The repercussions of the international wildlife trade, which is a primary driver of our planet’s biodiversity crisis, have recently hit close to home. With the society-altering impacts of Covid-19, which scientists think originated in wild animals, and the cultural storm around the Netflix hit “Tiger King,” the true cost of the wildlife trade and the U.S.’s role in driving it have become topics of national concern. In this episode, we speak with Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Zak Smith, who has fought for years to protect at-risk wildlife from exploitation. Smith discusses his work leveraging international, federal, and state and local mechanisms to safeguard some of our planet’s most iconic species — such as vaquitas, giraffes, and elephants — and his vision for a more sustainable, equitable world.
Roughly two-thirds of emerging infectious diseases — including COVID-19 and almost all recent epidemics — originate in the bodies of animals. Microbes have spilled over from animals to humans for time immemorial, but, as our species dominates the biosphere and transforms the frequency and nature of human-animal interactions, the rate at which microbes are jumping the species barrier is rapidly accelerating. In this episode, we speak with investigative journalist Sonia Shah, author of “Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond,” about the history of viral infections and how our treatment of animals and the planet — via the burning of fossil fuels, biodiversity loss, deforestation, factory farming, the wildlife trade, and more — is fueling the eruption and spread of infectious diseases.
Emily Judd interviews Yale Divinity School professor Mary Clark Moschella about how to find one’s life purpose, focus on the positive despite obstacles, and her Yale course that brings together graduate students and incarcerated women.
In an age where almost everything we eat is produced outside of public view, whistleblowers are critical to maintaining the integrity of our food systems. These principled insiders are often the first people to warn the public — often at grave personal cost — when food is unsafe, when workers face inhumane conditions, when food labels mislead consumers, and when animals and the environment are being abused. But who defends these front-line defenders?
Our guest, attorney Amanda Hitt, has been a champion and visionary for protecting and empowering food system whistleblowers for over a decade. As the founder and director of the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, Hitt’s clients have included USDA food safety inspectors in ultra-high-speed slaughterhouses, contract poultry farmers faced with exploitative contracts and company retaliation, and animal researchers privy to taxpayer-funded waste and cruelty. In addition to litigating whistleblowers’ cases, Hitt and her team work to draw public attention to these whistleblowers’ stories and to turn their revelations into systemic legal reforms. In this episode, Hitt takes us inside the world of animal agriculture industry whistleblowers. We speak with Hitt about her clients’ stories and motivations, the patchwork of laws that provide protections and redress for whistleblowers, the reality behind her video game “Bacon Defender,” and why food animal welfare, public health, and worker rights are inextricably intertwined.
Kaveh Madani is a Henry Hart Rice Senior Fellow at the MacMillan Center. He is an environmental scientist, educator, and activist, who works at the interface of science, policy, and society. He previously served as deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment and is known for his role in raising public awareness about water and environmental problems there.
Learn more about Kaveh Madani.
Noël Valis is a professor of Spanish who studies interdisciplinary approaches to modern Spanish culture, including religion, literature, and celebrity. She has received a number of honors and awards, including the Victoria Urbano Academic Achievement Prize in 2017 for her work in Hispanic women’s and gender studies.
Learn more about Noël Valis.
The HAPPINESS Project is one of the ways Yale faculty and students are tackling the complex, global challenges of connecting people with mental health services. The HAPPINESS Project aims to improve mental health care delivery in Nigeria, and the methods and technology developed through the project have the potential to help many other communities. Upon their return from Lagos, Nigeria, President Peter Salovey, Dr. Theddeus Iheanacho, Dr. Charles Dike, and Mr. Eddie Mandhry discuss the partnerships Yale is developing through this project and the Yale Africa Initiative.
Christopher Mellon recounts his career path from unpaid employee to U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. The Yale alum also discusses his current work on the History Channel show Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation and his conviction that life exists beyond earth.
In her acclaimed first book, “Floating Coast,” historian Bathsheba Demuth explores how capitalism, communism and ecology have clashed for over 150 years in the remote region of Beringia, the Arctic lands and waters stretching between Russia and Canada. Demuth trekked through the landscape and historical archives in search of answers to questions such as: How did whales become known through the labor of their killing? What happened when human ideas of “progress” were subject to the pressures of arctic life? Why did the superpowers’ grand attempts to cultivate a reindeer farming industry fail? In this episode, we speak with Demuth about these questions and about how creatures like bowheads whales were understood, imagined, and treated vastly differently by three distinct groups of hunters over the past two centuries — indigenous Yupik and Inupiaq whalers, capitalist whalers, and communist whalers — and the fundamental role animals themselves played in how its history unfolded.
First there was one hip hop professional on the Heartwood podcast, then there were two. Miles Braxton is a Business Development Analyst for Sol Customer Solutions, an energy solutions firm in Washington DC. In his work, Miles helps to investigate and engage potential clients in emerging solar markets, in addition to creating preliminary solar array designs for proposals. Miles graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Environmental Science. At U.Va., he founded and led an organization, Black Leaders for Environmental Sustainability (BLES), that works to install interactive solar charging stations around campus grounds and encourages minority students to increase their sustainability awareness and efforts. Miles came to FES this fall with a presentation called “Young, Gifted and Black” where he talked about building inspiration by combining entrepreneurship and sustainability. He talks in this episode about his own origin story in the energy space, future directions in the field, and drops some bars to wrap it all together.