Dr. Michael Shermer is a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He is the co-founder of The Skeptics Society and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine. He has been a college professor since 1979, teaching courses such as Skepticism 101. He was a monthly columnist for Scientific American for 18 years.
Among his books are WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS; WHY DARWIN MATTERS; THE SCIENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL, and GIVING THE DEVIL HIS DUE: REFLECTIONS OF A SCIENTIFIC HUMANIST. His latest book, CONSPIRACY: WHY THE RATIONAL BELIEVE THE IRRATIONAL, is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
We spoke with him via Skype on December 5, 2022. The next day, a New York jury found The Trump Organization guilty of 17 felonies, including conspiracy. The day after that, 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states against the group, Reich Citizens, whose members it said adhered to a conglomerate of conspiracy theories, including the QAnon cult and the so-called Reich Citizens movement.
Articles and videos pertinent to this interview can be found here:
On October 27, 2022, attorneys for two environmental organizations, WildEarth Guardians and Project Coyote, a project of Earth Island Institute, filed a lawsuit against The State of Montana, by and through the MT Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the MT Fish & Wildlife Commission. The suit was filed in MT First Judicial District Court in Lewis & Clark County.
The case named, WildEarth Guardians v. FWP, Cause No. DDV-25-2022 DK, alleges that the state’s wolf hunting and trapping policies violate the Montana Constitution, Montana Administrative Procedure Act, Public Trust Doctrine, and several federal laws meant to protect wildlife on federally-managed lands.
On November 10, 2022, a motion was filed asking The Court to prohibit the start of the state’s wolf-trapping season, as well as immediately halt the on-going wolf-hunting season, while the merits of the lawsuit are being considered. The conservation groups filed the time-sensitive motion with the wolf trapping and snaring season set to begin on November 28, 2022. The hunting season began in September. This motion asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order, followed by a preliminary injunction, to stop all recreational killing of wolves in the state pending resolution of the lawsuit.
On November 15, 2022, District Court Judge Christopher D. Abbott, granted a partial Temporary Restraining Order, with a hearing set for November 28, 2022. It’s set to expire November 29, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. The partial TRO requires MFWP to return to 2020 regulations with respect to wolf hunting and trapping quotas and “bag limits”, prohibits the use of snares, and limits quotas in former WMUs 110 (bordering Glacier NP), 313, and 316 (bordering Yellowstone NP).
In the 2021-2022 season, 273 wolves were killed by hunters and trappers—including 19 Yellowstone wolves—with nearly 70 percent of the wolves killed, after the trapping season began. As of November 15, 2022, hunters had already killed 56 wolves, while regulations permit hunters and trappers to kill an additional 395 wolves before the season ends in March 2023. The motion alleges that the conservation groups’ interests will be harmed beyond repair, if the court allows the hunting and trapping season to proceed while they fully litigate their case.
The motion—and the underlying lawsuit—claim that there are significant flaws in the population model used to estimate the total number of wolves in the state, and that since the quota of 456 wolves for this season relies upon a flawed population model, reaching the quota could have devastating consequences on the state’s wolf population. The motion states, “Montana does not have an accurate picture of how many wolves are living in Montana, and cannot sustainably and legally manage the species through another wolf hunt this winter.”
A listener asked us to investigate, and we share interviews with four people knowledgeable about the issues, Lizzy Pennock, an attorney with WildEarth Guardians;
Greg Lemon, Administrator of MFWP’s Communication and Education Division;
Pat Byorth, MT Fish & Wildlife Commissioner for Region 3, below
Michael Waasegijig Price, of The GREAT LAKES INDIAN FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION, which joined six tribes, who sued the state of Wisconsin in September of 2021 to prevent further wolf slaughter there.
Documents, articles and links pertinent to this episode of Ecotones:
Returning to Forthright Radio, award winning science journalist, broadcaster and author, Gaia Vince, has a new book out from Flatiron Press, NOMAD CENTURY: HOW CLIMATE MIGRATION WILL RESHAPE OUR WORLD.
Her first book, Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made, won the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, making her the first woman to win that prize outright.
We spoke with her via Skype on August 22, 2022.
The original broadcast included audio excerpts from the 100th birthday programs honoring James Lovelock, whose Gaia Theory revolutionized the way we approach global crises. Links to the full programs can be found below.
Articles/videos pertinent or referred to in the program can be found here:
Sara Dosa wrote, directed and produced the extraordinary documentary, FIRE OF LOVE. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival as the Day One film in the US Documentary Competition, & won the Jonathan Oppenheimer Editing Award for Erin Casper & Jocelyne Chaput’s superb editing, as well as raves from critics. Her work has won a Peabody Award for AUDRIE & DAISY and an Emmy Award for REMASTERED: TRICKY DICK AND THE MAN IN BLACK.
National Geographic Films acquired FIRE OF LOVE for release in 2022. It screens at the Mendocino Film Festival audiences on June 3rd & 4th at the Coast Cinemas.
FIRE OF LOVE recounts the love between, and work of, two young French volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Kraffts, whose courageous exploration and documentation of volcanoes revolutionized our understanding of Earth processes. They dedicated their lives to trying to answer questions like “what forms & re-forms the world.” and “What is it that makes the Earth’s heart beat, her blood flow?”
They were one in their obsession with volcanoes, but they were complementary in their approaches and division of labor, which certainly advanced the success of their work. When asked if they were the only volcanologist couples in one of their many media appearances, Maurice said he “doesn’t think there are any other couples, & if there are, I pity them, because it’s very hard for volcanologists to live together – it’s volcanic…. We erupt often.”
FIRE OF LOVE is dedicated to the 43 people who lost their lives on Mt. Unzen on June, 3, 1991, which is when Katia and Maurice Krafft were finally consumed by that eruption they were studying.
This interview with Gillen D’Arcy Wood was originally broadcast on June 10, 2015. His book, TAMBORA: THE ERUPTION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, had just been published by Princeton University Press.
“Out of sight and out of mind, Tambora was the volcanic, stealth bomber of the early 19th century. Be it the retching cholera victim in Calcutta, the starving peasant children of Yunnan, China or County Tyrone, Ireland, the hopeful explorer of a North West Passage through the Arctic Ocean, or the bankrupt land speculator in Baltimore, the world’s residents were oblivious to the volcanic drivings of their fate.”
In 2015, it was 200 years after Tambora erupted cataclysmically with extremely dire global consequences. What can we learn from this event as we face our own challenges in a rapidly changing climate?
Gillen D’Arcy Wood is a professor of English and an environmental historian at the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he directs The Sustainability Studies Initiative in the Humanities. Gillen D’Arcy Wood has written extensively on the cultural and environmental history of the 19th century, and is the author of The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760-1860 (Palgrave, 2001), Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840: Virtue and Virtuosity (Cambridge UP, 2010), an historical novel, Hosack’s Folly (Other Press, 2005).
Indigenous artisans, cooks and farmers tell us this story (in Spanish and in their own languages) about the origins of indigenous corn and how their ancestors have guided the evolution of seeds from the dawn of agriculture to the 21st century; a collective effort that spans more than 350 generations.
To their voices are added those of community leaders, scientists, cooks and many others whose knowledge and activism are committed not only to the defense of food sovereignty and genetic integrity, diversity and the collective property of indigenous seeds, but also for the defense of an enduring cultural legacy and way of life.
Filmmaker and Chair of the FIlm & Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz , Gustavo Vazquez, brings us to Oaxaca to experience the wisdom of various indigenous communities, as they explain that “Corn was not domesticated by man – Man was domesticated by corn.”
Professors Ignacio Chapela (UC Berkeley) and Alan Bennett (UC Davis) discuss the merits and dangers of genetically modified organisms, and the characteristics of different landraces of corn that have co-evolved with the people of Oaxaca – continuing co-evolution vs. exploitation for patenting and profit.
Susana Harp, Senator from Oaxaca, works to protect the heritage and health of her region, and to respect the validity of their approach. “Corn & its surrounding rituals are tied to the cosmology of the indigenous people – by extension, the essence of being Mexican, linking our lives to corn.”
In this interview with Kristen Iversen from June 27, 2012, we learn about the history and legacy of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Site, located 15 miles northwest of Denver, CO. Iversen grew up in nearby Arvada, and worked at the plant.
The recent catastrophic fires in Superior and Louisville, CO, brought it to mind, since Superior butts right up against and downwind from the Rocky Flats site, and Louisville butts right up against Superior. On the day of the fire, December 30, 2021, winds were clocked at Rocky Flats at 115 miles per hour. But beyond that, as Kristen Iversen tells us, those winds had been blowing east from the plutonium contaminated site for 6 decades.
Local residents protested the moral and physical dangers at Rocky Flats, as well as proposed real estate developments along its borders, which were nonetheless built, in spite of the scientific findings of plutonium contamination and strong, local resistance, and which have now been utterly destroyed by the fires.
It has been widely reported that abundant spring rains allowed the grasses to grow profusely, only to dry completely in the ensuing drought and unseasonably hot and dry Fall and early Winter. In the growing, those plants absorbed plutonium, known to have been blown there from the Rocky Flats Weapon Lab site during those six decades. The fire vaporized whatever plutonium had been taken up by that tinder dry plant material, blowing it in unknown amounts and unknown distances to the east. I have not found any reports mentioning this aspect of the fires, much less considering the fallout from it, in the most literal sense.
Perhaps this post can be a beginning of that consideration.
Andy Norman, Ph.D., directs the Humanism Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University and is the founder of CIRCE, the Cognitive Immunology Research Collaborative. His book, Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think, just published by HarperCollins, lays out the conceptual foundations of cognitive immunology—the emerging science of mental immune health.
University of British Columbia Professor of Forest Ecology, Dr. Suzanne Simard, is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence. Her decades of in-the-field-experimental research have revolutionized our scientific understanding of forests, elucidating how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.
Suzanne Simard’s book, FINDING THE MOTHER TREE: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, was published by Knopf on May 4, 2021. We spoke together on April 27th.
We end the program with a recent piece commissioned by the Intermountain Opera Company composed by Eric Funk, Requiem for a Forest, Op. 168. It is performed by Roots in the Sky. A video adaptation by Thomas Thomas is available on https://bozemanarts-live.com/event/requiem-for-a-forest/
Requiem for a Forest
In summer heat And warming world Storms whip up, Lightening rolls, Sparks run to earth. The wind turns Through the mountains, Forests burn.
Fire ends, Yet fire begins. As mountains die, Cones open. Mors stupebit et natura Cum resurgent Creatura.
Now we must learn How to live here, Where fire season Burns all year. Blackened earth With green renew, May the fires wake us too.
Returning to Forthright Radio is Rob Dunn, who is a biology Professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. He conducts a Public Science Lab, which engages citizen scientists around the world via the website, robdunnlab.com.
His latest book, DELICIOUS: THE EVOLUTION OF FLAVOR AND HOW IT MADE US HUMAN, has just been published by Princeton University Press, and even though that sounds super academic, Rob writes for the general audience in a humorous and easily understood way. He is the science teacher I wish I had had in high school. To be concise, Rob Dunn is fun. We spoke with him on April 5, 2021.
Links to articles/events relevant to this interview: