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Do No Harm

Episode 57 - "Do No Harm" By now we are used to the idea that every action we take in the world is tracked, but what happens when that all-pervasive panopticon is turned inside each and every one of us? An explosion of personal medical technology, health programs, and terrible data practices have meant that the very records of who we are are being packaged, sold, and stolen. Our health records have become assets used to sell us out - and the dangers are only growing. Can we regain our...


Beneath the Paving Stones, the Beach

Episode 56 - "Beneath the Paving Stones, the Beach" Beneath our paving stones, paved roads, walls, windows, computers, industry, and more, is a collection of hard material no larger than a speck. Sand is the fundamental building block of modern civilization, mined and extracted more than any other natural resource after water, and this fact should give us pause. Where does all this sand come from in the first place? What are the environmental consequences of sand mining? Most importantly,...


What We Can Do

Episode 55 - "What We Can Do" It's a new year and perfect time for reflection, resolutions, and hope for something better. This special episode features both Daniel and David explaining what they work on outside of the show to make the world better (even if just a little bit), why that matters, and different ways that we all can do our part to push things forward towards fixing everything that's broken around us. Chapters A full transcript is available as well as detailed links and...


Golden Age

Episode 54 - "Golden Age: A Pirate's Life" Much maligned by history, they nevertheless hold a special place in culture and our hearts. This week we're discussing all things pirates. What drove these men and women to a life as enemies of all nations? What went on aboard their ships? Is a pirate's life really for us? We answer these question and much more as we look back to the Golden Age of Piracy and what we can learn from the period and how it relates to the piracy ocurring today. (we...


Welfare Titans

Episode 53 - "Welfare Titans" Amazon created competition between cities to land its HQ2 location, along with hefty tax subsidy packages. While this process garnered significant media attention, businesses and municipalities regularly engage in these types of deal making in which the promise of jobs and economic development all ostensibly justify enormous costs at the taxpayer's expense. Amazon alone has received over $1.6bn in economic development packages for it's various warehouses, so...


Killing Fields

Episode 52 - "Killing Fields" Following the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer, just a handful of companies now control over 70% of the world's supply of pesticides and 60% of patented seeds. Consolidations like this speak to an underlying trend in industrial agriculture, and in this episode we stop to consider the role that pesticides play in a system of food production that threatens biodiversity, food security, human health, and the environment on which crops are grown. In addition, we...


Eyes on Me

Episode 51 - "Eyes on Me" Surveillance technology continues to creep into our lives, whether it’s facial tracking in NY kiosks, invasive monitoring in Venezuela, China’s expanding social credit system, or entire cities being designed from the ground up in Egypt to better capture the intimate lives of its residents. These initiatives are driven by desires for profit and power, and justified through campaigns of fear. Technology however is just one facet of any surveillance machine....


Apocalypse Now

Episode 50 - "Apocalypse Now" The IPCC recently released its most dire report yet, warning us of a planet quickly warming to 1.5C, implications for our future, and offering pathways for mitigating the damage. But at the core of these pathways are flawed assumptions, paradoxes, and impossible promises. Why do these failures persist at our highest international institutions, what does this signal about the broader economic and political failings that got us to this dire situation, and how...


The World Might Be Broken

Episode 49 - "The World Might Be Broken" This week we present a short presentation we gave during the Sound Education conference at the Harvard Divinity School. The World Might Be Broken is a summation of some of the topics we cover in this show, the way they are interrelated, and how our approach to solving them will require an awareness of their systemic roots, and specific action. A brief audience discussion follows, as well as our post-conference thoughts. Chapters Detailed links...


Black Ballot Box

Episode 48 - "Black Ballot Box" Of all Western Democracies, the US is ranked last in terms of free and fair elections (52nd worldwide). On top of the political reasons for that, our election systems (voting machines; registration lists; centralized election management systems; reporting sites) are all vulnerable and easy to hack. Audits on these systems rarely ever occur. In a broken system like this, what does political participation mean? The solutions to these problems are right in...



Episode 47 - "painKiller" The final part of our American healthcare series, painKiller brings together everything we've learned the past two weeks and beyond in Ashes Ashes to explore how the opioid crisis was created and how it is perpetuated to fulfill a single ultimate goal: profit. Pharmaceutical companies, the insurance industry, hospitals, doctors, and politicians - all which ostensibly exist to serve the public have instead mostly contributed to our modern day hellscape of pain,...


Pill of Sale

Episode 46 - "Pill of Sale" Drug prices, shortages, and barriers to access are out of control, prompting hospitals to join forces to make their own, and spurring the emergence of inventors hoping to chart a future in which life-saving drugs can be made cheaply at home. To lock in high prices, drugmakers have learned to game the American patent system to extend their monopolies, and block generic alternatives for essential medicines. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have for years...


Bill of Health

Episode 45 - "Bill of Health" American healthcare is taking a toll on America's health. Costs outpace economic growth, medical debt plagues millions, confusing and surprising bills infect further more, insurance premiums and deductibles are out of control, and at the end of the day we're not even receiving better care as a result of all this change. In part one of a three part series, we will hear three personal stories as we try and make sense of where American healthcare went wrong -...


Do Not Disturb

Episode 44 - "Do Not Disturb" The world is waking up to the negative health consequences of noise pollution. The WHO recognizes noise as a health crisis, and the number of places around the world not devastated by human noise is rapidly depleting. But the problems posed by our traffic noise, our airplane noise, and other anthropogenic intrusions go much deeper than the long list of human health effects like stroke, heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems, and increased general...



Episode 43 - "FUBAR" The military exists to engage in seemingly endless war, but the damage doesn't stop during peace time. For decades, the US military (and many others around the world) has been systematically destroying the Earth and the very nations they're sworn to protect. Disregard for the natural world and those that inhabit it has resulted in the US military becoming the largest single polluter in the world, destroying large swaths of land, and poisoning foreigners and Americans...


No Catch

Episode 42 - "No Catch" The peak of our industrial fishing returns has come and gone, despite a myriad of innovations. In fact, these very innovations may be driving food insecurity even deeper. As fish stocks decline, new methods of extraction are trained on ever-dwindling fish populations to prop up an unsustainable system, leaving vulnerable communities all over the world in their destructive wake. Ironic, since the communities we are leaving behind may ultimately hold the secrets to...


Dead Tired

Episode 41 - "Dead Tired" Despite a plethora of health benefits that sleep promotes, and a host of dramatic consequences when we neglect it, the world is rapidly trending towards fewer and fewer restful hours. 40% of Americans are sleep deprived and on average we get 2 hours less sleep than just a few decades ago. What has driven this change? Can we survive the consequences of those decisions? Chapters A full transcript is available as well as detailed links and sources (plus credits and...


Land of the Free

Episode 40 - "Land of the Free" Never have as many people been locked up than right now, here in the United States. The US has more prisoners per capita than anywhere else on the planet and that number continues to climb at a terrifying rate. Once within the prison system, inmates are abused and exploited out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the population. With these crimes against humanity growing ever greater and the impossible to ignore racial disparity continuing to get worse,...


Impact of Growth

Episode 39 - "Impact of Growth" From the ancient philosophers, to modern day scientists, much has been said about the relationship between human population growth and its effects on environmental destruction, famine, and death. Modern policy makers and political leaders have taken inspiration from these debates to craft initiatives aimed at curbing population, but through these efforts a host of human rights abuses have emerged worldwide. With millions of people left in the wake of forced...


Dead Air

Episode 38 - "Dead Air" Despite efforts to develop cleaner technology, air pollution remains quite possible the world's greatest killer. New reports by the WHO put the annual deaths around 7 million, with 90% of the global population breathing dangerous air. Air pollution itself is an amalgam of particles with different sizes and chemical properties, and so the health impacts of polluted air are complex and encompass a diversity of chronic illnesses, cognitive dysfunction, infectious...