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

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

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.

My opening slide.

August 5, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m choosing to be brave today. My eco-avatar me and the real me, that holds a position and a job. I have been working on this powerpoint for the last 2 weeks. It was mostly me sorting through my emails and messages from others, and collating my thoughts and furthering my understanding about fossil fuels and the importance of divestment.

My body was tired yesterday, but I realized after reflecting how much I had grown in my understanding of fossil fuel divestment and how involved I’ve been in this at the state level and nationally. My emotional fatigue and brain fatigue was well earned. I shut it off last night, and found a new sweet (but not too addictive) early 2010 K drama to watch. I slept deeply last night. When I do real impactful earthwork, that it what happens.

I posted around social media and the Facebook groups about the talk that I am giving. It’s more for me to remind myself to be brave in this work.

On our internal MD Facebook group, I was open and honest. And the positivity is real. The camaderie is real.


the slide that was funny.

August 1, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m still trying to process it all. It was such a beautiful day yesterday. Michael Tran who was our leader back in our undergraduate days was the Co-President of the Harvard Vietnamese Association and Director of RYSE, Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment. Mr. Plastic Picker and I had been involved with BRYE, Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment. Both had largely served the Boston Vietnamese refugee community back then. Dr. Michael Tran organized a reunion for Harvard Vietnamese Association alumni in California. A lot of people came. I mean A LOT!


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.

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.


May 14, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

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.

May 8, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

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.