The Sustainability Agenda-logo

The Sustainability Agenda

Science Podcasts

The Sustainability Agenda is a weekly podcast exploring today’s biggest sustainability questions. Leading sustainability thinkers offer their views on the biggest sustainability challenges, share the latest thinking, identify what’s working --and what needs to change -- and think about the future of sustainability.


United Kingdom


The Sustainability Agenda is a weekly podcast exploring today’s biggest sustainability questions. Leading sustainability thinkers offer their views on the biggest sustainability challenges, share the latest thinking, identify what’s working --and what needs to change -- and think about the future of sustainability.






Episode 175: Dr. Samantha Montano: Understanding Emergency Management in the Climate Change Era

In this episode, Dr Samantha Montana, an expert in disaster policy, discusses the U.S.'s approach to emergency management, specifically in the context of climate change. She highlights the complexity of disaster policy, which often necessitates a balance between immediate and long-term action. She explains that the U.S. has traditionally taken a reactive approach to disasters, and is only now shifting to proactive measures, with a heavy emphasis on the role of state governments. Additionally, the guest discusses the complicated relationship between the economy and politics in disaster policy. The discussions also delves into the different approaches to emergency management in other countries and the reasons why these can't always be applied to the U.S., due to significant differences in culture, politics, and the scale of disasters. The interview wraps up with discussions on the political aspects of disaster management, the necessity for a lobbying group in emergency management, and the disproportionate impact of disasters on disadvantaged communities. Dr Montano is an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. She teaches courses on disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation, vulnerable populations in disaster amongst other topics. Her research interests cut across areas of interest to emergency management. She primarily studies nonprofits, volunteerism, and informal aid efforts in disaster. She is a co-founder of Disaster Researchers for Justice and the Center for Climate Adaptation Research. She is the author of Disasterology: Dispatches from The Frontlines of The Climate Crisispublished in 2021 by Park Row.


Episode 174: Interview with Professor Daniel Aldrich on resilience and the importance of social capital in post-disaster recovery, first aired October 2021

In this deep dive on resilience, Professor Daniel Aldrich gives a fascinating overview of different ways of thinking about resilience—focussing in particular on the kind of resilience that allows communities to recover from disasters in a way that brings together resources — and allows the communities to rebuild themselves so they’re not as vulnerable as they were before the shock—so they can collaborate, communicate, and work together in a more effective way. Daniel discusses his research which has identified the critical importance of social bonds as a key factor determining how communities deal with disasters—too often neglected due to an overemphasis on infrastructural resilience. A fascinating interview from October 2021, packed with rich insights and research findings-providing a multidimensional perspective on resilience. Daniel Aldrich is professor of political science and Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program at Northeastern University. A main body of his research focussed on recovery after natural disasters. His most recent book, Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery, highlights how relationships among people in a disaster zone are a critical engine for recovery after a disaster. Daniel has held posts as a Fulbright Research Fellow and an Abe Fellow at Tokyo University and as an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow with USAID. He is a contributor to the New York Times, CNN, The Conversation, and the Asahi Shinbun, among other media.


Episode 173: Interview with Scottish author Martin MacInnes on contemporary literature and the climate crisis

In-depth, frank, and fascinating exploration of contemporary literature's response to current environmental crises, with Scottish writer Martin MacInnes, author of the recently acclaimed novel, In Ascension. Martin believes literature is profoundly implicated in the crises, and that it has a responsibility to challenge certain assumptions regarding the human and the non-human; he shares his interest in exploring how the novel might do this. He suggests literature should not be limited to traditional forms and structures but should explore new ways of storytelling, for example by using non-linear narratives or multiple perspectives to explore environmental themes, creating compelling stories that challenge readers' assumptions and encourages them to think critically about their relationship with the living world. Martin MacInnes is a writer of experimental and science fiction novels. He won the Somerset Maugham Award for his debut novel, Infinite Ground (2016. His second novel, Gathering Evidence, was published in 2020 and earned him a place on the Guardian/British Council’s list of ten writers shaping the UK’s future. His latest novel, In Ascension, which came out recently, is a exploration of some of the deep philosophical questions of our time, delving into the secrets of the ocean and the cosmos, and our relationship with the living world.


Episode 172: Professor Neta Crawford discusses the emissions of the Pentagon -- the world’s largest single greenhouse gas emitter.

In this eye-opening interview, Professor Neta Crawford discusses the research in her new book The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War focussing on the huge carbon footprint of the Pentagon -- the world’s largest single greenhouse gas emitter. She tracks the interconnect long-term cycles of economic growth, and fossil fuel use-and growth of the US military. Crawford believes the most effective way to cut military emissions is to rethink U.S. grand strategy, which would enable the United States to reduce the size and operations of the military.


Episode 171: Interview with Dr Jeffrey Kiehl, climate scientist and Jungian analyst.

In this fascinating interview, first aired April 13th 2021, Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl brings to bear two very different ways of thinking about climate change: the scientific and the psychological—and his journey as an experienced climate scientist to bring these different perspectives together. Jeffrey explains the essential features of a depth psychological perspective, why he believes this is essential today, helping us understand why we have failed to take action on climate change--and the roots of climate denial. Jeffrey identifies the shortcomings of taking a purely rational approach to climate change, why it is important to understand ways of thinking that are not purely rational, that are imagistic—based on a deeper understanding of the unconscious. He also talks about the emerging field of eco-psychology, an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the synthesis of ecology and psychology. Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl is a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the United States, and an adjunct professor at UC Santa Cruz, and he has carried out research on climate change for some 40 years. Jeffrey is also a Jungian analyst and his main interests today are in the areas of eco-psychology, a field that focuses on the synthesis of ecology and psychology and the promotion of sustainability. Jeffrey is the author of the book Facing climate change: an integrative path to the future, which provides a Jungian perspective on climate change.


Episode 170: Interview with renowned climate scientist Will Steffen, first aired in June 2020, on the dangers of “tipping cascades” that could post an existential threat to civilization.

In this fascinating interview, first aired in June 2020, renowned climate scientist Will Steffen discusses Earth System science, and his research on so-called “tipping cascades,” when one tipping point kicks off a series of others, posing a growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes. Will draws parallels between -19 and climate change, in that it’s important to understand science and not just what intervention needs to take place but to plan for the amount of time it takes for it to take effect. A great interview with a pioneering climate researcher who died on January 29th, 2023. Will Steffen had a long history in international global change research, serving from 1998 to 2004 as Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), based in Stockholm, Sweden, and before that as Executive Officer of IGBP’s Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems project. He was the Inaugural Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, from 2008-2012. Prior to that, he was Director of the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society. From 2004 to 2011, Will served as science adviser to the Australian Government Department of Climate Change; from 2011 to 2013 was a Climate Commissioner on the Australian Government’s Climate Commission; Chair of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee, Co-Director of the Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF) initiative and Member of the ACT Climate Change Council. Steffen’s interests spanned a broad range within the fields of sustainability and Earth System science, with an emphasis on the science of climate change, approaches to climate change adaptation in land systems, incorporation of human processes in Earth System modelling and analysis; and the history and future of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature.


Episode 169: Interview with environmental anthropologist Peter Sutoris on new models for schooling and environmental activism.

Peter Sutoris believes that the Anthropocene challenges the very definition of education and, indeed, its key goals. He argues that educators must look outside conventional models and ways of education for inspiration --if education is to live up to its responsibilities at this critical time. In this revealing interview, Peter shares the results of his inspiring research into grassroots environmental activism and education--and provides an array of practical ideas on teaching and community based action for the Anthropocene. Peter Sutoris is an environmental anthropologist, Lecturer in Education at the University of York, and Honorary Senior Research Associate at University College London. His work bridges anthropology with education, development studies and environmental studies -as he explores the cultural and political aspects of the environmental crisis, the limitations of technological solutions to environmental decay, and degrowth. He is the author of two books, most recently, Educating for the Anthropocene: Schooling and Activism in the Face of Slow Violence.


Episode 168: Veteran activist Stephen Corry, former CEO of Survival International, provides a coruscating analysis of the outcome of COP15

In this hard-hitting, no-holds barred interview, Stephen Corry, who has been working as indigenous rights activist for some 50 years, gives his assessment of the outcome of COP15. Stephen brings an on-the-ground, hands-on perspective, and provides an analysis of the key policies and commitments that have been come out of COP15. In particular, Stephen provides a coruscating analysis of the way protected areas have actually been executed, how indigenous peoples have been systematically kicked off their lands—and sees the 30x30 conservation goal –30% of the planet in protected territories, without any humans—as a deeply cynical endeavour…driven by powerful underlying financial motives. Stephen Corry has been working now for more than 50 years in the area of indigenous peoples’ rights. He is the former CEO of Survival International, a London based charity that campaigns for the rights of uncontacted peoples indigenous and tribal peoples, and was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1989.


Episode 167: Interview with Professor Daniela Gabor on funding the transition to a low carbon economy, first aired June 2021

In this fascinating interview, first aired in June 2021, Professor Daniela Gabor discusses the eye-opening sums of money needed to achieve a transition to a low carbon economy – $1 trillion-$2 trillion a year to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, according to some estimates– and how this can be funded. She explores the evolving relationship between the public sector and private finance – a renewed partnership—and how to assure that any new flows of private capital go into genuine green investments, rather than greenwashing. At the heart of this discussion: Daniela’s recent research on investors’ plans to to “escort and derisk” private capital investments in the global south. Daniela Gabor is associate professor in economics at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She holds a PhD in banking and finance from the University of Stirling (2009). Her main interests are in macro-finance, monetary theory and central banking and she has published on central banking in crisis, on the governance of global banks and the IMF, and on shadow banking and repo market. She has a special interest in the way finance is being restructured to deliver on current environmental goals.


Episode 166. Pascoe Sabido from Corporate Europe Observatory reflects on the outcome of COP27

In this hard-hitting interview, Corporate Europe Observatory’s Pascoe Sabido reflects on the outcome of COP27. While celebrating the success of the loss and damage agreement, he worries about the follow through on the Loss and Damage provisions-and the likely ways in which this finance is structured, with the reliance on debt and provide finance. Pascoe is a has spent many years researching the power of the fossil fuel industry—in particular its lobbying within the EU-and he explains in detail how the fossil fuel lobby operates and impacts policy in Europe. A powerful critique of the role of the fossil fuel industry-shot through with optimism -and hope--that change is coming, that people have had enough of our competition market-based economic system…that there is growing momentum for change, for a new economic approach, with more solidarity, and social justice, based on people’s needs. Pascoe Sabido is a Researcher and Campaigner at a Brussels based non-profit research and campaign group whose aim is to "expose any effects of corporate lobbying on EU policy making". Pascoe’s research is focused on exposing the power of the oil and gas industry in the European Union and at the level of the United Nations.


Episode 165 Interview with pioneering American political activist, urban theorist and Marxist environmentalist Mike Davis, first aired in January 2022

In this wide-ranging and hard-hitting interview, first aired in January 2022, pioneering American writer, activist, and Marxist environmentalist, Mike Davis speaks out about the dangers of this moment, politically, which he sees as similar to the late 1930s, and the relentless environmental destruction of the planet, and growing nuclear threats. Disappointed by the loss of momentum for street politics and protests in the US, following the inspiration of Black Lives Matter, Mike worries that protests have become predominantly a franchise of the far right, at a time of existential threats where young people need to take action and speak out. Mike is harshly critical of the way in which Western governments have dealt with Covid, drawing parallels with multilateral approaches to dealing with the climate crisis, particularly the prevailing ideology that finance capitalism is the only force that can save the world environmentally. Mike Davis was a pioneering American writer, political activist, urban theorist, and historian, best known for his seminal analysis of power and social class in his native Southern California. Over many decades, Davis created a powerful body of work investigating a wide range of issues from urban development and globalisation to the impact of extreme weather systems, the growth of slums, pandemics, and the environment—all underpinned by a profound critique of capitalist social relations and a deep concern for the environment and all kinds of injustice. He was a 1996–1997 Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute and received a MacArthur Fellowship Award in 1998. He was the author of some two dozen works of fiction and non-fiction and won the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2007.


Episode 164 Harjeet Singh, head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International on his expectations for COP27

In this timely interview on the eve of COP27, Harjeet Singh shares his expectations for this COP and explains why 'Loss and Damage' compensation is the centrepiece of COP27 -and what he believes needs to happen over the next five days. Harjeet Singh is head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International, a network of over 1500 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 130 countries, working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. Until recently, he has led ActionAid International’s climate change work globally. He is a member of the United Nations’ Technical Expert Group on Comprehensive Risk Management (TEG-CRM) under Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. Harjeet has served as a board member of Climate Action Network International (CAN-I) and the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR). He is Global Engagement Director for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and co-founder of Satat Sampada, a social entreprise that promotes environmental solutions such as organic food and farming.


Episode 163: Interview with David Loy, professor, writer, and Zen teacher of Japanese Zen Buddhism

In this episode, first aired on December 23, 2020 , Zen teacher David Loy shares his thinking about EcoDharma: combining the teachings of Buddhism with ecology . In this fascinating discussion, David explore the ecological implications of Buddhist teachings with insights into how to embody that understanding in the kind of eco-activism that is needed in the world today. David explains that in Buddhism, while there aren’t prescriptive steps or writings from the Buddha on how to solve modern problems, we can follow the spiritual path of Buddhism to deal with our grief over climate change and move past it to feel empowered and grounded, part of the larger community of sentient, living beings. He outlines the Ecosattva Path, a path of liberation and salvation for all beings and the world itself. David Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. He is a prolific author, with his most recent books including Ecodharma, Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis. He has also published in major journals such as Tikkun and Buddhist Magazines, and a variety of scholarly journals. In his lectures and teaching he focuses on comparative philosophy and the encounter between Buddhism and modernity. He is one of the founding members of the new Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center, near Boulder, Colorado.


Episode 162: Groundbreaking nuclear scholar Professor Elaine Scarry shares her views on today’s growing nuclear threats – and discusses how citizens and communities can prepare for emergency situations in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy.

Nuclear scholar and social thinker Professor Elaine Scarry shares her views on today’s growing nuclear threats –the underlying problems with the nuclear architecture and governance, based on her groundbreaking book Thermonuclear Monarchy, lessons on how to deal with our global climate challenges, and discusses key ideasa in her book Thinking in an Emergency, on how citizens and communities can prepare for emergency situations in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy. Elaine Scarry is the Walter M. CaboT Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. She is the author of numerous seminal books including Thermonuclear Monarchy, where 'explores the political consequences of limiting the control of nuclear weapons to a select few, and the authority to launch them to even fewer. Her book Thinking in An Emergency Explores how in the face of governments that augment their authority in emergencies at the expense of democracy, citizens and communities, can prepare for emergency situations in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy.


Episode 161 Interview with Indian Marxist historian Vijay Prashad –looking at today’s environmental problems through a Marxist lens.shad

In this wide-ranging, hard hitting discussion, Vijay Prashad explores the environmental crises we are facing today through a Marxist lens. At the heart of this discussion, Vijay highlights the failings of capitalism, with a particular focus on environmental externalities, and also critiques capitalism’s impact on the development of the global south. Vijay believes a continuing colonial mindset is undermining the commitment to the “common but differentiated responsibilities” embedded in the Rio conference –-- and the subsequent stalling of the Green Climate Fund. Vijay takes inspiration from peoples’ environmental summits such as the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (2010), the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Defence of Life (2015), and the People’s Nature Forum (2020). As an activist, Vijay is inspired by the growing number of movements who are standing up for environmental and human rights –in South Africa, Chile, Columbia, in India—struggles that he hopes can be replicated in other parts of the world. Vijay Prashad is an Indian Marxist historian and commentator. He's an executive director of the Tri Continental Institute for Social Research, the chief editor of Left World Books, and a senior non-resident Fellow at Chongyang, Institute for financial studies in China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations."


Episode 160 Author Ned Beauman talks about his satirical extinction novel, Venemous Lumpsucker

In this interview British novelist, journalist and screenwriter Ned Beauman discusses his latest novel Venomous Lumpsucker-a brilliant, darkly satirical and terrifying novel about endlings (the last of a species), the manipulation of extinction credit markets... the elusive Hermit Kingdom: described by The Times Literary Supplement as “a tale of capitalism, penance and species extinction.” Fascinating, broad ranging discussion on extinction, literary fiction and the climate crisis, environmental satire, and the commodification of nature. Ned Beauman is a British novelist, journalist and screenwriter, the author of five novels; he was selected as one of the Best of Young British Novelists by Granta magazine in 2013. His latest is Venomous Lumpsucker, “a darkly funny and incisive zoological thriller about environmental devastation and one very ugly little fish.”


Episode 159: Deep dive on the destruction of the blue commons, with economist Guy Standing

Eye-opening discussion with Guy Standing on the deteriorating conditions in our oceans… the destruction of fragile ocean ecosystems, marine pollution, habitat destruction and destruction of coastal communities, driven by overfishing, corporate exploitation, lax regulatory enforcement, increasing extraction-- and growing sea commodification. His analysis is a powerful indictment of contemporary oceanic governance—and an impassioned call for new forms of ocean governance centred around the commons. Guy Standing is a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS University of London and a founding member and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), a non-governmental organisation that promotes a basic income for all. He was a programme director in the UN's International Labour Organisation and has advised many international bodies and governments on social and economic policies. Guy has written widely in the areas of labour economics, labour market policy, unemployment, labour market flexibility, structural adjustment policies and social protection. He created the term precariat to describe an emerging class of workers who are harmed by low wages and poor job security as a consequence of globalisation. Guy’s latest book is Blue Commons Transforming the Economy of the Sea.


Episode 158: interview with McKinsey partner Peter Spiller on how to deal with Scope 3 emissions

As questions surrounding Scope 3 emissions are rising on the business agenda, understanding why and how companies need to decarbonize their supply chains has become increasingly important. In this interview, McKinsey’s Peter Spiller shares his perspective on key questions around how to tackle Scope 3 emissions. Peter explains why Scope 3 is so important and highlights some of the key challenges companies face decarbonizing their supply chains. He identifies some of the key success factors dealing with Scope 3 emissions and also identifies major mistakes companies are making. A deep dive on Scope 3 emissions. This is an edited version of an interview with Peter Spiller for the Scope 3 Agenda podcast. Peter Spiller is Partner and Head of the EMEA Sustainability in Operations Practice at McKinsey. Based in the Frankfurt office, Peter primarily advises clients across industries including telecoms, high-tech, automotive, and consumer goods on operations transformation, supply chain, and procurement topics. He co-leads McKinsey's efforts in environmentally-sustainable operations and is a leader of McKinsey’s work in product development and procurement in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Working across geographies, Peter focuses on environmental sustainability as he advises business leaders on ESG strategy, carbon accounting and tracking, supplier sustainability transformations, and supply chain decarbonization.


Episode 157: Interview with American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist John B. Cobb

American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist John B. Cobb talks about his half-century long commitment to the environment, and environmental ethics, his life long work as a theologian and philosopher. He talks about the recent popularity of his ideas in China and why, at 97, he has cofounded the Living Earth Movement to inspire global cooperation for the sake of all life on our planet--with a particular focus on the geopolitical relationship between the United States and China-a topic of burning importance following the diplomatic fallout of Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan--and China's decision to withdraw from vital climate talks. John B. Cobb an American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist and the author of more than fifty books. A key idea at the heart of Cobb's work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. In 1971, he wrote one of the first books in environmental ethics, Is It Too Late? A Theology of Ecology. He is co-founder of the Living Earth Movement whose mission is to inspire global cooperation for the sake of all life on our planet, beginning with the United States and China.


Episode 156: interview with Dasha Karma Ura, President of the Center for Bhutan studies, and Gross National Happiness Research

Deep dive on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as developed in Bhutan. Karma Ura explores the origins of this radically different way to think about a nation’s priorities based on measures of individual and collective happiness and well-being of the population, relationship with the environment--and Buddhist values. Karma Ura talks about the development of GNH in Bhutan and explains how the results of five yearly GNH surveys is incorporated into government policy—and also impacts the success of various Bhutanese environmental policies (Bhutan is the only country to have extended forest coverage over the last century.) Dasha Karma Ura is president of the Center for Bhutan studies and gross national happiness research, he a researcher, scholar, artists and historian. Karma Ura is a key figure in the development of the concept of gross national happiness and Bhutan, formulating the nine domains of gross national happiness and has led various Gross National Happiness surveys. He holds various international roles, including Executive Committee Member of the School of Well-being, Chulalongkorn University, and San Nagarprada Foundation, Thailand, and 2010 Member of the Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives, Global Policy Forum, Germany. He is also a Member of the Chief Economist’s Advisory Panel, World Bank, representing the South Asia Region