Okay, so you watch a lot of cable news, chime in with your political take on Twitter or Facebook, text witty banter back and forth with friends during an impeachment hearing and give an occasional donation to a political candidate, there’s a name for that. It’s called being a political hobbyist. Don’t worry, I admit to being one, too, in this podcast. We’re more likely than not to be college educated men over a certain age who satisfy our own emotional and intellectual curiosities by doing so. What we’re not doing is having any real impact in a true political context. And in fact while we channel surf, vent, and give a few bucks, people in the trenches of politics–doing the hard work of organizing, canvassing and staying focused–are winning the game and probably blunting our own political desires. Tufts political science professor, Eitan Hersh, in his book ‘Politics is for Power’ describes us to the ‘T’ and admits to being one of us. Yet, he has great respect for those who do the hard work of politics, with intent, in order to make real change. So, hobbyists, voyeurs, tourists and bystanders, take a listen and then, perhaps, go out and do something. Or as trickster Edward Abbey, famously quipped “saving the world is only a hobby. Most of the time I do nothing’.
While the right of privacy may not be explicit in the United States Constitution, as a tenet it is sprinkled liberally throughout and the U.S. Supreme Court has concurred time and again, particularly as it relates to married couples’ access to contraceptives in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and subsequently in cases relating to abortion and same-sex marriage. So why is it that we feel that we have lost the right in this digital age and that any type of anonymity is nearly impossible? Maybe it’s because we are all carrying little spies in our pockets and affirming our connectedness to others in all transactions. While we may have the right to disappear, the reality of doing so becomes more complex with every device we bring into our homes. Did you hear that, Alexa? In his book, ‘None of Your Damn Business’, Lawrence Cappello, a constitutional historian, takes us through the history of this precious right and what we can do to preserve it as a societal, as well as individual, benefit. At the conclusion of the episode, we discuss the implications of health surveillance in the era of COVID-19 and whether Americans will be wito give up their privacy for a better chance of defeating the coronavirus.
Our guest is Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com and co-founder of Kayak.com. He has written a new book called ‘Disruption Off: The Technological Disruption Coming for Your Company and What to Do About It’. Having this conversation with him during the coronavirus pandemic begged us to spend time imagining what impact this will all have on the already convulsive period of change in the way America does business, from teleconferencing to working at home to the deployment of new technologies to better understand customer needs and enhance the ability to meet them more quickly. He has disrupted the travel business, more than once, and now sees that business in a dramatic period of adjustment. While he reminds us that one company’s disruption is another company’s innovation, the pace and the inevitability of change far outstrips anything we’ve seen in the past. And there’s virtually no sector untouched. He’s an in-demand speaker and you’ll hear why on this podcast.
Each generation has its capstone event defining the way it looks at the world. As a baby boomer, with the civil rights movement, the first moonwalk, as well as the Vietnam War and the assassinations of our leaders, it was a complicated mix of hope and despair. For those now going off to college for the first time, being eligible for military service and joining first responder ranks in their community, the signal event in their lifetime was 9-11. It may have been the first time they saw their parents grieve openly and admit that the world isn't as safe as they tried to make it for their children. When you couple this with the financial meltdown of 2008 and this generation has seen a more vulnerable America than the one that owned the world stage at the close of the last century. So how does that affect the way they look at the world? We got a glimpse of it in the wake of the killing of an Iranian general by an American drone when social media shared the concerns of a generation about WWIII. As a podcast that focuses on social change, we thought it would be a good time to talk about the 9-11 generation at this crucial stage as they are poised for new challenges. And when many will, for the first time, vote in the 2020 presidential election. We discussed this with Garrett Graff, author of 'The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9-11'.
Backyard birdwatchers, you’re eyes aren’t deceiving you. The number of birds in the United States and Canada has dropped by 29 percent since 1970. The head of the National Audubon Society, calls it a ‘full blown crisis’. Birds are the most studied group of animals on Earth given the ease by which they can be found and the many who make that their hobby. The sad story in the skies above is how many fewer of the species that give us such joy are there to be found. So how did this happen and what can we do about it? For answers we turn to Kenneth Rosenberg, perhaps America’s greatest authority on bird populations. He’s a professor at Cornell University’s celebrated program on ornithology and the author of the definitive study on the losses. This work published in the journal ‘Science’ is a product of Cornell and the American Bird Conservancy. More than 90 percent of the losses(2.5 billion birds)come from just 12 families including sparrows, blackbirds, warblers, larks and finches. The most disheartening part of this picture is occurring in our forests and grasslands. Habitat degredation is key to all of this. You will come away from this podcast understanding the problem and what we can do to reverse this trend. There is hope, but to restore these lovely sights and sounds, we must take action.
With many young people deciding that the city, once again, is their destination of choice, we wanted to find out whether urban planning today is meeting the needs of this generation. Generations past gave us public water and sanitation, zoning, building codes and roadways that did more to influence our health and well being than medical care. So what about today’s designers? The development of every aspect of the urban landscape–from streets and sidewalks to green spaces, mass transit and housing–fundamentally influences the health and safety of the people who live there. Following on to out previous podcast on the social determinants of health, we take a look at the impacts of the built environment on all aspects of our life and ways in which those who can best design these spaces are often not involved. In the book ‘Changing Places’ John MacDonald, Robert Stokes and our guest, Charles Branas urge us to look anew at the disconnect between those who implement place-based changes, such as planners and developers, and the urban scientists who are now able to rigorously evaluate these changes on how we live. In doing so, we paint the broad picture of what is needed to improve outcomes for those of all socioeconomic backgrounds sharing an urban space. Hot button issues like gentrification, open space, transportation and street environments as well as recreation opportunities are touched upon.
Many of us think that our genes and our lifestyle, or just plain luck, determine our health outcomes. As a society, we’re beginning to understand another key factor is the growing impact of the social determinants of health–the walk ability of our neighborhood, access to medical facilities and transportation, living in areas that aren’t environmentally compromised and having access to fresh foods. Never has this become clearer than in recent weeks as we have seen more African-American citizens succumb to the deadly coronavirus. While policymakers say they want to study and address this issue, this podcast offers important information on these social determinants of your well being. While some of us take access to health care, quality foods and environmentally unspoiled conditions for granted, for a large swath of the population, these critical concerns are real and a daily obstacle to good health. Scott McPhee, DrPH(Doctor of Public Health) and Bay Path University’s program coordinator in the Master of Public Health program, walks us through the role that public health has played in addressing issues from HIV to cancer to opioid abuse. And while Americans like to think we can control our own health destiny, he brings perspective to the differences between our personal clinical health and the effects that public health issues have on how those services are distributed and available to all. So, as much as you are ‘what you eat’, in many cases you also are ‘where you live’.
So many vulnerabilities become more visible and are exacerbated during a crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic. In America, we’ve seen how quickly economic prosperity can be undone and inequities in the system revealed. We also see how lack of attention to public health, except in a crisis, makes the world’s most capable nation look wholly unprepared. One of the most glaring reveals is how America has ceded to China its drug making capabilities. You can well imagine shortages looming for staples like penicillin and antibiotics as we have outsourced those drugs to, what at best can be described as, an economic competitor. At worst, a malign one which is turning into an adversary. Rosemary Gibson, of The Hastings Center, is the thought leader in this country, who spent years uncovering this little known story for her book “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China’. She sounds the alarm in this podcast so that you know what a shortcoming it is to let unfair trade practices impinge on the healthcare needs of our citizens. And how we must restore drug manufacturing capabilities to our shores–and fast. It’s a matter of quantity and quality and demands your attention. Few issues rise to the level of life or death as this one does.
Much has been, and will be, written about government’s delays in containing the deadly COVID-19 corona virus. We hear the names CDC, FDA, HHS and a tangle of bureaucracies named during the Administration’s daily briefings. To what extent did the many regulations governing the actions of each layer of government play a role in delaying a timely response to testing, procurement and a host of other issues? The testing delays were, perhaps, most troubling and costly as public health officials across the country were prevented from using their own tests, buying them overseas, or using local labs. Philip K. Howard and founder of the non-profit organization, Common Good, has been writing about the need for sensible and smart regulation which provides for human judgment to override reams of written rules. He feels that this crisis has exposed the dangers of relying too heavily on hidebound regulations in the face of fast moving events. Think about it. In the span of a few weeks, governors designed their own testing regimes, loosened restrictions on telemedicine and occupational licensing was waived to allow medical professionals to come across state lines to meet the surge head on. He also argues for a Recovery Authority as the public health emergency recedes so that getting American business up and running can occur with more pace. For an example, restaurants are the lifeblood of New York City. Many have shut down. New ones will emerge. Starting a restaurant in the City requires permits from upward of eleven agencies. Really? Will streamlining of archaic rules allow commerce to return more quickly? And will changes to medical regulation in a crisis lead to more permanent changes? We’ll discuss on today’s episode.
The baby boomers liked their suburban homes, with lots of room inside and out. The millennials, many of whom will be relied upon to buy them, not so much. Between now and 2037 it is projected that 21 million homes will hit the market as boomers downsize, move in with family and require assisted living situations. That will put a lot of downward pressure on the housing market as young people want to smaller, more urban-like and transit friendly environments. So, what happens to these homes? That’s a big part of the conversation we have with Tara Mastroeni who writes about real estate for Forbes, Realtor.com and others. We also discuss the new I Buying approach to making the real estate experience more seamless and less splintered. It rolls up buying and selling your home, as well as title and home insurance and the move, too, into one package. These algorithm-powered home flipping platforms suggest a huge change in the way we do real estate business going forward as giants like Zillow and Keller-Williams adjust their business models to accommodate.