Property Law: Keeping it Real while studying Virtual Worlds

This week’s hosts Rebecca Hardin and Chris Askew-Merwin explore notions of property and ownership on Earth, in virtual  reality like games, and in Space–literally beyond he boundaries of planet earth.  Our guide through this journey is Professor Wian Erlank, an expert on property law from North-West University, located in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Vian likes to puzzle over questions like: Do we own our virtual goods such as ebooks or mp3? Is that property certificate for a piece of the moon legitimate? 

Professor Erlank joins us while on a break from the 8th Annual Meeting of the Association for Law, Property & Society. This conference brought together people from many disciplines and from around the world to encourage dialogue on issues of property law ranging from affordable housing to water rights and large scale land transactions. Conference attendees (pictured above) visited Detroit’s urban farms and community revitalization projects to get a glimpse of property in practice, and to confer with local leaders on the ways they are confronting the challenge of property rights in their work.  For more information on the conference click here.


Energy and Environmental Policy Research: a Student Symposium

On this episode of It’s Hot in Here, host Chris Askew-Merwin sits down with University of Michigan undergraduate Benjamin Sonnega to discuss the research that he and his classmates have been doing over the last semester for a new course called Environ 302: Energy and Environmental Policy Research taught by Dr. Sarah Mills.  The class had students pick topics that interested them from plastic bag policies, food policies, to net metering and taught them the research skills necessary to study those issues. These research projects culminated in a fantastic student symposium on Wednesday, April 26, where each student was given time to present their findings.

Ben and I talk about his dive into residential energy tax credits and who is actually using them. He accessed and analyzed an IRS dataset come to his conclusions. Then we listen to recordings of his classmates presenting their research and discuss the course in greater detail. If you want to know how U of M is teaching the next generation of policy analysts, then you don’t want to miss this show.

Ethics and Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

In this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, host Chris Askew-Merwin is joined in studio by two esteemed guests to explore the fashion industry’s impacts on the environment and on the workers who manufacture the apparel and shoes we all consume.

Dr. Linda Greer is a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council and the Interim Director of the University of Michigan Biological Station. In 2009 she launched the NRDC’s Clean by Design program to address the environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

Our second guest, Dr. Damani Partridge is a professor at the University of Michigan in the Departments of Anthropology and Afroamerican & African Studies. Dr. Partridge has recently been researching how new corporate ethics such as fair trade are changing the relationships between corporations, consumers, and the workers along the global corporate supply chains. To read his article on this topic click here.

Fashion is a multi-trillion dollar industry with over one trillion dollars spent per year around the globe on clothes and footwear. Of that trillion, $370 billion is from the United States alone. Such a huge industry has to have an enormous environmental footprint. Add to that the terrible working conditions that plague the industry, and fashion becomes a major problem that needs solving.

Tune in to listen to the experts on how the fashion industry can be influenced. Should we vote, vote with our wallets, or protest in the streets? Short answer, all of the above. For the long answer, check out the show.

Fermi III: An MSC Podcase Conversation

And the hits just keep coming… this week we feature our latest release in the Michigan Sustainability Case lineup, “A Radioactive Decision: Should DTE Energy Build a new Nuclear Reactor in Michigan?

Case authors Brittany Szczepanik and Bhuvan Neema join regular IHIH host Chris Askew-Merwin to unpack their podcast, provide insight into the interview process and production, and discuss how their opinions on nuclear energy have changed… or been reinforced.

The MSC podcase stands alone as a great resource to hear and analyze competing views of nuclear energy, but this candid radio conversation takes it to a new level. The  show gives new insight to those who have read the case and are trying to decide what DTE should do, and it also grants an introduction to a pressing topic in the sustainability realm.
Photo courtesy DTE, via Detroit Free Press

If this discussion has piqued your interest in nuclear energy and its ongoing debate, It’s Hot In Here has some excellent shows to compliment this one.  A previous interview with Satsuki Takahashi about life in Japan, post Fukashima Meltdown, is a great insight into the pros and cons (but mostly pros!) of nuclear power. In addition, the Captain Planet episode, recorded and edited by Ed Waisanen, is another great discussion of the impact of nuclear energy on our planet.

If you enjoyed this style of radio show, be sure to check out our previous Podcase Conversations. One featured the financing of the  Birds Head  Marin Conservation Area in Indonesia.  Another honed in on the political and economic struggles behind the rollout of ‘Smart Meters ‘in Baltimore, Maryland. And more recently, a conversation focused on the tribulations and contributions of the  Michigan Urban Farms Initiative in Detroit.

Stay tuned for more, and find more information about how to make or use cases at or see our whole case catalogue, available open access at



Onward: A Student Power Summit

Are you interested in developing the skills you need to be an effective activist and organizer? Then you should check out this episode of It’s Hot In Here where we chat with students organizing a student-run teach-in at the University of Michigan called Onward: A Student Power Summit. Hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Heena Singh (in her first IHIH appearance) sit down with three members of the Onward team to discuss their goals and experiences with the creation of the Onward summit as well as their hopes for its impact on student organizing and activism at the University of Michigan and beyond.

Emily Zonder is a sophomore in LSA and a passionate student organizer for social change. With a strong belief in the the power of meaningful connection and mutual understanding she joined the Onward team and became one of the core organizers of the event. Emily wants to empower the people around her to not only build, but to build together; as she is of the mindset that there is nothing more powerful than coalitions of individuals and communities fighting for the future they wish to see in the world.

Emmad Mazhari is a student in Economics who is interested in identities and how they manifest in interactions – mostly in inequitable ways – and how we can become more aware of the spaces we take up, physically, socially, and virtually. He will be using this experiences to facilitate a workshop entitled Taking up Space vs. Adding to a Space where he hopes to help students consciously assess how they are engaging in a group setting and whether they should step-back, or step-up.

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Laura Murphy is  senior in mechanical engineering and the CEO and Co-Founder of Adapt Design, a disability design company. She is passionate about creating beautiful products that facilitate emotional and physical independence for people with disabilities. With this experience she will be facilitating an Onward workshop on Modeling and Communicating Your Innovative Ideas where she will be helping students learn how to make physical representations of their ideas. No previous art or crafting skills required.

To learn more about Onward: A Student Power Summit check our their facebook event page. And if this show and the work these phenomenal students are doing has convinced you to attend (which you should!) click here to register.

Climate Blue: With or Without US?

On this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin are joined in studio by returning guest, Ed Waisanen, and first-time guest Connor Rubin who were both delegates at the COP 22 this past year in Marrakech, Morroco (for an in-depth recap on COP 22 check out this IHIH episode on the conference with Ed Waisanan and Ember McCoy). We discuss a recent event, called With or Without US?, hosted by Climate Blue, a University of Michigan student group that sends delegations of students to attend the yearly United Nations climate climate change conference called the Conference of Parties. The event was composed of  talks given by student delegates and an expert panel on the future of climate change action at the international, national, and local levels. We chat with Ed and Connor about their experiences and the topics they chose to present at the event. Connor regails us with a discussion on the “hidden figures” of the climate change movement and Ed educates us on the importance of “loss and damages” in climate change negotiations. Then we listen to selected clips from the expert panel and discuss the strategies and views of those phenomenal leaders. And all the while, playing stone-cold grooves.

For more information on Climate Blue, including ways to get involved head on over to their website.

Women’s March Follow-Up

In this episode of It’s Hot In Here, we catch up with some SNRE students who attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago.

Hosts Malavika and Chris sat down with special guests Jillian and Emily to talk about attending the march, the aftermath of it, and how they want to keep the discussion going.

With topics including from environmental justice in the new administration, feminism, and what it means to be a part of a movement, this is a must-hear episode for anyone who considers themselves socially conscious.

We hope you enjoy this edition of It’s Hot in Here, and keep tuning in Fridays at noon on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor!

The Island President

On March 6th  the Donia Human Rights Center a the University of Michigan sponsored a panel discussion with the world recognized human rights activist and politician, Mohamed Nasheed,   as well as UM Law graduate and celebrity human rights lawyer Jared Genser,  and our own Rebecca Hardin.  Genser has been co-counsel with Amal Clooney in defending Mr. Nasheed,  the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. Why?

Originally a journalist,  Nasheed describes here how he spent years challenging the authoritarian government controlling his country. He was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured in retaliation for his courage. In simple, measured words Nasheed cautions us that there will always be those in power who will do that, but that every day citizens must nevertheless stand up for their rights and for the planet.  In 2008 the Maldives elected Mr. Nasheed in their first free and open election. But as Dr. Tsutsui explained in the panel introduction,  a coup in 2012 ended his presidency and he was unjustly imprisoned once again. Jared Genser took on Mr. Nasheed‘s case and managed to free him, getting him to England for asylum.

Throughout Mr. Nasheed’s political career he worked tirelessly to bring attention to the threat the Maldives face from climate change. A low-lying island nation in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is very sensitive to sea-level rise (for more on this see our small islands, rising seas podcast).   A documentary chronicling Mr. Nasheed’s life was produced in 2011 entitled “The Island President.”

Listen to the end of this podcast to hear Hardin speak in studio with hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew Merwin about the tension and courage evident between this dynamic duo of activist and attorney, facing another round in their efforts to reinstate representative political process and climate adaptation to the island nation. The panel was broadcast live on a  Maldives television network, to announce Nasheed’s intention to return there and again run for president. That’s right, it is a small hot world where  Malé  and Ann Arbor are the first to hear details of Nasheed’s next moves.

For more information on the panel and each panelist read here. To watch the full panel click here. For more information on the documentary visit this website.  Most importantly, to keep up with Mr. Nasheed’s next move, follow him on facebook.

Exploring Nature through Poetry with Keith Taylor

Keith Taylor, a celebrated local writer, poet, and teacher joins host Chris Askew-Merwin in studio to explore nature and environmentalism through the lens of poetry. Born in British Columbia, Keith shows us how his travels through some of the most remote and wild places in the world have shaped his work and his mindset. Listen as we discuss the role that art has played and continues to play in the environmental movement. However, the true pleasure of this show lies in the beautiful readings Keith delivers from his latest book of poetry, The Bird-while.

Ever wanted to know how to tell the tracks of a black bear from grizzly bear? Could there be wolves roaming the lower peninsula of Michigan? Curious how long it would take you to leave civilization behind? Don’t wait to find out the answer to these questions and more.

For more information on Keith Taylor, including books, bio, and upcoming readings head on over to his website.

From Toxins to Total Liberation: David Pellow

David Pellow has long been defining and then turning around and redefining work on environmental injustices. Pellow himself struggled and worked to get through college, attending multiple universities, but by the time he hit his stride as a young scholar it was clear he would shape fields. His first project led to the book  Garbage Wars, and targeted occupational and community health hazards of waste processing  in Chicago, tracing the trouble with first dumps, then incineration, and even recycling.  For a generation of environmentalists who will no longer face the choice between problems and solutions, but rather will have to face the problems WITH the solutions, David’s work is a road map.That map leads us not only into the lives of those working in the waste processing plants of Chicago, but also into those of workers in Silicon Valley where Pellow himself worked briefly.   His books tackling this topic include both  The Silicon Valley of Dreams  and the later work Challenging the Chip. They point to the challenge of making corporations truly accountable for the human damage created in electronic capitalism.  But they also reveal the creativity and resilience of activist networks and the advocates, attorneys, journalists, and researchers who support them.

Documenting exposure to harm is a strong pillar of environmental justice scholarship, but Pellow has also followed the lead of our own Dr. Dorceta Taylor in building out how the environmental justice framework relates to conservation and landscape.  His book The Slums of Aspen with Lisa Sun-Hee Park describes the  ways that immigrant labor is embedded in ski resort aesthetics and services, but also blamed by patrons and public officials for environmental damage.

Chris Askew Merwin relates these questions of environmental privilege to the violence of conservation in Tanzania’s game parks, where residents are displaced for tourism. That makes Malavika’s riff on the Cold Play video Paradise, seem all the more relevant.  With lyrics about gender inequality, and images of animal captivity and escape, the song begs the question: can you sing along with “intersectionality?”

If not, just say Total Liberation, the title of one of Pellow’s latest books on the animal rights movement as it blends advocacy for and value of animal life with visions of human freedoms from corporate domination or state repression. You might recall our recent convo  on  Trump Era Work on Climate Change , where we debate the power of single issue campaigns versus the imperatives of intersectional causes.  Let’s face it, most of us don’t lead single issue lives. And no matter how we think about it, there is a lot of work to do. Thanks, Dr. Pellow, for showing us how it gets DONE.