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.
I just have a few minutes before we start off for the Rewild Mission Bay site. It’s been months in organizing, but we are bringing together an interesting group to the Kendall Frost Reserve for a nature-based session on education, land-restoration and wellness. I’m hoping that moves the needle locally to help build organic support to Rewild Mission Bay. I just submitted an article to Sketches, the San Diego Audubon quarterly journal, and my perspective as a pediatrician on the Rewild efforts. I spent a good amount of time on the article, and the response for the editors was gratifying. They have accepted it and will need just minor revisions.
But here at Dr. Plastic Picker, I understand the math. I understand the climate change math, and it doesn’t add up unless we divest from fossil fuels. Yes I pick up plastic but I know that divestment, even if it’s a pie in the sky effort, is something we need to do. SB 1173 is coming up and the environmental forces are mobilizing. The AAP California State Government Affairs Committe on Environmental Health and Climate Change has already signed on. But the vote will come up soon, and I’m trying to do my part in the state to activate lobbying on the grassroots level.
I’ve already forwarded the toolkit to folks, and organizing health care voices. After we return from the wetlands today, I’m going to leverage all the environmental connections I’ve made to try to make this happen. I never thought I’d be one of those that knew about bills and committees and an expert in lobbying. But I’m at that point now. I’ve done it enough, and I’m proud to lead the effort.
If not me? Who? If not now? When? Adults and pediatricians, we need to take a stance. It’s now or never. Here we go. SB 1173. Time to go for the most impactful actions. Divest from fossil fuels. Our HMO pension and also the CalPERS and CALSTERS.
It’s 645AM and I’m blogging this morning to process everything that happened yesterday. My mother-in-law is puttering around the kitchen and has another upcycled matt someone gave her. Our house kind of ebbs and flows with the upcycled things that enter into it, and then exit out mostly donated to Goodwill or gifted to someone I know. Choosing to step off the consumerist wheel was one of the ways I have been able to be such an active climate and health advocate. When one stops shopping for fun, you gain so much of your time back.
We still buy things here and there, but choosing to value things and people as precious and non-disposable has been the core of my activism. That has been true for most of us in this work. I’m looking out into our backyard garden, and it’s so gorgeous and worthy of any eco-magazine. You can’t replicate it, because it’s upcycled planters and tomatoes overflowing with hidden sweet cherry tomatoes. It’s our rosemary bush that was propogated from my friend Dr. Jill Gustafson’s cutting several years ago. We don’t have to buy rosemary anymore. It’s the plethora of flowers from rescued plants my mother-in-law picks up from friends and the local Sprouts, whose manager knows her well and is happy to have her take the plants that would otherwise be thrown out. Yellows, reds, and little white flowers that look with baby’s breath from where I sit. Even the vegetables when they are seeding give off flowers, as we save the seeds for next season. It’s tended with a loving hand and appreciated by our sustainable family, knowing that we are a part of nature and the result is this confusing yet sensible mess.
It was a frustrating three hours on the virtual queue again yesterday to give public comment at the San Diego City Council budget meeting. Riley Gilbertson, one of our premedical advocacy interns, and I have been working on this leaded aviation fuel project for the last seven months. This is when we first heard about it from the Montgomery Gibbs Environmental Coalition. https://www.mgecsd.org/index.html
It’s 7am at the Plastic Picker household and we’re continuing to put our extracurricular efforts into trying to save the planet! Reminder! Dr. Plastic Picker despite giving notice that I’m stepping down from my official middle-management role (although I’m now the ping pong tournament organizer for our big HMO office!) am still a practicing pediatrician working essentially full time. Five years is a long time to do anything, and the middle-management work although I was back to being good at doing it – honestly was like attending histology class in medical school or going to the dentist. I could convince myself it was good for me, but it stopped being fun.
Wow. Blog traffic really picked up. I always average about 400-500 readers a day, and sometimes it goes up to 1500. Now the recent traffic is about 600 a day. I wonder why? This blog is non-monetized and really about entertaining my community and nudging readers to take some environmental action. I know it might be dizzying the amount of environmental work I do. But if you know me in real life, this is how I’ve always been. I like to get things done and projects completed, and I’m generally an effective person. Now that I’ve found climate work, which is really endless – I’ve found my happy spot and do projects that bring me joy.
Maybe I should start signing my blogposts “Dr. Plastic Picker.” I think I had it as a runon name lower case in my attempt to remain semi-anonymous. But really as a women health care leader I need to stand up tall and be recognized. PaddleOutPlastic one of my instagram litter picking friends (she paddles out to LA Harbour to pick up trash) is a constant inspiration. She said one of the pictures I posted on Instagram really did look like an Elizabethian figure. I stopped there and hid inside a sandstone nook on the shore just above the water-line. I had picked up my bag of plastic from the beach, and stood there – just to be there with myself and the earth.
Now that I’m looking back at this figure. This figure is also just standing there, looking out into the ocean.
But most the weekend was spent inside our primary residence, our home. I was up on the roofdeck garden, and outside in our backyard garden and around the composter. Within the property boundaries of our home, I was also surrounded by nature. I made a pizza dough yesterday that turned out particularly well, and our children and I ate it after the halftime Superbowl show. I always use sage and thyme, lefft over seasonings from many thanksgivings ago. I think mixing it in with my flour before I make the actual pizza dough, gives it a special flavor that my family loves. I’ve begun experimenting with putting some cornmeal in it too. The pizza was so delicious yesterday, and I even used bits of leftover vegetables from an unfinished salad as a topping.
Sunday was an epic climate work day for me. I was mostly just typing on the computer, but I had to rest my brain in-between projects. I’m almost due to start the workweek, but I am honestly satisfied with myself. The work this weekend was joyful and something I could do to help bend the arc toward a livable planet for us all. This is what I did. I need to remind myself on this semi-anonymous blog so that I keep at the work. I reflect on this blog, and it makes me know myself better and makes me stronger.
(1) San Diego Union Tribune Letter to the Editor regarding Menthol Amendment: The anti-vaping team did the hard work advocating last Wednesday. But I wrote a blogpost on our advocacy website https://sdpediatriciansforcleanair.com/anti-vaping-team-send-sd-ut-letter-to-the-editor. This is in case the elected officials are looking. Had to compose the 200 word letter with the relevent points requested by our coalition partners and personalize it. Used a sentence provided by our student co-founder. Then had to text everyone to see if they agreed which took a few hours, and then send the actual email to the San Diego Union Tribune. I haven’t heard back and didn’t see it on their website. But the important thing is that we wrote it and our coalition partners know. This is a long battle as the actual state-wide bill will come up in November.
(2) Letter regarding DeAnza Cove from Our Wetlands Team: I had to be in the right mindset as well. I was composing our Feb 2022 Updates for our committee, which is what pushed me to finish this letter. I thought it was well written. I’ll post it on our advocacy site later.
(3) Youth Arts Exhibition: This is happeneing sooner than expected and the interns have done what they can. KPBS is coming and I need to coordinate all the people to be there. And then meet with the gallery owner this Wednesday to talk about ideas. The AAP San Diego is going to do a gallery type post of the winners as well. I really need to get to Staples to get the images all printed on poster board. Maybe I’ll do this Tuesday, a few samples at least. We need to get the audio-loop of the poems and the music made. I’ll be hanging out in Dr. Andrei’s office a lot this week.
(4) Feb 2022 Newsletter: Most of Sunday was composing the newsletter that I sent out to our collective group. I think the reason it took me so long, is that I had to conceptually rethink all the projects we are doing and understand it for myself. Making myself get the newsletter out, also prompted me to finish some other lingering climate projects.
This work is joyful but took a lot of time. I’m not sure why I find it all fun and interesting. But the weekend is done, and those projects are done. I finished a work presentation as well and I was proud of that. I need to make each talk new and fresh for the audience. It’s important when people give of their time, to be considerate and do something new for them. I didn’t talk about climate at all, which is rare. The talk is on HPV Vaccine advocacy. I did put a picture of my daughter. Oh, the mortgage broker is calling! Got to make sure we take care of our financial house. Happy Monday to you all! Hope everyone is able to sneak in some projects for the earth as well.
Sometimes when I go to bed, my mind is confused. It lived through the day and reorganizing things. Too much caffeine today? Too little nature? Did I help the earth? Climate gathering in person or another organizational meeting virtual that also has to do with climate? The day is filled with choices. I chose to speak up at a middle management meeting yesterday. I said my piece which is my truth, and I let it land. Whatever happens may happen, but I was proud of that moment. It was interesting people’s responses to those comments. But I have to speak up for physician wellness and I have a crystal clear understanding of my place in the world, and who I am. I wish that clarity for everyone.
The mornings are clear. The Christmas tree lights are twinkling in our living room. It’s a thrice handed down plastic tree that we love. Nothing new here. All the ornaments we’ve collected through the years, and they are mostly hand-made by the kids when they were younger. We have enough. I have a beautiful tin of cookies someone dropped off yesterday and I am so excited to eat each cookie. They were made with love and the beautiful reusable box with the cheerfull santas I will cherish forever.
And yesterday, I chose my family yesterday and I chose the earth. I chose my family when I spoke up about my displeasure regarding changes in our schedules. Most of the things that are wrong with the world are actually due to inaction or fear. Folks didn’t care enough or were too afraid to speak up to correct it. I have neither. What is there to fear when we have the code red for humanity due to climate change looming? And I have always chosen to act rather than inertia, even when I was at my saddest. I chose to walk toward the beach and I chose to start picking up plastic. I can chose to become a truffle farmer at any time.
And yesterday I chose the earth. There are only so many hours in the day and I thought to myself with all the competing demands on time, where should I go? I chose to attend the AAP San Diego Chapter Advisory Committee as I need to make sure the other pediatric leaders are on board as the climate change and health committee continues on our way. My co-chair is out on maternity leave and it’s important for at least one person to be there. I chose to show up at a virtual lunch meeting with Dr. Marnie Granados, who is co-chair with me of our new AAP California State Government Affairs Expert Section on Environmental Health and Climate Change. We met to discuss AAP California’s further support of oil and gas setbacks. Most of the organization and planning had been done by Drs. Marnie Granados and Amanda Millstein. But I try to document our journey and I am just amazed at how intense we look.
Here you come to see the true story of a local litter-picking pediatrician. And the true story is that I find it the utmost amusing thing that I’m all over the internet. I had met up with Dr. Marnie Granados from AAP-CA4 (Orange County) to discuss planning for two big state-wide climate projects. We are co-chairing the AAP California State Government Affairs Expert Committee on Environmental Health and Climate Change. Wow, that was a mouthful. Orange County is also the site for the next AAP NCE, and she is inspired to do a sustainability /climate service project and art exhibition. We had made moves to do something similar in San Diego, and the Philadelphia AAP also but due to COVID both conferences were virtual. We discussed ideas and structure. The meeting was very efficient. 45 minutes and jam-packed. My general impression is that Dr. Marnie Granados (who I have worked with before) is one of the nicest people I’ve met. Dr. Amanda Millstein is also really nice, but she is really busy. She’s in the photo also.
Since I met with my fellow Co-Chair (I have many co-chairs of all the committees I lead inside and outside of work), I just happened to Ecosia search the past AAP California multi-chapter chat and lo and behold, the recording of our talk was up on VIMEO! I watched myself speak last night (in addition to all my nice co-panelist) and I was surprised that I was quite well spoken and I think somewhat inspiring! My story is simple and I tell it only when asked now, but I think it still resonates. That talk had been one of many talks I had given that month, but now that I think about it – it landed well. It had it’s intended effect. The really funny thing is that you can see me adjusting my hair quite a bit and my facial expressions are so odd somethings. I have no filter. But I come to this work honestly and with an open heart, so it was really fine. I do look at times tired though, which I think I was. Kind of plays into the character of the former burned out pediatrician. I dyed my hair that day though so I look really young!
The one thing I did well in that talk was include the names of many of the people who have collaborated on this journey. It’s important to make sure everyone understands it’s the biggest group project every, saving the earth.
So I’m just really looking forward to working with Dr. Marnie Granados over the course of the year. We are neighbors! OC is just north of San Diego. Our daughter had her hair styled like Marnie Granados yesterday when she went to school, and my mother-in-law said she was beautiful. I think they both are beautiful, inside and out. The funny thing about Dr. Amanda Millstein and myself, is that we often wear the same outfit at Zoom meetings. I think because we are minimalist. That’s my zoom dress and I’m sticking with it. If Mark Zuckerberg can wear the same Tshirt, why can’t I wear the same dress?
It was really fun yesterday. Riley Gilbertson our advocacy intern and I got to stop by to the UCSD PRIME HEq program, and we even had designated parking spots at lot #603 which is the end of Osler Lane! Riley got his spot. Someone was parked in mine! I parked in the pharmacy school’s spot. I hadn’t been at that area at UCSD since interviewing as a medical student over 20 years ago. San Diego is really a big city now.