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Season 2: A Farewell to Normalcy

Episode 31: Tis but a Scratch: the Insanity of Getting the Economy “Back to Normal”

You know you’re in for a bumpy ride when societal institutions start behaving like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In one of the most famous comedic movie scenes of all time, the delusional knight believes he can keep fighting (“It’s just a flesh wound.”) as geysers of blood spurt from his severed limbs. Similarly communities, corporations, and entire nations are clamoring for a return to normal after months of corona-induced quarantines, even though business as usual was already chopping the limbs off of planetary life-support systems and unjustly drawing blood from people in need all over the world. In the season finale of Crazy Town during this upside down year of 2020, it’s only fitting that a return to “normal” actually means a return to “crazy.”


Episode 30: A Time to Speak up, but Also a Time to Shut up: White Privilege and Systemic Racism

We had planned to record and release our season finale this week, but felt compelled to address the unfolding battle over police violence and systemic racism in our country which has come to a boil with the murder of George Floyd. Is there anything crazier than the people in our towns, who are sworn to protect and serve, instead coldly taking the lives of our neighbors? Given this moment in American history marked by outrage, sadness, and massive protest, we discuss the need to address institutional racism and white privilege. This is a short episode, because, although it’s important to speak up, it’s also important for white people to shut up and listen. As is customary in Crazy Town, we consider inequality and racism using the lenses of systems thinking and resilience science.


Episode 29: Mailbag: Dark Humor and Sustainability from Listeners around the World

Heathens, kooks, and fertilizer for corn and bean fields: these are a few of the names applied to your humble hosts here in Crazy Town. We set ourselves up for abuse in this special mailbag episode, and our listeners didn’t disappoint. Despite the occasional (and well deserved) insult, we love our listeners and find them to be some of the most intelligent, caring, and committed people in the world. Learn how they’re changing their lives and improving their communities, all while keeping a good sense of humor.


Episode 28: Breaking the Brady Vase: Coronavirus and Fault Lines in American Politics

Besides lessons in ethics (and in Asher’s case, lessons in the English language), the Brady Bunch offers up a metaphor about the fault lines in American politics — fault lines that include the undermining of government, extreme individualism, race and class divides, and capitalist and corporate excesses. Blood pressures soar, especially when Jason contemplates the Dunning-Kruger effect, but your intrepid hosts release the tension by suggesting some pathways out of political malaise.


Episode 27: Poked by a Porcupine: the Politics of Contraction as We Encounter the Limits to Growth

Before you heap praise on someone’s cooking, even for something as delicious as porcupine pot pie, you might want to consider the effects of ego inflation and the downsides of a hyper-individualistic culture. In this episode Asher, Rob, and Jason wonder if individualism (not to mention all those other “-isms”… capitalism, socialism, communism) is simply the product of a relatively short period of expansionism, and what of our values must be kept or discarded as we enter a new era of contraction and bureaucratic breakdown. While expressing a profound desire to retain the progress humanity has made on numerous fronts (don’t sleep on 21st-century dentistry), they make sure to insult one another just enough for proper ego containment.


Episode 26: Doors and Deck Chairs on the Titanic: Reimagining Lifeboat Ethics in the Age of Overshoot

As we continue heading toward planetary disaster, like the Titanic steaming toward its rendezvous with a big freakin’ iceberg, we might want to figure out how to prepare and manage our lifeboats. In environmentalism’s seedy past, a famous ecologist used the metaphor of lifeboats getting swamped to argue for a “screw the poor and non-whites” strategy to deal with the limits to growth. In search of better ideas and better leadership, Asher, Rob, and Jason discuss how we can reinvent lifeboat ethics and find prosocial ways to manage humanity’s shared crises. Bonus: find out what to do if you should find that the soles of your feet have fallen off.


Episode 25: Koala Butts Ablaze: Growth, Conservation, and Collapse in the Adaptive Cycle

In the disorienting days of corona quarantine, wouldn’t it be dope to have a model that can help you make sense of the world? Enter the adaptive cycle from the field of systems ecology — arguably the most important framework you never heard of. Join Asher, Rob, and Jason as they give a guided tour of the growth, conservation, collapse, and reorganization phases of the cycle, and hash out how it can be applied to the modern world. By the end of the tour, besides having a useful lens for interpreting humanity’s predicament, you’ll be quite confident in assessing which phase is represented by a koala with a flaming fanny.


Episode 24: Banana Town: Where Michael Moore Stokes Controversy over Renewable Energy

Paying attention to the buzz around Planet of the Humans, the new film by Michael Moore, is like standing in the middle of a three-ring circus. In ring #1 are the filmmakers, who raise critical questions about how renewable sources can power industrial society, but do so with questionable facts and mean-spirited attacks. In ring #2 are the left-wing enviros, who are barfing out lazy accusations of ecofascism and doing all they can to avoid addressing the film’s legitimate questions about population and consumption. In ring #3 are the oil-soaked, right-wing libertarians who think this film will help them keep earning and burning their way to the bank at the end of Armageddon Road. Asher, Rob, and Jason grapple with the cacophony, hash out the good and bad of the film and the response to it, and argue for an honest, messy-middle approach to the transition away from fossil fuels.


Episode 23: Mayor McCheese & Modern Medicine: Squandering Energy and Rethinking Technology

Some anthropologists argue that we’re living in an anomalous historical period called High Energy Modernity, which will end sooner than we might like because of declining ‘net energy.’ It’s an era of contradictions in which we’ve acquired unbelievable technology but put it to some of the most frivolous uses. In this episode, Rob, Asher, and Jason ask themselves, “If High Energy Modernity is on the way out, what will we miss most, and what will we be glad to see go?” And they ponder appropriate technology and whether the digging stick is primed for a comeback.


Episode 22: An Ecofascist and a Social Justice Warrior Walk into a Bar: Extremist Politics and Censorship

We’ve seen a frightening rise in recent years of violence and violent rhetoric by so-called ecofascists, who use environmental and resource limits arguments to justify hateful views around immigration and population. But does that mean those of us who are concerned about ecological limits should keep our mouths shut? Rob, Jason, and Asher explore why squelching discussions about limits might actually backfire and fuel ecofascist views instead, while wrestling with some of the skeletons in the environmental movement’s closet. Speaking of skeletons, wait until you hear our “theories” about Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold.


Episode 21: Discounting the Future and Climate Chaos, or… the Story of the Dueling Economists

In the last episode Asher, Rob, and Jason discussed the danger of political denial and delusion limiting how well we respond to the climate crisis. This week we address the risk that another “d”–distraction–will keep us from recognizing the huge threats and opportunities the pandemic presents for our energy future. The lads also take a few minutes to pat themselves on the back (virtually, of course) for how much recent episodes, though recorded before the %@#*$^ virus hit, apply to our new pandemic reality, before exploring some absurdities of social distancing in Quarantine Corner.


Episode 20: Delusion to the Left, Denial to the Right, and the Environmental Reality Caught in the Middle

How much of a stretch is it to compare autoimmune disease to the politics of climate change? Let’s just say your hosts at Crazy Town were able to do it without any need for medical intervention. In this episode, Asher, Rob, and Jason examine how both ends of the political spectrum are getting it wrong and propose how you can start a new conversation. And it doesn’t even have to involve your family disease history! Bonus: if you stay to the very end of the episode, you’ll hear a “solution” to the toilet paper hoarding madness of 2020.


Episode 19: I Can’t Drive 35: the Politics of Rationing and its Potential to Shift the Economy

If you ask a hundred people what they want to do about climate change or other crises in the age of overshoot, approximately zero of them will enthusiastically call for rationing. But is rationing all that bad? If your grocery store is out of toilet paper thanks to pandemic-induced hoarding, maybe not so much. And considering our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, maybe it’s time to up the ante and establish a rationing program for oil and other sources of energy. Drop the hoarding mentality, break out your coupon book, and engage your sense of fairness as Crazy Town explores the rationale behind rationing.


Episode 18: Coronavirus and the Three Bears: the Right-Sized Crisis for a Transition to Sustainability?

First of all, f*ck this virus. We don’t want anyone to experience pain and suffering from coronavirus, but maybe there’s a lesson to learn. In fact, even a simple story like Goldilocks and the Three Bears may have something valuable to teach us. Here at Crazy Town headquarters, we’ve been calling for pretty drastic changes to the economy to make it fair, resilient, and sustainable. But changes don’t materialize just because you want them–usually you need a crisis to get people thinking and acting differently. And when it comes to crisis, size matters: too big (think asteroids and nuclear missiles) and all of civilization is at risk, too small and nothing happens. Is there such a thing as a “just right” Goldilocks crisis? Grab a bowl and spoon and pull up a chair (not too hard and not too soft) as we talk porridge and pandemic. Bonus: join Asher, Rob, and Jason in Quarantine Corner, where you’ll appreciate the lighter side of social distancing.


Episode 17: Our Naked Emperors Catch Coronavirus: How to Think about Collapse with Nafeez Ahmed

Asher goes for a deep dive in his interview with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed about how the novel coronavirus is rippling through the systems that make up modern society. To set the stage, they cover some heady territory, including Thomas Homer-Dixon’s “synchronous failure,” Joseph Tainter’s analysis of collapse and the diminishing marginal returns of complexity, C.S. Holling’s “adaptive cycle,” and Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine.” With these frameworks of systems thinking in mind, they explore how we can make progress toward re-envisioning a prosocial, equitable, and environmentally sound society.


Episode 16: The 10,000-Mile Cod, Insane Global Trade, and the Path to a Resilient Local Economy

What do Scottish cod, rubber duckies, rock phosphate, and shipping containers have in common? They all ride the oceans in really big boats as part of the insanity of today’s global trade. Trade seems like it should be a simple thing. I give you something, you give me something else in return, and we’re both better off. But our capitalism-on-steroids society has converted the simple into a Rube Goldberg machine of criss-crossing cargo ships, vulnerable supply chains, and just-in-time delivery, all so we can save some bucks while exploiting workers and habitats around the world. We’ve gone batshit crazy! Seriously, check out the history of trade in bat guano. With coronavirus prompting a slowdown in global trade, it’s all the more critical to find a different way forward. Thankfully, Asher, Rob, and Jason have a few ideas about how to have fun while building a resilient local economy.


Episode 15: The Long and Shart of Extreme Travel as Climate Chaos Reigns

Coronavirus has put the kibosh on frivolous travel for the moment, but we might want to do some reflecting before returning to business as usual. Prior to the outbreak, you were constantly told to put on your traveling shoes, cue up some good music for a journey (no, not the band Journey), and pack your bags. As long as costs stay down, we can fly to any destination for any purpose. Is your third cousin’s niece performing in a school play in Omaha? Wanna see the Great Barrier Reef before climate change bleaches it into oblivion? Do you feel like crashing the party at an away game where your favorite pro sports team is playing? No problem. Hop aboard a jumbo jet, and, like Dr. Seuss, people cheer, “Oh the places you’ll go!” That’s the story of extreme travel in Crazy Town. But maybe this is the perfect time to start a new conversation about travel and begin aligning our actions with our values.


Episode 14: The Adventures of Bill and Lou: the Obscene Politics of Climate Change and Overshoot

It’s easy to picture a group of social justice and environmental activists gathering in a circle. But these days, instead of holding hands and singing songs, they’re loading weapons and taking aim. Ahhhhh, the carnage! Why are progressives so eager to join a circular firing squad? Maybe this isn’t our best bet for solving climate change and the other wicked problems of the 21st century. Wouldn’t it be smarter to jettison the holier-than-thou act and find ways to collaborate? Asher, Rob, and Jason uncover lessons from the misadventures of an oxen team, a $10 million lawsuit, and an avalanche of emails about thorium, hemp, and overpopulation.