“Population Bomb” author and Stanford Prof. Paul R. Ehrlich and film-maker, activist Michael Charles Tobias on hope in the midst of danger. Stand-up comedian & economist Yoram Bauman on climate humor. Radio Ecoshock 140604

Knowing what we know about dwindling energy, the total debt economy, and a dangerously sliding climate, how can anybody talk about hope?

I know more people will tune in for the latest disaster news, and there’s plenty of that to go around. But this show asks three really smart people how we could tilt all that into worthwhile good lives on a good planet. These aren’t pollyannas or professional spin-masters. Our guests are famous in their fields. They’ve been around the block with human disgrace and our attack on nature.

After publishing “The Population Bomb”, written with his wife Anne, Paul R. Ehrlich remains an essential public figure 50 years later. He’s the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University and president of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology.

Ehrlich teamed up with a green giant of film-making for the new book “Hope on Earth, a Conversation“.

The other end of that conversation is Michael Charles Tobias. You’ve seen his work on TV and films, whether you know his name or not. Animal rights activists respect his work too.

Basically, I grill them both, first about the real world situation, and then how they can find any self-respecting hope.

Then we veer off into the improbable: climate humor. We’ll talk with a professional stand-up economist about climate change and comedy. Yoram Bauman has been on Comedy Central, does stand-up tours, and just co-authored a new book “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change”.

It’s your long-lost hope and desperate laughs, right here on Radio Ecoshock.

Download/listen to this show in CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB


Hope is almost a cursed word, especially after disappointment with the first Obama campaign. Maybe it’s even hard to hope in the certain knowledge we have disrupted the climate for generations to come. Is hope a damaged word, and what should we hope for?

Some of the rich dialogues in the book are about the intricate patterns of nature. How do these apply to people isolated in heated or air-conditioned boxes, plugged into the imaginary world of electronic selves?

In this new book “Hope on Earth”, I was surprised to find discussions about butterflies and bugs – until I dug into Dr. Ehrlich’s serious qualifications as an entomologist. I wondered how his professional knowledge of the insect world feeds back into our vision of the human. Are we like the insects in some ways?

Speaking of warring ants, I aks Paul what he makes of the resurrection of the Cold War, with the United States and it’s allies against Russia, and maybe China? Considering all the real problems we humans have, Ehrlich finds posturing by the United States preposerous, but he’s no friend of the politics in Russia these days either.

It’s a wide-ranging interview from a mind exceptional even in his 80’s. Erhlich tells us he’s just getting started, with lots of work yet ahead of him.

Download/listen to this interview with Paul Ehrlich in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


He’s an author, a true ecologist, and mountain climber. You’ve probably seen his work as a film-maker. Michael Charles Tobias created the 1991 “Voice of the Planet” series for Turner Broadcasting, with William Shatner as host. He’s done a slew of documentaries since then, including “Hotspots” for PBS.

Back in 2006, I interviewed Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy who converted from raising cattle to becoming a vegetarian. But Tobias was there first, with his documentary in 2005.

Tobias is equally well known in the animal rights and conservation movement, where’s received awards and accolades for his work. He leads the Dancing Star Foundation devoted to species preservation.

Now Michael has teamed up with Stanford’s Dr. Paul Ehrlich for a deep conversation in the book “Hope on Earth”.

As a radio host covering science, it still bothers me that all the talk about climate change, even among major environment groups, is the impact it will have on humans, our gross domestic product, or whether big cities will flood. Michael Charles Tobias has been speaking up about climate disruption on behalf of the rest of the species that inhabit this globe.

I suppose the media knows that humanism sells. We are not interested in much beyond ourselves, except cat videos. How can we break this generation out of the electronic matrix, to really care about other creatures?

It’s come to the point that anyone who speaks out our treatment of farm animals, or even photographs the awful truth, is branded a terrorist. But Tobias doesn’t fear, and counts people like Ingrid Newkirk of PETA as his friends.

Michael found the Dancing Star Foundation, which among other things is involved in Animal rescue in California and New Zealand. But it’s a lot deeper than that, using many venues in its mission “Helping humankind protect the natural world.”

Here is Michael’s own web site.

Download/listen to this interview with Michael Charles Tobias in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or listen to this interview right now on Sound Cloud.


You know it’s global warming when:

Middle East oil producers feel at home everywhere.

Hot water comes out of both taps.

You find out ashphalt has a liquid state.

The four seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot and ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?

– found at http://www.die-klimaschutz-baustelle.de/climate_change_jokes.html

Our next guest is an economist who has assessed climate change. But wait, before you hit the snooze button, Dr. Yoram Bauman bills himself as the world’s first and only Stand-up Economist. He tours the country doing comedy gigs that connect with ordinary people, explaining difficult concepts.

I suppose it’s appropriate that from Comedy Central Yoram has moved on to publish a book on global warming – all in cartoons. I’ll do anything to reach the public, and so will Yoram, so let’s do it. Let’s dare to talk about the economics of destroying the world’s climate.

The book is “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change” with illustrator Grady Klein, published by Island Press. I’ve looked it over, and I think anyone over the age of 8 could enjoy it. This should be a good tool to reach work-mates, family and friends with a simple and easy to access explanation of climate science.

Before we get to the comedy, I ask Bauman about his day job, which includes calculating ways and means to change our economy to reward carbon reductions, rather than our current system of rewarding carbon emissions.

It seems to me that billions spent rebuilding after something like Hurricane Sandy is money that isn’t spent on public health care, rebuilding ricketty bridges, or replacing our wasteful electric grid. Does it matter what we spend the money on?

My theory is that climate damage – just the impacts of all the extreme weather events – will eventually cause an economic crash the likes of which we have not seen before. Can we run out of wealth to rebuild?

Bauman is more optimistic than I am about our continuing economy. I also don’t agree with his opinion that the car economy will (and should) keep going for another few decades while emissions come down. Do we really have decades to keep polluting the Earth?

On the other hand, Bauman, through his act, his humor, and now this cartoon explanation of climate change – is taking these important scientific messages to people who otherwise might shut it out. I think he’s doing important work.

Find Yoram Bauman’s web site here at standupeconomist.com. Get a taste of his stand-up comedy here on You tube.

Download/listen to this interview with Yoram Bauman in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

How do Prius owners drive?

One hand on the wheel, the other patting themselves on the back

That’s it for Radio Ecoshock this week. Thanks for all your support!

Alex Smith