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Walking can increase our sense of connectedness with the earth and motivation to take climate action, which might be an important aspect of your well-being.
This is the third and final episode of our special series, Climate, Hope & Science. We explore the intersection of environmental well-being and our own well-being, where taking care of ourselves and the planet are one in the same and feeling good is not only possible, it’s helpful. We find the links between crisis, hope, happiness, and action.
Look for another climate-focused Happiness Break on May 18th.
Musician and activist Diana Gameros tries leaving her car at home and walking instead of drive for three days. We hear what was challenging about her experience, and why in the end, she loved it. Incorporating small climate actions into our daily life can strengthen our relationship with the earth and inspire us to take better care of it. Later, climate scientist Patrick Gonzalez breaks down the actual climate impact of one person choosing not to drive for a day. (It’s more than you’d think.) Finally, we learn how to reimagine our relationship to the environment from Dr. Yuria Celidwen, an expert in Indigenous contemplative practices and sciences, and what we — and the planet — might gain from bridging Western and Indigenous worldviews.
Avoid driving for one day out of the week. Instead, walk and take public transportation.
Try to avoid using your phone while getting around. Instead, observe the environment around you and how you engage with it. Notice as much as you can about your neighborhood. Pay attention to how you feel when you walk versus drive.
Think about how you can incorporate other small actions in your daily life to help the planet.
Diana Gameros is a musician and social activist. Her music is informed by themes like identity, language, culture and her experience as an immigrant.
Learn more about Diana: https://www.dianagameros.com/
Listen to Diana’s Music: https://open.spotify.com/album/0JdsjnFwzgkr0kPelaODF4
Follow Diana on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianagameros/
Follow Diana on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianagamerosmusic/
Patrick Gonzalez is a climate scientist and forest ecologist at UC Berkeley. His work inspired numerous policy changes focused on forestry protections around the world.
Learn more about Patrick and his work: http://www.patrickgonzalez.net/
Follow Patrick on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pgonzaleztweet?lang=en
Dr. Yuria Celidwen is an Indigenous scholar whose work focuses on Indigenous contemplative traditions and advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples and lands.
Learn more about Yuria and her work: https://www.yuriacelidwen.com/
More Resources on Climate Action:
Greater Good Mag - Can We Have More Productive Conversations About Climate Change? https://tinyurl.com/5n95sva3
WHO - Cycling and walking can help reduce physical inactivity and air pollution, save lives and mitigate climate change: https://tinyurl.com/3kzhytf5
TED - When Mother Earth Speaks, You Best Listen: https://tinyurl.com/yzmhch34
Time Magazine - In the Face of Climate Change, We Must Act So That We Can Feel Hopeful—Not the Other Way Around: https://tinyurl.com/98bbspap
What climate actions have you incorporated into your life? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the hashtag #happinesspod.
Help us share The Science of Happiness!
Leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts and share this link with someone who might like the show: https://tinyurl.com/2p9h5aap
Diana Gameros: I think one of the things that walking gives you is that you’re sort of absorbing everything around you. And you could even say slow motion because you can direct your pace. No one’s going to hit you from behind. You know, like when you’re driving a car.
And, sometimes it’s hard for me, to just take a moment–to stop, to leave the car at home and to be in the moment, or to be enraptured by,, by my surroundings To befriend strangers or to greet old friends. You know, because if I walk in the neighborhood I’ll find my neighbor who will tell me the story of when she painted a mural in the sixties or the seventies. Or I get to see new flowers that I’ve never seen.
But if I’m driving, you know, I’m definitely not going to experience those things. I just miss that opportunity to be filled with joy in ways that are just so fulfilling for me.
Dacher Keltner: I’m Dacher Keltner. This is The Science of Happiness and welcome to the third and final of our series: Climate, Hope, and Science.
An array of studies have shown that feeling more connected with the natural world can also motivate us to take care of it. Researchers have shown that people become more likely to say “They’ll use less energy, take shorter showers, and eat less meat,” to name a few examples, once they have a profound experience with nature.
So this week we’re exploring a powerful way each of us can act. Choosing to walk or take the bus every once in a while, instead of driving.
We hear from musician and immigrant rights activist Diana Gameros about what she gained from getting around on foot for three days.
Climate Scientist Patrick Gonzalez also shares the facts about how important walking is in fighting the climate crisis.
And later, we’ll hear from Dr. Yuria Celidwen about how the Indigenous concepts of belonging, responsibility, and connectedness can sustain our hope and fuel our action.
Yuria Celidwen: There is no human flourishing without Mother Earth flourishing first.
And that varies very much from the Western perspectives. But bridging the different views can help all of us adapt much better to the challenges that we are facing in terms of environmental crisis.
Dacher Keltner: More, after this break.
Welcome back to The Science of Happiness, I’m Dacher Keltner.
Today we’re continuing our series on Climate, Hope, and Science, with an exploration of one of the many ways that caring for ourselves and the environment intersect: opting to walk and take the bus, instead of driving.
We asked returning guest Diana Gameros, an incredible musician and immigrant rights activist, to leave her car at home for three days. And to really get the most out of the practice, we also asked her to leave her phone in her bag while getting around too.
Diana, thanks so much for being on the show again.
Diana Gameros: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Dacher Keltner: So Diana, what’s your orientation to climate change? How would you describe that?
Diana Gameros: A lot the work that I do in songwriting, in performance is this concept and this notion of home. What does it mean to be at home?
Instrumental music by Diana Gameros
To feel at home – the right to have a home? And when I think of the bigger picture of that, I absolutely know and always have in my mind the fact that planet earth is our home and the only one we have. I have to be honest, I do feel overwhelmed and I feel hopeless sometimes because I see the effects of climate change. For example, my family lives in the desert of Ciudad Juarez. And I see it, I see it when I travel to other countries and I also have experienced guilt, you know. Am I doing enough? Are we doing enough as adults? Are we collectively taking the right actions? Because I do have nephews that I adore and that I want them to live in a world where they can enjoy the things that I am enjoying now. With that idea always in my mind, what can I do to protect the only home that I have – that we have.
Dacher Keltner: I’m really curious what it was like for you to kind of get out of our typical ways of getting from point A to point B of cars and public transportation and bikes and just walk for three days?
Diana Gameros: It was basically a pause from the chaotic everyday life that sometimes I, I get to have as a freelancer, as a person who has many different projects that can distract me from the little moments of life that I really enjoy, especially when I’m walking.
Instrumental music by Diana Gameros
I’ve been traveling a lot. I’ve been working a lot in different projects as a musician – A lot of coming in and out of the country, of the city. From one activity to the other. Project to project.
When this practice was presented to me, I knew that I had to do it to give me an excuse to go back to that thing that I love, which is leaving the car at home and just savoring each moment as I’m walking, as I’m observing what’s around me.
Yeah, there were many times where I was tempted to drive the car and I didn’t, thanks to the practice, you know. Because I thought yeah, I’m gonna leave the car at home and take on the adventure. So it was wonderful.
To be honest my worries or my preoccupations were all of a sudden I had to leave earlier, I had to plan more accordingly because I was also trying to stay off my phone.
But I mean I learned about myself. I learned that it’s becoming harder for me to stay off the phone for very technical reasons and also psychological reasons and emotional reasons. I have a big family, even though I don’t have children, there’s always, I don’t know, people need me or like I have to sort of attend to family matters or work matters or friends. I want to be available for the people in my life. And so that was hard.
Instrumental music by Diana Gameros
I did fail, I have to say a few times, but that meant that I had to plan. So like to try to do all my phone endeavors earlier. You know, get them out of the way so that I could just be totally free while I’m um, walking or taking public transportation. Which I did take a lot of public transportation that I hadn’t taken in a while, I think ever since the pandemic. And that was amazing.
It’s almost like walking without my phone gives me this magnifying glass because especially when I’m consciously, actively not trying to reach for my phone – and that’s why I love this practice because I found myself really rejoicing in the happiness or in the joy that I observe.
Dacher Keltner: One of the things that happens to me when I walk is I just see things that give me a little bit more faith in humanity. You know, like, oh, they’re having a picnic for lunch, or check out the preschoolers, walking to school, they’re funny. I mean, what, what struck you about fellow human beings as you walked?
Diana Gameros: One of the things that I remember that brought me a lot of joy when I was walking on Mission Street in San Francisco was passing by a restaurant and seeing families eating together, smiling and sharing, passing dishes around.
You know, just, people in the frutarías or in the little markets where they have the fruit outside, like the workers organizing the fruit, and another worker bringing out the boxes and putting them out and the kids that are running towards the mom after they got a little candy or just the activity of the city. The smiles, the frowns. I, I don’t know. I savor them all. It’s almost as if I love absorbing that energy and in a way, getting to know my community as well through the people, through their activities, through their everyday actions, I guess.
Dacher Keltner: Yeah. I love this phrase, Søren Kierkegaard, the philosopher, like “The chance encounters of significance of insignificant things.” There’s so much that can give us hope.
Dacher Keltner: And then how about nature? I mean you’re instructed to kind of reorient to the natural world. What did you notice?
Diana Gameros: My practices were mainly done in cities in a sort of a cityscape environment. But this morning, I walked through the UC Berkeley campus and it was rainy. So all these trees, redwood trees, eucalyptus trees, the grass was just swollen with color and just filled with so much life. Who needs psychedelics when you have rain?
And yeah, to observe or to try to take in the beauty of a flower or a leaf or like this morning, the beautiful play of the water because it’s a rainy day today. The beautiful dance of the water in the trees and on the cement. And so I love being taken by that beauty. And you can kind of only do that when you’re walking.
You know, another thing too is that you start to notice, oh, flowers came in earlier or way earlier. Or you start seeing some trees that you connect to or that you start getting familiar with to start developing some diseases or, you know, you go on a hike and then you notice that vegetation doesn’t look the same way.
It does make an impact from, at that level of you beginning to understand the impact of climate change. You start to see how nature starts changing. And so in the way that you do that you can, sort of, yeah, take a more active role because you’re seeing it in front of your eyes.
I suppose it’s sort of a realization that it can be possible, that we can stay off our cars, that we can choose, and that choice, it’s not gonna make us miserable – totally the opposite.
Dacher Keltner: Yeah.
Diana Gameros: We just have to remember it.
Dacher Keltner: Diana, thanks so much for being on the show again.
Diana Gameros: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Dacher Keltner: We know that the very wealthiest people are driving most of the continued burning of fossil fuels. So, apart from giving us a feeling of agency, how much impact can each of us really have?
Patrick Gonzalez: Success in halting climate change requires action at all levels.
Dacher Keltner: My friend Patrick Gonzalez — a climate scientist here at UC Berkeley — is back to share his scientific case for walking more and driving less – even if it’s just one day a week.
Patrick Gonzalez: The scale of the effort is too large for anyone to sit by and hope that someone else takes action.
If everyone with a car in the United States gave up their car one out of seven days, we could cut carbon pollution by 42 million tons of carbon a year. That’s equivalent to three times all of the carbon pollution of Ireland.
Dacher Keltner: Patrick actually lives a totally car-free life, which has changed my view of transportation and inspired me to walk more and ride my bike more.
Patrick Gonzalez: But if a person can’t do that immediately, they can try starting by parking the car one day a week.
Dacher Keltner: Starting off modestly can make a real difference. It’s worth doing.
Patrick Gonzalez: Small actions, individual actions add up. Billions of small unsustainable actions caused the problem of climate change. So billions of sustainable actions, however small, will help solve it.
Dacher Keltner: So many of us are struggling with the magnitude of climate change. And yet, Patrick and Diana show us that something as small as walking more can actually make a difference for the planet and how we feel.
If you know someone who might benefit from these ideas, share this episode with them. And stick around, because coming up, I’m talking with my colleague Dr. Yuria Celidwen, a scholar of Indigenous contemplative studies. We discuss ways of understanding the world that can help us sustain our action, hope, and enjoyment of nature in our efforts to care for the environment.
Yuria Celidwen: We are nature, right? It’s not apart from us, So once we start allowing ourselves to be welcomed by mother earth. We start realizing how responsive she is, right? And how much we are really having an impact.
Dacher Keltner: More from Yuria, after this break.
Welcome back to The Science of Happiness, I’m Dacher Keltner.
We’ve been talking about walking — how it can actually make a difference for the climate, and how it can help us to slow down and open up to moments of awe and connection with the world around us.
I mentioned that climate scientist Patrick Gonzalez walks whenever he can — he doesn’t own a car. And that’s the case for Dr. Yuria Celidwen too.
Yuria is a scholar of Indigenous sciences and an advocate for Indigenous peoples and lands at The United Nations. She’s also a senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute.
She joins us now to talk about what walking means to her, and why we should all cultivate a sense of what she calls ecological belonging.
Yuria Celidwen: Yuria speaking indigenous language.
Hello that is my Indigenous language. I love always to bring my Indigenous language first as a symbol of the resilience, power and still presence.
Dacher Keltner: Yuria, I want to ask you about walking. We had musician and activist Diana Gameros leave her car at home and only walk or take a bus for three days.
And I have to say, you know, in across this show there are these like super walkers that I admire, you know. Diana did the exercise. Patrick Gonzalez, who’s a climate scientist, and you. You guys walk everywhere and I’m just curious, like what is walking give to you?
Yuria Celidwen: I was born and raised in the highlands of Chios in Mexico in a place called Qualha. And Qualha means the wonderland of flowing waters in English. So it was a place of, you know, cohesiveness and flow and coming together and freshness. So there’s this beautiful vibrancy. But, many times people think that being in nature is having this quiet space and it’s nothing far from that because there’s so much dynamism in the rainforest, right? And when I moved to New York City, it was of course this huge change. And in the beginning I was very shocked. That metaphor of the concrete jungle is pretty common, right? But indeed it is just another huge array of diverse organisms, extremely dynamic and moving constantly, right?
Nothing ever stays the same as we know in all wisdom traditions. There’s the clarity that everything is constantly transforming, right? And so my way of taking New York City and then embracing and then learning to really love it was to see that constant movement as well and start to adapt to it because nature is the wholeness, right? Nature is life. We are nature. So it’s not apart from us, we are part of her. So once we start allowing ourselves to be welcomed by the whole of the heart of mother earth. We start realizing how responsive she is, right? And how much we are really having an impact. We are part of this larger systems, you know, these life cycles that mother earth is so actively showing us.
Dacher Keltner: So that leads me to ask you about something that’s really central to your scholarship, which is this concept of ecological belonging. What is that?
Yuria Celidwen: Ecological belonging is one of the principles that, of a much broader concept that I have developed based on Indigenous ways of knowing or learning about the world.
And I want to emphasize here that I’m speaking in plural, right, Indigenous sciences because it is a wide array of ways of observation, analysis and then explanation of this understanding of the world.
Ecological belonging is a system of integration that cultivates the awareness or the sensitivity of belonging in a collective and ecological system, right? Of how alive everything around us is, so that we connect with all of our environment as very responsive, very sensitive system that then we can of course help thrive. It’s a way of responsibility and reverence of life.
I think the positive psychology and the whole contemplative field as well, I think the huge aspect that has been missing. Is the connection to the whole of the environment, right? So it is about how the self can benefit from this relationship, rather how much the individual can do for the relationships and the wellbeing of all others.
This constant dynamic participatory aspect of relationships is very foundational in Indigenous ways of understanding the world. So I think bringing the voices of Indigenous wisdoms could seriously impact and benefit the way that we all relate to the planet. And that varies very much from the Western perspectives, but bridging the different views can help all of us adapt much better to the challenges that we are facing in terms of environmental crisis but also the issues of social isolation, and then of course the eco-grief that we are facing, especially youth.
Dacher Keltner: Yeah.
Yuria Celidwen: So, as I insist on saying that the flourishing interest is growing to really transcend that narrow view that flourishing is for humans, but rather that there is no human flourishing without mother earth flourishing first.
Dacher Keltner: Wow. You know, a theme of our series is hope. And I’m curious what gives Yuria Celidwen hope in being involved in this activism. In this scholarship.
Yuria Celidwen: I want to get out of this idea of myself and, and think that the wholeness of hope inhabits or dwells in our systems, right? In our relationships. There is no such thing about my hope or yours, but rather what we are sharing, right? Because how we move forward depends on how much we connect so that we can work on this together. So it’s true that all these challenges are innumerable, but at the same time, the opportunities are infinite.
Dacher Keltner: Dr. Yuria Celidwen, thank you for your scholarship on the Ethics of Belonging, and thank you for raising the profile of the Indigenous fight for justice and climate change. What an honor it is to have you on our show.
Yuria Celidwen: Yeah, thank you so much dear Dacher. And remember that this is not a fight, but rather, initiative, a movement of love, a movement of hope, a movement of transformation. So it’s not about confrontation, but rather about awakening.
Dacher Keltner: Thank you.
Yuria Celidwen: So thank you for having me and thank you for bringing her one voice to the conversation.
Dacher Keltner: I’m Dacher Keltner, thanks for joining us on The Science of Happiness and our special series, Climate, Hope, and Science.
You know, it really means a lot to us here at The Science of Happiness to take this more expansive view of the psychology of happiness, to include the well-being of the environment in how we think about our own well-being, or what Dr. Yuria Celidwen called planetary flourishing.
And the science really supports that. Spending more time in nature benefits us in myriad ways like improved mood, increased happiness, less stress, a greater ability to focus, an enhanced sense of purpose and meaning in life. And these benefits are the strongest when the environment we’re in is healthier, with greater biodiversity.
We’re going to explore this connection on an ongoing basis. So look for more episodes about climate health and our own.
On our next episode, we’re going to take a break — A Swedish coffee and cake break called Fika.
Anna Brones: Fika does not need to be coffee. Some people don’t drink coffee, they drink tea. I think the thing that’s the most important for anyone who wants to try to incorporate Fika into their own life is really this aspect of taking a break.
Dacher Keltner: Are there small steps you take to care for the climate? What inspires you to keep doing what you can for the environment? Share with us, and we might share your ideas in future episodes. Email us at email@example.com, or use the hashtag happinesspod.
Our Executive Producer of Audio is Shuka Kalantari. Our producer is Haley Gray. Sound designer Jennie Cataldo of Accompany Studios. And our associate producers are Bria Suggs and Maarya Zafar. Our editor in chief is Jason Marsh. The Science of Happiness is a co-production of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and PRX.