How can… herbal medicine support victims of state violence? With Nicole Rose, Solidarity Apothecary

How can… herbal medicine support victims of state violence? With Nicole Rose, Solidarity Apothecary

Nicole Rose (she/her) is an anarchist organiser and herbalist from the Solidarity Apothecary. She served a 3.5 year prison sentence at aged 21, and ever since has focused on supporting people experiencing state violence. She is the author of The Prisoner’s Herbal Guide and Overcoming Burnout. You can find all her work at www.solidarityapothecary.org

Learn more about Laura Hartley, workshops and courses:
Website: www.laurahartley.com
Instagram: @laura.h.hartley
Facebook: @laurahartley-publiclove
LinkedIn: @laura-hartley-

Learn more about Nicole Rose & Solidarity Apothecary:
Website: https://solidarityapothecary.org/
Instagram: @solidarity.apothecary

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please note this was auto-generated and has not been edited, and may contain errors or omissions.  

[00:00:39] I am so excited for today’s guest, Nicole Rose, who is an anarchist organiser and herbalist from Solidarity Apothecary. Some of you may know her. She served a three and a half year prison sentence, age 21, and ever since is focused on supporting people, experiencing state violence. She’s the author of the prisoners herbal guide and overcoming burnout.

[00:01:00] And before we dive in, you can check out all of her work at www.solidarityapothecary.org. She does amazing work. So please go check it out. Uh, and welcome to the public love project, Nicole.

[00:01:12] I am really excited to have you here for this conversation today because I love everything that solidarity apothecary is up to, and there’s so much I wanna talk to you about. But I really, I wanna start with this idea of herbal medicine and stress and burnout today because, you know, going back in time, grew up around herbal medicine.

[00:01:33] You know, my mother was a big advocate for it. It was a very natural thing to have in my household. But I’m curious what your first experience was. How did you first come into contact with herbal medicine and what also led you or inspired you to see it as resistance? You know, really as a different paradigm?

[00:01:50] Nicole Rose: Yeah, so I guess I had like a maybe unconventional journey into herbal medicine. I’d done some work with like autistic adults, kind of like low paid kind of care work in England while I was on bail for this kind of animal liberation campaign that I got sent to prison for. So I did like a three and a half year sentence when I was 21.

[00:02:15] And yeah, like I’d. , you know, like read some bits and bobs before I went to prison and I’d been like gardening with some of the guys that I worked with, but it was still like, you know, absolute like unknown territory. Like I didn’t have this kind of romantic grandmother figure, like pass me down this amazing tradition, like orally or anything like that.

[00:02:38] Like very kind of like colonized like approach of, you know, you know, more like corporate logos than you do plants. But when I was in prison, I had the experience of working in the prison gardens and working with like an older woman from Scotland who knew loads about plants, like various other older women and some women from like traveler backgrounds.

[00:03:02] And they kind of taught me like little bits and bobs and it was, yeah, it was that kind of. Little, you know, little things about herbs that really like, kind of sparked my interest. And I started, I got some funding and I did a distance learning course and in herbalism. And then, yeah, after that I was just like completely hooked.

[00:03:22] And when I got out of prison, I just, yeah, had this like huge. You know, it’s been over a decade now, like long learning journey of all about herbal medicine and different plant traditions and ecology and botany and yeah, and I’ve never looked back and it’s, yeah, it’s like the best part of my life for sure.

[00:03:43] Laura Hartley: What was it that you loved about it? You know, I, I love the way you said that, you know, you did the distance course and then you’re like, oh my God, I was hooked. Like what about it really spoke to you at that time?

[00:03:53] Nicole Rose: I think for me, Being in a very, like a very, very traumatic environment, like being locked in a room for like sometimes 23 hours a day, obviously less if I was unlocked to work.

[00:04:06] And yeah, seeing huge amounts of like, violence towards women and other people in prison and, you know, just like, sorry, content warning, like self-harm and suicide attempts and like, it just felt like, This big horror story and plants just felt like. like an antidote. Like they were alive and vibrant and they were like somehow resisting the prison because they were still growing.

[00:04:32] Even if the prison like staff tried to put weed killer on them, they’d still come back. And it was that like connection to something beyond, like beyond concrete that really kept me alive and it kept me connected to the land and it kept me connected to like a life outside of prison and to kind of learn about something that’s.

[00:04:53] You know, like focused on healing and it’s not just like fighting and fighting and resisting and resisting and injustice, and injustice and organizing and this like busy world. It’s like stillness and patience and tenderness and like plants having, you know, like offerings of medicine just because of who they are and how they’ve evolved and that they have offerings for us that are like, you know, beyond.

[00:05:20] you know, beyond medicine for humans, like it’s a super anthropocentric kind of human focused approach. Like plants also provide each other with medicines and other animals, and soil life with medicines. So, Yeah, for me it was just like feeling connected to something that was like alive and strong and that ultimately like was way more powerful than the prison system, than capitalism, than any kind of like human design society, like built on oppression.

[00:05:48] Like it really feels like plants to like ancestors and you know, kind of older than time and we’ve got a lot to learn from them. And yeah, that’s, sorry, , maybe that’s a bit esoteric. Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s kind of no why they inspired me for sure.

[00:06:05] Laura Hartley: I, I’m with you there. You know, I think I, you know, I’m a, I, I truly believe and, and know that plants offer medicine and offer so much to the world and.

[00:06:15] I, I think, you know, one of the things that you’re talking about there is it is this kind of reconnection to the natural world, which like so many of us have lost, you know, in everyday society through capitalism, through the, the structures that we live in and the paradigms that we live in. We kind of see ourselves as separate.

[00:06:31] And I think sometimes plants and plant medicine and herbal medicine can be that entry point for realizing that the world is, is living. [00:06:40] Right?

[00:06:41] Nicole Rose: Yeah. A hundred percent. A hundred.

[00:06:44] Laura Hartley: Yeah, I saw this, this quote by Dave Meers on your website, which was herbalist should go with the flow, embrace being on the wrong side of capitalism and the law, and put our energies towards establishing decentralized autonomous grassroots health networks that empower community self-reliance, provide care to those most in need, and reduce the need for people to access conventional.

[00:07:06] and you know, o you know, obviously you know it, conventional medicine has many benefits and I wanna establish that, you know, there. But I, I love this quote for, for many reasons, but herbal medicine is not always seen as being anti-capitalist, right? It’s not seen as radical system change. You know, a lot of the time it’s kind of seen as something a little bit fluffy or.

[00:07:30] You know, not really scientific and, you know, the, it’s kind of, there’s a, there’s a bit of an, an airy fairy edge to it sometimes in people’s perceptions. So what I’m curious about is this link, because I think, you know, you do this really well with solidarity aary. Like what is the link between herbal medicine and these incredible benefits that it offer?

[00:07:50] And, you know, being on the wrong side of capitalism, you know, increasing community self-reliance looking at community care, what is this link between them?

[00:08:01] Nicole Rose: Yeah, good question. I think, I mean, I kind of think like a lot of things aren’t like inherently political and that. It’s a kind of like, it’s a verb, like it’s a doing thing.

[00:08:12] Like I do think, you know, like plants obviously like inherently resist, like being suppressed or you know, like you’ll see them like. You know, reclaim land and stuff like this where there’s been developments you know, like ecological succession. But I do think they do . I do think for me, like it is like a, it’s like very intentional to kind of connect with plants in this way and to work with them with this kind of like worldview.

[00:08:42] And I guess for me, like I was like an anarchist and an anti-capitalist like much before I was a herbalist, so that, , you know, that was my worldview, like looking at power in society and how society’s structured and different forms of oppression and different forms of like struggling collaboration and you know, like.

[00:09:00] I wanted to politicize herbal medicine like I was, you know, I kind of grew up with a single mom who had very severe mental health issues, and that dramatically shaped me in my life, and I know that if she could have afforded to access, A herbalist or someone, you know, an alternative medicine practitioner that wasn’t just working within like a kind of biomedical framework, but could look at her holistically.

[00:09:26] So they could see, you know, her like poverty and her economic circumstances, but they could also maybe see her like hormonal imbalances or traumatic stress held in her body, which is, you know, affecting her mental health. So for me, it’s kind of like I’m really passionate about herbal medicine being accessible.

[00:09:45] and recognizing like who is excluded from it. And you know, that is like the majority of people when it’s like a kind of privatized like health service. And yeah, like I think. Capitalism in terms of like the kind of medical industrial complex, it’s like, yeah, no, like you said, like I also wanna say that I’m, you know, like biomedical medicine is like incredibly lifesaving.

[00:10:06] You know, I was in Cali this week, took someone to hospital for antibiotics. Like, I’m not like Anti pharmaceuticals per se. Like I’m obviously, you know, I like using herbal medicines cuz of their you know, they’re more ecological and we’ve like coevolved with plants and they have less side effects. But yeah, like plant medicines, you know, they can’t be standardized.

[00:10:28] Like they try really hard, like supplement companies try really hard to force a plant to become a pill, but really like, , you know, it’s still gonna have an unpredictable effect. It won’t work on one person cuz of their constitution. Maybe they don’t have the right gut bacteria, you know, emo, it might not emotionally connect with someone else.

[00:10:47] So it’s like there is this kind of like mix of like science and like traditional medicine. And I wouldn’t say magic, but like spirit somehow, you know, that is kind of like, Influencing, like how we are shaped by, by medicine or by plant medicines. And yeah, I think. , I think like seeing how we can capitalize on plants the same way that we could like standardize pharmaceuticals is, is kind of why like plant medicine offers this kind of like anti-capitalist toolkit.

[00:11:20] I also think things like building like health autonomy is really important. Like, you know, we have like a medical system where you only seek help once you’re kind of at an extreme end of the spectrum, like you have a heart attack and therefore you need to call an ambulance. Whereas like herbalism is focused on preventative medicine, on nutrition, on you know, like building, you know, reducing inflammation in the body or whatever.

[00:11:45] But, you know, heart attacks are also caused by people, you know, being traumatized and living in a culture where they’re constantly in fight or flight or pumping out stress hormones. So it’s like, The herbal medicine is amazing, but it’s also not ano alone, not enough on its own. So that’s why I like to integrate it with kind of.

[00:12:05] Different worldviews around how broader society shapes health particularly in like a capitalist system. Sorry, that was a real ramble.

[00:12:14] Laura Hartley: Not at all. I, I think that was a really powerful answer actually. You know, and, and we try so hard to, to control the natural world, you know, to kind of put it into a pill, to put it into a nice box to say, well, you know, you should do exactly this in every single circumstance, and then we can control it and tweak it and modify it.

[00:12:33] it’s a very, you know, it, it is that same framework that has led to the rise of capitalism. It’s the same framework of patriarchy, of supremacy culture, of one of like domination and one of control. And you, you mentioned something really interesting there at the end, you know, which was around, we’re kind of living in this fight or flight.

[00:12:53] Response. And I’m really passionate about this because, you know, obviously I have my own experiences with burnout. I, you know, do a lot of work in coaching and running courses on burnout, and I know that you’ve also written a book on it. So what role do, do herbs have? You know, what can they offer us with burnout?

[00:13:13] You know, do they offer us anything? What’s your experience here?

[00:13:16] Nicole Rose: Good question. So again, I think it’s, [00:13:20] I think it’s like mixed and nuanced. So yeah, for me, when I had a very serious kind of chronic illness and was in and out of hospital and healthcare appointments and everything else, like I did seek some support from herbalist and that didn’t necessarily help me recover.

[00:13:40] But I also. Sought support from other herbalists and you know, they were like more on point of what, identifying what was going on for me. So they did really support me. But I think it’s less about, okay, I’m sick, I’m gonna see a herbalist. And it’s more about. I’m gonna start learning about my body. I’m gonna start learning about what is stressing me out or what is traumatizing me.

[00:14:04] I’m gonna look at life experiences that have shaped my physiology. I’m gonna make connections between, you know, trauma and inflammation or, you know, there’s like such a massive field of research now, like we’re just at the tip of it. understanding how traumatic stress like shapes our bodies. And I think for people who are burnt out, like, and I’m just talking from like a kind of context of people who are maybe.

[00:14:30] Involved in like some sort of organizing or movement work. But you know, like it’s really stressful. Like it’s really hard like fighting power structures and working in dysfunctional groups and experiencing state repression and feeling like you’re failing and the world is burning. So it’s like organizers are like often really in this like frontline context and that has a lot of risks to our emotional health, to our physical health.

[00:14:58] And I think herbalism can kind of. Support with those. So like in terms of like, you know, practical things, like if someone is, for example, like living on a protest site, then having like immune tonics, having syrups that are like, you know, highly nutritious or great for their mucus membranes, like for cough and colds and things like, that’s gonna really help them.

[00:15:20] Kind of like survive that situation and not get sick, not develop like a worse chronic illness. Or someone who’s, you know, like in my context, like I’ve been doing prisoner support for like 18 years. That’s like pretty much like a weekly prison visit. At least like loads of, you know, horrible traumatic shit that I’ve witnessed or experienced to do with the prison system.

[00:15:43] And plants, like they really like support my nervous system. You know, they help, they help. And plants really support my nervous system. You know, they help me sleep. They help me move into this like parasympathetic nervous system state where I’m actually able to rest and digest my food and my muscles are able to be repaired.

[00:16:03] Like there’s all these functions that we need in this different nervous system state and plants can be tools to help us get there, especially. You know, like we need other beings to kind of like, there’s like trauma language, but to kind of co-regulate, like to calm down, to feel safe. And if you’re in a world where humans don’t feel very safe to you, then plants are incredible as a resource because.

[00:16:29] You know, they’re not gonna betray you or abuse you like humans will, like, they offer like a different kind of relationship. And I think for me it’s like I really don’t want people to just think, oh, I can take some tinctures or take some tablets and I’m gonna not burn out. Like for me it’s like, no, I’m building like a lifelong relationship with plants.

[00:16:49] Helped me feel less alone. That helped me calm down, that like, you know, give me support for my immune system, for my digestion that helped me do this work, like for the long haul, which is, you know, what we need from organizers. So, yeah, I think can, medicines can offer a lot.

[00:17:07] Laura Hartley: I appreciate that because I, I, you know, I think that’s, you know, a similar frame to, you know, sometimes they say, you know, we use meditation, mindfulness in a similar experience.

[00:17:16] Like, you know, that’s fine. I can just like meditate for 20 minutes a day and that means that, you know, I’ll be less stressed so I can keep doing exactly what I’m doing. and keep doing the things that are causing this level of stress in my life, as opposed to seeing it as a practice that can deepen our relationship to self, that can help redirect us to what is true for us to where we’re called to a life that maybe is a little bit different.

[00:17:40] And you know, there, there are these incredible modalities out there, herbs and plants being one of them. You know, meditation being another, but it’s so easy for how we use them to be co-op. To just kind of just keep us just pushing, just keep going in the same direction, you know, as opposed to a redirect.

[00:17:59] And Oh, definitely. One of the things, maybe this plays in a little bit as well, to collective care, which, you know, I know is kind of what you’re doing, but I wanna talk first about what Collective Care actually is, because, you know, we, you see everywhere now, right? Like self-care is like the epitome of what we’re supposed to offer ourselves.

[00:18:20] and, and self-care, you know, originated ad activist movements. There is a space for it. There is a need for it. Absolutely. And I think sometimes we struggle to imagine what collective care actually is. What are your thoughts on this and what is collective care to you?

[00:18:36] Nicole Rose: Whew. Yeah. Big question. I think. , I think it changes like in terms of context, like, so with the pandemic we saw this big rise, like kind of spontaneous rise of mutual aid groups.

[00:18:49] So collective care looked like, you know, getting masks to people, like bringing food to people who were shielding. It looked like staying at home or you know, or whatever. Like, I think that was like a good example of. The needs are like much bigger than the individual and that actually we need each other to get through this time.

[00:19:08] Whether it’s like an online support group or you know, a friendship group on WhatsApp or whatever. Like, I think it’s about like leaning into the kind of collectiveness and accepting that we need each other and that people need us and we also need people. And I think for organizer types, it’s, it’s like an interesting paradigm.

[00:19:31] In some ways we’re hugely collective, like collectively orientated. You know, we’re doing campaigns and organizing in groups and we believe in like social movements and power from below and all this stuff, but in other ways, like we’re often like real like individualistic organizers, you know, without much.

[00:19:50] Support who are taking it all on our shoulders, like as individuals. And, you know, often have like bad patterns of like self neglect and, you know Yeah. [00:20:00] Self-harm almost through organizing. Like, and that’s what I write about in overcoming burnout, like, , the reason I talk about this stuff is cuz like, I need this medicine.

[00:20:08] You know, like it’s a constant, it’s a constant struggle to, you know, like my best friend just died recently. Like he killed himself in prison. And it was just one of the worst like summers of my life and. Yeah, even me who like writes all these books about this shit, like, it was difficult to ask for support, you know?

[00:20:29] And I needed someone with me like at all times and I’m super independent as a person and I was just like, yeah, I don’t feel safe on my own. And so, you know, my friends and my partners had a bit of a rotor of like, okay, who’s gonna be with Nicole? Cuz she can’t. , she can’t do this right now alone. And I think there is like beauty in that vulnerability, if that makes sense.

[00:20:50] So yeah, it does make sense, those structures like, and you know, it’s like nice if we can like formalize them, but I also think loads of this stuff is like super informal. Like other friends I’ve had who’ve died, you know, we’ve had little rotors of who’s gonna stay with the person at what time or, you know, like rotors of who’s visiting friends in hospital.

[00:21:11] Like I think. Yeah, I don’t think like amicus invaded like community care, like I think it’s always been there in indigenous communities and different cultures, and I think it is this kind of like capitalist, white supremacy culture that, you know, pushes us to just care about ourselves as individuals and not about everyone else.

[00:21:31] Yeah, it,

[00:21:32] Laura Hartley: it’s that sense of solidarity I think is actually really what you’re describing there. And you’re right, it, we live in a hyper individualistic society that really says, you know, it’s about your success. You can do it alone. You don’t eat anybody else, and you should be strong enough to survive on your own.

[00:21:48] And all of these really toxic ideas, because we exist in community, we thrive in community. and, and that sense of solidarity that you’re describing beautifully there I, I think actually ties in really

[00:22:01] Nicole Rose: well

[00:22:02] Laura Hartley: with obviously solidarity, aary and what you guys do now. Would you, I’d love to hear a little bit about what you guys do the support that you’re offering, who you are working with and some of the projects that are coming up for you.

[00:22:19] Nicole Rose: Sure. So unfortunately it’s, it’s just too many things at once which I know many people will identify with in terms of projects. But yeah, the kind of main focus for me as a herbalist is supporting people experiencing state violence. So there’s different like layers to that. one of them is distributing a book called The Prisoner’s Herbal, which is like a book that I wrote based on my experiences of like experimenting with plants inside.

[00:22:46] It’s like 10 very detailed plant profiles and then like a big section on how to use things like salt and pepper and stuff medicinally that someone might have access to in prison and. Distribute it to like thousands of prisoners worldwide for free. And we do that by people buying the book on the outside.

[00:23:04] And yeah, and we also support prisoners to learn about plants through like the distance learning program. So that’s like one big aspect. And then another major project of mine is I go to C in Northern France with a project called the Mobile Herbal Clinic Call, which used to be called Herbalist Up Borders.

[00:23:25] We’ve just changed our name recently. So yeah, Callay is like this kind of border hotspot. Hotspot, like a. Place between France and England, like on the French side, and loads of refugees and asylum seekers try and cross the channel in boats and, and also in Lori’s it’s extremely dangerous, huge amounts of racism, like horrific living conditions.

[00:23:50] And yeah, we have like a mobile clinic. Where we serve kind of like 500 plus people a week with wound care and chest infections and coughs and colds and digestive issues. And yeah, any kind of acute medical issue you could think of, we respond to it. We drive people to hospital. We do a lot of ad advocacy.

[00:24:12] And the medicines are made by like a grassroots network of medicine makers in the uk. And then, yeah, finally there’s This Ukraine Herbal Solidarity Project, which is something that we started in in March. So yeah, we put a kind of call out for support and different people got involved and it’s mostly me and a Ukrainian herbalist working together quite closely.

[00:24:36] Lana. And she has been working at a kind of evacuation site in Poland where refugees are like crossing through the different borders and then they kind of converge at this like gas station and get a cup of tea and have a rest and the kids can like choose a teddy and it’s like super heartbreaking. But she worked there pretty much all summer.

[00:24:57] Distributing medicines to people. And these are medicines from Ukraine’s, like super vibrant herbal medicine traditions things like valerian and skullcap and elderberry syrup and things for covid. And we also distribute medicine in Ukraine, so I kind of make things and send it to Poland and Lana packages up and gets it to people at the front or different places in Poland sorry, in Ukraine.

[00:25:20] Yeah. And there’s, you know, there’s like a whole bunch of other things, but those are like the main, the main like, you know, big things that I focus on. I say we, but like, Solidarity is, is basically me, but I do like collaborate with like shitloads of people, like through these different projects.

[00:25:39] So yeah, it’s definitely a collective effort.

[00:25:43] Laura Hartley: And how can people support this? I mean, I know you mentioned with the the ERs Haas. Prisoner her book that people can buy it on the outside. Can people volunteer at, with any of these spaces in Cale or in Poland, can they support you directly? How can people get involved in supporting this work?

[00:26:01] Nicole Rose: Yeah, definitely. There’s like all sorts of opportunities. I think fundraising is like the biggest need. Everyone’s like, how can we support you? And I’m like, please help with fundraising. And then they just like never apply. And I’m like, Ugh, . But yeah, like money is just like, just the. Of my life of not having enough financial resources to make it all happen.

[00:26:22] So yeah, fundraising is massive and getting the books to people in prison, connecting with prisoner book projects. I have sent like a few parcels now and again over to Australia. I trying to remember what they’re called. Maybe Is it like Inside Out Network? I’m not sure, but yeah, like, I think. . [00:26:40] Yeah, I know I’ve had a few emails from people that have wanted to translate not translate to distribute the book in Australia, but it’s kind of not ever moved forward.

[00:26:49] So if anyone was interested in that, that would be amazing. Yeah. And then there’s all sorts of like medicine making opportunities in England to kind of contribute to all these different project. Yeah. Oh yeah. And I also have a podcast called the Frontline Herbalism podcast, which I recently started.

[00:27:05] So if folks wanna hear about these different things that’s online. And I also have like, kind of online courses which is like a way to sustain my livelihood cuz I also need to survive capitalism like everyone else. So if you wanna purchase a course and learn some medicine making skills that can support you and your community, definitely check out the website.

[00:27:26] Laura Hartley: Yeah. Okay. 100%. I think people, you know, if, if this work resonates, go learn about solidarity at Arthur Kerry. You can follow Nicole and her work online. I’ll have links to everything in the show notes below. I think this is a really powerful and unique response to the world and to oppression, to violence, to changing the, the paradigms that we live.

[00:27:50] Of really looking at what is grassroots support, what is collective care? What does it mean to look to plants as medicine and as support and as beings in their own right. So we really wanna say thank you for all that you do, and thank you for coming on the show and a big support for everything that you’re offering.

[00:28:09] If anybody has enjoyed listening to. Please give the show a rating, a review. Let me know what you think below. You can reach out to me on my website at laurahartley.com you can learn more about our courses that are on offer or follow me on Instagram, @laura.h.hartley. Please check out Nicole as well, and we’ll see you in a future episode.

[00:28:30] Nicole Rose: Thanks so much for the invitation. Thank

[00:28:35] Laura Hartley: you.

How can we… fuse art and nonprofit service? With Justin Levy

How can we… fuse art and nonprofit service? With Justin Levy

Today we’re speaking with Justin Levy, the Executive Director of Conscious Alliance, a US nonprofit bringing healthy food into underserved communities and fusing music with opportunities to make a positive impact. Through their Art That Feeds food drives at concerts and festivals they deliver over 2 million meals a year.

Work with Laura Hartley:
Web: www.laurahartley.com
Instagram: @laura.h.hartley
FB: @laurahartley-publiclove
LinkedIn: @laura-hartley-

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please note transcript was automatically generated and has not been edited. It may contain errors or omissions. 

[00:00:00] Justin Levy: What I’ve learned in my life is a couple things. Be willing to dream the dream and then get out of your own way in the sense of no action is too small. So you wanna do something, dream big, but don’t get overwhelmed with the top of the mountain. Just start.


[00:00:25] Laura Hartley: I’m Laura Hartley and welcome to the Public Love Project. This podcast is all about re-imagining and remaking the world, creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving. Each week, we dive into topics around resilience, social change, birthing, and more just, and regenerative world and how we can use our head heart and hands in action. Before i introduce today’s guest and topic though i have one request head on over to apple podcasts or spotify wherever you’re listening and hit subscribe rate and review it helps us work to reach new listeners

[00:01:05] Today’s guest on the public love project is Justin Levy. Justin has served as the executive director of conscious Alliance since 2012. A us nonprofit, bringing healthy food into underserved communities and fusing music and opportunities to make a positive impact. Through the art that feeds food drives at concerts and festivals, they deliver over 2 million meals a year.

[00:01:27] So I’m really excited today to welcome to the show, Justin.

[00:01:30] To kick us off today. I would love to know maybe a little bit about you and your story and how you came to be working with Conscious Alliance.

[00:01:38] Justin Levy: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:40] I’m really looking forward to sharing the time with you and the listeners today. I started with Conscious Alliance. 18 years ago. I met two brothers outside of a concert in Denver, Colorado, and they were collecting food at the concert, encouraging concert goers to donate food. And when I went up and talked to them, I found out that they were supporting Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

[00:02:11] A few years prior to that, my high school guidance counselor had brought me to South Dakota to the Crow Creek Reservation, which is about four hours away from Pine Ridge. And I had a really transformational experience in my own life. And within just a few weeks started volunteering and on my journey with Conscious Alliance to make sure that kiddos and families were.

[00:02:40] What was

[00:02:40] Laura Hartley: it that drew you to volunteer there? What was your experience like at the time?

[00:02:44] Justin Levy: So I was born with cerebral palsy, the leading up to my birth my brain bled, So I was born with cerebral palsy and when I was born, the doctor said to my parents like, we have no idea what Justin’s going to accomplish.

[00:03:05] We’re just gonna have to wait and see. And so I went through hundreds of hours of physical therapy. I went through. Over 10 operations. Learned how to walk four different times and all while. Struggling with dyslexia at the same time. And so it pulled me out of school so much. Especially in middle school.

[00:03:30] I had a, a couple surgeries that completely took me outta school. I got really behind in math and was having a hard time and I remember wheeling my wheelchair into my guidance counselor’s office. And before I even said anything, he said, “that sounds important. Close the door”. So I closed the door and he says, I have a meeting I’m supposed to go to, but I really don’t want to.

[00:03:57] Let’s chat. And that was the beginning of a relationship that fully helped sculpt who I am today and, and what I’m up to. That first conversation and, and many others to follow. We would just talk about life and about books that I was listening to at the time, and every once in a while he would say to me, you get it.

[00:04:27] I remember thinking to myself, What, like, I get what, you know, I can’t read, I can’t walk. Like what do I get? And I, I started thinking like, and it, it was years later that I would realize, you know, that he saw something in myself at the time that I didn’t see. Right. So, I graduated middle school. I don’t know if I graduated or they just pushed me forward.

[00:04:50] But I went to high school. He wound up becoming my guidance counselor, getting transferred and asked me if I wanted to start a program with him to bring at risk youth to the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota that I mentioned. And I absolutely said yes, but where I’ll stop is I didn’t know that I was one of the at risk students.

[00:05:09] Laura Hartley: He sounds like a powerful guidance counselor.

[00:05:11] Justin Levy: Absolutely. You know, taking the time to make the connections and, and see the gifts that folks can’t see in themselves.

[00:05:20] Laura Hartley: And then when you started, you know, obviously this program and you started volunteering and you started being a part of this, what was it that shifted in your life?

[00:05:30] Was it the shifted maybe in how you saw

[00:05:32] Justin Levy: yourself? Great question. For me, I had grown up with the belief that I had angels in my life, and it wasn’t necessarily just metaphysical. It was people who were taking the time to show up for me and support me, whether it was helping me with homework, whether it was physical therapy, surgeries teachers, right?

[00:06:03] My parents, my brother. And, and to me it was angels showing up to help me along my path and when I went to Crow Creek Reservation the only class I was good at was photography, so I brought my camera and we were at a powwow. And I, I spent time with this 11 year old who Was a beautiful dancer and you know, we didn’t know each other at, at all.

[00:06:36] You know, we just spent a couple hours together. The rule at the [00:06:40] time was like, if you take pictures, you have to send them to the family because you know, gains access to family portraits and things along those lines. Well before the iPhone and technology of that type. We got back to Chicago area, and I remember going into my counselor’s office and he said, I wanna see all the pictures that you, you took.

[00:07:04] And I showed him and he informed me that the day that we left, that 11 year old took his life.

[00:07:11] Laura Hartley: Oh my gosh, how

[00:07:12] Justin Levy: heartbreaking. For me, that was a moment of knowing this was my time to become a support system. I didn’t have to return the favour to folks that had supported me in my life. This was an opportunity for me to support others who I knew or didn’t know.

[00:07:33] Right? And, and it was that pivotal moment of I was never helpless.. I was always pushing forward, wanting to accomplish, you know with a, the tenacity and drive that I have today. But what clicked for me there was like, I have an opportunity to use my skills, my compassion, my empathy to support kiddos. So, Graduating high school, flying out to Colorado, meeting two brothers just weeks afterwards, who were collecting food outside of a concert.

[00:08:16] For me, it was an absolute no brainer. Like the Stars align. They’re supporting Native American reservations, they’re supporting youth through feeding people through music. My passions and today I say turning our passion into action.

[00:08:32] Laura Hartley: I love that. I love one of the things you said there was, you know, you referred to your compassion and your empathy as skills, and I think that’s a really important framing because a lot of the time we don’t see them in that way.

[00:08:44] That they, they are a gift that we have to offer and that they are skills that we can cultivate within ourselves as well. I’m curious. How, what’s your experience of that been? You know, how do you find that compassion kind of drives you now and what you’re offering today

[00:09:01] Justin Levy: in a leadership role and based on my past experience, the first group of teams that I ever created were teachers, doctors, friends who believed in me, support me. Right. And so again, leaning back on, on my experience within Conscious Alliance now and in my adult life, I have a skill set of developing teams.

[00:09:31] It used to be for me, so that I could get my needs taken care of. Literally like learning how to walk for the fourth time. Right now, it’s translated into developing teams of compassionate people who want to put their superpowers to good.

[00:09:56] Laura Hartley: How do we do that? Because you know, a lot of the people listening to this, you know, like a lot of us are working in aid spaces, you know, we’re working in non-profits or NGOs or in some form of helping capacity for the world.

[00:10:09] But a lot of the traditional leadership advice out there is actually kind of at odds with creating a really compassionate team. So how do we, how do we do that? How do we foster that sense of belonging?

[00:10:18] Justin Levy: It’s about building culture. It’s about building shared goals, shared values, and and creating multiple spaces, right? So being willing to have a conversation that. Maybe it’s just about connecting with your team, and it doesn’t have to do with work. Maybe it’s just about finding, learning and appreciating where people are at today, this month, this year.

[00:10:45] Right? And it can be in the same conversation, but it can also be a separate conversation of these are the goals, this is what we’ve agreed upon. And this is what we need to execute, not for us, but to deliver on our mission of again, what we’ve agreed upon so they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

[00:11:10] Right? But at the end of the day, we are here to do a job. We’re here to do a really great job. And it can be built on empathy and compassion, but, and with that has to come other skills too. Cause it’s not just about helping, it’s about empowering, changing the food system, supporting the environment, right?

[00:11:37] Like we’ve taken on a really big project, not alone, we’ve taken it on as Conscious Alliance. So what we’re doing here is we are building a Conscious Alliance and together we’re creating great impact.

[00:11:55] Laura Hartley: Which, you know, I would actually love, maybe it’s Conscious Alliance has come a long way, I love what you guys are doing and there is so much about our food system that needs to change and there is so much you know, really about the way we’re connecting with other people as well that needs to develop.

[00:12:09] Can you tell me a little bit about what Conscious Alliance does now and the support that you guys are offering? What are you hoping to change?

[00:12:17] Justin Levy: Absolutely. So we started in 2002 with a really simple idea, again, of engaging young people by hosting food drives, at concerts and supporting local organizations and community leaders to feed their community.

[00:12:32] When I came on board as a volunteer in 2004, I helped expand their reach by working with different bands, different demographics. I was living, I was going to college in Asheville, North Carolina with a reading machine in my room because I didn’t learn how to read till I was 21. Right. And so it was really about, again, pulling people in to support the mission.

[00:12:59] When I took over operations in 2010 and then, and then as executive director in 2012 for me it was about growing the impact, bringing more people along on the journey, right, and expanding the reach while being true to [00:13:20] the heart of our founding story and supporting Pine Ridge Reservation. So we work, we’ve been working hard.

[00:13:28] We, we do work hard to increase relationships in, in the music industry, right? The touring artists that we’re working with through the transition from the brothers who founded the organization. They had some really great wins and, and we developed together a relationship with Justin’s the peanut butter company, when they had three employees.

[00:13:52] And I hope by now you’ve been able to enjoy one of their peanut butter cups cuz they’re delicious. But Justin’s has been, I

[00:13:58] Laura Hartley: actually haven’t but it’ll have to be on my list.

[00:14:00] Justin Levy: No, it has to. Justin’s was founded in Boulder, Colorado where we were founded and they had three employees and they were trying to decide what nonprofit to support and they picked Conscious Alliance.

[00:14:12] It’s amazing and that same in the next few months. Whole Foods bought Wild Oak’s Grocery Store and they donated a million dollars worth of private label food to Conscious Alliance. It was like, whoa, we went from trying to find food to figuring out how to distribute food. Right. And yeah, a

[00:14:30] Laura Hartley: totally different set of of, of problems and skill sets there

[00:14:33] Justin Levy: as well.

[00:14:34] Absolutely. Right. So it was about leaning on connections. Like all of a sudden we were learning trucking and logistics in a, in a completely different way. Right? So again, we can lead from a place of empathy and compassion while developing the skill sets or bringing in the skill sets that we need, but we can always go back to that foundation of who we are as an organization.

[00:15:00] Right? So we started getting more natural food companies on board. We got Plum Organics, the baby food company on board. They introduced us to Suja Juice and all of a sudden we had our own flavor at Whole Foods. And it was, you know, the slow trickle, but there was food to be had and there were bands who were willing to play shows and have an impact with us.

[00:15:24] And there were a couple moments that I can highlight where it clicked. I was at a conference and I was learning about Best by, used by and sell by dates on food. And at that conference I learned that those dates are arbitrary, that they really

[00:15:38] Laura Hartley: are like, and I, for anybody listening like that, don’t get me wrong, there are sometimes like certain.

[00:15:43] You should really listen to that. But for the most part, they are completely arbitrary.

[00:15:48] Justin Levy: The FDA here says, you know, use your taste, your smell, and your sight to decide, right? So a protein bar, a granola bar, it’s not going bad at that date, right? It’s a, a bag of pasta. And so, What I realized is it’s about brand vanity and it’s like when you buy the product at full price, you want the best taste.

[00:16:12] You want the best touch, you want the best consistency for your consumer, which is a beautiful thing. But I realised as Conscious Alliance, we knew all these hunger heroes around the US, folks that were fighting hunger in their communities every single day that we had interacted with by going on tour with touring professionals and touring musicians. We knew trucking and logistics, right?

[00:16:37] So we started picking up product from brands warehouses by the semi load. So not only are hunger Relief Organization, we’re also have become an environmental organization stopping food from going into the landfill and instead getting this incredible product that’s already been created into the hands of kiddos and families in need across the country.

[00:17:02] Laura Hartley: I love this and you know, I wish I could remember the stat, but it is something like this incredible amount of food waste every single year, which goes into landfill, which is obviously contributing to environmental crisis and the climate crisis that we’re in, so we’re seeing this kind of intersection of where you guys are at, that yes, there’s environmental work, but it’s also about serving people.

[00:17:23] It’s also about serving people who are in need and people who are hungry. And serving communities and doing that as well with this element of like art and play and music and this incredible element that all comes together. Do you think this is kind of what makes you special? This intersection?

[00:17:38] Justin Levy: , I think there’s a lot of things that make Conscious Alliance special, and I think it starts with the community behind us, the countless hours

[00:17:54] thousands of people have put into this organization to make it what it is today, right? The staff, the folks that show up every day and give of themselves, our board, our volunteers, the musicians, the artists that are creating the posters, right? The, the folks on the ground feeding their communities.

[00:18:18] Every day our connection to the communities we serve like Pine Ridge. I mean, I think. It is just that it doesn’t go over my head that our name is Conscious Alliance and our opportunity is to lean in and be a conscious alliance,

[00:18:33] Laura Hartley: which, you know, the foundation of of an alliance, I think is relationships.

[00:18:38] It’s, it’s partnership building, which it’s a skill a little bit like what we’ve been talking about because you know, sometimes working with other humans is not always easy. And sometimes it’s working with people with different skill sets and different beliefs in different areas.

[00:18:52] How do you navigate this? What do you feel is kind of the, the foundation to building strong relationships as an

[00:18:59] Justin Levy: alliance?

[00:19:00] I think internally it’s about paying attention to what makes people tick. What makes them have that spark? What makes them fall in love and feel in love with their work? And we all have to do some things that, you know, maybe we’re working against the grain and it’s, it’s hard to do and maybe it’s not our sweet spot, right?

[00:19:25] Like, I’m still not a great reader, but I have to read every day. Right? At the same time, let people lean into. What they’re up to, what they love, what they believe in, and like as much as possible, let people do their thing. Let them like feel their magic. I think that that’s really important and I think going a layer outside of that, as we talk about relationships, it’s about authenticity.[00:20:00]

[00:20:01] Celebrating our community’s wins. And what I mean by that is not in. Calculated. We need something from somebody, right? But like really getting to know our partners, our friends, our supporters, our fans, right? And like celebrating those moments with them. A new job, a, a new family member whatever it might be, and, and like being there with them during the hard times too, and, and, Hey, we’re here for you and like really showing up, you know, or I’m thinking about you, and it’s not for a calculated, Hey, we, we, it’s not about the sale, right?

[00:20:50] It’s like that, that becomes so apparent, so quickly and inauthentic, right? But like, if we. And I speak broadly, like if we as leaders and, and as just people in the world, right? Not even leaders, just people in the world. When we truly give a shit, it shows. And so just leaning into that and, and showing up for people and allowing people to show up for us, it builds this incredible symbiotic relationship where we can all thrive a little more. .

[00:21:30] Laura Hartley: I, I love that. And I, I think authenticity is such a big piece and it, it is sometimes so hard to do sometimes because it comes with an element of vulnerability and it’s also what actually builds that kind of foundation of safety, that trust that we have with one another.

[00:21:46] Because if we don’t have that, Then, you know, there’s, it’s, it’s very much like sand underneath us. There’s not really much there that’s holding us together. I’m, I’m curious as well to touch on, something I mentioned earlier, this idea of, of burnout in nonprofit spaces. Have you seen this experience, this because like burn, I can see your face right now.

[00:22:08] It’s like, for anybody listening, like burnout is everywhere. Like how, how’s your experience of this? Have you burnt out before? What do you do about it? How do we start to kind of move forward in cultures that, you know, really promote our thriving, as you say.

[00:22:23] Justin Levy: As you said to the listeners, like my, my face lights up, of course I’ve experienced burnout.

[00:22:28] And I don’t think it’s just in the nonprofit space, but I think it, it shows up here and you know, it’s a topic of conversation. It’s a buzzword within topics of conversation. Yes, I’ve experienced it. Yes, I’ve fought through it with tenacity of the same tenacity of wanting to run when I was four and being told I could only walk.

[00:22:50] Right. Like it’s there’s a lot to push through and I think that sometimes those moments can create the vulnerability you were speaking of and the authenticity that comes with those moments. And no, it’s not where we want anyone to be or where we wanna push ourselves, but I, I’d be lying if I said, Hey, it, it’s never happened.

[00:23:16] Right? Of course it happens, but I think it and there’s not one fix, right? So this is the part that takes um, constant work on all of our parts, our, our own responsibility as individuals and then our responsibility as leaders too. I think that everybody owns a little piece of finding what works for them.

[00:23:43] Right. And then I think from a leadership role we have to push, I think, I know that I have to push to support the team. And sometimes it’s counterintuitive to the, the dual conversation that we started here with. Results and verse compassion and connection. Right. I think our biggest asset is our team.

[00:24:07] So the goal is to support them in delivering on our mission. And again, this looks different all the time, so I’ll throw out some concrete examples. Now, taking time as a team to exercise is something that we’ve done a lot for about a year during the pandemic and prior to the pandemic. We would go work out every Wednesday together and somebody on the team got to pick where we went.

[00:24:37] So it was an hour outside of the office where we got to move our bodies, right, and like do something completely different. Then during the pandemic. We continued it on zoom. We’ve shifted our work hours to do half day Fridays for a while. I love

[00:24:57] Laura Hartley: that. I’m a big fan of

[00:24:58] Justin Levy: that. Yeah. We’ve, we’ve shifted to just.

[00:25:02] Say like, Hey, we’re closing the office, right? Like, it’s about reading the room. And I am not saying that I am perfect at this. This is like something that is on my plate and, and challenges me daily because it’s always a moving target as far as what people need. But like sometimes it’s about, Just taking the day and going and doing an activity.

[00:25:28] Like a few weeks ago, we, we left the office and we went and hit golf balls, and like had lunch and it was like we went to a driving range. You know, nothing to do with work. Like it’s a, it’s

[00:25:43] Laura Hartley: a building relationships. It’s about more than work, right, exactly. It’s discovering who we are as like actual people.

[00:25:50] Justin Levy: And it makes some of the work stress and like the, the conflict melt away a little bit cuz you’re like, oh yeah, I’m just human. They’re just human. We had a nice time, right? Like people, then we get back to it, you know, and again, like none of this is the fix, like closing the office on Fridays is not the fix, right?

[00:26:12] Like, if it doesn’t come with the right intention, it’s just something that happened or it’s not the right fix forever, right? Like, maybe it’s just for a few weeks. Doing half day Fridays is an amazing thing, but it doesn’t have to be right? And so it’s about the, the message, the delivery, the. Is it working for people or would people rather say, Hey, I would love to pick a half day that I [00:26:40] would like off because I’ve got a family at home and it would really help if I, I could do this with them on Wednesday or, I really need to go to therapy and like I, I’d love to do that.

[00:26:52] Whatever, like, you know, for me I need to move my body so I, I take time and I leave and make sure I’m moving my body cuz it supports my brain and it supports my ability to, you know, not have my cerebral palsy become more than what it is, right? Like keep moving. So we all have different needs and it takes a lot more work to individualize.

[00:27:16] But when we can, it’s important and we can’t always, right? So like part of it’s like that recognition of, hey, we’re all doing our best, right? Like there’s no fix. And sometimes like people are ready to move on from their role too. And it doesn’t mean it was a bad fit, it doesn’t mean anything bad happened.

[00:27:39] Like

[00:27:40] Laura Hartley: sometimes we’re called to different

[00:27:42] Justin Levy: places. Yeah, we need different things.

[00:27:44] Laura Hartley: Yeah, I think that’s a big one. You know, sometimes we are staying in places that are no longer meant for us, that were meant for us at one time and were great. But then, you know, it is actually a new environment that we need a new team, a new challenge, something.

[00:27:58] And that sense of burnout can sometimes be a result of like, yeah, staying somewhere too long that is no longer meant for you. .

[00:28:06] Justin Levy: And I don’t think that that’s like there can still be an authentic conversation around that. It doesn’t mean a company’s culture has to change, right? Like maybe their culture is what it is and it’s just not the fit for that person anymore, or that leader anymore, or whoever, right? Like it could, it, it might not be the right fit for the founder anymore, but it doesn’t mean that anything was wrong or broken.

[00:28:33] You know, it’s, as you said, like different things serve us at different times, and the goal is to build on those building blocks and continue to go forward.

[00:28:44] Laura Hartley: As we kind of look at this idea of transition, I, I do have a question for you, which is, you know, so many of us, it’s so easy to see areas that need help and sometimes, you know, we see those areas and we have an idea.

[00:28:57] We’re like, wouldn’t it be great if somebody did this or wouldn’t it be great if this happened? And working up, the ability or the courage or whatever it is that we need to actually do it ourselves can be challenging to actually go, you know what? I see the need. I see something that could help. I’m gonna step up and try and actually start this initiative, start this community event, start this organization, whatever it might be.

[00:29:20] Do you, do you have any advice for somebody in that area?

[00:29:23] Justin Levy: Absolutely.

[00:29:24] What I’ve learned in my life is a couple things. Be willing to dream the dream and then get out of your own way in the sense of no action is too small. So you wanna do something, dream big, but don’t get overwhelmed with the top of the mountain. Just start.

[00:29:49] Laura Hartley: I love that. Just start. Don’t get overwhelmed with the top of the mountain. I think that is good advice for myself as well. Sometimes it’s so easy to look ahead and see everything, you know, and for it to kind of keeps you frozen. So then actually just, just starting and just taking that next step.

[00:30:06] Justin Levy: I utilized that similar feeling to propel me forward. I’m like, whoa, this is so big. This is overwhelming. This is so exciting. Like, let’s go. Like why? Like it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be a little messy, right? So it’s like, Hey, we wanna do this thing. Well then let’s do it. It can be better in day two, month two, year two.

[00:30:35] Laura Hartley: Good enough to go safe enough to try.

[00:30:38] Justin Levy: What, like what is the worst that happens?

[00:30:40] Laura Hartley: And that’s the question here. I think there, there really is, it’s really never as bad as we think it will be. It’s just these, these kind of standards that we hold ourselves to, or these fears that we have about not being good enough or perfect or rejection or whatever it might be, you know, that keep us frozen in place.

[00:30:58] And I think there’s a lot invested in that. You know, the world as it is kind of benefits from that. But if we’re wanting to kind of shift the world and move the world to like, as it could, then, you know, it does require us to take those day by day, those small little steps that you’re talking about.

[00:31:13] Justin Levy: Yeah, I think, you know, those little steps put us in a different place 30 days later, three days later, a year later, and we have to also, this is something that I am fully working on, is stopping to celebrate the wins.

[00:31:34] I can often. Create the vision, push it forward, have the win, and already be onto the next three things. And like, you know, my team is coaching me on it. Like I have, I have a lot of support in this, but just, you know, it’s one of the things that I’m actively working on and, and like falter regularly of being like, oh yeah, that’s a win and that’s a win for everybody.

[00:31:59] And also, You know, we’re, we’re here to talk about work, but that’s like my safe zone, right? Like there are other parts where I’m like, man, what are my hobbies anymore? My hobbies have turned into my job. My job has turned into, you know, and so like, what does it look like as we get older to continue to create the new.

[00:32:20] We have so many pieces of who we are, right? Like I can be a leader in this role and completely shy, and timid a different role in my life. And like, that’s okay. That’s a beautiful thing.

[00:32:37] But it’s also startling , right? Like, yes, like take a test. It’s like, are you this? It’s like, well, in this scenario, yes, in that scenario, absolutely not. You know?

[00:32:50] Laura Hartley: This is so true. You know, there are areas of my life where I am incredibly confident and I feel like absolutely, like I can show up, I am a leader, like I’m good.

[00:32:59] And then there are other areas where, yeah, it’s, it’s terrifying still and it’s hard. And you know, there’s that feeling of like shrinkage. Yeah. And so navigating that, that two things can be true at once, and that our environment matters. 2,

[00:33:12] Justin Levy: 3, 4 things can all be like, it’s situational, right? I think it’s a beautiful thing as, and it’s, it is [00:33:20] challenging as could be.

[00:33:22] Mm.

[00:33:23] Laura Hartley: I have really enjoyed today’s conversation. I do have one last question for you, and you know, this podcast is about remaking the world, and I really think that’s part of what Conscious Alliance is doing. But what is your vision of a more just and regenerative world? If you, if you could really remake it in some capacity, what would be different?

[00:33:44] Justin Levy: That’s a big question. It is. It’s

[00:33:47] Laura Hartley: a very big question. Feel free to narrow it down to your area of interest. Cause it is a big question.

[00:33:51] Justin Levy: It’s a beautiful thing and I’m going to address it in a few ways. One, I’ll go back to taking action and if we really wanna create the world that we want, we have to start.

[00:34:06] I don’t have the magic paintbrush so to start over, so we’re going to, I’m going to continue to take this on as it is today, and do my part to make it a little bit better and a little bit brighter for as many people as possible. And.

[00:34:28] The other piece of that on an equally as important scale is to check in with our friends, check in with our family, and just reach out and let people know that you’re there for them. That we are here for each other. We can often. Get swept away in life and in our work and, and within Conscious Alliance, like, oh, it has to be big, it has to be truckloads it, you know, but it’s really about that individual connection that we’re talking about.

[00:35:03] And I think we could all use more support, more love mo more authenticity and, and so just checking in with our communities on a micro level to support one another through this journey that we’re all stumbling through together. Hmm.

[00:35:25] Laura Hartley: I love that. And I think those, those check-ins and that connection is so important.

[00:35:30] I really wanna say thank you so much Justin, for coming onto the show. It’s been a pleasure to have you and to learn about you and to learn about Conscious Alliance. So for anybody listening, you’ll be able to check out Conscious Alliance in all of the details in the show notes below. So please go have a look.

[00:35:44] Is there anything that you would like to leave us with or ways that people can get involved or learn a little bit more about you and the organization?

[00:35:52] Justin Levy: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s, it’s been a joy and we do have an amazing opportunity for folks right now. If they go to consciousalliance.org/takeaction, they can learn more about Conscious Alliance.

[00:36:08] Jump in, take action. If you complete three of the actions on the page, you’re gonna get entered to win two tickets to Red Rocks for any concert of your choice in 2023. So go to conscious alliance.org/take action. Watch a video, read an article, get entered to win free concert tickets for next. Ah, that

[00:36:30] Laura Hartley: sounds wonderful.

[00:36:31] Thank you again for coming on the show. For anybody listening, I do love it when you’re able to suggest guests or topics, so please reach out. You can visit me at my website @ laurahartley.com or follow me on Instagram at @laura.h.hartley,

How can we…. reverse the ocean plastic problem? With Tom Jackson

How can we…. reverse the ocean plastic problem? With Tom Jackson

This conversation is with Tom Jackson, CEO and Co-Founder of Honest Ocean, a company on a mission to collect and recycle plastic waste, in order to prevent it from reaching the ocean and rivers by stopping it at the source.

Tom is passionate about plastic recycling and social enterprise, and shares an incredible wealth of information in this episode.  Take a listen if you want to be part of business remaking the world, or support more responsible and honest care for our oceans.


We discuss:

– The power of social enterprise & business in remaking the world – and the first step you can take to enter the green space

– Greenwashing, and how tech may be part of the solution

– The importance of relationships in social enterprise

– The power of activist movements & consumers in shifting business behaviour

– The future of ocean plastic recycling.

Interested in changemaker coaching or courses with Laura Hartley?

Web: https://laurahartley.com/

Insta: @laura.h.hartley

LinkedIn: @laura-hartley-

Want to learn more about Tom Jackson & Honest Ocean?

Web: https://honest-ocean.com

Linked In: @honest.ocean

Insta: @honest.ocean

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please note this was auto-generated and has not been edited, and may contain errors. 

[00:00:00] Tom Jackson: And we are not a scared business in terms of you know, the people that are greenwashing and the, the people that are doing the wrong way. We’re not gonna moan about it. We’re just gonna show them how you do it better and then we expect them to follow suit or be held accountable to that.

[00:00:15] And then, and if everyone had that outlook as a bus business with value, this world would be a much better place already.


[00:00:21] Laura Hartley: I’m Laura Hartley and welcome to the Public Love Project. This podcast is all about re-imagining and remaking the world, creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving. Each week, we dive into topics around resilience, social change, birthing, and more just, and regenerative world and how we can use our head heart and hands in action. Before i introduce today’s guest and topic though i have one request head on over to apple podcasts or spotify wherever you’re listening and hit subscribe rate and review it helps us work to reach new listeners

[00:01:01] Laura Hartley: Today. I am excited to be speaking with Tom Jackson. The co-founder of Honest Ocean. A company on a mission to collect and recycle plastic waste in order to prevent it from reaching the oceans and rivers, stopping it at the source. So with a background in manufacturing, Tom was always interested in the materials that went into making products.

[00:01:21] Combined with 10 years of his life on the ocean, seeing the direct impact of plastic pollution, he knew that he wanted a change. So Tom and his co-founder Angus started by looking into some of the worst affected areas by plastic waste, including Indonesia, where he’s now based. They found that there was extremely poor infrastructure in place to combat the overflowing plastic pollution, much of which was actually coming from Western countries to begin with.

[00:01:48] So together, they started Honest Ocean and have concentrated on creating a closed loop, 360 plastic supply chain. Turning plastic waste into a commodity while also educating and empowering local communities to help in the fight against ocean plastic waste.

[00:02:03] So welcome to the public love project Tom. I am so excited to have you And I want to start with your inspiration for Honest Ocean. You know you’ve said that you were working on boats at the time around Indonesia but what was happening, what were you seeing around you that made you want to start a social enterprise?

[00:02:21] Tom Jackson: Yeah. So Laura, it started back in sort of 2015, 16. I was working on boats and we were crossing between sort of New Zealand and Fiji and things like that.

[00:02:31] And actually saw a lot of plastic in the ocean. And I worked, you know, at sea for, for seven years. And when I started, you know, You notice these things, it wa it wasn’t so bad back in, you know 2009, something like that. And as you, as you moved on, it was just, it was everywhere. And it got to a point where I saw quite a lot of it in the South Pacific and it really stuck with me. From there you know, I, I left that career and went towards manufacturing.

[00:03:05] Specifically we did vegan supplements and the manufacturing supplier, the only option they could give us with these little plastic tubes with the tablets inside. You may have seen them from pharmaceutical sort of pills and tablets and all that sort of thing. And there was [00:03:20] nothing sort of four years ago.

[00:03:22] And I said, Well, if I go and find a more social and a better you know, way of doing it than creating new plastic would, would you be interested in working with me, and they said yes. So two years ago or two and a half years ago, I left. I came to Indonesia and I got to work and I, I met with recyclers and local communities to, to look at what we could do, and plastic is a great product.

[00:03:50] It’s very usable. That’s why it’s in pretty much every part of our life. So being able to, being able to find a different way of using it and being able to recycle it and circle the economy around. The very important part of plastic was, was basically the motivation and why I left sort of crewing on yachts to moving to Indonesia..

[00:04:10] Laura Hartley: Which is quite a big move, you know, moving off yachts and that kind of work into actually starting a social enterprise, what were some of the, the challenges or the feelings that you were experiencing at that time? Because I’ve certainly been in places where seeing that level of environmental impact is.

[00:04:28] It’s challenging, it’s hard. It’s, it actually has an effect on us, you know? What was it that you were feeling at the time?

[00:04:36] Tom Jackson: Yeah, it was, it was really, really hard. Especially I mean, I, I’d traveled for the last sort of 11, 12 years through, through work. So I was, I was excited to go on an adventure as well.

[00:04:50] Moving to Bali wasn’t the hardest thing. You know, it took me about five minutes to think that was okay. But yeah, being in Indonesia and being in mainland Java where no one really speaks English the plastic, the burning the whole situation was just horrible and it’s almost like going back 25 years essentially in terms of there aren’t really any rules.

[00:05:12] So everyone’s doing, you know, what they like with plastic and things that it was really hard. So I spent four months, I got off the airplane from the UK to Indonesia and then I spent four months going around, look, talking to every single recycler all these communities and really working out where the problem was in waste management the manufacturing, the recycling.

[00:05:33] And I very quickly worked out that you know, there was about 275 recyclers in the whole of Indonesia to the 1600 virgin plastic manufacturers, which just means new plastic. So you can tell right there that there’s a massive issue with the amount of plastic being created versus, versus the infrastructure for recycling.

[00:05:55] That’s huge.

[00:05:57] Laura Hartley: And, the waste that we’re in Indonesia though, and not just Indonesia, and I wanna acknowledge this isn’t just from Indonesia itself though, right? It’s actually coming from Western countries.

[00:06:09] Tom Jackson: Yeah, exactly. And generally to South East Asia in general, there’s been a lot of material exported to, for instance, China.

[00:06:17] China closed their doors in 2019 and that was mainly from Germany, the UK and America as well. But there, the reason why it’s those three is cause people have been selling their waste, for instance, to Germany and then Germany be, has been exporting. And it’s been coming places like here Vietnam. I know Thailand have stopped doing it.

[00:06:39] I [00:06:40] think you can still it export waste to Indonesia. The rules are a little bit unclear and I have found UK supermarket bags. When I’ve been looking around river banks and you know, fields and it’s a really poor place. So, you know, everyone’s an entrepreneur here. Everyone will take anything to, to, you know, to work.

[00:07:01] And everyone’s either working day to day here in terms of local Indonesians or week to week, the long term plan for, you know, their lifestyle and being able survive workwise is very short term, and we find that a lot when we try and work with communities. One week we’ll be doing really well with them the other week, you know they would’ve closed it or, or something like that.

[00:07:25] In terms of in terms of us collecting it from that coastal area.

[00:07:29] Laura Hartley: So how does Honest Ocean work you know, as a social enterprise, you know, what is your structure here? How do you work with local communities?

[00:07:37] Tom Jackson: Right. So what we do is right at the start, so the, the plastic waste as soon as you go to a coastal community here on an island, it’s really bad. So first of all, what we do is we’ll go to these coastal communities and speak to the chiefs and the heads of villages, which you know, has really been the last

[00:07:54] year and a half of, of my job. And we’ll sit down and break bread with them and ask them what the issue is. Is the government collection coming to pick up waste here? Um, Probably not, cause it’s hard to reach areas. So what we’ll do is we’ll create a contract with them. We ask them to separate their plastic waste to have an area in their community.

[00:08:14] And, you know, we are not trying to create competition against what these guys are doing, we’re just purchasing it from them. So we’ll ask them to set that up once a week, once a month, depending on how big or small that village community is, we’ll come and collect that from them. From there, it will then go to our recycler, so about 50 minutes away from, from pretty much anywhere of the east coast of Java, which is the main strip of Indonesia here.

[00:08:42] It will then go to our recycler. With our recycler we have a great partner. Where we have all our materials separately stored, everything runs together. So it’ll be processed together for our customers. It’ll be shredded and washed there, and then from there it will be like exported locally.

[00:09:03] We try and keep it as close as we can. For instance, you know, Australia Southeast Asia in general, but it does go to Europe. Sometimes it’s a little bit too far, but our goal was always to get plastic away from Indonesia. And like I mentioned with the, the very little infrastructure to deal with it, that was that was always the plan.

[00:09:24] And then the very important and the last point of it is partnering with brands who really socially care and, and actually you know, really interested in working with a supplier who can be on the ground to work with, um, to work with all these, these kind of great communities that really wanna change.

[00:09:42] So it’s a long way of saying it, but as a short way we’re basically coastal recyclers who are socially impacting communities through collecting waste.

[00:09:52] Laura Hartley: So I wanna come back to one of the things that you talked about there, which was partnering with local communities and with other [00:10:00] organizations and people. You know, when we’re looking to do any sort of work of remaking the world, I think this element of relationships and partnerships is so important.

[00:10:10] You know, this isn’t work that we do alone, and this isn’t work that we can just go in as this you know, one person or, or you. Multi person organization from a different place and just expect everything to change. You know, we need these relationships and we need these understandings to help shape us and

[00:10:29] with this kind of work that you’ve done going into obviously a very different culture, a different country, you know, fostering these relationships and partnerships, how has this experience been for you? You know, where, where have there been tensions? Where have there been opportunities, and how have you

[00:10:45] navigated

[00:10:45] this?

[00:10:47] Yeah, that’s a great question, Laura. And it’s, it’s, the answer is, it is really difficult. And for anyone, whether you’re a company coming into Indonesia, like a big corporate trying to set this up, or you’re like us, you’re smaller and you have to go from village to village it is really difficult. So for instance, if you think about having 50 waste banks all along the coast, you’ve got lots of people involved in that.

[00:11:12] So you’ve got the collectors, who will bring the waste to these waste banks. So anyone can go out and collect with a bag. And it goes on the scales and then the waste bank will pay the collector for that. Okay, So that’s the first link. So all, all hoping that goes well, right? Anyone can do that as a freelance person.

[00:11:32] They get paid in cash, they don’t get paid in rice or oil or something that other people do, cooking oil, we just do it in cash cause like us, they just want a salary and then they can spend it how they want. So you have issues with having, you know, even if it’s 25 or 50 waste banks you, you have the issue of.

[00:11:51] Yeah, working with humans, which is not always the most reliable, especially in a place where it’s really hard to communicate. It’s a very religious place. There’s ceremonies about, you know, every seven or eight days, they do have that. So that’s another thing to account for.

[00:12:08] You’ve gotta account for money and what we have to pay for up front. When I first got here, I was putting deposits on things and things not turning up or plastic not returning as it was meant to. So yeah, financially it was difficult. Renting and lending equipment was a difficult one for us because they weren’t maintaining it.

[00:12:29] So there was a lot of education based around that. But yeah, I think every part of it was a chore and it was a learning process and I wouldn’t change any of it. We had to learn all of it from working with the people, educating them around the material, how to separate that getting bags of plastic with rocks in which they were adding weight to.

[00:12:52] So yeah, every part of it we had to micromanage..

[00:12:55] Tom Jackson: Uh,

[00:12:56] And make sure it was working and being honest with you, Laura, it’s not perfect now, there are things where we have to reject plastic and say, you know, you need to sort this a little bit better.

[00:13:06] So, it’s a balancing rope of we really wanna help these communities to do it, but we need to make sure it’s viable for us. And we’re a for profit business and that’s the only way we can sustain it. And we see a lot of [00:13:20] NGOs coming in and doing us, you know, a year or an eight month or a six month pilot project.

[00:13:27] Which is great, they’re able to do that, but it’s not sustainable. And if it’s a project, it means they’re gonna come and do it, and then they’re gonna take it away again. So you’re employing people and then you’re having to let them down because you know, you put a budget towards it and that’s just the issue with not it being your core business.

[00:13:44] So for us, we live and breathe this. We spend most of our time talking to these communities and trying to work on the best, best benefit. And you know, there are great people who really want to change it. And you know, we’ve got different types of waste banks with different plastics, which involve different types of people.

[00:14:04] So we very quickly realized, okay, these guys don’t really wanna do it, we need to find someone else in the area who, you know, is, is a chief. Who’s gonna let us operate here, but also is passionate about the people having jobs and the long term of it.

[00:14:19] I loved something that you touched on there around, you know, it’s, we’re making relationships with other humans. And therefore nothing is perfect, but how do we foster that trust? You know, and that sense of actual relationship with one another. I think, there’s the day to day actual doing that we have, but then there’s the actual relational work of showing up as we are, you know?

[00:14:42] What’s your experience there of actually building that relationship?

[00:14:45] Yeah. That’s why we, you know, I moved here and now all our teams based here, bar one, because we, you know, we have to be able to show that we are here and that we do turn up, and that the relationships we build with the individuals is really, really important.

[00:15:01] And for instance, we have one village and chief um, that we work with, who you know is, represents all of the fishermen, uh, In, in the east of Indonesia, which for us is amazing. And he’s a fantastic guy, great family, and really looks after the people in the community. And that allows us to then, you know, there, there’s all this plastic in our rivers and all these, all these coastal communities, of course, have all these rivers that flow out from the city, so there’s waste on their banks and there’s waste in the river, which isn’t their fault.

[00:15:34] It’s come from the major cities. But it, but it’s there. And it’s again, being able to say, Look, you know, we understand this. Building a relationship with you is really important. And, you know, we are here to help you. And, you know, with the fishermen based around that as well. We do collect a little bit from the ocean, but not as much.

[00:15:54] So building a relationship with not only the people on the ground that we talk to, with our local guys, Rudy and Ray, who work in Indonesia full time as, as local , managers for us, being able to, keep that relationship really important. You know, 90% of our business is done through WhatsApp, which has, has a lot of stress to it as well.

[00:16:16] We have to go and see them often. We have to make sure everything’s happy. Do you have safety equipment? Do you have gloves? Do you have bags? You know what’s, what’s the issue? Okay. We are gonna try and build a, a school in the next eight months. Okay, great. So then we’ll be like, let’s collect more material from you, which we can financially give you more profit.

[00:16:36] So not just, you know, handing out funds like I mentioned [00:16:40] before. So being able to have a relationship where you can call Chief up or the Waste Bank operator and say, Look guys, we think what you’re trying to do is really cool. First of all, let’s build out non-recyclable waste, which we can mix with concrete.

[00:16:53] And secondly, let’s try and help you fundraise that, or it will be a mosque or whatever that. Those, those end goals are really important for a relationship because then we’ll push, push, push, trying to help, get the material moving and then having an accountable result for that which the village or the community can be really proud of is a really big part of, you know, what we stand for.

[00:17:15] And not only does that help, you know, Non-recyclable waste going into to bricks or an outlet of some kind. The kids have got somewhere to go to school. You know, education time at school here is maximum about four hours a day. So it’s really how can we keep that longer And also the awareness around plastic in school.

[00:17:36] So relationships from the, the elderlies in the village, to the individuals collecting, to the kids, being able to speak to them, who these guys are, learning English quite quickly compared to their parents.

[00:17:48] So yeah, the relationship’s really important and they have to be managed with care and sometimes it doesn’t go well. Sometimes it does, and you really, you really need to quickly move on because, you know, waste banks is a very hard thing to run and we’ve got a lot of them. And your awareness of people just gets greater and you can understand you

[00:18:09] they’re not happy. What’s wrong? You know? Can we solve it? Okay. No, this person’s actually not interested, just interested in in the profit. And you know, if people just have that goal of profit, then things get missed or shortcuts get taken. So being able to go in there in five seconds or 30 seconds in talking to someone, you know, they’ve changed or their mindset’s changed or

[00:18:33] they’re not working with others, they’re doing it themselves. They’re just trying to keep all the funds for themselves. You know, straight away that that’s not a good place to do it. And you’ll set up camps somewhere else with people who want to get all these people to come in and for someone in a relationship, ideal situation for us, they understand that the more people that come and bring them plastic, The more you know, plastic that they’ll get, which which results in more funds for that waste bank.

[00:18:59] So the more people we have involved in this, the more collectors, the more people we can offer jobs to, the more material we, we can collect. And this, this business only works at scale. It is a big moving operation and it has to be like that. Otherwise, we are not putting a dent in the footprint of ocean plastic and preventing it from, from getting in there.

[00:19:21] You know, we are very early in the stage of the world is trying to stop plastic get in there. Yes, there are people that are trying to take it from the ocean, which is great, but it’s still running into the ocean. But yeah, coming back to Laura, answering your question again, is it’s really important to manage those relationships.

[00:19:40] If you can’t do that, and if you can’t , look after that and build on that, then you know, your operation essentially isn’t, is a disaster and won’t run. If we don’t have that human connection and partnership. You know, we really don’t have anything in the cycle of plastic collection.

[00:19:58] Laura Hartley: And one of the things that I loved there [00:20:00] about when you were talking about this idea of trust and connection was you actually built that through understanding what people desire and what they want, and mutually helping people kind of create that and create those opportunities.

[00:20:13] So whether that was helping to build a mosque or a school, whatever it may be, it was working with actual desires to create something in the world and not just transactional, as you’re saying, through profit. Right.

[00:20:28] I, I wanna scale this out a bit though, because this idea of trust is so important and. You know, a, as a climate activist, I, one of my great struggles in the world at the moment is this idea of greenwashing and this idea of endless consumerism.

[00:20:45] You know, and you mentioned that before, we kind of need to stop plastic as a whole, generally being unnecessarily produced, but we also need to stop at entering the ocean. We also need to learn how to reuse what we already have. So we have these kind of two issues here of trust, you know, the greenwashing.

[00:21:02] How can we trust what is being said and how do we trust that what is actually being manufactured is of benefit to the earth? Yeah. So how do we navigate this, cuz I know greenwashing is a big thing for you. Do you wanna tell us a bit about what it is and how you see it show up?

[00:21:18] Tom Jackson: Absolutely. So yeah, Greenwashing essentially is doing something that, or saying and showing something that you’re not doing.

[00:21:26] And yeah, for us it’s very difficult cuz we’re we all moved here as a social impact company to set this up. And essentially, you know, plastic material, whether it’s coming from the UK, coming from Indonesia, a lot of it looks the same. So there is a big part of the tracking and the traceability is Yeah, sometimes it’s not done.

[00:21:50] So essentially what we do is we track everything. So , we have, uh, you can scan, a QR system , of the tracking chain that we have from collection and origin of where that came from, right through to recycling process to export or, or local uh, sales to someone and then the product it’s made into.

[00:22:10] And indonesia is a small place when you’re a foreigner or foreign companies come here. So you do see people saying and doing things that they’re not. And you know, it’s Indonesia. A lot of people, for instance, in the West, don’t know what’s going on here. It’s a place that needs a lot of people’s help.

[00:22:28] That’s why they’re here. But it’s really, really hard to do what we do. And it’s, that’s not a limitation by funds. It’s a limitation of like it touched on waste banks and being able to do that. You know, people will have people here you know, representing a big company in another place and, you know, they’re relying on that person or that team to tell them what’s happening.

[00:22:49] And to, to say how that’s happening. So again, we had to move here and do it. We had to be in control of it. And sometimes people would tell you one thing and do a different thing.

[00:23:00] I just urge consumers to, and especially companies smaller companies and bigger companies that really want you know, be, be accountable and show what their materials, where it’s coming from, the people they’re impacting. And at the end of the day, people are really scared now cuz they’re this whole greenwashing tag.

[00:23:19] Companies are [00:23:20] really scared of being associated with a social pla social cause, or recycled plastic. Because if they get found out, you know, it’s their reputation. That’s really important. The more greenwashing there is in this space, whether it’s, carbon credit’s being burnt twice, or plastic just coming from a normal recycler or supplier versus you know, where it’s showing where it’s actually come from.

[00:23:44] It’s, yeah, it’s being, it’s being accountable as a brand and that supplier has to understand that, you know, we Honest Ocean is supplying to this company that, you know, they really wanna impact and they wanna show their consumers. And, that’s, that is a premium product cuz the amount of work that we do and the amount of impact that brand wants to supply.

[00:24:07] And that connection’s really important. Now, if you’re a big company and you’ve got, let’s say, 12 of the biggest plastic companies in the world, can you supply social impact plastic to all those big companies and account for every single part of the chain being accounted for, It’s pretty doubtful, especially with the new space of where this social implant social impact plastic is, you know, in our, in our life, lifetime

[00:24:34] plastic. So

[00:24:36] Laura Hartley: as consumers, what can we do to really recognize that one, there is an incredibly outrageous amount of greenwashing out there of companies and products who, you know, have been co-opted. It’s been co-opted by capitalism as a marketing tool. You know, how do we actually just sell more and now by seeming green? how do we recognize that versus companies that are actually sustainable, actually regenerative and actually doing things for the Earth.

[00:25:03] Tom Jackson: Yeah that’s great question. And it’s not an easy one to answer. So the the first thing is , as time goes on, those, those companies that aren’t doing it the right way , will be made accountable for, you know, that’s really the, the hope we have behind it. So that will minimize people in the market space.

[00:25:21] And the consumers, it really doesn’t feel like you have much power, but you really do in terms of purchasing power. And for instance, if there’s two things on a shelf one that, for instance, our products we’re currently going through this at the moment, will have a QR code on it, which before you’ve even bought it on the, in the shop.

[00:25:38] You can scan that on a product and know which community you’ve impacted through a QR code. And that’s a really important thing. And if you can have that across a range of products, from detergent to your single use plastic bottles, which, you know, we try and stay away from, but it’s a massive part, part of the plastic manufacturing chain.

[00:25:57] If you have that with a slight higher price tag versus something right next to it, which is wrapped in plastic packaging, it’s in a plastic bottle which doesn’t have that, and they’re both social impact products. It, it’s really can that prove where that’s come from? And if it can’t, why can’t it? Cuz we are in a space of technology which we’re surrounded by, which is actually not a very difficult thing to do considering working with plastic is so.

[00:26:25] If a consumer, you and I, Laura, go and buy that companies pivot to how consumers react, and you know, you think it might be one purchase in one shop, but if you’re in that supermarket or if you, if someone else in the next [00:26:40] town is doing the same in that, and then quickly in that region, it’s 10 people and then within that country it’s a hundred on that day, that data adds up really quickly for a company.

[00:26:51] If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t go on the shelf. Everything is created for us, for for being convenient and things like that, so we can really start reacting and, you know, we’re all in a hurry. Everyone’s got busy lives. So things on shelves are, you know, you know, are set up to be quick and, and, and to be taken away quickly.

[00:27:11] But as consumers, we have massive power in terms of what we pick up off the shelf and what we’ve put, put in our bags. And , we’re trying to get everyone to offer that as a supermarket. For people to be able to feel better and contribute to the bigger picture.

[00:27:26] Laura Hartley: So, you know, I loved what you said because I think we often think as consumers that we are powerless, You know, that we don’t have agency, and I really do believe that how we spend our money matters.

[00:27:38] That every single dollar we spend helps shape our world, right? And what I see again and again is an emphasis in capitalist cultures to put all of the emphasis for change onto individuals to change the market. And as much as my purchases matter and they do help shape things, it also doesn’t hold the collective agency and their collective change that we actually need.

[00:28:02] You know? So there’s this, there’s this tension and this. Yes. And between how we spend individually matters. And organizations need to change of their own accord. Now what I see is that organizations that often promote this idea of greenwashing have one bottom line. You know, it’s profit, you know, that is all that they’re kind of driven by.

[00:28:24] Social enterprises is one form of a different way of doing business. You know, there’s people exploring anti capitalist business, which is more like where I play. There’s obviously B Corps and different forms of social enterprises. Mm-hmm. , what value does, does having a values-based business bring, you know, how do we infuse that and what does it offer us?

[00:28:44] Tom Jackson: Yeah, it, that’s such a great question. And, and first of all, you know, it, it has to come from so many elements because this is such a big supply chain, and we’re in a fast moving world. So first of all, businesses that produce plastic or put it into the shelves, cannot blame consumers for not recycling it if they’re the ones putting it on the shelf.

[00:29:06] And if you think, if you are an alien, finding out about what our planet is doing, You would, you know, you would either laugh or cry because we see it throughout history in this space. Um, Consumers, you know, it’s a fast paced world. Things need to go quickly and they need a circular economy. And that’s really, you know, where we’re at at the moment.

[00:29:27] Consumers purchasing the right way is a massive part of that, you know, as, as a ocean prevention supplier from plastic. We spend our life talking to these big companies. But if their consumers aren’t asking for it, they don’t, they don’t want to come to us. Right. And you said there’s a big thing about profit?

[00:29:46] Absolutely. You know, is it ex expensive buying material from us? A yes compared to normal recycled plastic. It is a premium, but then that also needs to echo, echo down to consumers where they’re [00:30:00] happy to also pay for that as well. Like you said, Laura, it’s not the, it doesn’t rely on the consumers and we see it on TV going recycle more, recycle better. And it’s, you know, it’s being put on the shelves by the companies that are creating the new plastic.

[00:30:16] And then on the other hand, As soon as it goes through the consumer’s hand, then it’s waste, right? So it’s new plastic and then it’s going into the bucket and then it’s waste. And now it’s a problem. So for places like here, it’s a massive problem, but even in the West, with the recycling infrastructure, 9% of that material is getting recycled.

[00:30:35] And the reason for that is because, you know, if it’s dirty and it goes into a cycling, , recycling, box, whichever one you have at home. Then that’s high contamination of food, which then won’t, probably won’t get processed by the council or the recycler who’s processing that, which it’s then deemed a low value plastic, which it then goes to landfill.

[00:30:59] So consumers have a lot of power and it’s not putting the pressure points on them. It’s putting the pressure points on the supplier through the purchase of what you wanna do, and the recycling infrastructure. You know, recycling was always put there to solve a, a problem from new plastically manufacture.

[00:31:18] So it’s like peddling a bike, recycling world has been trying to keep up with it. And you know, we are never gonna slow down as a, as a planet and a human race trying to move forward. So it’s suppliers being accountable and we can see them now moving to paying a little bit more for a social impact material.

[00:31:40] And it’s the consumers leading on saying from from products they buy, This isn’t good enough. And it feels powerless as one person, like you said. It really does. Even, you know, we are all consumers when we’re individuals, but it’s coming together and we saw a great thing in, in Bristol in the UK a few years ago where everyone took their food out of the plastic in the supermarket and left them with it.

[00:32:05] I think it was Tesco’s Supermarket and, and Tesco’s was, well, what do we do now? We’ve got all this plastic waste. First of all, that’s very high grade plastic because it’s right there and it hasn’t gone through waste. So first of all, it’s a great point. Second point, supermarkets should really weight it up and go, Oh my God, if people are doing that means we’re not doing enough.

[00:32:28] And they control what their suppliers do, right? Yes. Okay. It needs to go through many people’s hands and it needs to be clean and it needs to be healthy. But it’s amazing just to show an example what consumers can do

[00:32:39] Laura Hartley: that’s a, I love that example, although I would almost say that that is less of an example of consumers and what they can do and instead what activists and collective ideas and movements can do because there’s still, Yeah, there, there is this challenge though, in what we’re talking about that, you know, as you said, well, you know, companies need to pay more to use recycled plastic or proper you know, 360 closed loop plastic.

[00:33:08] Then we need to be willing to pay more. But at the same time, in a world with increasing wealth inequality, you know, especially coming out of the pandemic and these incredible few years that we’ve had with the increasing impacts of [00:33:20] climate change, you know, we’re not seeing the wealth disparity gap, you know, close in.

[00:33:25] We’re we’re seeing it get larger. Yeah. So again, we’re kind of needing to infuse these organizations actually with a different set of values and by which they make their decisions. And I know you mentioned there that yeah, we don’t slow down as a world. , but what if we did, I mean, you run a value based organization.

[00:33:42] How do we inspire that in others?

[00:33:45] Tom Jackson: That if the world went back to a simpler way of, and you know, the re the reason why, refill your own bags and things like that. In terms of these shops, I think you got a good amount of them in Oz, in the UK and I’m sure in the US as well, which is great.

[00:34:01] But yeah, I mean if that doesn’t prove as evidence, why that hasn’t been rolled out of scale sort of shows you, unfortunately the world, which we are, you know, we are running so fast for things and we’ve all got things and you know, children and dogs and all sorts, and it’s trying to keep that ease.

[00:34:18] But if we did go back a step and really looked at what we are doing, you know in terms of the footprint of not just us as individuals, but that village or our community or our town or whatever that is? And then you are, for instance, ranked worldly on how well you are doing things, which is always something I’ve been really interested in, in terms of can your vil, not just you, but can your village or your town do it better than other people?

[00:34:47] And essentially everyone’s in competition with each other to try and do the best, right? Being the, being the joint result of the world, benefiting in a better place and emissions and everything. Whether that’s from bicycle to plastic consumption. And I, and it’s, it’s a really interesting factor, and a question or you say, of slowing down because when you slow down things, you can review things better and you’ve got more time to do that.

[00:35:13] And whether that starts as one thing, which it being you know, refilling your products to taking a bicycle, to being able to do things at a slower pace, and then the demand of work and the demand of pressure social pressures and families and things like that.

[00:35:32] It’s really hard balancing act of taking longer. We’ve all got smartphones. We all expect things within five minutes. For instance, I don’t have Amazon delivery here, and it’s really nice not being able to, to have that around. But, but speaking to families and things, having that, you know, that same day or next day delivery sets expectations for yourself.

[00:35:53] And then you’re getting angry when it doesn’t turn up at the time it says, which is crazy because it, you, you only ordered it 13 hours ago. So as we go faster and faster, how can we, you know, put incentives into slowing down and reviewing what we are doing in terms of individuals, but as a human race. And I think it’s really important to have, you know, not these government, these massive budgets, but in these towns and these communities, how can this village, how can this town run off 80% solar?

[00:36:27] How can we cut our emissions? Do we, do we need that street to have cars in it? Can it that be bicycle? How, how many people have got bicycles in this village? Oh, 75% of them. How many would be [00:36:40] motivated to buy them if they had to pop to their shops or their work in that town? So, and it comes from incentivizing people, and it has to be that way.

[00:36:48] You know, us as humans, we, if there’s an easier way we take it because, you know, we’ve got a hundred problems in our personal lives, we don’t want another one to add to that societal, structural issue. So, Saying, ah, , you can come into work 20 minutes later if you’re gonna take the bike, the start at nine 20 instead of nine.

[00:37:07] A lot of companies won’t like that cuz that’s not helpful for them as a, as a business side of it. But what does that do as a social impact for your company? It shows that you are treating your employees better and a relationship between business and environment is, is creating a really close

[00:37:27] connection, which we don’t have. We really don’t. People, people don’t understand that, you know, if you make printers for a company or if, if you are a marketing company, how you can uh, positively effect the environment even if, you know, even if it’s a tech company. How can you do that around your employees and creating carbon or reducing that through what you’re doing?

[00:37:50] It affects every single person. And, you know, , now we’ve got this amazing opportunity now of, we see the millennials and the Gen-Z generations coming through. They won’t work for Big companies. That what don’t supply motivations or social causes or community employees coming together to, to have you know, a social bond through that.

[00:38:15] And if you are a big company listening to this and it’s now 2085 and you’re still not doing it, you probably don’t have any employees. Because it is a really important part, and it’s fantastic to see these younger generations just going, No, we’re not gonna put up with it. And we can already see that. And they want to go to that social causes.

[00:38:33] And that’s a change in structural from these massive corporates, which you started at 24 and now you’re 50 and you’re in the same business, which is a traditional way of doing a lot of business kind of ways. And that’s completely changed societal movement. And it’s really exciting to see whether

[00:38:51] giving them an option to work from home, take a bike in, having offsets in a business, which you didn’t think, Oh, I can’t offset a business because you know, we uh, we design flyers or letterheads, of course you can. It’s the culture you’ve created and it’s what you can show that you’ve done

[00:39:09] through your employees or your change or the values that you want to grow. As a result, you get more people wanting to come and work for your business. Doesn’t matter what business that is, if you are giving them you know, better workflow or happy work life it’s gonna work. And we work, Honest Ocean works a very intense

[00:39:29] routine and that we, we all do six jobs. So we work a four day, work week and that we know that if we push, we, if we haven’t hit our goals for the week by Wednesday, Thursday’s, push day. And yes, of course there are issues at being a startup. We do have to do a couple hours on Friday and things like that, but, It’s really important to create a culture based around motivation and a happy work and, and social output and not even on purpose.

[00:39:58] I see a few of [00:40:00] our guys, you know, doing a little bit of work on Sunday. Or Friday mornings, and I haven’t asked them to do that. That’s just the culture that we’ve created based around them having the work on their mind and just loving it. And you know, we saw in New Zealand with IBM doing the four hour work week as well, it really does work because if people are socially happy at home, they’re highly motivated to do their job, even if they don’t love it as much.

[00:40:25] So yeah, I think every part of being accountable, slowing down positive impact in a business that way.

[00:40:33] Do we need to recycle it or can we take 10 of those bottles and put it into a kids art project? Like it, it’s really interesting to, to, to pick that question apart. And as you can see, I don’t have a quick answer for it.

[00:40:47] Well,

[00:40:47] Laura Hartley: I think that’s because there isn’t a quick answer, to be honest. You know, we. We’re talking about slowing down, You know, in a sense that answer shouldn’t be quick, but there’s a lot of places that you unpacked that. One. I’m a big proponent of the four day work week. I think this idea that we were all supposed to work, you know, eight, nine hours a day, five days a week, is, you know, a relic from a different age.

[00:41:11] But you also mentioned the importance of community in creating change that it’s not just about what we do as individuals, but you know, and not just about large government systemic change, but it’s also about as communities, how do we want to come together and what are the values that we’re choosing to, to live by and to work with.

[00:41:31] I, you know, as we kind of come to a close with this conversation, I have a couple of last questions for you. And I, I want to ask first about what you would say to somebody who was thinking about starting a social enterprise.

[00:41:44] Because a lot of the time, you know, when we have these ideas, we get overwhelmed or we think, I can’t do that, or it’s too big, or I dont how to start. How does somebody who has an idea just start? And get

[00:41:58] Tom Jackson: going. Yeah. I love this. So first of all how do they get going? It’s by, it’s by doing it. So, but that can’t be done without a plan or a strategy and.

[00:42:13] You know, this is my third business. So I do love this question and it really comes from what do you wanna do and what’s the emotional add in that you are doing because, any business, whether it’s social or normal, it takes up a hell of a lot of energy, let alone emotional.

[00:42:31] And for all of us who are trying to create a green business out there it, you know, you go to bed and you are, you are excited and things like that and it takes up so much energy and it’s being able to think, right, so where, where do I fit in with, you know, a social enterprise, who’s not doing it?

[00:42:51] Which is a company that maybe I can benefit from doing this? The way to start Laura, is just by talking to people, talk to companies and say, I’m thinking about doing this. You know, would, would you guys benefit from me, you know, me doing that as a third party company to you?.

[00:43:08] Maybe, or yeah, but we need you to be really big and then we can buy from you. So it’s like, okay, so that’s not the right fit. So you really need to just talk to people. Business is people [00:43:20] and you know, I would say don’t try and do it on your own. You know, I tried it for years on my own, and all you’re doing is creating a cocoon around yourself.

[00:43:28] So talk to companies and see what it is. Say you wanted to, and I used this example before, Measure your carbon coming out of an exhaust pipe and you make this tiny, little awesome measuring tool, right, That you just clip on an exhaust that can measure data. Okay. You might think, Oh, you know, this is a little thing.

[00:43:47] No one’s gonna like it. There might be an automation company out there thinking, this is amazing. We want to be able to show like our old cars versus our new one. And it’s just being able to go and take talk to people. LinkedIn is a fantastic process of being able to talk to people, whatever you wanna do, it’s really easy to think, I wanna solve all of this.

[00:44:08] And, you know, all that’s gonna happen is we’re, we’re all gonna have mental health issues from trying to save the world and we can’t do it. So everyone, we need to find that little USP that, that little unique selling point where in the social green space where it can help and, and what that is. And there’s so many grants now, which

[00:44:27] it is not always the easiest way of doing it, but if you can just find that little, little thing that you find that’s really important, don’t try and solve the world straight away. Just try and start. Find, find that one thing or that village or that product that you can bring to market, which can, it doesn’t have to be the, you know, in 10 years that product’s not gonna look like how you start.

[00:44:53] So don’t worry about it being perfect. Just worry about it being in a place where, where you can create it and offer value to businesses, and then they can offer to consumers. Or if you are offering straight to consumers even better, how can you work that into your business?

[00:45:09] And it needs to be financially viable. It needs to be socially viable. And it, it needs to be scalable really, if you want to be able to make a massive impact. So Laura, I’d say just start, Just talk to people. And as passionate as you are about these social impacts, you need to keep that business head on as well.

[00:45:29] Uh, Saying from business experience, I’ve gone down a route of, I got into this recycling village and I just wanted to get stuff going, and I felt how bad it was. And I, you know, we bought machinery, I bought machinery for it, and then they didn’t uphold it. So that was me emotionally rushing into things where I should have, you know, Planned a little bit more, but yeah.

[00:45:49] Startups in a green space are needed and are needed yesterday. So if you do have an idea around green space and you think it’s good, first of all, don’t ask 10 of your closest friends, because sometimes people don’t always want you to succeed in your circles. Go and speak to some business people.

[00:46:08] Create that network around you. Get on LinkedIn. If that person’s in your, in your area, go for a coffee, build that network and then ask them. And then they might even be like, Oh, I love that. I’m thinking about quit my job. Let’s do it together. And organically that’s how it should be.

[00:46:23] Laura Hartley: Yeah. I, I love that. And I actually, I so agree with you.

[00:46:27] You know, there is a space to share our dreams and we should, but also be very careful when they’re in their, like, incubation phase of who you share them with. Yeah. Because not everyone. will believe in them. Not everybody will support them. [00:46:40] And so finding that space of actually like, you know what, I, I believe in this.

[00:46:45] I’m safe with this. I’m comfortable with this. And then as you say, talking to people is so important.

[00:46:50] So I wanna say the Public Love project is all about remaking the world. So I want to ask this last question. What is your vision of a more just and regenerative world, and what role do you hope that Honest Ocean can play in the year ahead in creating that?

[00:47:08] Tom Jackson: Wow. Yeah, so I really hope as a human race and, and a globe, you know, we’re trying to run, everyone’s trying to get to the next planet before we’ve cleaned up this one. So it’s really to have responsibility, not as individuals, but as you know, as humans and as the shift of the government and, you know, not the financial breakdown, like we said before, it’s going to the wrong places.

[00:47:34] So how do we elevate those areas of stress? How do we change? And how do we create legislation based around yeah, you can call it a social push, but it’s not that, it’s a starting again push. So it’s being able to , financially put people in better situations and share that, share that wealth through smaller businesses, and that’s where it needs to come from.

[00:47:58] You know, there’s four or five mass large businesses that control pretty much the movement of the world from mining all the way from manufacturing. So it’s being able to change the shift of, of where financial structure goes and how we can do that across smaller businesses to create one bigger social push and a.

[00:48:19] Circle, circular economy at scale. I mean, within the 10 years, that’s really, for me would be a, a change that we really need to make and to be able to break down the barriers of, of where that funds are getting dedicated to. For Honest Ocean, it’s really to have as many people as we can collecting material through this.

[00:48:41] Being able to work with the government, create better infrastructure here is generally throughout Africa and South East Asia as well. And you know, we’re a small company, so being able to trace plastic when it gets sold, when it gets recycled, where it’s in landfill. Being able to have the technology to map where that is and why it’s, why it’s gone there.

[00:49:01] You know, as recycling industry, no one can really tell where their plastics gone, and we can only do that through working with, you know, big companies that produce either, you know, single use or long term products. We can only do that by partnering with them. So that’s really a big part of, of how our business model can succeed is, is finding the right partner.

[00:49:21] To be able to fit with and yeah, we really, we really hope to be the tech based social platform in the next few years where anyone can see where our plastic’s doing, its public information and how we can show other companies how to be accountable and we can solve it for them. I think that’s a massive, a massive part of our growth as um Honest ocean and.

[00:49:44] That’s really not only for us, but showing companies like, Why did your material go here? And they’re like, Oh, we gave that to a waste management company to look after. And they said they did the right thing. Well, you haven’t, and that’s not your fault. It’s their fault. But we are gonna [00:50:00] change that, and you are gonna pay us to do that.

[00:50:02] So that’s the kind of thing that we are really working on. And we are not a scared business in terms of you know, the people that are greenwashing and the, the people that are doing the wrong way. We’re not gonna moan about it. We’re just gonna show them how you do it better and then we expect them to follow suit or be held accountable to that.

[00:50:19] And then, and if everyone had that outlook as a bus business with value, this world would be a beau Much better place already.

[00:50:26] Laura Hartley: I think that is wonderful. You know, that accountability aspect is something that we so need. So Tom, I really wanna thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your story and everything that you’re doing with Honest Ocean.

[00:50:39] Tom Jackson: Laura, thank you so much and it’s been a pleasure being on here. I’m really excited to see when this platform is gonna, Take over the world of social empowerment and getting people’s voices heard. I’m really excited and hopefully we can talk in a year or two and see where we’re both at and .

[00:50:57] Really excited to chat to you again, Laura. Thank you. Thank you for your time. I’d love

[00:51:01] Laura Hartley: that. Thank you so much. That is all we have time for today is everybody. Please go check out Tom and Honest Ocean. All of his details are in the show notes below so you can check them out. I love it when listeners are able to suggest topics or guests, so please head on over to our website, PublicLove.Enterprises. You can send me an email. Otherwise follow me on Instagram at @laura.h.hartley.

How can mindfulness deepen our activism?

How can mindfulness deepen our activism?

This chat on spiritual ecology with Flo Scialom is a beautiful exploration of how we can use mindfulness and compassion practices to deepen and sustain our activism and relationship to the Earth.

Flo is a passionate facilitator, mindfulness teacher and community-builder. She holds an MA in Anthropology + Sociology from Leiden University, and currently works as Communications + Events Manager at a UK charity called the Network of Wellbeing (NOW).

She also has experience running mindfulness sessions for a wide range of people – from new mums to community activists. She loves writing and reflecting on her experiences, particularly around how mindfulness relates to social change.


Check out Laura and Public Love Enterprises
Website: www.laurahartley.com
Instagram: @laura.h.hartley
LinkedIn: @laura-hartley-

Check out Flo & her work:
Spiritual Ecology Netherlands
Mindful Change Blog: 
Instagram: @mindful.change

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please note this was auto-generated and has not been edited, and may contain errors. 

Flo Scialom – Deep Ecology

[00:00:00] Flo Scialom: And so it’s a tool that can be used in many different ways.

[00:00:03] And in order to embed it in a kind of social justice and social change narrative, you need to bring that ethical framework back in. And for me, a part big part of that is acknowledging the compassion element of having a practice. That it’s not just the focus, it’s also the practice of generating compassion.

[00:00:26] Laura Hartley: I’m Laura Hartley and welcome to the Public Love Project. This podcast is all about re-imagining and remaking the world, creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving. Each week, we dive into topics around resilience, social change, birthing, and more just, and regenerative world and how we can use our head heart and hands in action. Before i introduce today’s guest and topic though i have one request head on over to apple podcasts or spotify wherever you’re listening and hit subscribe rate and review it helps us work to reach new listeners

[00:01:06] Hello. Hello everyone. And welcome to this episode today of the public love project. So we are speaking with a good friend of mine Flo Scialom. So Flo is a facilitator and mindfulness teacher, and she works with the Network of Wellbeing as a communications and events manager. She’s also the co-founder of a new project called Spiritual Ecology Netherlands

[00:01:27] together with our friends and colleagues, Maaike Boumans and Annick Nevejan. Flo loves to facilitate groups and transformative processes. It is one of her strengths. And much of facilitation work is focused on Active Hope and the Work that Reconnects. She holds a MA in Anthropology and Sociology from Leiden University in the Netherlands and a BA in International Relations from Sussex University in the UK.

[00:01:53] You can find her on her blog. @mindful.Change both on instagram and online in the show notes below but welcome to the show today.

[00:02:03] Flo Scialom: Thanks so much Laura. It’s really lovely to be here.

[00:02:06] Laura Hartley: Ah, thank you for coming on. So Flo uh, to give a bit of context, we met back in 2016 in Bhutan. We were both looking at gross national happiness, and it’s been really exciting to see where our paths have traveled since then.

[00:02:19] And towards what you are looking at now, which is spiritual ecology. So can you maybe start us off with a little bit about what spiritual ecology is and how it works with environmental activism?

[00:02:31] Flo Scialom: Yeah, sure. So just to say, yeah, it’s really lovely and special to be speaking with you and be on that journey together since meeting in Bhutan and uh, what an incredible trip that was.

[00:02:43] And yeah, I think that uh, Bhutan journey was part of my own personal Journey through looking at the intersection between inner practices and how they have a kind of impact on the wider world. So what can practices like mindfulness um, how can they make a difference to work, change making and to work to try and make positive change in the world?

[00:03:07] So spiritual ecology is one like branch of that ongoing journey of discovery that I’m on, and I’m really excited to [00:03:20] be working on this new project, Spiritual Ecology Netherlands with Maaike and Annick. So in in a nutshell spiritual ecology is about really acknowledging that life is both sacred and deeply interconnected.

[00:03:34] So the sacred aspect is really like deeply appreciating the, the beauty of the natural world around us and, and, and really stopping to have a sense of awe for all that that offers us. And the interconnectedness is, is about a sense of responsibility that comes with that that we. That we don’t exist as, as individual beings on, on our own little islands, that we, we rely on each other for, for everything in our lives.

[00:04:04] And that we need to have practices that acknowledge that interconnectedness in order to empower us to take that responsibility and act in ways that, that are kind of respectful of, of that interconnect.

[00:04:21] Laura Hartley: You know, and this interconnection, I think is a really fascinating place to actually dive into a little bit because it’s something that, you know, we’re deeply missing in our culture a lot of the time.

[00:04:32] I think we’re kind of inheriting like centuries and millennial of disconnection. So how do we go about really fostering and facilitating this interconnection and what is that experience like?

[00:04:44] Flo Scialom: Yeah, great question. Just to kind of share about like the, the, the frame of spirituality and spiritual, I think that that, like many things has been a little bit co-opted sometimes to be very over individualistic that people think when I have a spiritual practice, it’s something I do on my own.

[00:05:04] And just to say I’m using spiritual in the most inclusive sense. It’s essentially practices that can acknowledge the sacredness of life. It doesn’t have to be linked to any kind of organized religion or . It can even be compatible, you know, with very secularism. But people associate that spirituality or can do in our kind of capitalist, modern society with this very individual framing that I’m doing my practices to make myself feel better in order that I can be more productive.

[00:05:38] That is a part of having an inner practice, but that’s very much like a small part of the story. And actually having a genuine transformative inner practice is about generating that energy within you to, to Experience, like you say there, that interconnection within yourself in, in your kind of inner world.

[00:06:04] So I think that the, the question of like, how, how does that work? I think you, you can have practices that explicitly focus on acknowledging that interconnection. And for me it’s also vital do these practices in community in order to be able to kind of share and reflect and experience that interconnection together as part of the wider sense of practice.

[00:06:31] Laura Hartley: What are some of these practices? You know, I know when we’re coming together, there’s a lot of different spaces that we can be working. You know, whether it’s reconnecting to the earth, [00:06:40] reconnecting to each other, reconnecting to our own hearts. But when we’re looking at this idea of spiritual ecology and this work of, you know, really healing some of the crises that we’re facing in the world at this kind of deep level, what are these practices that you’re looking.

[00:06:56] Mm.

[00:06:57] Flo Scialom: So my kind of background in practice comes very much from the engaged Buddhism so my entry point into practice was a sense of engaged mindfulness and sharing in community. And that means, you know, very simple mindfulness, awareness of breath, walking meditations and also.

[00:07:21] Sharing what’s on our hearts in community so that we can kind of more effectively handle our emotional worlds, and that helps to support our wider engagement. And we can explore that a little bit more in depth if you’d like to. And in addition I’ve been, like I say, I’m on an ongoing journey.

[00:07:40] What’s been added to my practices, particularly in relation to the spiritual ecology frame and linking in and out to change is the, the Work That Reconnects, Active hope. So the work that was inspired by particularly Joanna Macy and Active Hope is a, a book written by Joanna Macy, together with Chris Johnston, which is actually.

[00:08:02] I love it so much, and it’s just been a new edition has just been released for their 10 year anniversary. So yeah, I I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ve updated. So the subtitle of that book is How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy , And I think it’s very, very apt necessary.

[00:08:20] Yeah, very necessary. And actually there’s a whole set of practices behind how to maintain a sense of active hope over time. And that’s built on the work that reconnects, which is at its core got a spiral that people can travel through, which starts from a real sense of gratitude for, like I was talking about earlier, the sacredness and the beauty of the world.

[00:08:43] And then travels through kind of honoring our pain for the world. And then through that combination of gratitude and honoring our pain, we can kind of see with new eyes, have a new perspective and then go and take action in the world. So often in spiritual ecology practices, we’ll be drawing on that work of the spiral and of the work that reconnects.

[00:09:07] There’s other practices, but I think that that’s a really powerful and a really prominent one.

[00:09:11] Laura Hartley: I, I remember when I first came across the work of Joanna Macy, and it was actually a little before I got involved in kind of more direct activism, and I, I just saw this book on my neighbor’s shelf and I was like, Oh, this looks interesting.

[00:09:24] Can I borrow this? And it was like, Mind blowing, like every page I was like taking notes and you know, underlining sentences and like taking photographs. Cause I was like, damn, I can’t underline it. Actually I need to hand it back. But it was a really life changing book for me. Yeah. But you know, I’d love to actually dive.

[00:09:44] A little bit and hear a little bit about how you came to this work, when did you start thinking yourself about this intersection of inner and outer change? Because I know you’ve obviously been looking at outer change, looking at your degrees for a long time. So where did this intersection begin?[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Flo Scialom: Actually, Discovering the power of personal practice. That’s where my interest really begun. So I, I began practicing, like I say, in the kind of Thich Nhat Hanh tradition and what’s called Wake Up, which is kind of the young person’s like 18 to 35. I’m, I’m just past for that young person Mark now.

[00:10:21] But you know, 10 years ago was still well in there. So I, I joined a Wake up sangha. A sangha is essentially a kind. The, the Buddhist word for community. Although the wake up sanghas and generally the Plum Village Thich Nhat Hanh tradition is very open even if you’re not kind a formal practicing Buddhist.

[00:10:40] So I joined this, the sangha, and I was just blown away by the beauty or like the beauty of sitting to practice together with people. And also, like I say, the combination of practicing mindfulness and then also being able to share with a community of people like out inner emotional world. It just really helped me overcome a sense of isolation and insecurity and fear that I was just the only weirdo that was worried about this or that.

[00:11:11] And due to the like positive energy that I generated in myself during those practices, I really became fascinated with like, okay, how does this relate to. Looking at the wider world. We’re facing so many challenges right now, so how does this, how do the two interconnect, how can we use this, this beauty of the inner practice to serve all of the challenges we see in the world?

[00:11:37] And obviously that’s a question many people have asked, you know, like, Thich Nhat Hanh the, the founder of this community that I I joined was very much about engaged Buddhism. He was a Vietnamese monk. He actually had to leave Vietnam due to his peace activism during the Vietnam War. And he was very Active, and he very much saw mindfulness practice as being a fuel for engaged action in the world.

[00:12:05] So really like delving a bit more deeply into that, that side of mindfulness, that side of Buddhism, and also that took me on the journey to Bhutan, like we’ve touched on, like looking at, okay, how could this, A kind of more systems level, you know, like Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as an alternative to gross domestic product.

[00:12:27] So they decide to measure their societal success in happiness rather than kind of constant growth and consumption. So that was a part of my journey as well of seeing. That’s a very Buddhist country, they very much focus on their inner practices, and that’s led to them saying, Let’s manage our government in a different way.

[00:12:48] So , since I started kind of really actively practicing in community almost 10 years ago, I’ve just been looking for different ways to kind of deepen that sense of connection between the inner practice and the outer change we’d like to see in the world.

[00:13:04] Laura Hartley: how has this influenced your activism now?

[00:13:07] I mean, do you think, you know, if you hadn’t found this practice or you weren’t using this practice, where would this kind of difference be? How has it influenced or shaped what you are offering today?

[00:13:17] Flo Scialom: Yeah, well I think [00:13:20] that, and I wonder how many people relate to this, but in terms of my own like activist practice, I always feel like I could be doing so much more.

[00:13:31] You know, so I feel inspired by what Joanna Macy says, You don’t need to do everything.

[00:13:37] Do what calls your heart, effective action comes from love. So I love that. Because I do, I do ,think right now, There’s so many things that , I feel like I could and should be doing and want to solve and, one person and I wanna do what is being called of me from inside out.

[00:14:00] And that means that my activism often looks like a little bit less frontline, like I go on the protest and I let my voice be heard, but often my, like more regular day to day activism looks like supporting the wellbeing of activists. So running Active Hope workshops, going into like protest groups, seeing how I can support their emotional, psychological wellbeing.

[00:14:26] In a way that is my activism. Like I say, I feel like I always want to do more, but that’s like the main way that I try and show up and support. Because at least it’s something that I can do with my skills. And I know that it’s something that’s needed actually because .

[00:14:43] Activists, changemakers, people that are really on the front lines can feel so overwhelmed and hopeless. So I think if I can help be part of that wider community by supporting emotional, psychological wellbeing, then that’s a small but significant role to play.

[00:15:01] It would look completely different probably if if I hadn’t gone on that inner journey. It

[00:15:07] Laura Hartley: reminds me, there’s a Joanna Macy quote that I love where her definition of an activist is anybody who’s active for a purpose bigger than personal gain. And you, you know, as somebody who’s been involved in lots of different forms of activism, it’s.

[00:15:22] It’s a definition that I love because I think it actually is what you’re speaking about. It gives us permission not just to show up in the way that the world dictates, or the way that culture dictates, or the way that a movement dictates, but to show up in the way that is true for us so that whenever we’re acting in whatever capacity, you know, for something larger than ourselves, that we are committing to a form of activism.

[00:15:46] But I wanna circle around to something you were talking about there. You know, this. The importance of mindfulness in what we’re doing because, you know, at the beginning we were saying, spiritual practices, mindfulness, they do seem like they’re just for us, right? We’re kind of sold to them by capitalism, by the wellness industry as things that benefit us.

[00:16:05] You know, if you just practice mindfulness or you meditate or you, you know, fill out your gratitude journal or whatever it is that you will feel better or you’ll be more resilient, or whatever it may. But how are these practices really serving the world? You know, if, if we’re an activist, if we’re trying to make a change, you know, what do they offer us when we’re working with social justice?

[00:16:27] Flo Scialom: So this is, I find this question fascinating because like you say Of course there can be a lot of critique that mindfulness can be co-opted and repackaged out as an individualistic [00:16:40] consumerist capitalist production maximization project. And that’s not what I’m

[00:16:46] hoping to engage with or talk about when I’m talking about mindfulness. So how can it serve um, a kind of wider sense? I think there’s, first of all, we need to acknowledge that mindfulness is In like in its roots where it comes from Buddhist practice, it’s in combination with compassion. So some teachers talk about mindfulness and compassion as like two wings of one bird.

[00:17:13] So mindfulness practice is the focus on the present moment, the kind of training of that focus and compassion a kind of understanding of suffering and a wish to alleviate suffering in the world. Both of those are practices. What, what has been done very much in the kind of individualistic understanding is to.

[00:17:35] Take out the compassion to strip that down and then just focus on the focus. And so, so look at the benefit, like, and that is, that can be a very individualistic thing. Look at

[00:17:46] how

[00:17:46] Laura Hartley: your concentration will improve, you know, you’ll, you’ll be so much more productive, you know, if like you stop multitasking, you actually get more done.

[00:17:54] Flo Scialom: Exactly. Exactly. And and you know, if you just really, you know, also some teachers talk about, you know, mindfulness could be used to train someone in the military to more effectively, kill essentially. And so it’s a tool that can be used in many different ways.

[00:18:12] And in order to embed it in a kind of social justice and social change narrative, you need to bring that ethical framework back in. And for me, a part big part of that is acknowledging the compassion element of having a practice. That it’s not just the focus, it’s also the practice of generating compassion. In Buddhism, you know, there’s a like kind of a metta practice where you generate compassion for yourself and for those around you and for the wider world that, that, that is part of practicing, that you need to embed that into how you practice mindfulness.

[00:18:50] So that’s a part of it. I think If you see practice in that way it can offer changemakers, but also changemaking movements, different things. So it can offer a sense of fuel in a way for activism. So it can be very easy for people to become overwhelmed and burntout out by wanting to create change.

[00:19:16] But then, You know, trying and starting, and then immediately like realizing they can’t possibly do everything, and then stepping back again because it’s just too much. So I think having a practice can help to kind of sustain activism over time. So I, I love like Angela Davis who’s like obviously a well known.

[00:19:38] Classic activist says, “Anyone who’s interested in making change in the world also has to learn how to take care of herself, himself, themselves”. And uses like mindfulness meditation as an example of that. Self care. So this is self care understood as embedded within wider movements for change and reframing it , as a [00:20:00] fuel.

[00:20:00] So that it’s not just like, Okay, I’m gonna just take care of myself in this little bubble, but I’m gonna fuel myself so that I can keep that interrelationship with between my, my own sense of kind of self and health and how I can then show up in the world.

[00:20:20] Laura Hartley: Well, I’d love to talk a little bit as well. When we’re looking at climate activism, we’re looking at environmental activism, and I’ll dare say any activism, any form of changemaking that we’re doing, but I will frame it in this kind of climate and environmental sphere- there’s a lot of emotions. That come with the work that we do. You know, there’s grief, there is anger, there’s rage, you know, and learning how to navigate these is challenging.

[00:20:44] You know, there’s a lot to hold that is too much like in my experience or in my opinion, for one person to hold. So what do these practices offer us when we’re looking at first the rise of eco emotions, rise of, you know, grief and anxiety, what the world is going through, but also then in our own work and our own spaces

[00:21:05] Flo Scialom: as well.

[00:21:06] I think this is like vital cause it, you know, we can’t see ourselves as, , machines that can just keep going and keep going , on the activist treadmill. And then we are kind of recreating this Production extractive mentality that we’re trying to get away from.

[00:21:24] So um, I think to do things in a different way, to do activism in a different way, we need to acknowledge that we’re emotional beings and we need tools to help us deal with the intensity of the emotions that come up when you are staring in the face of ecological collapse and, and feeling the intensity of, of the heat waves and reading about all of.

[00:21:47] Um, Evidence of climate breakdown that we can see already in the world. Of course, a lot comes up in your system and inner practices can help you to hold that. I think one kind of core message is to feel it I think it can feel so huge that oftentimes when those kind of emotions come up there, can we check out, Can be.

[00:22:14] Yeah, we wanna check out, we wanna repress it, we wanna put it back in a like box so that we can kind of cope basically. And that’s understandable. You know, that’s a coping mechanism. What having more kind of conscious practices, particularly in, and, and again, I come back and back to community cuz I do think, you know, this isn’t something that we just do

[00:22:35] only alone. Of course, you can have a personal practice, but In my experience, it’s so much more powerful if you embed this in, in a kind of community of practice. But I, if you are able to have that, those practices, they can help you to feel like in the Joanna Macy’s spiral, Honor your pain for the world.

[00:22:54] So really go into those emotions and allow them to be there. And also see that as, Information and energy. I think also with anger, there’s a really great book called Love and Rage by Lama Rod Owens. And he talks about, and other, other thinkers. I’ve spoken about this well, about anger as a kind of energy and it’s it’s a friend, it teaches us [00:23:20] and it’s got information in it that we can use to inform us. But if we just repress it, then, then we are kind of stagnating that energy. Whereas if, but if we just. Don’t take care of it. If we don’t have kind of practices as containers to allow us to safely hold and explore and then transform those emotions, then it can kind of just spill out in a way that’s not supportive or constructive.

[00:23:48] So I think that being able to practice together, have that supportive community around, can help you to hold pain like grief for the world anger and rage for the world in a way that then allows you to, again, coming back to Joanna Macy’s Spiral, see with new eyes, like gain a new perspective on what that emotion is trying to tell you.

[00:24:13] And often it’s something’s wrong and I, and I wanna act. And that doesn’t mean you individually have to change the whole world. That means, you know, that means different things to different people. But in the broadest sense, it means you wanna take action for the world that you hope for, rather than the breakdown that you see around you, and that that’s important and powerful to listen to rather than to ignore.

[00:24:35] Laura Hartley: I think that reflection on anger is really important. I, I have a long and a complex history with anger as an emotion. You know, it’s, it’s the one that I still default to the quickest that, you know, I, I, I go to anger very, very quickly and it’s certainly one that when I didn’t have containers for it, when I didn’t have the skills to know how to work with it, it would

[00:24:58] build up until it would spill out, you know, and it would spill out at small situations at, people that it wasn’t necessarily directed at. And that was because I hadn’t really learned how to actually use anger. That anger is an informer, that it tells us things, it tells us what we care about. It tells us that we hurt, you know?

[00:25:16] And that anger also has a fascinating relationship to power, and to how it actually manifests into violence and into rage, just and into shame is really with, its link to power. Which, you know, is the link that I’m kind of curious to make here, because sometimes with mindfulness and spiritual ecology work, there’s kind of still a narrative that it’s simply about staying with long haul work.

[00:25:41] It’s simply about doing the work that we’re doing or doing activism that we’re doing, but staying with it for longer so that we don’t burnout. And I’m curious, is it that, or is there also a transformation in the way that we’re making change? Is this a different way to approach it entirely?

[00:25:58] Flo Scialom: Yeah, so it’s, it’s a really good point and I think that there is that risk.

[00:26:03] And I think that a part of finding containers for emotions is a part of doing work in new ways. Because if we are just seeing ourselves as just kind of wanting to continue on, continue on, continue on, that’s again like a bit of a machine like mentality. Whereas if we

[00:26:22] embed that understanding of us as emotional beings. That’s already starting to do like changemaking in a different way because it’s acknowledging Us and the way that we’re engaging in the work, rather than just kind of trying to extract the labor of individual [00:26:40] changemakers. And I think what you say there about anger is really interesting in your own personal experience.

[00:26:48] Cuz for me, and this might be a little bit of a Diversion from your question, but it, it will circle back, but it, it, it comes up in response to your, how much anger resonates for you because for me it’s often sadness and I’ve found that anger can be quite hard for me to tap into and hold. And I think that this is and like obviously, you know, we are both.

[00:27:13] Wow. Wow. I say obviously I, I’m female identifying and I know that you are. And so I see this as a kind of culturally embedded thing that I’ve been, and so that’s why I found it really interesting that you, like anger is more accessible for you because for me it’s been much more accessible to look at sadness and to to cry and access my grief and to access anger.

[00:27:36] And I’ve seen that as a kind of socialized thing and related back to power. I think that often there’s in power structures that are made invisible about who’s allowed to feel what, who’s allowed to express what how we should engage with things, that when we take the time to

[00:27:56] do activism work more slowly in a way. And, and I know there’s this, this tension like there’s this feeling that we urgently you need to slow down. The program that we did in Bhutan was called like slow change. There’s this tension. We’re facing urgent challenges, and part of what we need to do is slow down.

[00:28:15] But in that slowing down of inner practices, you make those power structures a bit more visible and you empower yourself and your movements to challenge those power structures that are coming up. Those power structures can very easily replicate themselves in movements where you see

[00:28:32] someone identifying as, as white male, having the most prominent voice again and again in, in discussions. And so,

[00:28:41] Laura Hartley: And do you see the women taking on the admin roles as well and more and more of all the like, Oh, we’ll do up the minutes or will you know, I’ll do the agenda this week? Absolutely. These dynamics.

[00:28:51] Play themselves out in like every circle that we’re in a lot of the time, unless we’re very conscious

[00:28:57] Flo Scialom: about it. Yeah, exactly. And that’s why I’m also really interested in um, mindfulness teachers, people of people of colour that are also sharing about the racial dynamics of this, You know, Lama Rod Owens, um, Rhonda Magee also wrote a book about mindfulness practice and racial justice, um, Angel Kyoto Williams.

[00:29:18] A lot of teachers are bringing this aspect. So I think that that’s in a sense um, helping us to create change in a new way. I like this concept of like prefiguratives. It’s a academic term for more, like embodying the change you want to see already in the world.

[00:29:38] So you, you don’t just say, Okay, we just have to power through and it doesn’t matter about the inequality in our movement. It doesn’t matter because this is the goal. You need to create change in the way that you then want to see the world becoming. So you need to embed that already in the way that your, your movements, your organizations are structured..

[00:29:58] Yeah, the way

[00:29:58] Laura Hartley: we make change is just [00:30:00] as important as the change itself. You know, the way, the way we make change is change exactly. To get a little bit meta with those levels there. Yeah. I wanna ask, you know, what does it mean for the world to be sacred? You know, how do we acknowledge that in the way that we exist in the world?

[00:30:16] Flo Scialom: Ah, yeah. Even you asking the question just makes me like, take a breath because it’s something that. This is why it’s a practice, because I can sit here with you and talk about these things and yet, like it’s a practice for me to tap into that on a, on a regular basis. Mm-hmm. . So what it means for me is slowing down and really experiencing life through my senses and .

[00:30:44] You can practice really slowly, like drinking a cup of tea or eating your food and actually really tasting the food. You know, saying a, a kind of blessing before the food, not in a, a religious way, in a way of like honoring all of the work and labour and love that’s gone into creating, putting this food in front of you on your plate and then really taking the time to like taste that and be with that.

[00:31:11] It sounds really simple, but it’s in the experience of that practice that you really can to become overwhelmed with the sacredness of life. It’s one of those things that it, it can be quite hard to verbally articulate if you haven’t experienced it. But if you had it, it can be such a surprise because you so often we go through life on autopilot, like, Oh, I get up in the morning, I get my coffee, I’m eating my breakfast quickly.

[00:31:40] I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that. Actually taking the time to honor, like all that goes into you being able to eat your breakfast, the sun shining on your face in the morning, the birds singing outside the, the plants growing around you. Like, that’s what’s meant by the sacredness. It’s actually taking the chance to just open, open our eyes and experience life through our, through our senses and, and honoring the beauty of the planet that we live on.

[00:32:09] Laura Hartley: Yeah. And the paradigm that we live in is, you know, very colonial, neoliberal, you know, western mindset.

[00:32:16] There is sometimes this idea that the sacred means, you know, that it’s air fairy or, or a nice to have, but that it lacks substance or it lacks reality. And for me, really what underpins the idea of the sacred is awe,, It’s beauty. Yeah. It’s wonder, Yeah. You know, that experience of, of being there and being open and being grateful for what it is that we’re experiencing in our physical bodies.

[00:32:42] Exactly. I wanna ask when we’re looking at this idea as well of. You know, spiritual ecology is just one example of changing the narrative around making change. You know,, what are some of the ways that new narratives and new values have been put into practice in the world?

[00:33:00] Gross National Happiness is obviously one example in Bhutan that we’re both aware of. That’s how we met, exploring a different idea of what success is, of what a successful economy is. But what are some of the other networks or what are some of the other examples that are happening in the world that you know of?

[00:33:16] Flo Scialom: So I think that this is [00:33:20] really exciting to see the different places this kind of understanding can be put into practice. And like you say, there’s so many different frames. My work alongside Spiritual Ecology, I work at the Network of Wellbeing, so I spend a lot of time looking at the kind of wellbeing movement and wellbeing understood as, you know, people and planet thriving together.

[00:33:41] Not an individualistic understanding of wellness, but a kind of embedded systemic wider understanding of wellbeing. And I, I think there’s then, One kind of concrete inspi inspiring example is the Wellbeing for Future Generations Act in Wales that really is a, a public policy in, in the country of Wales.

[00:34:03] That means that all policies have to consider the wellbeing of future generations as part of policy writing. So each policy that’s created, it’s like, okay. You wanna create this, you wanna build this new road, how is that gonna affect the wellbeing of future generations? Okay. You wanna, you know, change the, the school system, how is that gonna affect the wellbeing of future generations?

[00:34:25] And they’ve got a commissioner, Sophie Howe, who’s I’m excited. She’s gonna come and speak at one of our Network of Wellbeing events, whose responsibility it is to, make sure. That is a, a strong policy consideration. So I think that’s, you know, you see examples like that and you you realize that that this thinking is being translated into kind of concrete policy action in some cases, obviously not everywhere.

[00:34:49] And then I think in more movement building, more activism quite inspired by Extinction Rebellion Regenerative Culture aspect into the way that they do work. And kind of looking at regeneration as, as part of the changemaking. Obviously with all examples, you know, with spiritual ecology, with XR, you know, no example is absolutely perfect, but I feel inspired by seeing that type of thinking embedded in a wide, wide scale move.

[00:35:19] Laura Hartley: I feel the same. And you know, actually seeing it come to life in different structures, in different circles and different spaces, you know, for me takes it out of the individual and actually into the collective. It means that we’re starting to explore what it looks like together. And I find that really exciting.

[00:35:38] Yeah. But you know, as we’re doing that, it also comes with a lot of this territory or fear of going into new spaces, right? So, Actually, I wrote a blog on this the other week about starting before you’re ready because sometimes we have this idea that, you know, we need to be ready to do the thing and I’ll be ready once I have that degree, or once I, you know, have finished this next course or, you know, in a couple of months when I’m a little bit more practiced or whatever it might be.

[00:36:06] There’s, there’s a million stories depending on the situation, but that feeling of ready never quite comes. And I saw that you had a blog recently where you were talking about this same thing, going into spaces and not feeling prepared. So how do we navigate this? How do we, you know, work with this feeling of, okay, I, I want to do this thing.

[00:36:24] This is exciting. Yes, this aligns, but also. Oh my God, this is terrifying.

[00:36:30] I’m

[00:36:30] Flo Scialom: Yeah, so relatable. I think. It can be terrifying to try and step into [00:36:40] those spaces, even if you really feel that call um, from inside.

[00:36:43] In fact, that can be the most terrifying cuz it really means something to you. So this uh, this summer I co-facilitated a spiritual ecology retreat for the first time. I facilitated retreats before, but this Spiritual Ecology project in the Netherlands is fairly new. So it was the first time that I’d stepped into that space and it’s quite intense because going through this spiral of Joanna Macy, there’s the gratitude honoring our pain, it can be quite an intense, Um, overwhelming emotional retreat space. And that really came up for me in the facilitation role that I, I had those thoughts and feelings of like, who am I to do this and am I really good enough? And a lot of like self criticism and, and self doubt and what really helped me in In kind of being with that was I was co-facilitating with Aneke and to be able to have a space with her where I was able to kind of vo give voice to that, to like we were saying earlier about emotions, rather than pushing it away, , you know, Part of me wanted to just be like, Shut up.

[00:37:49] I’m here. I have to just carry on. But being able to give voice to and actually feel that, and then you know, through holding that together, you know, with Aneke and, and holding it in myself, being able to then transform it and be able to like tap into my inner mentor.

[00:38:05] So we all have a kind of inner critic and an inner mentor, you know, and I really love that you can, Listen and listen to and acknowledge them both, and you can try and actively nurture your inner mentor. So, you know, if it’s more my mentor, it’s like I’ve been, you know, practicing for 10 years.

[00:38:24] I’ve done so many trainings. I like, this is what I love and care about and I wanna give my heart to it. And of course more that I could learn and that’s what I’m doing. I’m learning through doing, like that’s a part of the process, you know? And that’s okay. And you know, being able to like go through that process to, to not avoid, to feel it, hold it, and then transform.

[00:38:50] It was really powerful for me because it helped me to then hold space in a more genuine, authentic way for, for those that in the retreat that were also going through their own processes. Cuz of course we all have, you know, these doubts and uncertainties that come up for us. And you know, Is, is being with that so that we can transform it.

[00:39:10] So I actually found it really powerful and then it, it, it resulted in me like writing a poem that I then shared at the end of the retreat with the other participants. And it felt like such a. Powerful and transformative experience for me that came out of that kind of, deep sense. Are, are you willing to share

[00:39:29] Laura Hartley: that poem with us?

[00:39:30] Because I would love to, as we move towards the end of this conversation, I would love to hear it from you.

[00:39:37] Flo Scialom: I would love to, if that’s uh, Okay. And I appreciate you asking.

[00:39:42] Laura Hartley: I have a love for poetry, so you know, I’m always very open to having poetry on the podcast.

[00:39:47] Flo Scialom: And you know what’s ironic, like just in you asking and me preparing to read, I have the same like, oh, insecurity come up, you know, this is terrible poem, and that’s what the poem’s [00:40:00] about.

[00:40:00] So it’s a really beautiful synergy. It’s called to speak.



[00:40:45] Flo Scialom: That

[00:40:45] Laura Hartley: is beautiful. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love that vow to use our voice to speak. And, and so much of what you’re talking about there. Actually, I love that idea of an inner mentor because that’s not something.

[00:41:00] I have really articulated before, and to have that capacity to do that I think is

[00:41:05] Flo Scialom: really powerful. Yeah, I think, I think both, you know, like not being afraid of the negative and, I saw from Sharon Salzberg another mindfulness and compassion teacher that she talks about, like sitting down to tea with your inner critic and just like hearing them out, you know, you don’t need to be like, Oh, why am I still criticizing myself?

[00:41:26] Just like, be with and ironically, or like counterintuitively somewhat, that takes away the power because you think, Oh, I can’t let it in. Uh, But actually allowing it to be there, naming it, like making light, light of it, but being with it takes away the power and Yeah, and I really love this concept.

[00:41:44] I learned the concept of being a mentor from um, a friend of mine, Adanna, who does writing coaching her name. She’s @invictawriters writers on Instagram and I love her work and she. Really like encourages people to like be with both. So, you know, be with that inner critic, sit down with them and be with that inner mentor.Like what would your inner mentor be called? Like what are they trying to say to you? How can you kind of support and nourish them, give them voice as well? Obviously you don’t wanna have too many characters in your inner world, but it’s I think it’s a helpful counter narrative to the inner critic that’s much more widely known.

[00:42:24] I

[00:42:24] Laura Hartley: think it is. I agree. I wanna ask one last question to kind of close this out today. This podcast is all about remaking the world. So if you could remake the world in some capacity, what is your vision of a more beautiful, a more just, a more regenerative world or community that you can picture?

[00:42:47] Flo Scialom: What a beautiful and huge question. So I think that I would bring us back to how we started in this understanding of life and the world as sacred and deeply interconnected. And my vision of a more beautiful world would be. A life that like acknowledges that on every level. So a world in which people deeply experience this sense of awe and beauty that we talked about on a daily basis as something that’s just kind of a given of being [00:43:20] alive on this planet and that we, that was combined with a.

[00:43:25] Deep respect and honoring of our interconnectedness. A, a real respect for the natural world, the systems on which we, or the natural systems on which we all depend, and a real kind of honoring of that in the way that we, that we live, that we eat, that we work, that we conduct our lives. So I think a more beautiful world would be built on, on sacredness and interconnection.

[00:43:51] I love that.

[00:43:52] Laura Hartley: Thank you Flo so much for coming onto the show. I’ll have your details, so your links to Mindful Change and to Spiritual Ecology Netherlands in the show notes below, if anybody would like to check it out. Is there anything you would like to say before we finish up or any place that people can find you online?

[00:44:09] Flo Scialom: Just thank you so much, Laura. I find it really exciting that you are doing this podcast project and I love these types of conversations and thank you everyone listening. I think it’s it’s really powerful to just be on this journey collectively. And, and I, like I’ve said, for me kind of community connection is so important and that doesn’t just mean like the people that are immediately living close to you.

[00:44:34] For me, that means the people that are on that journey with you together. And so, feel free to connect with me more if you would like to. Oh, I’m like, I’ve got my Mindful Change blog and @mindful.Change on Instagram as well, and I’ll share the links with Laura. So we’d love to.

[00:44:52] Laura Hartley: Wonderful. Look, everybody, thank you for listening.

[00:44:54] I do love it when you’re able to suggest guests to have on the show. So please reach out to me and let me know what part of the world you would like to remake and who you would like to hear from. So you can follow more on Instagram at @laura.h.hartley, or check out our online school for changemakers at www.Laurahartley.com and we’ll see you next time.

How can we… parent for a changing climate? With Elizabeth Bechard

How can we… parent for a changing climate? With Elizabeth Bechard

In this episode with Elizabeth Bechard, we explore the challenges of parenting in a changing climate, as well as what framing climate as moral injury has to offer us as we navigate these times.

Elizabeth is Senior Policy Analyst for Moms Clean Air Force. She is also a health coach, author, former clinical research coordinator, and a public health graduate student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

After becoming a mother, Elizabeth became passionate about the intersection between climate change and family resilience. She is the author of Parenting in a Changing Climate: Tools for Cultivating Resilience, Taking Action, and Practicing Hope in the Face of Climate Change. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and young twins.

Learn more about Laura Hartley & Public LovED:
Web: www.laurahartley.com
Insta: @laura.h.hartley
Facebook: @laurahartley-publiclove
LinkedIn: @laura-hartley-

Learn more about Elizabeth Bechard:
Website: www.elizabethbechard.com
Insta: @elizabethbechard
Moms Clean Air Force: www.momscleanairforce.org

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please note transcript was generated by AI and has not been edited. It may contain mistakes or omissions.

[00:00:00] Elizabeth Bechard: And in that paper, they made the case that, you know, young people are watching governments fail to act on the climate crisis. And that, that is a form of moral injury, which I completely agree with.

[00:00:12] Laura Hartley: I’m Laura Hartley and welcome to the Public Love Project. This podcast is all about re-imagining and remaking the world, creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving. Each week, we dive into topics around resilience, social change, birthing, and more just, and regenerative world and how we can use our head heart and hands in action. Before i introduce today’s guest and topic though i have one request head on over to apple podcasts or spotify wherever you’re listening and hit subscribe rate and review it helps us work to reach new listeners

[00:00:52] Today’s guest is Elizabeth Bechard.

[00:00:55] Elizabeth is a senior policy analyst for mom’s clean air force. She is a health coach, author, former clinical research coordinator, and a public health graduate student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. After becoming a mother, Elizabeth became passionate about the intersection between climate change and family resilience.

[00:01:13] She is the author of parenting in a changing climate tools for cultivating resilience, taking action and practicing hope in the face of climate. She lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and young twins. So welcome Elizabeth to the

[00:01:26] Elizabeth Bechard: public love project. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here with you

[00:01:31] Laura Hartley: today.

[00:01:33] Ah, me too, because I love your work. And one of the things that I actually thought to start the conversation today is this phrase that you use, which is that you are a recovering activist. Can you tell us a little bit about what this

[00:01:46] Elizabeth Bechard: means? Ooh, what an interesting question we’ll start with. I can tell you what it means for me.

[00:01:54] I think You know, I first identified with the word activist pretty young, like as a teenager, I was, I remember being in high school and maybe even a little bit younger than that early high school. And someone handed me like a brochure for pita like the, that people for the ethical treatment of animals.

[00:02:15] And I became a vegetarian overnight. I just stopped eating meat and animal products and Anybody who’s familiar with PETA probably knows that they are pretty graphic in their depiction of animal rights abuses. And there’s absolutely the absolutely a place for that. I got very into animal rights activism in my teens and early twenties.

[00:02:38] And didn’t have. Our community of activists around me. I didn’t have a whole lot of support. You know, I had a few people in my life who were, who became vegetarian, but not very many, you know, like I could count them on my one, one hand. right. So I was kind of, I immersed myself in learning a lot about animal, right.

[00:02:59] And how that was connected to all kinds of different harms, social harms, environmental harms, and You know, I, anybody who’s familiar with like how , how dark that can get can probably understand that I was immersing myself in a lot of just really horrifying, depressing, scary [00:03:20] information without the skills, without the resilience, without the community, to help me process that.

[00:03:26] And. In my, in my late later teens and, and twenties, you know, I was definitely struggling with depressions and some other mental health challenges due to things that were not related, you know, to, to animal rights. But there was kind of for me, this intersection of, you know, overwhelming concern about this.

[00:03:46] This problem and, and feeling intersection, you know, with that and, and all of the other sort of mental health struggles that, you know, many teens would be dealing with for other reasons. And I remember at the time feeling the, the thing that was most painful to me about activism at that time was the feeling that people didn’t care about it, you know, that I was sort of walking through my life and I, it was so obvious to me that there.

[00:04:12] Huge problems with, you know, the way that, you know, our culture you know, processes food and, you know, thinks about food. But, but nobody else in my life and nobody is of exaggeration, but most people in my life did not seem to, to care or be concerned about this. And I just didn’t understand that.

[00:04:30] Right. It kind of it didn’t make sense to me. And I remember getting In my early twenties to a place where I was quite honestly, suicidally depressed. Like I just didn’t want to exist in a world that was like this. Like it was, I was too sensitive for that. And I feel really lucky that I had like family support to help me pull myself with a lot of support and therapy and to pull myself out of that sort of dark hole of like, I don’t wanna be here if the world is gonna be like this hole.

[00:05:00] I had to sort of turn my back on activism for about 10 years, at least after that point, because I just couldn’t expose myself to the kind of information that I had been taking in before, because I, I was so sensitive and didn’t have the inner resilience and, or the support structures around me to be able to cope with that in healthy ways.

[00:05:21] Laura Hartley: I was going to say, I can see how this has led to the work that you do now. This overwhelming concern we have and this inability sometimes, you know, why isn’t the world doing anything? Why aren’t people stepping up, you see this in the climate movement now a lot.

[00:05:37] Absolutely. Yeah. And having these tools and these resources and these skills to actually. Stay and process and be with long haul work and to be with the emotions of this work. I think is really what you do in a way.

[00:05:52] Elizabeth Bechard: Yeah. I, I can identify so deeply with the sort of disillusionment of youth climate activists that you hear about, you know, you know, I am no Greta Thunburg by any stretch of the imagination, but I deeply relate to the story that I’ve heard her tell of like, Going into this very dark hole related to understanding some environmental problems and then watching the, the people in power in the world, or even the people in your own life kind of go about their, their lives as though nothing’s wrong.

[00:06:24] You know, that sense of how can this be? Right? Like how can even the people that I care about, not care about this, how can they not act is very. It’s very hard. And I think especially for young people, because it does take time and self awareness and, and life [00:06:40] experience to sort of build that resilience and those skills to have perspective, you know, now I can, I can sort of track my, my thoughts when they go to dark places and have like a level of mindful awareness about them that I didn’t have when I was 16 or 22.

[00:06:55] And I think building those skills of like you were saying of being with really hard emotions and really painful and difficult truths is so critical to sustainable act activism because you know, those of us who go to dark places and don’t come back, can’t continue to, to serve the world and to show up in ways that are life giving and, and generative.

[00:07:16] And I feel really lucky honestly, to have survived, you know, that period of my life, you know, but I think cultivating resilience however people think about that word is so critical to keeping climate activism and environmental activism going for the long haul.

[00:07:33] Laura Hartley: And this is an interesting question. What would you say resilience is? Because, you know, when we are looking at climate change now and, , the impacts of climate change, both the physical impacts of actually what we’re seeing and the changes that are happening in the world. Now today with heat waves across Europe, with, you know, endless rain and la nina events through Australia and in many, many other parts of the world as.

[00:07:58] Being conscious of where I’m naming, but also just in the future of fears, you know, the fears for our children in the next generation, it’s starting to impact our mental health.

[00:08:07] Elizabeth Bechard: Absolutely. And I think the word resilience is a tricky one because it can, it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people.

[00:08:14] It can be used in a lot of different contexts. I think the, the older way of thinking about resilience is that it’s just about sort of bouncing back to normal, right? Like getting back to baseline or snapping back like a rubber band. And and I don’t like that conceptualization of resilience. I think my favorite definition of resilience I’ve ever seen was actually in one of

[00:08:35] the recent IPCC reports. I believe it was the one that came out in February, although I could be wrong about that. And it, there was a line in there that described resilience as the capacity for transformation. And that felt, I love that oh

[00:08:49] Laura Hartley: my God. How have I not. Seen that I love that description.

[00:08:52] Elizabeth Bechard: It is hidden.

[00:08:53] It was like this little tucked away line, but yeah, I mean, that’s, I think that captures how I think about resilience. It’s not about getting back to a baseline or a normal it’s about, do we have the capacity to become something new, to become something, you know, more alive, more real, more authentic, more whole that’s what, that’s how I think about it.

[00:09:15] Now.

[00:09:16] Laura Hartley: Yeah. And I can see that, you know, on a personal level and also on a collective level as well, which I think a lot of climate action is really balancing these two areas of the individual and their collective

[00:09:27] Elizabeth Bechard: mm-hmm . Yeah, it is. I think Being fairly new to full-time climate activism. And within the past year, I’ve become full-time in my climate work.

[00:09:38] And I, I think there’s it can be easy within the climate movement to sort of just get, get so obsessed with the outer work, rather that there’s not enough time or space for the inner work. But I think and I know your work speaks to this too.

[00:09:53] The more that we can sort of realize that, you know, the energy that we put out into the world reflects the quality of our, [00:10:00] of our inner experience too. The more will prioritize. Mm-hmm , you know, doing our our inner healing, which there’s so many layers to that, and it’s not ever complete, but I think it’s really important.

[00:10:14] Mm-hmm

[00:10:15] Laura Hartley: so, you work for a mom’s clean air force, your book, which I loved was parenting in a changing climate. And you know, this is such a topical area right now. There’s, there’s one, there’s a lot of people who increasingly are afraid of having children afraid of what the future would look like if they have that.

[00:10:33] For those friends with young children who increasingly are concerned about what the quality of their children’s lives will be. Where is this intersection here with family resilience and what does it mean and what are we looking at?

[00:10:45] Elizabeth Bechard: That’s a great question. I, I think there’s probably not just one meaning of it.

[00:10:50] It probably means lots of different things to different people, but, , I think there’s a space for honoring what you know is being called in the academic literature or at least eco reproductive concerns. So like the very real and valid worries that people are having more and more people are having about, like, what does it really mean to bring a child into this world for, for so many reasons, not just climate, but, you know, racism is the reason, you know, just to have that question or, fear of political instability or there’s many reasons that people might sort of question bringing a child into the world.

[00:11:25] I think there’s room to, to make space for the authenticity of those experiences, but also to embrace that, that some of us are going to want to bring life into the world for, for many different reasons as well. And to be able to celebrate and support people who choose to become parents and to see how can we find ways to.

[00:11:46] Create a future that’s as good as possible for these children and, and for every generation that might follow, even, even if we don’t know what might happen, you know, 50 years from now, a hundred years from now, we can’t, we can’t know. And you know, that uncertainty can be really frightening. But I know as a, as a mother myself, and I see this in my colleagues at mom’s clean air force too, for me becoming a mom has.

[00:12:09] Has deepened my investment in the future in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. Which is not to say that parents are more concerned about climate change than others. I think, you know, that’s I wouldn’t make that statement necessarily, but I would say that, you know, when you have a child, there’s this like stake in the future in a really concrete way, right?

[00:12:29] It’s it’s your children who will be living, you know, in the future that we create. And so I know that I feel just fiercely determined to, to show up for them and to try to figure out like, how can we reshape the world, right? Like how can we create a world that doesn’t repeat all of the mistakes of the past, that we’re wrestling with.

[00:12:50] So painfully right now and I really see that dedication in my, in my colleagues as well. I think. Even, even in moments when, when things seem really dark on the climate front, and there have been a lot of those moments recently, you know, the parents I know who are engaged in the climate movement are, are not gonna give up on our kids.

[00:13:11] We’re just not, we’re gonna keep going and and fight for the future that children. Our children, and all children deserve

[00:13:19] Laura Hartley: [00:13:20] yeah. and the future that we deserve as well.

[00:13:22] Elizabeth Bechard: You know, everyone, everyone deserves. Yeah, absolutely. And this

[00:13:25] Laura Hartley: reminds me that, yeah, there was a line I loved in your book.

[00:13:28] That was, that was quite interesting. That was, and while many communities have faced existential threats for generations, black indigenous Jewish and queer communities, for starters, many people of European descent have little in the way of inherited resilience in the face of the level of trauma presented by climate change.

[00:13:46] People like me will need to learn how to hold and integrate this path. You and I are obviously both of European descent. We both have a fairly large degree of privilege. We’re both living in Western nations. And so looking at. We’re not the first culture, the first community to actually face the end of our way of life or an existential threat.

[00:14:05] Right. But we are having to learn to teach this resilience, to hold it, down to our children as well.

[00:14:10] Elizabeth Bechard: Mm-hmm yeah. And it’s, it feels very awkward. I think, you know, that’s, I think that’s the word that, that, that describes the lived experience I’ve had, you know, I think not having. Stories of having survived things like slavery or genocide in my own family.

[00:14:28] Like I have to, to figure out like, what does it, what does it mean for me to be resilient without appropriating from someone else’s culture? I know I, I can think of several friends who are and also meaningfully engaged in, in climate thought and work who we’ve talked about, like, what does it mean as someone of European descent to sort of learn from the resilience of our ancestral traditions as people who are not in Europe.

[00:14:51] Right. And really are very, you know, in America and maybe Australia too, very, quite disconnected from, you know, say Celtic traditions, right. That, that got lost

[00:15:01] Laura Hartley: long time ago, long, many, many

[00:15:03] Elizabeth Bechard: generations. Right. And having to, to relearn, or even thinking about re like how do I relearn the wheel of the year, right.

[00:15:11] Or, or these things that that I do believe would help with resilience because they help with nature connection. It feels very clumsy. I’ve got this whole book on shelf of like wheel of the year books, you know how to do this. And it’s Yeah, it feels awkward. Clumsy, fumbling tender too, to be trying to learn ways of being that I wasn’t taught growing up from a book rather than a grandmother or, you know, you know, someone who’s an elder I don’t think that’s the whole answer to resilience, but it’s definitely, I think one of the ways that, that some people are trying to figure out, like how do we draw on our own ancestral traditions when we don’t have that experience?

[00:15:51] Even if it means Googling, like how do I celebrate Lamas? Right. Which is coming, what is an appropriate way to to do this one with your family? You know, it’s very, it’s funny, right? you have to laugh.

[00:16:05] Laura Hartley: It is, you know, I think this is part of healing from whiteness in a way like that, that healing and, and that reconnecting to actually, what are our ancestral roots as white people, like before, Appropriating all of the other cultures, where did our roots actually lie?

[00:16:21] And a lot of the, same mentality and same beliefs are really what I think has led to the climate crisis. Like it’s very, very difficult to separate the climate crisis and what we’re seeing today from its roots in capitalism for its roots in patriarchy, it’s roots in colonialism. So this going back to, [00:16:40] what is ours?

[00:16:40] What is ours to do? What is, what is the history of our lineage I think is so important,

[00:16:45] Elizabeth Bechard: right? Yeah. It, it’s amazing that we do at least have access through technology to information that might have been even more hard to access a generation ago, right before the internet, , you can learn almost anything, or about almost any topic through through Google.

[00:17:03] But I, I completely agree that it, that it is part of healing from whiteness. And, and so many of these ancestral traditions, maybe all of them were much more sustainable ways of being right. Like, you know, their, their nature base, they’re connected with seasons and cycles and, celebrating you know, what fruit or flowers or, or vegetables, or in season in a particular time, rather than, the culture we have now, which is that you can go to the grocery store and.

[00:17:33] Anything you want all year round and you just expect that, right?

[00:17:37] Laura Hartley: We expect start the world to always be that way. Yeah. That you can get whatever you want. Yes. Whenever you want it at any time, as quickly as possible, you know, this endless consumption, endless growth, to be satiated just means that I have unlimited opportunities.

[00:17:55] And so it is, it’s a balance. Isn’t it? Of coming back to actually no unlimited opportunities and nature is abundant. The natural world is abundant, but there is a time for things there’s a season and there’s a cycle.

[00:18:09] Elizabeth Bechard: Right.

[00:18:11] Laura Hartley: I wanna talk for a moment about this idea. Cause we had a really good conversation a month ago about this idea of climate as moral injury.

[00:18:19] What does this mean to you? What is moral injury? How would you explain this?

[00:18:24] Elizabeth Bechard: I first heard about the idea of moral injury in the context of, of climate change from Britt Wray who does he’s, she’s an author as well. She wrote generation dread and has written a lot about mental health and the climate crisis.

[00:18:37] But there was a paper that she was an author on that was published last fall, published in the Lancet. And it was this study of 10,000 young people around the world asking about their experiences of, of climate change and mental health. And the study showed just overwhelming levels of climate distress among young people.

[00:18:59] And, one of the main or the most interesting, I thought findings of that paper was the description of young people experiencing moral injury. And they described it as this idea of it’s psychological harm from, from witnessing or taking part in something that violates your, your moral or your ethical or spiritual beliefs or, or even

[00:19:23] sense of betrayal by some trusted authority. And in that paper, they made the case that, you know, young people are watching governments fail to act on the climate crisis. And that, that is a form of moral injury, which I completely agree with. And I’ve been working on a, a thesis project and for my master’s degree on on parents and climate change and mental health and It’s it’s become apparent to me from that and my own experience.

[00:19:54] I think parents experience this too, and maybe all of us, right? Like, I, I think we need more [00:20:00] research to understand this, but you know, when I think about parents specifically, we’re also watching our governments fail to act and fail to protect our kids. Right. You know, when it comes to climate change, especially those of us who are climate aware and really have a sense of kind of where we are with this crisis and, and what it means.

[00:20:19] To not act now, right. While there’s still time to avert, a lot of the, , impacts that we could see, will see in the future. But, but parents also have this moral obligation, I believe, and I think most parents would believe, to protect and care for our kids and climate change directly interferes with that and is going to interfere with, with that more and more. The feeling that you can’t protect your kid from a terrifying future is a, is a devastating feeling, right.

[00:20:52] Or just one example of how parents might experience moral injury, , is the, the climate conversation, right. I’m hearing it being called the climate talk now. Right. This used to be the sex talk, which I guess we still need to have, but the climate talk now of like, Presenting to your children information about what this means, on the one hand, you know, as a parent, you feel the need to prepare your child for the future that they’re going to have, right.

[00:21:24] You have to on some level, prepare them for the future. But on the other hand, you also. I feel this, this strong desire not to cause harm emotional harm or trauma to your children, by giving them terrifying information, which, , you can deliver it in different ways, but it’s a real, it’s a really excruciating bind for parents.

[00:21:46] It’s like, how do we, how do we tell the truth about climate change to our kids in a trauma sensitive way? And how do we tell them the truth? While knowing that we’re still using fossil fuels to get to drive to school. Every toy they have is, comes in plastic. You know, we’ve been ordering our groceries online because of COVID.

[00:22:05] So we don’t go into the store. And then, you can’t use your reusable bags because there, so there’s so many ways that, all of us are just kind of embedded in the system that we don’t, that is causing the harm. And there’s almost no way to extract yourself. So as a parent, you’re like, , how do I tell my child.

[00:22:23] And also acknowledge we’re still participating in this with really no viable way out for most families. And, and so I think those are some of the ways that I see moral injury playing out for parents. And I think the reason that, that the idea of moral injury is important to me or that I, I think it’s a useful framework, even if, maybe not every parent has the, has a lived experience of feeling injured in a moral way, is that, to me, the way that you frame an issue informs how you think about.

[00:22:53] How you address that issue, right? Like the way you frame a problem affects how you think about the solution. And when you look at the literature on moral injury, there’s not a whole lot of evidence based interventions, but you’ll see frequently recommendations for spiritual care. And I think that’s.

[00:23:10] An incredibly important idea that parents need spiritual care youth need spiritual care. Everybody needs it. And I ,don’t hear a whole lot of [00:23:20] discussion about that in the climate space yet.

[00:23:23] Laura Hartley: I love the way you kind of directed that because my question, when we’re holding this idea of what, like moral injury is, where is repair, where does healing actually occur from something like that and that idea of spiritual practices or of a spiritual kind of healing, I think is probably the direction in which, it’s kind of leading.

[00:23:43] Can you tell us a little bit more about that, about what are the, what are the practices and the tools that we need as parents to actually be holding . This pain and having these conversations and maybe a little bit about your thoughts of this, as a world, as a collective, where does repair for moral injury actually lie?

[00:24:00] Elizabeth Bechard: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I don’t feel like I’m an expert on the solution. So I think, There’s ideas and there’s anecdotal evidence. There’s not a lot of academic evidence about what will work or not work. And I don’t believe that that’s the only, or even the best form of knowledge about these things.

[00:24:16] But, one aspect of this of repair that I think is really important is having community spaces or relational spaces where people can come together to express their emotions, to name things like grief or fear, that we might not talk about very openly in a lot of spaces to do that with others and really in community and, and in relationship wrestle with these existential questions.

[00:24:48] For me at the core climate change, my fear of climate change is really about my fear of death. Right? That’s a spiritual question. , what happens after we die and I don’t have the answers, but throughout human history, I imagine that people have coped with that.

[00:25:02] What do we do after? What does this even mean? Right? Why are we even here by coming together and, and talking and, and being, and, after someone dies, having ritual and ceremony, when someone is born ritual and ceremony and, and a lot of that is missing from our culture, but it’s , these deeper questions, I, I don’t believe they’re meant.

[00:25:21] To be wrestled with alone, with our laptops or our cell phones right. We need, we need each other. And I, I think that’s maybe the biggest thing is that spaces where people can, can be with others, even if it’s over zoom, because that’s the reality for many of us right now.

[00:25:39] Even better, right? Like in person could be together and, and sort of name that we are wrestling with these existential crises and through relationship to find, a sense of, of not being alone. Some of the literature that I found in my thesis project named especially for people of colour that, a sense of ancestral connection can be part of.

[00:26:02] That healing. And we were talking about that earlier is like having to learn how to find that for many of us having a sense of deep time perspective. So which again is something you can wrestle with in community, but remembering, that our, our existence in The present moment. It’s just like this tiny little fraction of of all existence.

[00:26:25] You’ll probably laugh at this, but I actually have, a few fossils on my desk to remind me of my place in time. Where is that? I find it very helpful. Its just, I got my little you know, my little, one of my little fossils right here. Fossils may not work for [00:26:40] everybody, but it helps me.

[00:26:41] But , being with each other to find perspective, to grieve together, to think about, the meaning of life, I think that’s a big part of the solution and there’s not a whole lot of spaces for that?

[00:26:54] Laura Hartley: No, I think that when you go back 50, a hundred years ago, spaces that did provide this, at least in some context, you know, rightly or wrongly were of course more religious spaces.

[00:27:05] Yes. And as we see increasing secularization, we see increasing lack of spaces to talk about the deeper issues of life, what it means to be in community, what it means to be human, what it means to live, to die, to, to grieve, to love and all of these, these experiences. And of course, the experiences that we are only just starting to name, I think there’s a new range of climate emotions and new range of feelings that we’re starting to experience and that there are now names for

[00:27:36] Elizabeth Bechard: right.

[00:27:37] Yeah. I mean, one of the ones that is often referred to as so solastalgia, right? The, sort of the idea of losing a beloved place or a sense of being homesick while you’re still at home. And I did want to name too, that there, some of the spaces that, that have emerged for people to wrestle with these, or are spaces like climate cafes, which are intentional spaces where people can.

[00:28:01] Can come in and reflect about their thoughts and feelings about a climate crisis, but many people don’t have access to them, right. Unless, unless you have happened to find them over zoom or happen to live in an area where people are doing that. And the good grief network also is a framework sort of a 10 step framework where people can process these feelings intentionally.

[00:28:21] But, but you’re right. There’s this whole new vocabulary emerging to describe, what are these experiences? And I imagine that vocabulary will, will grow. I’d almost like to see a whole vocabulary around parenthood or what, that question of like, what does it mean to be a parent like in a changing climate?

[00:28:40] Because I think We’re gonna be experiencing some new, some new things that, that, you know, maybe that maybe we haven’t, as a species before and, and language helps us to, it helps us with meaning making,

[00:28:55] Laura Hartley: Helps us with meaning making. I think that’s, that’s exactly where it is there that it helps us communicate and also helps us feel less alone.

[00:29:02] Cuz we can share what we’re experiencing. Exactly. I have a couple of last questions for you. And, one is for those listening, when we’re looking at tools of practicing and resilience in the face of climate change, we’re looking at practicing hope. What is it, what is the practice or what is a recommendation that you think that, or feel that we can come back to.

[00:29:27] Elizabeth Bechard: I would say community, right? Like, the number one thing I, I recommend to everybody is to find some kind of climate community and it could look very different, for some people, it might be an activist community for others. It might be a space like a climate cafe or the good grief network.

[00:29:45] It might even be a friend that, that you find to go for a walk with, you know, once a month or to, to who, who actually has the ability to hear you talk about your climate distress. Right. And not everybody can do that. Those friends aren’t as easy to find as probably many of us wish [00:30:00] they were, but.

[00:30:02] Being in relationship is a practice. And I would say, in a very practical resilience, I, I think people should be bringing each other more loaves of banana bread or, or, sh you know, sharing food, right? Like that, that very simple act of like, I will share my resources with you.

[00:30:23] Builds relationship. It builds connection. And when natural disasters, extreme weather hits, now those local relationships, the people that you’re sharing banana bread with are, are gonna be there when the power goes out or when a storm comes through or when there’s a wire. Your wildfire and , that kind of relationship building doesn’t necessarily require talking about climate change.

[00:30:45] Ideally you’d have both kinds of relationship, but you could still build relational resilience and have a sense of, of community support, even if your neighbour hasn’t ever, given any indication that they’re, you know, willing to talk about climate change. So I would say just.

[00:31:01] Community is a practice. It’s a skill too. Like many of us have been so isolated over the last few years with COVID that, , maybe we’ve forgotten about, bringing, sharing things with our neighbour. Some people are really good at it, but , building mutual aid networks is, is sort of part of that.

[00:31:18] That practice, whether they’re formal or informal, but we, we need each other, like we can’t do this alone. So any practice that is isolated from, from other people, I think will just ultimately be. Insufficient, , I’m sure I’m sure there’s individual practices, , somatic body practices that can help us cope with individuals, but ultimately we need each other to get through this on on both a very practical level, but also for our spiritual care.

[00:31:47] And so that’s the, that’s the number one thing I would recommend. But these are

[00:31:51] Laura Hartley: collective crisis that we face, you know, so. I think they require a collective response in collective healing. And you know, this podcast. All about remaking the world. So I often I talk about, you know, moving from the world as it is to the world, as it could be.

[00:32:06] I think that’s a really important shift that we start to look at because so often, especially with climate, we hear incredibly apocalyptic stories, far more regular than we hear actually beautiful possibilities. Yeah. Mm-hmm so what is your more beautiful vision for the world as it could be? Hmm.

[00:32:23] Elizabeth Bechard: I love that question.

[00:32:27] Hmm. And there’s so many layers to that. Right. But

[00:32:32] I’ll keep it specific to parents cause I think it would probably take, you know, the rest of the night to like describe a really comprehensive vision for the, for the whole world. But I would say, you know, I, I, I, what I hope for, for parents is that every, every parent. And everyone who loves children, right.

[00:32:49] Can, can feel like they’re in community, right? That like, no matter what may come there are people who will support them. There is a place for them to offer their support, that everybody has a sense of. Being able to contribute meaningfully to the world around them and have their, their needs met, by community.

[00:33:10] And that children kind of grow up with a sense of, of being loved, being held, having access to the resources that, that you would need for, [00:33:20] wellbeing, the truth is that we will have hard things that we’re gonna face in the future, but, you know, if together we could face almost anything.

[00:33:28] Right. So I would wish for, for people to have that sense of, of knowing that when the hard times come, they are held and loved and resourced. In community and I love that. That’s part of my vision.

[00:33:42] Laura Hartley: Yeah. This the held in community. I think that that’s a beautiful vision right there.

[00:33:47] Yeah. How can people find you online?

[00:33:50] Elizabeth Bechard: Good question. So I am on Instagram fairly regularly at Elizabeth Bechard. My website is www.elizabethbechard.com. It’s not updated very regularly these days. And you can also check out mom’s clean air Force’s work at mom’s clean air force.org.

[00:34:09] Laura Hartley: Amazing. I will make sure that the link to all of these is in the show notes.

[00:34:12] For anyone listening, Elizabeth also has a wonderful book parenting and a changing climate, which really holds this idea of pain, possibility, and practice. So anyone with young kids, I highly recommend this book. I really wanna thank you for coming on the show today and offering everything that you have.

[00:34:27] Elizabeth Bechard: Thank you so much.

[00:34:30] Laura Hartley: sorry for anybody listening. Thank you so much for joining us. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe. I also love to hear from you. I’d love to know what guests you would like to have on what topics you want to hear about. So please reach out to me on Instagram at @laura.h.hartley, or you can check out our online school for changemakers at publiclove.enterprises.

How can we… foster positive masculinity?

How can we… foster positive masculinity?

I sit down with Mac Scotty McGregor to talk about his work with Positive Masculinity.

Mac is a transgender activist, author, speaker, and educator who lives in Seattle, USA.  He provides gender and LGBTQ+ diversity training for corporations, colleges, and groups all over the world. He’s the co-founder of Positive Masculinity, a project for heart led masculine folks who want to create a transformative path for masculinity in our world, and he’s also the author of Positive Masculinity Now.

Learn more about Laura & Public LovED:
Website: www.laurahartley.com
Instagram: @laura.h.hartley
LinkedIn: Laura Hartley|

Follow Mac Scotty McGregor
Buy the book, Positive Masculinity Now

Check out this episode!

TRANSCRIPT: Please not transcript was created by AI and has not been edited. It may contain errors or mistranslations of the actual interview.  

Mac Scotty Macgregor – Positive Masculinity Now

[00:00:00] Mac Scotty Macgregor: So women were starting to speak up and, and talk about how the patriarchy and toxic masculinity had harmed them and held them back and been an obstacle, but men, weren’t a part of this conversation. You know, the, the masculine voice was not a part of this. Except some men that were saying, oh, you’re just trying to say, you know, all men are bad.

[00:00:25] The men that were fighting, you’re trying to take our manhood away. That was the only voice that I heard coming from the masculine side.


[00:00:31] Laura Hartley: I’m Laura Hartley and welcome to the Public Love Project. This podcast is all about re-imagining and remaking the world, creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving. Each week, we dive into topics around resilience, social change, birthing, and more just, and regenerative world and how we can use our head heart and hands in action. Before i introduce today’s guest and topic though i have one request head on over to apple podcasts or spotify wherever you’re listening and hit subscribe rate and review it helps us work to reach new listeners

[00:01:09] Today’s guest is Mac Scotty McGregor. Mac is a transgender activist, author, speaker, and educator that lives in Seattle. And he provides gender and LGBTQ+ diversity training for corporations, colleges, and groups all over the world. He’s the co-founder of positive masculinity. Uh, project for heart led masculine folks who want to create a transformative path for masculinity in our world.

[00:01:33] He’s also the author of positive masculinity now. And we’re excited to have you on the show so welcome Mac

[00:01:39] Mac Scotty Macgregor: thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:41] Laura Hartley: I have so enjoyed our conversations before this and the other week. And so I’m really excited to talk with you today. And obviously I’ve been looking through your work, reading your book.

[00:01:51] There’s a lot of things that I want to ask you about, but I wanna start first with this idea of gender and masculinity. There are so many constructs and so many stories that we’re told about it, the conditioning from a young age, and I’m curious to hear from you, what were the first experiences and stories that you were told about gender and masculinity when you were young?

[00:02:14] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Hmm. Well, I grew up in a pretty conservative area and in kind of the, the Bible belt in the south of the United States and you know, went to a Southern Baptist school and everything. And so it was very, it was very binary, gender based. It was very, there were very clear distinctions in expectations like around what men did and what women did and how you dressed and how you acted and everything, I mean, even the activities you were allowed to do or supposed to do or not supposed to do, you know?

[00:02:47] So it was it was very separated. And, and so that was very clear to me. No, I didn’t fit into that very easily myself. I’m a transgender man. So I was born female and I started changing my name playing with other kids to a masculine name at four years old. So I had no exposure at all to the LGBTQ plus community.

[00:03:10] And yet I knew that the name I was given the very feminine name did not fit me, but there was not even the word transgender [00:03:20] then, so I had no language to explain it or describe what I was feeling. Right. I just knew that the name didn’t fit and started changing my name to a masculine name and my grandfather and I, my mom had me at 16.

[00:03:35] So my grandparents helped raise me in my younger years. And so my grandfather and I had a show that we watched together all the time and our show was gun smoke. It was an old Western. You know, some of you can still see it on Nick at night. I think they have replays. And I told everybody that my name was Matt Dylan, who was the sheriff in that show who I thought was this really good guy.

[00:03:59] You know, he wore the white cowboy hat. He was the good guy in town, and I wore a little, literally wore a little Sheriff’s badge and six shooters and cowboy boots. My grandparents actually thought it was really cute when kids would come knock on the door and ask to play with Matt Dylan

[00:04:15] So that was my first experience. And you know, one of the interesting things is being born. My sex at birth being born female it’s kind of cute when a kid is little, if they’re born female and they’re a tomboy, you can get away with that. Whereas, you know, if your sex at birth is male that doesn’t work on the opposite side of that.

[00:04:36] Right? If a someone born male, wants to play a girl or a princess that’s not acceptable. Right. But then of course, when you get to the age of puberty in conservative areas like that, you’re supposed to snap to, and, and put on your dress and go to church and

[00:04:55] I did what I had to do to get through that. And I started martial arts at six, so that helped cuz that gave me this outlet, this place to be more who I was, more masculine and I could be more physical. And the uniform is a uniform, right. It’s pants , you know, and so by the time I was 17, I was on the US karate team.

[00:05:19] I won the US fighting title. So I did very well, and that put me on a different journey as far as my experience with gender. Because that was a really rare. Of course only the top 100 athletes in any sport get an opportunity to be asked to be on a team on a country’s team, for a sport.

[00:05:39] And so I knew how rare that opportunity was. And I had worked many years for it, very hard, and I happened to have really good genetics as an athlete. So I, my body held up to that kind of hardcore training and competition really well for a long. So the last time I competed, I was 39 years old and I was in the world championships on the US karate team.

[00:06:06] And I had some 18 year olds on the team calling me the grandparent of the team, cuz I was the oldest one on the team, male or female at the time. Right. And I won two medals in that world championships. And I looked at my clock and said, this is probably a really good time to retire. well, I retire on top, you know, as the grandparent

[00:06:27] and see the us, they wouldn’t have allowed me to compete had I started medical transition earlier. Cuz they weren’t sure what to do with transgender athletes and especially in a contact sport like I was in and they’re still trying to [00:06:40] figure that out.

[00:06:40] Right. It’s it’s complex, especially when you’re talking a contact sport, but I was still allowed to coach and referee, which I’ve done. I’ve coached 59 national champions, but a lot of the lessons even I talk about in this book, Are from my many, many years of martial arts. So this is, you know, my 51st year as a martial artist.

[00:07:03] And there’s so many lessons in the martial arts about grounding and about, being centered and, and about inclusivity and about seeing the bigger picture of things. So I think, a lot of the things I bring into this are actually from and balance and about balance in life.

[00:07:23] You know, come from that, all that training I’ve had in the martial arts.

[00:07:27] Laura Hartley: You know, and this is an interesting topic here because your work now is all about positive masculinity. Yes. I’m curious again about your experiences in, when you were looking at masculinity, kind of, as to how does this apply to me, where do I fit into this?

[00:07:43] And also, we’re seeing a lot of toxic masculinity is a really common term that we see. What was this like when you were looking at it kind of from a different perspective and then into actually, how do we make this into something that’s a little bit healthier and better for us and better for the world?

[00:07:59] Mac Scotty Macgregor: you know, I’ve had such an interesting ride of this because as, as what the world viewed for a long time as a female athlete, I definitely put up with a lot of sexism, and so I’ve experienced that. And then when I was ready to start my medical transition, I went through a period of time of questioning.

[00:08:17] Do I really want to be a part of this group of people who’ve caused a lot of damage and hurt a lot of people. and that’s when I actually heard my grandfather, who was a great role model to me in a lot of ways. He wasn’t perfect by any means he was very traditional, but my Papa was also , came from a poor farming family and owned his own business.

[00:08:37] And, , he could tell a story like nobody’s business. He was a very social person. He was an extrovert. And so I learned a lot from him, but I heard his voice in the back of my head when I was questioning this, cuz he always taught me that the best way to create positive change is from within a group.

[00:08:56] So he taught me don’t stand on the outside and point the finger at a group and complain, get in there and be a part of making positive change. And he became a city Councilman. He ran for local office. He did all kinds of things in the community to better the community. And, he taught me that I think very valuable, viewpoint and skill.

[00:09:19] And so I heard his voice when I was questioning and then it came to me, it was like, yeah, what we need is more good masculine people to step up and speak up and get involved. And so, and there are. Of course, there are a lot of good masculine people and men in the world, it’s just that right now, they’re not the loudest voice, unfortunately.

[00:09:41] Laura Hartley: So what is positive masculinity? How would you define it?

[00:09:44] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Ah, well, I think I’m gonna take it right from the back of my book. It’s a heart led guide toward growth and conscious emotional intelligent and inclusive masculinity. So when I say inclusive [00:10:00] masculinity, one of the things to me about toxic and traditional masculinity is it’s been very exclusive.

[00:10:07] So it’s even been exclusive to some cisgendered men. And when I make cisgendered, I mean, people who are born with their mind and their, body matching in, how they feel they are, how they feel their gender. It’s congruent. So traditional and toxic masculinity excluded men that were more tender.

[00:10:28] Maybe more artsy, right? They weren’t the physical prowes kind of, you know, tough guy. So all those kind of guys were excluded in that and have been for a long time. So even cisgender men have been excluded and sometimes. This has also been a good old boys club in a way that excluded some men of color.

[00:10:52] Right. And anybody who was a little different, and of course it’s also excluded the LGBTQ plus community. So men that were bisexual or gay or trans men, or any, anybody on that spectrum at all, any, any of the letters of the queer alphabet were excluded as well. Cuz it was very heteronormative.

[00:11:11] Right. So excluded a lot of people. . And so when I talk about inclusive, I mean, not only including all the forms of masculinity that I call masculinities, cuz there’s not just one way to be masculine, but it’s also inclusive of women and people on the gender spectrum all the way across. Why should we think there’s has to be a competition?

[00:11:36] I don’t. I mean, the one thing the binary does is it pits one against the other, any binary system does this so in, in other words, in that system, in order to define manhood and masculinity, I need to say I’m opposite of something and that’s femininity in women, And that’s how the binary does the rich, the poor, right?

[00:11:58] The black, the white, it’s all, you have to have the other to define yourself .

[00:12:03] Laura Hartley: And the thing that I find really interesting in what you’re saying here is that, our traditional definition of masculinity really plays into these systems that a lot of us are trying to change around patriarchy around capitalism, around white supremacy that, that binary and that rigidity is the same construct there.

[00:12:22] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Right? Totally. Yeah. You got that, right? Yeah. It, it, it limits us all. And one of the things when I started the group, so I’ve been running this men’s group, positive masculinity discussion group for going on three and a half years. And when I started this group, the #metoo movement had been going for a while.

[00:12:42] Right. So women were starting to speak up and, and talk about how the patriarchy and toxic masculinity had harmed them and held them back and been an obstacle. , but men, weren’t a part of this conversation. You know, the, the masculine voice was not a part of this. Except some men that were saying, oh, you’re just trying to say, you know, all men are bad.

[00:13:08] The men that were, you know, fighting, you’re trying to take our manhood away. That kind of, that was the only voice that I heard coming from the masculine side. Why do you think

[00:13:17] Laura Hartley: that is?

[00:13:18] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Well, because I think [00:13:20] men have been taught that I have to hold up this man mask, which means I have to, you know, be all these things.

[00:13:27] I’ve been told what it means to be a man. Like I have to be in control all the time. I have to have all the answers. I have to be strong all the time. All these things. I can never show weakness. I have to have all the answers all the time, which none of us do. I mean, that’s ridiculous.

[00:13:44] But that’s the man mask. That’s the thing we’re taught, you know, in order to be a man, if you do any of these things that are considered feminine, then it shows weakness. Which again, goes to why men don’t talk about their feelings and show any emotion, why they’re stoic and rigid. And you know, it’s this, it goes back to all of that.

[00:14:05] So that’s why, and what I wanted to do was invite men and masculine people into this conversation and say, Hey, first of all, we need to talk about how the patriarchy and toxic masculinities also hurt.

[00:14:17] Laura Hartley: It reminds me of that bell hooks, quote, you know, the first act of violence that the patriarchy demands of males is not violence towards women.

[00:14:24] It is to engage in, in psychic self mutilation like that. Yes. That killing off of the emotional parts of

[00:14:30] Mac Scotty Macgregor: themselves. That’s right. That’s right. And, and that’s why the, the suicide rate is so high among middle aged men, I believe, is because, and why do we see all, almost all the violent crime, right.

[00:14:41] Is men because they stuff that emotion down so much, it’s gonna come out in some way. And sometimes it comes out in self harm, whether it be substance abuse or suicide, or, and sometimes it, of course comes out in, in, violence, domestic violence. And sometimes, , it ends up these people going out and doing mass shootings, unfortunately, and harming, you know, innocent people.

[00:15:08] You know, because they just don’t know what to do with all this, because men have not been given the emotional tools . To deal with. Cause they’ve just been told to shut it.

[00:15:16] Laura Hartley: Mm. And you know, this for me, the expression of our emotions through anger and violence is, you know, to say it’s not just men only, but it is a very kind of masculine feature.

[00:15:28] And it’s kind of the definition of what I think we use the term toxic masculinity. But I also, right. I think I remember reading that you said the term toxic masculinity was kind of a dangerous term to use. Was that right?

[00:15:42] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Well, here’s what I challenge people to do. I think there’s a difference between toxic and traditional masculinity.

[00:15:49] And I think we need to save the word toxic for the things that are really toxic. You know, like that extreme violence is toxic. Rape culture is toxic, right? There’s no doubt about that, but there’s also some of this. That is what I would call traditional masculinity. It’s not healthy, but it’s not toxic. So to.

[00:16:11] It may be toxic to the individual, but not toxic to everyone out there. For instance, if you have more traditional belief systems, right. You know, like some people even, I would go as far as say, as some people that believe marriage is, is strictly between one man and one woman. So they don’t believe in, you know, any other type of union.

[00:16:34] Right. Well, if that’s their personal belief and they keep that to [00:16:40] themselves and that’s the way they run their own life, that’s one thing. But the minute they try to push their beliefs, this is where I think the line crosses of something becoming traditional to toxic is the minute I try to force that on other people or bully other people due to my belief or my way of thinking.

[00:16:59] And that’s, I think, I think we have to, you know, I just think sometimes the word toxic is thrown around really easily. And it makes men feel like people think that just all men are toxic, you know, or the masculine is toxic in and of itself. And that’s where I just think we have to be careful.

[00:17:16] Laura Hartley: Yeah. And I like that distinction that you’re making that it’s not masculinity itself.

[00:17:20] It is these aspects of masculinity that involve the violence that involve the, the force and the pushing of harm. Mm-hmm onto others. Yes. You know, I love a lot of your work because it is about breaking free of social conditioning, you know, and I think a lot of what, you know, my school is about as well, is this idea of culture detox.

[00:17:40] How do we break free of systems? And when I was reading your book the other week, there was a quote that stood out to me that. You know, I’d love to hear a little bit more from you about, about these intersecting systems, because you said that capitalism also supports this patriarchal idea to the point where systems have been set up to applaud the survival of the fittest, no longer caring who they hurt or how devastating the hurt may be.

[00:18:04] You know, where does capitalism play into this? Like

[00:18:08] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Well, it’s the hoarding of resources, right? It’s it’s the guy who has the most toys win. , you know, we, we make a joke about it. Like it’s toys, like it’s a kid hoarding the toys, but when it gets to the point where it’s adults hoarding all this wealth, when we have people starving on the, you know, on the other side of the road that is toxic and the, and that the guy with all the toys doesn’t care, the guy that’s hoarded up all the wealth doesn’t care, because all he cares about is getting more and more and more.

[00:18:41] and I think unfortunately capitalism, unchecked or out of balance has turned into something that has become very toxic. And it, I think it’s definitely at that point in the United States you know, and in other places too, in the world, but it’s, it’s become the point where we just cheer on the guy he can get, he can also get away with awful behavior because he has all these resources.

[00:19:06] Right. Whereas another person would never get away with that. Same behavior, you know? So that, again, it just, it just, the, it, the toxicity just is like a ball rolling, downhill, getting bigger and bigger, like the more, the more wealthy gains. And then, you know, he also thinks he’s beyond the law. Right.

[00:19:26] Which some of them are, some of them are , you

[00:19:29] Laura Hartley: know, I think capitalism was born out of patriarchy. I often say, yes, capitalism’s only 500 years old, or so it’s not been around as long as these patriarchal structures, but they kind of prop each other up.

[00:19:42] Mac Scotty Macgregor: They sure do prop each other up. Yeah. And, and it’s also, there’s nothing about being collaborative in this uh, Way of thinking right in this belief system around capitalism, it’s more, I will step on whoever I have to, to get what I want to be the guy at the top of the hill.

[00:19:59] And I [00:20:00] don’t care who it hurts, right. Or how many it hurts or how many are without I don’t care. And, and of course the men that have been in power all these years, they then create systems that support their power. like tax breaks for the rich, right? like they end up paying less taxes than the middle class.

[00:20:24] How is that? Because they create the systems

[00:20:27] Laura Hartley: this kind of leads into another quote of yours that I loved, which was, you know, that it’s important to understand that what we associated with male and female is all connected with what we’ve been taught, that there are social constructs for the purpose of keeping us all in our proper lane.

[00:20:41] You know, what is our proper lane? Like, where is, where is this taking us? What, what is it supporting these ideas that we have?

[00:20:49] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Oh, well it supports those, those old white guys that have the money staying in charge. Honestly. I mean those old, straight white guys, it, it really does. It supports that. You know, I often bring this up when someone says to a little kid to a little boy, Hey man.

[00:21:06] up, or toughen up.. What are they, what are they actually saying to you? You know?

[00:21:12] Laura Hartley: Just be like that person just, just hold it all in

[00:21:16] Mac Scotty Macgregor: that’s right. Yeah. And, and show that you, you know, act like you’ve got it all together, even if you don’t. I remember hearing the thing, fake it till you make it, you know, just put on the face, right.

[00:21:27] Put on the mask act like you’ve got it all all together. When someone says to a little girl act like a lady, what are they saying to her? You’re not staying in your lane. You’re not doing what we tell you you’re supposed to do to act like a little, you know, sweet girl that has manners and doesn’t speak up for herself enough.

[00:21:45] Right. Don’t be too assertive. That’s not acting like a lady, right?

[00:21:50] Laura Hartley: Yeah. It’s funny, I’ve been creating some work around perfectionism and you know, this, this imposter syndrome that especially so many women struggle with and, you know, bringing this back to this idea that actually culturally, as women, that we are, we were supposed and conditioned for thousands of years to stay obedient, to stay quiet, to, you know, to look dainty and clean.

[00:22:11] And then of course, We’re loud or we’re messy, or we make mistakes that it feels like this massive shame, because we’ve never been conditioned to believe that that’s acceptable.

[00:22:22] Mac Scotty Macgregor: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. And I love that there are so many women out there breaking this cycle. Now. I love it. I mean, my wife is one of ’em she’s in, in school getting her doctor degree right now and transpersonal psychology.

[00:22:36] And I love, you know, here we’re visiting our grandchildren right now. And. Young granddaughters are getting to see their grandmother go back and get her doctorate degree right now, which I think is, is so powerful, right. For them to see those examples. Right. And she’s a strong woman and I love that more women are speaking up and not apologizing for who they are and that’s, and, and men need to support.

[00:23:00] ’em one of the things I loved I went to a women’s March yesterday here in the United States for women’s reproductive. Right. and there were a lot of men there marching and supporting women. And that was really good to see.

[00:23:15] Laura Hartley: Yeah. You know, and, you know, looking at this idea, right. So we know that the [00:23:20] binary kind of falls into this idea of supremacy culture.

[00:23:22] We know that it props up these systems. We know that, you know, gender comes with these constructs that keep us in a certain lane, what are the tools that actually create this though. How do we police these systems? Ways that maybe we don’t realize that we’re holding this system up and these ideas in place

[00:23:42] Mac Scotty Macgregor: well, here’s the interesting thing is even with toxic and traditional masculinity, a lot of women even perpetuate these messages because they’ve been socialized the same way.

[00:23:54] Right. And I, I tell this story about my stepson. He, when I teach this stuff, he’s, he’s a, he’s a college, you know, age kid now, but he was 13 and going to get prep for braces and he had to get a tooth pulled and he was really nervous about. And he’s a tall kid for his age. And so we go to this pediatric dentist, his mom was working, so I took him and he’s like the, the dental assistant gets us in the room and he’s giving the chair, the death grip, cuz he’s very nervous.

[00:24:26] And she looks at him and says, because he is a tall kid, right. For his age, she looks at him and says, you need to toughen up. You’re a big boy. So she had been socialized the same way right now. What I did was I stepped up and said, excuse me, ma’am his mom and I don’t raise him like that. We raise him where he can express his fears and talk about his feelings.

[00:24:46] She was just like, oh my goodness. You know, I’msorry and hopefully that made her really go back and think through some things, but we’ve all been socialized around this whole idea. He’s 13 years old, but because he’s tall, he’s supposed to be, not feel afraid of getting a tooth pulled. I mean, I know adults that’d be afraid of getting a tooth pulled.

[00:25:07] Right. I’m probably one of them. Yeah, me too. Yeah. Nobody likes the dentist, right. but you know, that was her socialization. And I hope that what I said to her made her go back and think through it, you know? So we’re always policing each other. It’s not just men, men police each other all the time, because if a guy shows tenderness or emotion at all, a lot of other guys will jump on him right away.

[00:25:35] You know, what are you doing? Being a wuss. You know, you’re, you’re being a sissy. You know, that stuff starts very young. But also I think we need to be honest and look at it that women also perpetuate it because women have been socialized the same way. You know, I’ve heard a lot of women tell their little boys not to cry.

[00:25:52] and their sister is allowed to cry right next to him and the boys don’t understand this when they’re little. That doesn’t make any sense. Right?

[00:26:00] Laura Hartley: it’s this containing of our emotions, right? So like this, this idea that, you know, we use shame or guilt or right. This, you know, obedience to say, you shouldn’t feel this, you know?

[00:26:10] Right. Make it something

[00:26:11] Mac Scotty Macgregor: else. Yeah. And then we have to go back and try, you know, the work I’m doing is to peel back these layers of shame, and reexamine our socialisation. And say, Hey, you know, we were created to be emotional beings, all of us. And so is this really healthy for us? Is this serving us well?

[00:26:30] What happens? You know, men, they get into relationships as they become adults. And. A lot of men get told you’re not emotionally available to me in their relationships. Well, why is that? [00:26:40] Well, the whole world’s been telling me to shove my emotions down and not talk about anything, you know, my whole life.

[00:26:46] And now I get into a relationship and somebody wants me to be emotionally available. They don’t even know where supposed to be intimate

[00:26:52] Laura Hartley: immediately.

[00:26:53] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yeah, that’s right. They don’t have any idea where to start, you know, and then they end up empty. They feel very empty. You. So, I mean, that’s in, and that’s in romantic intimate relationships, much less friendships.

[00:27:06] Men have such a hard time, you know, developing healthy friendships where they can actually talk about something other than work and sports, you know that I know men that have been lifelong friends and I’m talking known each other since elementary school and feel uncomfortable giving their lifelong friend a hug.

[00:27:29] or comforting them. If they have someone in their immediate family pass away, they don’t know how to, they don’t know how to be there for their friend. You know, it’s so sad. It really is sad. You know, that there’s this big disconnect because they can’t be in touch with their own emotions. Of course. How can you be there for a friend that’s going through something like that.

[00:27:49] If you can’t be in touch with your own emotions. So.

[00:27:54] Laura Hartley: What does unraveling that shame look like? You know, because as you said, we’re so conditioned to it and, and that’s, you know, it’s men, it’s women, all of us are conditioned, I think, to kind of use shame and even within change making and activism circles, you know, there’s a big thing around shame culture and how we gonna shame this other person into change, right.

[00:28:13] And interchange. Right. And I’m a big believer that shame actually doesn’t really lead anywhere. Positive shame generally only leads to toxicity. So like where do we start to peel that back?

[00:28:24] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yeah, I think we have to all go back and examine reexamine, the messaging and modeling we had. And this is not an easy process.

[00:28:32] I mean, because you, you really have to go back through layers of, and you know, I think you and I had talked about this before. The unlearning there’s so much more unlearning to do than learning. Oh my. I mean, literally, you know, it’s like Shrek peeling, I’m, you know, I’m made of layers, right. Peeling back the layers and, and you know, it, I think one of the obstacles is some people think if I peel back these layers and go back and look at my modeling and, and messaging and socialization, am I saying that the people who taught me this are.

[00:29:08] I think that’s an obstacle, right? Because people don’t wanna look at their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and coaches and teachers, and think they were bad people. And one of the things I let people know is I don’t think that they were, most of them were not bad people with bad intentions.

[00:29:24] Nobody was having these conversations with them. They were just passing along with the way they had been taught and socialized. Right. Nobody was, unfortunately they didn’t get the, the chance to have these convers. And they were harmed by their socialization too, and limited by yeah. You know,

[00:29:42] Laura Hartley: you know, I can relate to that.

[00:29:45] Yeah. That fear that sometimes, you know, when I was looking at things in my past, you know, I love my family. My family’s amazing. It’s helped shape me into who I am, but also then looking at maybe some of those unhelpful beliefs and ideas and constructs that were passed down that [00:30:00] don’t actually serve me was right.

[00:30:02] It felt guilty a little. , you know? Yeah. Like, is it a betrayal to them to like be free of this

[00:30:08] Mac Scotty Macgregor: right. Or, you know, to your faith or your, you know, a lot of people have those community ties too, that they feel it’s a betrayal too, you know, but I mean, healthy faith traditions, even they want us to grow and thrive.

[00:30:23] Right. Mm. So I mean, you know, I always think of that, you know, if, if, if we’re really supposed to grow and thrive, we want to do things in the healthiest way and hopefully for goodness sakes, hopefully we evolve and get better each generation. That’s the hope, right? yeah. It’s not just to stay exactly the same.

[00:30:44] Hopefully we learn some things that we can do better and, and teach our kids and grandkids and nieces and nephews to do better as they come up, you know? And and that’s, that’s the thing of this work now. It’s not easy to find people that are willing to do this deep dive because this is deep interpersonal.

[00:31:01] yeah. You know, I had one person tell me you’re looking for unicorns. because it’s not easy to find. As you know, you’re doing some of this work too. It’s not easy to find people that just wanna jump right in and really deeply examine all of this. Right.

[00:31:18] Laura Hartley: Yeah. And so a lot of this, you know, cuz it’s funny when we’re talking about culture, we’re talking about systems yet we’re coming back to work.

[00:31:26] We do as individuals, right? We’re coming back to work. We do inside ourselves.

[00:31:30] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yeah. Well, you know, I took a, I took a I had the privilege of taking a seminar several years ago as a college professor. I got to sit with the Dai Lama for four days and he taught us. How to have world peace through each of us working on our own individual inner piece.

[00:31:52] It was amazing, but he said, we cannot just look out there and talk about world peace without working on our own inner peace. And so that is exactly what I’m doing. We can’t change the view. Of these limiting ideas and beliefs out there in the world until we look within and do that introspective work.

[00:32:16] Right?

[00:32:17] Laura Hartley: Yeah. You know, system change has its inside job as well because ultimately like, you know, we’ve created these right. Humans created them, humans perpetuate them. That’s right. So we need to kind of, as humans start to like look within and what am I holding up?

[00:32:33] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yes. And then you start to have conversations about it with people in your life and that’s how it starts to trickle out.

[00:32:39] Right? Ah,

[00:32:41] Laura Hartley: yeah. So you create spaces, right? You create groups that men can come along to you and start to explore this idea. Yeah.

[00:32:48] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yeah. So here’s a beautiful thing. So about three and a half years, I’ve been running this men’s group where we can create a safe container. We make agreements at the beginning that.

[00:32:59] Nobody will share anybody else’s story or, you know, what they share without their permission outside the group. It’s consent based, you know, to share anybody else’s story. And we also make an agreement that will be supportive of one another’s growth within the group. So we’re there for a unified, you know, [00:33:20] reason to help each other learn and grow as we go along and.

[00:33:26] even if somebody says something, you know, because as you’re peeling back, these layers, sometimes things come out, right. Even if someone says something like really off color, you know, about their thoughts or beliefs, we, we do an, a keto technique. I would say we redirect gently. You know, to . I like I, keto is the way of harmony.

[00:33:49] It literally means the way of harmony. So you take the energy in, you blend with it and you gently redirect it. And so, instead of just telling, you know, someone, if they say something like really off color, like why should we support women and women’s rights, you know, like that kind of a thing. We don’t just come, you know, down on them, you know, like a lot of guys would in the regular traditional toxic world.

[00:34:12] And say, you know, you’re an idiot, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you see this? You know, like , you know, we say, have you thought of this perspective? How about look at it from this angle over here? And are there women in your life that you love, right. Are there women you care about? Well, you know, do you, why would you want hold them back?

[00:34:32] You know? And if you’re secure in who you are, well, then why would you feel the need to put anyone else? Right. .

[00:34:40] Laura Hartley: What I like about this is it’s not just changing the beliefs. It’s not just like, you know, okay, now we’re gonna support women or now we’re not gonna do this. It’s actually kind of changing the framework in which you’re approaching it to begin with, like the very foundations.

[00:34:54] Mac Scotty Macgregor: One of the things we really encourage is curiosity. I think curiosity is the key to everything. And, and I, and I say that because. even like when I’m examining my own thoughts and feelings around something, like when you mentioned rigidity earlier, you know, I talked a lot in the book about rigidity and that it’s nothing to celebrate.

[00:35:13] For one thing as an athlete, you know, I can tell you that rigidity is something that will cause injury in you as an athlete. It’s agility and flexibility that helps keep you from getting injured, not rigidity. Right? So anytime I feel like that we’re rigid in anything, like somebody says something and I feel my body tense up.

[00:35:38] I’m sure we’ve all had that happen because it brings up some reaction in you. I think curiosity is the way to approach that. This is what I teach the guys in the group. This is how I coach them. Get curious about why am I feeling my jaw tight? Why am I feeling tense when somebody talks about this?

[00:35:59] You know, get curious, start asking yourself questions. What is that bringing up in me? Where is that coming from? You know, what is that triggering in me? That’s bringing up that reaction. And I think that curiosity is the key to us. You know, not learning about ourselves. Like the first thing is learning about ourselves and it, and it’s, you know, this is a, I think a deeper dive for the masculine because we’ve been taught to ignore feelings.

[00:36:24] Yeah. And so we’re, I’m asking them to get curious and dive into why this brings this up. And if you feel sad, dive into what is it that’s bringing that up and right. You know, and this helps us work through this in a healthy way. [00:36:40]

[00:36:40] Laura Hartley: You know, and again, like bringing this back, you know, I, I completely see what you’re saying, but I also, I see it in our work lives as well.

[00:36:47] You know, even for those of us, you know, who aren’t men or identify as men, then, you know, we go into the office and this is a professional space. You’re not supposed to have emotions here. This is your working life. And this idea that there is a disconnect in parts of our lives, from what we’re actually feeling.

[00:37:02] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Right. And that’s it doesn’t work. It does it really doesn’t work. I mean, the best, the workplaces where people thrive are the workplaces where you can bring your whole self to work. You know, they’re the workplaces where if you are, for instance, you know what you’re dealing with with, at home, if you’re taking care of a sick elderly parent, they’re the workplaces that you can actually talk about that.

[00:37:29] And people say, how can we support. At work, you know, you can’t ignore that kind of thing at work. And how many people are dealing with heavy things like that in their family, they may have a sick child or a sick, you know, family member they’re caring for, or, or people going through their own like cancer illness or something.

[00:37:49] And they feel like they can’t talk about these. These are life altering things, or going through a divorce or a separation, you know, all of those things affect every part of us. So if we can’t bring our whole selves to work, we’re not going to also, we’re not gonna be able to do our best work. We’re not gonna be able to thrive.

[00:38:08] Laura Hartley: And we can’t then bring our whole selves suddenly at home either when we’ve just like been disconnected from ourselves for eight or nine hours somewhere else. . So I’m really curious. If we’re looking at this, like we have this individual lens of unlearning of, trying to get curious about what we’re feeling of trying to let go of shame. From a cultural or from a community or change maker lens,

[00:38:29] what can we be doing to kind of change these structure?

[00:38:33] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Some that takes a little work. Right. And that takes us being willing, not only like to do our own introspective work, but to go out and challenge places that we gather, like workplaces and, faith communities and any group that we’re in, and challenge them to open up and have these conversations.

[00:38:54] I. people are tired of being silent. And if one thing I think is the silver lining from the pandemic is people realizing that they’re not willing to spend their life, for instance, working at a places where they can’t bring their whole selves to work right. Or that aren’t supportive of who they are ?

[00:39:12] And I think, you know, people have taken more seriously, like the what’s important to them. They reevaluate it? And so if a place doesn’t do that, they don’t want to be there anymore. And I think , it’s a bit of a revolution that’s happening. People, , waking up and realizing, Hey, my family and my own health and mental health and wellbeing is important.

[00:39:33] It’s important enough for me to speak up. Right. yeah. And maybe change where I work or change where I spend my time or who I spend my time with. Right. It makes you even choose your friends differently.

[00:39:46] Laura Hartley: absolutely. And the question I wanna leave you with today, and, you know, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation is, what is your vision of masculinity or, or masculinities, cuz you know, I love the, the plurality there in a [00:40:00] more just and regenerative and loving world.

[00:40:03] What’s your best vision for the future of how we start to view masculinity?

[00:40:08] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Well, good men need to be a louder voice. Good men have to speak up and stand up and, and embrace masculinities and embrace women and embrace people that are non-binary and talk about it. Not just stay off to yourself.

[00:40:27] I think we have to start speaking up and standing up. There are a lot of good men out there, and I also think we have to challenge each other as men to do your work. to do our work. I mean, one of the things I challenge the guys to do in our group is, Hey, if you hear, you know, somebody make an off color comment, a racist comment, a comment about against women, don’t just stand there.

[00:40:53] Don’t think you’re still the good guy, because you just stood there, say something and there’s ways to say it and not like start a fight. Mm-hmm , you know, and I actually teach that skill there’s ways to say it. One of the things I suggest to people is call the, is wait till you’re alone with the guy who said it, because one of the things that’ll start a physical confrontation with guys is if you make them lose face in front of a whole group, right?

[00:41:19] So there’s ways to do it in a healthy way where maybe you’ll actually get through and he’ll open and listen to you because if you, you scream in his face or shutting down in front of others, he’s not gonna be open to really hear what you say. He’s gonna get defensive. So I think the good men need to speak up.

[00:41:37] I think that’s the big thing. And I also think, I think women need to make it clear to guys I’m tired of being your only emotional like crutch. , I think you need to get out there and get some healthy friendships and go get in a men’s group. You know, I will tell you a lot of the guys in our group, the women in their lives.

[00:41:55] Told ’em about our group. ,

[00:41:58] Laura Hartley: they’ve been sent there by women.

[00:42:00] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yes. Yes. And that’s okay. You know, whatever, whatever gets in there and to start doing this work, and then they’re much healthier and happier. One of my favorite stories from our group and the, and the three and a half years have been running the group and we do it virtually so people can join from anywhere.

[00:42:17] My hope for the future is that we end up with these groups all over. And one of the beauties for, from the book being out is that I’ve had men contact me from all over the world now saying I wanna learn. And so I, how to run a group like this here. And so I’m gonna be doing a facilitator training for, for folks to be able to have groups, but one of the best stories that, that from that’s come from our group is a, a father and an adult son that had been coming to our group together.

[00:42:48] And prior to being a part of our. They were not very close. The dad’s a very kinda masculine man’s man, a hunter Fisher work on cars, kind of guy, you know, and the son’s more tender, more artists based, you know, , they’re very different. Right. And so they didn’t talk about much of anything.

[00:43:08] They had very surface conversations and they started coming to our group together. The dad started actually coming. and the son then started coming. And I will tell you that the [00:43:20] son wrote a beautiful blog that we’re getting ready to release on our website about the fact that this group has transformed their relationship, that now they feel comfortable hugging each other.

[00:43:33] They didn’t even feel comfortable hugging each other before father and son. And now they talk about real things. They can actually talk to each other when something’s going on in their lives. And they feel comfortable like actually calling each other or, you know, sitting down and having a conversation about real stuff.

[00:43:50] And that’s just so beautiful to me. And that makes me feel like all the work is worth it. Right. Because that’s what it’s all about. Right. It’s about, I think we will, the violence we’ll stop. I think we can literally transform the world if the masculine could open. and, and just have healthy relationships and have a health healthy relationship with their own emotions as well.

[00:44:14] Right.

[00:44:16] Laura Hartley: I like this idea, this open up, and I think as, as we do that, and as we learn to work with what’s inside of us and what we’re actually experiencing, that is where a change comes. That’s where real transformation starts to.

[00:44:30] Mac Scotty Macgregor: Yes so much. Yeah. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

[00:44:34] I have loved this conversation. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Everybody listen, Mac has a wonderful book called positive masculinity now. There is a link to that, a link to all of his details in the show notes. So you can find all of that below anybody who wants to check us out. We have an online school for change makers at publiclove.enterprises, and you can follow me on Instagram at @laura.h.hartley otherwise, we’ll see you again in the next episode.