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Our planet's future: are we doomed or is there hope?

In Paul Kennedy's final week at IDEAS, he looks back at his four decades with the program. We begin the series with an episode inspired by the Muskoka Summit on the Environment, an event Paul has moderated since 2010. For this episode, Paul invited three guests to join him onstage at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto to answer two basic questions about our collective future: are we doomed? And what inspires hope?

Voice of IDEAS Paul Kennedy retires after 40 years with the CBC

Paul Kennedy is retiring at the end of June after 40 years with the CBC — 20 of those years as the iconic voice of IDEAS. The host and documentary-maker is set to start his next adventure and passes the baton to Nahlah Ayed, the new host of IDEAS, who begins in September.

CBC News foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed to host CBC Radio's Ideas

Veteran foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed will be the new host of Ideas, the nightly CBC Radio program devoted to exploring contemporary ideas on everything from culture and the arts to science and technology and social issues.
Ideas Afternoon

Pierre-Esprit Radisson: 'A wilderness hero for our time'

At a time when most Europeans died within a day's journey from where they were born, Pierre-Esprit Radisson criss-crossed the Atlantic 10 times, was adopted into an Iroquois family, and was kidnapped by pirates. Historian Mark Bourrie documents the explorer’s adventure-filled life and counters stereotypes about the entire colonial epoch — especially Iroquois society — in his book, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson.

'We're an oral culture': Saving an endangered language through Gwich'in storytelling

The Gwich'in language — like too many Indigenous languages in Canada — is seriously endangered. Paul Kennedy recently spent some time in Whitehorse, co-hosting a series of radio plays with people from Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, in Old Crow and with the Gwaandak Theatre Company in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin Government. Together they are attempting to preserve the language through a series bilingual radio plays.

The Recurring Case of 'Recursion': a pattern for making sense of the world

Some call it "self-similarity." Others define it vaguely as "wheels within wheels" or refer to the image of nesting Russian dolls. For such a fundamental concept, recursion is strangely less famous and more often overlooked than it deserves to be. With help from a cognitive scientist, a language expert, and a physicist, Paul Kennedy tries to remedy this state of affairs, without getting himself tied up in knots within knots within knots…

10 facts about coffee, the world's most popular drink

An ordinary cup of Joe just won’t do anymore. It’s now gourmet, fair trade and organic. Whether the method is pour over, French press, or vacuum pumps, coffee is now described with terms like “mouthfeel”, just as fine wines are. Contributing producer Marilyn Powell brings us her documentary, The Coffee Chronicles, about the cultural history behind the world's most popular drink.

How Portugal tackled its addiction epidemic to become a world model

Two decades ago, Portugal was in the grip of a nation-wide drug epidemic. The dire situation led the country's leaders to a radical solution: the decriminalization of all drugs and a health-care approach — rather than a criminal law approach — to deal with addiction. The experiment is now celebrated around the world as the "Portuguese Model." Contributor Megan Williams talks to the doctor who helped set up the system and to drug addicts still alive because of it.

A walk through Diderot's Paris in search of understanding Enlightenment

French philosopher Denis Diderot was one of a small group of 18th-century thinkers who began to explore a radical new way of thinking about the totality of human knowledge. In his magisterial Encyclopédie, he proposed a new way of organizing everything we know and experience. In part 2 of his series, producer Philip Coulter takes a walk around Diderot's Paris.
Ideas Afternoon

Woke Washing: the problem with 'branding' social movements

Since the invention of public relations, companies have championed progressive values as a way to sell their products. Some call this tactic brilliant PR. Others call it 'woke washing,' arguing that these companies are merely adopting the veneer of progressive values for profit or to sanitize unsavoury business practices. This episode explores the complex relationship between branding and social activism.

Reclaiming Marxism in an age of meaningless work

The absurdities and humiliations of late capitalism — social atomization, the gig economy, brutalizing inequality — have given new life to Karl Marx. While known best for his economic theorizing, Marx has found new favour for his rigorous humanism. Those most vulnerable to the vagaries of capitalism are seeing in Marx a framework for understanding their own humanity.

How our genes help build good societies: Nicholas Christakis

In a new book, Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas A. Christakis says our genes influence not only who we are, but also what our society can be. The physician and sociologist says we carry within us the "proclivities to make a good society” and points to many laudable features that humans have inherited from natural selection.

From the Brontë Sisters to Today: How gender and power play out in the arts

In Victorian England, the Brontë sisters published under male pseudonyms. They did so to have their female-centred work (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights) taken seriously. Two centuries later, when Canadian playwright Jordi Mand came to write about the domestic lives of the sisters in Brontë: the World Without, she recognized both how far female artists have come ⁠— and how certain societal prejudices still haunt her profession.

All the World's Knowledge in 28 Volumes: Diderot's radical Encyclopédie

French philosopher Denis Diderot was one of a small group of 18th-century thinkers who began to explore a radical new way of thinking about the totality of human knowledge. In his magisterial Encyclopédie, he proposed a new way of organizing everything we know and experience. In part one of a two-part series, producer Philip Coulter goes on a walk around Diderot's Paris with philosophy professor and historian, Sophie Audidière. Part 2 airs Monday, June 17.
Ideas Afternoon

Exploring the eighth continent with Canopy Meg

Trees and forests could hold the key to the survival of life on our planet. Meg Lowman started climbing trees when she was still a painfully shy primary school student, in a small town in upstate New York. They became her closest companions whenever her human classmates started bullying her. She eventually became a pioneer of canopy science, and created a system of forest walkways that now extends around the world. She's been hailed as "Einstein of the Treetops", but is better known by the nickname, Canopy Meg. Paul Kennedy visited the self-described "arbonaut" in person to ask her whether trees can save the world.
Ideas Afternoon

Pierre-Esprit Radisson: 'A wilderness hero for our time'

At a time when most Europeans died within a day's journey from where they were born, Pierre-Esprit Radisson criss-crossed the Atlantic 10 times, was adopted into an Iroquois family, and was kidnapped by pirates. Historian Mark Bourrie documents the explorer’s adventure-filled life and counters stereotypes about the entire colonial epoch — especially Iroquois society — in his book, Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson.

Policies restricting drug use are fueling the drug crisis, says Dr. Carl Hart

What's wrong with responsible adults using psychoactive drugs in the pursuit of happiness? Nothing, according to neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart who believes healthy adults have the right to use drugs to enhance their lives as they see fit. Hart argues policies that restrict and punish drug use are fueling the drug crisis in Canada and the United States.

Century-old journals reveal Iranian women's quiet resistance

One of the most powerful types of resistance to authority is also barely perceptible. To catch sight of this ‘hidden resistance,’ PhD student Safaneh Mohaghegh Neyshabouri pores over journals—recently discovered and never seriously studied before—written in the late 19th century by Iranian women. She’s looking for their everyday acts that push towards change and even prepare the ground for revolution in the latest installment of our ongoing series, Ideas from the Trenches.

Reading Montaigne: Why a 16th century writer still matters today

Michel de Montaigne was many things: a 16th century French writer, bureaucrat, and self-defined accidental philosopher. He’s also the inventor of a new literary form we now call the essay. His Essais – various "trials" or "experiments" in ideas – have touched centuries of readers and writers. Flaubert once exhorted us to "read him in order to live." Contributor Tony Luppino opens the writings and life of Western literature's original 'free thinker', who wrote on everything from idleness and liars, to wearing clothes and punishing cowardice.

The Enright Files on Irish Literature and Samuel Beckett

The Irish may just be the most literary of peoples. Only a few million people live in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but that island has produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Enright Files explores Irish writers with a focus on the author and playwright, Samuel Beckett.
Ideas Afternoon

The First Stone: Jesus, the Accused and Us

Variously called 'Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery', 'Jesus and the Accused', and the 'Pericope Adulterae', this story, found in the Gospel of John, still throws off reflections and refractions today. Jesus' message is stark: "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And the history of the text is unique. IDEAS producer Sean Foley asks: What happens in this story? Where did it come from? And what does it say to us about some of our deepest contemporary dilemmas?

Public Morality in the Ages of Caesar and Trump

What is our common ground -- and common benefit -- when everyone in society has their own strong set of opinions? How do leaders lead or represent us? This episode takes a philosophical look at the interaction between morality and the public good, with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a lens into how private and public values can both unite and divide us. Recorded on stage at Ontario’s Stratford Festival, Paul Kennedy hosts a discussion featuring philosopher Mark Kingwell, political theorist Emma Planinc and actor Jonathan Goad.

Is China a threat or an ally?

Highlights from the most recent edition of The Munk Debates. On one side, H. R. McMaster and Michael Pillsbury argue that free and open societies must push back against the policies of the Chinese Communist Party to preserve a rules-based international order. Opposing them, Kishore Mahbubani and Huiyao Wang make the case that such an approach spells disaster, and ignores the history and dynamics propelling China's peaceful rise to superpower status.

Contemplating the End with Annie Proulx and Bruce Pascoe

In his final appearance at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal – after twenty years of hosting on-stage interviews and panel discussions that were later broadcast on IDEAS – Paul Kennedy talks with American novelist Annie Proulx (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain, Barkskins) and Indigenous Australian writer Bruce Pascoe (Fox a Dog, Mrs. Whitlam, Dark Emu) about the fate of our planet. Their conversation begins with the environmental devastation that threatens life itself, and moves towards what we should do, both now and in the future.

Finding meaning in the universe with astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, Part 2

Hubert Reeves is one of the world's foremost experts on the Big Bang and the origins of time. He lives in France, where the acclaimed astrophysicist has the status of a rock star. In Quebec, where he was born, he is called their Einstein. And yet he's largely unknown in the English-speaking world. Not only is he a brilliant cosmologist; he's also a riveting storyteller and popularizer of science. Not to explain the complex, he says, is undemocratic. This is part 2 of a 2-part series.
Ideas Afternoon

Exploring the eighth continent with Canopy Meg

Trees and forests could hold the key to the survival of life on our planet. Meg Lowman started climbing trees when she was still a painfully shy primary school student, in a small town in upstate New York. They became her closest companions whenever her human classmates started bullying her. She eventually became a pioneer of canopy science, and created a system of forest walkways that now extends around the world. She's been hailed as "Einstein of the Treetops", but is better known by the nickname, Canopy Meg. Paul Kennedy visited the self-described "arbonaut" in person to ask her whether trees can save the world.
Ideas Afternoon

The First Stone: Jesus, the Accused and Us

Variously called 'Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery', 'Jesus and the Accused', and the 'Pericope Adulterae', this story, found in the Gospel of John, still throws off reflections and refractions today. Jesus' message is stark: "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And the history of the text is unique. IDEAS producer Sean Foley asks: What happens in this story? Where did it come from? And what does it say to us about some of our deepest contemporary dilemmas?

The recurring case of 'recursion': a pattern for making sense of the world

Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist who believes that recursion is ubiquitous across natural and human society.