The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens
The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens
Nate Hagens
The Great Simplification with Nate Hagens explores money, energy, economy, and the environment with world experts and leaders to understand how everything fits together, and where we go from here.
Sian Sutherland: "Innovating the Business of Plastics”
On this episode, Nate is joined by Sian Sutherland, a leader in the movement towards reducing the overconsumption of plastic and its waste. The modern era is dependent on fossil fuels for many reasons - one of the most covertly ubiquitous ones being plastic. Everyday we are surrounded by it - encasing our food, woven in the threads of our clothes, and even permeating into the water that we drink. How do we begin to break off this addiction to the convenience and utility of plastics? How does this connect to the larger implications of a society embedded in a linear, consumption-based system dependent on growth? What role can industry, governments, and individuals each play in creating structural shifts to reduce our reliance on plastic - and ultimately return to a slower, more circular way of life? About Sian Sutherland Sian Sutherland is Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, one of the most recognised and respected organizations tackling the plastic crisis. More recently, she also co-founded PlasticFree, the first materials and systems solutions platform, empowering the 160m global creatives to design waste out at the source. Sian was awarded the Female Marketer of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and British Inventor of the Year. In 2023 at the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2), in partnership with Plastic Soup Foundation, A Plastic Planet launched the Plastic Health Council, bringing expert scientists to the negotiating process with the irrefutable proof of plastic chemicals impact on human health. Passionately pro-business and solutions focused, Sian believes the plastic crisis gives mankind a rare gateway to change both materials and systems to create a different future for next generations. Watch on YouTube:  More Info & Show Notes: 
Sep 20
1 hr 15 min
Robert Sapolsky: "The Brain, Determinism, and Cultural Implications”
On this episode, neuroscientist and author Robert Sapolsky joins Nate to discuss the structure of the human brain and its implication on behavior and our ability to change. Dr. Sapolsky also unpacks how the innate quality of a biological organism shaped by evolution and the surrounding environment - meaning all animals, including humans - leads him to believe that there is no such thing as free will, at least how we think about it today. How do our past and present hormone levels, hunger, stress, and more affect the way we make decisions? What implications does this have in a future headed towards lower energy and resource availability? How can our species manage the mismatch of our evolutionary biology with our modern day challenges - and navigate through a ‘determined’ future? About Robert Sapolsky: Robert Sapolsky is professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya. Over the past thirty years, he has divided his time between the lab, where he studies how stress hormones can damage the brain, and in East Africa, where he studies the impact of chronic stress on the health of baboons. Sapolsky is author of several books, including Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, A Primate's Memoir, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, and his newest book coming out in October, Determined: Life Without Free Will. He lives with his family in San Francisco. Watch this video episode on YouTube: For Show Notes and More visit: 
Sep 13
1 hr 57 min
Titanic Oceans: Daniel Pauly, Antonio Turiel, Peter Ward | Reality Roundtable #04
On this Reality Roundtable, marine biologist Daniel Pauly, ocean physicist Antonio Turiel, and paleobiologist Peter Ward join Nate to discuss the numerous oft-overlooked threats to the Earth’s great oceans. From overfishing and plastic pollution to climate change and acidification, the human system is assaulting one of the most important regulators for our climate and the largest habitat for life - anywhere. What early indicators of climate impacts are these great bodies of water showing us as we hit record heat across the oceans, fish populations dwindle, and major currents slow? Why are concerns for the ocean so overlooked and what further research needs to be done? Will we learn to value these high seas for all the priceless value they give us, or will we take them for granted until it’s too late? About Daniel Pauly Dr. Daniel Pauly is a Killam Professor at the University of British Columbia. In 1999, Daniel Pauly founded, and since leads, a large research project, Sea Around Us, devoted to identifying and quantifying global fisheries trends. Daniel Pauly is also co-founder of, the online encyclopedia of more than 30,000 fish species, and he has helped develop the widely-used Ecopath modeling software. He is the author or co-author of over 1000 scientific and other articles, books and book chapters on fish, fisheries and related topics. About Antonio Turiel Antonio Turiel Martínez is a scientist and activist with a degree in Physics and Mathematics and a PhD in Theoretical Physics from the Autonomous University of Madrid. He works as a senior scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the CSIC specializing in remote sensing, turbulence, sea surface salinity, water cycle, sea surface temperature, sea surface currents, and chlorophyll concentration. He has written more than 80 scientific articles, but he is better known as an online activist and editor of The Oil Crash blog, where he addresses sensitive issues about the depletion of conventional fossil fuel resources, such as the peak of oil and its possible implications on a world scale. About Peter Ward Peter Ward is a Professor of Biology and Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. He is author of over a dozen books on Earth's natural history including On Methuselah's Trail: Living Fossils and the Great Extinctions; Under a Green Sky; and The Medea Hypothesis, 2009, (listed by the New York Times as one of the “100 most important ideas of 2009”). Ward gave a TED talk in 2008 about mass extinctions. Watch on YouTube: More information & show notes: 
Sep 10
1 hr 30 min
The Many Shapes of the Carbon Pulse | Frankly #44
In this Frankly, Nate describes the Carbon Pulse - a one time massive consumption of fossil hydrocarbons at a pace millions of times faster than they were created. He outlines the many shapes that this pulse could take, as well as some shapes it will never take. Compared to previous carbon pulses that led to mass and minor extinctions, how does the modern pulse compare?  What can what we know about ecology and human behavior tell us about the most likely paths into descent? Can thinking about these graphs on such grand geologic time scales help guide us away from the Precipice and towards a more Sapient Future?    For Show Notes and More:   To Watch on Youtube:
Sep 8
20 min
Graham Palmer: "Energy Storage and Civilization: A History”
On this episode, Nate is joined by Graham Palmer, a scholar and engineer in the field of energy. While this show frequently covers the importance of energy itself, this discussion focuses on how the ability to store and access energy has critically shaped societies. From agriculture, to wood, to coal, to oil, each transition has marked a new way for humans to interact with the world around them. What would it mean for economic growth if we no longer have access to these storable energies? What does the necessity of storability mean for electricity - an inherently flow-based energy form? Would human societies moving back to a flow-based energy system also mean once again becoming in-sync with the Earth and her ecosystems? About Graham Palmer Graham Palmer is a researcher at Monash University, with an industry background as an engineer and researcher in manufacturing, HVAC and electronics. He has published in the area of biophysical economics, renewable energy, life-cycle analysis, and energy-economic modeling. Graham obtained his PhD in the area of energy-return-on-investment (EROI) of electricity supply. His current research interests include the future role of emerging energy storage systems. Listen on YouTube:  More info and show notes:
Sep 6
1 hr 4 min
Fossil Energy Subsidies: The Bottom Line | Frankly #43
In this week’s Frankly, Nate reacts to recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) critical of 2022 subsidies to fossil fuel. These subsidies - by IMF math totalling $7+ trillion - are not what they seem, resulting in widespread confusion on what is really going on.  By peeling back the layers of the onion on these oft-misunderstood benefits - Nate outlines what comprises these fossil fuel subsidies, who receives them, the purpose they serve, and who benefits from them (spoiler alert - we ALL do). How do these subsidies fit into the larger story of the huge energy surplus that fossil fuels have provided? What will it mean for societies when the subsidy that is fossil fuels goes away? Will we be prepared when the externalities - paid for in these subsidies - catch up with us and we need to learn to live with the aftermath of the Carbon Pulse? To Watch on Youtube: For Show Notes and More:  
Sep 1
13 min
Lisi Krall: "Agriculture, Surplus, and the Economic Superorganism”
On this episode, ‘Superorganisms’ converge as Nate is joined by economist and anthropologist Lisi Krall to discuss the evolutionary origins of our current systemic predicament. Starting with the Agricultural Revolution, the evolutionary conditions of surplus and ultrasociality have combined to shape the way humans interact with their environment, ultimately leading to our current out of control global economy. Is this global system an inevitable emergent phenomenon of the human condition? Does surplus inherently breed inequality and hierarchy, such as the current capitalist system? What type of social evolution will we experience as we meet the limits of an expansionary system and move towards a Great Simplification? About Lisi Krall Lisi Krall is a professor of economics at State University of New York, Cortland. Dr. Krall engages a heterodox and transdisciplinary approach to understanding economic systems, their etiology, structure, dynamic, and the relationship between humans and the more-than-human world that is contextualized through them. She incorporates evolutionary biology, anthropology, history, heterodox economics, and deep materialism to understand how we arrived at this paradoxical moment where humans appear trapped in an economic system that functions as if it is not of this Earth at the same time it is clearly a material system. Her latest book, Bitter Harvest: An Inquiry into the War Between Economy and Earth, explores the formation and evolution of the economic system (the economic superorganism) that took hold beginning with the cultivation of annual grains and is now embodied in global capitalism. For Show Notes and more: Watch on YouTube:  More details & show notes: 
Aug 30
1 hr 21 min
Running the 'Systems Discourse' Gauntlet | Frankly #42
In this week’s Frankly, Nate considers 7 different continuums of perspectives people use when taking part in a “systems” discourse, such as The Great Simplification podcast is attempting.  In such complex and often controversial discussions, each of us has a point of view that stems from our own personal experiences, knowledge and identity - yet how we channel that point of view into the larger discourse matters. How does understanding our own perspectives potentially help us side-step mental roadblocks and become more open to other possibilities and actions? What are the hidden ruts that we can fall into when discussing the future with others that we’re not consciously thinking of and can we learn to avoid them? Can shifting our perspective along the spectrum of potential responses open dialogue and facilitate more inclusive and cooperative conversations as we collectively try to meet the future halfway?   To Watch on Youtube: For Show Notes and More: 
Aug 25
14 min
Iain McGilchrist: “Wisdom, Nature, and the Brain”
On this episode, literary scholar and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist joins Nate to discuss the way modern culture teaches and encourages us to use - and not use - the two lobes of our brains. While most functions require the use of both sides of our brains, each side is specially attuned to see and interact with the world in certain ways: the left side acts as a narrow problem solving executor, while the right side is a broadly open contextualizer. What happens when we humans - in aggregate - become imbalanced in our use of these two critical functions? Have we divided the Earth into pieces to be optimized rather than a whole (which we’re a part of) to be stewarded?  Can we learn to bring these two components of our brains back into balance and in turn heal fractures in ourselves, and ultimately in our communities, Earth, and her ecosystems? About Iain McGilchrist Dr. Iain McGilchrist is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley Hospital, London. He has been a Research Fellow in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore and a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Stellenbosch. He has published original articles and research papers in a wide range of publications on topics in literature, philosophy, medicine and psychiatry. He is the author of a number of books, but is best-known for The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2009); and his book on neuroscience, epistemology and ontology called The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (2021). Watch on YouTube: More information, and show notes: 
Aug 23
1 hr 53 min
Jean-Marc Jancovici: "Our Global Energy Predicament"
On this episode, Nate is joined by well-known French educator Jean-Marc Jancovici to discuss the critical importance of energy to modern economies. Together, Nate and Jean-Marc break down the fundamentals of our complex, growth dependent global economic system. How much of the stereotypical Western lifestyle is centered around access to cheap, surplus fossil energy? What would it mean for societies to lose this stable, cheap and abundant supply - and how would the people who have become used to it react? Will a shift in society’s institutions and expectations need to be forced upon us in a time of urgent change or is it possible for nations and societies to anticipate declining energy availability - to actively simplify before we are forced to by circumstances? About Jean-Marc Jancovici Jean-Marc Jancovici is a founding partner of Carbone 4, a Paris-based consultancy and data provider specializing in low-carbon transition, biodiversity impacts, and physical risks of climate change ( He is the founder and president of The Shift Project, a Paris based think tank advocating for a low-carbon economy ( Jean-Marc Jancovici is also an associate professor at Mines ParisTech, a member of the French High Council for the Climate, and (co-)author of 8 books and the website on energy and climate change issues. Jean-Marc Jancovici is a graduate from École polytechnique and Télécom ParisTech. Watch on YouTube: Show Notes & Links to Learn More: 
Aug 16
1 hr 27 min
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