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. 

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.