Recommended Podcasts

This is a short “bonus” posting about some worthwhile podcasts I have been following lately that might be appreciated by Do the Math readers. I’m not a particularly thorough podcast consumer, often having a spotty relationship even with the ones I enjoy. That said, I’ll start with the most recent, and the one that in fact inspired this posting.

Human Nature Odyssey

Alex Leff has created what I think is a masterpiece in his first “season” of Human Nature Odyssey. The series is an entertaining, engaging treatment of Daniel Quinn’s 1992 book, Ishmael. I read this book and its companions in 2022, finding powerful and important insights that have stuck with me and grown. I highlight these in an account of my reading journey, and later in a dedicated post. Alex brings humorous life to the story in a richly textured production.

I can’t say personally how well the series would work without first reading Ishmael, but I suspect it would still work quite well as a stand-alone experience (Alex intended it to be able to work). I can say that I enjoyed it enough to run through twice. I won’t rule out a third pass—which would be a personal first for any podcast series. So, it receives my highest recommendation. Give it a try, and tell friends and family about it if you enjoy it. No, I am not getting paid or compensated in any way!

Holding the Fire

Dahr Jamail followed his 2020 book The End of Ice with a palliative book together with coauthor Stan Rushworth called We are the Middle of Forever, which presents perspectives from a variety of Indigenous voices within North America (Turtle Island). Holding the Fire expands the effort, in audio form, to an international set of Indigenous people who have wisdom to share. I am struck by the common themes offered by people from such different environments and cultural histories. These commonalities can’t be coincidence, and might light the way for long term success: living on this planet as humble participants within a community of life.

The Great Simplification

I have referenced a few inspirations from this series, by Nate Hagens, in previous posts. Nate talks to leading scholars, thinkers, practitioners, and activists in the world who are engaging with the meta-crisis in various ways. Nate encourages systems thinking that is not ecologically blind, energy blind, materials blind, etc. It is rewarding to learn that others in the world are thinking about these topics, although the number of guests whose narrow focus appears to result in one or another “blindnesses” is its own sort of lesson as to how rare a broad perspective on the meta-crisis is—but Nate gracefully and gently probes some of the blind spots. Besides the regular series (featuring guests), Nate also creates a sidecar “Frankly” series of shorter installments addressing relevant pieces of the puzzle.

Crazy Town

Jason Bradford, Rob Dietz, and Asher Miller—in association with the Post Carbon Institute—gather (in the same room, no less!) to chew on topics and trends relevant to the meta-crisis.  These are fun conversations, with lots of good-humored jabs at each other.  All three are very insightful, compassionate, and well-informed.  Their episodes on mega-wankers like Elon Musk are entertaining, as part of a series on “Phalse Prophets.”

Doomer Optimism

Finally, I am less familiar with this series except that I was a guest on the recent episode 195. That’s right: they’re approaching 200 episodes. Among other guests, they have had Bill Rees, Daniel Schmachtenberger, John Michael Greer, Richard Heinberg and Kate Raworth. While I have not explored this one very thoroughly, I resonate with the title, as I am doomerish when it comes to modernity, while remaining oddly optimistic when it comes to humanity.

This statement brings me back to the Ishmael-based podcast (Human Nature Odyssey) mentioned at the top of this post: we can enact other stories going forward—stories of respect, awe, and reciprocity.

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A Reading Journey

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

I intend to resume semi-regular postings in the near term, and am sitting on a couple dozen post ideas in various stages of development. In puzzling out what order I should put them in, I decided to start with something of a meta-post that lays some groundwork for a number of the future entries.

What I have in mind is to recapture my own journey over the last couple of years, which has resulted in an unexpected shift in my emphasis and awareness. By sharing key elements of my own journey, perhaps you can experience something similar. In any case, you might treat it as a belated (bloated?) summer reading list.

Let’s start just by capturing the chronological list, and then I’ll say a few things about the significance of each item.

  1. Energy and Human Ambitions textbook; especially Epilogue; Appendix D.5 and D.6
  2. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. Human Exceptionalism (Do the Math post)
  4. Daniel Schmachtenberger on The Great Simplification
  5. Daniel Quinn’s books: Ishmael; The Story of B; My Ishmael; Beyond Civilization
  6. Post-Ishmael Do the Math posts (Sticks; Love; Cults and a Story)
  7. An Inconvenient Apocalypse, by Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen
  8. We Are the Middle of Forever by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth
  9. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  10. The Myth of Human Supremacy by Derrick Jensen
  11. Bitter Harvest by Lisi Krall
  12. Hospicing Modernity by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira

Continue reading

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Keeping Up On Appearances

Over the last year or so, a number of audio/video productions have accumulated in which I have had an opportunity to express my evolving thoughts. Being challenged in the art of self promotion (Do the Math is the closest I come to social media), I tend not to link to everything that comes along. Yet, I recognize that some readers may value pointers to these other formats. So this brief post is an aggregation of recent appearances, to put it all in one place, arranged by context. Still feels a little gross.

The first—and most recent—pair of links relates to the latest Do the Math post on The Simple Story of Civilization. This post started as one page on a bedside note pad, scribbled by coincidence the night before a scheduled podcast interview with Hart Hagan. Although I did not connect the two, I did mention the outline to Hart when we began the zoom session, in case he found it interesting. To my surprise, he launched the conversation with a rough run-through of the script. Here is the video chat:

Shortly after this recording, I wrote up and released the post—which inspired Nate Hagens to record a targeted “Frankly” that follows the thread of the post:

About a year prior to this, I dropped in on the Crazy Town podcast trio on a road trip, and recorded this episode with them (also can try this link). It was a fun discussion about physical limits and what features future success must have (I did link this previously on Do the Math). Update 2023.02.21: In the initial posting, I forgot to include this podcast episode (51) from Breaking Down: Collapse from September of 2021.

Early in 2022, Nate Hagens included me on his new podcast called The Great Simplification, as episode 18. I am pleased to be in such good company: the other guests on the podcast have been insightful and thought-provoking. In episode 18, Nate and I explore physical limits to growth—echoing some of the foundational posts of the Do the Math blog.

Update 2023.02.21: Hart Hagan recently did a second podcast interview with me:

The next video is a relatively high production-value interview by the UC San Diego Division of Physical Sciences about my free textbook. (I put this up before, but also include here for completeness.)

This next pair relates to my involvement in the formation of the Planetary Limits Academic Network (PLAN; see post about it here). First I’ll point to a radio interview of myself and PLAN co-founder Melody LeHew, in which we discuss the predicament, and what PLAN might do in this context. Next is a video interview for Scientists’ Warning along with PLAN instigator Ben McCall, in which we address the challenges associated with radical change in our academic trajectories:

So I think that’s all I want to point out here. Anyway, I hope at least some of these provide value.

Oh—here’s something else that came along after I made this posting: it’s a joint interview of myself and Ugo Bardi on the topic of collapse.

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Crazy Town Podcast

Crazy Town Podcast Logo

If you’ve enjoyed Do the Math even just a little bit over the years, you have Asher Miller to thank, in part. Asher is the Executive Director of the Post Carbon Institute, whose work I had been following for a few years when I reached out in 2011. I reported that I was going to be passing through their neighborhood, and asked if they would be up for a meeting. I spent a few hours with Asher, and he encouraged me to commit some of my ideas and analyses to writing, suggesting a blog format that could be re-posted to the Energy Bulletin, which is now

So I took his advice. Within a month, I created Do the Math, and the Energy Bulletin promptly picked up my first post on Galactic Scale Energy, which then found its way to reddit. Thus, within a few days of publishing my first blog post, I had hit the 100,000 page view mark. That strong start—and even the fact that it started at all—is due in no small measure to Asher’s encouragement, suggestion, and the close connection between PCI and the Energy Bulletin.

Fast-forward a decade, and I again was set to pass through PCI’s (relocated) haunt. I again reached out to Asher, who suggested that I stop in for a podcast recording of Crazy Town, which he does with Jason Bradford (PCI Board President; on his farm) and Rob Dietz (PCI Program Director). We had a fun time together, and an enjoyable conversation, which you can listen to on your podcast app of choice by clicking this link, or you could try this semi-permanent link to the “bonus” episode in question.

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Chris Martenson Podcast

I’ll cheat on my bi-weekly posting plan and slip in this podcast conversation between Chris Martenson and myself, covering many of the topics I have written about in the last year.

If you don’t have 45 minutes, and are a faster reader than I am, a transcript is also available—mercifully leaving out many utterances of “um” and “you know” (which is all I seem to hear when I listen to a recording of myself).  The original source and surrounding intro/write-up can be found on the Chris Martenson website.

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