environmental justice podcast

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on global energy poverty and indoor air pollution

"Air pollution affects a number of health outcomes, but for children in particular those impacts are so severe."

Dr. Carlos Gould joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss the environmental justice implications of indoor biomass burning and air pollution.


Gould, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and current Agents of Change fellow, also talks about how baseball played a role in his early search for identity, how most indoor biomass burning is due to a lack of choice, and the crushing impact indoor air pollution has on children's health.

The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.

Listen below to our discussion with Gould, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Transcript

Brian Bienkowski

Today I'm talking to another one of these incredible folks, Dr. Carlos Gould, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and current Agents of Change fellow. We talk about the perpetual search for identity and the environmental justice implications of indoor biomass burning and air pollution. We also talk a little baseball, and his years of playing the sport, very apt for this time of year. Though my beloved Detroit Tigers are sitting at home watching the playoffs. Anyway, enjoy our conversation.

All right, I am so excited to be joined by Carlos Gould. Carlos, how are you today?

Carlos Gould

I'm doing well, Brian, thanks for having me.

Brian Bienkowski

Sure. And where are you today?

Carlos Gould

I am in Albany, California in the East Bay.

Brian Bienkowski

So Carlos, you are in our third cohort and I'm really excited to have you here today. And I know you come from kind of my region-ish, Midwest, you come from Indiana. And I always like to start by seeing how people became interested in environmental health and environmental health science.

Carlos Gould

Yeah, thanks for the question, and I definitely identify as a Midwesterner, pretty through and through. And really my interest in environmental health, environmental health science came from just wanting to be in the environment, be outside. I hear stories of me as a, as a younger kid and that was all I ever wanted to do. I was having a bad time, you just put me outside and I'd be having a much better time. And, you know, I loved hiking, I loved exploring where grew up outside of Bloomington, Indiana. It was pretty wooded and so I got to just roam free. And you know starting in elementary school, science projects were, you know, doing stuff like checking the water quality in nearby creeks because it meant I could run around in the woods. And I sort of began to move closer towards the interplaying connection between, you know, us as humans and the environment. As I got older I remember one distinct moment was in Glacier National Park, on an a, on a family vacation, and we stopped off, looked at the first glacier that we saw, it was amazing. I had my mind blown as this, you know, Indiana boy, and then went to read the plaque and I saw, you know, a picture of the glacier decades ago and that really blew my mind. That, you know, the world was changing so much but really still at that point, things are pretty abstract, um, you know. And then I sort of just kept that going. I went to college and I studied environmental studies, which, which I thought was interesting and good because it obligated me to take classes in different disciplines. And so I took courses in political science and history, chemistry, biology. I was better at some of those than others. But anyway, I, you know, I just really enjoyed the diversity of science that was happening. And then, you know, after my sophomore year of college I got linked up doing some primary data collection with somebody in, in, in Honduras. And you know, we'll talk about this later, but my, my mom's side of the family is Costa Rican and being in Central America was something that seemed ideal. And that was, you know pretty focused on forests and how people were collecting firewood for their, for their household use. And that, you know, sparked however long it's been, seven to eight years of studying, you know the relationship between people burning biomass and human health and household energy and poverty.

Brian Bienkowski

That's great, really came full circle from the woods of Indiana to the woods across the world. And this, there's a common theme I've noticed with a lot of folks on here, including myself, which is a lot of us became interested in the natural world, in the in the trees and the air and the water in the mountains, and then realize all of these interplay in the intersection with human health and the environment, so I think that's very cool. And staying back in that part of your life in your application, you mentioned, trying to find your identity and often feeling like you didn't fit in regardless of kind of whatever community or group you're with. And I'm wondering if you could talk about this and perhaps how you overcame it, what worked.

Carlos Gould

Yeah, it's a really important question, and I appreciate it. And so I mentioned, I'm, I'm biracial. My dad is white and my mom's Costa Rican and her whole family's there. And I think that this feeling of trying to find my identity and feeling like I didn't fit in comes from feeling like I had multiple dimensions of myself that sort of jutted out into different domains. And, and when I was, you know, out in a different dimension of myself, via, you know, playing sports or being good at school, or, you know, being Latino, it felt like that dimension was the only dimension that, that I could be with a certain group of people. And I think that that's an experience that a lot of people of color and people from historically marginalized backgrounds, feel. And I think, so sort of generally it's, it's a culmination, it's a multitude of experiences and situations where I felt like my complete self, you know, who I am entirely, was questioned or invalidated or unwelcome. And people, purposefully or not, chose to recognize or push, only one or two specific dimensions depending on, you know, that's what they chose to understand. And so uh, a couple of examples are, I think, useful here, because there's not just sort of one moment, or anything along those lines that that sort of sums us all up but. So I played baseball very competitively when I was younger. And I think, you know, Bloomington itself is pretty progressive and pretty liberal, but we traveled a lot to different parts of the Midwest to places where folks have less progressive viewpoints. At least they did when I was growing up. And on the baseball field you know, I was the recipient of racist comments, jabs about being Latino, especially in early high school including, including on my own team, giving me a offensive nicknames and forcing me into these uncomfortable positions. Or I was, my baseball skills were described in a, in a weirdly racialized way that I had "good Latin hands," whatever that is supposed to mean. And those moments just sort of, they accumulate into, into moments of, into sort of generalized pain. At the same time when I was younger, in particular being Latino was, was weaponized against other teams because, because I was very good and mostly that ended up being pretty funny, because when I was younger, my dad would shout to me from the stands in Spanish. And I can distinctly remember some tournaments where I was playing really well and, you know, it would really psych out the other team and other parents, you know, hearing somebody speak Spanish. And some of them, I guess, with my skin tone. And so rumors would spread that I had been flown up from the Dominican Republic for, for this tournament. And I got a kick out of that, that was pretty fun. And certainly, that wasn't the case when we played in bigger tournaments with teams from Texas or Florida. And then later on I lived in Mexico in my, in my first year of high school, and I was playing for a team down there and again, you know, quite good. And at the end, they, they invited me to come back because I was leaving, they invited me to come back for a Mexican national championship. That is, to fake being Mexican to play for them. And that, that really would have been a first for me. Um, so you know, those are the, a couple of moments I think from baseball that really sort of stand out. And then on the academic side, I think, again this is something that I think many people experience is that academic excellence gets equated to whiteness. But I remember you know, so I went to Yale and I remember when I got into Yale, and in retrospect I think a lot of what I heard was borne out of jealousy from some of my peers in high school. But I remember being told two things. I remember being told first, that my dad had gone to Yale and the only reason I got in was because I was a legacy. And you know that I was from this family that was highly educated, and, and you know, heavy emphasis on sort of whiteness there. And then others told me I got in because I was Latino, you know via affirmative action. And it was such a strange thing to have success explained in those two different ways. It was this sort of clear way in which I couldn't be one person—I couldn't be biracial Carlos who was good at school and good at sports and whatever. I was, you know, on the one hand very privileged and on the other hand, a person of color, benefiting from lack of privilege. And I think it was so startling to sort of feel myself be one person, but viewed as, as something different. Yeah, I think another point and then I'll try to close up here. Another point worth mentioning is that most people don't know a lot about Costa Rica and Costa Ricans don't comprise a big proportion of immigrants in the US and so there weren't sort of Costa Rican restaurants I could go to. I, the number of times, I have been called Mexican or Puerto Rican outnumbers the number of times somebody has remembered that I'm Costa Rican probably ten to one. If anything, people think of beaches and sunshine and surfing and "pura vida," and think, when I say I'm going to see family in Costa Rica they say "that must be so amazing." And it is nice but it is a fundamentally different experience from, I think that beach vacation that people envision in they're sort of, that's not resonating for me. That you know, so there isn't, you know again, it's another way in which there isn't this sort of clear route of here is, you know, here's my Costa Rican peers, here's my identity, and I'm, you know, recognized, sort of, for being who I am. And then I think you asked how I've overcome this, and I don't think that I have, at least not entirely. But over the years I think I've gotten better at being more comfortable asserting that I am all of the things that I am, and I'm never not all of those things. And, and that, I think, to me has come down to people. Finding people that are like me, or appreciate me for who I am and all dimensions of me. And, you know, in college, I joined the Latino Cultural Center at Yale, La Casa, and that was a really nice experience. You know, I joined a backpacking group and that was also really nice. And, you know, just finding people that that encouraged me to succeed and that have similar sort of viewpoints and, and, you know, interests and moral compasses. But, you know, I think there is still a struggle to feel full, you know, feel fully myself and feel like, each part of myself, is enough.

Brian Bienkowski

Yeah, and I don't think you're alone in that. And it's a really good reminder that human beings are incredibly complex. And race is certainly one of these complexities, for you and for a lot of people. But there's also, I remember seeing a mentor of mine, it was around their parents, and I remember thinking, I didn't think of this person as somebody's son. And you know this is somebody's son this is also somebody's father, this is my mentor, this is a—human beings are incredibly complex and we forget about all these different dimensions and it's, it's really, it's a good reminder of that. But I have to ask, I, so I grew up a baseball player. I'm a Tigers fan I'm also oddly a Cubs fan, for reasons that will go unmentioned. But I want to know if you still play and/or what is your favorite team.

Carlos Gould

I don't play as much anymore but I've got, I've got a nephew who's 13 and two nieces who are five and eight. And so when I get to see them I, it's a good opportunity to toss the ball around. But I'm not an in the softball league, but that was something that I did in college and shortly after. And, I didn't really have a strong team, growing up. You know, there's no team, all that close to Indiana. You know, the Reds. So I, for my birthday we would go and see The Reds, but I never really considered myself a Reds fan. And these days, being in the Bay Area, it's awfully divisive between the A's and the Giants. As an East Bay person, I feel closely aligned with the A's, but my, my partner's mother is a very strong Giants fan and so, you know, I'm not sure I'm not sure how on record, we should go with that.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, you're in a great place for baseball. When I think of that area I think of wanting to be Rickey Henderson, when I was a young man, as a leadoff hitter, so very cool. And, and sticking with this theme before we get in, I do want to get into some of the research you're doing now. But what is a defining moment that shaped your identity, a defining moment or event?

Carlos Gould

Yeah. It's also, that's a very good question and a tough one. And there are many and there will continue to be more to come. And I think, I think, truthfully this past year probably has been a very defining moment for my identity. Exposing, you know, just the things that is exposed in our lives and the world. But I think I'll talk a little bit about some earlier things that are similar in really concerning the ways in which my own privileges in the world have been exposed to me very directly, and sort of contributing to the development of a social conscience, which I think is one of the bigger guiding forces in my life. And, you know, some of that comes from my family in Costa Rica. They are comparatively poor, but you know, there isn't a specific experience or moment where they're being poor has defined who I am, but really through a lifetime of experiences and being with them and better understanding their lives and livelihoods, do I feel like I have grown a sort of better appreciation for the world that we all live in. And within the family there have been some remarkably hard and painful moments, involving undocumented status in the United States, acute medical events, and a lack of health care, that really shocked the system, and opened my eyes to the injustices that exist in our world, with respect to wealth, health and political economy. So I think that moments around there. One other moment: I lived in Mexico again in my first year in playing baseball. And I remember, we played on Sundays, and one of our star players wasn't there for one game. And I learned that he, that he had to work. And I think that that was, it was eye opening for me that a kid, my own age 13-14 had to work. That he had to work on a Sunday and that it could get in the way of baseball, something that, you know, in my experience on my elite travel teams in the Midwest, not even adult jobs could get in the way of the game. So you know, I'm not sure that any of these moments, identify as sort of shaped my identity per se but certainly shaped the way in which I view myself mine and my place in the world and sort of guides my motivations to do the things that I do.

Brian Bienkowski

Sure, thank you for that. That would have blown my mind too. I was a dishwasher relatively young, but if it got in the way of baseball, I was not there. So that I, that I definitely relate to that. So you mentioned earlier, your current research looking at burning biomass. So a bulk of it is focused on global energy poverty and indoor air pollution. Can you tell me a little bit about this intersection of these two issues and why that became your focus?

Carlos Gould

Yeah, absolutely. And well, for many they are one and the same. So global energy poverty here, you know generally refers to having a lack of access to clean or modern forms of energy. Generally, gas, electricity, but also alcohol fuels, those that you know, burn cleanly at the source or don't burn at all in the case of electricity. And for many I think this means, you know, lack of electricity, sort of grid electrification. And that certainly remains a major problem in many parts of the world and brings with it tremendous issues. But my focus has been more so on burning firewood, and other polluting fuels like charcoal, agricultural residues, or dung cakes for household cooking and heating needs. And you can imagine sort of a campfire in the middle of your kitchen or the middle of your living room or even your bedroom, and it's going to produce a lot of smoke, and you're going to inhale a lot of smoke. And, you know, that's how you know about one in three of us around the world, meet their daily household energy needs. Mostly in low- and middle-income countries and in poor, rural and marginalized areas of those countries. And that number, you know, about two and a half billion people is going to remain about the same as it has for the last couple decades, absent of, sort of paradigm-changing global investments. And so it's a big problem. And my interest here came, you know, really, from that moment in my sophomore year of college, where my goal was to try to do something in Latin America, and something related to forests. And what I ended up doing is, you know, talking to people in Honduras about where they got their firewood from, to try to better understand whether their firewood collection was causing any environmental degradation, or, you know, sort of, why they chose to do things in the way that they did. And so I walked around with folks I interviewed a lot of folks and I got to better understand, you know, the use of biomass and the continued use of biomass, and what it meant to households, and what really sort of opened my eyes was: One, burning biomass inside a home is very smoky. And you know, I've read about it, but there's a difference between reading about it and doing an interview with tears coming down your face. And that it's really just that people were using firewood because it was what they had to do, that there was no real other option. That gas or electricity wasn't a viable choice, either because of money or because it really didn't exist in the region. And I felt like it really opened my eyes to just how rational the choices are that people are making.

Brian Bienkowski

What's something that people in the US, about, whether it's about air pollution or burning biomass, what's something that most of us don't think about that we should be thinking about.

Carlos Gould

Yeah, I think it's twofold. One is that the problem is gigantic. You know, I mentioned it's two and a half billion people, it's a lot of air pollution. And folks that are burning biomass inside their homes have, you know, somewhere between five and 20 times our typical air pollution exposure. Even upwards, even higher than that. And it leads to a really, really large burden of disease. I think between 3 and 4% of the overall global burden of disease and premature mortality, and in low- and middle-income countries it's around 10%. And this is now sort of today, and that's with large declines, since 1990. So I think the first thing is that the problem is big. And the second thing is that it's rational. You know, that using biomass for cooking producing all of this air pollution exposure is the best or only option that people have. And I think that sort of, we might get this picture of people that are uninformed or focused on that smoky flavor or, or maintaining their tradition, but that really isn't the case I think for 99% of biomass use. And, you know, the fact that there just isn't gas, or that people can't afford enough gas to use. I think the lack of choice and the fact that this is rational, I think is something that is important to sort of hammer home, and to make sure that people sort of appreciate what poverty and marginalization is doing here.

Brian Bienkowski

How much of this can be ascribed to lack of, say, a grid, a centralized grid, providing electricity or providing gas lines to some homes in some of these countries?

Carlos Gould

Yeah, I think, a very large portion of it. You know, electricity is a really great potential cooking fuel and heating fuel. And I think in the future, you know, we will all strive to, you know, be electrifying our households based on renewable energy. But that's probably not going to happen in the in the near future for many. And, you know, the most viable clean burning fuel is liquefied petroleum gas, which you know comes in a 15 kilogram cylinder and might be sort of akin to the thing that you might have in your backyard for a gas grill. And that's great because those cylinders are very robust and you can throw them on the back of a truck or a motorcycle and you can bring them anywhere. And they don't need that grid. So I think that that sort of decentralized option is, is the sort of middle ground, before we get into piped gas. But piped gas will make things much easier.

Brian Bienkowski

So you've taken this research focus to Ecuador now, including a focus on children's health. Why Ecuador, and how does the children's health aspect of your research fit into this.

Carlos Gould

Yeah, great question. And so, over the past decades, there have probably been a billion dollars invested in making clean fuels more available around the world—in India, Congo, Cameroon, Peru, all over the world with the goal of improving health, protecting local environments, and enhancing socio economic development. But these changes take a really, really long time. And so understanding the potential impacts of a clean burning fuel that displaces biomass is not all that well understood and we won't really know for a number of years. So given that, Ecuador, where since the 1970s there have been really big subsidies on gas, which has led to a transition from almost everybody in the 1970s using firewood for cooking to now almost everybody using gas for cooking. We get to see the sort of worked out example of what the world might look like in these countries that are promoting clean fuels now, you know, some 20-30-40 years in the future after everybody has been using gas. After, you know, as people are accustomed to it, as the cylinder circulation models and networks are developed. And so these sort of early investments in making gas, affordable and available, you know, give us really special insights as a sort of case study. And children's health is really a focus because household air pollution, the burning of biomass for household energy needs, it's the leading cause of premature death for children at the age of five, specifically via pneumonia and lower respiratory infections. And so it's, you know, following the burden of disease approach. Household air pollution, like air pollution, affects a number of health outcomes. But I think children in particular, you know there's, those impacts are so severe and so big and so it plays such a big role in poor children's health, that it's hard to ignore them.

Brian Bienkowski

Have you spent some time down there?

Carlos Gould

I have. It's really been great to you know go down there and work with my collaborators in Quito and in other parts of Ecuador. And, you know, we've done a lot of primary data collection so getting to travel around to different parts of the country. Not as much as I would have liked, especially with the pandemic, sort of canceling a couple of trips. But yeah, I really do enjoy the country and that is certainly a nice benefit of my focus on Ecuador is getting to be there.

Brian Bienkowski

So this is perhaps anecdotal, but it seems to me that most media coverage of air pollution, focuses on the outdoor. And I will say that, EHN.org is guilty of this too. We, we often focus on traffic and industry, and I think it's probably a US bias. So when it comes to news on global energy poverty, indoor air pollution, what stories are being told and where and how could the media improve?

Carlos Gould

Yeah, and I think you're right. And I think one thing for me that a colleague and mentor of mine told me at one point is that, you know, air pollution is just air pollution. That when you breathe in polluted air, it doesn't matter where it's taking place. And sometimes it might be useful to, to frame our problems in terms of, in terms of air pollution exposure. But you know, focus on ambient air pollution I think comes, at least in large part from, you know, government regulation of outdoor air, leading to monitoring outdoor air, leading to knowledge about outdoor air. And what happens indoors is comparatively less well known, partly because of the challenges of data collection. But there is a strong relationship between the outdoor air and the indoor air. You know, when you think about building infiltration and things along those lines. But there's also a relationship between what happens indoors and what happens outdoors. And in some parts of the world, in some regions like Northern India, burning biomass for household needs can be the sort of single greatest contributor to outdoor air pollution. And so there really is a major interplay between indoors and outdoors.

When it comes to sort of news on global energy poverty, air pollution exposure, the attendant health impacts—I think one thing that the media can improve on is this focus and sort of point and stance that I and some others have been moving towards, which is that poor people don't require poor solutions. And I think that's a that's a phrase that I think has been used before. But, you know, in, in my field for decades, the focus on making cooking cleaner and improving health focused on saying, you know people are going to be burning biomass let's try to make biomass burning, a little bit cleaner. You know, through a stove that improves combustion efficiency, so that you know that produces less air pollution exposure or events and stokes emissions outdoors. But from, from the mid 2000s to the mid 2010s and before then there was a lot of investment and high profile investment in these, you know, so called improved or advanced biomass burning stoves. But the results have been, or were, disappointing. They weren't taken up very much. They weren't used exclusively, many of them broke in concert with sort of, in, in the actual field minimal efficiency gains. And as a result they, there isn't really solid evidence that any of them improved health. And so the reporting on this in general academic and narrative was pretty down, basically calling these, you know 10s of millions of dollars invested in these things, a failure. And I think one really hard aspect of this is that it felt uncertain who, who failed or what failed. And in some cases I think cooks were blamed, that they were the ones, you know, not using this health saving device that we had provided to them. And that was, that's really hard. And for whatever reason, you know these narratives resulted in disappointment and not with the recognition that they're pointing to a different option, which is this other paradigm called make the clean available, in the words of the late Kirk Smith. And that means we have clean options. I use a gas stove, I have a microwave. I have a toaster oven. You know, in general, those are low emissions options. And, you know, that's the way it is for everybody I know. And if we're going to build housing around here, frankly there really aren't any other options. You know this is, you know, clean burning fuels are the only accepted thing in high income settings. So why are we expecting poor folks to accept something different, accept a poor solution. And, and, you know, these options can, this sort of argument can be made for water and sanitation. That reliably piped water that's been treated is directly delivered to household sanitation facilities offer a safe way to manage waste and privacy and security, you know these are options that we can't really imagine a better option. So why are we expecting that poor people get poor solutions. And it comes down to money. That these modern solutions require major heavy upfront investments, and they may need, you know, consistent and large subsidy subsidies like for cooking gas. But the benefits really could be tremendous, providing, you know dignity for people, and improving health, reducing healthcare costs, improving socio economic standards. And you know, potentially offsetting these large upfront costs over long lifetimes.

Brian Bienkowski

So if we take the media out of this and think about how much power scientists have now to kind of directly reach audiences and other peers—how do you see science communication on this topic or anything you're working on kind of fitting into your broader work moving forward, and what role does social media and social media engagement play?

Carlos Gould

Yeah, definitely something I'm still trying to figure out and something that I'm appreciative is discussed so frequently with Agents of Change. And, you know, in science, communication comes in a bunch of different forums, conferences, academic papers, presentations to colleagues, presentations to government officials, discussions with community members and participants. And I've, you know, done all of those things and I think something that feels very important is that they, they all require different ways of communicating, and they all have their different purposes and you communicate what you need to communicate based on what your purpose is. I think when it comes to science communication, one thing that I really think about which I, it perhaps isn't exactly what you're asking, but I think, is the place where I would like to sort of make sure that I do the most effort is to make science more accessible to the younger generation. I think, for me, for a long time science was this sort of mythical abstract opaque thing that only the most brilliant people in the world who had been struck by a bolt of lightning, to have a brilliant idea, that they were the only people that could do science. I was just some kid from Indiana that didn't really know what they wanted to do, didn't have any special ideas. You know, I never really felt like I could do science, and then all of a sudden like four years into my PhD, I realized I was doing science, and that was pretty cool. And so I think, you know for me what I want to do in science communication, generally speaking, is to make the process of knowledge generation more transparent, to make it more obvious, to talk through how I ended up asking this question, how I decided to design a project, how I worked through the development of data collection procedures. You know, what it means to collect data, you know, these are things that I really didn't know how to do until all of a sudden I was, I was doing it. And it was all sort of very fuzzy and I want to, you know, as much as possible in my research and my teaching, to, to center the people that are doing research and their stories and how their science came to be. And, you know, of course I want to make sure that younger folks know that people that look like me with a name like Carlos can do science. And that's really one of my biggest goals, and it's always a real joy when I get to do that. Yeah, I mean that, that I think is for me one of the most important aspects about science communication. Yeah.

Brian Bienkowski

I totally agree. If someone would have told me, even, even in early college that I could study fisheries, I could study, you know, stream ecology, I would have done that in a heartbeat. I just thought you went to business school, or something, you just ended up in an office somewhere that's what you did. Much the same thinking that you have, and in the way, not to, not to take a dark turn here, but I think about our country right now. And I think, more transparency and more focus on how the science is done, would do a lot of us a lot of good. Because I think what we're seeing is a lot of misunderstanding about what quote unquote science is. I'm thinking mask mandates—"why are you, why are you telling us now?" And science is, as you very well know, is a process of gathering knowledge and then making your best, you know, your best conclusion that you've gathered this knowledge. But the knowledge gathering doesn't stop. So I think more transparency and more understanding of that would just do our country and our worlds such a, such a service.

Carlos Gould

I think so too. And I think, I think it's fun to do science, to think through problems, to work on things and to collect the data and try to figure out what it all means. It's all, you know, this sort of story, and problem solving that happens. And I think, you know, I think younger folks, I hope that they are able to see that and can appreciate it for what it is.

Brian Bienkowski

I always tell young reporters I think journalism plays a role here that, don't just ask about the conclusions, you know, in your case, don't just ask about the children's health data in Ecuador, ask what it looked like. What was it like being down there, what would, what were the homes like, what did the, what did the families tell you? I just think that helps demystify it and, as storytellers on my side of things, we can go a long way to bringing the science to life and not just regurgitating data and conclusions. So I think it kind of, there's a little bit of responsibility on both sides. So Carlos, last question, I usually ask people about the last book they read for fun, but you let me know you've been pursuing some other hobbies and so we're going to do things a little different. Tell me about disc golf. Even though, side note I know a lot about it, because I'm pretty damn good, and your love of crossword puzzles, these are your two hobbies, how did these things come about.

Carlos Gould

Yeah, um, crosswords came about just before I started my PhD. And I think, you know I had a friend that did them I thought, I thought that looked pretty cool. It was again, a sort of thing where I thought he was just incredible for being able to do them because I didn't know anything about crosswords. He, you know, he pulled out the New York Times every morning and he did the crossword in pen and I thought no way. And I started small with the like, mini crossword, but really what happened with the crosswords, is I wrote the subway every day in New York, and, and I had some time to kill, right. I didn't always have the internet, and I didn't love reading, you know, my papers and whatnot on the subway, and so I did the crossword every day. And I got better and better. And it's a lot of fun. And, you know, similar and similar to science. Crossword completing is a learned skill. And I didn't realize that at the time, that it's not just knowledge it's also an understanding of how it works. And so, I think, you know, for the last five years or something I've done the crossword pretty much every day. And it's really a wonderful ritual and, and on the weekends I do it with my, with my partner and whenever we can, with friends. So that's, that's a really wonderful part of my life and, and disc golf. I've been playing for about three years or so. And I, you know, having played sports growing up and being good at sports, I think what I really love about disc golf, in addition to the fact that I get to be outside, and around here the courses are beautiful, and it's something that you know I can, I really have to focus on a lot, and I can get better at it. And the combination of having to focus a lot and, and being able to get better at something really is a winning, a winning thing for me. And it's a lot of fun. I really, I really love it and I try to get my friends and family out there as much as possible.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Yeah, and the difference between at least here, I know the difference between golf and disc golf, there are many, but often you don't have to pay, which is very nice. You know, go out in the woods and enjoy the course. So Carlos, it sounds like if we ever do an Agent's retreat, we need to catch a ball game and throw the disc around.

Carlos Gould

We absolutely do.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, thank you so much for doing this, I've learned a lot and I really enjoyed this and thanks for joining me. Have a great day.

Carlos Gould

Thank you very much.

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