Photo by Sofia Drobinskaya

The newest episode of our podcast, Mindful U at Naropa University, is out on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, and Fireside now! We are happy to announce this week’s episode features special guest Michael Bauer, Director of Sustainability at Naropa University.

 play-icon  Michael Bauer: The Discovery of Deep Community Resilience

If we can protect top-tier predators then we can protect large wilderness areas. The United States wilderness system, the national park system, and the national forest system–which are unparalleled globally–could help us build the room in our hearts for wilderness areas. And that’s what really called to me. As I went into a career at Boulder County Parks and Open Space, I really started to notice and get more concerned about climate change. I realized that we can protect wilderness from mining and logging and overuse and create the cultural space in our hearts for that wilderness, but we can’t protect it from climate change directly. It has to be a change in the hearts of people. So, that got me really paranoid.

(Full transcript below)

Michael Bauer is the Director of Sustainability at Naropa. He works alongside students, faculty, and staff in resolute commitment to our mission of climate neutrality and ecological justice. Michael is passionate about developing novel solutions in carbon mitigation, humanitarian engineering, and frugal innovation for solving entrenched challenges of poverty and community resilience. Michael has broad experience in sustainability program design and impact evaluation, stakeholder engagement, project management, and program development. He is fiercely committed to systems efficiency and believes it can only be achieved through parity and justice. Michael has presented original research at the Humanitarian Technology conference of MIT, and is published in Procedia Engineering, Coastal Transitions and more. Most recently, Michael taught undergraduate engineering at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he helped design curricula for a new sustainable systems engineering program.

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Podcast host David DeVine with Michael Bauer.
Full Transcript
Michael Bauer
“The Discovery of Deep Community Resilience”


Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And itÕs a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birthplace of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC] [00:00:45.15] DAVID:
Hello, today I’d like to welcome a very special guest to the podcast — Michael Bauer. He is the Director of Sustainability here at Naropa and he is just also a plainly cool dude. So, welcome to the podcast.

[00:00:57.20] MICHAEL:
It’s a pleasure to be here David. Thank you for inviting me.

[00:01:00.19] DAVID:
Yeah, awesome.

So, getting started — what inspired you to do the work you’re doing? What kind of — schooling did you have? What kind of inspiration did you have and kind of how did you get to Naropa?

[00:01:14.09] MICHAEL:
When I was a kid — I played cowboys and Indians with my friends. And I always wanted to be the Indians. That way of life felt true to me. Living — in harmony with nature and having a relationship with the elements and with the challenges and resources that were available. More so than coming in and shooting up the salon. Just for my – for my — and that’s always resonated with me.

[00:01:43.18] You know looking back I probably had a little noble savage thing going on as a kid, but you know when you’re — identifying with a particular culture that way without really knowing much about the culture I think that speaks to a core of value that I have. Which is earth based systems and living in those systems. Being both trying to kill us in the form of tornadoes and hurricanes and drought. And also, giving us everything we need and then some with incredible abundance.

[00:02:23.03] That lead me into an interest in science. I was really good in biology and I ended up going to CU and studying biology and then sociology at the same time caught my interest.

[00:02:36.09] DAVID:
So, you started in Boulder like a while ago then?

[00:02:38.23] MICHAEL:
I came to Boulder in ’96. From Illinois. I am from Indiana. And I grew up in Illinois and uh I wanted to come out west because I love the mountains and I was interested in Bozeman, Portland and Flagstaff, Arizona and Boulder. I ended up in Boulder in ’96. And started biology at CU. Ended up really getting focused on predator, prey dynamics. I was really fascinated with how these top level carnivores survive specifically that they need these large wilderness areas to thrive.

[00:03:15.04] And my mentors at CU — Mark Beckoff, Armstrong — I think his first name is David, Mike Grant — and some other community organizations showed me how — if we can protect top tier predators then we can protect large wilderness areas. And that’s what really called to me. If the United States wilderness system and national park system and national forest system — are unparalleled globally — we have an amazing system here that we need to protect and value and the question I learned was that do, we have room in our hearts for wilderness areas. As I went into my career at Boulder County Parks and Open Space I really started to notice and get more concerned about climate change.

And, I realized that you know we can protect wilderness from mining and logging and over use and create the cultural space in our hearts for that wilderness, but we can’t protect it from climate change directly. It has to be a change in the hearts of people.

So, that got me really paranoid.

[00:04:16.17] DAVID:
A change in the hearts and also just a change in the way we function in the world. You know changing some habits that we might have.

[00:04:24.03] MICHAEL:

[00:04:24.08] DAVID:

[00:04:25.13] MICHAEL:
Conditioning, habits – absolutely. That stuff is massive because it adds up exponentially right as this compounding effect of all these little habits. And it may not seem significant to folks, but it really is. In fact, it’s the duality which really fits well with Naropa. This duality of both being powerful and powerless that one little thing we do doesn’t really do much, but if 10 million of us do that one little thing its extremely powerful.

So, that’s a hard thing to hold both of those. So, I thought well I started thinking about graduate school and what I was good at and how I could affect some positive change around climate and I was like law? Not really or policy — maybe and — ended up not because — I am natural engineer but I noticed that that was the greatest intersection of my interest and ability was engineering specially this program at CU called Civil Systems Engineering. That’s sort of intersection of environmental, civil and urban planning to meet these — the greatest challenges of the changing climate and urban infrastructure and specific to that was at CU there is the Mortenson Center for Engineering for Developing Communities. And I ended up studying under Professor Bernard Amadei who founded Engineers Without Borders in 2002. And, through his sustainable community development classes worked on a project in Denver to lower home heating costs using trash basically. We take trash and turn it into health and wealth by building these very low cost solar air heaters — solar furnaces basically that work really well. And that was my introduction to humanitarian technology, humanitarian engineering and that’s what sparked in me you know this yes climate change specifically around how we produce energy, how we get around as far as transportation is really important, but itÕs really rooted in humanity.

[00:06:24.03] And that’s — that was a shift in me around the service profession of engineering. If we can root this in humanity because who gets hit first and hardest by climate change? It’s the people in the marginalized communities. And they’ve always been the first and heaviest victims of pollution, environmental racism. The lack of ecological justice always hits those folks first and I saw that first hand in west Denver. That was really inspiring and motivating to me to — get more clear about how we develop our systems to function really well for everyone not just engineering for the one percent.

[00:07:02.05] DAVID:
But engineering for the whole humanity.

[00:07:03.17] MICHAEL:

[00:07:04.10] DAVID:
And engineering for the people who are hit hardest the most — starting there to fix the problem and then moving on.

[00:07:11.01] MICHAEL:
That’s right.

[00:07:12.01] DAVID:
Because the type of engineering you’re talking about is affecting everyone, but in a positive manner.

[00:07:16.17] MICHAEL:
Yeah, I mean I hope so. That’s the idea. I thought we had some —

[00:07:21.05] DAVID:
Hope so.

[00:07:21.12] MICHAEL:
Yeah, I thought we had some good successes in Denver. I mean we put in — we installed these four different units. We had these prototypes that we went down there — we worked with the community. We worked with a great community organization called, Revision. They’re primarily a food security non-profit. They do great work. — but they also saw these other needs that weren’t being met in the community. And we partnered with them — our class at CU with also the business school at CU and then Revision to do a community appraisal. So, we do participatory appraisal meaning you have to have social skin in the game. You have to have folks that are — basically you want their input. Right? The old model of development was westerners come in and say here is our solution to your problems — use this and you will be fine. And they are going wait a minute actually that wasn’t the problem we wanted to solve. You know? And here we are you know 70 years —

[00:08:13.23] DAVID:
Or using resources that don’t exist in the place that we’re trying to do this work in. And or its not serving the people. You know you need the feedback of the people who are — being affected by the thing you’re trying to fix.

[00:08:25.16] MICHAEL:
That’s well said.

[00:08:27.05] DAVID:

[00:08:27.18] MICHAEL:
No doubt without a doubt – because any project in those communities that doesn’t do that — is so much more likely to fail. In fact, they do. I mean there is over 25 thousand failed water supply systems — projects across Africa right now.

[00:08:41.08] DAVID:

[00:08:41.15] MICHAEL:
According to Ned Breslin — the CEO of Water for People. At a cost of over 1.2 billion lost investment and of course water — water development systems aren’t the only uh humanitarian project, so the losses are even greater. So, these are largely due to failure to address sustainability problems in the field around cultural sustainability.

[00:09:05.02] DAVID:
Yeah, so I am hearing this narrative of you finding yourself. Finding the work, you want to do and you crystalizing it into something. So, once that started happening you start doing all these projects in Denver. You’re getting a degree from CU. How did you end up at Naropa? So, what did that journey look like?

[00:09:22.07] MICHAEL:
When I was getting my degree, I was scared. I didn’t know how I was going to apply this.

[00:09:27.06] DAVID:
That was probably just you — everyone feels fine with their degree.

[00:09:29.16] MICHAEL:
Right, totally. I didn’t have a bachelor’s in engineering. I didn’t have — I was looking at all my peers who had all this experience with these like firms and stuff and here I am with my biology and sociology degrees and so I was really interested in affecting organizational change specifically around climate neutrality or ecological justice. And I found out about this concept of sustainability coordinators. So, I started meeting with some and talking to them — I actually had worked with one at Boulder County — Suzy Strife of Boulder County when I worked for Boulder County Open Space. And I thought that would be a really powerful way to take what I have learned and serve the community in this way to affect positive change around climate and culture and bring services to folks that have the most need of them.

In the meantime, I was teaching engineering at Metro State University in Denver. I taught there for 3 1/2 years and they saw my background in community development and sustainable systems and invited me to — help them develop their new curriculum called Sustainable Systems Engineering. And they have a degree in that now. So, I helped develop that. And uh yeah it was really fun. Really smart capable folks down there — Metro has the highest Latino graduation rate of any of the state schools. The highest pioneer college student rate of any of the state schools. It’s the smallest of the state schools and I really enjoyed working there, but while I was there I was applying for work in this area that I wanted to really start working in. At the same time, I really started about 5 years ago doing really more intensive work — contemplative work around relationship dynamics with my wife and my family. Clearing up blockages in my own life around things that I thought were limiting me by working with folks like Tory Camprin and Bruce Tift and then I found a man by the name of Reuvain Bacal who runs — he does couples counseling and also personal life coaching but he — he graduated from Naropa. He worked here for a number of years.

[00:11:32.11] DAVID:
Shout out.

[00:11:32.23] MICHAEL:
That’s right. And he turned me onto this idea of men’s groups. I was like what’s that? I don’t know what that is. Is that — I remember from the 90s folks like Robert Bly and uh — Joseph Campbell, but this was something different. This is a little different. So, I had been doing this contemplative work and I studied a couple of different traditions — chignon and tai chi and kung fu, but and now I started — been introduced to Reuvain’s tradition which is — he has been working with — actually the Cheyenne tradition. He’s been studying for several years, but in this men’s group work we really don’t talk about the Cheyenne lineage very much, but he is — lived in Israel and studied Torah and he came to Boulder to study at Naropa. And he’s on a spiritual path. And he has opened up a lot of uh ideas to me.

So, when the job for Naropa opened up I had had this work — they wanted specific skill set around sustainability and around contemplative work. And, I happened to have — be fortunate enough to have done that work at that point and when I applied I was given the opportunity to join the team.

[00:12:44.05] DAVID:
You were just ready to go.

[00:12:45.06] MICHAEL:
I was ready.

[00:12:46.22] DAVID:
Yeah, awesome. Very cool. So, I feel like there is a generic understanding of what sustainability is. And, I would love for you to unpack that for us. Maybe in your version — like what is sustainability mean to you? What does sustainability mean to your work? And what do you think sustainability means to the general public — like how would you define that?

[00:13:07.23] MICHAEL:
That’s a good question. I see the general public like let’s say your average person who is not necessarily working this field sees sustainability as solar panels, electric cars, banning plastic straws —

[00:13:21.07] DAVID:

[00:13:21.07] MICHAEL:
Recycling. And compost — organic food — things like that. Which are all very important.

[00:13:27.02] DAVID:

[00:13:27.21] MICHAEL:
And its extremely narrow band of what sustainability is. The classic definition of sustainability comes from this — what they call the Brundtland Commission of 1987 at the UN which defines sustainable development as development that meets the need of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

[00:13:45.02] DAVID:
Love that. Ok.

[00:13:46.05] MICHAEL:
It’s really succinct. There is this concept also of the triple bottom line of sustainability which folks call ecology, economy and society or people planted in profits. But lately —

[00:13:57.20] DAVID:
Wait that’s that set up differently than most companies. Hold on.

[00:14:02.11] MICHAEL:
Right. They put profits at the top.

[00:14:04.01] DAVID:
I see what you are doing here.

[00:14:05.01] MICHAEL:
That’s right. And there are some wonderful corporations that work that way like — Patagonia, Sounds True here in Boulder uh — Morning Star out in California, but lately the past 5 years or so there is this idea of a quadruple bottom line.

[00:14:21.07] DAVID:
Uh oh.

[00:14:21.07] MICHAEL:
Which is an extra bottom line.

[00:14:23.02] DAVID:
And extra bottom.

[00:14:23.13] MICHAEL:
Yeah, that’s right we got to focus on this one — and I’ve come in the past two years to shift around and think that that 4th one is actually the first one. The most important one and that’s what — is called either personal or purpose sustainability and here is what I mean by that David. If I don’t know what my values are and I am not live — and even I do if I am not living in those highest values — and I am not living in a way that I can sustain in my life — there is really very little chance that I am going to have the bandwidth to consider recycling, pollution, climate change, financial sustainability, economic sustainability because I don’t live sustainably. Personally, for me. Even if I don’t have as one of my values sustainability or climate change — even if my highest values may be are family, integrity, and art — maybe those are my top three values in my life that I have identified. I can still live in a way that affects positive change around the climate if I am living in all of my highest values and living in my purpose sustainably for me where I am not burning out. I am not going in a direction that is not sustainable because then I can consider, maybe, because I’ve got the bandwidth what’s my impact on the climate and how does that address my highest values. [00:15:38.10] If the climate shifts so much that the economy is disrupted terribly then my family is going to be affected. My art is going to be affected. So, that personal sustainability is the most important one and that’s how we root it in humanity.

[00:15:52.06] DAVID:
Yeah and if you are personally sustainable then you are able to show up with the greater sustainability idea too. And it’s interesting because you were saying something about like the hierarchies and you’re adding another bottom line to the bottom of the line, but I almost thought about like instead of it being a hierarchy — it’s a higher parallel. So, they’re all important equally. I mean maybe there is a hierarchy — archical type of thing happening, but at the same time like all of these should be viewed as important and must do’s in consumer base companies.

[00:16:28.21] MICHAEL:
I totally agree. I mean we do live in a highly consumerist society.

[00:16:33.11] DAVID:
And that’s not going to shift. But what we do need to shift is how we do that.

[00:16:37.21] MICHAEL:
I agree. And that’s like you are saying. I mean that’s well said. That’s where the personally sustainability comes in.

[00:16:43.10] DAVID:
Like if a CEO had a sustainable practice in their personal life and then they show up in their business life in that same way.

[00:16:52.17] MICHAEL:
Yeah, right. That’s a great example. I’ve seen it drawn as — in a little graphic as concentric circles. With personal at the center and then the ecology or the environment being the outer most one that holds everything. Because our natural systems – our life support systems — our life giving systems allow all of this to be possible. There is nothing that we’ve created around us that doesn’t come from the earth. Even the most exotic synthetic materials still come from what we have available.

And that supports everything including our economy, which supports our society, or our society supports our economy. Those two are I think can be more fluid, but at the heart of it is the personal and if I am not living in a way that — if I am burned out. If I am stressed. If I’ve got all these road blocks and I’ve got unmetabolized anger and fear and resentment — I am going to show up in my life that way.

Uh I’m going to manifest things in my life that are going to point me towards fear and resentment and bitterness. I can speak from experience. You know having lived that way for much of my life when I was a young man. Younger man let’s say.

[00:18:01.08] DAVID:

[00:18:01.23] MICHAEL:
So, there is no judgment there. I just think this is the evidence that I’ve seen over time.

[00:18:06.00] DAVID:
You don’t want to be a curmudgeon.

[00:18:07.16] MICHAEL:

[00:18:08.14] DAVID:
You know, like it’s not fun. Like let’s develop as human beings. That sounds really exciting to me.

[00:18:15.04] MICHAEL:
That sounds exciting to me too but so many people are afraid of that.

[00:18:19.12] DAVID:
And that’s ok.

[00:18:19.12] MICHAEL:
Yeah, absolutely.

[00:18:20.17] DAVID:
As long as you are doing it.

[00:18:22.02] MICHAEL:
And so many people are so afraid of myself included looking at the shadow — you know, in this men’s work there is a piece that is really important around masculinity and we talk about the integration of masculinity and femininity and the masculine and feminine are actually not separable. You can’t have one without the other. This is my bias. You can’t have one with the other. We all have each of them in us. You know folks with a more masculine core whether they be men or women — statistically it tends to be more men that have a masculine core. It tends to be more women that have a more feminine core, but that’s innumerable infinite variations between of course.

[00:19:00.00] DAVID:
It’s all mildly fluid.

[00:19:01.07] MICHAEL:
Absolutely. We talk about masculinity and how the shadow masculine has been dominate for the past let’s say three or four thousand years.

[00:19:12.21] DAVID:
I really like hearing that — the shadow masculinity. Because if masculinity was running — not running but like assisting in the cooperation of both energies — I feel like the masculine energy would be propelling the female energy to rise.

[00:19:29.00] MICHAEL:
I agree.

[00:19:30.00] DAVID:
And I feel like that’s what we need right now. Is a rise. A female femininity energy into our societies, into our psyches, into our ways of living. Connecting with the earth — the mamma.

[00:19:42.10] MICHAEL:
Yeah, the earth is essentially a feminine energy and we need a balance of both masculine and feminine and we need to lead with masculine at times and we need to as people — as individuals lead with feminine at other times, but the earth system is essentially a feminine energy and my bias is I don’t talk about toxic masculinity because a toxin is something that you want to get rid of that is to be avoided. That is to be neutralized.

[00:20:08.11] DAVID:

[00:20:08.16] MICHAEL:
Yeah, right. I talk about it as a shadow because the shadow masculine is something that is right there all the time that you want to know where it is and keep close so — you keep aware of when that — overt aggression dominating behavior destroying behavior comes in for all of us. And we all have that in us. Rather than trying to ignore it and get rid of it — we keep it close and know and get to know it and eventually as you get to know it and integrate it — so you can use it skillfully.

[00:20:42.06] DAVID:
Yeah, I really like hearing that and I feel like that is something that could be met at all levels whether its emotional, whether it’s in relationship. Whether it’s in any sort of way it shows up in your life — not pushing it away because if you push a shadow away its just – it’s not going to go away. It’s just part of being.

[00:21:00.10] MICHAEL:
It’s part of being.

[00:21:01.00] DAVID:
It’s part of becoming and it’s a really potent learning tool if you are skillful enough to use a lens that is clear enough to see what is going on over there and I just really appreciate you voicing that because we’re not going to push it away. If anything, we got to like put our arms around it and be like you’re welcome but thank you for showing me what I need to work on.

[00:21:22.15] MICHAEL:
That’s right.

[00:21:23.13] DAVID:
So, switching gears — I’m curious what is Naropa doing to be sustainable? And then let’s dive into that a bit. And then I am also curious what are some future goals and or like what do you have in mind you know you’ve been here for almost a year now and we’ve seen — you just like hit the ground running. You know like I remember meeting you one of the first days that you came here, and you were just so exciting, so amped and just ready to go and I am like damn this guy is going to do it and I am just curious like what are we doing now. What are we going to do in the future and what are you excited about?

[00:21:55.12] MICHAEL:
I’d like to emphasize —

[00:21:56.20] DAVID:
That’s a big one. Sorry.

[00:21:57.07] MICHAEL:
Yeah, no I mean it’s particularly meaningful for me to be here at Naropa, which has been a first adopter and a strong promoter of sustainability for 20 years or more. We were the first university in the country to purchase 100 percent renewable energy credits to — for our electricity usage.

[00:22:16.07] DAVID:
Yeah, and that’s the wind power, right?

[00:22:17.11] MICHAEL:
That’s right. That’s Xcel’s wind source project. The first university in the country to divest our investments from fossil fuel companies. Four years before the state of New York did it. And, we’ve had the zero waste program in place for over 10 years. Actually over 15 years. And I particularly want to emphasize the importance of shared values and — common policies as a basis for deep community resilience which is important to co-create a framework around what we want to build but those efforts that I just mentioned don’t replace the specificity and detail of existing strategic objectives here. So, you asked about what we are doing. We’ve got a climate action plan that was really skillfully and strongly addressed in 2012 and ’13. That says that we want to be carbon neutral by 2040. Meaning folks driving in from around the area to work here — so their vehicle emissions as well as our buildings heating and cooling and lighting our buildings — all the travel that takes place for folks that travel around the country. I think we can do it by 2030 — uh 2030, 2035.

We want to increase our waste —

[00:23:29.16] DAVID:
Yeah, let’s do it.

[00:23:30.10] MICHAEL:
I think we can. We actually — David, we are really fortunate to live in a state that has really strong incentives to do that in Colorado.

[00:23:38.11] DAVID:
We are. Definitely.

[00:23:39.04] MICHAEL:
So, that helps. Right now, we divert over 80% of our waste from landfills and it gets recycled or composted. We can bump that up to 97% by 2040.

[00:23:49.01] DAVID:
We can do that sooner than that.

[00:23:49.22] MICHAEL:
Yeah, I think so too. We have low flow faucets on almost all of our sinks campus wide reducing our water footprint. We’re doing sprinkler audits for our landscaping. Speaking of the grounds — we don’t use any pesticides, any herbicides, any fungus-cides. No, cides — a cide is something that kills. That is the root word there.

[00:24:10.01] DAVID:

[00:24:10.01] MICHAEL:
Yeah, it doesn’t need it and we don’t use it. Which is really – I love that.

[00:24:14.14] DAVID:
And what’s interesting is our grounds are beautiful!

[00:24:17.03] MICHAEL:

[00:24:17.15] DAVID:
They are so — they are well maintained. They look beautiful. And they are — you can just lay in the grass and chill.

[00:24:24.07] MICHAEL:
Yeah, you really can. And you don’t have to worry about what was —

[00:24:27.18] DAVID:
And there is —

[00:24:29.07] MICHAEL:
Oh my God, what am I laying in.

[00:24:29.12] DAVID:
And if you do come to our campus there is little secrets of like flowers and sage and lemon balm and rose hips. There’s — you can like kind of create a lasagna or a meal just walking around campus — just picking what you see.

[00:24:43.00] MICHAEL:
You’re not exaggerating. Really, I mean like the students and faculty and staff — have been designed yet.

[00:24:50.06] DAVID:
Take that stuff home and cook some good food.

[00:24:51.21] MICHAEL:
You can walk around — there is edible food for us around the Snow Line Apartments, around the Arapahoe Campus. So, you can walk around and eat plums, peaches, onion, spinach, pears, apples, lemon balm like you said, sage, comfrey, nettle, all this stuff — it’s all around campus. It’s wonderful and so I really give a shout out and a huge kudos to grounds and facilities maintenance for taking care of this stuff and the different classes and the students who have made this possible through their efforts.

[00:25:23.14] DAVID:
Yeah, they really do a great job.

[00:25:25.03] MICHAEL:
And so, I mean we have zero waste stations for compost and recycling and trashing — all throughout all the campuses inside and outside. We give every student, faculty and staff free RTD co-pass — bus passes.

[00:25:37.04] DAVID:
Yep, everyone gets a bus pass.

[00:25:38.16] MICHAEL:
Everyone gets a bus pass. Everyone gets a b-cycle, bike sharing pass. Unlimited one hour rides. If you — if riding a bike isn’t your thing and you need a car — we have a discounted car share agreement with Eco-Share. We provide — this is one of my favorites — in the sustainability program we have the bike shack.

[00:26:00.04] DAVID:
I like the bike shack.

[00:26:00.12] MICHAEL:
The bike shack is amazing! It’s — our first student lead project here at Naropa. Student run that is still going. Student lead. Student run — totally student facilitated bike maintenance garage. Basically, you can show up with your bike and get free maintenance and learn how to do this stuff yourself. Low cost replacement of parts and you can call and get custom guided assistance on working on your bike. And if you want — you can build your own bike from donated parts. We have a ton of donated bikes out there.

[00:26:32.08] DAVID:
We have a ton of donated bikes.

[00:26:34.12] MICHAEL:
People — you can come build your own bike and take it away for free. So, you learn how to build a bike and you get a free bike out of it.

[00:26:39.03] DAVID:

[00:26:40.23] MICHAEL:
Totally sustainable.

[00:26:41.07] DAVID:
And Boulder is extremely bike friendly. It’s amazing how easy it is to get anywhere on a bike. ItÕs probably faster on a bike — it’s just beautiful here. So, who doesn’t want to ride the creek to go to work.

[00:26:54.12] MICHAEL:
It’s amazing. Some of the bike paths are even plowed in the winter before the streets are plowed. You know David they actually do this — commuter challenge every year. I don’t know if they still do it, but they — they used to do this commuter challenge where the city — it was either the city and the county or just the city and a couple of non-profits would get together, and they would race this route around town. You’d have to go the bank, get groceries and do one other thing I can’t remember. And then one person would drive. One person would take the bus. And one person would cycle. And it was often times a person on the bike would win. The person driving would win as well. But it was close between cycling and driving.

[00:27:33.20] DAVID:
You should manage stress levels too because who wins that one?

[00:27:36.19] MICHAEL:
Well, that’s the thing.

[00:27:38.08] DAVID:
You know you got the wind in your hair. You got the music — ear buds in and you’re just cruising.

[00:27:42.10] MICHAEL:
Not parking it — you don’t have to worry about parking and paying for parking. And you’re more connected with the elements, with yourself. You’re getting your body free. You know exercise going place to place. That’s really nice.

[00:27:53.05] DAVID:
That’s amazing. I never heard about that, but I can see how that’s potent.

[00:27:56.20] MICHAEL:

[00:27:57.12] DAVID:
So, moving to Boulder for me was like quite an experience. I actually came from Los Angeles. Like I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up in traffic you could say. Like two hours driving like 10 miles. Crazy stuff. 405, 101 freeway and I moved to Boulder. I live about like a song and a half iTunes away from this campus. I’ve been walking to work for the last — 8 years. And wow, I feel such a difference — to not be in a car.

[00:28:26.06] MICHAEL:
How much is that worth you know? To you.

[00:28:29.00] DAVID:
It’s so valuable. So, valuable.

[00:28:32.04] MICHAEL:
I think we talked about the sustainability being rooted in humanity. That is the most important part for me. But even more than this — if I can just say one more thing about what we are doing. I am really excited about this. This part.

[00:28:45.19] DAVID:
I haven’t noticed.

[00:28:46.04] MICHAEL:
Yeah, well — this part especially — our Director for the Office of Inclusive Community, Regina Smith, myself, our Director for Contemplative Practices — Giovannina Jobson. Some of the psychology faculty — Miki Fire and Travis Cox and then the Senior Environmental Planner from the City of Boulder. We’ve gotten together and have already started meeting about how to build a new model for deep community resilience. Because traditional sustainability practices — are actually not enough anymore. We view the tools of self investigation, sustainability, science, social justice objectives are all equal instruments for addressing human suffering. And from this understanding where right now — we’re doing some grant writing and some brainstorming around building the foundations needed to co-create the framework for a new deep community resilience initiative that integrates sustainability, contemplative practice and social justice objectives with our psychology initiatives — specifically around self-care and compassion that is rooted in Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s work, The Sadhana of Mahamudra. So, we’ve begun planning how this will develop. We believe this will produce new and necessary tools for cultural transformation around new classes, new programs around basically we view right now our — one of our biggest challenges in society is the collective denial and anger and externalized anger around our current situation that we’ve created. And you can see this is the pervasive context of public discourse. Specifically, on social media. You know — look at what the President does on Twitter. No responsibility for his actions and externalized anger and you know we’re all liable to do that to some degree.

So, working on addressing our own personal suffering with self love, self care and compassion — and integrating that with social justice objectives and sustainability objectives to develop a new model for community resilience to meet the world as it is, which is this new — climate reality that we are living in.

[00:31:08.14] DAVID:
Yeah, oh my god it almost seems as though sustainability starts with self. Then like your concentric circles like you are talking about like recycling is cool and composting and being environmentally friendly is amazing and you should always do that, but also there is an energetic composting that needs to happen. There is sustainability within oneself and then the collective of those, you know, like becoming a better human is never going to suck.


[00:31:39.02] MICHAEL:
It’s never going to suck.

[00:31:40.00] DAVID:
So, I encourage that, and I welcome that and I — oh my God this plan — you’re giving me chills over here. I am digging this. We have just — we have a little bit of time left and I want to ask you — what is the connection between social justice and ecological justice? You’re tapping into this a little bit, but I am curious can you dive into that a little bit more. Like what would that look like — the cooperation, the relationship between those two?

[00:32:06.19] MICHAEL:

[00:32:07.07] DAVID:
Because they are not separate ultimately.

[00:32:08.21] MICHAEL:
That is right.

[00:32:09.06] DAVID:
My third podcast I ever did was Jeanine Canty. And she addressed this and she was like social justice is ecological justice and that woman gave me chills and I just like bowed to her. I was like yep. So, could you speak about that?

[00:32:25.14] MICHAEL:
Jeanine is masterful in this area. It’s just her wheelhouse and she — I consider her a mentor and someone to learn from. You’re absolutely right. They’re non separable and the way that I build the architecture for the Office for Sustainability is around self-care and self-love. And then extending that out to our immediate orbit of folks we care about and then maybe even to strangers and then out even further to life support systems and life giving systems. Once we can do that — then we’ve got the compassion to tap into the empathy of those folks over there that are suffering that maybe because of my own suffering and my own blinders or maybe even my own uh willful ignorance and even greed – I don’t want to see the suffering of those people. So, starting from that center —

[00:33:12.20] DAVID:
Or just protecting yourself. You’re like I don’t know if I can take this on —

[00:33:16.18] MICHAEL:
That would send me over the edge if I take on that starving child.

[00:33:20.19] DAVID:
No toxins.

[00:33:21.09] MICHAEL:
Right. You know there is plenty of pain to go around there for folks that are suffering — as I said before, you know pollution, climate change affects these marginalized communities first and hardest. So, that’s a really clear line of where social justice and ecological justice are exactly the same, but I totally agree with Jeanine that they are not separable. If you look at climate change first, when the sea levels rise these coastal communities, these — let’s call them artisanal fishing communities — in lowland coastal areas. They are going to get flooded out. What are they going to do? They don’t have the money to relocate. If you’re local economy gets disrupted because of climate change and you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you’re, you know working class or working poor — you don’t have the resources to do anything about that.

So, climate justice — therefore is social justice, ecological justice is social justice.

[00:34:15.19] DAVID:
Wow. You don’t necessarily hear that very often unless you’re in deep educational facilities or with talking with extremely mindful people — and it’s just so beautiful to have that reminder that everything is connected. Everything we do whether it’s a thought or an action. Internal, external — it is affecting something at some level. And if you start with truth and love and responsibility and authenticity then everything you’re putting out and putting in — is going to be somewhat compostable and it is going to be beneficial for yourself. So, it just feels so good to hear this movement happening that should have been — we need to get this thing going. You know we need that exponential kick in.

[00:35:04.19] MICHAEL:
I mean I feel like — I’ve talked with some other faculty about this. If we’re serious about sustainability and climate change we should be gathered in the streets shouting at the top of our lungs — stop. We have to stop this right now. But there is other ways we can do collective action there — productive. And I like what you said about responsibility because there is something to be said of course for freedom and rights, but if we then don’t take those freedoms and rights and identify what our values are and then take on the responsibility as humans to do something about it — then I don’t know what you would call that but you’re not actually —

[00:35:41.19] DAVID:
Its neglect.

[00:35:42.10] MICHAEL:
There is some neglect there. And its again – I don’t mean going out and having like this amazing two million person march in Washington which would be wonderful but starting with the responsibility to take care of your — our own stuff personally.

[00:35:56.15] DAVID:
Yeah, I can also see like a movement starting and not just like people telling people to stop, but a movement of people telling people to start. So, let’s start doing this instead of saying like stop doing that. Let’s start doing this. Like doing the work. Being like all right well if you ain’t going to do it — I got this. And I got a community behind me. We got the community gardens. We got — we got shared space. We got conversations. We got the movement moving. Other than just saying let’s tell them to stop, which we should also do. There is a diversity of play that we need to find.

[00:36:32.09] MICHAEL:
Well, when I say stop — what I want to be clear about — I mean let’s stop these systems the way they are going. Not like hey you over there stop doing what you are doing, but the systems, the direction they are going — need to stop. And, we’re starting to shift those. But the thing about systems is they have momentum. They don’t just turn on a dime. If you think about the global energy system, there is all these oil tankers and oil fields and coal mines. We can’t just like (snaps) change those overnight. There is a lot of momentum there.

[00:37:01.03] DAVID:
The people benefitting are going to do what they can to make it not. There is —

[00:37:05.10] MICHAEL:
You bet.

[00:37:05.16] DAVID:
There is a fun idea that Terrance McKenna talks about — who is one of my favs. He talks about — turning a battleship with an ore. How you can do that? That is really hard.

[00:37:17.22] MICHAEL:
That is real hard.

[00:37:17.22] DAVID:
That’s kind of what it feels like, but if you get a couple million ores — it’s probably possible.

[00:37:23.14] MICHAEL:
That’s right.

[00:37:24.12] DAVID:
You know, let’s go get that.

[00:37:26.17] MICHAEL:
That’s that powerful powerless thing again isn’t it? Like this one ore sucks on this battleship. I can’t do anything. Oh, you other 50 thousand people have ores. Wait a minute we got something here. We can actually affect some change here.

[00:37:37.01] DAVID:

[00:37:37.22] MICHAEL:
And what’s not being reported in most mainstream media — although a little bit, but mostly not — is a lot of folks don’t realize how much movement this movement has for ecological and social justice. There is hundreds of millions of people around the world that are collectively working towards this. It’s easier to get a little hopeless and downtrodden when you’re doing your thing. You’re working hard to clean up your own personal stuff and maybe do some stuff over here to serve your community and you go I am just doing my thing. Nobody is like — what’s everybody doing? Just keep remembering — stay plugged in that folks are doing this all around the world. All the time and there is a global movement.

[00:38:17.07] DAVID:
There are people out there who have dedicated their lives into making this world a better place. In so many different levels. And, I am with that. Let’s do that.

[00:38:30.01] MICHAEL:
Yeah, let’s do that.

[00:38:30.11] DAVID:
I am on your team. You know put me in coach. Come on, let’s got it. I got it all day — so, wow, so very interesting stuff. We could probably just keep going, but that is our time. And, it was just such a pleasure to speak with you — just people can’t see you, but they can hear you. But what they don’t see is just your enthusiasm, your excitement, your willingness to step forward into something and it feels really good to have you on the team at Naropa to be our Sustainability Director. I am just excited for the future. You know, excited to see what happens so —

[00:39:06.11] MICHAEL:
Thanks brother. It’s such a privilege and an honor to be here. And to – to serve my community.

[00:39:12.05] DAVID:
Awesome. Thank you so much.

[00:39:13.18] MICHAEL:
Thank you, David.

[00:39:15.07] DAVID:
So, I’d like to thank Michael Bauer for speaking with us on the podcast today. He is the Sustainability Director here at Naropa.

[00:39:22.07] MICHAEL:
Thank you.


On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at or follow us on social media for more updates on contemplative practices in higher education.