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!

Standing Rock, Part Two

In the second installment of our conversation on Standing Rock we hear about what it’s really like to be on the ground in the camp. First, correspondent Leana Hosea speaks with water protectors at the camp who discuss police presence on the ground and morale as they continue to defend their land. We also listen to some live music from the site. Then, School of Social Work Students Anna Lemler and Maria Ibarra join hosts Chris Askew-Merwin and Malavika Sahai to discuss their experience visiting the Standing Rock camp. They delve into some of the politics of colonization, the negative impact some white activists have had on the camp, and talk about the role that non-Native demonstrators have in the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle. Anna and Maria recently visited the camp and donated supplies collected from University of Michigan students and had firsthand experience working on projects following indigenous leadership on-site. These are some personal accounts you won’t want to miss!

COP 22 In Marrakech

Tune in for an update and discussion from the first week of the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech, Morocco. Graduate students Ember McCoy and Ed Waisanen from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan join hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin to discuss their perceptions and experiences on the ground at COP 22 in Marrakech. Hear how the representatives from around the world reacted to the news about the surprising presidential election. But this isn’t all doom and gloom. We delve into Ed and Ember‘s experiences as well as clips from a few interviews they conducted and find reasons to be optimistic for the future of the environmental movement and for the fight against climate change. The discussion moves between the happenings at COP 22, the election, climate finance, international relations and even a few bad puns. You sure don’t want to miss this one!


From left to right: Ed, Ember, Cameron (our wizard of a producer), Malavika, and Chris

Standing Rock- Part One

In the first of our three-part series on the Standing Rock protests we invited two Native American activists and graduate students from the University of Michigan, John Petoskey, JD candidate and Katherine Crocker, PhD candidate to join hosts Malavika Sahai and Chris Askew-Merwin to have a discussion on the evolution of the protest and its place in the larger scope of indigenous rights. Listen and learn about the injustices caused by the Dakota Access Pipeline but also about the threats posed closer to home by Line 5, an oil pipeline that cuts through the Straits of Mackinac. This show explores the legal framework behind Native American protests as well as a fascinating discussion on the responsibility of STEM academics to engage in political and ethical activism. Tune in also for the fantastic music from Native American artists such as Ojibwe rapper Thomas X, Ojibwe / Anishinaabe & Xicano emcee Sacramento Knoxx, and Cree rapper Drezus among others. We hope you enjoy the show and tune in later this month as we put out parts two and three.



A More Eco-concious Europe

On today’s episode of It’s Hot In Here, Rebecca is joined in the studio by Ajay Varadharajan, a graduate of UM’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, now founder and CEO of Green Insights in Amsterdam.  Ajay and his company are helping businesses and consumers asses their environmental impact and improve their carbon footprint.14449721_10154623876778711_5028685342049967464_n Rebecca, Ajay, and guest host Leanna Hosea discuss global coffee trade, competing viewpoints on sustainability, and the development of his carbon tracking app GreenerU.

We also sample Ghislain Dubois who came into the studio last summer for “Carbon Confidential,” a discussion of his environmental consulting company TEC, based in Marseille.  Along the way, Ghislain introduced us to a master sampler, the DJ and artist Goldenberg and Schmuyle, whose track “tout, tout, et tout” reminded all of us at IHIH of our own efforts (je melange tout…i mix everything together). Check out his video Zazou Bar for an “electric” hit of the Marseille culture Ghislain describes in the neighborhoods around his consulting company’s office.

Meanwhile, back among the  canals and bicycles of Ajay’s Amsterdam,  this whole conversation spotlights the trend towards sustainability at more personalized scales. Ajay and Ghislain are both processing large data sets for organizations, but also developing apps and approaches to put data at the fingertips of individuals who want to “track” their environmental impact like they do their financial or physical fitness. You can reach either of them on their websites, and they area always looking for interns, analysts, and collaborators. In the meantime keep it tuned to IHIH where we track  trends going on in Europe and other parts of the world. We hope you enjoy this episode, masterfully edited by Patrick Conway.

Renewable Energy: Cities, Communities & Corporations

On this week’s episode of It’s Hot in Here, host Chris Askew-Merwin examines strategies for renewable energy development in cities, communities, and corporations. He is joined in studio by Ben Kunstman, a member of a Michigan Sustainability Case (MSC) team looking at municipalization, and Olivia Katz and Sean Pavlik, students at the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan who worked at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) over the summer. The segment also features an interview from Randy Knight, the city manager of Winter Park, Florida, who successfully municipalized their electric utility.

Boulder, Colorado is currently in an ongoing process of trying to municipalize their electric utility, meaning the city would take control of management and distribution from the existing, investor-owned utility Xcel Energy. Boulder is seeking to meet long-term renewable energy and greenhouse gas goals, and municipalization offers the opportunity to control their own future. The MSC case looks at the logistics of the proposal in Boulder, and examines the changing role of electric utilities.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is a Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources.  RMI’s Shine Initiative is working to open up an untapped 30GW market segment in U.S. clean energy market – community-scale solar.  As defined by RMI, the community-scale solar market includes traditional shared solar projects and other mid-sized arrays (.5-5MW) owned by utilities and third-parties.  Shine works with both buyers and sellers of solar PVs to develop innovative community-scale solar pilot projects that leverage economies of scale, shared cost-reduction levers and standardization of system design and business model to cut costs over 40%, with a path towards unsubsidized wholesale prices.  As a summer fellow on the Shine Initiative, Olivia Katz developed a corporate valuation model for solar developers which allowed the Shine team to test hypotheses around business model-redesign and ultimately show solar developers that pursuing community-scale solar market could create tremendous corporate value.  

Olivia Katz is a third-year student at the Erb Institute at University of Michigan, pursuing her MBA at the Ross School of Business and MS at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.  Prior to graduate school she worked in environmental and energy policy in New York and Colorado and enterprise technology startups in San Francisco.  At the University of Michigan, Olivia has focused on renewable energy and strategy.  She spent her first summer as a summer consultant at Parthenon-EY, a growth-strategy consulting firm in San Francisco.  She spent her second summer as a summer fellow in Rocky Mountain Institute’s Shine Initiative.  Olivia is passionate about finding market-based solutions to drive the sustainable use of resources and believes that increasing renewable energy penetration is one of the most effective ways to achieve this goal.

In the final portion of the episode, Sean Pavlik discusses the growing space of corporate renewable energy procurement based on his summer spent at RMI’s Business Renewables Center in Boulder. Large corporates from all sectors are increasingly choosing to meet their energy needs through large scale wind and solar developments. The Business Renewables Center (BRC) provides a platform to convene corporate buyers and renewable energy developers as well as providing educational tools to accelerate this market. The BRC is aiming for this market to provide 60GW of new renewables development due to corporate purchases by 2030—the equivalent of tens of millions of homes worth of electricity consumption.

Sean Pavlik 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. Sean is focusing his graduate studies on energy and sustainability issues within corporations with an emphasis on strategy. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Sean spent three years in Washington, DC, working at the intersection of government and business on key international energy, trade, and security issues, primarily with the U.S. Congress. He also spent two years working in Japan after his undergraduate studies. Sean received his B.A. in Environmental Sciences and International Studies from Northwestern University.

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