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What Kind of World Do We Want to Create Post-Pandemic?

Very Biggest Questions

Originally Aired: Thursday, May 21, 2020



Taking a pause from the relentless push of modern living, while painful at times, has also made time for important self-reflection — on ourselves as individuals, as family-units, as neighborhoods and beyond. When we finally descend the apex of COVID-19 and begin a return to normal society, what kind of “normal” do we want to return to?

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The pandemic has exposed deep inequalities in our healthcare system and economy, and how deadly those can be. It’s also shown us how truly essential many of our lowest-paid and least-appreciated workers are — from delivery people to cashiers to nurses and beyond. And strikingly, our natural world has responded to decreased human activity with a sense of renewal, from birdsong sweeping through NYC to clearer skies in some of the most polluted cities.

For this show, host Angélique Roché invites policy makers, activists, thinkers and a futurist to weigh in on what values might guide our thinking as we reactivate society and the economy. How can we move forward and incorporate learnings from this time to make our cities, states and nation healthier, happier and better prepared?

Guests include author and speaker Charles EisensteinRohit T. “Rit” Aggarwala, head of Urban Systems at Sidewalk Labs and Brown University professor and rap artist Sammus.

Charles Eisenstein is a speaker and writer focusing on themes of human culture and identity. He is the author of several books, most recently Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know Is Possible, and his newest book, Climate: A New Story.

His background includes a degree in mathematics and philosophy from Yale, a decade in Taiwan as a translator, and stints as a college instructor, a yoga teacher, and a construction worker. He is the father of four and currently writes and speaks full-time. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Rohit T. “Rit” Aggarwala is Head of Urban Systems at Sidewalk Labs. He is also an Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and recently chaired the Regional Plan Association’s five-year effort to develop a Fourth Regional Plan for the New York metropolitan area.


Previously, Rit spent five years at Bloomberg Philanthropies in several related roles. He headed the sustainability practice at Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic consulting firm that serves city governments; was Special Advisor to the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group during Mayor Bloomberg’s chairmanship of the organization, spearheading its transformation into a global leader; and he inaugurated the Bloomberg Philanthropies environment program, which grew to a total of $145 million in grants under his management.


Rit holds a BA, MBA, and a PhD in US History from Columbia University, and an MA in Canadian History from Queen’s University in Ontario. He is a native of New York City.

Credit: Photo by Zoloo Brown

SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) is a rap artist, producer, PhD recipient from the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University and postdoctoral fellow at Brown University.  Known as much for her rousing stage presence as she is for her prowess as a beatmaker and lyricist, Sammus has spent the past several years cultivating a strong following of activists, hip hop heads, punks, and self-proclaimed nerds and geeks, among others.

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