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What on Earth is Going on?

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...with Creativity and Digital Entrepreneurship (Ep. 33)

People don't just get their news, entertainment and friend fixes from social media. In the digital age, there are whole universes in which to learn, shop, explore, broadcast, develop tastes and be creative -- to influence and be influenced. There is enormous space not just for individuals and enterprises to grow, but for whole new forms of business. What's happening in this brave new world? Ben has a fun, unplifting chat with Kingston-based influencer and serial entrepreneur, Claire...


...with Oil and World Politics (Ep. 32)

Whether it's energy for electricity, gas for cars or ships or militaries, fuel for heating, or plastics pretty much everywhere -- petroleum is the key ingredient for modern society. The politics of oil and gas influence any government or business, yet the headlines only tell part of the story. What's really going on? Joining Ben is John Foster, an energy economist who spent 40 years with organizations like the World Bank. His new book, Oil and World Politics, attempts to unmask the real...


...with Fairness for First Nations (Ep. 31)

In Canada, a sophisticated and prosperous first world country, there are whole communities living in third world conditions. Many First Nations people don't have adequate access to good health care, proper education, clean drinking water, and other government services. Thanks to strident advocacy, laws are in place to stop such unfairness. But the reality is still a slap in the face. What needs to be done? Ben is in Ottawa to chat with Andrea Auger of the First Nations Child & Family Caring...


...with Economic Inequality (Ep. 30)

You've heard the statistics. Income inequality in the west is at its highest level in half a century. The three richest people are worth more than the poorest 48 countries in the world, combined. The top 1% of the world's population own 47% of the world's wealth. It goes on, and it is getting worse. But what are the forces underneath these changes? What was done the last time inequality was so bad? What can be done today? Ben chats with the highly-regarded economist, Miles Corak, about all...


...with Public Art (Ep. 29)

Public art can make cities beautiful, inviting, inspiring and thought-provoking. It can bind communities together not just in what the art communicates, but in how it is made. Public art can even be controversial because of its content and the fact that government commonly foots the bill. However, what is art if it isn't subversive, even dangerous? Ben is in Toronto to chat with Calgary actor, writer and public artist Dawn van de Schoot about the meaning, purpose and future of art in the...


...with the Erosion of Empathy (Ep. 28)

In his acclaimed thriller, Butcher, Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon asks, how do we punish the unpunishable? How can there be true justice when everyone has their own take on what justice is and how it should be served? How can live theatre as an art form successfully pose such questions in our accelerating digital age? And above all, how does empathy fit into all of this? Ben sits down with Nic to discuss his play, the power of theatre, and the crucial role of empathy in our lives and...


...with Wheelchair Fencing & the 'Appeal' (Ep. 27)

Disability can change everything, and many of us have a hard time understanding what it means for a curb to be too high, or an electrical socket too low. For Rossana Pasquino, who has spent most of her life in a wheelchair, disability has presented some steep challenges, but it has also opened up some unexpected opportunities. She is not only a respected chemical engineer from Naples in Italy, but a Paralympic wheelchair fencer -- a sport that requires intense focus, intelligence, physical...


...with Racism (Ep. 26)

Complete show notes are below the description. Racism has been a sad part of the human story for a long time. After slavery was finally abolished in the United States in 1865, it took a hundred years for governments to make formal legal equality real -- and still, social segregation, ethnic discrimination and systemic prejudice continue today. It might even be getting worse. What is racism all about in our age of rising white nationalism and the re-emergence of identity politics, and what...


...with Water (Ep. 25)

Water is foundational to human life. Many of us live in places where it is clean, cheap and flows freely from the tap, and where it can be taken for granted. But a billion people go without adequate access to clean drinking water, and due to the enormous increase in the demand for water from agriculture and industry, by 2040 most countries will not be able to meet their basic water needs. And water is a finite resource that exists in an ever-moving ecosystem. What we pour down the sink or...


...according to "The Knowledge Illusion" (Ep. 24)

“How is it possible that people can simultaneously bowl us over with their ingenuity and disappoint us with their ignorance? How have we mastered so much despite how limited our understanding often is? These are the questions we will try to answer in this book.” The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone was written in 2017 by cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. Ben chats with Sean Fenlon to find out what on earth is going on according to their provocative and...


...with the Decline of American Soft Power (Ep. 23)

We all know hard power: tanks, planes, guns, even cyberwarfare units. But since the end of the Second World War, the normal method for a country to achieve its goals has been through openness, dialogue and mutual agreement. War, and the threat of war, has taken a backseat to what Joseph Nye defined as "soft power": the ability to get the other side to want to do what you want. Is this starting to shift? Are we being forced to embrace Donald Trump's harder, zero-sum approach to global...


...with City Planning and Design (Ep. 22)

Cities are the principal engines of growth and innovation, not just in the west but all over the world. Crowded and sprawling, manic and beautiful, these gravity wells for the human experience constitute our future. But what is the future of the city? Whether it's rising inequality, affordable housing, or the intensifying mashup of language and culture, how do cities adapt and renew? Ben is in Toronto, a city that faces intense pressures and where such conversations are at the forefront, to...


...with the Movies (Ep. 21)

The #MeToo movement struck hard and fast in the film industry, capturing international attention for much more than a few news cycles. It exposed some of the men who abuse their power, and highlighted what women have dealt with for decades. But is it enough to truly change an image-based industry? What are the deeper forces at play? Are we changing the way we watch movies in the face of technological as well as social disruption? What on earth is going on with the movies? Ben chats with...


...with Social Change (Ep. 20)

Institutions and norms, both written and unwritten, underpin our rule-of-law, human rights-respecting democracies. Some of these have evolved to serve a dynamic and diverse society. Others have withstanded centuries of disruption and change. But it seems that many of them are now under threat in an era of flux and populism. What are the deeper forces at play, and what's beneath the constant churn of consumer partisanship and identity politics? Ben is in Toronto to speak with Dr. Miriam...


...according to "Mindset" (Ep. 19)

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This...


...with Women in Leadership (Ep. 18)

Glass ceilings are being shattered everywhere. Women now shape the world in every field and discipline. The archetype of leadership is less and less the old white male. But big problems remain, whether it's big picture pay equity or the guy you know who mansplains in budget meetings. What are the next steps? Ben has a powerful, insightful and surprising chat with Laurie VandeSchoot, a senior public servant at the City of Calgary. About the Guest As Deputy Chief of Department Review,...


...with Classical Music (Ep. 17)

Gustav Mahler once said that a symphony must be like the world, in that it must contain everything. But when it comes to classical music, is that 'container' (think of the pageantry, the dressing up, the protocols of when to clap or cough) getting in the way? Ben sits down with the young, ambitious and innovative Music Director of the Kingston Symphony, Evan Mitchell, for a conversation about the meaning and power of music, the responsibility of those who make it, and the onus on us in the...


...with Education (Ep. 16)

Is education the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for the ills and ailments of our society, even if it takes generations to have a real impact? What's the history of education and where might we be headed? What are the forces that compete to shape our schools, our students and our minds? Ben chats with Ted Christou, a teacher, historian and educator of educators at Queen's University. About the Guest Dr. Christou is an Associate Professor in the Curriculum Studies and...


...according to "The Retreat of Western Liberalism" (Ep. 15)

"Since the turn of the millennium, and particularly over the last decade, no fewer than twenty-five democracies have failed around the world, three of them in Europe (Russia, Turkey and Hungary)... Can the West regain its optimism? If the answer is no – and most of the portents are skewing the wrong way – liberal democracy will follow. If the next few years resemble the last, it is questionable whether Western democracy can take the strain. People have lost faith that their systems can...


...with Terrorism (Ep. 14)

On July 22 a lone gunman opened fire on pedestrians and crowded restaurants on Danforth Avenue in the Greektown District of Toronto. He killed two and wounded ten others before turning the gun on himself. Three months earlier, just a subway ride away, a man drove a rental van onto busy sidewalks, killing ten and injuring 16. What is driving people, particularly young men, to throw away their lives and those of others? Were these incidents of terrorism or just mad acts of violence? What's the...