Week of Dec 9

Monday, December 9
For most of the 20th century, North American food consumption was relatively stable, but the 1980s marked the beginning of a dramatic shift. We're eating, on average, 200 calories per day more than we did just thirty years ago. We're eating larger portions, and we're eating more often. What happened to bring about this sudden change? In this two-part series Jill Eisen explores the politics, economics and science of overeating. Part 2 airs Monday, December 16.

Tuesday, December 10
The degrowth movement is a relatively new contender in the economic and political debates that swirl around humanity's future. Degrowthers believe we need a more modest and sane alternative to the constant pressures of expansion that are destroying the ecological basis of our existence. Author and essayist Richard Swift explores the degrowth alternative, in theory and in practice.

Wednesday, December 11
"She cut off her nose to spite her race." That's what Dorothy Parker once quipped about Fanny Brice, the Jewish actress who had a nose job in 1923. Ninety years later, the racial targeting of the cosmetics industry is booming: eye-lid surgeries, chemical hair-straightening and skin-bleaching are just a few of the options advertised to people of colour.  IDEAS Contributor Sheetal Lodhia explores this growing phenomenon in The Business of Race.

Thursday, December 12
Bertrand Russell said, "the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt". Recent research in psychology suggests that our confidence often exceeds our competence. Our brains, researchers claim, take shortcuts and jump to conclusions that flatter us. Can we accurately assess what we know, or are we all subject to the fool's dilemma? Author Laura Penny talks to psychologists and writers about new perspectives on the age-old philosophical problem of human ignorance and self-delusion.

Friday, December 13
People hate parasites. They're slimy and repulsive - worms emerging from blisters on the body, mites breeding in skin folds. They hold wild parties in our guts. They bring pestilence, misery...even death. But wait: parasites can also be good - really, really good! Author Rosemary Drisdelle explores these much maligned creatures and their importance in nature, and she unveils exciting new medical research into the good they can do for us.

Ideas in the Afternoon - Monday, December 9
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline begins with the words "This is the forest primeval". Longfellow was talking about the rich Acadian forest, and was taking a little poetic license. In fact, settlers and boat-builders had already pillaged those forests. They were later altered again and again as the pulp and paper industry flourished. Some wonder whether those forests of 500 years ago can be regrown. Are our forests fiber mines or recreational playgrounds? Are they an economic engine or necessary for our environmental health? And are they essential, as some neuroscientific research is suggesting, to our mental well being? IDEAS contributor Dick Miller re-imagines the forest of the future.

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