8.10 Prof Lone Simonsen: Denmark drops all Covid restrictions

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Photo: Supplied

This week Denmark became the first country in the European Union to lift all its Covid-19 restrictions – including the wearing of face masks. Despite a rise in case numbers, the Scandinavian country is now relying on its high rate of vaccination to cope with the Omicron variant. More than 80% of the population over the age of five have had two vaccinations.

Denmark, which is home to about six million people, attempted to lift restrictions back in October, but two months later did an about-turn after infection rates started to soar.

Lone Simonsen is an epidemiologist and professor of population health sciences at Roskilde University. She joins the show to discuss why it will be different this time around.

Despite record high numbers of new infections, a group of young people strolls through the Apenrade city cente.

Photo: AFP

8.35 Volker Kuntzsch: algae as an answer to climate change 

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Photo: supplied / Nicole Miller

Volker Kuntzsch passionately believes New Zealand needs to move towards more ocean-based primary production, with plankton and seaweed leading a burgeoning blue economy.

Last year Kuntzsch went from being CEO of Sanford, New Zealand’s largest seafood and aquaculture business, to heading our biggest independent science organisation the Cawthron Institute. Their National Algae Research Centre is working on unlocking potential uses of algae with Kuntzsch believing aquaculture can play a major role in mitigating problems associated with climate change.

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Photo: Supplied

9.05 Elif Shafak: The Island of Missing Trees

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist, activist, political scientist and essayist. She has published 19 books — her latest, The Island of Missing Trees, was shortlisted for the 2021 Costa Book Award. It tells the story of Kostas who is Greek and Defne who is Turkish and the love that they must keep secret. 

Shafak’s 2006 book The Bastard of Istanbul saw the author prosecuted on charges of "insulting Turkishness" for discussing the Armenian genocide. Shafak was acquitted on the charges brought against her, but she shifted her family to the UK and hasn't returned to Turkey since. 

Shafak holds a PhD in political science and has been an outspoken critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

To hear more from Elif Shafak, stay tuned for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts revised programme under Red, to be announced Thursday 10 February, sign up for news here.

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Photo: Muammer Yanmaz / Supplied


9.35 Erica Newman: Māori adoptees finding their tūrangawaewae

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Photo: Qiane Matata-Sipu/NUKU

The 1955 Adoption Act allowed adoptive parents to sever ties with a child’s birth parents, and left few options for adoptees to access information about them. For Māori who went through the system as children — and their descendants — this often means having no knowledge of their whakapapa.

Erica Newman is the coordinator of the Indigenous Development programme at Otago University and her mother was one such adoptee. She says feelings of disconnection carried through to her and her own children. Last year Newman was awarded a Marsden scholarship to study the journey fellow adoptees are taking to find their tūrangawaewae. She has set up a private Facebook group for them to support each other. 

Newman’s story appears in Qiane Matata-Sipu’s book Nuku: Stories of 100 Indigenous women.



10.05 Playing Favourites with Auckland Pride’s Max Tweedie

Max Tweedie was appointed as the director of Auckland Pride in 2019, when he was just 21 years old. Since then he's become a well-known voice, consistently speaking out about conversion therapy, trans rights, and homophobic leaders, while lobbying for both the rainbow and artistic community. 

He also ushered in a new era for Auckland Pride, overseeing a shake-up of the Pride board and governance which saw the bells and whistles parade canned in favour of a community-led march connecting with the roots of the Pride movement.  

While this year’s Pride Festival has been cancelled due to Covid, the celebrations continue with online events and public activations to mark 50 years since the first Gay Liberation Protest in Albert Park.

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Photo: Becki Moss


11.05 Johann Hari: why we can’t pay attention 

In his new book, Stolen Focus, journalist and author Johann Hari investigates our inability to pay attention, and how it is worsening over time. According to recent studies, university students can now only focus on each task for 65 seconds. Meanwhile office workers manage around three minutes on average.

While researching the book, Hari travelled the globe to interview leading experts on focus and attention and boiled his findings down to identify 12 key causes for the decline, which he reckons is one of humanity's biggest crises.

Stolen Focus asks what this attention deficit really means for our ability to think deeply, and what can be done about it – both on an individual level and as a society.

Hari's previous books include Lost Connections and Chasing the Scream.

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Photo: Supplied / Kathrin Baumbach


11.40 Dr Matt Baker: microbiomes and hibernating squirrels

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Photo: Supplied

Sydney-based New Zealander Dr Matt Baker returns for a chat about some of the latest science news. This week: to date CRISPR technology has been used to edit genomes of one type of cell at a time, but now the ability to edit entire microbiomes might be just around the corner. Dubbed "community editing", the technique could be employed to edit and track microbes within a natural community, such as in the gut or on the roots of a plant.

Also, we are closer to understanding how hibernating animals such as squirrels maintain their muscle mass while in long periods of fasting — and it might just come down to the microbes that live in their guts.

Dr Baker is the Scientia Research Fellow in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales. 

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Photo: patricio89


Books mentioned in this show:

Stolen Focus 
By Johann Hari
Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Island of Missing Trees
By Elif Shafak
ISBN: 9780241435007
Publisher: Viking