Lab-grown meat, plastic bag ban, most interesting fruit in the world

What I read, listened, watched and loved this month, April 2019 edition.

Freakonomics: The most interesting fruit in the world (Ep.375)

(Spoil alert: they are b-a-n-a-n-a-s.) This was probably my favorite podcast from April, because there are SO many themes wrapped up in this episode about the history of the banana commerce: economics, consumer taste, political discord, biodiversity, GMOs…I can’t give away anymore, you really have to give it a listen.

The Axe Files: Ep. 171 – Gov. Jay Inslee

Inslee, the first governor to join the 2020 Democratic Primary, is running on the issue of climate change. Whether you like him, or have your eyes set on another candidate, I think it’s worth learning about his platform – if you care about the environment – which you obviously do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here 😛 The interview with David Axelrod is a good one, but there are lots of other interviews out there with Inslee that you can check out, such as on Pod Saved America or the Ezra Klein Show.

50 Things that made the modern economy: cellophane

This 9-minute episode traces the history of clear plastic food packaging and makes sense of why it is still such a popular material in our supply chain. I wish every “plastic denier” would listen to this, and stop posting social media comments like “ugh why do cucumbers have to be wrapped it’s the stupidest thing ever!” (Hint: packaging lengthens shelf life and protects food products from damage through storage and transportation. So the answer is not NO packaging ever, but BETTER packaging.)

The Ezra Klein Show: Ending the age of animal cruelty, with Bruce Friedrich

If you are about to dismiss this as another hippie-animal-welfare-veganism-promoting propaganda, let me tell you: it is not that. As someone who has been slightly skeptical of the plant and cell-based meat industries, this interview was truly eye-opening. Bruce Friedrich, the head of the Good Food Institute, did another incredible job making the case for this exciting and fast-growing industry. It left me feeling that a future with affordable, great tasting and environmentally sustainable meat alternative  really is possible.

Reveal: Behind Trump’s energy dominance

Ok, this one technically aired in 2018, but I heard the rebroadcast recently and it really broke my heart. The show delves into how the current administration’s energy policy has weakened protections for Alaskan villagers dealing with climate change, migratory birds, and Native American artifacts. It even includes a secret recording from a meeting of oil industry executives, who celebrated their unprecedented access to the US Interior Dept. I listened to this podcast the same day that Interior posted this insanely adorable American woodcock on their Instagram, and I found the irony both sad and so infuriating. (Apparently, Susan Matthews over at Slate feels differently ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

The Conversation: Mapping the US counties where traffic air pollution hurts children most

Did you know that 1 in 5 childhood asthma cases were caused by traffic-related air pollution? GAH, me neither. But there is some good news: Dr. Khreis from Texas A&M (author of this article) and her team found that childhood asthma cases attributable to traffic pollution decreased by 33% from 2000 and 2010 – a big public health win. This might have been due to more fuel-efficient vehicles, more restrict emission regulations, etc. Her team even created an amazing county-by-county heat map showing the distribution of childhood asthma due to nitrogen dioxide across years. The visual is really quite arresting.

Image credit: Juan Pablo Arenas via Pexels.

Planet Money blog: Are plastic bag bans garbage?

I saw a friend post this article on Facebook and getting absolutely trashed (pun intended) by people who pretty much believe single use plastic bags are the worst thing that’s ever happened on this earth. I hope you’ll give this post a chance to convince you that even if you believe that’s true, an outright ban may not be the best solution to our plastic problem.

Our Planet

Have you seen this stunning British documentary series on Netflix yet? It captures the wonder of the natural world so beautifully, yet you can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss for the decline of nature. Buzzfeed collected “38 tweets from people watching Our Planet who are not at all ok” and it was 100% me. (And I’m ok with that!!!)