Back to the Future: A Sea Change Radio Series

Mass Humanities - A Commonwealth of Ideas

What can we learn from the past to help us make the transition to a low carbon future? We explore this question in the six-part radio series, Back to the Future. We look at farming, construction, transportation, energy and ways of organizing communities that can inspire us in meeting the goal of a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

Massachusetts is rich in sustainability resources and action. From green building initiatives and wind power to low carbon transportation infrastructure like bike trails and sustainable agriculture consortia, the state is a leader in working toward a green economy. Massachusetts is also rich in historical resources that provide many examples of technologies, both material and social, used in earlier, lower carbon-use times.

In six monthly episodes starting October 2009, the series examines the use and re-use of older technologies, materials, and social organization by projects, organizations, businesses and individuals around the state who are seeking ways of creating a more sustainable way to live, one that emphasizes quality of life over quantity of consumption.

We talk with historians who share their insights and discoveries about how people lived, produced, and traded in Massachusetts in the pre-fossil fuel era. We hear from sustainability experts and green entrepreneurs who are exploring ways to use and adapt those older ways to move to a lower energy, lower consumption way of life.

On the page for each episode, you’ll find links to resources to explore the issues further.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Whose Commonwealth Is It?

Journalist and policy strategist David Bollier tells us about the idea of the commons, wind energy expert Patrick Quinlan talks about how wind power in Massachusetts has become a battleground over competing definitions of the commons, wind developer Dan Juhl talks about community wind power. And historian Kerry Buckley sums up the lessons of our series.

Cool Industry for A Cooler Planet

In this fifth episode of our Back To The Future series, we look at how the mighty power of the Connecticut River fueled the birth of manufacturing in Massachusetts — and the country — not just in producing finished goods, like paper and textiles, but also in making the machinery that drove the mills.

Back To The Future: Getting Around On Rails and Trails

In this edition of the Sea Change Radio series Back To The Future, Francesca Rheannon talks with historian Kerry Buckley about the heyday of the trolley system in Massachusetts; rail trail promoter Craig Della Penna talks about how rail trails came about and where they are going; and anthropologist Cathy Stanton talks about how we could reinvent the relationship between cars and other lower carbon means of transportation, like bikes and light rail.

Back to the Future: Reduce, Reuse, Retrofit

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Welcome to the third episode in our Sea Change series, Back to the Future.  Green architect Betsy Pettit talks about retrofits and what older building methods can teach us about saving energy. And John Grossman of ReStore tells us about re-using salvaged building materials. Each month, our six-part series [...]

Back To The Future: To Market, To Market

The second episode of our Back To The Future series looks at the revival of a locally based food system in western Massachusetts. We talk with Margaret Christie of CISA (Community In Support of Agriculture), visit with organic farmer Jim Pitts at the Amherst Farmers Market, and speak with social historian Christopher Clark about how the market economy evolved in the Connecticut Valley in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Back To the Future: Pasture, Local Wheat and Water Power

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Massachusetts has a deep agricultural history stretching back before the days of chemical-based industrial agribusiness. How are farmers using older methods to make the transition to more sustainable agriculture?  Sea Change Co-Host Francesca Rheannon goes to the Colrain Dairy to talk with Larry Shearer about his low-impact, pasture-based [...]