll get to choose again, put our candidates up, and find younger people. The other one means you won’t have that choice in the future. You are where you are.”

I’m a pilot. A long time ago, my instructor told me, “If the plane starts spinning or something, you can panic if you want, but you’re still going to be in the same place when you’re done panicking so you might as well start solving the problem.” It’s easy to panic given the choice, but we do have a definable difference between the future. I don’t think there is any rational choice for Americans. That’s me. It gets to the point that if 40% of Americans are willing to make that opposite vote, that has happened over decades of teaching, messaging, and everything else as well as the hollowing out of manufacturing, which was a bad decision and bad selling of globalization.

Care More Be Better | Dr. Robert Eberhart | Climate Solutions
Climate Solutions: If the plane starts spinning, do not panic. You will just be in the same place anyway. When you are done panicking, start solving the problem.

 

I grew up in the upper Midwest. I was laid off from my job in 1980 as a worker in an iron foundry because it closed. When a city loses 50,000 jobs and they’re lost permanently and not coming back, you’ve taken away people’s futures from them. That was a policy choice we made that was wrong in many ways and partially has resulted in what we see in the situation. The message we give them is, “It’s your fault. You didn’t train yourself for the future jobs.” It’s a radicalizing sentiment.

We need to operate within the political world intelligently and start making people feel better. When they feel better, they’ll vote better, in my view, rather than humiliating, rather than saying you’re wrong, and rather than splintering. This is the wrong time for Kennedy, Stein, and all these other guys. Although I think Kennedy will draw from Trump, but that’s me.

When people feel better, they will vote better rather than humiliating others who have different opinions than them.

I saw him speak through TikTok as well because I’ve been trying to keep tabs on what’s happening in our present political system through that platform. I found it to be really interesting the types of coverage that you’re seeing unfiltered in that space. RFK was speaking at a libertarian summit, but Trump was also there. Trump was booed off the stage at this libertarian convention.

The reality for them is that they see him as being anathema to what they want to see. It was nice to see that in a public way. We need to see more people willing to convene together and speak with gravity that they’re not for this particular individual. I’m also pretty tightly knit with some people in the regenerative farming space. They seem to have locked on to RFK and really want him to be in the presidency. My belief is many of them would’ve gone with the right party.

I know what you mean.

That’s probably votes from the Trump campaign. We live in such a fractious time. It can become really appealing to say, “I’m sick of throwing my vote away. It doesn’t matter anyway, so I’m going to vote how I feel.”

That’s exactly right. They become very individualistic and what one observer called selfish votes. In other words, they’re like, “I’m going to vote all about me rather than about the country.” It’s really important to understand that, first of all, whenever times are uncertain, politics get fractious. Japan, for example, had a long time, for decades, a single party running things, and they did a good job.

When the economy changed radically in 1990, jobs started moving in the other direction, and people weren’t certain of their lives anymore. All of a sudden, they started flipping parties back and forth. People weren’t saying that one party was better than the other, they said they were not happy with the current situation.

You see a lot of that in the US. People are like, “I’m not happy. I’m going to do something else.” The point is that it’s going in the opposite direction of where we need to go to address climate change. We need collective action. We need people to feel that we’re all in this boat. That won’t happen until things stabilize. That’s why we won’t get it this election, but we might get it in the next election if Biden wins. If we don’t, in my view, we’re in for 10 or 20 years of real problems. If we’re going to solve this, it will be by making people feel better and making people feel unified.

I have a book to recommend for anybody reading this, and I wonder if you would also agree with this. I’ve been going through and reading and listening to audiobooks by Noam Chomsky. The one that I’ve really been diving into is Requiem for the American Dream, which is also a TV series. It’s disturbing how he has laid out how our government has shifted, how it’s been taken from us, and how it’s become more individualistic. He lays out how it happened. That means if you’ve defined how it happened, then you can see how we need to unmake it too.

Care More Be Better | Dr. Robert Eberhart | Climate Solutions
Requiem for the American Dream

I’m not saying that this book has all the solutions, but it really helps you think through how we got here because it was decades in the making. It’s not even one decade. It was decades in the making. It probably started in the Reagan era and the governorship in California if we’re going back through the pages of history because this was quite a proving ground. California was a proving ground in a lot of ways for what happens when you take away things like resources for mental health, for example. What happens with that?

We see what has happened with that. There is rising homelessness. There are rising cases of suicide. A lot of people feel very helpless. How do we get to a space where we correct for that? It does come with collective action and with getting back to a space where we think about all of the people being part of a whole as opposed to mine, yours, out of my business, or out of your business type of thing.

I also want to point out a book of essays that I read when I was in high school, which was The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that work, but he really compares our society to the parts of an individual cell. It helps you to think about the whole planet and our atmosphere as the cell membrane and then all of the individual pieces of the cell as parts of our society and how they make up a part of a whole.

Even reading through some simple essays like that can help you start to see the connections between things and get you into a solutions-minded perspective as opposed to sitting here and feeling like, “It’s all too overwhelming. I can’t do anything about it.” We need to shift from something much more collaboration-inducing and pushing for the right sorts of change.

Entrepreneurial Ideology

I wondered if you have any closing thoughts that you’d like to share with our audience and particular tools that you might recommend that they look at. I’ve somewhat set the stage with my reading list with Noam Chomsky and The Lives of a Cell, which are perhaps two very different approaches. I’d love to hear from you.

First of all, I’m going to suggest you also read my book and papers that are part of this tradition. One of the things that’s happened and that scholars have paid attention to is the rising problem of inequality, in particular in our society. We’ve become an intensely unequal society in the United States, and that generates its own political problems.

My work revolves around how we explain stability. Why does it stick? Why do we not go out in the streets, protest, and say, “Let’s tax the rich and feed the poor,” and whatever it is we need to do? My work with others has identified a new ideology that has emerged out of the wreckage of the corporate stasis of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We call it the entrepreneurial ideology.

What it is, is it structures the social view and says to people who have made it and done well, “You’re a risk-taker. You’re an entrepreneur. You deserve that money. There is no reason for you to share it because it was your own individual effort that got it.” To people who have not made it, it also delivers the message, “If you’re willing to try and willing to, enough times, start a company, you too can become one of these rich people. Don’t despair.”

The message, which is entirely false, is that if you fail a lot, all successful people failed a lot before they were successful. That’s not true. In fact, you can’t even think of one of the famous entrepreneurs who failed first. Usually, they make it on their first try. It convinces people to look at their lives or examine their lives and say, “I’ve had five failures behind me. I’m on the path to becoming rich.”

What this ideology does is confirm to the wealthy and the not-wealthy that they are in a good place, that the world is operating correctly, and that everybody has a way toward success. None of that is true. The wealthy person got there because they were part of a collective, part of a family, or a part of, “I was an entrepreneur. It was an intensely collective effort and a lot of luck.”

The not-wealthy are there largely because of structural things, like family histories, where they were born, and all those kinds of things. We need positive efforts to list them out. What this ideology does is it tells us, “It’s up to you. To get rich, it’s all on you. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. You have to pull yourself out of poverty, don’t appeal to the government.”

We’ve laid that out. We believe that you can only get rid of that thing through several efforts. I’ll lay out to you what you gave me the chance to do. First, we need to alter our education system so that it teaches children that we are common citizens of a country instead of individuals pursuing our own selfish interests.

It is time to alter the education system so that children are taught not to become individuals pursuing selfish interests.

We had this country mythology in schools in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Sadly, it excluded large groups of people, so we can’t have that. We have to create these mythologies and teach them in schools where young children feel, “I’m part of this thing.” We need to adopt some stuff they do in the Military. They don’t award individuals. They reward teams. We need to move education.

The second thing we need to do is we have to depower the strength of the financial system. We need a tax on asset transactions. We should be pushing the marginal tax rates back up to 70%. We need to do something about inheritance. The third thing is we need to enthrall ourselves from the idea that the corporation’s only duty is to its shareholders.

We need to start teaching people again, as was the common view before 1970, that corporations owed and had obligations to their community, their employers, the world around them, and their shareholders too. It’s a whole group. That needs to happen educationally and also in the corporate world. It has been really weird to me because shareholders are the most protected class in the corporate world. They can’t be reduced below zero, but the employees can lose their jobs in the future. We need to start moving everything we can do.

The fourth thing that I’ve proposed very hard is we need to send young children, 18 through 21, into national service. They can pick the Peace Corps, the National Forest Service, the Navy, or whatever. We need them to go to a place where they work with others to make collective efforts, make friends for a lifetime, and develop faith in collective effort as young people.

You’re talking about also seeing productivity and action. Typically, in those service-oriented jobs, you’re doing physical work where you see the before and the after. Many of the jobs that we do that relate to being here on a computer don’t necessarily do that. There’s a psychological impact to that that cannot be discounted.

This is the reason that so many people love to do things like gardening, for example. You can see the before and after, you get your hands dirty, literally. My dad served in the Peace Corps. It was his way of not getting drafted during the Vietnam War. He went to Brazil and dug ditches. A lot of what they were doing was infrastructure to make sanitary living conditions for communities that didn’t have that sort of access.

We need that. My son, when he got his MD degree, went to Peru and started giving care to tribal people throughout there and serving for a while. Those are the four things that we need to do. It is all of those, in my view. Those things drive society towards collective action and belief in the efficacy of collective action, which we have lost. People are deliberately trying to make us lose it. We need to start in California and then move outwards because we have the political will here. We need to start.

I completely agree. I can’t find anything wrong with your reasoning. First, alter the education system. Second, depower the strength of our economic systems and tax appropriately. Third, corporations serve all, not just their shareholders. Fourth, young adults go into service of some sort.

Those are my four solutions.

If we could do those four things, it could be on the docket. Maybe a fifth thing is to have term limits in our Senate. If we’re looking at the presidential space, maybe there’s an age limit. It’s not to say that everybody’s going senile at 70, but also, if you are not younger, you may be less motivated to protect and preserve the people that are living.

It’s very appealing. We have to think about that. To me, I don’t know what the average age in the US Senate is, but it’s senior.

It’s been very senior for a long time. I know there’s some fresh blood in there that has come largely from the Tea Party side of the arena and the extreme right and left. People who are lifers are in there for 30, 40, or 50 years.

That’s right. I’m 65. If I get elected to the Senate, I’d be a young person.

The average age is quite high, but I’ll leave that number in front of me.

We need to think about that. Those are the four things we’ve thought about in a part of a book that we’re writing. None of them are original with us, but it’s the combination.

Do you have a co-author for this book? Is it being published anytime soon?

We’re finishing writing it this summer of 2024. Hopefully, it will get published sometime in early 2025. I’ll let you know.

I can’t wait. You’ll have to come back on and talk about it.

That would be wonderful.

Thank you so much for joining me. This has been my absolute pleasure.

Thanks for inviting me. You’re one of my best students, so it’s a privilege to be here.

Thank you so much. It’s high praise from you. Thank you.

Take care.

You as well.

Bye.

Episode Wrap-Up

To find out more about Robert N. Eberhart and his work, visit REberhart.org. As a reminder, we are launching our new Cause Before Commerce site this summer of 2024. It’s called CircleB.co. This site will host the same great content that you find on CareMoreBeBetter.com while also providing helpful tools to live a little greener and a little more socially and locally engaged.

You’ll find how-to guides and DIY tools to renew what you have, replace things you buy, and reduce waste. CircleB.co will also offer plastic-free products from housewares to clothing to supplements and personal care items, all of which are circular in design, that minimize waste and seek to limit or eliminate wasteful plastic. You can explore our landing page at CircleB.co.

I want to end by saying this. I want to thank each of you, my audience, for being a part of this show and community. It’s together through our collective action that we can create change. That’s what this entire episode was about. We can care more. We can be better. We can even build climate solutions at scale. We can build a society that we are proud to engage in and work with so that we can even do things like reverse global warming and build a better tomorrow. Thank you.

 

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  • Corinna Bellizzi

    Corinna is a natural products industry executive who has earned a reputation for leading the development and growth of responsible brands (e.g. Nordic Naturals, iwi, NutriGold). In her professional life, she champions social benefit programs to enhance company impact while preserving and protecting our home planet. She’s presently working tirelessly on the development of a new pre-market that seeks to achieve a carbon-negative impact. In January 2021 she launched her show, Care More, Be Better: A Social Impact + Sustainability Podcast to amplify the efforts of inspired individuals and conscious companies. Through Care More Be Better, she shares their stories in an effort to show us all that one person with one idea can have a big impact. As part of her lifelong education journey, she earned her MBA from Santa Clara University, graduating at the top of her class with a triple focus in Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Marketing in June 2021.

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