Changing Climates: Melting Glaciers in the Peruvian Andes

The Hot In Here team spends a lot of time considering the far reaching impacts of climate change. From warmer temperatures, to rising seas, to pollution issues of climate justice, there is MORE than enough to address. Aiming to tackle this challenge one step at a time, we had the pleasure of having U of M Sociocultural Anthropology PhD Candidate Allison Caine join regular host Ben Sonnega and new host on the mic Ari Weil for an in depth look at her time spent in the Andes Mountains.
Andes Wetlands
Allison’s research investigates how pastoralists in highland Peru identify, evaluate, and respond to the regional impacts of global climate change. Living in delicate wetland ecosystems at the edges of rapidly retreating glaciers, these herders pick up subtle cues in animal behavior and grassland distribution that indicate rapid shifts occurring in their  landscapes. As temperatures increase, herders find themselves facing transformative changes in seasonal variation, extreme weather events, and the vertical displacement of ecological zones.
Andes Mountains
Allison lived alongside the herders for a year and participated in their daily lives, studying how they made sense of their world and the ways in which it was changing. She also followed seasonal migrations between pastures to track how herding practices are shifting to accommodate changes in the ecosystem. We talk about how Allison became an anthropologist and what it was like to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in a remote Quechua-speaking community. We also discuss what anthropology has to contribute to the study of climate change, particularly in terms of its impact on people’s daily lives.
Studio Selfie! (Allison, Ben, and Ari)
This plus music from a woman in the community Allison stayed in can all be found in this week’s episode of It’s Hot In Here!

U of M Bicentennial Celebration and Sustainability Goals

The University of Michigan’s Bicentennial Celebration and the introduction of the new School for Environment and Sustainability, both occurring this weekend got the team at It’s Hot In Here feeling reflective. How have we experienced sustainability in our respective times here? What things are most promising? Where does the University fall short?

Guest Douglas Ham (Left), Heena, Ben, Harry, and DJ Tex (Front and Center)

This week’s guest, Doug Ham, joined hosts Harry Rice, Bean Sonnega, and Heena Singh for an engaging and fruitful, free-flowing conversation on his experience with the Michigan Medical System and its sustainability goals. Doug holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Anthropology, and is currently enrolled in the accelerated Bachelor’s of Nursing program at the University of Michigan. In this episode he spoke on issues such as the amount of disposable waste products generated by the hospital system, as well as views on interdisciplinary involvement between the medical field and other disciplines at the university. Yet, one of his best contributions was offering the perspective of an outsider looking in to the newly launch School for Environment and Sustainability, and causing some of us to address the difficulty in implementing such a lofty goal for our future.

The new school has made a point of focusing on involving experts from across campus such as those at the Ford School of Public Policy and the Ross School of Business. The Hot in Here panel all agreed that this interdisciplinary work will be the catalyst for positive change as we look to the University of Michigan to take the lead towards a more sustainable future.

All of this and more was nicely accompanied by music from Ann Arborites Sufjan Stevens and, past Michigan Wolverine, Iggy Pop. Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of It’s Hot In Here. We look forward to many more conversations with you.




Roustabout Theatre Troupe: Dark Ride Radio Hour

On this eerie Friday the 13th in the WCBN-FM studio, Roustabout Theatre’s Joe Zettelmaier and Anna Simmons join host Ben Sonnega for a chat about the troupe’s latest production, the hilarious and haunting Dark Ride Radio Hour.

Host Ben Sonnega, Anna Simmons, and Joe Zettelmaier

Joseph Zettelmaier is executive director of Roustabout Theatre and is an award-winning playwright with over 20 professional productions to his name. He’s taught at Eastern Michigan University for over a decade and been produced locally and internationally. Joseph Albright is a professional actor and director, appearing both on stage and on screen. He’s also been the Theatre Director at Ypsilanti’s Corner Health Center for many years. Anna is managing director for Roustabout and currently works at the University Musical Society.

Joe and Anna came to discuss not only the origins of the theatre troupe and their latest spooky endeavor, but all things Halloween (Joe’s undeniably favorite holiday) including classic Halloween rock tunes, favorite costumes, raffle prizes to be won at the live show, and much more!

Fashioned as a golden-era radio show, including live Foley sound effects, the Dark Ride Radio Hour will feature four new horrifying radio scripts by Joseph Zettelmaier, and TWO opportunities to catch the performance! The Dark Ride Radio Hour is an immersive experience, just in time for the Halloween season. Close your eyes to image the action or watch the way these gruesome sounds are made!

Performances will take place on October 14th at Bona Sera in Ypsilanti AND on October 21st at the Trinity House in Livonia, making this the very first Roustabout event to “roust” in and of itself! Go online and buy your tickets now as they are going fast!

Get in the Halloween spirit with Roustabout Theatre on this week’s episode of It’s Hot In Here.



EcoQuest: Stories From a Semester Abroad in New Zealand

When asked to describe an average day of class at the EcoQuest study abroad program, our guests replied, “there’s  no such thing.”

Jessa at Whangurai Falls

This week on It’s Hot, adventurers   Lauren Vesprani and Jessa Webber joined host Ben Sonnega live on air to share  one of the most exciting abroad experiences an undergraduate student could have.

Jessa is a senior studying Environmental Policy with a minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change, and Lauren is a senior studying EEB, evolutionary anthropology, and Program in the Environment. Last winter, both of them attended EcoQuest, a environmental and field-based study abroad program in New Zealand. The program runs in partnership with the University of New Hampshire and invites college students from the United States  to join in an immersive semester of ecological science studies based around the ecosystems and communities in New Zealand.

Beach at the EcoQuest Campus in Whakatiwai

Lauren and Jessa share stories of everything from deep water diving in coral reefs, to direct encounters with leading New Zealand government officials (and even a run-in with hypothermia! Listen in for more on why this experience-based learning environment is such a wild success,  plus music from New Zealand artist Pacific Curls, as well as Jack Johnson and Bob Dylan. What does adventure mean to you, Hot listeners, and do you agree most of us learn best when we live the lessons?

Sustainability in Commercial Aviation: RMI Research Conversation Part Two

For those that care about the mitigation of climate change, it can seem like the list of institutional changes that are needed goes on and on. Luckily we have people like Noah Feingold putting in the time to work on specific and measured solutions.

Noah joined Hot hosts Ben Sonnega and  Heena Singh today as he is starting his second-year MBA/MS graduate program at the Erb Institute. This is a dual-degree program between the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. Noah is focusing his graduate studies on sustainability issues in the transportation sector. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Noah spent four years in Boston, MA working in economic consulting. Noah received his B.A. in Math and Economics from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he was a member of the varsity baseball team. Maybe all that hard training and teamwork makes him better able to  focus on and work toward the complex goal of green aviation?

Left to Right: Co-hosts Heena Singh and Ben Sonnega, and Guest Noah Feingold.

Global aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions (some estimates find that the impact on global warming is closer to 5 percent due to water vapor and nitrogen emissions). Strong growth in the aviation industry and decarbonization in other industries could raise the 2 percent to 5-10 percent of global CO2 emissions in the coming decades. Nevertheless, aviation groups have set a goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050 to 50 percent of 2005 levels. The development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) is critical to reaching this goal.

This past summer, Noah interned at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)–you remember that Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources? We talked about it in Part One of this series, our very first show this fall season, with Eric Krostich.  Noah worked in their New York location on the sustainable aviation practice area that emerged from RMI’s partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room.  The partnership has introduced an airport-centric model to aggregate SAF demand to in turn spur additional supply of SAF production. Noah’s research focused on the regulatory landscape around biofuels and the positive externalities associated with SAF, too often unvalued but potentially assets to an airport  guaranteeing demand of SAF.

From Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon” to Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle,” and even a call in from a cranky coal industry professional, this exciting episode of It’s Hot In Here  is well worth tuning in for before your weekend gets all the way turned up.

Nagasaki Atomic History and Present

The day that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the people of Nagasaki is one that will not be forgotten in history, but do we truly understand all of the repercussions still?

Host Ben Sonnega (Left) and guest Alex Sklyar (Right)

During this week’s show on It’s Hot In Here host Ben Sonnega was joined by Aleksandr Sklyar, a University of Michigan PhD candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology. Alex told us about the website Nagasaki Atomic History and the Present (NAHP) which he created with Georgia Butcher and Benjamin Kelsey last summer at Colgate University. You can access NAHP and see for yourself!

The site features interviews with atomic bomb survivors conducted by Alex during his time spent in Japan, as well as statements from experts in the field on nuclear weapons technology. The site also features a NUKEMAP simulator that allows the user to plug in their hometown and see data like the number of casualties and the range of the blast if a similar bomb were to be dropped in the US.

In this episode Ben and Alex discuss everything from nuclear weapons education approaches, to cultural differences in how the history is written, to nuclear war scenarios played out in Japanese anime, taking a question or two from callers along the way.  Stream or download; enjoy and reflect on the ways we as students can also become teachers, gathering and conveying information in innovative ways.

Realize Initiative: RMI Research Conversation Part One


When asked what was the best part of his summer internship Eric Krostich says “Basalt.” No, this is not a throwback to your high school geology class, but the place where Eric made his home for the summer in Colorado.


Eric Krostich (pictured far left) 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. Eric is focusing his graduate studies on energy and sustainability issues. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Eric spent four years in New York, NY working as a tax and audit CPA.  Eric received his B.A. in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin.

Desirability, convenience, and cost are the three greatest barriers to adoption of deep energy retrofits. To date, selling energy efficiency at scale has not been achieved, so only a minority of homes in the US have had a deep energy or zero energy retrofit. A program in the Netherlands known as Energiesprong has sought to overcome these barriers by facilitating and treating retrofits as a product to be delivered by industry, rather than individualized projects. The project has succeeded, retrofitting thousands of social housing units.

This past summer, Eric interned at a company called Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources.  In coordination with Energiesprong, the Rocky Mountain Institute has started an initiative called REALIZE that plans to attempt this approach in the US. With over 137 million homes, the US is a significant market opportunity. REALIZE hopes to facilitate the delivery of comfortable, desirable, affordable, and reliable net zero energy retrofits by coordinating the value chain, removing barriers, recognizing perceived risks, and mitigating confusion and protectiveness.

Smooth, confident, and driven, it’s safe to say that Eric will be creating positive change for the environment and homeowners as we move towards a new sustainable energy future.

Today we were also joined by new host Ben Sonnega, Program in The Environment undergrad, recently of MLCV, and also former national champion men’s rower at U of M.

(Pictured in center)

Crooked Tree Play Festival: Made in Michigan, Performed in Milan, Pure Magic

For those of you who felt our fabulous show with Joe Z a few weeks back was just a cruel tease, today we bring you MORE of this talented writer/director/producer/teacher.  Joe is back with his open wit, soaring tenor vocals, and generous ability to make Michigan feel –for real–like a cultural mecca.

Joe turned up in CBN’s studios today with one heck of a sidekick. Roustabout Theatre Troupe’s Managing Director Anna Simmons is a force for good. Together they talked us through the amazing range of plays to be featured in the second annual Crooked Tree Play Festival featuring FREE productions in the courtyards, cafes, bars, churches and towns square of Milan, Michigan. These new scripts by Michigan writers have never before been seen, and have been lovingly produced and directed by the band of talents at Roustabout. Many Milan-based organizations have come together to make this festival happen on a larger scale than last year’s successful debut.

Like the now legendary Big Ears Festival featuring only new music of many genres and hosted  in Knoxville Tennessee, Crooked Tree Play Festival harnesses the impact of “new.” In their shiny new state these plays capture our various experiences of the present in this country, and convey an energy we need as a country caught in the cruel grip of our own history, working together to build a more sustainable future.  Music and culture connect to invigorate outdoor spaces, urban infrastructure, and local economies. Indeed, our on-air shout out to Ashley Capps does not do justice to his journey from his early days as a radio announcer at WUOT FM in Knoxville to his creation and curation of powerful events from Big Ears to Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

What does such dynamism look like here in the “rust belt?” If you want to help answer that question, then invite friends or help get the word out by sharing  Roustabout’s Crooked Tree Play Festival  facebook event info link.  Check out the Milan event next weekend. And  stay tuned into our hot, hardworking community here at WCBN.


Small Homes

This episode originally aired on June 16th, 2017.

On this edition of It’s Hot In Here, regular host Chris Askew-Merwin is joined via telephone by Lloyd Khan. Lloyd is an author and the editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications.

His most recent book is “Small Homes: The Right Size” a recent book detailing the recent housing trend of small homes. Small Homes are houses that are larger than “tiny”, but smaller than the national average. They are typically energy efficient and cheap to produce and maintain. His new book details over 60 of them, and is complete with interior and exterior photographs.

This is a fascinating episode of It’s Hot in Here, and we’re glad to give listeners a chance to listen to an expert on the growing phenomenon of small homes.

To connect with Mr. Khan, check out his Blog and Instagram.



Renaissance Man: The Penny Seats and their first Local Playwrite

Our story begins One Dark Night…

For those in the know, a repertory theater without a show staged that evening is experiencing a “dark night.” Back when Joseph Zettlemaier was a young intern from Georgia at the famed Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, Michigan, such down nights were dedicated to letting the wider production team try their hands at producing, directing and acting, through “Apprentice Dark Nights.” Joe wrote a bit, his friends and fellow apprentices acted it out.  Now Joe is a playwrite, director, teacher, mentor, and member of Roustabout Theatre Troupe which sponsors popular new play readings and events in his new home of Milan, Michigan. And it is mostly because established actor and mentor Jeff Daniels said to him  that dark night: “I like it. Give me a hundred pages.”

Later that same summer, says Joe, Playwrite Lanford Wilson found himself in and around Motor City…without himself knowing how to drive. Daniels saw an opportunity for Joe, and set him up as Wilson’s chauffeur for a few weeks. They talked, Lanford shared insights, Joe learned, they drove.  Eventually Lanford got out of the car, but Joe kept driving toward a career in theatre, and has never looked back.

Now he is helping build out Michigan’s landscape for fostering artistic community, local innovation, and excellence in dramatic arts. When The Penny Seats Theater Company contacted him to ask if he had a play appropriate for performance out of doors, he knew this would be the premiere of his  “Renaissance Man.” This adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth takes horror and turns it to comedy, set in a contemporary Renaissance Festival. Zettlemaier researched the play by traveling to Ren Fairs in Wisconsin, Georgia and throughout Michigan, and interviewing career “rennies” and local fans or participants alike. It was time to set the show in motion.

The cast features the talents of Patrick Loos, Kelly Rose Voigt, Robert Shore, David Galido, Annie Dilworth, and Julia Garlotte who is also the show’s sound designer and is responsible for much of the amazingly curated music we here in the play, and on our show today (tracks from Silent Lion,  the Breton’s march by Jem ‘n Em, and the mesmerizing beat of Ships are Jivin’ by Passages).

The show also features lots of clang-y armor from Bent Sword Productions in Royal Oak, Michigan. And of course it unfolds against the backdrop of grasses and cattails and lawns we Penny Seats fans have come to love on a summer evening.  One night last week,  audience members showed up in full costume and relevant regalia, like goblets, candelabras, and so on. Substantiated Rumor has it others were pouring cold Rosé to help keep audience members cool and relaxed.

The company’s first Twilight show, which will open July 13, is Peter and the Starcatcher by the inimitable JM Barrie. If you want tickets  you can buy them when you arrive in West Park, or get them in advance on their website box office.