The Vermont Conversation is a VTDigger podcast hosted by award-winning journalist David Goodman. It features in-depth interviews about local and national topics with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and ordinary citizens. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.
Can farmers survive?
Why would a woman walk away from a successful career as a journalist and professor, a comfortable home and a good life to become a struggling farmer?That’s exactly what Beth Hoffman did. She had spent decades as a reporter covering food and agriculture for outlets including NPR and The Guardian and taught at the University of San Francisco. Then in 2019, she and her new husband moved from their home in San Francisco back to his family’s 530-acre farm in Iowa to try their hands at farming. The experience has been spiritually rewarding but financially sobering.Half of America’s 2 million farms made less than $300 in 2019, according to Hoffman. That’s a recipe for poverty, not success.Hoffman tells her story in a new book, Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America. She explores issues from how the changing climate is affecting farms, to the financial and emotional toll of farming, to the obstacles confronting farmers of color. She advocates for a new narrative about farming that includes an honest reckoning with the harsh realities that farmers face while feeding the country.
How to spend money and not wreck the world
'Tis the season of American capitalism. Online shoppers spent $9 billion on Black Friday and $11 billion on Cyber Monday this year.What is the impact of all this spending? And while everyone loves a bargain, is it possible that some items are just too cheap?Author Tanja Hester argues that while Americans buy a lot, we may be leaving something on the table: our power to leverage change based on how we use our money.Hester is a former progressive political consultant who the New York Times describes as the “matriarch” of the women’s FIRE movement (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/07/business/fire-women-retire-early.html). (FIRE stands for financial independence/retire early, an investment strategy that's gained popularity in recent years.) Hester's new book is Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change. She contends that where we shop, what we buy, and where we donate can influence the fate of our society and our planet."I believe that we can make real change, and it's within our individual power to do so," says Hester.
Fritjof Capra on finding balance and connection in a turbulent world
When the Tao of Physics was first published in 1975, few people knew its author, the Austrian-born physicist Fritjof Capra. That would quickly change. What began as Capra’s passion project to explore the connection between Eastern mysticism and Western science became a global phenomenon. The book sold millions of copies and has been translated into 23 languages.Fritjof Capra has gone on be a trailblazing thinker and writer about systems theory, deep ecology and Green Politics. He is the author or co-author of about a dozen books, a number of which have been international bestsellers. The main focus of his writing and activism has been to help build sustainable communities. He founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, which advances education for sustainability.Capra, who is now 82 years old and lives in Berkeley, has just published a new book, Patterns of Connection: Essential Essays from Five Decades.Capra that he is “both hopeful and concerned” about the current state of the world.“I see the coronavirus as a biological response of Gaia, our living planet, to the ecological and social emergency that humanity has brought upon itself,” says Capra. “We need to restore ecosystems to re-establish the balance that we’ve destroyed.”
Kekla Magoon on writing 'to make the world a better place'
Vermont author Kekla Magoon (https://keklamagoon.com/) has been going where few children’s authors dare to go, tackling topics such as racism and social justice in her books. She is now being recognized as one of America’s top writers for young adults.Magoon was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award, one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes, for her new book for young adults, Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People.It is a magisterial 400-page work that explores black resistance starting with colonialism in Africa and leading up to the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement.Magoon, who is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, said that her new book “carries the weight of history and it carries the power to inspire young people to say, ‘Oh I see myself in this and I’m going to use my voice.’”Earlier this year, Magoon received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association (https://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2021/01/kekla-magoon-wins-2021-edwards-award-x-novel-how-it-went-down-rock-and-river) for “her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.” This is essentially a lifetime achievement award that Magoon won at the age of 41. The ALA proclaimed, “Kekla Magoon’s powerful prose and complex characters enrich literature for young adults by bearing witness to the trauma and triumph of the American Civil Rights Movement.” Magoon’s other books include X, a teen novel about civil rights leader Malcolm X that she co-authored with his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, and How it Went Down, about the complicated aftermath of a shooting of a Black teenager. Magoon is also a recipient of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, John Steptoe New Talent Award, NAACP Image Award and other honors.Magoon told the Vermont Conversation that her writing “is a powerful opportunity to be telling Black history as a Black woman in this country. It’s part of what I value in the world. I want to be an activist. But I’m not the person who marches and protests. I’m really good at writing. So I choose to use the skills that I have to advance the …causes that I believe in.”Magoon is determined “to push back against everyone who wants to diminish young Black people. Because there are a lot of people out there that don’t want us to recognize and own our power, that don’t want us to have a space and a voice in the world. So the best thing I can do is to model the ability to do both of those things.”“I try to use my writing skills to make the world a better place.”
The race for a shot to save the world from Covid-19
When reports began emerging in January 2020 of a mysterious respiratory virus spreading in Wuhan, China, politicians, health officials and scientists were unprepared for the global pandemic that was soon to follow. As the scale of the calamity unfolded, the world’s best known pharmaceutical companies had nothing in their arsenal to deal with it.The scientists and drug companies that mobilized an effective response were not the usual suspects. They were an untested group, and many operated at the fringes of science. BioNTech and Moderna were unknown to the general public and had not had commercial success with vaccines. But when leaders from the two companies heard about the novel coronavirus spreading in China, each believed that they could crack its genetic code and devise a vaccine based on mRNA technology, which they had been researching. These unlikely scientists were soon on a race to save civilization.Award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman (https://www.gregoryzuckerman.com/) tells this story in his new book, A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine.“This is an age of outbreaks,” writes Zuckerman. “Each year, humans encroach on nature, increasing the risks that animal-borne diseases will cross over and threaten humanity. Lessons from the vaccine race will inform scientists, politicians, and others if—or perhaps when—we confront another deadly pathogen.”
Gus Speth on the U.S. government's 50-year role in causing the climate crisis
This week, world leaders are gathered at the United Nations' COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss what to do about the climate crisis. Gus Speth (https://thenextsystem.org/gus-speth) knows what brought us to the edge of this climate emergency. President Carter and all the presidents who followed knew, too.The United States government knew that climate change was an impending disaster. They knew that burning fossil fuels could drive the world into crisis. And yet for the last half century, American leaders put their feet on the accelerator of fossil fuel consumption and pushed down hard.The actions of American leaders “on the national energy system over the past several decades are, in my view, the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the Republic,” writes Speth.Gus Speth is now telling the story of how and why this happened. Speth, who lives in Strafford, Vermont, is a luminary in the environmental movement. He served as chair of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality during the Carter Administration. He went on to lead the U.N. Development Program, served as Dean of the Yale School of Environment and co-founded the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. He was a professor at the Vermont Law School and is now part of The Next System Project (https://thenextsystem.org/), which addresses systemic challenges confronting the U.S. Speth’s latest book is They Knew: The Us Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis. On this week's Vermont Conversation, Speth talks about what radicalized him, leading him to go from government insider to getting arrested in front of the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline (https://vermontconversation.com/2015/10/08/environmentalist-gus-speth-ultimate-insider-goes-radical/).
This podcast makes me want to listen
I look forward to this podcast because it makes me smarter and more informed about very complex issues our society and our civilized face. There is humanity in these voices. Thank you David for your work!
Critical race theory is racist
This podcast is a propaganda rag to divide individuals on race lines.
I only listen to this show to try and understand what the authoritarian “progressives” think are the most important topics of today are. Telling white kids to be ashamed of their race, shaming them for the history of America (both things they can’t change) and treating kids differently depending on their race is racist. Of course the show about critical race theory didn’t even define what it actually is and didn’t show any examples of what teaching critical race theory looks like in the classroom. They hide behind terms like equity to allow special treatment based on race.