Standing Rock, Part Two

In the second installment of our conversation on Standing Rock we hear about what it’s really like to be on the ground in the camp. First, correspondent Leana Hosea speaks with water protectors at the camp who discuss police presence on the ground and morale as they continue to defend their land. We also listen to some live music from the site. Then, School of Social Work Students Anna Lemler and Maria Ibarra join hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Malavika Sahai to discuss their experience visiting the Standing Rock camp. They delve into some of the politics of colonization, the negative impact some white activists have had on the camp, and talk about the role that non-Native demonstrators have in the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle. Anna and Maria recently visited the camp and donated supplies collected from University of Michigan students and had firsthand experience working on projects following indigenous leadership on-site. These are some personal accounts you won’t want to miss!

COP 22 In Marrakech

Tune in for an update and discussion from the first week of the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech, Morocco. Graduate students Ember McCoy and Ed Waisanen from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan join hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin to discuss their perceptions and experiences on the ground at COP 22 in Marrakech. Hear how the representatives from around the world reacted to the news about the surprising presidential election. But this isn’t all doom and gloom. We delve into Ed and Ember‘s experiences as well as clips from a few interviews they conducted and find reasons to be optimistic for the future of the environmental movement and for the fight against climate change. The discussion moves between the happenings at COP 22, the election, climate finance, international relations and even a few bad puns. You sure don’t want to miss this one!


From left to right: Ed, Ember, Cameron (our wizard of a producer), Malavika, and Chris

Standing Rock- Part One

In the first of our three-part series on the Standing Rock protests we invited two Native American activists and graduate students from the University of Michigan, John Petoskey, JD candidate and Katherine Crocker, PhD candidate to join hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin to have a discussion on the evolution of the protest and its place in the larger scope of indigenous rights. Listen and learn about the injustices caused by the Dakota Access Pipeline but also about the threats posed closer to home by Line 5, an oil pipeline that cuts through the Straits of Mackinac. This show explores the legal framework behind Native American protests as well as a fascinating discussion on the responsibility of STEM academics to engage in political and ethical activism. Tune in also for the fantastic music from Native American artists such as Ojibwe rapper Thomas X, Ojibwe / Anishinaabe & Xicano emcee Sacramento Knoxx, and Cree rapper Drezus among others. We hope you enjoy the show and tune in later this month as we put out parts two and three.



A More Eco-concious Europe

On today’s episode of It’s Hot In Here, Rebecca is joined in the studio by Ajay Varadharajan, a graduate of UM’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, now founder and CEO of Green Insights in Amsterdam.  Ajay and his company are helping businesses and consumers asses their environmental impact and improve their carbon footprint.14449721_10154623876778711_5028685342049967464_n Rebecca, Ajay, and guest host Leanna Hosea discuss global coffee trade, competing viewpoints on sustainability, and the development of his carbon tracking app GreenerU.

We also sample Ghislain Dubois who came into the studio last summer for “Carbon Confidential,” a discussion of his environmental consulting company TEC, based in Marseille.  Along the way, Ghislain introduced us to a master sampler, the DJ and artist Goldenberg and Schmuyle, whose track “tout, tout, et tout” reminded all of us at IHIH of our own efforts (je melange tout…i mix everything together). Check out his video Zazou Bar for an “electric” hit of the Marseille culture Ghislain describes in the neighborhoods around his consulting company’s office.

Meanwhile, back among the  canals and bicycles of Ajay’s Amsterdam,  this whole conversation spotlights the trend towards sustainability at more personalized scales. Ajay and Ghislain are both processing large data sets for organizations, but also developing apps and approaches to put data at the fingertips of individuals who want to “track” their environmental impact like they do their financial or physical fitness. You can reach either of them on their websites, and they area always looking for interns, analysts, and collaborators. In the meantime keep it tuned to IHIH where we track  trends going on in Europe and other parts of the world. We hope you enjoy this episode, masterfully edited by Patrick Conway.

Renewable Energy: Cities, Communities & Corporations

On this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, host Chris Askew-Merwin examines strategies for renewable energy development in cities, communities, and corporations. He is joined in studio by Ben Kunstman, a member of a Michigan Sustainability Case (MSC) team looking at municipalization, and Olivia Katz and Sean Pavlik, students at the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan who worked at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) over the summer. The segment also features an interview from Randy Knight, the city manager of Winter Park, Florida, who successfully municipalized their electric utility.

Boulder, Colorado is currently in an ongoing process of trying to municipalize their electric utility, meaning the city would take control of management and distribution from the existing, investor-owned utility Xcel Energy. Boulder is seeking to meet long-term renewable energy and greenhouse gas goals, and municipalization offers the opportunity to control their own future. The MSC case looks at the logistics of the proposal in Boulder, and examines the changing role of electric utilities.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is a Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources.  RMI’s Shine Initiative is working to open up an untapped 30GW market segment in U.S. clean energy market – community-scale solar.  As defined by RMI, the community-scale solar market includes traditional shared solar projects and other mid-sized arrays (.5-5MW) owned by utilities and third-parties.  Shine works with both buyers and sellers of solar PVs to develop innovative community-scale solar pilot projects that leverage economies of scale, shared cost-reduction levers and standardization of system design and business model to cut costs over 40%, with a path towards unsubsidized wholesale prices.  As a summer fellow on the Shine Initiative, Olivia Katz developed a corporate valuation model for solar developers which allowed the Shine team to test hypotheses around business model-redesign and ultimately show solar developers that pursuing community-scale solar market could create tremendous corporate value.  

Olivia Katz is a third-year student at the Erb Institute at University of Michigan, pursuing her MBA at the Ross School of Business and MS at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.  Prior to graduate school she worked in environmental and energy policy in New York and Colorado and enterprise technology startups in San Francisco.  At the University of Michigan, Olivia has focused on renewable energy and strategy.  She spent her first summer as a summer consultant at Parthenon-EY, a growth-strategy consulting firm in San Francisco.  She spent her second summer as a summer fellow in Rocky Mountain Institute’s Shine Initiative.  Olivia is passionate about finding market-based solutions to drive the sustainable use of resources and believes that increasing renewable energy penetration is one of the most effective ways to achieve this goal.

In the final portion of the episode, Sean Pavlik discusses the growing space of corporate renewable energy procurement based on his summer spent at RMI’s Business Renewables Center in Boulder. Large corporates from all sectors are increasingly choosing to meet their energy needs through large scale wind and solar developments. The Business Renewables Center (BRC) provides a platform to convene corporate buyers and renewable energy developers as well as providing educational tools to accelerate this market. The BRC is aiming for this market to provide 60GW of new renewables development due to corporate purchases by 2030—the equivalent of tens of millions of homes worth of electricity consumption.

Sean Pavlik is a second-year MBA/MS graduate student at the Erb Institute, a dual-degree program between the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. Sean is focusing his graduate studies on energy and sustainability issues within corporations with an emphasis on strategy. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Sean spent three years in Washington, DC, working at the intersection of government and business on key international energy, trade, and security issues, primarily with the U.S. Congress. He also spent two years working in Japan after his undergraduate studies. Sean received his B.A. in Environmental Sciences and International Studies from Northwestern University.

Farming in Motown

This week on It’s Hot in Here, our hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin unpack the podcast component of the  Michigan Sustainability Case (MSC) on urban farming in Detroit. They are joined in studio by Calli Vanderwilde, a Master’s student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment who just finished working through this complex case study. Listen as they conduct a phone interview with Jeffrey Pituch, the Director of Development of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, one of the most prominent urban farming groups in Detroit. With grooves, banter, and calls from curious, engaged listeners, this is one show you don’t want to miss.  For more information on this and other Michigan Sustainability Cases please visit


Country Bee, City Bee

On this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, Rebecca Hardin and Malavika Sahai sit down with Don Shump of the Philadelphia Bee Company to discuss traditional and urban beekeeping practices, as well as the challenges beekeepers face in this day and age.philadelphia-bee-company-logo

Don started The Philadelphia Bee Company in 2007, and has been dedicated ever since to providing residents access to honey, wax, and pollen all harvested within city limits, as well as educating  Philadelphians about the importance of bees and other pollinators.

This riveting discussion includes segments on the conservation status of bees, how urban areas are adopting specialized techniques to safeguard pollinators, the ongoing debate on hive medication, and much more.

Rich Wieske of Green Toe Gardens also calls in to discuss bee activity in his hives, and we revisit a conversation from a previous It’s Hot in Here episode, Buzzfeed: Wild Bees Meet Urban Farming about colony collapse and wild bee species.

We really enjoyed having Don in our studio, and we hope you enjoy this episode of It’s Hot in Here.

Could YOU catch a queen?

This week with the urban bee symposium going on in Ann Arbor, we are pulling another strand into our braid of bee shows in the archive. This footage comes from outside of Toulouse, France, where Austin Martin, Taylor Landeryou and Rebecca Hardin conducted research and participant observation with a major queen rearing operation last August. Here, beekeeper Philippe Huau demonstrates to Rebecca (and her daughter) how they raise, cage, and record data about their queen bees…a hot commodity with colony collapse disorder in Europe!  Take a look…could YOU catch a queen?  Tune in Friday for our show “Country Bee, City Bee” with urban beekeeping guru Don  Shump from Philadelphia…

Lessons From The Rustbelt

Did you miss the live broadcast for the fantastic panel event chaired by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (and an University of Michigan alum)? This panel consisted of public servants from rebounding Midwestern cities, including a former It’s Hot In Here host, Kerry Duggan, Deputy Director for Policy at the Office of the Vice President, who talked about place-based work in action on the ground in Detroit, MI; Gary, IN; and Youngston, OH. The panelists shared how their localities collaborated across local, state, and federal levels to make progress on long-standing issues in their communities, such as pervasive blight, crime, poor community trust in law enforcement, chronic homelessness and more.  Watch the full panel at


Baltimore…an MSC Podcase Conversation

Travel back with us to the hot month of June 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Commissioner Douglas Nazarian, Chair of  the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC) is in the hot seat. He is considering whether to approve a  proposal from Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) to use a 200 million dollar budget granted by the Department of Energy to  roll out smart meters across their service territory and to institute a new electricity pricing plan that would rely on the meters.

Smart meters, an upgrade from the traditional analogue electric meters, have been heralded as a key step towards the elusive smart grid. They are designed to facilitate communication between end users and utility companies, to help individuals and communities save on electricity, to help utility companies cut operational costs, and to decrease the risk of costly and life-threatening blackouts during peak summer demands. They are typically considered a win-win-win for electric ratepayers, the utility company, and the environment.

Yet many consumers fear privacy violations, health impacts, and other downsides to deploying this new technology.  What will Doug decide? Today’s broadcast features the audio recording and editing work of “Mad Genius” Ed Waisanen, working with Gianna Petito. Gianna is a co-author on this case with Arman Golrokhian (in studio today!)  and Geoffrey Burmeister, and the faculty advisor for the case is economist Michael Moore.

img_4078Listen in with us for more than just great tracks from Nina Simone and Rod Lee about Baltimore, but also for Doug’s reflections on his decision making, as well as conversations with Paula Carmody of the People’s Council for Maryland, who represented  the interests of ratepayers in that turning point for a town with a lot of governance challenges.  A final subject, Kim Curry, is an attorney in the General Council office  for BGE, and she emphasizes the need for the company to profitably provide electricity to ratepayers. Discover firsthand how each actor played roles and perceived Doug and his commission’s decision first to block the proposal,  then to accept a modified version that took into account key ratepayer concerns.

With this blogcast we are showcasing the audio component of this Michigan Sustainability Case, one in a series of new approaches to case based teaching and learning  that use audio and visual imagery alongside text and engaged teaching techniques to expand the appeal and traction of sustainability science beyond traditional learning methods, and beyond classrooms into civic, commercial, and community contexts.  

While this case narrative evokes the 2010 as the present, the podcast continues beyond this decision-point, allowing the actors involved to reflect on the events of the past in light of the present and vice versa, in effect updating the case, and inviting users to enter the learning platform as both learners and contributors to what is an updatable, dynamic case for forward learning on this topic.