How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?

Season 6, Episode 44 This week on Freakonomics Radio: why are we so obsessed with lawns? Plus: Stephen J. Dubner talks to the British political operative trying to launch the United States’s next political revolution. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?” and […]

How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?

Nearly two percent of America is grassy green. Sure, lawns are beautiful and useful and they smell great. But are the costs — financial, environmental and otherwise — worth the benefits?

“I Don’t Know What You’ve Done With My Husband But He’s A Changed Man”

Season 5, Episode 22 As we learned in last week’s episode, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been effective in reducing criminal behavior among teenagers in Chicago and former child soldiers in Liberia. This week we go to England, where behavioral-therapy workshops for low-level domestic violence offenders have achieved a 40 percent reduction in repeat incidents […]

Why Bad Environmentalism Is Such an Easy Sell: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Sure, we already know it's not easy being green. But how about selling green? Yep, pretty easy. That's according to the Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, the star of this week's podcast, "Why Bad Environmentalism Is Such an Easy Sell."  (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Glaeser is an interesting scholar and a good conversationalist. You last heard from him in our podcast called "Why Cities Rock," in which he discussed the many upsides of urban life: economic, culinary, intellectual, and environmental. (This was based on his book Triumph of the City.) His latest working paper is called "The Supply of Environmentalism" (abstract; PDF). Glaeser argues that since most of us are eager to do the right thing for the environment, we are vulnerable to marketers and politicians who offer solutions that aren't as green as they seem.

You Eat What You Are

Season 3, Episode 2

Americans are in the midst of a food paradox: we have access to more and better and cheaper food than ever before but at the same time, we are surrounded by junk food and a rise in obesity and heart disease.  In this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner talks about our massive but balky food network with economist Tyler Cowen, who argues that agribusiness and commercialization are not nearly the villains that your foodie friends might have you think. We also hear from food author/philosopher Michael Pollan, who weighs in on a number of food topics and urges, along with chef Alice Waters, a renewed appreciation for the American farmer.  

Riding the Herd Mentality: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Riding the Herd Mentality.” The gist: How peer pressure – and good, old-fashioned shame – can push people to do the right thing.

(You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

Our story begins in Bogota, Colombia, where a new mayor, Antanas Mockus, used some unconventional methods to bring order to a disorderly and unsafe city. Mockus, trained as a mathematician and philosopher, had been president of Colombia's national university but things went south when he mooned a group of dissenters. As mayor, he dressed up as a superhero and enacted all sorts of rules and programs that tried to change the way a government gets its citizens to do the right thing.

You Eat What You Are, Pt. 2: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our previous podcast, "You Eat What You Are, Pt. 1,"explored how American food got so bad, how it’s begun to get much better, and who has the answers for further improvement.

Now it's time for "You Eat What You Are, Part 2." (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

In this installment, we look at the challenge of feeding 7 billion people while protecting the environment, especially from all the pollution associated with the long-distance transportation of all that food. In that regard, it would seem that going local is a no-brainer -- until you start to look at the numbers. 

We begin with David Cleveland, an environmental studies professor at U.C.-Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara County grows $1.2 billion worth of produce a year, putting it in the top 1 percent of U.S. counties. Cleveland started out simply trying to learn how much of the produce consumed locally was also produced locally:


CLEVELAND
: This is what really shocked us: we found that when you added up all these different ways in which locally grown produce got to people in Santa Barbara County, that less than five percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Santa Barbara County were actually grown in Santa Barbara County, and the other ninety-five percent were imported.

Show and Yell: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Season 2, Episode 2

We have just released a series of five one-hour Freakonomics Radio specials to public-radio stations across the country (check here to find your local station), and now they're hitting our podcast stream as well. If you are a dedicated podcast subscriber, then some of this material will be familiar to you. These new shows are what might best be called "mashupdates" -- that is, mashups of earlier podcasts that have also been updated with new interviews, etc.

Today's episode is called "Show and Yell" (download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below).

Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?

Remember when keeping up with the Joneses meant buying a diamond-encrusted cigarette case? Such ostentatious displays of wealth during the Gilded Age prompted economist Thorstein Veblen to coin the term conspicuous consumption.

Conspicuous consumption has hardly gone away -- what do you think bling is? -- but now it's got a right-minded cousin: conspicuous conservation. Whereas conspicuous consumption is meant to signal how much green you've got, conspicuous conservation signals how green you are. Like carrying that “I'm not a plastic bag” bag, or installing solar panels on the side of your house facing the street -- even if that happens to be the shady side.

Conspicuous conservation is the theme of our latest podcast, called "Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You're Driving?" (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the embedded media player, or read the transcript here.) It centers around a paper by Alison and Steve Sexton, a pair of Ph.D. economics candidates (who happen to be twins, and who happen to have economist parents), called “Conspicuous Conservation: The Prius Effect and Willingness to Pay for Environmental Bona Fides.” Why single out the Toyota Prius?