On Naturalness with Alan Levinovitz
What is nature, and what isn’t? Is it helpful to make that distinction? If you had asked Alan Levinovitz a few years ago, he would have been skeptical. Today, however, he’ll defend the concept fiercely. As he argues, “largely unexamined and incredibly powerful beliefs [like nature] are dangerous, and they make dialogue difficult.” In this episode, Alex and Alan try to have that difficult dialogue. How do we preserve nature without knowing what it is, exactly, we want to conserve? Why do we...
Ecomodernist Philanthropy with Rachel Pritzker
How can environmental philanthropy have the greatest impact? Rachel Pritzker has spent a lot of time thinking about this question. As founder and president of the Pritzker Innovation Fund, and an ecomodernist thought leader in her own right, Rachel has focused on US innovation policy, advanced nuclear power, and energy for human development in emerging economies. She challenges conventional wisdom to get complete clarity: what, exactly, is the problem, and what are the underlying drivers?...
Taming the Sun with Varun Sivaram
Varun Sivaram is really excited about the potential of solar energy. Every hour, more sunlight hits the Earth in the form of energy than the world uses in a whole year, so the abundance alone is hugely significant. And yet, like others within the energy sector, the solar industry has been slow to invest in innovation: “My dad is in the semiconductor industry,” Varun tells us, “and I've seen how fast they innovate and how much money companies plow back into R&D as a proportion of their...
Carbon wrangling with Julio Friedmann
Julio Friedmann is a carbon wrangler. Wrangling entails three things: keeping carbon emissions from the air and oceans, taking them out of the air and oceans, and creating a circular economy where the carbon is used and restored. This sounds like a futuristic system, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are actually quite mature. Ever drank beer or soda pop? You’re almost certainly drinking CO2 that came from a capture device in a power plant. We’ve known how to wrangle carbon...
Environmentalism's gender problem with Jennifer Bernstein
Many ecofeminists contend that women have a "mystical" connectedness with the earth. But as Jennifer Bernstein argues, this idea conflates women with the biophysical environment, taking women's agency away from their own bodies. In this episode, Jennifer, lecturer at the University of Southern California, tells us about the ways in which environmental discourse is still highly gendered. We talk about the “white guy problem,” naturalizing ideals of the farm, and how cloth-diapering signals...
Straddling environmental divides with Tisha Schuller
Tisha Schuller is an energy and environmental consultant; she used to be the president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. This week she joins us to talk about what it’s like to straddle that divide. In her career, Tisha has learned to move past the tribalism that often dominates environmental politics, and she shares some of her most transformative lessons with us. One of our favorites: “Our job is not to change minds,” she says. “Our job is to create rapport and be out in the world...
Climate innovation and global equality with Jon Symons
Jon Symons joins us to talk about the politics of inequality in climate change innovation. We discuss geoengineering (large-scale climate interventions, like thinning clouds or reflecting sun rays back into space) and the risks and benefits those projects present. We talk about who should be in charge of these initiatives, and why the developing world should be allowed to develop to the extent the rich world did. We end with our favorite question: where do you see progress in the world...
Feedlots with Jenny Splitter
Jenny Splitter joins Alex and Emma to talk about her personal experience visiting a feedlot. She was surprised to find that the conditions at Tiffany Cattle in Herington, Kansas were very different from what she was expecting. In our conversation, we talk about animal welfare, environmental efficiencies, and trends in meat consumption. Jenny also tells us about a values-driven exchange she had with her rabbi on organic farming. It left us thinking about how to have productive discussions...
Wizards and prophets with Charles Mann
Charles Mann is a historian and a journalist, whose books include 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. His most recent work is The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. It’s a book about how humans use science, technology, and policy to confront our impact on the planet and, ultimately, our own survival as a species. In this interview, you’ll learn what...