Behaviors are contagious. I am trying to spread a good contagion. – Dr. Plastic Picker

Behaviors are contagious. I am trying to spread a good contagion.

| Posted in Office Beach Cleanings, Star Trek/ Philosophical Tangents

November 24, 2019

by drplasticpicker

It has been well documented in the social sciences literature that many health outcomes are due to habits. And it is also been well documented in the scientific and lay literature that behaviors (good and bad) can spread within social circles. We become like the people we associate with especially is there is mutual admiration and affection.

I have seen first hand that behaviors (good or bad) have at outsized effect on health. Diet soda and regular soda consumption has an outsized effect on bone health, as the phosphates in soda bind dietary calcium and is then excreted. I explain to my adolescent female patients who drinks soda, “There goes that glass of milk you had at breakfast if you drink a soda at lunch.” Or eating an apple a day with the peel can certainly keep the pediatric gastroenterologist away as it packs in almost 5g of fiber so that we can address the Pediatric Fiber Deficit, address the Pediatric Constipation Crisis and reduce plastic use from processed snack foods

I have seen the power of contagious behaviors professionally as a middle manager responsible for pediatric vaccine measures. The way to increase overall vaccine coverage is to change behaviors. If you have the nurse pend all vaccines in the EMR at the beginning of the visit, it makes it easier for the physician to cosign the order. The team is more likely to vaccinate all patients. It takes a while to change provider behaviors as it’s another task that the nurse and physician have to do. But when it becomes a habit and they get used to the counseling that needs to be done, you see the vaccination rates slowly rise. Our families get used to being asked at every visit, and we get used to thinking this as part of our daily tasks. That is an example of a good behavior that can be “contagious” that can actually prevent a contagion!

The environment is not unlike a human patient. Our environment is clearly diseased. As I look through the kelp that washes onto the shore, the plastic debris needs to be removed from this kelp before it begins to decay and the insects come and then the birds come to eat the insects and they accidentaly eat the plastic. We have many endangered shore birds along our stretch of beach .

Beautiful kelp that was washed ashore. No obvious plastic on this strand. Photo credit by drplasticpicker.

As I embarked on this journal of becoming drplasticpicker, I called this blog a “Personal Environmental Action Blog” modeling it after Personal Finance Blogs but with an environmental focus. Friends at work noted positively that I am seeking to change myself before I can change others. These friends were nurses and mothers. They are wise.

Islamic philosopher Rumi is reported to have said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Many also attribute the following quote to Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Which as NYT Brian Morton said was a hippie bumper sticker summary of what Ghandi actually did write, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

With this I wanted to list 3 people that have had a positive effect on me during this plastic picking journey, and 3 people that I think I have had a positive effect on.

Three People Who have Influenced Me

  1. Greta Thunberg of the youth climate movement and Boyan Slat of the Ocean Clean Up.
  2. “Plastic Picker” Facebook Friends: After picking the name drplasticpicker, I realized out on the internet/facebook world there are other Plastic Pickers that I now follow. There is “Lilly Plastic Picker” a 10-year-old in Germany who picks up plastic in her mostly land-locked country, knowing that the plastic pollution there will also threaten the oceans. Check out her video on drplasticpicker’s Facebook page, she is pretty phenomenol. She has given TED talks. And “Plastic Picker” who is a retired gentleman also in California but further north who cleans his stretch of beach daily. He has a large Facebook following and posts up to date articles on the plastic pollution crisis.
  3. Instagram I have not named the person I follow as I am waiting for her permission to blog about it, but there is a person in Europe whose daily litter picking totals are phenomenal. And also those that post under #yourbagmakesadifference are making a difference.

I know it seems odd that I am citing these virtual influences. But these individuals are taking action and walking the walk, and not just pontificating. They are taking tangible action againt climate change and ocean plastic pollution. Those indivudals motivated me to start changing my own behaviors. I was self-congratulating for years after we had solar panels installed and finally bought a plug-in hybrid. But those were easy changes, and I realized that nothing is easy and I can’t expect the government or large organizations alone to solve this crisis. I see the plastic, I pick it up. Then drplasticpicker was born, and is now I hope can be a cachment for all health care workers who work with children who care about the environment and willing to “pick it up.” I realize I’m just one person making little changes, but little changes add up especially when we do it with true love of community and our earth.

So in my little corner of the real and virtual world, I have influenced at least three people recently.

Three items my father picked up on his beach walks. Photo credit by drplasticpicker.

Three People Who I have Influenced

  1. My father: My father is one of the most successful and accomplished people I know. He is also a wonderful father. In the busyness of his own life, he has made time to take regular walks along the beach to enjoy nature. Now he always picks up 3 pieces of trash on his walks and he sends me pictures.
  2. My husband: aka Mr. Plastic Picker. Mr. Plastic Picker is a pretty centered and hard to influence person. He has a very strong sense of who he is, and what needs to be done. But I was even able to influence him. Mr. Plastic Picker has greatly reduced his disposable Starbucks coffee cup purchases. For 4 months now, he has frequently brought his own reusable coffee mug to Starbucks or uses the office coffee room machine.
  3. RNPlasticpicker: She is my work-buddy, and co-leader in my department. She brought her children to our first inaugural office beach cleaning During our last office meeting, she bought disposable plates that are paper instead of plastic.
  4. RNSchedulerPlasticpicker: I know it’s the fourth, but I had to sneak this one in! In my daily calls to the RN schedulers who has become friend, she said “I saw some plastic trash in the admin building parking lot, and I picked it up! I was thinking about you.”

And that dear readers, is a beautiful thing. Here are ways I have sought to change my behaviors, in what I have called my Secondary Net Environmental Positives Lets end with what Ghandi actually did write, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Come here to read my thoughts when I am not feeling as hopeful. Lots of musings on this blog!

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