Fresh Leaf Forever

Breaking barriers in climate conversations, achieving inclusive sustainability

July 30, 2023 Vai Kumar interviews Ashoke Mohanraj Season 3 Episode 5
Breaking barriers in climate conversations, achieving inclusive sustainability
Fresh Leaf Forever
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Fresh Leaf Forever
Breaking barriers in climate conversations, achieving inclusive sustainability
Jul 30, 2023 Season 3 Episode 5
Vai Kumar interviews Ashoke Mohanraj

Understanding the challenges and complexities posed by climate evolution can be daunting.
In this episode on the podcast,  our guest Ashoke Mohanraj is a sustainability advocate and book author who is a Top25U25 Environmentalist from Canada.
He's an individual who isn't afraid to navigate the gray areas of complex issues surrounding sustainability, and helps guide us beyond the typical views on climate change.

Our conversation takes a deep dive into Ashoke's personal motivation, rooted in his Sri Lankan heritage, and that part of the world facing the wrath of climate deterioration. We take a full circle on the importance of inclusivity in climate conversations, revealing how to strike a balance between enjoying life and still advocating for the planet. It's not merely about eco-friendliness,  but bringing diverse perspectives to the table to truly understand sustainability- thereby breaking barriers.

Here are some chapter highlights from this conversation :
- Sustainability and Climate Change Exploration
- Importance of Inclusivity in Climate Talks
- Navigating the Path to Environmental Activism
- Why environmental advocacy is for young men as well( Ashoke's book "Pollinator Man")
-Paths to Success in Sustainable Living

As we go further along, Ashoke shares his path from being one of the few people of color in environmental activism to his experiences representing at the UN - a journey that is as inspiring as it is enlightening. He also provides valuable advice for those looking to get into environmental activism. Ashoke recently celebrated the one year anniversary of his best selling book Pollinator Man, where he portrays a masculine super hero at the center of environmental conservation - a resource that every child can learn from and do their part to make our daily lives better.

The importance of keeping an open mind and the willingness to pivot when necessary is emphasized well by our guest. Ashoke's passion for creating a sustainable future is contagious, via his books and visual media/TV projects he's currently involved in and it's our sincere hope that every listener, every citizen in this planet can draw inspirat

Send us a Text Message.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Understanding the challenges and complexities posed by climate evolution can be daunting.
In this episode on the podcast,  our guest Ashoke Mohanraj is a sustainability advocate and book author who is a Top25U25 Environmentalist from Canada.
He's an individual who isn't afraid to navigate the gray areas of complex issues surrounding sustainability, and helps guide us beyond the typical views on climate change.

Our conversation takes a deep dive into Ashoke's personal motivation, rooted in his Sri Lankan heritage, and that part of the world facing the wrath of climate deterioration. We take a full circle on the importance of inclusivity in climate conversations, revealing how to strike a balance between enjoying life and still advocating for the planet. It's not merely about eco-friendliness,  but bringing diverse perspectives to the table to truly understand sustainability- thereby breaking barriers.

Here are some chapter highlights from this conversation :
- Sustainability and Climate Change Exploration
- Importance of Inclusivity in Climate Talks
- Navigating the Path to Environmental Activism
- Why environmental advocacy is for young men as well( Ashoke's book "Pollinator Man")
-Paths to Success in Sustainable Living

As we go further along, Ashoke shares his path from being one of the few people of color in environmental activism to his experiences representing at the UN - a journey that is as inspiring as it is enlightening. He also provides valuable advice for those looking to get into environmental activism. Ashoke recently celebrated the one year anniversary of his best selling book Pollinator Man, where he portrays a masculine super hero at the center of environmental conservation - a resource that every child can learn from and do their part to make our daily lives better.

The importance of keeping an open mind and the willingness to pivot when necessary is emphasized well by our guest. Ashoke's passion for creating a sustainable future is contagious, via his books and visual media/TV projects he's currently involved in and it's our sincere hope that every listener, every citizen in this planet can draw inspirat

Send us a Text Message.

Buzzsprout Get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Instacart Grocery delivery
Free delivery on your first order over $35.

Enjoy PIOR Living products
Enjoy PIOR Living products at a 20% discount and free shipping on orders over $75 Code FLF20

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

Vai:

Welcome to Freshleaf Forever, a podcast that gives you fascinating insights week after week. Here's your host, vaikumar. Hey folks, welcome to another episode on Podcast Freshleaf Forever. Today I have here with us Ashoke Mohanraj. He is a sustainability advocate, book author and he has done so much more. I think it's about time we let Ashoke speak. So, hey, ashok, welcome to the show. How are you today?

Ashoke:

Hey Vai, thanks for having me Really excited to be on the show and just talk about my work. But yeah, happy to be here.

Vai:

I think there are major issues the world is facing today as it relates to sustainability right and if we were to look at the different categories, ashok, based on all the work that you have been doing, looks like it's not just climate, as has been perceived by many right. So why don't we start with that and have you guide us through your journey and what you think on that front?

Ashoke:

Yeah, for sure. I guess that's a big question to start with. And so I've been in this space for about, I would say, like maybe seven years now, Kind of. When I first started, I mean, the whole reason that I got into this space was actually like I was interested in solving the energy crisis. You know, I thought I would be studying physics, studying solar panels and trying to be like the next Elon Musk.

Ashoke:

But as I kind of went on that journey, I realized that, you know, solving the climate crisis is more than a matter of pure science. There's so much more different intricacies from a social and economic perspective. And that's kind of what gaged my interest really early on, because I kind of shift my framework to how the systems interact rather than how to, like. You know, instead of working in silos, how do all these things interconnect? And the first thing that you learn in an ecology class is everything is interconnected. And that kind of resonated with me, because you can't solve one thing without solving a bunch of different other things that are connected.

Ashoke:

I mean, based on what I've seen so far throughout my journey, like there are a variety of issues from a solutions based perspective, the biggest challenge that I see is just. I mean, it's better in Canada. This is true like polarization among people. People tend to have really strong feelings either for it or against it. I think that's a huge barrier, because I think people often believe that this, this issue, is black and white. You're either on one side or the other side. But I think what people don't realize that most of what climate change is is the in between the state gray area, because it affects everyone, and that middle area gets lost in translation. I think that's the biggest challenge that we face is kind of getting people to realize that as long as you're doing what you can?

Ashoke:

that's kind of the key, the key to the solution.

Vai:

Okay, what about the triggering aspect? For you, as I see it, it's like different pieces to this puzzle right solving and being able to, I guess, in terms of focusing on sustainability for the planet as such, if you were to nail down on a triggering aspect that led you to just think and say, hey, I have to do more, and then I have to make people do more, what would you say? That would be a shock.

Ashoke:

Yeah, that's a good question and, like, personally, like I don't know if I can come up with a single moment, but there there's a couple things that I can think of from the top of my head and one it just comes back to like where I'm from. My parents are from Sri Lanka. Early on in my career I learned that you know, sri Lanka is one of the most vulnerable nations to rising sea levels. Specifically, there's always this thought in the back of my mind that preventing climate change and adaptation to rising sea levels is super important to me, because a lot of people from Sri Lanka and other coastal areas are going to be displaced and you know they'll become climate refugees and whatnot, and so, at the back of my mind, that's always super important to me. Like you know, I have a responsibility to look down for my planet, not just because the physical element, because you know when people get displaced and get lost, you know you not only lose, you know people use heritage, you lose cultures, you lose language, and for me that's important to me, as do eventually, you know, hopefully become a father one day. You know that's an important thing that I keep in mind at the back of my head every day. But then the other thing is again it goes back to everything is interconnected, right?

Ashoke:

I think I realized that from a young age, right kind of three different kinds of issues in the world there's environmental issues, there's social issues and economic issues. None of it matters unless you have clean air and clean water to consume, right? So at the very foundation of our societies, of our economies, you need to have clean commodities, clean resources, and that's kind of why you know I figured you know what's the best way to solve. Most of the problems are working to have the most impact, or what's the most fundamental problem to solve. And that's kind of where I kind of landed. On pursuing environment or climate studies. I like to say, like you know, rosa Parks would have sat on the front of the bus for nothing if she didn't have clean water, right. So you know all those civil rights issues and whatnot. Economic issues, they come after providing basic human rights, basic sustenance in order to survive, and that comes from protecting our planet.

Vai:

Aha, that's wonderful. It's really cool that you have focused on the environmental side and you have written in some of your pieces that you probably were very different from that standpoint and even people interested in it with didn't think it was cool, right? How do you think we can make people focus on these and how can we bring attention to these aspects? Are shook meaning getting people more involved and say willingness to be part of this conversation?

Ashoke:

Yeah, I think that's one of the biggest challenges, and I think you just mentioned it. Like my kind of goal or mission is how do we make caring cool right? And that's kind of how I approach it, because a lot of my audience are the people that I work with, our young boys or men, and that's kind of I found that's kind of the key to kind of engage in them. It's all about getting going back to communication your ideas only as good as you can communicate it. So how do you? How do you communicate in a way that makes things appealing? And so for me, for my audience specifically, it's how do you show people that that caring is cool? And so the way that I do that is you know different mediums right. Like if you go out to a person and say plastic pollution is bad because of A, b and C yes, as valid points, it's logical reasoning, at the same time like you're not engaging with their emotions and at the same time like emotions are the most, most powerful motivator, right. So that's I feel like that's kind of how you kind of get people to engage and that's kind of why, as of late, I've been trying to use entertainment as a medium, so whether that's books or television kind of show people, you know not only visually but like emotionally, how these stories can can affect us, right, and that's kind of a big motivational factor.

Ashoke:

But I think, like, if we boil it down to a step one, I think it goes back to how we choose to frame these issues right, like, again, pollution, like we can say pollution is an environmental issue or climate change is an environmental issue, we have to say that it's all an all-encompassing issue because when water is polluted it's not only affecting, you know, the fish species and marine wildlife, affects your drinking water quality, affects your recreation ability to go to a water skiing or whatnot, right, so it affects all those different things. I think if we frame in a way that shows people that these things aren't environmental issues but they're issues that affect us in our daily life, that's kind of the key. I'd say, like the first step is kind of just breaking it down, so it's so we change what something means that when it's an environmental issue, because the environment is so broad and all-encompassing, Very well said.

Vai:

I think right there you pointed an example say, people doing water sports, you know, going skiing. If the conversation highlights whatever impacts us on a day-to-day basis, I think it makes more sense right. So, from an everyday standpoint, I show, say, recycling practices to doing everything that's going on. How could we ascertain a sustainable future and how can we get more folks to engage? I know that's your number one goal getting more folks to engage, right Even amongst our near circle, right on a daily basis. I'm sure you would have noticed, and I noticed, there's more to be done, even when it comes to basic recycling practices. Act once home, right the first step. Leave alone public places. How could we just get better on that front?

Ashoke:

Yeah, that's a tough one and I think that always comes down to like uncomfortable conversations, even with your friends, like, if your friend doesn't, you know, recycle or whatnot, it's always hard to call them out and whatnot for that specifically. Again, it really depends on the person, right? But I think here's how what you're doing is directly impacting in a good and bad way. Like, say, for example, like your friend, your roommate, right, because I had this in university, my friend would always use plastic water bottles and I would hate it and I would tell him you know, we have a towel, bring your reusable water bottles to save water, right, and then I would sometimes I would call amount on the negative impact that he was having. Look at all those plastic you're wasting. But also, buddy, if you, if you switch that narrative to like, if you do use reusable water bottle, here's the positive impact you can have. And I think sometimes that can be an even more powerful motivator, right, if you can see the positive change that they're actually contributing to. Like one example. Again back to that example like, once he started using a reusable water bottle, I calculated how many plastic water bottles he saved, you know, just for the sake of you know, showing him that he made the right decision, and it wasn't like a life changing decision or anything, but it showed him that, you know, an individual impact can have a significant difference. And I think if you can do that, you know to you know three to five people in your circle and they can do it to another three to five people in their circle you'd have a you know, a ripple of change. But yeah, I think staying, staying engaged is is hard because, you know, sometimes people lose the motivation. Sometimes it's all about discipline, but I think it's such momentum too right, like when you, when you see one thing having a positive impact, you're more likely to move on to another thing. So, like when you start recycling plastic water bottle, you start moving on to composting. Then you start looking into, you know, how you can make smarter consumer decisions, how you buy more ethical products. I think it just becomes naturally part of your, your lifestyle.

Ashoke:

I think also, just um, just like market trends are are a big thing, and that I think that's not something we can control on an individual level. But like even, for example, that's at walmart the other day, and like it's good to see that. Like nowadays, everyone there has to have a reusable shopping bag. Right, it's no longer an option to get a plastic bag at the store, and that that took, you know, decades of work. But now we reach that point because there's momentum for that movement to reduce plastic. That now is, you know, it's ingrained in our society. You know, if you don't come to the store with the reusable bag, you can't buy a plastic bag. You gotta carry your groceries in your hand. That's kind of uh. So it's a big win and it shows people how, how momentum can play a huge role. It does. It does take time, granted, but like, it does show that, like, keep following through with individual actions and it will lead to societal change. At one point, or at least you can hope, it will lead to societal change fantastic.

Vai:

I think you said it beautifully there. Even when you pointed to your roommate about the number, the bottom line impact that it was having, say, even if he didn't change right away, probably it, it just resonated with him in terms of the number and the ginormous impact that he could have in this planet. Right, so very well done there and very beautifully said again about, yeah, the shopping experience at Walmart. No matter how rushed we are, we try to do our best in my family in terms of bringing our own bags to the grocery store. So, yeah, some days, yes, we are in a rush, we tend to forget, but at the very least, ask for paper bags at the store, not the plastic.

Vai:

Right again, looking at sustainability as a bigger piece of puzzle, like you pointed out, it's not just flora, fauna and the environment, right? What other things do you see we need to address? Is it gender inequality? Improving education, then again, some of my other guests on this very show have focused quite a bit on gender inequality, how girls, educating girls, empowering girls, is all important. But, on the same token, I think you, with your book pollinator man, you have brought out that it's still cool for men or young boys to be involved in this and not see environment as an issue. That's not masculine right. So how would you take this forward? First, let's just what are the issues you see are being hindrances to us, as citizens of this universe, being successful in the sustainability initiative?

Ashoke:

yeah, that's a super important question, the one that resonates with me a lot, because I think, yeah, like I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest challenges that you know people think that there are these different silos and like everything is separated. The puzzle of sustainability incorporates a lot of different pieces gender equity, education, health, literacy, that kind of stuff. And I think, like for me, yeah, the things that I focus on for, for example, just education, engagement, communication stuff like that, how that fits into teaching people about sustainability, talk about you know, individual pieces I would say like three biggest ones are not not just a technical education of you know climate science, biology, chemistry and all that stuff, but how we teach people to navigate complex issues right, and kind of how we teach issues right, because today climate isn't isn't part of like mainstream curriculums, right, and I think having that would be would be huge and getting you know kids engaged not just kids but, like you know, university students, college students and that and that their young adult career to kind of learn about these specific kinds of issues and how they interact with different disciplines. I think another piece of the puzzle is climate justice or equity right. When we talk about providing solutions, we have to make sure these solutions that are, that are just and equitable for different kinds of communities and how they affect different kinds of communities, because, as we know, you know, no solution is the same. There's no one band-aid solution that fits. Also, ensuring that it's all it's all kind of takes into a lot of different socioeconomic factors and whatnot.

Ashoke:

I think the third piece of that sustainability puzzle is, you know, understanding that individuals' freedoms and desires are important to be considered as well. Right, because as much as we want to save the planet, you know we're people first, we're advocates second. I like to say that because, at the end of the day, like you probably attest this, so you want to enjoy your day. At the end of the day, right, you want to be able to, you know, have a filling life, have a happy family, you know, enjoy your hobbies and whatnot. And so I think, while saving the planet is important and it's a very noble cause and for those people who are, you know, sacrificing everything to do it, most people, 90% of the people who you know, who are engaged in this space, are everyday, normal people who still want to have a filling life.

Ashoke:

And so sometimes I wouldn't say it gets in the way, but sometimes we should prioritize ourselves and I think that's okay, right to realize. Like you know, sometimes if you want to have that fried chicken from KFC once in a while, it's fine, and I think it's realizing that. You know, again, going back to it does not be black and white. As long as you do what you can while still being able to feel like you know you're doing good for the planet and you're still enjoying your life because when people become miserable they get ego anxiety. It's hard to sustain the momentum, but like when you have the balance and when you're able to, you know, compartmentalize the different parts of your life and still kind of still be an advocate while still enjoying your life. I think that's key.

Vai:

Well, you actually brought out something even earlier, just helping them see the positive side of it.

Vai:

Just like you, gave your friend the impactful numbers and told him that this is how much you're going to help. I think lending a positive twist to it is definitely going to help more people get engaged and still, at the end of the day, even doing this project can be a fun part of their lives, right Like a beach cleanup or whatever that may be. You know, do it as a group activity and still that could be a Saturday fun day project, right From a diversity, inclusivity and involvement standpoint. How do we make sure that we get everyone a seat at the table in terms of climate conversations, or not just climate, but in helping see all the pieces that constitute a sustainable future for this planet? Ashok.

Ashoke:

Yeah, I think that's the key is bringing everyone to the table right, because no matter whether it's climate change or mental health or economics, the key in every solving every issue is having diverse perspectives and diverse attitudes and lived experiences. I think for that you have to have an open mind. Whoever is in charge of you know these discussions has to make sure that you're not only reinforcing your own beliefs but are also being challenged to outside beliefs. I think we often fall into this trap, especially in the climate space or advocacy space that, like you know, we need, like we only need to be in our own little circles of advocacy work and kind of just kind of talk to those same people. And I've been in rooms personally where you know, you know for book launches and you know just events about climate change, where people have like literally vilified, or they're kind of toxic, or their opinions don't matter or they're not valid or they're completely wrong. And even though sometimes it may be the case, even though if you believe someone's opinion is wrong, I think it's wrong to exclude them from the conversation entirely. Like we still need to bring those parties to the table right, because when you automatically vilify a whole group of people or a whole side of political spectrum. They're not inclined to work with you. They don't want to work with you, they don't want to listen to your ideas, right? I think that just raises more rift and more problems. But at least being open to that idea and having healthy debate and uncomfortable conversations is part of that process. It's part of that journey and then it's bound to happen.

Ashoke:

In this space, most of the conversations that I have are uncomfortable conversations. That's just the nature of this work, right? Because, again, because it's such a polarized issue, you need to have to be okay with that rather than being like you know, I don't want to have an uncomfortable conversation. Therefore, I'm going to leave these people out of the room, because that's not the way you solve the problem, like if you. Because, again, if you solve it without considering how it affects different people's livelihoods and their lifestyle and whatnot, it's not a just solution, it's not an equitable solution that can be sustained for a long time.

Ashoke:

And that's kind of why I think it's important to bring diversity to the table, not only from you know political beliefs, but you know lived experiences, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, languages, all that. All that stuff. Traditionally, we've been like it's in the environment space. It's led by Caucasian leaders and white people who have very colonial centric viewpoints and kind of understandings of how the world works. Right.

Ashoke:

I think by incorporating, you know, in people of color, which is something I've seen as a definitely lacking, especially in North America or in Canada, by having those diverse perspectives, you challenge kind of what it means to be sustainable or different ideas are sustainable that you know some folks aren't quite familiar with or don't really understand, right? I think, again, being a person of color, sometimes sustainability is naturally ingrained into what we do as part of our lives. Like, for example, when I was growing up, my parents, maybe you know, always turn off the lights and never waste food, not because of the environment, because they wanted to save money, right. So, like that perspective of how we choose to, kind of that the environment is super important because it adds just different values and different lens of how we can engage people. But yeah, it's definitely important to have everyone at the table, regardless of where they come from.

Vai:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, your book, pollinator man. You decided to write it as a children's book, right? Where do you think we can have maximum impact when it comes to getting more people to focus on sustainability issues? Does it mean starting kids young, and is that why the book?

Ashoke:

Well, actually, when I wrote the book, that wasn't really what I was thinking about at the time. The reason why I wrote it as a children's book is, honestly, it comes back to, you know, enjoying my life because I wanted to, because I used to work with kids as a camp counselor way back in the day when I was, like in high school, and then after the pandemic, I was just, you know, stressed I wanted something that would, that would be fun. And, you know, bring me back to working with kids. Because I enjoyed that genuinely and that's kind of For me. I ended up turning into a children's book with an after you know, going into school and doing readings to your point, I realized that, you know, working with young kids is kind of where you can have, I wouldn't say, the most impact, what's definitely where kids are most impressionable and you can kind of influence them the most. Like, for example, like when I was camp counselor, when you're not, when you're asking kid what they want to be when they grow up, they say, you know, dr, engineer, lawyer, astronaut, whatever, right the typical answers and like that's, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Ashoke:

But I think the issue is that it's because we don't expose them to other routes or other careers. Specifically, like you know, no one talks about, you know, being a conservationist or being environmentalist, right, I think if you can get into those spaces early enough and open them to that opportunity or that, that possibility, then it's something they consider right. Like when I was growing up, no one ever came into my school and, like you know, you should be an ecologist or whatnot, you should save the planet, right, because it just wasn't a priority, it wasn't a flashy title, it wasn't, you know, it wasn't a sexy job, which is, so to speak. So, now that I can be in school and kind of show people that this is a cool job, it's a job that we need, right. And I think that's kind of where you can have an impact and influencing kids like, okay, this is a viable approach for me, it's something that you need.

Ashoke:

And, again, this is the reason why I made Polymer man a person of color, so that young kids of color could see that. You know, this space isn't specifically reserved for white people. Right, there are. You know, if you look like me, if you look like you know the same color as Polymer man, you can be like, oh, I can be that too right, and I think that's the key in getting people exposed to things early. I think that this is the key is just exposure.

Vai:

And then shed that inhibition about the masculinity aspect not being cool with environmental advocacy, right.

Ashoke:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, like the way that I came about that specific part of the mission is because I grew up in Toronto or the suburbs of Toronto, and so a lot of the people they're inner city kids and so a lot of the people don't have access to nature or they're not really passionate about nature, because a lot of the community that I was kind of brought up in, you know, like lower middle class or socioeconomic status, so the main concern was always, you know, putting food on the table and whatnot, right, so it was never let's go to our cottage on the weekend, right, that's kind of a privilege reserved for wealthier folks, and so there's always that disconnect. And then, even when I was growing up at university, I noticed that especially this is specific to, like, conservation and climate science, right, like a lot of it was female dominated, and there's nothing wrong with that, I say, but like it's not about taking away from women, it's about how do we add more men to the space and kind of? You know, just make sure they're included, like you mentioned earlier. Like, for example, tech and as a like biology and chemistry. You'll see the males there and you'll see quite a few, you know, being change makers and leaders, because that's traditionally a more masculine discipline, right? Because tech is not directly related to, you know, saving the bees or the butterflies.

Ashoke:

It's cool stuff like solar panels, electric cars, but when you talk about conservation, like saving pandas and stuff like that, we think of that as more feminine stuffs, like things like showing compassion and conservation and chasing the butterflies. That's kind of how it's perceived and so that's kind of why there's that big disconnect. I mean, it's like there's studies that show that men refrain from participating like ego friendly activities, like carrying a reasonable water bottle or carrying a tote bag, because it's perceived as feminine. And that's a whole societal or perception issue that managers kind of afraid to put themselves in that position because they want to be perceived as masculine. So for me it's not about how we change what it is to be masculine is. How do we expand what it means to be masculine right, it's not to take away anything from it it's how do we kind of show men that you can be both you know strong, macho, confident, but also you know, compassionate, sensitive and caring, like the two things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Vai:

Wonderful and the book is one of the bestsellers on Amazon and you wrote it or published it in 2022, I believe, a show, so it's going to be the one year anniversaries coming up. Once again, congratulations on that. And if you were to just quickly, in a nutshell, take our younger audience through the book, what would you tell them? Say, it's like, I believe. For me, when I just first glanced at it, it's like, hey, you know, there's a need to preserve pollinators, right? So, via your main character, the superhero there, the mask line symbol that you have used to kind of indicate the masculinity and eco-friendly activities, what would you tell kids or the younger listeners of this podcast as to why they should read that book? Or parents of young kids for them to, you know, just get that book in front of their children.

Ashoke:

Yeah, for sure. I think on the service level, like if you're interested in pollinator conservation or any kind of wildlife, animal conservation, I think it's a great story there. But if you know, if your kid or parent was just kind of looking to teach your kids about issues that are larger than just conservation, right, and just kind of not explicitly, but if you want to get your kid engaged in advocacy or just like getting them passionate about something, I think a polliner man is a great way to kind of show people that advocacy or changemaking doesn't have to be very political or very you know polarized thing. It can just be a cool, fun thing that kids engage in. That's kind of where polliner man comes in.

Ashoke:

He shows people that caring is cool and that, you know, we don't have to be as divided, right, because the thing I like to say is like, who doesn't love a superhero, right?

Ashoke:

Everyone loves Spider-Man, everyone loves Batman, right?

Ashoke:

So if you can show kids that they can be a hero in their own right, right, whether that's saving the bees or whether that's doing something else, it shows people that everyone's capable of it and everyone's capable of being in that journey. That's just kind of why I think you know parents and kids should kind of pick up the book and at least glance at it, because they can see themselves in that story and kind of understand that compassion and these masculine traits and advocacy traits don't have to be mutually exclusive. You can have the best both worlds, and actually I like to tell people that, like if anything, being compassionate and being caring or being sensitive makes you more masculine, these are able to understand things, you're able to help more people and at the end of the day, like you know, everyone wants to be a hero in their own story, right? And so I think it's a great way to get people engaged in not only the environmental advocacy but just general, just caring about the planet, caring about the world and caring about people.

Vai:

So nicely put Back in a moment with our guest on Fresh Leaf Forever. I was just going to say, yeah, I teach as kids not just environmental advocacy, but also traits like compassion, empathy, and you know when you need to be sensitive to other people's feeling, putting yourself in other people's shoes and still in a fun way, with lots of examples and lots of illustrations as well. So from the very looks of it, definitely it's something that I would recommend. I now have a college going child, so she's no longer a child.

Vai:

She's an adult almost, but I guess I would definitely encourage every parent to put this in front of their children. How is our future a show going to pan out? Based on your current involvement observation, you are a top 25 under 25 environmentalist in Canada. You have won several honours and awards. You have represented Canada at the United Nations. You got yourself a seat at the table. Why don't you talk about your honours, awards, projects and the need for citizens to act? Now Say all the avenues for volunteering, how they can be part of the narrative and help simplify this complex word sustainability. I think it's a loaded question, but I guess for you it's not loaded because it's something that you have been involved every single day.

Ashoke:

Yeah, I'll start from the beginning. I guess. Think when I started early on again being a person of color when there's not many people color in this space, I think Again, when I started it was it was kind of how to do everything on my own. So we're that many support system. Things have kind of changed now because it's been some momentum in his brain priority shifts.

Ashoke:

But going through it when I was younger it's like you know, who's this round and Brown going Brown guy from Toronto trying to, you know, get into the climate space, getting into these big tables and whatnot and kind of make a name for myself.

Ashoke:

I think that's kind of reason. When I first started, I wasn't a big fan of, like, joining any kind of specific groups in university. I feel like, again, there was very structured, very filtered, very traditional way of thinking, and so when I, when I started university, I actually started a podcast as well. It's called I speak for the trees and kind of. That's kind of my our slogan was kind of taking it's kind of breaking down environmental issues without any Political filters or academic jargon, because again goes back to communication, how we break down these issues specifically. And then from there, like I used my communication skills to leverage you know opportunities with the UN and whatnot, by being able to learn how to communicate with different parties. I think from there, like when it comes to you know, building a name or getting honors for yourself, I think what was key for me was just staying authentic to myself. I think sometimes in this space you want to try to be, you know, the next credit to Timberg or Dave Nattenborough or Dave David Suzuki. But I think what I realized is that, like I had a market which is, you know, young males from Toronto, or Males were too masculine. I really just embraced that as my market and kind of understood how I could have an impact there, and that really helped me to hone in on my mission and kind of really focus on a niche. I think that's what allowed me to kind of Be recognized because of one. It was something that people weren't doing and I think that's the key if you really want to. You know, drive in this space is find something that you know still irrelevant but like you know, you're kind of almost pioneering it. And then you know, to be authentic, don't try to be someone you're not. Try to, you know, use your own lived experiences to make you a stronger advocate.

Ashoke:

And then three is I think again, like don't be afraid of Uncontorable conversations. And I think being able to work with the UN and having to see the table, you know I thought being at COP26 and COP24, like that's like the pinnacle of climate conversations. You're at the UN, you're talking about climate change, and then when I got there, you kind of realized it's a lot of fluff, it's a lot of talk, right. So, again, it's a great place to be. A lot of change happens there.

Ashoke:

But for me I realized that's not the space for me, because it's not where I Thrive right Like it was. It was good for me to experience that and to represent youth voices in Canada and whatnot. But for me to have an effective impact, based on what I know, on the people I've worked with, I need to be in a space where I don't have filters, so I don't have restrictions, where I can talk to people in a laid-back kind of way and you work in these certain structures or institutions like the UN. You have to say things in a certain way. You can't say certain things and I think again, it's for different people for it works. But for me personally, I realized that's not a space where I see myself right. But I think I like, I think being part of that experience was helpful because let me learn more about myself To say, like where things are going and like that Walmart example, I think they're going a positive friend, because there's some momentum and market trends and even you know, when you look at you know the stock market and all the, the access to capital and the investments are going into the green space.

Ashoke:

There's a lot of money to be made in that space. I think that's one of the reasons why, you know, it's gained so much traction. Not to be cynical, but I think a lot of it comes down to, you know, money, because money makes the world go around. But also let's not forget the intrinsic value that nature brings right. And that's the important is finding that balance. Especially In Canada, here, in a capitalistic society, how do you find that balance of you know the intrinsic value of protecting nature. But also, you know, let's provide people the livelihoods, make people money and, you know, make sure they have a comfortable life. But I think the biggest thing is, like, whenever I go to schools and I do readings, the youth. They're very positive, they're really engaged, they really know what they're talking about. I think that's that's really good to see, because they're all optimistic and they have they have a vision and they're very in tune with Social issues and they're all very impact driven and so that that gives me a lot of hope.

Vai:

Okay, in terms of someone to say hey, how do I get started today? In terms of whatever I can do from my side, what would you suggest as a volunteering avenue?

Ashoke:

personally, I would like cold email, cold call people like organizations that you're just genuinely interested in, because I think sometimes if you wait Like a position to open up, you're never gonna get that chance. I say, for example, you really want to work with WWF, right, and they're probably very rare that they're gonna post a volunteer position. But if you can network and just send them an email, but hey, it's, you know, just a university student looking to volunteer, here's the value that I can. Yeah.

Vai:

Say, like an organization like WWF, where you know you're, you're probably going to have to call or email.

Ashoke:

Yeah, I think sometimes, like I think people have a variety of different passions, right, I think, if you just kind of sit there and wait and it's gonna happen, so you have to kind of go out and, you know, find opportunities or make opportunities for yourself.

Ashoke:

I like to say, like when you're early on, especially like when you're just starting, and there's a lot of people just like, say yes to everything. So yes to every opportunity, because that's the way you learn, like what you like and what you don't like. And I mean I realize this now. But now, now, when you, as you get busier, you can't say yes to everything. But now, now you know what worked for you, what you like but you don't like, or you can have impact, right, I think, starting off, I think just kind of Don't, but every opportunity, say yes to every opportunity, have as many conversations as you can and then from there you kind of kind of by process of elimination, you realize what you don't like and that's kind of the key and in terms of Any specific projects that you are involved in currently.

Vai:

Would you like to talk about any of that here? Ashok?

Ashoke:

Yeah, so I'm actually working on another book. Right now. It's still very early in the writing process, but it's a surrounding Ocean conservation and I'm working with an organization called Ocean Bridge to bring that project to life. So stay tuned for that.

Ashoke:

But also I'm actually working with the production company in Canada called on the verge productions, and so they're producing a television series called the Goldy blocks mission and so it's almost a mini see many television series like eight to ten episodes and it's kind of a. They're trying to kind of blend pop culture with climate education. So if you think like stranger things mixed with the, the knowledge of David Attenborough is kind of a mix of that, and so that's gonna be really cool. We're pretty early. We're still looking for funding to complete production based in Toronto and LA, and so we're gonna be looking for, you know, youth to add their perspectives to writing rooms and stuff like that. So I mean, if people keep in touch with me on LinkedIn and whatnot, probably posting about that later on when we look for For youth, not only for for script writing and youth perspectives, but also I may do casting and whatnot.

Vai:

So wonderful and in terms of just for people to understand the diversity of your background. You know from a student at the university. You know, like in Waterloo, like you have pretty much Walk different paths right, Including the Royal Canadian police force. Is that right? You know whatever work you're doing for them. Why don't you talk about whatever different paths you have taken, just so people know that they don't have to just Follow yeah, and they can just look around for opportunities and that it just need not be a straight line approach?

Ashoke:

Yeah for sure. That's a great question because, yeah, I think sometimes we, you know, have this five-year plan and we get stuck and I gotta do this again. But I found like the most Exciting and most rewarding opportunities just happen spontaneously like even. No, no, it's right in the book and I didn't plan that at all, I just kind of happened. Close word when the pandemic get.

Ashoke:

Like I mentioned earlier, when I first started my climate journey, I want to be an energy, then I want to be in water. Now I'm kind of in the entertainment space. I think the key is to just keep an open mind and I think like again, like I mentioned earlier, say yes to everything and then, once you try a bunch of different things, you kind of open up your, your eyes and your mind to kind of what's possible, because you really you don't know what you don't know right, unless you try it. And so that's kind of the way that I've been approaching things recently Just to try a whole bunch of different things and kind of see where things land or see where you know Things connect. Or there's intersections and University, I wanted to really focus on science, right, I want to focus on the technical biology, chemistry stuff. Then I realized you know wasn't very good at that. They're kind of working to the policy side and advocacy side. Then kind of you know, realize it's very political space, a lot of polarization. Then get now I'm here at the entertainment space and even like my day job is very different from what I do outside of, like my advocacy work, right Like my day job. I work for a police force, I help them with environmental compliance and that's very science heavy. But I think it's cool to kind of just see the parallels between different worlds.

Ashoke:

And I think I think don't be afraid to generalize. I think you like a jack of all trades, I think it's. Sometimes it's some people think it's good to be specialized or, you know, go down one path. But I think it's good to have Breath rather than depth. You know you'd be no, no, a little about a lot rather than a lot about a little. And then once you kind of realize which kind of discipline or sector or an issue you thrive in, that's kind of where you can kind of specialize and dive further in. Well, when you're, when you're just starting, when you're early on, I like I wouldn't advise specializing, just because, again, you don't know what you don't know. So just try a bunch of different things, say yes, everything, and that's kind of and don't be afraid to like jump ship. But if you like, for example, like with that podcast that I started in university, I didn't realize I didn't like it, I wasn't very good at it, so it's like I Quit it, I took it down, right, and then I think it's important to realize that, like you can start something and you can fail and that's completely okay, right? I think if you can, you can move on.

Ashoke:

Sometimes we get, we get lost in the, the sunk cost fallacy, you know, when we think that we put in this amount of hours and put them on this amount of dollars into this and like, okay, I can't go back now because I've already invested it, but you just end up continually losing. But rather I think you should be wrecked, like cognizant of that. Be able to pull out like this isn't for me. I'm gonna move on to the next thing. I think for me I've done that quite a few times. I've people don't realize that I failed a lot of times, like whether that's, you know, podcasts or social ventures, or like failed energy companies that I've worked on, right, I filled a lot and but that that helps you succeed. I think you know that teaches you a lot of valuable lessons. I think that's Important for for youth starting out to realize failure is a stepping stone to success.

Vai:

Pivot where necessary and then Explore all avenues possible, just so you know you don't just feel like a jack of all trades and master of none, but I guess it's good for you to have a feel of everything. Those are all great takeaways from this conversation, a show for me and, I'm sure, for all listeners, and you are doing some wonderful work and we wish you the very best in your journey onward. And if there's anything else that you would like to add, the floor is yours. Say, your contact info, any other avenues that you would like people to pursue along with you, and More about your book and everything else, your social contacts, whatever you may wish to add here. And if there's one thing you would like to see listeners of this podcast start doing in terms of their Advocacy efforts or their ability to change the narrative on Sustainable living, feel free to add.

Ashoke:

Yeah, thanks so much, I think like for contact info. Wise, you guys can connect me on LinkedIn. A show mohan Raj.

Vai:

Get a copy of. Include that in the show notes as well and a link to your book as well.

Ashoke:

Yeah, yeah, I appreciate it if you guys are personal copy of Paul later man Also like you're interested in that. In that show that I mentioned, we're also like we're looking for investors. So if you're a, 30 investors listening. The website is the goldilocks mission calm. There's more info on the show there and I think like one one called action that would give people listening is it's a.

Ashoke:

There's two that I would want to say, and one is have uncomfortable conversations. Like you know, your friends, a climate change denier or he still use the plastic water bottles. Sure, it's uncomfortable having that conversation. What's the conversation that needs to happen? So you know, whether it's in your circle, outside your circle, don't be afraid of those conversations. And then two, I think you know just don't be afraid of being a trend center, trend trendsetter or doing your own thing, or, or, or, or.

Ashoke:

Like you know, for example, if my, your friends, use a tote bag or reasonable water bottle, don't be afraid to be the first. Don't. Don't care. They don't have opinions about what other people think of you, right? Because I think at the end of the day, regardless of what you do or don't do, people gonna judge you, so you might as well just do what you feel is right and what makes you happy, right. So I think you know, just kind of use, take that as as it is and kind of you know, understand that there there are things that need to be done, both for the planet and for yourself. I think if you do that with the right intentions, that's all that matters at the end of the day. And I think the biggest thing is you don't have to be perfect. As long as you're trying, that's all that matters.

Vai:

Yeah, just be mindful of what you're doing and then contribute your part to overall well-being. And, like you said, there are several aspects to Sustainable living and we just definitely walked everyone through all of that and including well-being, including health, including mental health. Everything is, like you know, interconnected right. So everything stems from, say, plastic is not supposedly good for health, so Even for physical health. So everything right from and only when we see that Mother nature gives us what we can for us to be happy not, like you know, unwanted floods, not like unwanted earthquakes, not, like you know, like ocean conservation is a big thing that we all need to focus on. So, I guess, everything, we all need to do our part and you brought it out very nicely there. Thank you so much and good luck with your next book, good luck with your media efforts, keep us posted and definitely look forward to connecting back with you again in the future. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Ashoke:

I show yeah, thanks so much for having me and hope you guys enjoyed great listeners, as always.

Vai:

Follow the podcast, rate the podcast and leave a review from your podcast app of choice, and and follow me on Instagram@vaipkumar, for all things, digital media and real world. Until next time with yet another interesting guest and yet another interesting topic. It's me, Vai saying so long.

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