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Season 4: Watershed Moments

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

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)