Posted: September 26, 2011

The many challenges of sustainable development are increasingly clear: through the early effects of climate change, rapid biodiversity loss, or public health crises, all are global in scale and scope. Surely, addressing such monumental challenges will require inter-disciplinary research and dialogue on an unprecedented scale.

As an alumnus of The School for Field Studies (Australia, 2005), I’ve seen first-hand the challenges of such interdisciplinarity, as well as the payoffs from engaging in truly open and inter-disciplinary discourse. That is why last spring, with the help of some colleagues at Columbia and Harvard University, we launched a new podcast called Sense and Sustainability.

The podcast brings in guests from a range of disciplines including economics, environmental biology, engineering, law, and public health, among many others, for one-on-one conversations on a particular topic. The idea is to provide fresh perspectives on issues of sustainable development while challenging the listeners to make for themselves the connections (and gaps) between different fields of research, and between research and practice.

We pitch an intentionally wide net as to what “counts” as “sustainable development.” As one of my undergraduate advisors, Jeffrey Sachs, imparted on me several years ago, part of the challenge is to define the subject as holistically as the pressing real-world problems demand. We hope to tackle one small piece of that challenge through this podcast.

Since our launch in April, we’ve published 20 episodes on topics ranging from the economics of climate change to the future of electric cars. SFS’ very own Dr. Gerardo Avalos, Director of The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies in Costa Rica, is featured in our latest episode, in which he talks about the impact of globalization on both environmental and economic sustainability in Costa Rica (

So far we have reached over 10,000 listeners from 83 different countries and most of the 50 U.S. States, and we hope to enlist your help in spreading the word! We also hope to solicit more guests from the SFS community, and encourage all of you to also check out our parallel blog: For those interested in planning a future episode, or writing a guest entry for our blog, please email me at