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.