This April, Vox’s podcasts are teaming up to cover some of the most important issues threatening life on Earth. From sustainability to biodiversity to straight-up cool things about the natural world, we’ll focus on our planet and its limits in episodes throughout the month.
We’ll tell stories about how a kayak changed one life to the trouble with gas stoves to how rising temperatures will change what food we have available to eat. And, of course, we’ll dive deep into policy — including a Weeds palooza with four promising white papers on the details of how we can bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
Tune into Today, Explained, Vox Conversations, The Weeds, Unexplainable, Worldly, Future Perfect, Recode Daily, and Vox Quick Hits to hear new Earth Month episodes every week. Below, you’ll find a guide to every episode. Want to share all of the shows with your friends? Simply point them to vox.com/earthmonth.
The Weeds: White-paper palooza | 4/13
It’s an all white paper episode, folks. Vox climate reporter Umair Irfan joins Matt and Dara to take on three research papers all concerning climate change: first, on the social costs of carbon; then on the disparate effects of temperature rise on a diverse array of geographic regions; finally, on global migration due to climate change.
Future Perfect: Engineering our way out of the climate crisis | 4/14
In an ideal world, cutting carbon emissions would be enough to stop global warming. But after dithering for decades, the world needs a back-up plan. Kelly Wanser is the leader of a group called SilverLining that works to promote research into what it calls “solar climate intervention.” Also called “solar geoengineering,” this approach involves putting particles into clouds that reflect back the sun, directly cooling the earth.
It’s a novel and potentially hazardous policy — but one that Wanser and other experts argue could hold a lot of promise as the world braces for catastrophic climate impacts. Wanser and Vox’s Dylan Matthews discuss how solar climate intervention works, how it could be implemented, and where it fits in with the goal of cutting emissions.
Today, Explained: Peanut butter and jellyfish | 4/19
In partnership with Eater, we will take a look at how rising temperatures will change our food systems: from poisonous lettuce to the merits of jellyfish when all of the clams die.
Vox Quick Hits: Tell Me More: Will the superpowers unite on climate? | 4/19
The United States and China play leading roles in the global response to climate change: Together, they account for 43 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. And it’s not just actions in their own countries that matter; they are highly influential in the world, too. Many industrialized countries look to the US for cues on climate action, and many developing countries look to China.
Recode Daily: The gas stove myth | 4/19
You may be under the impression that a gas stove is better than an electric stove, but that’s because the fossil fuel industry wants you to think that. Decades’ worth of campaigning and messaging has convinced the average renter and homeowner that gas stoves are the preferred choice. But really, they emit harmful fumes into your own home.
Today, Explained: The case for climate optimism | 4/20
In 2019, David Wallace-Wells wrote a book called The Uninhabitable Earth. Just two years later, he’s feeling hopeful — thanks to the world’s biggest polluters.
Vox Quick Hits: Tell Me More: The blunt truth about weed farms | 4/20
Commercial marijuana production is increasing as more states legalize recreational use, but indoor weed farms have a significant impact on the climate. In fact, a recent study found that just an eighth of weed has a 41-pound carbon footprint. The solution? Finding a more climate-friendly way to grow marijuana, such as outdoor farms.
Future Perfect: Should I still have kids if I’m worried about climate change? | 4/21
Climate scientist Kimberly Nicholas co-led a study that showed the single most effective thing an individual can do to decrease their carbon footprint is have fewer kids. Despite that finding, she still says that people who really want to have kids should go ahead with their plans. She explains how she squares that circle to Vox’s Sigal Samuel, and the two discuss how to think about the decision to have kids or not and how to make meaning in a warming world.
Worldly: How Nigeria explains the climate crisis | 4/22
In a very special Earth Month episode, Zack, Jenn, and Alex use Nigeria as a case study to uncover the deep reasons why it’s so hard for the world to quit fossil fuels. Nigeria is a country deeply threatened by climate change, but it’s also one with a major oil industry that hopes to lift millions out of poverty — a feat that has never been done without some degree of reliance on dirty energy. The team explains how these barriers affect the prospects for mitigating climate change in both Nigeria and globally, and talk about what solutions might help overcome these barriers.
Today, Explained: Is nuclear energy good or bad? | 4/22
Where does nuclear energy fit into the climate conversation? Why is it taking a bigger role in some countries’ energy policies and why is it not in Biden’s plan? Listen to the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer explain the arguments and then decide for yourself.
Recode Daily: If an atmospheric scientist had a billion dollars | 4/22
Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have made pledges to commit their earnings to saving our heating planet, but are they going about it in the best way possible? And do we want the fate of our planet to rest in their hands? Atmospheric science professor Kerry Emanuel explains how he’d spend a billion dollars.
Future Perfect: Sucking the carbon out of the sky | 4/28
A conversation with Akshat Rathi, a PhD chemist turned Bloomberg reporter and expert on carbon removal as an industry. What does carbon removal even mean? Can we even do that? How can this be used, particularly by the oil industry, for better or worse?
Clean energy and technology
Vox Conversations: How to replace everything in the industrialized world | 4/15
If the entire world’s energy infrastructure is going to be switched over to clean energy sources in a matter of decades, that’s going to require an enormous amount of building; from electric vehicles to heat pumps to batteries to mass timber buildings to microgrids to electric cooktops, and on and on. It turns out we know quite a bit about how to accelerate technologies along those curves, and which technologies need help from which kinds of policies. Climate writer and Vox contributor David Roberts talks with Jessika Trancik, Associate Professor at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at M.I.T.
Today, Explained: It’s electric! | 4/21
Norway has lapped the world in adopting electric vehicles. Vox’s Umair Irfan explains how the US might catch up.
Recode Daily: The surprisingly exciting future of batteries | 4/23
Batteries are crucial for the transition to an economy powered entirely by renewables. David Roberts, writer of the Volts newsletter, explains how lithium ion batteries will be used for a lot more than just electric cars.
Recode Daily: Bitcoin’s inconvenient truth | 4/20
From cryptocurrencies to artificial intelligence language algorithms, big computing takes a lot of energy. Some transactions using cryptocurrency require as much energy as an EU resident uses in a month. Is there a way to make big computing greener?
Recode Daily: Is remote work better for the environment? | 4/21
Working from home seems like it could be great for the climate. You don’t need to drive a car to work, and companies won’t need to heat and power large offices. But as Professor William O’Brien explains, the reality is much more complicated, and without proper planning, remote work may lead to greater emissions in the future.
The Weeds: How to build better transit infrastructure | 4/23
Matt Yglesias is joined by professor and transit researcher Eric Goldwyn to talk about why transit projects in the U.S. often fail. They discuss several high-profile cases, including the Second Avenue subway line in New York, the Green Line Extension in Boston, and the DC Streetcar. Why do cities spearhead redundant transit lines on top of existing rights-of-way? Why do cities in other countries spend so much less per mile on transit than American cities do? And, how can the political opposition to mass transit be met, to build the more accessible and environmentally-conscious transit infrastructure of the future?
Vox Quick Hits: One Good Answer: Why it’s hard to talk about sustainability in fashion | 4/28
Only one out of the dozen or so most commonly cited facts about the fashion industry’s huge environmental footprint is based on any sort of science, data collection, or peer-reviewed research. The rest are based on gut feelings, broken links, marketing, and something someone said in 2003.
If we’re serious about recruiting the fashion industry into the fight to save our world from burning, these bad facts do us all a disservice. They make fashion activists look silly. They allow brands to wave vaguely at reducing their impact without taking meaningful action. And they stymie the ability to implement meaningful regulation, which needs to be undergirded by solid data.
Vox Conversations: The complicated history of wildlife conversation | 4/22
Vox environmental reporter Benji Jones talks with journalist and author Michelle Nijhuis about her book Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction. They talk about the history of the conservation movement and its many characters, the standout successes and ugly truths, and why, even with millions of species under threat, there’s still reason to hope.
Unexplainable: Phages | 4/28
Phages are the most abundant biological entities on Earth (for every grain of sand in the world, there are a trillion phages), and we barely know anything about them. They contain 2 billion pieces of genetic code that exist nowhere else on Earth, and they kill half the world’s bacteria every 48 hours. Cracking their code could be critical to understand our biological ecosystem, but even more tantalizingly, phages may be the answer to a host of currently incurable diseases. By 2050, 10 million people are projected to die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and phages could be our last hope.
The natural world
Vox Quick Hits: What’s the Story? The mushroom boom | 4/19
It feels like mushrooms are everywhere these days, but why? Vox culture reporter Terry Nguyen explains why mushrooms are super versatile, and how the fungi took over food, wellness, and (of course) drugs.
Unexplainable: The Twilight Zone of the ocean | 4/21
Every day, untold numbers of strange organisms rise from the middle of the ocean to its surface. They may be playing a crucial role in slowing climate change, so scientists are struggling to understand this migration ... before it’s too late.
Today, Explained: A plan to protect the planet | 4/23
Or at least 30 percent of it.
What to read/watch/buy
Vox Quick Hits: The Best Money I Ever Spent: A kayak that made me appreciate where I come from | 4/8
When Max Ufberg left New York for Pennsylvania at the beginning of March in 2020, he assumed it wouldn’t be for long. But as weeks became months, he found solace exploring the place that he had once been so eager to leave behind.
Vox Quick Hits: What to Watch: Mother! | 4/16
Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson and critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff explain why Mother! is perhaps the weirdest environmental movie you’ll ever see. They dig into the plot, the allegory and the ways it can be interpreted.
Vox Quick Hits: Ask a Book Critic:
rden greener | 4/21
Vox book critic Constance Grady recommends books that teach you how to make your home and garden greener.
Vox Quick Hits: The Best Money I Ever Spent: A HEPA filter for my parents | 4/22
After the California Camp Fire in 2018, Grace Linden’s parents did not purchase an air purifier — nor did friends, or friends’ parents, or anyone she knew. But that changed by 2020, after more devastating fires and a year of no control due to the pandemic.