Crosscut Talks
Understanding Death to Understand Life with Andrew Steele and Carl Zimmer

Understanding Death to Understand Life with Andrew Steele and Carl Zimmer

August 14, 2022

Science can't fully explain what life is. Three experts try anyway in a conversation about life, death and our desire to push back the expiration date.

Talking about life and death is tricky for anyone, even scientists. Despite considerable research over the course of generations, scientists still don’t fully understand what life is, what death is or even what separates the two. 

But where science lacks understanding, there are theories and questions about what makes something alive and how to keep living things from aging. And there are intriguing thoughts on the ethics of efforts to prolong life.

These are the questions at the heart of this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, featuring Andrew Steele, author of the book Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, and Carl Zimmer, who writes the New York Times column Matter and is the author of Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive.

Led in conversation by University of Washington doctoral candidate Halli Benasutti, these two experts discuss life, death, aging and consciousness. And while they may not be able to arrive on concrete definitions of these elusive concepts, they certainly have very interesting insight into each.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producers: Sara BernardBrooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to supporting our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

How to Be Happier with Dr. Laurie Santos

How to Be Happier with Dr. Laurie Santos

August 10, 2022

Happiness takes work. The host of The Happiness Lab podcast shares what social science says about making that work more manageable.

Happiness can feel fleeting in even the best of times. In the midst of a pandemic shot through with personal and social upheaval, maintaining a sense of joy or contentment can be especially challenging. 

As if that weren’t difficult enough, human intuition often fails at identifying what, exactly, will bring happiness. But according to professor Laurie Santos, the social sciences can help. 

As a cognitive scientist and psychology professor at Yale University who launched the popular class Psychology and the Good Life and  hosts the podcast The Happiness Lab, Santos has a firm grasp on the science of feeling good.

In this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast she discusses how scientific study has helped shed common misconceptions about what makes people happy and identifies practices that can lead to happier lives, including daily behavioral changes, larger structural changes in our lives and mindfully balancing happiness with our negative emotions. 

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producers: Sara BernardBrooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

How Billionaires Are Changing the Space Race with Tim Fernholz and Christian Davenport

How Billionaires Are Changing the Space Race with Tim Fernholz and Christian Davenport

July 24, 2022

A decade of advancement by private companies run by billionaires has transformed how humanity is approaching the final frontier. 

Some of the biggest news in recent space exploration has revolved around billionaires. Last year, for instance, both Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson actually traveled into space. Those very high-profile – and very brief – journeys were a result of the relatively recent push by private companies to join Earth’s more technologically advanced nations in reaching toward the heavens. 

Blue Origin, SpaceX and Boeing have all played a major role in recent developments in space technology and even NASA’s Artemis mission, which is aimed at putting a woman and person of color on the moon, is outsourcing aspects of the mission to private companies.

The story of space exploration is a long, methodical and somewhat slow-moving one – in relation to the news cycle at least. But recent developments from private companies and nations have been coming relatively fast.

For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, two authors who have been keeping an eye on the skies over the last decade discuss how these relatively new players are approaching the space race and how the nations who have been in the race for decades are responding.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producers: Sara BernardBrooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

Keeping Arts Alive in an Expensive City During a Persistent Pandemic

Keeping Arts Alive in an Expensive City During a Persistent Pandemic

July 21, 2022

The city’s arts industry is returning to some semblance of normalcy. During a live Civic Cocktail event, four leaders survey the damage done and chart a path forward.

In the spring of 2020, many artists and arts organizations were already struggling to maintain a place for themselves in Seattle. The future of creative expression in the city was uncertain, but the challenges were well-defined. Then the pandemic hit and scrambled everything.

Audiences shifted to experiencing their arts and entertainment through screens as artists pivoted to a new digital reality. Many arts organizations, meanwhile, had to rely on philanthropy, government assistance and their own creativity to survive. 

Now, as a vaccinated and exhausted world presses on through year three of the pandemic, the arts are in the midst of a slow return to venues across the city. But the world that artists and arts organizations are encountering is very different from the one they faced when the arts shut down two years ago. 

For this episode of the Civic Cocktail podcast, we speak with four community arts leaders – Arté Noir founder and president Vivian Philips, Museum of Museums founder and director Greg Lundgren, Artist Home founder and owner Kevin Sur, and Northwest Folklife managing director Reese Tanimura – about the state of the arts now. They share their experiences leading organizations and businesses through the pandemic, outline new challenges of this late-pandemic era and offer prescriptions to keep the arts alive in Seattle. 

This conversation was recorded on July 13, 2022.

Civic Cocktail is a production of Seattle City Club and Crosscut.

To receive future conversations like this one in your podcast feed earlier, subscribe to the Civic Cocktail podcast on SpotifyApple PodcastsAmazonPodbean, or wherever you listen.

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Credits

Host/podcast production: Mark Baumgarten

Event production: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Video production: Stephen Hegg

How the Internet Changed Us with Pamela Paul

How the Internet Changed Us with Pamela Paul

July 17, 2022

Author Pamela Paul recalls what the world was like before it was connected — and how privacy and personal memory have transformed since.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the internet was there to help much of humanity keep going while maintaining a social distance. The transition was not seamless, but the interconnected world that had been taking shape in the decades prior made it possible for many people’s work and social lives to continue, if in a radically altered manner.

But while the internet has made this new normal possible, it has come at a cost. For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, author Pamela Paul tallies those costs, not just since the pandemic but in the decades before. 

In this interview from the 2022 Crosscut Festival, Paul discusses her book 100 Things We've Lost to the Internet, in which she documents a history that younger generations may barely remember – if they recall it at all. Baby Boomers, meanwhile, will find in Paul’s work a nostalgia trip through a time when privacy and individual memory remained more intact.  

As a member of Gen X, Paul delivers a perspective from somewhere in between. While there was no internet during her childhood, she witnessed its transformative powers as it became central to her life.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producers: Sara Bernard, Brooklyn Jamerson-Flowers

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

Carl Bernstein on the Past and Future of News

Carl Bernstein on the Past and Future of News

July 13, 2022

The legendary journalist, who helped change the industry with his reporting on Watergate, talks about how journalism changed his life.

Carl Bernstein is best known as one half of the investigative team that broke the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Fifty years later, it is still regarded with reverence by both those who practice journalism and those who consume it.

That is partially because the story of that reporting is dramatic, enough to fuel a bestselling book and hit film. But mostly the reporting on Watergate continues to resonate because it so clearly changed the course of American history. In the parlance of newsrooms, what Bernstein and his reporting partner, Bob Woodward, did at the Washington Post in the early ’70s was high impact journalism. 

None of that is news to anyone. But that isn’t the story Bernstein shares in this episode of the Crosscut Talk podcast. Instead, he tells the story that came before the story, of his earliest days in a newsroom, at the Washington Star, in the early ’60s. 

It’s the subject of his recent memoir, Chasing  History: A Kid in the Newsroom, and it’s a jumping-off point here — in this interview with University of Washington professor Matthew Powers — to talk about the evolution of the journalism industry, the public’s regard for the news and what it means to search for the truth. 

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producer: Sara Bernard

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

Manipulating Nature to Save It with Elizabeth Kolbert

Manipulating Nature to Save It with Elizabeth Kolbert

July 10, 2022

The New Yorker staff writer says human ingenuity may offer some solutions to the planet's biggest problems.

The relationship between humanity and nature is complicated. People are a part of nature, but at the same time they are a force that acts upon nature … and usually to the detriment of the rest of nature. 

Climate change is the most high-profile example of this interaction, but there are many other ways that human beings degrade the living world, from ocean acidification to the proliferation of plastics to the role that modern civilization plays in spreading pathogens.

The extent of the destruction wrought by humanity has been amplified by human ingenuity to what could be called an unnatural degree. But what if humanity could use that ingenuity to do the reverse, to mend the damage done. 

That is the topic of this episode of Crosscut Talks, featuring author Elizabeth Kolbert and Grist staff writer Lizzy O’Leary discussing the intriguing technologies that may help heal nature and the likelihood that they will protect the planet from the worst ravages of climate change.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producer: Sara Bernard

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

The Fight to Save Snake River Salmon with Dr. Helen Neville and Alyssa Macy

The Fight to Save Snake River Salmon with Dr. Helen Neville and Alyssa Macy

July 6, 2022

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest have been on the decline. Two advocates tell how breaching the dams along the river could restore the population. 

Salmon are integral to Pacific Northwest culture and have been for a very long time. Many generations before images of salmon filled Seattle gift shops, Native tribes relied on the fish for sustenance, and they still do today.

But the salmon populations that return to the rivers here during their spawning runs are a fraction of what they used to be, and they appear to be sliding toward extinction. 

In recent years, a movement to reverse that depopulation has gained steam. It has  focused on the dams along the Snake River, which stand as a major obstruction to the salmon. But the dams have also served as sources of hydroelectric power, which is something else that has more recently become woven into the culture of the Pacific Northwest. So removing those dams is no easy task. 

For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, retired environmental journalist Rocky Barker sits down with two people who would like to see those dams breached — Dr. Helen Neville and Washington Environmental Council CEO Alyssa Macy — to talk about what is at stake and where the movement stands now.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producer: Sara Bernard

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to funding our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

The Politics of Your Dinner Plate with Eddie Hill and Robert Paarlberg

The Politics of Your Dinner Plate with Eddie Hill and Robert Paarlberg

July 3, 2022

The food that Americans eat says a lot about the political culture they live in. An expert panel discusses what the country's diet is telling us now. 

Food is something that human beings think about every single day. It is the most intimate way we engage with the outside world – by ingesting parts of it – and the need to eat requires us to make choices. What makes it onto our dinner plates, then, says a lot about who we are and what we value, in a nutritional sense as well as a social sense.  

To a certain extent, this perspective has become widely accepted. The rise of organic foods in the grocery aisle and farm-to-table on restaurant menus speaks to this kind of understanding. But the system that’s delivering that food to our plates is so much more complex than a label. And that’s what this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast is about. 

We invited two people who think a lot about food to share what they see when they look at our food systems. Eddie Hill is a co-founder of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition and director of the Black Farm Bureau. Robert Paarlberg is the author of Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow and Eat.

In conversation with Grist staff writer Kate Yoder, they tangle with the food system’s  biggest problems, discuss whether a focus on local and organic foods are actually solving some of those problems and share what they see as the best course toward a healthier future for everyone.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producer: Sara Bernard

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph

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If you would like to support Crosscut, go to crosscut.com/membership. In addition to supporting our events and our daily journalism, members receive complete access to the on-demand programming of Seattle’s PBS station, KCTS 9.

Bill McKibben on the Future of the Climate Fight

Bill McKibben on the Future of the Climate Fight

June 29, 2022

The iconic environmentalist discusses the history of climate change and climate denial, as well as the challenges and opportunities the future holds.

It’s been more than 30 years since Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, an essential text in the fight against climate change. And in many ways the world has changed dramatically in that time. But while the possibilities of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change have decreased, the audience for work like McKibben’s has grown. 

When McKibben was first writing about the effects of humanity on the natural world, climate change was still something of a niche category of news. It is only in the past couple decades, as its impacts have become devastatingly apparent, that the story of our rapidly changing planet has become central to everyday life. 

For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, which was recorded as part of the 2022 Crosscut Festival, Bill McKibben shares his perspective on this current state of the climate fight with Grist climate reporter Shannon Osaka. 

McKibben discusses the history of climate change and climate denial that have led to this point, as well his outlook for the future that may be more dire than it was 30 years ago, but remains unwritten.

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Credits

Host: Mark Baumgarten

Producer: Sara Bernard

Event producers: Jake Newman, Andrea O'Meara

Engineers: Resti Bagcal, Viktoria Ralph