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Season 4: Watershed Moments

Bonus: An Inconvenient Apocalypse with Bob Jensen

Bob Jensen has written a book with Wes Jackson titled An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity. With a title like that, Jason and Bob have lots of heavy ground to cover, including overshoot, the limits to growth, and the cascading environmental and social crises of our times. They conclude that there are no easy answers or silver-bullet solutions, but by focusing on sustainable size of the human population, appropriate scale of social organization, optimal scope of human competence for managing high-energy modernity, and required speed of taking action to avoid catastrophe, they home in on some strategic responses to the crises.

Bonus: Human Rights and Multispecies Justice with Danielle Celermajer

Asher is joined in Crazy Town by Danielle Celermajer, author and professor at University of Sydney, for a far-ranging conversation about human rights and the more-than-human world. Dany shares how her personal relationship with the Shoah (Holocaust) set her on a path of human rights work and impacted her experience of the devastating Black Summer Fires that swept through Australia in 2019-2020. They discuss her journey towards scholarship and activism for the more-than-human world, the intersection of human rights and multispecies justice, and the way that individuals and groups of people have stepped up to care for the billions of non-human lives impacted by the fires and floods that have ravaged Australia in recent years. Finally, Dany shares ideas for how listeners can (re)connect with the more-than-human world.

Bonus: A Climate Scientist Goes to Jail with Peter Kalmus

Climate scientist and activist Peter Kalmus returns to Crazy Town, but this time with a green badge of courage. Earlier this year, he locked himself to the entrance of the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles to protest their ongoing investment in the fossil fuel industry. As you would expect, he was arrested for his troubles. It was an experience he describes (paradoxically) as “scary as f**k,” but also opening and wonderful. In this wide-ranging interview, Rob and Peter cover civil disobedience, climate denial, activism, ego management, and coping strategies for anxiety about climate disaster and collapse. It makes you wonder why we can’t arrest the executives at JP Morgan Chase, ExxonMobil, and all the other truly radical corporations that appear to be on an ecocidal mission from hell!

Bonus: Tech Bros on Acid with Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff revisits Crazy Town, where he and Asher discuss why so many billionaires, academic institutions, and “serious” people are drawn to longtermism – the view that our top priority should be ensuring that humanity can spread its wings throughout the physical and virtual universe. What’s the suffering of a few billion people in the here and now, when there’s quadrillions, no quintillions, of potential future people to worry about? Sure, the climate crisis is bad. But is it really an existential threat? Douglas explains why, when you take a tech bro to drink Ayahuasca in the Amazon, he still comes back a tech bro. And why, when you hear buzzwords like longtermism, effective altruism, and transhumanism, all you need to ask is: Does it perpetuate capitalism? Asher and Douglas riff on why longtermism is denialism – denial of death, denial of the body, and denial of responsibility – and why the antithesis is living in the here and now, with our neighbors.

Bonus: Angry Birds and Hairbrained Humans with Mary Roach

In her latest book Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, Mary Roach approaches the topic of human-wildlife conflict with entertaining stories, scientific insight, and a healthy dose of wit and humor. There are plenty of animal stories in this episode, from marauding mountain lions to bothersome bears, from macaques who are jerks to gulls who are dicks, and of course that most meddlesome of all species – the human being. The phrase “going out clubbing” takes on a decidedly macabre meaning when the context is U.S. military attempts to control albatrosses living their lives near an air base. And find out if a scenario seemingly cribbed from an unaired Breaking Bad script portends the collapse of civilization. Hiding amidst all the stories and fun are big implications for ecosystems, biodiversity conservation, and human society.

Bonus: Boys and Oil with Taylor Brorby

Taylor Brorby has written one hell of a memoir. It covers many critical topics that come up in Crazy Town, from fracking to civil disobedience to that most inept of policies: aiming for infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Taylor shares both thought-provoking ideas (e.g., the intimidating width of prairies versus the intimidating height of mountains) and lessons learned from growing up gay within the construct of an extractive economy. Two “bonus” topics in this episode: writing and wrestling! But don’t worry, the “Macho Man” Randy Savage impersonations remain mercifully brief.

Bonus: The Stench of Neoliberalism with Noam Chomsky

As a follow-up to Episode 61 of the Crazy Town podcast, Noam Chomsky, the well-known linguist, author, and social critic, joins Asher Miller in Crazy Town to discuss the failures and dominance of neoliberalism — which Chomsky describes as “class war” — since delivery of the Powell Memo 50 years ago. Chomsky responds to George Monbiot’s critique of the political center and left for not, in Monbiot’s view, developing viable alternatives to neoliberalism. Disagreeing with Monbiot’s (and admittedly Post Carbon Institute’s own) views about the limits of Keynesian “green growth” economic policies, Chomsky discusses proposals developed by places like the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) that he believes would meet the needs of the poor and working classes while tackling the climate crisis. Noam’s emphasis on community power, going back to his childhood experiences, strongly resonates with “Do the Opposite” themes explored in Season 4 of Crazy Town.

Episode 63: Skyrocketing Population and Carbon Dioxide: Watershed Moments Wrap-up

The astute listener will recognize the trends in population and greenhouse gas emissions over the course of our chronologically arranged episodes on watershed moments in history. Describing these trends in one word: growth. In two words: massive growth! And in three words: What the WTF? In recapping the season and considering what we learned, we hit on some common themes in Crazy Town: cognitive bias, energy literacy (really, illiteracy), human supremacy, disconnection from nature, and misplaced faith in technology. But we also share some uncommon themes: a prom night that should be featured in a Stephen King novel, a tale of boy meets spider monkey, and finding history in one’s own backyard. Plus we’ve got some takeaway lessons, like this gem: the more money you lose and the more exhausted you are at the end of the day, the more you know you’re winning.

Episode 62: Buying and Dying: How Online Shopping Grew from a Small Weed Deal into a Global Environmental and Societal Disaster

Talk about cascading consequences: when a few nerds wanted to get high and orchestrated a small exchange of cannabis, they kicked off the age of ecommerce. Now that online shopping and the technology supporting it have ramped up commercialization and supercharged consumerism, we’re facing existential crises. Exactly what nefarious internet innovation might lead Jason to unbox a trebuchet? Why would Asher consider having an Amazon truck deliver his kid to school? What’s the most efficient way for Rob to get his plastic packaging to the ocean so it can choke the most marine mammals? Get online, order a must-have product (perhaps that pair of fentanyl-laced blue jeans you’ve been eyeing), and take part in the end times of capitalism. Or consider canceling that Amazon Prime account, shutting off the computer for a spell, and getting busy prioritizing community over consumption.

Episode 61: Greed over Need: Why Neoliberalism Sucks and How It Sabotages Community

Free trade, private property, and limited government – these policies might seem well-intentioned and even benign. But when a couple of colluding, power-tripping, wealthy blockheads packaged them into a political system that would become known as neoliberalism, it was like putting capitalist exploitation on steroids. Pollution and other environmental problems? Just a minor cost of doing business. Inequality and lack of opportunities for workers? Just wait for all the surplus to trickle down from the upper crust. Concerned about government overreach? Just hand over operations to Halliburton, Philip Morris, and all the other “trustworthy” corporations. Sheesh! It’s time for something entirely different to replace neoliberalism – maybe “paleoprogressivism?” Calling all wordsmiths!

Episode 60: Chillin’ and Killin’: How Air Conditioning Has Altered Human Behavior and the Environment

For such tame technology, air conditioning really packs a punch when it comes to enabling environmental obscenities, indefensible infrastructure, and shortsighted settlement patterns. In the story of how A/C came to underpin human overshoot, you couldn’t make up a better bad guy. Perhaps the most Batmanesque villain we’ve encountered would make a good candidate for mayor of Crazy Town (teaser: he’s been called “the scientist who almost destroyed the planet”). Join Asher, Rob, and Jason as they turn up the heat on air conditioning and contemplate how to stay cool in the days of heat waves, heat domes, and global heating.

Episode 59: Throwing Superman through a Cigarette Truck: The Insidious Manipulation of Advertising

Are shameless product placements keeping you from enjoying your movie-viewing experience? Have you ever felt assaulted by pop-up ads and sidebars while trying to read something on the internet? These are some of the less insidious advertising techniques deployed to manipulate you into buying stuff you never knew you needed. Take a tour through the history of advertising, and explore the escalation of mind games and marketing mania that has fueled consumerism and the capitalist conflagration, leaving us on the brink of a climate meltdown. But not to worry, we’ve seen plenty of ads for products to ease your anxiety about the environment or any existential threat you might encounter.

Episode 58: Highway to Hell: How Road Infrastructure Traps Us in an Unsustainable Nightmare

Don’t you wish we could power daily life on road rage, frustration, and righteous indignation? If that were possible, the U.S. highway system would be the best investment of all time. As it stands, the unintended consequences (e.g., pollution, habitat fragmentation, discrimination, town wrecking, dependency on unsustainable infrastructure, and the uglification of America) reveal how badly highways miss the mark. What a stupendous misallocation of resources! Fortunately we have some ideas about how to get from point A to point B and provision ourselves without relying on 18-wheelers and endless miles of asphalt. So get your motor runnin’ and head out on the highway for an adventure in transforming the transportation system.

Episode 57: Hippos in the Bayou: Human Hubris and the Ecological Mayhem of Introduced Species

What kind of thinking leads to the unleashing of exotic species on unsuspecting ecosystems? Hint: it’s certainly not systems thinking or critical thinking – in fact, thinking may not be involved at all! Learn about three charter members of the Weirdo Hall of Fame who wanted you to eat tasty McHippo bacon burgers for breakfast. Influenced by the illusion of control and brainwashed by the industrial mindset, people have recklessly released plants and animals into environments where they cause colossal carnage. Perhaps you should think twice (first time in systems, second time critically) before accepting membership into the Society for the Acclimatization of Animals, Birds, Fishes, Insects and Vegetables.

Episode 56: The Stopwatch of Doom: How the Cult of Productivity Torpedoes Sustainability and Equity

Welcome to the dehumanizing world of scientific management, where business gurus and middle managers view workers as resources, and where a cult-like devotion to productivity has invaded almost all facets of daily life. From fairy tales about strapping steel workers who put CrossFit champions to shame, to the plight of Amazon warehouse workers who can’t even get a bathroom break, we’ve got stories that expose the dark side of the efficiency fetish. Grab your stopwatch and a pee bottle so you can listen to this episode as efficiently as possible!

Episode 55: It’s the End of the World’s Fair as We Know It: Why Technology Won’t Save Us

Back in the day, the World’s Fair was a global showcase of innovation and a peerless cultural event where visitors envisioned a neon future filled with technological wonders. These international expos featured miracle inventions and opportunities to explore new ideas, but also on display were useless gizmos, silly stunts (who’s ready for a game of topless donkey ping pong?), and some of the most unattractive towers people have ever built. Worse yet, a dismal thread of racism runs through the history of fairs, and in recent times, faux sustainability has become a recurring theme. Explore the diminishing marginal returns of both World’s Fairs and technology in general, and consider what’s next as dreams of a high-tech utopia go the way of the animatronic dinosaurs.

Episode 54: Colonizing the Sky: The Untold Environmental Toll of Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers have sprouted like mushrooms in our urban landscapes. But in an environmentally depleted, energy-pinched era, we need to take a closer look at the downsides of movin’ on up to the sky. We especially need to pay attention to embodied energy and all the features required to keep skyscrapers standing: uninterrupted supplies of electricity, reliable water treatment systems, functional waste removal, and mechanized transport. It’s time to question the quixotic quest to build ever higher, consider alternatives for sustainable landscapes, and take precautions to prevent tragic instances of accidental self defenestration.

Episode 53: The Bright Side Through Rose-Tinted Glasses: How Positive Thinking Undermines Sustainability

Welcome to the seductive, but regrettable world of unquestioned positive thinking, where faith healers, BS slingers, pseudoscientists, and get-rich-quick schemers all peddle the same basic message: think positively, and it’ll all work out. The problem: there’s no room for critical thinking and no call to do the hard work of finding real responses to climate change, injustice, biodiversity loss, and planetary overshoot. Sure, a rosy outlook can be useful in some situations, but it’s no way to address our collective sustainability crisis. On the plus side, some of the gurus out there say some really funny stuff.

Episode 52: Lord of the Swans: The Tragedy of the Enclosure of the Commons

The “tragedy of the commons” is an idea that has so thoroughly seeped into culture and law that it seems normal for people and corporations to own land, water, and even whole ecosystems. But there’s a BIG problem: the “tragedy” part of it has been debunked – it really should be the triumph of the commons. Learn the origin story of privatization and explore the true meaning of commons and how to manage them for sustainability and equity. Also check out our suggestions for championing the commons (beyond Robin Hood’s strategy of stabbing the aristocracy).

Bonus: The Legal Legacy of Colonization with Sherri Mitchell

Indigenous rights lawyer, leader, and author Sherri Mitchell describes how the Christian Doctrines of Discovery made their way from 15th-century European religious leaders into the U.S. legal system. She elaborates on how the U.S. government justified centuries of colonization and dispossession of Indigenous lands, with implications for social justice and environmental health. And Sherri offers important ideas for decolonizing the mind and healing the gaping wound that runs right through the middle of the U.S.

Episode 51: A Load of Papal Bull: Greenlighting Colonization and the Mindset of Extraction

In 1493 the most corrupt (and orgy-throwing) pope of all time gave the nod of approval for wealth-seeking Europeans to trample the rest of the world. As seafaring colonizers divvied up the world and justified their actions using the Doctrine of Discovery, the era of land-grabbing imperialism led to outrageous exploitation of Indigenous peoples and ecosystems. Learn why the main ingredients in the recipe for souffle in Noumea are colonization, extraction, and globalization.

Episode 50: Injustice for All: The Invention of Racism to Justify a Putrid Power Hierarchy

When greedy power-trippers perpetrate unspeakable acts of exploitation, they often rationalize their loathsome acts after the fact. Such is the case with the Atlantic slave trade. European kidnappers of African people used racism to justify slavery and enforce a shameful system of forced labor and a disgraceful social hierarchy. Learn how the ideas of 15th-century Europe have reverberated through the centuries and catch up on some of the hopeful antiracist things happening to overcome the tragic legacies of racism and slavery. Special guest appearances by Lord and Lady Douchebag and the Six Million Dollar Man.

Bonus: Patriarchy and the Cultural Roots of the Climate Crisis with Amy Westervelt

Investigative journalist and podcaster Amy Westervelt talks with Asher about the cultural roots of the climate crisis. Their wide-ranging conversation covers many stop-and-make-you-think ideas about sustainability, racial and gender equality, economic systems, the social contract, and philosophy over a long sweep of history. Stick around for the conclusion in which Amy considers the mismatch between the need for immediate action on climate change versus the slower-moving cultural and behavioral shifts that can propel such change.

Episode 49: A Day at the Zoo Is No Walk in the Park: Humanity’s Overexploitation of Animals and Nature

Michael Jackson had a private zoo with elephants, lions, tigers, orangutans, and more. Michael Vick bankrolled and organized a dog fighting ring. But you don’t have to be named “Michael” to have an exploitative relationship with animals. Going back thousands of years, humans have exhibited a sordid history of abusing animals (and by extension, nature and the environment) often just for the purpose of showing off. The types and depths of exploitation have changed over time, and now we’re at a crossroads where we need to learn how to be part of the ecosystem, rather than trying to dominate it. Join Asher, Rob, and Jason as they sort through some terrible human behavior, suggest encouraging ways to change our views and habits regarding our fellow Earthlings, and try to figure out what the hell “estimativa” is (hint: it’s not a new wonder drug or a strain of cannabis). Warning: animal cruelty is discussed at length.

Episode 48: The Taming of the Slough: Humanity’s History of Trying to Control Water

People have a long history of trying to control water, like when the Roman emperor Plumpus Crackus built the Cloaca Maxima (only one of those names is made up) to transfer sewage into the Tiber River. From irrigating fields to building canals to damming waterways to bringing water into our buildings, we’ve engineered more and more complex ways to tame water. And in so doing, we’ve changed the environment, both aquatic and terrestrial, and we’ve changed the course of human history. What we do with water matters even more in the era of global warming. Can we learn to treat this most precious of resources in a way that achieves sustainability? Beware of severe pun overshoot in this episode.

Bonus Episodes

Human Rights and Multispecies Justice with Danielle Celermajer (Season 4 – December 14, 2022)

A Climate Scientist Goes to Jail with Peter Kalmus (Season 4 – November 9, 2022)

Tech Bros on Acid with Douglas Rushkoff (Season 4 – November 2, 2022)

Angry Birds and Hairbrained Humans with Mary Roach (Season 4 – October 12, 2022)

Boys and Oil with Taylor Brorby (Season 4 – September 14, 2022)

The Stench of Neoliberalism with Noam Chomsky (Season 4 – August 10, 2022)

The Legal Legacy of Colonization with Sherri Mitchell (Season 4 – April 13, 2022)

Patriarchy and the Cultural Roots of the Climate Crisis with Amy Westervelt (Season 4 – March 23, 2022)

Climate Sabotage with Tim DeChristopher (Season 3 – February 24, 2022)

Stop Saving the Planet with Jenny Price (Season 3 – January 26, 2022)

Holiday Guide for the Perplexed (Season 3 – December 15, 2021)

It’s All Paradox with Douglas Rushkoff (Season 3 – November 24, 2021)

Oceans of Knowledge with Sylvia Earle (Season 3 – October 27, 2021)

What Could Possibly Go Right with Vicki Robin (Season 3 – September 29, 2021)

Galactic-Scale Energy with Tom Murphy (Season 3 – August 25, 2021)

Climate Craziness with Peter Kalmus (Season 3 – July 28, 2021)

Green Dreamer with Jason Bradford (Season 2 – September 14, 2020)

The Practical Stoic with Richard Heinberg (Season 2 – August 10, 2020)

Decolonizing the Mind with Sherri Mitchell (Season 2 – July 13, 2020)