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.


Mayan Power & Light

John Barrie , founder and executive director of the Appropriate Technology Collaborative, recently won recognition for that organizationlearning_about_solar_power as one of the Sustainia Top 100 Sustainability Solutions of 2016. Why? Because they create new sustainable technologies that promote economic growth and improve the quality of life for low income people worldwide.

To celebrate, consider coming out this evening from 6pm onwards at the Zingtrain event space in Ann Arbor. You may know Zingerman’s as INC. magazine’s “coolest small company in America.”  We know them as good food and drink, but that will be combined tonight with show and tell of cool technologies in ATC’s trademark two way street of sustainable development, teaching and learning across continents by living together and, as Barrie puts it on air, “learning to fail fast, so we get to designs that WORK.” img_4051

But we digress. Today on our show, to a soundtrack of Guatemalan tunes from hip hop/slam to metal,  Monika Goforth, Guatemala Program Director for ATC,  joined  hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Malavika Sahai to discuss their award winning Mayan Power and Light program, bringing solar power and equitable business solutions to rural Guatemala. Listen to John and Monika describe the impact this work has had on the health, wealth, and self-determination of women as young as sixteen who are able to become role models in their communities, learning new technologies and business models. If their passion excites you (it excited us…John and Monika raced out of the studio saying to each other “epoxy…we need to get back to Zingtrain with epoxy before cocktail hour!”) then check out their website at or their facebook to see how you can get involved locally or abroad.

14322449_10154492269382398_7685620815637331842_nAnd we’d be remiss not to mention that Audio Engineer Ed Waisenan held it down  in the booth, with his trademark approach to keeping it humble, yet hot. If that doesn’t “sustainia” we don’t know what will.


The Oregon Trial

What happens when citizens take up arms against the Federal Government to assert their rights to manage their own land and economy as they see fit? Is it ever as simple as “hands off our herds and forests?”  As the trial of Ammon Bundy heats up in Oregon this week, and that of his father Cliven Bundy looms later this winter, we dig into our archives to consider the meanings of these conflicts. Drawing from the interviews conducted by Mike Burbidge (with backup from Harry Rice) last winter we reveal drivers and dimensions of the Bundy situations that shed new light on the trial and its relevance to environmental governance in the U.S. and beyond.

Recorded in the cold of last year’s Ann Arbor winter (but the heat of the Malheur refuge standoff), we feature voices and insights on the tensions behind the armed conflict. You can see more in our It’s Hot out There archive. And you’ll definitely be hearing more from our hot new host Chris Askew-Merwin.

Impact Detroit: 72 hours and 80 humans

This week’s episode on It’s Hot in Here highlights the 2016 Ross School of Business iMpact Challenge and how social entrepreneurship food ventures can address food access and affordability issues in Detroit.  

As part of Ross’s MBA orientation program, incoming students receive a 72-hour challenge to work intensely with their newly formed MBA section, to ideate, create, and pitch a profitable venture with a social mission in Detroit. It begins with a series of workshops, community conversations, team challenges, and pitch competitions that engage more than 400 students across five academic programs at Ross.

In the studio we welcome Jeff Domagala, Associate Director for MBA Programs at the Sanger Leadership Center, who helped create this year’s iMpact challenge; Jeff Tenza, former IHIH host/engineer, who co-led a tour of students to interview Ann Arbor food entrepreneurs at Argus Farm Stop, Washtenaw Food Hub, and Tilian Farm Development Center.  Remaining mics were surrounded by members of the incoming winning section, Section 5: Vaish Shastry,  Nancy McDermott, and John Barbour.

We discuss the theme, the experience, the people, and the way a group of initial strangers developed a program which utilizes “cosmetically challenged” food to create prepared meals served on wheels.

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A Soundtrack for Complex Systems

Loren Demerath is a Professor of Sociology at Centenary College of Louisiana. With the help professors from Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Economics, Philosophy, and English, Demerath recently taught a course entitled: Explaining the Emergence of Order: the Universe, Life, Consciousness, and Society to introduce students to the study of complexity across disciplines. Here at the University of Michigan check out the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. 

In his book, Explaining Culture: The Social Pursuit of Subjective Order, Demerath describes how culture is a self-organizing phenomenon that develops according to principles of information processing. He has also used those principles with computer scientist Mark Goadrich to create an agent-based simulation of the emergence of social order. Demerath is now working on a book entitled, Good Energy: Explaining the Emergence of Order and Virtue, that describes how contributing to naturally evolving orders is inherently fulfilling.

How do such orders require us to transmit to one another information about suffering, struggle, environmental damage and emotional priorities? From dustbowl farming to the feeling of heartbreak, answers come through songs as wide ranging as “You are my Sunshine” (penned in Shreveport) and “The Lady is a Tramp.” Listen to Loren’s daughter Rafaela sing “Just Ask,” which she heard recently in Austin performed live  by the group Lake Street Dive, out of Boston. They started in 2004 with “free country” music (think free-jazz) but recently signed with Nonesuch to release Side Pony. Take a listen to the Jackson 5 cover which Loren mentioned on air as an example of what complexity theorists call “novelty.”  We just call it hot.

Carbon Confidential: Calculating and Changing our Footprints

img_3729_720Economist Ghislain Dubois does lots of quantitative analyses of environmental policy and practice, including field studies of households in Europe, and specialized treatments of large datasets. He has taught in Universities from Versailles to the Sorbonne and Aix en Provence and is currently working on projects about the future of water resources in the middle east, as well as running games and surveys to assist families, home owners and businesses with carbon reduction scenarios for their future.

Ghislain came of age in the wake of the first Rio summit, and Continue reading Carbon Confidential: Calculating and Changing our Footprints