Far too often, governments behave like toddlers. They’re fickle. They don’t like to share. And good luck getting them to pay attention to any problem that isn’t directly in front of them. They like to push each other to the brink, and often do. But when they don’t, it’s usually because other people enter the proverbial room. Private citizens who step up and play peacemaker when their governments won’t or can’t. People who strive for collaboration and understanding, and sometimes end up finding it in unlikely places. Those people and the work they do, they’re the reason we’re all still here.
This season, we’ll hear from scientists, analysts, and idealists who have gone to crazy lengths just for a shot at making peace and building understanding From smoke-filled rooms in North Korea to secret labs in the Soviet Union… to the lawless seas, and even to the depths of outer space (or, at least, the conference rooms where they talk about the depths of outer space). This podcast tells the stories about the people holding us back from the brink.
Hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, a professor and scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies on the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies faculty. Previously, he served as Director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation and Executive Director of the Managing the Atom Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He is the founder of ArmsControlWonk.com, a leading resource on disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation issues.
Produced by Gilded Audio and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Introducing: The Reason We’re All Still Here
With the Iran nuclear deal dead as a doorknob, Jeffrey Lewis set out to make a new podcast, one that tells stories of scientists, journalists and maybe a vigilante or two... private citizens who are working to solve diplomatic problems and prevent the next global catastrophe.
Yes this podcast is about saving the world – one arduous, unlikely, under-funded, seemingly impossible mission at a time. Skinny dipping physicists, activists living on houseboats and, of course, at least one person looking at satellite images in his pajamas..
The Reason We’re All Still Here is a production from Gilded Audio and The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Proliferation is just a fancy word for the spread of nuclear weapons. Nonproliferation is stopping it.
You’re Welcome (A Prologue)
If you’re reading this, and you’re not in some sort of irradiated, post-apocalyptic hellscape… well, you can thank our host Jeffrey Lewis. He studies nukes—who has them, who wants them, and how to prevent them from going off—so that we’re less likely to die in a nuclear war. The thing is, lots of people have jobs like this. They’re not celebrities and they’re not even politicians. They’re the people looking for solutions to problems that most people haven’t thought about yet, doing research that most people won’t ever hear about, and, of course, writing papers that most people are never going to read. But collectively, they’re making it a little less likely that war will break out, bombs will fall, and we’ll all die horribly. Call them wonks, call them cranks, call them idealists…we call them the reason we’re all still here.
This prologue establishes what you’ll hear this season: the type of international, non-governmental diplomacy that aims to keep civilization alive. Sometimes solutions are found in unlikely places… like a suitcase shop in Tehran.
This episode features an unlikely friend of Dr. Lewis: Max Angerholzer, CEO of George and Barbara Bush Foundation.
Skinny-Dipping in the USSR
As the Cold War draws to a close, a group of American scientists hatches a plan to board a Soviet warship with a nuclear weapons detector to prove to their own government that the USSR is open to nuclear arms verification. Meet the guys who brought a slug of depleted uranium through security at LaGuardia Airport, sat atop a Soviet nuclear device in the Black Sea, and skinny-dipped with their counterparts from the other side of the Iron Curtain.
This episode features three physicists: Tom Cochran, formerly of the NRDC; Frank von Hippel, a professor of physics at Princeton University; and Steve Fetter, a professor at the University of Maryland.
Windmills in a North Korean Cabbage Patch
An arms-control advocate accepts an invitation to the dacha of a hard-partying North Korean power broker. There, through a haze of smoke and propaganda, they identify some common ground and set out to test a hypothesis: That it’s possible for Americans and North Koreans to work together toward peace. The result is a tense but extraordinary moment in the relationship between North Korea and the West, a rare example of collaboration that has been almost entirely lost to history.
This episode features Peter Hayes and Lyuba Zarsky, co-founders of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, and David von Hippel, an energy expert who worked with Peter in North Korea.
Ground Control to Space Junk
There are no international laws against littering in space, which is a shame, because individual governments love to blow things up in low-Earth orbit. The result? A crisis of ricocheting debris that goes on forever. As private industry sends an unprecedented number of satellites into orbit, security experts find themselves in a race against the clock to bring sanity (or sanitation?) to the space around us.
This episode features former NASA astrophysicist Donald Kessler, Professor Mariel Borowitz of Georgia Tech, and Victoria Samson and Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation.
The Leak from Compound 19
In February 2020, an elite group of biosecurity experts, worried about the threat of pandemics, plays a bizarrely prescient role-playing game. They run into an age-old pattern of secrecy and mistrust, one that thwarts their efforts to ‘beat’ the game. We travel back to a (real-life) period when dozens of mysterious deaths occurred in a closed Soviet city. As it turns out, hidden pieces of lung tissue help shed light on what, to this day, keeps the nations of the world from working together to fight infectious disease.
A highly enriched podcast
Best one yet. Love seeing behind the curtain at the people who actually get things done in the government. Brilliant
Lewis explains abstruse, important concepts in clear easy to understand language. These are quite complex ideas but he uses humor and great production values to make sure we all get it. He’s a national treasure!