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.


Conserving the world’s primates: A conversation with Andrew Marshall and Julie Jarvey


In January, over 30 authors published a new report on the status of the world’s primates. The title gave a bleak prognosis: “Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates.” This week, co-hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Ben Finkel ask why primates matter and how we can preserve them. We sat down in the studio with two Michigan primatologists and conservationists: Dr. Andrew Marshall, professor in the anthropology, Program in the Environment, and School of Natural Resource and Environment, and Julie Jarvey, member of the Gelada Research Project based here at the University of Michigan.

Our conversation delves into the unique role primates play in our understanding of tropical ecology. Marshall shares with us lessons learned in his research including a new edited volume: An Introduction to Primate Conservation, as wells a work in Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia. Jarvey fills us in on what’s happening with a unique primate population on the other side of the world: the gelada monkeys of the Ethiopian highlands.

We also talk actions and solutions, from guidelines for being a tourist visiting primate countries, to being consumers here at home. Jarvey shares with us some outreach, including the hilarious and educational Gelada Rap video.

Between telling stories on global issues and primate behavior, we play some monkey-themed tunes from the Kinks, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Rolling Stones. If you love the content we provide on It’s Hot in Here, please consider donating to WCBN during our fundraising week. There are some neat premiums being offered in exchange for donations, and it’s your support that helps us continue to bring you this show!

Food and Power: A Conversation With Phil Howard

In this week’s episode co-hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Malavika Sahai talk food and power, with a focus on corporate control over the food industry. This conversation is based on an interview we air between Malavika and guest Phil Howard from Michigan State University, a professor and sociologist studying food markets and food systems. He has a new book out, entitled Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?, and is perhaps most famous for his widely-circulated infographics about concentration of ownership in the food system. They talk taking back power through consumer purchasing power and sustainable movements in pre-existing markets.

The conversation between Malavika and Phil got us thinking about a previous show we had on sustainability in the craft beer industry, from November 2015. We review a clip from the episode, A Cultural Shift to Conservation, with Kris Spaulding of Brewery Vivant in which she discusses being a LEED certified brewery and profit sharing at Brewery Vivant.

Along with these fabulous content-rich interviews, we play some groovy tunes from Weird Al Yankovic and The Beatles. If you love the content we provide on It’s Hot in Here, please consider donating to WCBN during our fundraising week. There are some pretty neat premiums being offered in exchange for donations, and it’s your support that helps us continue to bring you this show!

One of Phil Howard's infographics on corporate power in the food industry. This one is on the soft drink industry, and Malavika and Chris discuss it on air on this week's show! For more information like this, check out his website
One of Phil Howard’s infographics on corporate power in the food industry. This one is on the soft drink industry, and Malavika and Chris discuss it on air on this week’s show! For more information like this, check out his website

Advancing Sustainability in the Trump Era: A Discussion

In this week’s episode host Chris Askew-Merwin and our newest host Audrey Pallmeyer discuss clips from the fantastic panel titled Advancing Environmental Sustainability in the Trump Era which was held on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. The panel was hosted by the U of M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. The panel is moderated by SNRE’s interim dean, Dan Brown and includes a range of phenomenal thinkers including, Professor Joe Arvai, Professor Rosina Bierbaum, Keith Creagh, Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Laura Rubin, Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council, and Professor David Uhlmann. Listen as the panelists discuss their fears regarding this new administration and explain their reasons for optimism. If you are feeling worried but don’t know what concerns are valid or if there is any reason to be even slightly optimistic then this is the show for you! For more information about the panel or the panelists click here. To listen to the full panel watch the video below.


The Women’s March

This inauguration weekend is coupled with an act of resistance: a Women’s March on Washington with sister marches happening across the globe in solidarity with socially marginalized individuals under a Trump presidency. Traveling all the way from Ann Arbor to be a part of the action are a group of students from our own School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Michigan who were compelled to demonstrate to defend women, the environment, and environmental justice.


Making posters for the march

Our guests Sindhu Bharadwaj, Tyler Fitch, and Katie Williamson reached out to friends in the area for housing, collected their coins for transportation, and made a plan to trek to D.C. and on today’s show discuss some of the nuances of an anti-oppression vs pro-justice framework for social movements. They also critically speak about parallels between The Women’s March and Occupy Wall Street, the impact of activist art, and strategies for keeping up energy and momentum for movements. A lot to take in, including some excellent music from Sleigh Bells, Aimee Mann, and the Dixie Chicks, you won’t want to miss this episode!

Woman Power

Cover photo taken by James Bourland at the Women’s March in Chicago

Transportation’s Future: Multi-Modal, IT-Enabled

In this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, your host Chris Askew-Merwin investigates the future of transportation by speaking on the phone with Sue Zielinski, Managing Director for SMART (Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation) at the University of Michigan. Listen as Sue explains how transportation is moving away from a culture of individually owned cars towards a future with a diversity of choices all connected through information technologies allowing consumers like you or I, to effortlessly navigate through urban and rural areas whether by train, plane, bicycle, or car.

Sue Zielinski, Managing Director for SMART

Then enjoy a fascinating pre-recorded lecture by Sue given on Thursday, January 12, 2017 and entitled “The New World of Transportation: Connected, Multi-Modal, and Information-Technology-Enabled.” This lecture was the second part of a 6-lecture  series hosted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a University of Michigan institute which hosts educational events for adults to continue their learning. Check out the rest of the lectures they have coming up in the link listed below. Enjoy the show and tune in next week for more environmental news, views, and grooves.

Standing Rock, Part 3

In the third part of our Standing Rock series hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin are joined in studio by returning guests John Petoskey, JD candidate, and Jens Lund, a visiting scholar from Denmark. We are also joined by Becca Lynn a University of Michigan student getting her BA in Sociology. In this segment we discuss the recent progress made at Standing Rock through the efforts of water protectors and debate whether this is major victory or just an incremental piece of progress. Becca shares first-hand experience from Standing Rock and explains how the water protectors have organized themselves and their actions. We debate the impacts that the new presidential administration may have on this struggle, how similar struggles play out in other environments, and how recent political changes are impacting the morale and resolve of the water protectors and their supporters. Tune in also for the amazing Native American and First Nations music we jam to including songs by Sacramento Knoxx, A Tribe Called Red, and Thomas X.


Divest and Invest

In this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin are joined by Bridget Vial, an organizer for Divest and Invest at the U of M and Jens Lund, a visiting scholar from Denmark to discuss the growing movement calling for institutions, cities, and countries around the world to divest their funds from fossil fuel stocks. We also chat with Valeriya Epshteyn, another organizer from Divest and Invest who gives us a great overview of the organization and how it fits into the larger divest movement. Hear Jens talk about international efforts and listen as Bridget gives us a sneak peak at what Divest and Invest are up to in the coming semester. This is a great show. Hope you all enjoy it!