Archive for November, 2016

An Environmentalist Who’s Not Depressed?

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

While many are struggling with post-election blue , there’s an environmental professional who is not depressed. That’s right.

We woke up on November 9th, and the world had changed. Environmental leaders– and Democratic campaign staffers, people whose rights are fragile, concerned citizens, among others–have been reeling. Worried. Depleted. Overwhelmed. Disoriented.

But Brad Warren— my brother, Director of Global Ocean Health, who was featured in the June, 2016 Spheres of Influence Virtual Round Table— is not depressed. Concerned, absolutely. But not depressed.


What’s his secret?

First, he practices meditation. Shortly after the election, he told me that meditation allows him to feel whatever there is to feel. Anxiety. Fear. Dread. Anger. Helplessness. Sadness. Whatever there is to feel. It doesn’t need to be squelched, or drowned, or avoided by leaping into premature action for the sake of action alone in this time of existential crisis.


Shutterstock image

“The leader has to recognize when negative emotions like frustration, impatience, anger, lack of self-confidence, jealousy, greed start to influence his thought processes… These negative thoughts and emotions not only can lead to wrong decisions but also waste mind energy.” The Dalai Lama

Brad’s meditation practice allows him to regroup, to restore himself for the work ahead, to reflect on what has happened and why, and to ground his recalibration of his strategy in reflection rather than reaction.

His use of meditation allows him to get out of the reactive mode we’re in when we are driven by fear– when our minds our constricted–, and shift into reflection, which sets the stage for thoughtful analysis and strategic, considered response. Reflection also sets the stage for collaboration, including collaborating with others with whom we may differ.

Second, Brad has found his purpose. His clarity about his direction allows him to harness his emotions, his mind, his energy towards a strategic end. He is very clear about his role as an advocate for the stakeholders whose interests are threatened by of the unregulated waste stream that is CO2 pollution — the largest of any source of pollution, ever. An unregulated waste stream that holds the potential to disrupt every aspect of our lives, from our economy to national security to our health.

And so he continues to work with tribes along the Pacific who rely on fishing for their food and their livelihoods, to serve as a translator of science so that non-scientists can understand what’s at stake for them–especially on the policy front– and to convene seafood industry magnates whose businesses will die without fish to sell — to restaurants, to grocery stores, to us.

Occasionally I speak here as a psychologist.  This is one of those moments. As we prepare for the road ahead, we can all benefit from grounding ourselves before we jump into action. For Brad Warren, his purpose was already clear. For many, that purpose remains unclear, and the process of sorting out how to make a contribution is ongoing. There is much to do, on many fronts. Inner clarity can help wisely discern our course and inform the strategies that we adopt in this unprecedented time.

Zen and the Art of Strategy. How’s that for a book title?



November 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

Love, Responsibility and Voting

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

Since I realized in the summer of 2006 that global warming posed a threat to my children’s — all childrens’ — health and well-being, one of my most rewarding discoveries has been that our voices and votes really matter to our elected officials. This has been the most transformative aspect of becoming an unlikely environmentalist.


To recycle, or to vote, that is the question

I’d thought that we just needed to make “green” lifestyle changes, like recycling. I’m still a committed recycler, I do buy organic produce, and of course, I drive an all-electric car, AKA TheSilverLEAF, whose adventures are chronicled here.

Over time I came to appreciate that the scale and urgency of the climate crisis is so great that the only way to effectively tackle the problem is to change our polices. Our elected officials make those policies that will make or break the effort to ensure our kids a viable future.

I’ve always voted, but that new-found understanding of the key role of policy reform led me to meet with elected officials, to talk about the urgency of the climate crisis, and its implications for our children.

What I now believe is that it’s far more important to vote (and easier!) than to recycle.

Even one voice counts

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the power of our voices as voters.

For the Spheres of Influence Virtual Roundtable, I interviewed a former legislative assistant to a state Senator who told me that five or six voters speaking out on an issue is often a significant number for many elected officials. Just five or six constituents? That’s you and a few members of your extended family, or a few of your friends, or some moms from your kids’ school. I thought our votes were just grains in the sand.

The former legislative assistant also shared her observation that just one voter’s story— if it’s a compelling story— can tip an elected official’s vote. One person’s story.

My unexpected encounter with then-Senator Obama’s office

Understanding the importance of policy— and advocating for policy change— also led to my most powerful experience on my path as an unlikely environmentalist.

I’d never written a letter to an elected official before. But global warming— and my love for my kids— gave me a reason to write to then-Senator Obama when he represented Illinois.

I got a phone call from his environmental legislative assistant. We had several conversations. I was amazed. It was perhaps the most empowering moment in my life.

To Vote, or not to Vote?

Lots of people aren’t excited about our presidential candidates in this acrimonious election. Some are thinking about sitting this one out.

However, there is a great deal at stake in this particular election. Many climate experts see this election cycle as our last chance to avert the worst possible impacts of unchecked global warming.

If you don’t want your kids and grandkids to be suffering from ravages of wild fires and floods, food shortages, droughts, numerous wars over increasingly scarce survival resources such as water, and new diseases we’ve never heard of… vote your eco conscience. Even if it’s an unenthusiastic vote, it’s a vote that matters to your kids’ future.

Love and responsibility

I’m a self-employed, divorced parent with two special needs kids. I don’t have time to run around being an advocate.

But I’ve made time. Because I love my two tween boys, fiercely.

Talking to our elected officials is an act of parental responsibility. Voting is an act of love.



November 3, 2016 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

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