This week’s show will be hosted by Julian Wilcox. Kim will be back on Saturday 26th June.

8.12 Alistair Woodward: The rise of the urban light truck

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Photo: Provided

This week the government announced a levy on new utes to help pay for subsidies for electric vehicles. Four of the top ten best-selling new vehicles in New Zealand in 2020 were double cab utes. Yet ten years ago neither utes or SUVs featured among our best-selling vehicles. These all-purpose vehicles emit 1.5 times more carbon, cause more air pollution, and in cities are considered by some an increasing threat to cyclists and pedestrians. In a time of urgent attention to climate change how did it come to this? Or is this all a stir up by the cycling lobby?  

Alistair Woodward is a Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland with a focus on public health and climate change. He has been leading research into the increasing weight of our vehicle stock and the risks this poses.


8.35 Elizabeth Stokoe: The art of conversation analysis

Nineties sitcom Friends has had far-reaching cultural impact over the decades, finding itself at the centre of rolling fashion trends and loads of scholarly analysis. But Elizabeth Stokoe found the popular television series intriguing for the way it subverted everyday conversation for the sake of comedy.

Stokoe, who is a professor of Social Interaction at Loughborough University, was inspired by the show to research “interactional breaches” in conversation to get laughs. Her ongoing work also involves the collection of conversations “in the wild”, like that of people on first dates or being questioned by police.

More recently Stokoe has been looking at how the Covid-19 pandemic might be affecting the art of conversation - especially as we increasingly communicate via digital means.

Elizabeth Stokoe

Elizabeth Stokoe Photo: Supplied


9.05 Ralph Hope: Whatever happened to the Grey Men?

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When the Berlin Wall came down how did over 100,000 Stasi officers manage to disappear? 

In his book The Grey Men, former FBI agent Ralph Hope investigates what happened to the former East Berlin spies. Many had access to the highly personal details of citizens, amassed in more than a billion pages in manila files.

He tracks down ex-officers working everywhere from the Russian energy sector to the police and even the government department tasked with prosecuting Stasi crimes. He examines why the key players have never been called to account. At a time when governments worldwide are extending their surveillance of citizens he asks whether we’ve really learnt from the past at all.

Ralph Hope was in the FBI for more than 25 years. Much of that time was spent in America, investigating drug trafficking, violent crime and terrorism - but after 2001 he served for nearly a decade across the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa including working as deputy head of the FBI office in the Baltic States, and as head of FBI operations in eleven West African countries. 


9.35 Sarah Helm: 50 years on from Nixon’s War On Drugs

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm. Photo: Supplied/NZ Drug Foundation

Fifty years ago US president Richard Nixon called a press conference to declare drug abuse "America’s public enemy number one". Quickly dubbed the war on drugs, Nixon’s campaign aimed to stop illegal drug use and distribution by dramatically increasing prison sentences for both dealers and users. 

Five decades on, the war on drugs is widely considered a failure, with the Global Commission on Drug Policy saying it should be replaced by decriminalisation strategies that are grounded in science, health, and human rights. Despite this, the war on drugs still has a ripple effect around the globe - including in New Zealand, where our own policy has been influenced by it.

Sarah Helm, the Executive Director of the NZ Drug Foundation, joins the show to discuss how we should be reshaping our drug laws - and in some cases looking at decriminalisation.

10.05 Jamie Wall: inside rugby’s fierce 100 year rivalry

In South Africa there’s a saying: 'You're not a real Springbok until you've played the All Blacks'. It’s a testament to one of the fiercest rivalries in rugby history - that between South Africa and New Zealand - which sports writer Jamie Wall examines in his new book The Hundred Years' War.

This intense rivalry has seen the two cultures brought together and then torn apart by racism, reaching a peak with the 1981 South African rugby tour, which polarised New Zealand and sparked protests across the country.

Wall says there are heroes and villains on both sides, on and off the field. And events off field have dramatically shaped those on it, as both nations and their teams have undergone huge changes.

 Jamie Wall.

Jamie Wall. Photo: Hamish Cross


10.35 Sahra Ahmed: from asylum seeker to refugee health hero

Sahra Ahmed works in Christchurch as a refugee health nurse, helping new arrivals find their footing in a strange new land. It’s a journey she has also undertaken. 

Ahmed was born in Mogadisu, the capital of Somalia, where she grew up in a caring community and was part of the first generation that learnt Somali as the official language at school. But in the late 80s as clan conflicts escalated her happy life started to slip away. It became dangerous to say certain things, food was strictly rationed, and neighbours started to go missing.

In 1990, Ahmed and her younger brother fled to New Zealand seeking asylum to escape persecution amid a regime on the verge of collapse. Despite the huge culture shock, Ahmed eventually found her feet and went to nursing school in Nelson. Nursing has taken her around the world working with Red Cross - including being deployed to Sierra Leone for the Ebola response.Today, as well as working as a refugee health nurse, she is chair of the Canterbury Somali Association.

Sahra Ahmed

Sahra Ahmed Photo: New Zealand Red Cross


11.05 Chris Gibson: the surprising environmental impact of guitars

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Musicians often sing about environmental problems, but what about the environmental issues tied up with the materials from which their guitars are made?

Around 2.6 million guitars are produced annually, but the timber supply chains on which the guitar industry relies have long been secretive. Many sources of wood are from places with historical legacies of environmental conflict, colonial violence and dispossession - such as rosewoods from Brazil and spruces from the Pacific Northwest.

Professor Chris Gibson and his colleague Andrew Warren, both from the University of Wollongong in Australia, spent six years tracing guitar-making across five continents. Chris joins the show to discuss what they discovered on their travels.


11.35 Erik Hoel: how our weird dreams could be keeping our brains fit

Nobody really knows why we dream. It’s a divisive topic within the scientific community, and the neuroscience field is awash with hypotheses on why dreams occur.

Erik Hoel, a research assistant professor of neuroscience at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was inspired by the techniques used to train artificial neural networks for his own theory of “overfitted brain hypothesis”. 

Hoel’s hypothesis suggests that, when we dream our brains are breaking the cycle of dull daily tasks - brushing our teeth, filing paperwork, chopping vegetables - with an infusion of discord that keeps our brains fit. Hoel, who is also a novelist and grew up in a bookshop, says this also might explain our love of fiction.

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Music on this week's show:

Weekend - Kora

Resist the Urge - Matt Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy

After Midnight - JJ Cale


Books mentioned in this show:

The Grey Men
By Ralph Hope
ISBN: 13: 9781786078278
Published by Oneworld Publications 

The Hundred Years' War
By Jamie Wall 
ISBN: 9781988547541
Published by Allen & Unwin