Economics RSS feed for this section

The history and future of the New England Forest

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
Continue Reading

How to minimize disasters and manage crises – if possible!

This Faculty Insight interview with Arnold Howitt, the executive director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and an instructor at Harvard Extension School, highlights the challenges of disaster management and emergency response.

Howitt teaches Crisis Management and Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief and Recovery at the Extension School, and is also an author and editor of several books, including Managing Crises: Responses to Large-Scale Emergencies. He speaks with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast about what we’ve learned from large-scale disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and how we can do  better next time!

Posted on July 15, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Politics
Continue Reading

Simon Johnson Takes on Banks Deemed “Too Big to Fail”

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio, Boston’s NPR station for news and culture, on April 17, 2011!

Simon Johnson, the Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, is an outspoken critic of the US government response to the financial crisis. Now he takes on the “too big to fail” banks which continue to threaten our economy.  In his latest book, called 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, which he co-wrote with James Kwak, Simon argues that if the biggest banks aren’t cut down to size, it’s only a matter of time before we face another financial crisis. And once again, the government – aka the taxpayers – will be obliged to step in and bail out these behemoths…
In Simon’s words, if they’re too big to fail — they’re too big to exist!
Simon Johnson is also a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  And he’s the co-author, again with James Kwak, of the influential economics blog The Baseline Scenario. Simon spoke with ThoughtCast at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Posted on May 6, 2010 in Economics, MIT, Politics
Continue Reading

Jonah Lehrer on Emotional Hijacking and “How We Decide”

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Talks@Harvard Book Store

Note: this interview was broadcast on WGBH in Boston as well as on the WGBH Cape and Islands affiliate WCAI/WNAN!

Jonah Lehrer
Jonah Lehrer (photo credit: Lori Duff)

Jonah Lehrer, the precocious author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, has come out with a new book called How We Decide. He spoke at the Harvard Book Store, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Click here to listen (28 minutes.)

After his talk, ThoughtCast spoke with Lehrer briefly about the value of emotion in rational decision making, the power of wishful thinking to hijack our reason, and the potential to retrain the brain via the mind. According to Lehrer, we’d generally be better off sticking to our instincts, our initial reaction or impulse, rather than over-think things. Calm, cool deliberation, it turns out, doesn’t always lead to the best results. Jonah Lehrer is a Contributing Editor at Wired Magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, Nature, Seed, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
Click here to listen to this rather noisy interview (8:50 minutes.)

Posted on July 20, 2009 in Economics, Ideas, Philosophy, Psychology, Science
Continue Reading

Lydia Ratcliff: Vermont Farmer, Stubborn Survivor

Note: this audio program and slideshow have been picked up by New Hampshire Public Radio. The audio program was also broadcast on WAMC and WGBH radio in Boston.

Milking Time
Milking Time at Lovejoy Brook Farm
About 40 years ago, farms were thick on the ground in Andover, a rural town in southern Vermont. Today, 75-year-old Lydia Ratcliff’s Lovejoy Brook Farm is the last working farm still in operation. But can it survive much longer? ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh grew up visiting Lydia each summer, listening to her tales, eating fresh corn and carrots from her garden, and watching the animals give birth, and grow old. On a recent visit to see Lydia, Jenny brought along her microphone …

Note: this slideshow was commissioned by the BBC program Americana.

Lydia Ratcliff is a survivor. She’s farmed her 90 acre plot of land in Andover Vermont for 43 years, and though she’s now come down with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, she still climbs on top of that tractor in hay season.
Does she offer a lesson for the rest of us? Does she represent the future of farming in Vermont, or is she one of the last of a dying breed?
Click here to listen (9 minutes.)

Posted on July 1, 2009 in Economics, Environment
Continue Reading

The Dopamine Economy

Note: this story was picked up by WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, and also broadcast on the WGBH affiliate WCAI/WNAN, on the Cape and Islands!

dopamine brain
dopamine brain
Wall Street on Drugs: What motivated these former masters of the universe? And why did they act like kindergartners? ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh speaks with James Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics at MIT, and Jonah Lehrer, the author of “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” and “How We Decide”, as well as the writer and public intellectual Jim Holt and the Harvard economist Alberto Alesina.
Here’s another question — don’t the continental Europeans like dopamine as much as we do? And — where do we get our fix now??

Click here to listen (3:24 minutes.)

Posted on April 7, 2009 in Economics, MIT, Psychology
Continue Reading