This past Monday, we welcomed a new member to the Center for Industrial Progress team. His name is Abtin Forouzandeh and his title is VP of Product. The title captures a broad responsibility that he has for improving, growing, and marketing our product lineup, including engaging in extensive conversations with customers to figure out how we can create the most value.
Abtin started his career as a software engineer and then transitioned into using his engineering mindset to design and run business systems. I recruited him away from a high-level role at IBM so that he could help us create systems and products that will bring the human flourishing perspective to millions.
I asked Abtin to introduce himself to our supporters.
My name is Abtin Forouzandeh and, starting this week, I am joining Alex Epstein and Don Watkins at Center for Industrial Progress, focusing on marketing, sales, product management, and growing the organization to help the fossil fuel industry assume the moral high ground it should have earned so long ago.
Until last week, I held a job at a major technology company, in a high visibility role with high probability of career advancement. So why would I join a think tank? There are many reasons, but I want to share with you an experience I’ve never shared with anyone, not out of shame or guilt, but because until this week I didn’t have the words for it.
I first experienced environmentalism in 5th grade. My class raised money, selling candy for months, to attend a week long science camp field trip at the end of the year. I loved science and business even then, and it was the most anticipated event of my life. But by the second day there, I knew something was wrong as we went on endless long hikes in the forest without purpose.
I was told we would make our own paper and I wanted to partake in the miracle of transforming trees into smooth sheets. Instead, we were lectured for an hour about the wastefulness of paper, then were taught to physically recycle it: we put a bit of discarded paper and water into a blender, shredded it, pressed it into a mesh, let it dry, then were praised for the resulting mass of rough glop.
We were taught a song in praise of oak trees: Tan Oak Tan Oak; oh baby, let your xylem flow; Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah; It’s an evergreen; And it’s the best that I’ve seen; So put your hands in the air; And show you really care. It was a fun song to sing, but I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with science.
My 5th grade teacher presented a litany on the evils of plastic. Plastic is made from oil. Plastic kills animals. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Plastic hurts people. Plastics are toxic. Plastic is hard to recycle. He seemed to get more angry as the lecture progressed. He noticed the shoes of one student–they were made with a leather top. I still remember verbatim what he said next: “I hope to God none of you are wearing plastic shoes. Cotton is the best shoe. Leather is bad because it hurts animals. But you should never wear plastic shoes.”
I was wearing plastic shoes. I’d always worn plastic shoes. My immigrant family worked very hard, and I was proud of myself when I found an inexpensive pair at Payless. I felt trapped, I tried to hide my feet, I felt a moment of shame, which morphed into confusion. I loved my teacher, yet he was damning me. But there was lots of plastic around us. Everyone was wearing a rain jacket, wasn’t that made of plastic? Weren’t the soles of everyone’s shoes made of plastic? And wasn’t the candy we sold to make this camp possible wrapped in plastic? I couldn’t figure it out, but I dared not ask.
I had started the camp in the spirit of discovery, expecting to use science to find the truth. I wanted to experience the pride and self-esteem of knowing I could master the world around me. I didn’t know it could be possible to want the opposite.
Where I had expected enlightenment, environmentalism gave me rejection, damnation, and aimlessness. I was betrayed in the name of that which I thought would lift me up, because environmentalism uses science not in the service of making life great, but making man subservient to nature. I didn’t have the knowledge or words to understand the issue then. I do now.
Alex is a philosopher on a mission to promote human flourishing and it is my honor to join and support him. At CIP, I will have the opportunity to reclaim science with a human standard of value and to intellectually arm the creators of our industrialized world.
If you ever have any thoughts or questions to send my way just email me at email@example.com.