Dr. Plastic Picker – A Personal Plastic-Picking Blog: Fighting Ocean Plastic Pollution One Piece At a Time
 
It was an epic day.

July 1, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yes dear readers. Dr. Plastic Picker strikes again. I spoke at a rally yesterday at the civic center, which I’m now very familiar with. I was one of the headline speakers and even had a fancy social media ad made about me. I spent at least 5 hours of my time yesterday committed as Chair, Public Health Advisory Council, Climate Actions Campaign. The updated San Diego Climate Action Plan that seeks to have net zero carbon by 2035 with accountability and transparency passed 4-0 in the Environmental Committee. It’s funny how I know the members of this committee by name as well as I used to know the members of the middle management HMO commitees I used to serve on.

We are all real people with real families, and San Diegans trying to get it right. But we are all playing our roles as well. My role was formal and I didn’t get to tell anyone I was Dr. Plastic Picker. I was a generic general pediatrician representing the generally shortest and less well paid but overly educated MDs who chose to take care of kids. I wore my white coat that I had upcycled from my Harvard residency MGH and just had my father-in-law iron on an SDPCA patch over it. I wore a bright light yellow and airy top with black trousers and flats. My hair was black and I wore glasses. Honestly, I was like every other pediatrician that you might meet out there. And even though in my real self, I’m off beat, I play that generic role honestly. I was there to speak for my profession and our children. I didn’t need to stand out. I think my comments went over well. I cried as I have real climate grief at times. I made my remarks toward our collective children. I’ll post them on the San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air website. Here, on this blog, is my emotional environmental journey.

I let others take the attention. I introduced my wonderful former patient and now premed student to some law makers and climate leaders. We had a picture together and that was so meaningful, as our relationship is cemented in social media and in Fox News when they got her from the side of the climate rally. My student didn’t seek attention but I wanted her to get some. The Youth Vs. Oil speakers are young high school students who I now know play on the same volleyball club as my daughter and they demanded attention, and their youth and passion is the attention that the climate movement needs. And the politicians always demand attention and recognition, and that is well and good as they need to grand stand and take credit and the credit is well deserved. It’s amazing that Nicole Capretz the founder and executive director of Climate Actions Campaign never demands attention, but gets so much press coverage, and I hold her as an example of how to build an organization.

But in the end, Dr. Plastic Picker did get attention! During the public testimony of the San Diego CAP update, environmentalists from throughout San Diego came together and drowned out a few of the SDGE /fossil fuel voices. The Audubon Advocates showed up, and they were so awesome. You could tell it was their first time advocating because some of them did not know to change their zoom names to their actual names. But at the end of testimony where I was Chair, Public Health Advisory Council and American Academy of Pediatrics Environmental Health Council – I said “I just want to say AAP loves San Diego Audubon. What is good for the birds is good for kids!!!” And that is it. That is a sentence I’ve been emailing my friends at San Diego Audubon as we do shared projects and I said it as a pediatric shoutout to the bird people in the middle of city council chambers. There were chuckles from the chamber. I think I had the most fun yesterday. Dr. Plastic Picker with my new hashtag #whatisgoodforthebirdsisgoodforkids LOL LOL LOL.

Cool social media ad that is very flattering Brenda made from Climate Actions Campaign.

June 30, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

My back was bothering me a bit yesterday night, so I slept on a thicker mattress pad on the floor. It’s healtheir for your back to sleep on a firm surface. I’m not sure why my back was bothering me? I think it’s because I walked around yesterday in flip flops to pick up a bag of trash. I’ve gathered only 9 for the month and did get 3 recycleables as well.

My back feels better this morning and I made sure to sleep at a good time. I’m drinking my matcha green tea soy latte home version. I am happy and content. I have about 15 charts to finish and then a half day of clinic to get through. I plan to eat a plant-based lunch at work, and maybe drink a decaf coffee. And this afternoon I will speak for 2 minutes at a rally in the Civic Center on behalf of a “complete climate action plan.”

It’s just 2 minutes of comments, but I’m one of the headline speakers. It’s my first official speaking slot as Chair, Public Health Advisory Council, Climate Actions Campaign. I’ve been on the Public Health Advsiory Council now three years? This has been in tandem with my advocacy work with the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s all kind of amazing how quickly I’ve non-purposefully and unintentially moved up in the climate and health world. I kind of just showed up as an Instagram litter-picker @drplasticpicker and the rest in blog and instagram history.

I realized last night that even in my meandering environmentalism, I spent about 5 hours doing climate work yesterday. I spent 2 hours prepping a power point to present to the Oregon Pediatric Society regarding expanding our Youth Arts Exhibition to Oregon. Then I gave the presentation and met with the wonderful team at OPS at 2pm. That presentation and dialouge went very well. We have plans to go the next steps. And then I spent at least an hour or two writing my comments for today and practicing it at home.

When I was in high school, I was on the speech and debate team. I realize now that training was the most helpful in my climate work. I did Foreign Extemporaneous and National Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speech, and did go onto the California State competitions. I also was a track runner and famous for my negative splits. I used to always run my 2nd mile faster than my 1st mile, which is unusual. My PR for a mile was 5:20ish or so which is pretty good. I only made it at San Diego CIF because most of the really fast young runners got injured. This is kind of a metaphor on how I live my life. I’m in the 2nd stage of my career, and I’m running faster for the earth now. Negative splits. Rested to try to maximize my impact this afternoon for the 2 minutes I have at the Civic Center.

June 28, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? When I began blogging I found so much freedom in being able to write into the internet ether. I remember the first November, I was blogging up to sometimes twice a day. It was cathartic and it meant freedom for me. Freedom to vent. Freedom to create. Freedom to be silly. Blogging is also written in the first person narrative. I am a blogger. I am Dr. Plastic Picker. It’s mostly all about me, even this eco-avatar is still me.

And having that “me” time, oddly allowed me to be the third person narrative at work. I stopped talking about myself as much, because I was finally listening to myself when I was blogging and creating. And now during clinic, I listen more attentively. Being the third person narrative at work, has been life-changing.

I was with a mother yesterday in clinic, who I have cared for through three different partners. I have been the stable part of that mother’s life, the person who cares for all of the children’s medical needs in this complex blended family. Sometimes when families are torn apart and then blended and torn apart again, the medical problems get more complex. Referring to specialists, getting more labs, recommending new wellness classes, talking about recipes and vegetables and screen time – we together are only scratching the surface. But over almost a decade, I’ve been there for them. Even when I myself was going through burn-out and just making it as a young mother doctor, I was there for my patients. My patients never suffered. Adding them on when the schedule was already full. Pausing and taking that extra moment to suggest something new on their road to health. And now that I’m better and able to really listen and be the third person narrative, I realize that part of what families really needed was me. They need me to listen and to witness.

So that is what I did yesterday for this mother. I just listened and I finally understood better what was going on in her life and her narrative. The core of what was the cause of the different partners and the severed families. She was understanding herself. The patient in front of me, the toddler, is just beginning to learn her words. And what she says is filled with emotion and tangents and loose associations. It’s coming out garbled. She needs therapy. And it’s a metaphor for how the mother’s narrative came out garbled and in phrases and sentences and actions over the decade that confused me, and didn’t make sense. But the mother is learning the vocabulary and the words. And then she can teach her daughter along with the speech pathologists and the therapist, so that that child can also clearly express herself.

I listened and took the time yesterday. I didn’t think about the green dots that are annoying sometimes, and remind me other patients are waiting. It turned out no one was waiting and I was on time at that part of the day. I can read body language well being a pediatrician for almost 20 years now. She didn’t need a hug. I put my hand lightly on her right shoulder in comfort. I kneeled in front of my little patient and at eye level, thanked her for coming it and waved good-bye with two hands. And during the visit as we went back to forth in a somewhat garbled patient visit, we figured out the next steps. I said sandwiched in between us trying to figure things out together, “I’m proud of you. My general impression is that you are starting to reach out. You are reaching out and forming your support network. You came today and I’m lucky to be part of that network. I’m proud of you for breaking this cycle of abuse. You will end it in this generation.” What a remarkable narrative I witnessed yesterday.

Snowy Egret. Graceful, elegant.

June 16, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Hey Rachel. We miss you a lot. All of us miss you. A bunch of emails are going around the department listserv and people are saying memories and their goodbyes. Not much grand-standing or politiking, I think because most of us know you could not stand that crap. I haven’t replied to the email chain because it seemed so inadequate. I posted a cryptic message on Instagram that was heartfelt and Saadia saw it, and replied. Gosh, you’ve left such a big hole in our department. For those that don’t know me in real life, one of our colleages a well respected pediatrician died after a year and a half battle with cancer. She was young.

Thanks for letting me interview you for my blog a long time ago. https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-rachel-guest-pediatrician-and-nature-defender-5/ You were nature defender, pediatrician #5. I hadn’t interviewed many people after you. I think because you were a hard act to follow.

I was in the nurses triage room at Otay, and there is just a bit of quietness. They all worried about you, asked how you were doing. I never really knew all the details of your illness, and I know that you know – it’s because I didn’t want to overstep the work/friend boundaries. I don’t make friends easily. You knew I was there when you needed me. Jong and I emailed a final message to all the nuclear medicine doctors that helped you get those PET scans scheduled asap. I knew you knew I was there when you needed me. I thanked them for you, and included a short few senteces about how much you meant to all of us and the kids you took care of.

It really sucks. #cancersucks I can think of many other people I’d rather died of cancer than you. I’m being morbid and dark now, but you understand I know. We vented a lot together. You called it how it was. But I have to say that at those migraine-inducing early morninng leadership meetings with all the clinic leads, you always seemed a glass half-empty kind of person. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been your biggest fan, but you were kind of intimidating. Remember when I sent you a sketch of how I thought we could fix afterhours with mock schedules for the 3 urgentologist. OMG, your response was fierce. You essentially ripped me to pieces. I almost peed in my pants! That is true. I mean you trained at Wash U one of the best pediatric training programs in the country and one of the few people at our HMO who knew who Will Keenan was. That man was scary and you survivied a training program that had that brilliant pediatrician questioning your every GI decision. I bow down to you Rachel. You are a better pediatrician than me, which given how fundamentally arrogant I am – is saying a lot.

But your battle with cancer showed me that you aren’t a glass half-empty kind of person. You were tenanciously holding onto life and hope and fighting this cancer injustice every step of the way. It was really passion you had. I was telling Melissa in the lunchroom yesterday, she’s not doing too well by the way. But I was telling her that you were fierce.

What I will remember mostly about you is how fiercely you fought for the young doctors. You advocated for them. You cared so much about them, that you made the rest of us with any sort of decision making responsibility – care as well. I think that is why there is a quietness when we are all thinking of you right now. We are reflecting on how you fundamentally made us all better. This is not a platitude when written about you. It is absolutely true.

This is my blog goodbye, my friend. I’ve cried so much for you. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s all those beach walks. We never got to pick trash together as we talked about. Thanks for being there for all of us doing this climate work. Co-signing all those letters. Being there for moral support for us. I’ll be seeing your family still, and I’m so lucky to know that I’ll get to watch your nieces grow up. Your family are environmentalists, and intertwined with mine as we try to save the earth. Your niece is beautiful by the way. I always thought you were beautiful and thought it was a shame you didn’t have daughters yourself, as they would have been beautiful. But you did have children, your nieces, your patients, and all the young doctors that you helped mentor. I’ve written this last blog post but I will repeat it again. There is no way that souls aren’t recycled. Everything is reused in nature. I think you will be reborn as this graceful egret, it reminds me of you. Lets meet in the next life and work together again. #cancersucks and you are a work friend that changed me and made me better. I can’t imagine the pain your parents are going through now. You were their baby girl who has died before them. But I hope in the next life, you will be again their daughter and the brilliant beautiful fierce person you were in this life. Good-bye my friend.

6/11/2022 plogging bag.

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m almost at bag #700 to my #1000 goal! This month I gathered 13 bags for a grand total of 694. I gathered #11 items for a grand total of #1920 items. I’m going to dispense with the table format today. Next month I’ll be more motivated to do that.

Mostly this blog has been to keep myself accountable to the ether of the internet and blogsphere, as a fun way to keep myself motivated. I never dreamed that I would have sometimes up to 1000 unique visitors a day to this “Personal Environmental Action Blog.” But this morning was proof that this blog has meant something to me and meant something to the world, as frugal pediatrician me paid $110 a year to protect the blog against Brute Force attacks. I guess I’m a moderate sized website that deserves this protection. The blog pieces are my thoughts and my environmental journey, and a real facebook friend said that as a cherished hobby – I should spend the money. So I did.

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Real snippet from the brute force attack on the blog.

June 8, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Savings the earth and picking up plastic is my hobby. I don’t get paid to plog (picking up plastic and jogging), and I don’t get paid to be a climate and health advocate. I get paid to take care of patients in clinic, and that is it. This blog is non-monetized and purposefully so. I remember back when this all started and Mr. Money Mustache’s blog people approached me about monetizing things, and I stuck with my origianl purpose. I’m an environmental hobbyist and I’m totally into it.

But like most hobbies, it cost money but I want to make sure it doesn’t break the bank. I try to mostly donate money to other environmental organizations like Rainforest Trust, Eden Projects, EDF and want to make it cost effective. The blog cost $25 a year for the domain name. Blogging is fun for me. It’s my environmental journal. But now my silliness is under brute force attack. Not sure what they are looking for on the blog? But it is, and I hadn’t realized it’s sometimes 800K attacks a day. There is an option for $110 a year to install a plug-in to protect this site. I’m not sure how much protection it will provide. I’m going to ask around, but it just brought up the issue of finances.

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Using the google tranlsation app, which is only ok.

June 7, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m watching this current K-drama that I told my friend Dr. Sandra Gee about. She’s my green pediatric climate friend up in University of Rochester. It’s about an alien that arrived to Earth specifically Korean 400 years ago during the Joseon era. He stays for 400 years because he was stranded due to his fated love, who dies with arrows in her back as she sacrifices herself for him. Of course he is a very handsome alien of the Korean-persuasian. And now he is in our modern time, ready to leave earth 400 years later but waylaid by the reincarnation of his fated love who is now an A-list Korean actress.

The current K-drama is kind of silly, but I like it and I get to learn new korean words and rewatch scenes as I practice the conversations. This sillier K-drama works for me, because it’s not as addictive as the really excellent ones like “Descendents of the Sun” or “Reply 1988.” Those were really really good, just good story telling and better than anything I’ve seen in English. The non-addictive nature of the current K-drama is really good for me, because I went to bed on time and now I’m up blogging. The blog traffic is really going up. I’m not sure who is reading but it’s just me – Dr. Plastic Picker, former Assistant Boss and now just almost full time (technically 80% time) pediatrician doing volunteer climate work outside and showing up where I should.

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June 2, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Real owl at the Love Your Wetlands Day.

It’s 540AM and it’s been a few moments since I got up at what is my natural wakening time to blog. I’ve been binge-watching Kdramas for the last few months, in between my climate work and work work. I have enjoyed it immensely and my Korean is a lot better now. The longest Kdrama with “The Young Lady and Gentlemen” which was over 50 episodes. It was kind of getting ridiculous when the main male lead gets amneia for the 2nd time though! Let’s just say my family and Mr. Plastic Picker have been staging an intervention(s)! If anyone from work is reading, certain nursing friends of an Asian-persuasian are not helping the matter by encouraging my addiction LOL. It’s fun to talk about our latest show and current Kdrama boyfriends at work. This is the life of a middle-aged happily married litter-picking pediatrician.

But one of the things that awoke me this morning from my slumber having slept deeply and restfully, was the morning birdsong. The backyard birds were signing this morning. “Arise Dr. Plastic Picker. Arise!!! You have earth work to do!” And with that, this is absolutely true. I have earth work to do. Besides a half day clinic or work work, where I was happily chatting with patients and teaching my little patients how to be little doctors – I also had three phone conversations that were climate related. Those were important conversations with two of our premed interns, setting them on the right path on their various projects. And one with an MD/PhD student who works with us on one of our climate groups, and manages our new twitter account. I’m not on twitter, but I guess I need to be.

So the birds woke me up this morning, and I need to send a good number of climate emails this morning. Single-use plastic reduction project. AAP resolution on single-use plastics. Several emails to the San Diego Audubon Society. I’m also going to make Red Lobster biscuits for the kids’ breakfast. I need some cooking inspiration and I just grabbed one of their biscuit mix boxes at VONS. Red Lobster used to be the fancy fancy place to eat when we were young. I still think Red Lobster is really fancy.

Awoken by the morning birdsong this morning, and will spend another hour doing climate work before work work. I hope the birds were singing to you also this morning. If not, likely we need to add some green space and native shrubs to the built environment around your house.

Trash artist’s pilgrimage. From the famed Washed Ashore.

May 30, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Good morning dear readers! I’m back from an epic few days up in Oregon. I don’t fly lightly but it was a combined brief vacation and working trip to try to figure out our Oregon farm. Stay tuned as try to figure out what I’m labeling CPR Cow’s Creek Professional Rescue. I’m forming a board of directors, and working with a friend on curriculum right now. It’s a fun dream and we are making this dream a reality. Mowed a few acres of pastureland. Roamed around the forested lots on the Polaris, and saw how much nature is in these timber forests. Family of deer, temporary wetlands with water fowl. We know there are bears and cougars and foxes. That large predators are on this land is to me heart-warming. So I’m trying to preserve this land but make it cashflow in our capitalistic society. I believe in responsible capitalism and democracy, and I think I can make this work.

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Another Instasgram Donation – one tree per follower

May 22, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s 820AM and Sunday morning. The two teenagers are fast asleep. Mr. Plastic Picker had worked 3 extra overtime shifts Saturday, and then within the last 20 minutes of his shift (which he did telemedicine from home) was called into the hospital to do an urgent procedure. This kind of put a wrench into our plans as a family to have dinner. He was slightly annoyed and had to throw on scrubs and leave the house. We were planning on going to UTC in La Jolla for some window-shopping and dinner. The teenagers watched another English period drama episode they are watching together, and I waved him off standing in the front yard as he drove off in his old trusty Prius. When you are a young doctor newly getting paid to save people’s lives, the paging and the immediacy and the hero-worship can be thrilling and addictive. But for us well into middle-age and having been doing this competently for over 15 some would say 20 years, it gets old. It gets old – really fast.

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