Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heads-up for 9 December 2010

Thinking Allowed
Cuban Science and Moral Panics
How did Cuba manage to become a world leader in bioscience despite and economic blockade and a developing world economy? Laurie talks to Simon Reid-Henry. Also what does the term 'moral panic' mean and is it overused. Jewel Thomas and Chas Critcher discuss.
(review, feed)

KQED Forum
WikiLeaks, Free Speech and National Security
Last week, WikiLeaks distributed more than 250,000 classified embassy cables to newspapers around the globe that provide an unvarnished view of U.S. foreign policy. While proponents of WikiLeaks herald the release of the documents as a victory for free speech and open information, critics contend that it undermines national security. We speak with experts on the both sides of the debate.
(review, feed)

In Our Time
Thomas Edison
Melvyn Bragg examines the life of the great American inventor, Thomas Edison. Creator of the phonograph and the mass-produced electric lightbulb, not to mention his pivotal role in the development of motion pictures, Edison was a true technological pioneer. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Kathleen Burk, Professor of History at University College, London; Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science and Fellow of Darwin College at the University of Cambridge; and Iwan Morus, Reader in History at the University of Aberystwyth.
(review, feed)

Exploring Environmental History
Slavery, fossil fuel use and climate change: past connections, present similarities
What is the connection between the abolition of slavery, the Industrial Revolution, the use fossil fuels and climate change? Jeff Mohout of Birmingham University recently discussed this question in an article in the journal Climatic Change. In this episode of the podcast Mohout presents his idea that that slaves in the past and fossil-fuelled machines at present play similar economic and social roles: both slave and modern societies externalised labour and both slaves and modern machines freed their owners from daily chores. Consequently, modern society is as dependent on fossil fuels as slave societies were dependent on bonded labour. Mohout also suggests that, in differing ways, suffering resulting (directly) from slavery and (indirectly) from the excessive burning of fossil fuels are now morally comparable. The pocast concludes with some suggestions of the lessons which may be learned from the abolition of slavery in the 19th century for dealing with modern climate change and the associated energy transition.
(review, feed)

Geography shifting big history

Several history podcasts wonder about this: how is it that the fringe region of Europe came to dominate the world in the past 500 years? A follow-up question could be: How is this domination going to shift? The answer to the second question will be highly flavored by the answer to the first. At Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon spoke with historian Ian Morris, who has done some big history and attempts a shot at both. (feed)

Morris reduces the answer to the first question to geography: until 1500 geography was in favor of Asia and the Mediterranean. Yet, by that time, starting in China, ocean travel became possible and once that technical hurdle was taken, everybody followed and an element of geography became relevant that had been without meaning until then: the Americas were much much closer to Europe than to Asia. It allowed the Europeans to get there first and extract the wealth and get the economic and military boost that was to be had.

Those distances have by now lost their meaning again and so Europe is losing the edge. Morris tries to extrapolate the factors he sees at work in big history and predicts major changes and a reversal of the balance by 2103. I love this kind of history with broad strokes and if you do so too, you are going to love this interview. Also if you do not, it serves to tap into the logic Morris presents. A very thought-provoking podcast.

More Radio Open Source:
Kai Bird,
Amartya Sen on India,
Mustafa Barghouti,
Jackson Lears,
Two communities in one region.