June 2024 – Dr. Plastic Picker

Month: June 2024

wild daisies

June 20, 2024

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s our last full day on our Oregon farm, and we head back to our life in Southern California tomorrow. Today I’m meeting with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife OFW office, and one of their fish biologists. We have a Riparian plan that we need to finalize with the state of Oregon in order to continue some tax breaks we get for not developing an area of the property that has vital riparian habitat.

This climate activists life has led me here, to Oregon. There is no way to hide from climate change, our entire way of life will change. But we can all do what we can, in this chaotic reorganizing of society. This isn’t a climate bunker because the forest that surrounds us is likely to burn from wildfires at some point. But it was a way for me to deal with my climate anxiety. If I can just save these 200 acres, than I would have done some of our part. I remember when we flew out here during the COVID pandemic when travel finally opened up a bit, and we were up in this place during May. The ground was so healthy, and there were large birds of prey flying overhead. Knowing how degraded much of our earth is now, I realized how precious this place was. We “own” it but how does one own anything? You can’t “own” anything because our time on this earth is limited. I’m not afraid of death, because truly that is in the end where we are own destined to end up. We will be returned to the earth, and then I believe reborn again.

But for this time that I am here, I’ve decided one of my roles is to safeguard at least these acres. We’ve had movie companies approach us to film movies, that would have brought too much foot traffic to sensitive habit. We’ve had odd offers to grow wasabi from very wealthy people because the water is so clear in the creek. We’ve had multiple offers from some sketchy people to grow what we think is marijuana. Who wants a random acreage in the middle of a forest to lease? You must be doing something sketchy. So our family has decided to leave it for the fish and the salamanders and the earth.

Life is so busy that as a part-“owner” – we’ve only been able to come up no more than once a year. But it’s a blessed time that allows me to re-center. Every time I return, I am reminded how important the work that I am doing in San Diego is. And what we do in southern california, will help preserve places like this. And forests like the one that surrounds me, is doing it’s part by preserving the life that our species has decimated. There are baby deer frolicking around the property, a family of squirrels living in the old stone outdoor stove – every morning so busy. I love that squirrel family. If they had an Instagram account, they’d 100% go viral. But we’ll leave them to live their lives. The badgers, the mountain lions, the bears, the bald eagles, and the deer – we need to leave them some space. The concept of Rewilding is so powerful. But we can only rewild places, if we make our urban lives wonderful and filled with community and love and green spaces – so that the ridiculous suggestion from one of my patients to build a town in this secluded plot doesn’t come to fruition. The last thing we need is another town, where rich citizens flock and pretend to be eco-conscious.

We are just normal doctors that managed our money right. We still work and I have to return to our lives back in southern california soon. We can only keep this property if I continue working. I was so close to quitting years ago in the midst of my burn out, but I am so glad that I did not. Because I did not quit and got better, I have gotten to live this interesting second part of my life trying to fight for our community and climate. My daughter got to pick wildflowers on a farm that our family owns, and sat quietly on our porch and made a crown of daisies. Just like I try to protect her, I believe if we all work in our own ways to better society and address decarbonization – we will pull together as a community and weather the worst of this.

I still have so much fear and anxiety, and those of us in the trenches know that. We know about the catastrophic heat waves coming. We know about the heart disease and kidney damage and premature birth that is caused by global heating, environmental pollution and air pollution in particular. But being here calms my fear. I can still enjoy today. I can still enjoy a crown of daisies that my daughter made, because I know most days I have done so much to help move legislative work in California to address environmental pollution and climate change.

Just thoughts as we end our last few days in Oregon. Thank you for letting me share my journey. And I hope this blogposts finds you well.

June 18, 2024

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I can’t describe it any other way. There was a thunder storm of mucus in my left ear on both legs of our flight to Oregon. We are back on the farm after a year and a half. We own a large tree farm almost ranch up near the Cascades. I caught one of the worst colds of my life last week and had to call in sick for two days. It only equated to one day of sick leave, as I was only half days those days. But after working extra PE clinics and a Sunday call and just being around sick kids, at some point we all get sick. And I got sick. I thought I was better, and I certainly am from the fever and the body aches. But the mucus was intense in my left ear. And then on the ascent and descent from the airplane, the mucus decided to obey the laws of physics and responded to the ambient pressure changes. I had the most intense ear pain (otalgia) I had ever had on my plane trip. And then upon landing and not being able to hear out of my left ear, the mucus finally partially cleared and I could hear again. But honestly, the only way I can describe it – was it sounded like a thunder storm in my left ear. Twice I heard the thunder storm in my left ear, and suddenly I was able to hear again. It was such an odd experience.

The teen being my fashion model.

June 16, 2024

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s been a long moment since I’ve been on the blog. Apologies dear readers. As many of you know as we interact on other platforms, it’s been a June that none of us could have predicted. When you look back at last June, did you think this June would have happened?

I’m continuing to try to be impactful for the climate, and realizing it’s organizing bigger projects to move the national conversation. Mr. Plastic Picker is worried about the upcoming election, but strangely I am not. I guess I have somewhat tunnel vision in that I just want to play the role I’m supposed to play, and do my part. And the projects that I am working on, because they are all volunteer and usually with students and within the healthcare sector, are not limited by national politics. A lot of climate work can be done whether it be one political party or the other in power. The earth is neither conservative or liberal, the earth is the earth. Climate is climate. And I’m always grateful we live in a democracy (albeit imperfect).

This morning I have to finish two advocacy projects, finish calling the last 5 remaining legislators for sb1197. This is the leaded aviation fuel bill that is making it’s way through the different committees. Despite having some premedical students on the team, it’s hit or miss depending on their schedules. I get it. They are young. It’s graduation and many of them are moving home, and starting their summers. But one of the medical students is calling 5 of the legislators which helps quite a bit. It’s nice to do these advocacy projects together.

Then there is sb1137 which is the KEEP THE LAW gas and oil setbacks bill, and defending this win. There is a very large state coalition working on this. But locally, I’ve been helping to mentor a high school student Daniel Hernandez who is actually from my old high school (go Bonita!) and he has been doing very well. He’s linked with two large climate organizations and a good public speaker, so now has some leadership positions. I’m reminding him to pace himself and be strategic in his efforts, because he needs to also make time to apply to college and be a teenager. But I’ve linked him up with another post-bac student Kiran Rhodes and they are going to try to co-author an op-ed in the Chula Vista papers on SB1137. Likely we will win on this as there is a lot of money being donated state-wide to this effort, but it doesn’t hurt to do our part in our local municipalities and it gives a good student op-ed writing experience.

There is the fossil fuel divestment bill as well, SB 252 which directs the public employee pensions to divest from fossil fuels. Both AAP California and the Public Health Advisory Council for Climate Actions Campaign supported it last year. It did not pass. This years bill, we both support. So I just emailed the groups and got a consensus, so will draft a quick letter with some fancy signatures and send it off.

What else? Oh the H3SD 2024 San Diego’s Heat and Human Health Summit is well on it’s way to it’s second iteration. This summit was born out of so much love and passion, and me wanting to make connections in San Diego. I’m still waiting to hear about HMO funding for it, and my good friend and old medical school classmate Dr. Luis Castellanos has the medical school on board. But waiting and waiting for funding is really silly. I’m sure they will come through. But our family has committed to about 10-15K if our HMO bails. I’m used to working in big organizations, and for us as a dual physician couple who understand the true nature of climate change – it’s worth it 100%. But I hope they pay up because their name is all over this! I won’t tell anyone that we paid, but it will be an open secret in the climate and health world locally. Just in case any of them read this blog. It’s honestly somewhat embarrassing the way I have to go grubbing around for money in the world for climate work, when the world wastes so much money on many things. Like the number of managers in our department have ballooned yet things are being managed more poorly. Does that make any sense? I never see any of them around. Yet there are more of them.

Oh well. I’m just in charge of myself these days, and the earth.

Our kids are doing great! We don’t fly unnecessarily, so only our son is on his epic trip and he’s in Japan but staying there for a long time. It’s almost 3 weeks and we are so grateful for this. We are headed up to Oregon to our farm, and much needed time just Mr. Plastic Picker, myself and our teen daughter. We’ll hike around our pasture land, and meet up with the fish biologists as we have a Riparian Lands Tax credit since we are not developing any of the land – but especially not the special land around the riverbanks. A large creek that comes down from the cascades goes through our property (the Upper Cow Creek) and it’s important for fish habitat. I believe they are going to demo the Galesville damn near us soon which will be great for the fish. It’s exciting to have been able to buy that property and to make sure it does not get developed. Some one asked me is we could just build a town there, and I looked at them confused – because why would we do that? We are supposed to infill our urban areas and take public transport, and then leave these wild areas wild so they can continue to sequester carbon.

Thank you for letting me chatter on about life and the continued climate work. At UCSD the San Diego Union Tribune said the students did not really react to Al Gore’s speech. It’s not that they don’t care about climate change, 100% they do. It’s just that they don’t trust the admin who called police on their friends, and who wants to cheer on a speaker who doesn’t even know them introduced by a chancellor they no longer trust. It’s hard to earn back the trust of people. Just random thoughts when I was reading the SD-UT. Indeed, this June is not the June we would have predicted a year ago. But it’s the June we have, and I’m grateful to be alive (because I was really sick last week) and grateful to be able to blog.

Sushi at a New Place.

June 2, 2024

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I loved seeing all my classmates’ Harvard 25th reunion pictures! I know many of them had not seen each other in years and it was good to live vicariously with them as they transversed the campus and took pictures of spots that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I felt like I was drinking with them at the Hong Kong, despite having only been there once in college and not actually having drunk there at all. I am so glad to see Harvard through their eyes and lenses. I was sleeping next to my Harvard, as Mr. Plastic Picker and I were both alumni – so I told him that between the both of us that was Harvard enough.

I was planning on going to the Harvard 25th reunion but my body was really tired, and it had been more of an emotionally taxing time than I let myself realize. Earth Month and all the speaking engagements were taking their toll. For some reason I ended up in Tuscon AZ speaking at a conference, and it went well and I was meant to be there – but I was away from my family and alone and had to travel. I prepared a new talk, and met all these great people – but for an introvert it is fundamentally draining. There were more speaking engagements. Then the premedical students need advising, and they are wonderful – but they sometimes ask too much of me. As I advise them voluntarily, I have to set limits and let them know what is appropriate to ask for and what is inappropriate. And some of the requests were inappropriate. It’s okay for them to ask, but I have to say no and teach them why I have to say no. That is part of the mentoring. The newsletter for our group came out, and we were busy doing the good deeds that need to be done. But for all those reasons, and my mother-in-law having a stroke, my son has alternate travel plans, and I’m trying to save vacation days for other important things – I decided not to travel and I’m glad I stayed home.

It was such a wonderful weekend honestly. I’m trying to re-boost the composter to start hot composting again. I got some coffee grounds from Vons/Starbucks and I’m hopeful that will do the trick. I need to add more water to the composter as I think it’s kind of dried out. I am deep cleaning the house and making multiple runs to Goodwill and donating things at the library. It feels really good. I am at the point that I don’t think anyone is going to read my collection of the Black Stallion books! So it’s been given back into the free circular economy so that hopefully we all start to consume less. I got stuck behind the Goodwill truck in an alleyway, and was just thinking of alleyways and that I’m not sure if the AlleyWay project that one of the UCSD professors is doing makes much sense. People get kind of possessive of their alleyways. I helped my son make a graduation card for a party, and we wondered if he would come home versus spend the night at a friend’s house. He came home last night, and I saw him in his bed and I was so happy. I am going to wash his curtains today because they are so dusty.

And most importantly I got to be here this weekend, with my family. We had dinner at my brother’s house and I saw all our boys that are so tall and growing into good men and handsome – get ready for their cousins trip with their cool uncle to Japan. We laughed so much that night, and I made jokes and we had memories together as an extended family that are so important. And our nieces from New York are coming in August. They asked to come for the week, and of course they are welcome to home into our home. I told them last summer that our home is their home, and that they can visit anytime. I’m so grateful for that.

If I had gone to the reunion, we would never had found our new sushi place. So I missed you all that were at the 25th reunion, but it was kind of like missing the classmates when they would go out on the weekends and I would stay home and study. I was always more of an introvert anyway. I have a lot of climate homework and family homework to do. If that makes any sense.