Did you ever think a baseball melee could effectively explain nuanced topics like cybernetics and systems dynamics? This episode examines the fascinating world of positive feedback loops, which play an outsized role in the not-so-positive phenomena of climate change, biodiversity loss, and political polarization. In addition to basebrawls, you’ll hear how these feedback loops produce a variety of outcomes, from the mundane (e.g., restaurant acoustics and family squabbles) to the horrendous (e.g., ecosystem annihilation and nuclear meltdowns). To ensure safety, none of the podcast hosts were allowed to bring baseball bats into the recording studio. Beth Sawin, co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, joins the program to explain how reinforcing feedback loops can catalyze social and environmental transformations. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Rob Dietz

Hi, I’m Rob Dietz.

Asher Miller

I’m Asher Miller.

Jason Bradford

And I’m Jason Bradford. Welcome to Crazy Town, where Jim Jones, Alex Jones, and the Jonas Brothers all got their best ideas.

Rob Dietz

The topic of today’s episode is positive feedback loops. And please stay tuned for an interview with Beth Sawin.

Asher Miller

Hey Jason and Rob, have you guys ever been in a situation where you feel like things just got amplified, started small, and then kind of went out of control all of a sudden, and you’re like, what the hell happened?

Rob Dietz

Yeah. I mean, unlike most Disney characters, I grew up in a family and had an older sister. Fights always amplified and went out of control.

Asher Miller

That’s actually why I bring this up because I just had this dynamic. You know, my family has been largely stuck at home for the last year plus, right? Yeah, and you know, nerves getting frayed, getting annoyed with each other. And my youngest son was upset by something. He started yelling. That got me all uptight. So I started yelling. Then my wife gets upset.

Rob Dietz

Did she start yelling?

Asher Miller

She actually didn’t start yelling, but the dog got upset. He started yelling, you know. So yeah. It’s just something that felt like, “Holy shit. This is getting out of control all of a sudden.”

Jason Bradford

Well you know, I can think of situations where I’ve gone into a restaurant and it’s been fairly nice. The tables aren’t full and you sit down and start having a meal. And then you know, maybe you get there around 6:00pm, but by 6:30, the place is packed. And you find you have to start yelling across the table to be heard. But of course, that means that the table next to you, they have to yell to be heard. And there’s just this din and you just realize, “Oh, my gosh. It’s just nuts in here. I can barely hear myself think anymore.

Rob Dietz

And pretty soon your vocal cords are wasted and you can’t speak at all.

Jason Bradford

Well, then I get out my loudspeaker. Right? My megaphone.

Rob Dietz

Right. You just out-compete everyone.

Asher Miller

I don’t like going to restaurants with you, Jason. When you rip out that megaphone and start shouting at me it’s just not pleasant.

Jason Bradford

Well, it makes everyone else shut up.

Asher Miller

He likes to do it in an empty restaurant. You just preempt it all.

Rob Dietz

Well, that reminded me of something I once saw on the mean streets of Philadelphia. the City of Brotherly Love.

Rob Dietz

The City of Rocky Balboa.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. So, I lived there. There’s kind of a famous nightspot on South Street, where all the bars and stuff are. And I was walking there one night, and these two guys started kind of getting in each other’s mugs. And as happens in Philadelphia, one of them probably said to the other “Meh.” And the other guy was like, “Eh!” And the other guy was like, “Hey!”

Asher Miller

And they started throwing batteries at each other?

Rob Dietz

Well, yeah. Right, like the football fans?

Jason Bradford

Ah. Over my head, but I guess that happened.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, no, a famous game where the fans in Philadelphia are like throwing batteries on the field at the opposing team.

Asher Miller

There’s another one where they’re throwing snowballs at Santa. Just like, pelting Santa with snowballs.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, brotherly love. So these two guys, they start escalating. Almost like your restaurant scene. Jason. They’re like getting louder and more in each other space. And I’m like kind of clearing back, waiting for an MMA fight to break out. And the only thing that saved, though maybe I shouldn’t say saved because it would’ve have been interesting I guess to see this, but the most mammoth police man I’ve ever seen. He just kind of like steps out of a doorway. This guy was like 6’8” and did not look thin and tall. I mean, he was just like a huge mountain of a man. He just walks up behind one of the guys, puts his hands on his hips. And the two guys kind of eyeball him and they just walked away. It’s like, what a great regulation of that fight.

Asher Miller

Yeah. It’s interesting that you bring that up. The reason I was thinking about this or wanted to bring it up was because that whole dynamic that happened with my family made me think about positive feedback loops.

Jason Bradford

Uh huh. Yeah.

Asher Miller

You guys familiar with that concept?

Jason Bradford

Yeah.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And I wanted to talk about positive feedback loops as one of the hidden drivers for us exploring this season of Crazy Town, you know. With hidden drivers this season we’re just talking about things that may be below the radar. Factors, drivers that are pushing us into Crazy Town you know. We’re consuming too much. Too many of us are consuming too many things and we’re not solving our problems in a rational way.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. And it feels like there’s this collective action problem. Like the restaurant example where you know, no one planned to just talk louder, it’s just emerged because you had to and so yeah. It can be kind of crazy-making in that you lose control in a sense. It runs away from you.

Rob Dietz

Well, the three of us have done some studying and research in systems dynamics and in the idea of feedback loops. I’m wondering, for those listening, if we could just step it back a bit and and kind of define what we’re talking about here with positive feedback loops.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think one of the challenges is that the language is all confusing terminology,  right? So I think a lot of people when they think about a positive feedback loop, they think about something that has a positive outcome, right?

Rob Dietz

It’s a happy feedback loop!

Asher Miller

Right. And a negative feedback loop is seen as a negative outcome.

Rob Dietz

Aw sad.

Asher Miller

It’s actually not that. So a positive feedback loop is something that is self reinforcing. So you have a situation where there’s a factor that gets amplified, and that leads to another factor getting amplified.

Rob Dietz

Like Jason’s megaphone.

Asher Miller

Exactly.

Jason Bradford

Or, I’ll punch you and you’re gonna punch me back harder.

Asher Miller

Yeah, exactly.

Rob Dietz

Punch me back with a baseball bat.

Asher Miller

So a positive feedback loop is also known as a self reinforcing feedback. And a negative feedback loop is self regulating, right? So you think about a positive feedback loop. It’s amplifying. It’s making something bigger. It’s extending it whether that thing is a positive thing or negative thing — that’s a positive feedback loop

Rob Dietz

Whether it’s positive in the sense of we think of it as good or bad.

Jason Bradford

Let’s discuss — Why don’t we give some examples, then, of the negative feedback loop? We gave some good examples of positive feedback.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, yeah. Well, the easiest one that I think gets brought up when you’re looking into systems and how they work is a thermostat. So you know, if you’re heating your house, you set the thermostat to . . . Well, I guess . . .

Asher Miller

I always do 88 degrees.

Rob Dietz

I was going to say, this is luxury America. We set it to a nice balmy 80 or no . . . So you set it to whatever. As the temperature warms up, there’s a device in there that’s recognizing it, and it says, “Okay, turn off the heat when it gets to a certain level.” So that’s one of the regulating –

Jason Bradford

And then if it drops too low, it will turn it back on.

Rob Dietz

Right. Yeah.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. So that’s pretty cool. There’s some really interesting stuff related to like steam engines. So . . .

Rob Dietz

Oh wow. Take us back Mr. Steam Punk.

Jason Bradford

Because if you think of the, they’re called governors, right?

Asher Miller

Ello Gov’nor! Like that?

Rob Dietz

It’s a little man in a top hat with a cane…

Jason Bradford

But basically, what you have, you know. . . You could get a runaway combustion of these engines. Where the engine just, if you open up the throttle, it’s more fuel, more air, and an explosion gets bigger and bigger. So how do you keep it damped down? Well, of course, as steam engines go, they start spinning in mechanical engine energy. And these governors, what they did, they had this ingenious mechanism where they actually had weighted balls. They had like balls on hinges.

Asher Miller

Don’t make a joke here, Rob. No comments.

Rob Dietz

Okay. I know when to be quiet, okay?

Jason Bradford

But these things would be spinning. And as they spun, they would rise. And of course, as the balls would kind of rise up, the force of gravity would push them down harder, proportional to their angle. So that kind of kept these valves from opening too far and regulated the injection of fuel and air into the engine. So again, another way of a negative loop on the throttle.

Rob Dietz

Some people actually wish that the governor they elected was a ball on a hinge instead of the actual politician. Yeah, that’s neither here nor there. Yeah, these are really good examples. And we can provide a lot more. And I’m sure later, we’ll talk about some other examples. But for our listeners, if you’re interested, there’s an entire field that is devoted to the idea of systems and how they’re regulated. And it includes both mechanical machinery type stuff, and biological, you know, living organisms. And that’s called cybernetics. So if you want to do the deep dive. . .

Jason Bradford

And they apply that even to like physiology. So they say cybernetics can apply to other biological systems where, you know, your heart rate is regulated, there’s all these feedback loops that go into that.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think it’s just important to recognize that we have a lot of these feedback loops, negative and positive ones, in nature and biological systems. But we’ve also incorporated them a lot into mechanical systems that we’ve created. We’ve also done it with human behavior. So there’s things like, if we’re talking again about negative feedback loops, or ones that are around, you know, regulating, there’s things that have been done in terms of adjusting behavior with very small methods. So an example of that might be, you guys ever been driving down a road and there’s a sign that tells you what your speed is?

Jason Bradford

Yeah, but I can’t drive 55 though.

Asher Miller

No.

Jason Bradford

I can’t drive 55.

Asher Miller

You just ignore it, right? Well, the reason that those things are up is that they actually are really good at at tamping down people’s speeds. So it’s regulating…

Rob Dietz

Oh. . .

Asher Miller

Is it the opposite for you?

Rob Dietz

I thought those things were making fun of how slow I was going. So I just always jam the accelerator when I see that.

Asher Miller

You’re the outlier. I think they’ve done studies and they found that something like 15%, you know, reduce their speed to below. And it actually has a lasting impact. Not just, they go by that sign and they’re like, “Floor it now!” You know?

Rob Dietz

No, I agree. They actually are really effective. In fact, now that you can get all the navigation from your phone on a screen and a car, often it puts the speed limit up there. And it always makes me kind of go, oh, okay, I better stick to that.

Jason Bradford

My wife is much better at paying attention to those than I am. I’m driving with her and she’s like, “You know, it’s 35 here, right?” I’m like, “Okay, okay, okay. So she’s like a double regulator.

Asher Miller

Double regulator. I’m sure that’s what you want to be known as.

Rob Dietz

That’s why Jason calls his wife, Governor.

Asher Miller

“Ello Gov’nor!” Every time she gets in the car with you. Well, so those are negative feedback loops. I want to talk about positive feedback loops.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. I’m wondering, since you’re bringing it up as a hidden driver, I think it’d be fun to riff on. . . Let’s see if we can name and describe a whole bunch of these things.

Asher Miller

Sure. Well, let’s start with a simple one that back in the days when there actually was an interest rate that was above zero that people could relate to. And that is, you know, if you put money in a savings account, and it’s accruing interest of some kind, right? Then you have more money. And you invest more of than money, you know, you get more interest, right? So it just builds on itself.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, I remember when I was a kid, me and my friend, we used to think about, like, what do you want to be when you grow up? And our answer was, well, if we can somehow get a million dollars, and then we just put it in a bank and we’ll be interest collectors. Yeah, like that was our that was our grand scheme.

Asher Miller

But actually, what you’re pointing to is a major dynamic in growing inequality in the world. Where people who have capital are able to invest it, and that money just keeps growing. And if you don’t have anything to invest to begin with, you just never get ahead. So that gap keeps extending.

Rob Dietz

Or if you’re if you’re late to the game, right? Like, let’s say you do like Jason’s route, and you go get a PhD, where you’re not earning anything for half of your life. And then you got to start investing when you’re already an old man.

Asher Miller

Yeah, right. Well, that’s why you got into the drug trade. Yeah, you got to take some more risks.

Jason Bradford

So just yeah. Let me know what you need.

Rob Dietz

Well, you know. That’s a good classic example. But I want to go back to the can of worms that you opened at the beginning, which is more the way people tend to escalate each other in a positive feedback loop. And since I’m in the pop culture sphere in this podcast, let’s talk about sports, alright? My favorite positive feedback loop is when if you’re watching a baseball game – Sorry Jason, I know you’re a fan, and you too, Asher. To me it’s the most boring sport there is really.

Asher Miller

Most boring? You say it’s more boring than golf?

Rob Dietz

No, because golf is not a sport. We’ve already established this.

Jason Bradford

More boring than soccer?

Rob Dietz

Oh, soccer is awesome. Don’t even make — Ah man. Now we’re escalating. This is a positive feedback loop.

Asher Miller

Do you know how many listeners we just lost when you insulted golf?

Jason Bradford

Haha, yeah.

Asher Miller

It was 3.

Rob Dietz

Any? So, but this is when baseball actually gets exciting, okay? So you’re sitting there watching a game and some awesome hitter just cranks a home run which is obviously the most –

Jason Bradford

Highlight.

Rob Dietz

Yeah that’s a highlight. But then he does some display. Like flips his back the wrong way or like pounds his chest he slowly circles the bases.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. Rubs it in.

Rob Dietz

So yeah, it’s basically like saying, you know, “I just crushed your team.” So the next time that guy comes up, the pitcher is like, well, this will not stand. So the pitcher throws this like really high and tight fastball and knocks the guy down. Then the next best escalation is that guy gets up and stares down the pitcher, points at him. You know, kind of making faces so then the pitcher just hits them.

Jason Bradford

Yeah.

Rob Dietz

Okay. And then the guy thinks about charging him out but he doesn’t. He doesn’t. He just goes to first base. But the next inning, for revenge, the pitcher on the other team being some dude. . . At that point, it’s too late. He just charges the mound. Bench empties, this bench empties. Ad he’s just —

Jason Bradford

And we have an ESPN highlight.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, that is the best part of baseball right there. But it’s a total positive feedback loop.

Asher Miller

And then you start getting the fans going after each other in the stands and then it like breaks out. There’s actually a Civil War happening. There are people like rushing out of Boston and New York, and they’re meeting somewhere halfway.

Rob Dietz

Oh, you better hope it’s not in Philadelphia.

Asher Miller

Yeah, they’ll be ready with the batteries.

Jason Bradford

Well, my most memorable baseball experience actually has to do with one of these things where Reggie Smith playing for the Dodgers is in Candlestick Park, which is the Giant’s home stadium.

Rob Dietz

Wait. Reggie Smith? I don’t remember this.

Jason Bradford

In 1981. He was a famous guy –

Rob Dietz

That’s a long time ago.

Jason Bradford

He had over 300 homers in his career. But Reggie Smith is getting heckled by a Giants fan above the Dodgers dugout, and I was just behind there. And I’m watching this happen and Reggie Smith is looking up and pointing at him. And I can tell there’s something going on. By like inning seven, Reggie Smith goes up into the stands and starts beating up on the guy. You can look it up. It’s on the Wikipedia page about Reggie Smith. Unbelievable.

Rob Dietz

Positive feedback loop.

Jason Bradford

Positive feedback loop.

Asher Miller

Awesome example of how positive feedback loops can actually not be positive. Getting your face beat by a baseball fan.

Rob Dietz

Depends how obnoxious that fan was.

Asher Miller

Well, it’s not positive for him.

Jason Bradford

He was arrested.

Asher Miller

Yeah.

Rob Dietz

Not good.

Jason Bradford

Well, you know, positive feedback loops . .  . Another good example of how they can be both positive and negative in consequence has to do with an example, I like to think of it as soil dynamics. So you can degrade soil. So you can make soil worse. Like let’s say you put in a housing development, Rob, and you decide you’re going to strip off all the topsoil . . .

Rob Dietz

As I normally do.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, you strip off all the topsoil because you’re gonna sell the topsoil. And so you just leave this sort of like, lifeless, subsoil. And then the homeowner comes in and tries to put a garden in and their plants are just like, “Ehhh…” So –

Rob Dietz

Is that what plants do? That for our listeners, is the sound of a plant not growing, right?

Jason Bradford

The plants can’t grow. And so the rain starts coming in and hitting the soil and making mud piles, and the soil gets more compacted. It just gets worse and worse, because you’ve destroyed that soil fertility. And now, it can’t recover easily, right? So that’s a positive feedback loop. But obviously, that’s not desirable. Except you made a lot of money as a developer.

Rob Dietz

Oh yeah, it’s totally desirable there after I scraped that soil.

Asher Miller

And it just doesn’t matter to you at that point.

Rob Dietz

But you could actually run that, like, I think this is where you’re getting to. . . You could run that in reverse, right? Like you could have soil regeneration if you’re — I mean, that’s a lot of what you’re all about in your career as a farmer, right? Is trying to build healthy soil?

Jason Bradford

Yeah, so instead, let’s say you put a bunch of compost onto that degraded soil. Suddenly, it can grow plants really well. And then the next thing you know, that’s a self reinforcing positive feedback that is regenerating a good healthy soil profile.

Rob Dietz

You remember our listener Don, who told us he’d play our podcast over his farm. So he’s basically equating our podcast to compost.

Asher Miller

That’s great.

Rob Dietz

Okay, well, while we’re in the realm of nature, I want to point out a positive feedback loop that I became kind of intimately aware of when I was working in the desert southwest. I was with the Fish and Wildlife Service and most of the wildlife refuges have to do with water. There’s kind of a historical link with ducks and waterfowl. And so a lot of your national wildlife refuges are in these low lying places. So in the desert southwest, if you go in places along the Rio Grande or the Colorado River, you’ll find refuges and they’re all covered with tamarisks. Salt cedar is another name for it. But it’s an invasive species that was brought over to try to stabilize riverbanks. A lot of those rivers in the desert, they have low flow most of the year, but during the snow melt season, you have these huge pulses of water that come in. And so what the tamarisk does, once you establish it, they have these huge tap roots that go way down, and they suck up all the water. And then basically no other plants can reach the water table. So they alter the habitat in a way that then makes it more ready for other tamarix to come in and colonize. So it just keeps adding more and more of this invasive species and you can’t really do anything about it other than if you have a way to change back to the native flood regime.

Asher Miller

But then the banks of the river are totally solid, right? Because there’s no water anymore.

Rob Dietz

Well, it’s insane. Like if you see a tamarisk gallery forest, you can’t get through it. It’s so thick.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I know. It’s native to like Central Asia. Iran has a huge amount. And so yeah, it’s fascinating. And of course there’s no negative feedback for tamarisk growth because they don’t have the insects and stuff that normally would chew on them, etc etc.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, the only time I’ve seen it really get controlled other than with herbicides is when you can have natural flooding conditions. Because they don’t really like to be flooded the same way that cottonwood willow native habitat does. Like this big pulse will come through, clean everything out, and then the cottonwood willow can can reestablish.

Asher Miller

Well, off topic, but why don’t we just pour Round-Up, like?

Rob Dietz

Well, yeah, I don’t know. Something about –

Asher Miller

Seems like the right solution.

Rob Dietz

Something about chemicals dumped in water areas.

Asher Miller

Just trust me, I think it’ll be fine. So still on topic of nature and natural systems, probably a bunch of our listeners are like, talk about climate, there’s so many, come on. So of speaking climate systems, there are a bunch of positive feedback loops that are happening that are amplifying our climate becoming destabilized. So the one that I think people often hear about is the albedo effect. So that’s where, basically, warming temperatures will melt ice and snow in cold regions. That ice and snow is reflecting a lot of sunlight back off into the atmosphere. When that’s gone, it’s warming temperatures. So you actually start getting oceans to be exposed, that warms the temperature even more, that melts more of that snow and ice. You know, it just keeps amplifying, right?

Rob Dietz

Yeah, you have a polar ice cap that shrinks. And then next season, it shrinks more because the ocean absorbs more heat.

Jason Bradford

Or the permafrost starts to thaw. And so then these bacteria start chewing on the now unfrozen biomass and it releases methane because it’s kind of an anaerobic condition where it’s really wet still. And of course, methane is a greenhouse gas. There’s another amplifying factor.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, you get that in the ocean, too. As they warm, you get methane bubbling up from the depths. And yeah.

Asher Miller

You have it with drought, warmer temperatures drying out places, vegetation disappearing. That feeds into that climate being warmer and drier again. It just keeps escalating. So there’s a lot of this happening with climate systems. And there’s a lot of concern about some of these becoming runaway. And we can’t influence and can’t control them.

Jason Bradford

Well, speaking of runaway, runaway implies things just happen really fast and go out of control. And that’s what happens when you get like explosions, right? If you ever light a firecracker, the fuse starts a chemical reaction at one end, and it just like ripples through. And the burning of the fuel on one side ignites the fuel as you go through it. And it happens so fast, it’s an explosion. The same thing with nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel in reactors. They can runaway. These chain reactions, you know. Those are all positive feedback loops and happen super quick.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, I read that book, “Chernobyl,” which then got made into an HBO series. That is some harrowing stuff I gotta say. But yeah, it talks a lot about the kind of runaway reaction.

Asher Miller

And there’s, you know, back to human behavior and human systems, there’s a lot of runaway stuff that happens in terms of human behavior. You think about asset bubbles, or on the flip side, runs on banks, right? So a stock gets hyped, people start buying it up, you know. Other people are like, “Oh, I got to get in on this thing.” They buy it too. That just keeps feeding on itself. The reverse happens, obviously, when you get these massive downturns in the stock market, or people start worrying about the safety of their money in the bank. You know, everyone wants to get their money out of the bank. That just feeds on itself.

Rob Dietz

That sounds like that shoe box full of bitcoins that you’ve got in your closet.

Jason Bradford

Don’t be telling people where it is, man.

Rob Dietz

Well, yeah, I mean, there’s so many good examples of positive feedback loops. Sometimes I think that if you don’t have a governor, or you don’t have some kind of regulation or negative feedback loop in place, you can still get the same results that happen in a positive feedback loop. I know we’ve talked about my favorite Guinness Book of Records entry on Robert Wadlow, the tallest human who ever lived.

Rob Dietz

8’11”.

Rob Dietz

8’11”. I just love the idea of him like slam dunking basketballs without even stretching his arm out way. Like somehow, if he were alive today and were healthy, he would just stand somewhere near the basket and just score at will. It would be it would be awesome.

Asher Miller

And the crazy thing about him is that he was, I think, still growing when he died.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, yeah. So he had no regulation in his pituitary gland of human growth hormone and just kept growing. So I mean, it really doesn’t matter what kind of system you look at, the feedback loops are really important in managing it.

Asher Miller

He had no feedback. It was an open system. So there’s nothing controlling. And thank God our bodies know how to do that.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. All the time there’s feedback loops happening within our bodies that keep us in  homeostasis.

Asher Miller

Right? Well, so the reason I want to bring up positive feedback loops  in the context of Crazy Town is that we talked about it with like, climate change, for example, obviously. It’s something that people think about in that context, in terms of natural systems. But I think it’s also important to think about it in terms of like human systems, and the decisions that we’re making that have brought us to this place. And maybe influence how we get out of it, or if we get out of it, right? So maybe an obvious one, and we’ve talked about this a little bit already, is thinking about political polarization. So if you think about this dynamic where, and we talked about this a little bit in previous episodes, like the conspiracy theory one. Where people are only listening to certain information from certain people that they trust. Because we have a a politically divided, culturally divided society, you know. That creates more extremes. They take on more extreme positions, or they see the other as the enemy. That makes that other, you know we’re talking about people fighting, that makes the other side amp up their rhetoric, amp up their views.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. Great example.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And it gets into a situation where it becomes about the fight.

Jason Bradford

Right. Right.

Asher Miller

And more and more difficult to think about how to regulate, moderate, compromise, you know, a situation like that.

Jason Bradford

Again, we need a governor.

Asher Miller

We need a functioning government.

Jason Bradford

Well, I look at it also in the context of our entire, what’s called, built environment. It’s all the infrastructure that’s already out there, that we’ve invested in. And the notion there is that our past investment really then determines what kind of levels of consumption we have to have today to get by. So if we’ve already invested in sort of freeway systems and suburban sprawl, and giant houses with poor insulation, it’s very hard for us to actually curtail our energy use, and for society as a whole to curtail its necessary maintenance costs even. So you’ve locked yourself in, in other words, to the levels of energy and resource consumption going forward.

Rob Dietz

Yeah.

Jason Bradford

And so that’s sort of like a self reinforcing dynamic. And then all these next decisions you make are to double down on that. So I look at the infrastructure plan of the Democrats right now, that they’re working on. A lot of it is doubling down on the repairing all the stupid things we’ve already built.

Rob Dietz

Well, you can see that. I mean, if you have a town that’s built around roads and driving and trucking products from here to there, it’s not like the next town over can decide that it wants a monorail or a blimp network for its transportation system. I mean, it’s just not gonna fly if the whole matrix of the country is —

Jason Bradford

Yeah, deconnected. And, you know, everyone’s got to have the same loading docks right now for trucks. If you want to be a business that has a warehouse, you know, you’re locked into accepting a certain way of shipping and receiving. And so all these things then interlock, right?

Rob Dietz

Yeah, well I think that’s a pretty cool point that you started here, Asher, with the idea that maybe positive feedback loops are behind a lot of things. Like I was thinking about the episode we recorded on specialization and complexity.

Asher Miller

Yeah.

Rob Dietz

And how we’re becoming more and more specialized. Well, that wording right there, more and more, can kind of clue you in. There’s a positive feedback loop there. Like think about it. . . I think we talked a little bit about how you can obviously get paid more if you’re some kind of specialist in the economy that’s in high demand. Well, if that’s the case, then you kind of see universities start having more courses for specialization. And as you come out of that specialized education and get your specialized job, now you’re dependent on other specialists to come into your life because you don’t know how to do a damn thing.

Asher Miller

Right, right.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah.

Rob Dietz

It all builds on itself. And you’ve got to another classic positive feedback loop.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, yeah. The world is so complicated now. So complex, as we said, that in order to get by, you need to hire all these other specialists so that you can even stay legal. Right?

Asher Miller

Yeah. It reminds me of another episode that we had. Another hidden driver we’re talking about with, you know, when we talked about cognitive biases. Both what you were saying, Jason, terms of like the built infrastructure investments there, and what you’re just talking about with specialization and complexity. It’s all that sunk cost.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, sunk cost bias, right.

Asher Miller

And the fact that that plays into it. But yeah, it’s what you said, Rob. The reason I want to bring this up is because I would posit that maybe positive feedback loops are a hidden driver of a lot of the other hidden drivers that we’ve been talking about.

Jason Bradford

It’s like hidden drivers squared.

Asher Miller

Yeah, it’s the meta hidden driver.

Jason Bradford

Wow.

Asher Miller

Deep thought. But a friend of ours, Beth Sawin, who runs a group called Climate Interactive. She was I think a student or maybe a protege of Donella Meadows, who we’ve talked about.

Rob Dietz

Hero. Donella Meadows.

Asher Miller

Who’s just a great educator about systems thinking. And Beth has put together this little online course to help people think more in systems when it comes to thinking about climate. And she says something great, which I thought was really important. That is that reinforcing feedback, right? So, positive feedback loops. Reinforcing feedback on its own is neither good nor bad, but it is a force for change. Reinforcing feedback can take systems to new modes of behavior. And so I think it’s important to recognize that there’s a lot of bad outcomes that come from positive feedback loops or reinforcing feedback in these systems. But it doesn’t have to be right away. We could use it for good purposes, as well. And especially when it comes to thinking about human, you know, our behavior, and trying to incentivize incentivize pro-social behavior versus behavior that sets us on this course towards crazy town.

Rob Dietz

Right. Well, I think it’s really interesting. When we started this conversation, one of the things that I came to realize, you know, Jason, you and I were talking about how positive feedback loops, if they run for a long time, it tends to end badly. Something bad happens that maybe even at some point, you get out of the positive feedback loop  because something big and bad enough happened to put an end to it. But it seems like there’s this turning point, and you really need to be aware of it. Because like you’re saying, Asher, a feedback loop, a positive one, can have a good result. But if you let it keep running, that result tends to tends to turn sour. So I don’t know. Like I think about the vaccination for COVID, for example. You get a shot, and your body starts doing all of its chemical biological reactions. And if you’ve kicked off a process, you’ve started something going. And you go get a second, a booster shot, and it’s a positive reinforcement. It makes your body go to the next level. And so that’s a good thing. But it’s not like you want to get 78 booster shots and you know. . . It’d probably overwhelm you and cause a mess. Or be totally ineffective. So I don’t know. There’s some kind of wisdom in here about when to let a positive feedback run, but figure out when you might want to intervene to stop the eventual negative – I don’t want to use positive –  to stop the eventual bad thing.

Jason Bradford

Unwanted outcome. No, there’s some really interesting dynamics at play potentially, and stories that we can keep going on. There was a recent study that I find kind of interesting because it has good examples of all this stuff we’re talking about. Where you want to do something good. So the example they say is like, we want to get renewable energy scaled, and a great place to scale renewable energy is in deserts because we can put PV panels in deserts at just massive scales because no one’s living there and land is cheap, you know.

Asher Miller

A lot of sunshine.

Jason Bradford

And we’re not taking up farmland.

Rob Dietz

We should put them on Tattooine. Where Luke Skywalker lives.

Jason Bradford

I think that whole place.

Asher Miller

I think Bezos is working on that.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. So anyway, folks are wondering, well, what if we just kept building out PV panels in the Sahara desert? Now I think there’s a lot of problems to this with sand covering them and the fact they don’t last forever, and all the embedded energy of steel and concrete, it gets a lot –

Rob Dietz

Being such a realist . . .

Jason Bradford

It gets a little nutty to be honest with you. But there’s an interesting story. Let’s imagine, pretend that nothing I normally care about is valid. But you do care about something else. Like, you care about the climate, right? And that’s why you’re doing this. So the study looked at if you put so many solar panels in the desert, you change the albedo of the desert. You talked about albedo earlier in the context of, you melt glaciers or snow caps of the Arctic, and suddenly you change the albedo where –

Rob Dietz

Now it doesn’t want to have sex anymore.

Jason Bradford

Not libido, I know you’re worried about that. You’re getting kind of . . . You’re aging. But no. This is albedo. And its reflectance. So what happens is that solar panels are dark. The desert tends to be light. So you add up to 20% of the surface area of the Sahara.

Asher Miller

You cover it with solar panels.

Jason Bradford

You change the albedo so much that you change the temperature of the atmosphere above the desert and warm air rises. And when warm air rises, it draws in cold marine air, which is full of moisture. So suddenly, what happens is you start getting a rainfall regime in the Sahara. Well, once you do that . . .

Asher Miller

Well that kind of sucks for getting solar panels. . .

Rob Dietz

But that’s great for you know, now we’ve just got a beautiful vegetated desert.

Jason Bradford

Yes. So now you can actually create vegetation in the Sahara. Which 5000 years ago, the Sahara had lakes and forests and everything, okay? But here’s the key, the problem becomes the knock on effects of what happens in the Amazon. The Amazon apparently goes bye-bye when you do that. Because it relies on dust from the Sahara, carrying across the ocean, seeding clouds, and also fertilizing the Amazon basin. So you destroy the Amazon by trying to create solar panels in the desert to a certain threshold.

Rob Dietz

Now that that’s assuming we haven’t already bulldozed it completely anyway? Or slashed and burned it?

Asher Miller

That’s an argument for why we should just cut down all the trees right now. Just do it just go ahead. No, I think that’s a really important point, which is to recognize these system dynamics that happen. That may be invisible to us. The consequences we don’t necessarily see. But if you think in systems and you start thinking about the different inputs, and the dynamics interactivity between them, you might say, “Oh, my God, if we do this thing, we up this factor over here that creates this cascading effect.” Then you might get this positive feedback loop that could end up generating an outcome. That is the opposite of what you had intended. And so, I think it’s important to recognize this sort of invisible force of these positive feedback loops. And also think carefully, when we’re trying to intervene, to as you had said, Rob, to use those dynamics in good ways. I’m trying not use the word positive. But be very careful about going too far.

Rob Dietz

So this is what I just heard you say. Don’t say “Eh” to some guy in Philadelphia on the street.

Jason Bradford

That soccer sucks as a sport. Right? You coming over here? You wanna piece of me?

Asher Miller

Thanks, guys for reducing it to –

Rob Dietz

You bring it. Put the baseball bat down.

Asher Miller

I’m going to turn this off, and I’m leaving.

Asher Miller

Stay tuned for our George Costanza Memorial, “Do the Opposite” segment where we discuss things we can do to get the hell out of Crazy Town

Jason Bradford

You don’t have to just listen to the three of us blather on anymore.

Rob Dietz

We’ve actually invited someone intelligent on the program to provide inspiration. Hey, guys, I got a short and sweet review that I want to share with you this week. This comes in from Jeff who says about our podcast, “These are the environmental conversations we need to be having. A pure dose of reality.”

Jason Bradford

Excellent. Well, like a dose of what?

Rob Dietz

Well, it’s better than a dose of amphetamines.

Asher Miller

A dose of reality.

Jason Bradford

Okay.

Rob Dietz

It’s probably better than a dose of your own medicine. No, sorry. That’s taste of your own medicine.

Jason Bradford

I think, reality dosing, I think that’s a good term. We’re reality dosers.

Rob Dietz

Sweet. Yes. Well, I just want to say thanks to Jeff and please, anyone else out there that has any liking for the show? Get out there on iTunes or wherever you can rate and review.

Jason Bradford

Please. We like it when people like us.

George Costanza

Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

Jerry Seinfeld

If every instinct you have is wrong, than the opposite would have to be right.

Rob Dietz

So if we’re going to be like our good buddy George Costanza and do the opposite, the way I think about this is that we need to change the way we see the world as we walk through it. So you think about, at least in my case, I think very simply about things or tend to. Like, oh, there’s there’s something over there, this causes that, kind of end of story. There’s no real understanding that there’s a system over there. Like if I’m looking at a forest, it functions as a system, there’s feedback loops, both negative and positive that affect it. And to really understand what’s going on, I need to understand what those feedback loops are. Now I’m kind of saying that I don’t tend to think that way very well. And I’ve been reading and trying to learn about this kind of thinking for a while.

Asher Miller

On your own. Because it’s not like you’re taught this in school.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. That’s one of the points that you never see it, unless you’re in that field. We talked about cybernetics, or you’re a systems engineer.

Jason Bradford

Or an ecologist.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, ecology. Yeah. In fact, I think that’s why so many ecologists, when they delve into economics, that’s the main fundamental flaw that they expose. It’s like, economists aren’t thinking in systems, they’re thinking very linearly. So to do the opposite, we really need to kind of take on that self study and learn to see the world and systems and learn to understand where those feedback loops are. And a couple of resources that are useful, probably the most famous would be Donella Meadows book, which is called “Thinking in Systems: A Primer,” and I’ve read it. It takes some effort because she talks about how to diagram out a system and it’s not like super intuitive. I mean, the book is well written, of course. And it has good lessons. But  you have to work at it. Another one is, Asher you already mentioned, was a course at Climate Interactive, called “Climate Leader.” And it’s got a major kind of systems recognition component, right?

Asher Miller

Mm hmm. Yeah.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. So I think that’s the main first step of doing the opposite is try to see the world and systems and recognize what’s happening.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, and when I see the world and systems, I see these runaway positive feedback loops that scare me, right? Because they all they go on, but they end up ending. And they might end very badly. So we talked about all that  from the climate system. And of course, economic growth is a process, and our built environment and our dependency on just getting more and more resources. So, the analogy I think about is figuring out a way to sort of slow down that runaway, or stop that runaway feedback loop. And we do this in like nuclear power reactors, where you could have a runaway reaction that leads to a meltdown. But to prevent that, you take these control rods, they’re called, and they’re these substances that absorb neutrons. So the neutron reaction doesn’t just go so fast that it causes them to blow up or meltdown. And I kind of feel like, we need to figure out how to intervene in our own socio economic systems in ways that prevent sort of the runaway positive feedback.

Rob Dietz

Can we just jam a control rod into the economy?

Jason Bradford

Yes, we need to jam control rods . . .

Asher Miller

I can think of a few people I want to ram a control rod into.

Rob Dietz

I don’t want to know what that means exactly. It would be kind of cool. If you had a universal control rod. They could stop any positive feedback.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, be like, “Oh, we need one over there!”

Asher Miller

Yeah, it’s designing for that. It’s also maybe taking a precautionary principle. You were talking about that with solar panels in the Sahara Desert. Just not to say, don’t do anything at all, but just thinking through the system dynamics and saying, well, maybe we should think about doing this differently. Or maybe these things we should do. A lot of people talked about that with geoengineering. Like, you’re talking about taking risks without really understanding the system dynamics. You could get a runaway positive feedback loop that we had no idea would happen.

Rob Dietz

Really good example of why you want to see the world in systems rather than, Oh, here, here’s a problem. Just throw some particles in the air and that’ll solve it.”

Asher Miller

Just throw iron in the air.

Jason Bradford

There’s overpopulation. Let’s just shoot people into space.

Asher Miller

In thinking about what Beth was talking about with system dynamics and positive feedback loops. . . When she said that reinforcing feedback can take systems to new modes of behavior, I think that’s really true. And so there’s another way I think we can think about doing the opposite and for all of us to engage with this dynamic of positive feedback loops. And that is modeling behavior. And trying to, in a sense, create a dynamic where it kind of cascades and builds and –

Jason Bradford

It’s like a desirable positive feedback loop. That changes the system in a way you want rather than, I was giving examples of ways we don’t want.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And a small example of that, but was really meaningful to me is, you know, years ago, when my wife and I bought our first home, it had a little lawn in the front. And we were on a little suburban street.

Rob Dietz

Wow, how American.

Asher Miller

Yeah. I felt so American. I had a flag out and everything. And all our neighbors had lawns too. And we decided, you know, my wife was a school garden teacher. We ripped out the lawn in the front and planted native plants. It was really interesting to see — it wasn’t necessarily our intention to begin with, but we had neighbors asking us about it. And again, it was one of those situations where it was a positive feedback loop in a sense that we were also going through drought, right? And so people were recognizing we can’t use so much water, lawns are dying out. They see an example of another lawn that used very little water. So other neighbors started ripping out their lawns and planting. And the more neighbors that did it, the more neighbors that did.. So it got to the point where more than half I would say, maybe considerably more than half of our neighbors on our block, had ripped out their lawns and have put in these beautiful gardens.

Jason Bradford

No control rod needed there, baby.

Asher Miller

Nope.

Rob Dietz

I don’t know that makes me think you’re a communist or something.

Jason Bradford

Individual initiative, but in a good —

Asher Miller

If I was a communist, I would have forced everyone off of their property, sent them somewhere else. . .

Jason Bradford

Yeah. And then demanded that they —

Rob Dietz

Anybody that doesn’t push a lawn mower every Sunday has got to be communist.

Asher Miller

Okay, that’s me. You got me.

Asher Miller

Elizabeth Sawin is the co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, the independent nonprofit think tank that employs a long tradition of system dynamics modeling to create simulations and insights that help people see connections, play out scenarios, and see what works to address climate change, inequity and related issues like energy, health and food. She’s also an expert on systems thinking, going back to her early days, working with the late Donella Meadows. Which is really why I wanted to invite you to talk with us today. Thanks for joining us in Crazy Town.

Elizabeth Sawin

Hey, I’m happy to be here.

Asher Miller

So on this season of the podcast, we’re talking about hidden drivers, and drivers that are moving us to the precipice of environmental and social breakdown, or ones that are keeping us from acting collectively in ways that actually help. In this episode, Rob, Jason, I talked about positive feedback loops, or with some of those people called reinforcing feedback. That serves in some ways, like a hidden driver behind many of the other hidden drivers that we’ve  talked about on the podcast. So I wanted to talk to you because you teach systems thinking. It’s something that I’ve found particularly difficult to know how to help people in layman terms employ. And I know, you’ve done a lot of work on that. And you’ve actually developed an online course called the climate leader, which we’ll link to in the show notes, where you talk about positive feedback loops or reinforcing feedback. So I just want to start by asking kind of an open ended question, which is, for our listeners who are starting to think more about the role that reinforcing feedback loops or positive feedback loops play in kind of the pickle that we’re in, are there suggestions that you have to help them be better systems thinkers, or kind of recognize those dynamics more?

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah, great question. I mean, in all the issues that we face, reinforcing feedback shows up in at least two ways, right? On the one hand, like you’re saying, in terms of drivers. So reinforcing feedback processes where change feeds upon itself, and a little change leads to more change in the same direction. You know, we recognize that say, in economic growth and the physical capital of the global economy, which grows exponentially by design, right? And we know that from that comes greenhouse gas emissions, and water withdrawals from aquifers and pressure on forests, and all the rest of it. So the problems that were facing are growing exponentially. That means they’re growing by reinforcing feedback. And probably in the prior part of your show, you talked about how that can fool our intuition. Was that something that you went into?

Asher Miller

No, not so much, actually.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah. Well, my teacher, you mentioned Donella Meadows, and she and my other systems thinking teachers were really strong and clear on this, that any process where things double tends to have a behavior, sometimes it’s called the hockey stick, right? If you were to graph it, it looks like very, very slow change and then suddenly an explosion. And if you’re not looking for the signature of reinforcing feedback, you don’t notice how dangerous things are until the very last doubling which pushes something critical over a limit, or over a threshold. And so part of why our economic and political systems are so ineffective at responding to our problems is that they’re not always grappling with just that mathematics of exponential growth.

Asher Miller

Yeah, the pandemic I feel like helped people understand the dynamic of exponential growth a little bit. Like in the early days, I remember seeing lots of people commenting on sort of the dynamic of the spread.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah, right. And we learned to flatten the curve. We learned that you have to act in a way that seems disproportionate to where you are at the moment, right? Like the best public health response looks like an overreaction to the current situation. And that’s because the public health officials are totally clear about exponential growth. And they know that in one more doubling, which with COVID is two weeks or 14 days or so, a system that’s working fine now could be overwhelmed. Well, it’s the exact same thing for climate change, right? And emergency response capacity. It’s working okay now, but in one more doubling could be overwhelmed. And the challenge is our coping capacities don’t grow exponentially, right? The number of doctors and hospital beds doesn’t double even while the number of patients is doubling. The amount of an economy available to build sea walls doesn’t grow exponentially just because the threat might be growing exponentially.

Asher Miller

Yeah, although with I mean, we can have a whole conversation about money. Money is the one area where it feels like, and we’re seeing this with sort of government policy, that you could decide that you’re going to spend a lot of money. It turns out that it’s actually doing things in the real world, which can’t grow exponentially. But in terms of the money supply, you could do that pretty quickly.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah. But I would draw people’s attention to coping capacity, which has other limits besides money. It has how fast can you train people? How quickly can you learn and adapt? And money maybe can help some of that, but not all of it.

Asher Miller

So you’re just talking about how it’s kind of like difficult to recognize these dynamics until you hit that point where the hockey stick becomes clearly visible, which in some ways is almost like too late in a dynamic, right?

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah. And here’s a sort of ironic thing, which is if you flip that, the same type of mathematics is there for our social movements, right? Which are also growing via reinforcing feedback. Anytime one person goes to a protest or an educational event and has a change of heart and they bring two friends back, that’s feeding an exponential growth process. And so that’s going to have the same math, which is going to look like very, very slow, change. Flat, flat, flat, nothing happening, explosion of numbers and power and people who are persuaded. And so what happens as problems grow exponentially, we sort of react too late, or that’s the danger. When our solutions are growing exponentially, the danger is we give up too early. We don’t understand that we’re actually in the flat part of exponential growth. And really, what we need to do, what’s called for, is just to keep going, to keep feeding those cycles. Because the potential for that explosion of new thinking or newly engaged people could be right around the next doubling.

Asher Miller

Yeah. I want to unpack that a little bit. So just getting back to the pandemic, and you’re talking about people in the health sector, they understand those dynamics, and they’re trying to get ahead of them. There’s that risk that happens, where people have a backlash against the preventative measures that we’ve taken because they actually were successful, and therefore then people think this was unnecessary. And you’re talking in some ways about the flip side of that, which is we give up too soon on strategies that we might employ because we’re not seeing the impacts of them happening quite yet.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah. So I think for people who are leading change strategies that have some element of reinforcing feedback, what I encourage people to look for is more change in the right direction than breakthrough, that we actually completely solve whatever this issue is that we’re working on. So, if you’re working on a movement, are your numbers growing? Then you’re going in the right direction, and keep doing it. And then, I encourage people to really think about and often, you can just sketch this on a piece of paper. Explicitly, what is the feedback loop that’s part of your change strategy? So if you’re building a movement, your change strategy has some amount of thinking that the more people who are involved, the more new people who we will involve. The more people who are involved, the more new people, right? That’s how you build that exponential growth. And so you need to look at every chain in that circle and make sure you’re attending to it. And so, you might have great numbers, but if you haven’t thought about do we have the capacity to handle an increase in our numbers? Like, what’s our method for orienting new members and making people feel welcome? If we don’t attend to that, we’re starving our potential for reinforcing feedback. And instead, we’re having just linear feedback, right? Or linear lack of feedback. It won’t feed upon itself. So sometimes a strategy that might work at an early stage of exponential growth might, you know, have a limitation later unless you’ve planned for it. The other thing people talk about is the gain around the exponential loop. So how strong is it? And there, an idea that comes from communications applies to lots of other things, which is the stickiness. So if you have a new idea that’s growing, say by word of mouth, people are like, I heard this cool, new thing. And then, you know, they tell a friend, and a friend tells a friend. So their stickiness is like, how captivating is the idea? How memorable is it? How easy is it for someone to share? And so maybe, you have a train the trainer program. You have to think about not just how to train the trainers, but how to train them in a way that they can train the next trainers. And so it starts to be two or three cycles out. Are these materials sticky? The stickier they are, the more advantage you’ll get around those cycles of reinforcing feedback.

Asher Miller

Sounds like you’re recommending a lot of intentionality in trying to recognize the work that people are trying to do as being part of a system. Trying to figure out where, you’re talking about looking at each element in a sense, in that system. And making sure that it’s not set up in a way where the capacity is not limited if you are actually successful in getting reinforcing feedback and exponential growth. Are there tools that you’d suggest? Should we drive people to that climate leader courses as a place to sort of help people think more about how to think in systems in that way?

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. That’s a free resource that we have at Climate Interactive. Although it’s focused for leaders in climate change, the ideas really could be applied to any type of social movement or change movement. And it’s a series of short videos and supporting material. That’s sort of our offering at Climate Interactive, of what we were taught in terms of systems thinking by our mentors. Trying to make it just available for people doing this work. And yeah, I really recommend holding your strategies up to the light of systems thinking if possible. I mean, our movements are under resourced, or out now outnumbered, or overspent in many cases. And like we said at the beginning, we’re up against problems that are growing exponentially. So unless we have good strategies that tap exponential growth in our response, we won’t be able to catch up, would be my thinking, or my argument for why even though it seems really urgent, and you want to just be out doing the work, why now and then taking a step back and framing it in systems is worth doing. If you’re a reader rather than a video course doer, I think one of the best books is by my mentor, Donella Meadows called, “Thinking in System” that breaks down a lot of this as well.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I guess the last thing maybe I would add to that is for folks listening, maybe you’re not somebody who is trying to mobilize people, that’s not your role, necessarily. Maybe your role is trying to develop alternatives to the current economic system, food system, whatever it is that we have. Maybe the challenge there is to think about how to tap that innovation that you’re working on with other systems so that people can learn from it.  So your role doesn’t need to be a proselytizer, let’s say. But connecting with others who are able to disseminate that knowledge or that inspiration, so that others can pick it up, I think, is also really, really valuable.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah. And you know, another set of key reinforcing feedback loops that are at play right now are technological ones, where the barriers to clean technologies, especially price, is just improving so much. So that’s a reinforcing feedback loop where the more installed capacity there is of a new technology, the more economies of scale, the more familiarity people have with it, the more the price falls, which opens it to new markets where people couldn’t imagine engaging with it, which opens up even more economies of scale. So there’s that same flavor of the more change you have, the more change you get in the same direction. That’s the hallmark of reinforcing feedback. And yeah, it’s not only about social movements at all, it’s about innovation and change.

Asher Miller

Yeah. Well, that’s really helpful. I really appreciate it and I think our listeners will appreciate as well. Thanks so much, Beth, and thanks for all your work with Climate Interactive.

Elizabeth Sawin

Yeah, great. Good luck with everything. Thanks.

Asher Miller

Thanks.

Jason Bradford

Thanks for listening to this episode of Crazy Town.

Asher Miller

Yeah, by some miracle, you actually got something out of it, lease take a minute and give us a positive rating or leave a review on your preferred podcast app.

Rob Dietz

And thanks to all our listeners, supporters and volunteers and special thanks to our producer, Melody Travers.

Jason Bradford

Okay, guys. You guys are all familiar with this expression, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Yeah.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, it sounds a little harsh.

Jason Bradford

It is, you know, and so —

Jason Bradford

It’s how I live my life.

Jason Bradford

Well, that’s the problem. You know, nowadays, it’s often not legal to beat your children into submission, right? It’s just not. So to stay out of jail, modern parents need other ways to keep the peace in these overwrought, COVID restricted households we’ve got where the kids are continually squabbling, and you have some important business meeting on Zoom. So, what are you gonna do? You know, neck wringing and muzzles are off the table. And so this is this is a situation where our sponsor, today’s sponsor, is perfect. It’s called the “Home Control Rod.” And it’s just made for this. You just march into any situation in your home that’s driving you fucking bonkers and up the wall. Alright? You march in with the Home Control Rod. You just clasp that puppy in two hands, you know, firmly strike it on the floor. And it will immediately glow in a blinding light and hum like a fucking Cathedral organ.

Rob Dietz

Do you have to yell, “You shall not pass!”?

Jason Bradford

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Asher Miller

This is like Moses’ staff.

Asher Miller

Yeah. Gandalf, whatever you want.

Asher Miller

Right. Parting the seas. In this case, it’s shutting up the lips.

Rob Dietz

Yes. Regardless of whether you support this sponsor or not, at least we know that neck wringing is off the table. So that’s a good public service announcement. Thanks Jason.

Jason Bradford

Hey, it’s an alternative.