Climate Advocacy (AAP/Climate Reality/ClimateHealthNOW) – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Climate Advocacy (AAP/Climate Reality/ClimateHealthNOW)

beginning slide

March 28, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Our family continues to be very fortunate in our lives, and all the interesting projects we are able to participate in. We are still bathing in the glow of our son’s joy over his college admissions, and still awaiting more decisions. But as the children and I hugged last night, we were reminded – it’s important to stay humble. We realize we are a very normal family. And I reminded each of the children, to continue to go forth into the world and emanate love and joy, and do good.

I was a little bit stressed last night. I have a big presentation this morning, and I hadn’t really finalized my talk last night. It didn’t seem the right thing to finish, but I did start it. I used slides from a previous talk and began updating them. And then, I needed to take some time for myself after spending pretty much the entire vacation day off yesterday on climate legislative advocacy and also catching up with charting. So I stretched, took a walk after dinner, and I did some yoga. My daughter has a new passion and she wants me to participate, so I’m working on my strength. I still have a perpetual smile on my face from trying to manifest a different destiny, but I’ll leave that off the blog. It’s just a warm glow and this sense of rightness that in the next decade that event that I’m dreaming of , will happen.

But back to my actual climate advocacy. I’m speaking at 10am to the League of Women Voters San Diego . I entitled the talk “A Pediatrician’s Second Act: Climate and Health Advocacy.” I got to include this meaningful slide

So true.

This morning when I finished the presentation, it went very easily. It’s because I just tell my simple story and then usually talk about three climate projects that I’m working on. Since pretty much all I do is climate work, I always have a lot of images and narratives to choose from.

So what seemed daunting last night when the day was ending, was actually really easy this morning. So I’ll get the kids off to school. These few remaining months of having two high school students in the house are very special, so I’m relishing it all. I’ll take a walk and pick up a bag of plastic around the neighborhood. I’ll give my talk to the League of Women Voters San Diego at 10am-11am. I’ll go to a local Vegan Thai Restaurant to pick up food I ordered for an office party at 1130am. I’ll then drive to the office and deliver the food to the beautiful party room that has already been decorated by the phenomenal nurse Lea that I work with. We will have a party and celebrate someone who is retiring, who I care about as a person quite a bit. And then I’ll work this afternoon and see my patients. My charts were all caught up as of yesterday afternoon! We find out from NYU today. And then I’ll come home and use the pizza dough that I already prepped for dinner and split a dark chocolate bar my daughter and I bought at Trader Joe’s yesterday. Sounds pretty much like the perfect day in the life of your local litter picking pediatrician!

She gave me a hug before the testimony.

March 14, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

On behalf of my committee and pediatricians, I urge your committee to vote Yes on AB 249. My main job is in clinic and I am a front line pediatrician for 2000 families.  Indeed, most of our membership within the AAP are that, your community pediatricians who treat our state’s children.

I am here to remind you that lead is a Pediatric Neurotoxin, and it’s an accumulative neurotoxin and it is stored in bones and teeth and never leaves the body. Children are uniquely susceptible to even low lead levels which can lower IQ and cause learning and behavioral problems which, in turn, elevate costs in health care, education, and criminal justice.

The reason I am here is very personal. I see the effects of lead pollution in real-life in my clinic, as I do increasing number of evaluations for children with ADHD and autism, prescribe more and more stimulants and have more children on antipsychotics to address behavioral issues  – and try to help families navigate the difficult world of special education and medical services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA services. As my work day is filled with the increasing demands of these children who need our help, I can’t help but remember that much of that chaos that has been caused could have been averted if we had addressed leaded drinking water earlier.

Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as birth malformations. There are astronomical economic costs from the negative impacts from exposure to lead by everyone. For every dollar spent on controlling lead hazards, it is estimated that $100 would be returned in health benefits, increased IQ, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenue, reduced spending on special education, and reduced criminal activity.

Children at highest risk are the very young (including the developing fetus) and the economically disadvantaged. This is because undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium or iron, are lacking.

Lets not wait to address the clear danger of leaded drinking water in our schools that threaten our states’ future. It’s not fair to those children attending those schools now, and it’s simply not fair as it’s likely children in environmental justice communities.

My trash art last night.

February 17, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m really excited. I had this idea for a “Heat and Human Health” Summit at UCSD and it’s taking shape. I have some wise people guiding me. They believe in the earth but can taper my enthusiasm and guide it in the right direction. So it sounds like to make it doable, it should be a smallish gathering of 50 or so people for half the day. This advice helps me quite a bit, because it puts limits on my enthusiasm and grandiose plans. The most important thing is that it gets done, and we start it. The heat waves will be coming for the next 30 years or so. Having the first of it’s kind conference in San Diego will bring much needed attention to this issue. It also just gives us a goal to continue to address the real threat of heat waves and what we as health care organizations can start doing to plan as a region.

So I’m excited and reaching out to people. I thought I needed more students, but honestly I have enough right now. I have two premedical students who can help with this, and one high school student. That is all I really need. And then we have our Public Health Advisory Council, Climate Actions Campaign folks that are already bonded and can work together. Even the food won’t be that much. If it’s just a half day, then we just need coffee and drinks and snacks.

It’s really just a big meeting, but it’s an important meeting. It’s a kind of meeting with topics that are not being discussed right now. And we can do it for the first time in San Diego. It will create opportunity for three premedical students. And it’s really interesting to me. Probably initial address by Dr. Wilma Wooten or someone like that. I can make brief comments. Then breakout session at least 3. Heat waves and ED access. Heat waves and youth sports workflows. Heat waves and effect of NICU admissions and Ob-Gyn admissions. Heat waves and leveraging technology to help. Heat waves and psychiatric admissions. Increasing access to cooling centers to those that are most at risk.

Okay. That was a super productive blogpost. Do you like my trashart man? I call him “I am a fiduciary. I am an earthing.” That is a whole other project that I am working on. LOL. So grateful for green friends.

Evidence of manuscript submission.

February 12, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m exerting so much self control dear reader by not posting semi-anonymous pictures of the volleyball-cute in her winter formal dress. Also our senior son looked dapper yesterday wearing a boutonniere for the first time. He also had a very beautiful “friend-date” and we did the proper thing and had a matching white rose corsage for her with a black ribbon. She was wearing a black dress and it matched. I haven’t seen his pictures from his phone yet, but the blurry and out of focus photo-booth pictures has the pretty “friend-date” wearing the corsage.

The freshman volley-ball cutie had her own corsage as well that her parents bought for her. It was not the dance experience she expected, indeed all of freshman year has been one surprise after the other. But she was absolutely beautiful and elegant last night, and she was able to curl her hair for the first time and wear a fancy clasp purse for the first time. Other girl-friends who are gorgeous themselves said she looked beautiful and they took mirror selfies together, so she got the pretty girl validation from other pretty girls – which is saying a lot. It was also one of those nights that she realized she’s absolutely an introvert but a beautiful and elegant one. The thumping music and night-club ambience made the complications of her home-coming seem benign. I absolutely don’t know what I did to deserve a teenager that while going into the night-club (where the high-school dance was at), and at the last minute whisper to me “I wish you could come and be my date.” And then later that night after she was home and make-up off, want me to hold her and her confess to me how head-ache and migraine-inducing the strobe lights are. She told me that she’d like to find a boy (after SATs are gone with a high score) who is a handsome introvert who likes books, and doesn’t like the clubbing scene. Can you imagine how happy I was to hear that? Yeah. I’m incredibly lucky. That boy sounds very much like her father. He’s out there little one, just growing up like you are. Hopefully reading a book last night.

And as my two teenagers are growing up, I’m continuing to work on saving the earth and moving the climate work forward. It’s still going to be absolutely close dear readers to mitigate the worse of climate change. Dr. Plastic Picker and extended family haven’t bought our climate bunker for no good reason, we have very good reasons to worry about water scarcity, and air quality and migrate northwards eventually if we aren’t able to avert the worse of things. But we still have a decade to advocate and to act, and at the same time our teen children are living their lives and growing up.

So it’s 638am and it’s Sunday. I’m imagining the week and it’s mostly climate work and writing. I just wrote an email to all my climate friends about maybe having a “Heat and Human Health” Summit this summer. I emailed my Target contact that had offered to collaborate and will hopefully get to do a corporate type meeting on Wednesday! So excited about that one! Then I just shared on my Instagram @drplasticpicker an important article regarding environmental exposures and human health. They are helping us with publishing a commentary on our fossil fuel divestment work as well. We are all like-minded environmental health advocates.

I think I’m going to actually go pick up trash and just count it on my own plastic picking totals. I’ll post those updates later. I have to finish charts this morning, and then get some headway on one writing project, help my niece organize a Barnard/Columbia webinar on Environmental Justice, and then find a site for the Youth and Climate Arts Exhibition. I also need to clean our house a bit. It’s all really manageable because being Assistant Boss was such an abyss of responsibilities without any power not enough time. Saving the earth is easier than changing work-flows for sure, or scheduling doctors to work! LOL. Happy in my green corner. Sending you green hugs! Also I need to do our SDPCA newsletter too.

February 9, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Good morning green friends!!! It’s your local litter picking pediatrician who is still picking up litter and still making trash-art. I realize when my mind is racing with the wonderful projects that I get to be involved in, but wandering too many different places – that I need to come back here to refocus. It helps me sort out my thoughts and what I need to do for myself and the earth.

I haven’t been posting as much because I realize I need to give my teenage children their privacy. I could have an entire blog just dedicated to raising them. But they are living their super interesting lives and I’m joyfully their mother, but trying not to overshare their images. But honestly it’s so very interesting and so much fun!!! Let’s just say our kdrama continues and there is a lot of joy and laughter and strutting up and down our hallway as we dream about fancy evening gowns and interviews. If it comes to pass, I’ll let folks know. But now it’s just a lot of silliness at our house as we break out the high-heels and talk about dreams, in between activities and applications and real aspirations that the children have for themselves. I hope you as well are enjoying your teenage children. It’s a beautiful age-range and I never realized it would be this fun.

But back to saving the earth. I’m going to have a meeting at Target! An actual corporate meeting!! I tell my friends I just go where the earth leads me and I am good about talking about my passions. I think having the super beautiful UCSD students also inspired those that visited us. Someone from Target offered to fund some of our work and I’ve invited myself to the corporate office to check it out! I’m really really excited!

And then yesterday I went to my first meeting as a member of the Retirement Committee. They said a lot of big words and tried to instill the gravity of the position I now hold. I’m a FIDUCIARY and that carries a lot of responsibility. I guess we are collectively responsible for a few billions in pensions. I told them I’m a climate advocate as well, and head of the green team at the Federation level. I really did enjoy the meeting and learning all the new terms. But I kept on hearing the new financial terms FICUCIARY and some other term. But I wanted to tell them, I am also an EARTHLING and would like a livable planet. I’ll be there in person during the first quarterly Retirement Committee meeting! Mr. Plastic Picker took the day off and is going to drive me!

And then I am in the process of co-authoring two papers. One paper on Fossil Fuel Divestment is being submitted shortly one last time to Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. I’m proud to have contributed a good amount to the last rewrite. And then we are starting a new journal writing project with a new author group. Let me check back on that project right now!

OMG it’s 7:01 AM and I have to get started with the real day. Caught up on all my charts yesterday after being put on the naughty chart list. I’m going to try to keep up everyday and not fall behind. Sometimes climate work and real life is too fun, but I need to remember that I’m actually a real pediatrician trying to heal my patients as well. Much love from your local litter picking pediatrician!

Snapshot of the posts that get the most hits.

January 19, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s Dr. Plastic Picker!!! And a top of the morning to you! Is that how you say it? English is technically my second language even though I was born in the United States, and I sometimes still need to play around with idioms to fully embrace them. And that is also what I do on this blog, mentally explore and creatively play. The goal is to save the earth, but along the way to entertain myself and entertain some of my community – FOR FREE!!! Yes, this blog is non-monetized and actually costs me about $200 a year. It’s not too bad for the cost of a hobby! It’s the fee for the website, and then mostly it’s $150 to protect the site against hackers!

But you have to wonder if it’s the hackers that are reading “the day the doctor had diarrhea”? That was a funny blogpost and it was Mr. Plastic Picker approved. I mostly wrote it to amuse myself and my dear husband. But it definitely made me laugh! And I guess it made some other readers laugh as well!

But I am busy trying to save the earth, and I’m up at my optimal time blogging in the early morning and doing what is most important to me – which is climate work. I ran into a colleague who I would call a friend now, and just stopped by to chat. Even those that know me, I don’t think fully understand how desperate I am. This is still an existential crisis and it’s all hands on deck. I get exhausted sometimes trying to move the needle, and trying to bring along my community. I guess you could call it a hobby, but I’d like to say it’s more of daily acts of survival. We all need to lean into this work. The only way we can stop the climate crisis, or at least try to mitigate it, is to work together.

So with that, thanks for reading along about Mr. Plastic Picker’s diarrhea and my own daughter’s struggles. Your empathy and comments are cherished. They truly are.

But there is so much work to do! Yesterday I made a big splash at the District 1 Decarbonization Community Meeting, and my comment/question was read by Dr. Wilma Wooten.

Was quick to get a picture of the question.

I’m still unsure how the organizers decided which questions were asked. But my question made it! They didn’t read my position or name, but did read the question. I know the answer, but my job was to bring up building electrification as a health need! So it was definitely successful. The secret most people don’t know, is that I was napping for some of the presentation since it was virtual. I know my stuff, and I have listened to multiple presentations on this.

What else am I doing for the earth today? I’m helping my niece organize a Barnard/Columbia panel discussion on several interesting topics on Asian Americans and Environmental Justice. I need to send the emails out about the next SDPCA/AAPCA3 Climate Change Committee meeting. I’m in the process on being part of another author group on an exciting paper regarding strategic alliances between pediatricians and more traditional environmental groups. I’m interofficing posters of our Youth and Art Exhibition out to colleagues. We have an intern meeting tonight, and I’ll call in to chat with the group. We are getting ready for Love your Wetlands day, and the intern group will be helping. So I’ll try to remember to go over that tonight. I’m trying to make contact with the New Jersey Audubon society to cosponsor or cobrand the New York State Youth and Climate Art Exhibition. I asked for the coffee brands at the HMO coffee shop, and the new employee seemed so tired and sad. She also seemed somewhat annoyed that I would ask for the coffee grounds. I think it added to one more thing she needed to think about. Honestly I needed to get them, and it’s an easy ask and I need to avert methane. But I noticed her shoulders and how tired she was. I will try to stop by and say hi today.

That is enough. Thank you for helping me sort out my thoughts this morning. I’m going to start my climate emails now. Saving the earth, by mostly sending emails! That is the honest truth about how climate work is done!

wildflowers from our farm.

September 22, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Green spaces are important for human health. The proximity to parks especially those parks with trees, is highly correlated with improved health incomes especially cardiovascular and respiratory health. Through environmental health work, I’m realizing more and more how incredible fortunate some of us are and that is why life has turned out easier for us. If you live near lots of trees and parks and an area with relatively little air pollution, your life probably turned out better.

For the residents of Barrio Logan, someone who did not look like them nor lived in their neighborhood decided to put the I-5 right through their neighborhood and immediately changed the course of an entire neighborhood’s character and health. Some of the highest rates of asthma are in Barrio Logan. It is known as an environmental justice neighborhood. I have many close friends who are from Barrio and continue to fight for their neighborhood.

Sometimes when I think that I’m at the mid 700s to 1000 bags of trash that I’m at the end, and that my part in this fight is mostly done. But then super interesting issues come up that I’m able to have a say in, and I realize – this is still fun and I’m still needed. reached out to get co-signatures for a SANDAG grant support letter to request 2 million for an I-5 Freeway Cap over Barrio Logan, that would create a large urban park and try to reconnect the community.

Text of the letter that we are co-signing to the federal government. So I texted our key members as part of San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air and also AAP San Diego Climate Change and Health Committee. One of our members asked really good questions, and I did a literature search on the air pollution levels of the proposed parks. This is not a new idea, and relatively non-controversial. There is already precedent in San Diego and throughout the country, namely the highline in New York City.

So I replied to with our agreement to co-sign that letter. It’s a powerful text group that I’m texting, even though my thought is that it’s just my friends. It’s a member of the San Diego Air Pollution Control Board, the head of the Child Abuse and Neglect committee, an executive member of the AAP San Diego leadership, two of our pediatric hospitalist, and head of pediatric after hours clinic. And I did more reading on it this morning, and feel 100% comfortable putting in our support. The deadline is October 10 and we are two weeks ahead of schedule.

I am so grateful for, what a powerful and well run organization. I am so grateful to SANDAG. And I’m mostly grateful to my friends who responded to my text message at 530pm. Can you imagine when and if San Diego get’s this grant? We’ll know we were a part of this all!!!

Beautiful photo of beautiful faces.

August 26, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Yesterday ended up being a busier climate day than I thought. At dinner our daughter made a paella-like amazing dish of crispy rice and meatballs that she whipped together, just because she is one of those creative type minds. The tumeric gave it the yellow color, she explained, and she used tomatoes from the garden (I think she may have picked them herself while I was busy talking on the phone). The dinner was simply amazing with slices of organic white nectarines on the side. I was in the state of mind to really look at the dinner and appreciate the food and the moment, but my mind was still swirling with all the busyness of the climate projects of the day. Mr. Plastic Picker had picked her up from volleyball practice, She had come home with her father afterwards and I was in the middle of 2 hours of advocacy calls and meetings. At some point she glared at me because I was in the way of her getting a pan and listening to her music whilst cooking, and I was in my moment/zone of talking about a climate project over the phone with a colleague. When I saw her glare at me, I glared back at her.

We laughed at dinner as we tried to figure out what that odd moment was, as we don’t typically glare at each other. They were really intense glares my friends! It was just funny, and we were not mad at each other at all – but realized we were each in our zones and doing something we both feel passionate about. Those concentric circles of experiences were overlapping. Teen unwinding from volleyball practice in her happy zone of cooking, and her mother winding up on a big project and in my “I am being effective for the world” zone.


Toddler me in Clairemont.

August 20, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

This was an epic week. An unexpectedly epic week. I had expected this week to be the lone eco-activist pushing for fossil fuel divestment. I even took the courage to present another power point on the issue, and then blogged about it. But no one clicked on that blogpost. Goes to show, most people are too busy playing their parts in the healthcare industry machinery and their roles in their own families. We are all so busy! I get it. Everyone wants to help but there isn’t one person showing the way. I’m trying to point my friends toward the way. And even a well researched and well deployed power point, didn’t do the trick.


one of the possible slides.

August 6, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

There was an important lunchtime regional meeting I needed to be at. I had to mentor the family practice residents and was mentoring also one of our premed Eco-America interns on our climate and art project. I was a good doctor in the morning, listening to my patients – some of them I have known since birth. In my new office in the new hallway of the clinic I have worked essentially my entire general pediatrics career, I’m allowing myself time to practice the way I think pediatrics should be practiced. I want to fundamentally heal children and families and that means taking time. The residents too take time. They deserve teaching and my consideration, as does my premed student.

But the only one I can control is myself, and my own time and my own efforts. This is partly why I’m satisfied to have finished my 5 years as Assistant Boss and not be beholden to anyone outside of my clinical duties, which I’m paid for. But in that balancing act and trying to get patients in, I didn’t finish into well into lunch. The regional meeting I wanted to present the #fightfor1point5 divestment talk finished early. I did get the opportunity to talk to our regional leads and review some of my thoughts.

My confusion today and yesterday is – will it really be just one slide? Will one slide or 5 slides be enough? I can put the rest of the slides in an appendix for sure, but is it really going to be that easy? I actually think it might be, because that is sometimes how great change happens. It’s the tide of history and the arc of collective human thought that bends toward justice, toward right – and I just happen to be within this tide this arc of history. It feels like the world knows what it needs to do. I don’t mind being the one to bring the proposal up. Everyone has leant forth some advice and basically said these big decision makers have just a few minutes to hear us, and keep it short and your request simple. But is divesting from fossil fuels really that simple? My request is simple, but it’s huge.

But perhaps it’s because they’ve been thinking about it too. This has been brought up before and in a more contentious way. I realized now I did dodge a big bullet by doing it my way. My son calls it weaponizing cuteness and working within the system. You can’t burn the entire institution down, and it’s not in my collaborative nature anyway.

So I’m here this morning and going to proceed with other projects and I need to do our taxes and be a volleyball mom this weekend. But I’m still confused but oddly think that this is meant to be. It’s probably going to take just one slide and the weeks I spent on my thought process and talking and preparing, was probably meant for my own growth and not to be showboated in front of others. That would be the greatest irony, because I was ready to talk and to change hearts. But the hearts were always there. And that is the beautiful thing about being open to nature, to emotions and to love – you see those hearts and can recognize it in others.

I still think I’m going to include this slide though. I just love it.