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Hothouse is a podcast about design, ecology, and the way we garden now. Host Leah Churner sits down with experts and enthusiasts to talk about permaculture, the urban landscape, and how plants sometimes give us the feels. A meeting of the minds for plant people and the horticulture-curious, Hothouse is a different kind of gardening show: less of the how-to and more of the who, what, where, when, and why.

Sep 2, 2021

Fresh off a hometown visit to Cleveland, Colleen brings us the story of the Cuyahoga: a river once so polluted with industrial sludge, it burned. At least thirteen times. While the largest and most damaging conflagration occurred in 1952, it was the 1969 river fire that made national headlines, thanks to Mayor Carl Stokes. As one of the first Black mayors of a major American city, the charismatic and media-savvy Stokes connected the dots between economic inequality and environmental degradation, and advocated on the national stage for legislation that would clean up the “urban environment,” starting with the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie. Today, the pristine Cuyahoga is a symbol of pride for Clevelanders, yet this civic success story belies the reality of ongoing inequality there. Colleen shares her personal history of growing up in “a city with no superlatives,” her own chance connection to Stokes, and how she’s begun parsing the difference between “environmentalism” and “environmental justice.”

Also, Leah shares an update on the so-called Mystery Seeds from China.

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Mentioned in this episode:

“The Truth Behind the Amazon Mystery Seeds” by Chris Heath (The Atlantic, 7/15/21); Burning River Pale Ale; The Good Time III boat; The Mayor and The People: Carl B Stokes (album by Oliver Nelson); “Carl B. Stokes and the 1969 River Fire” (National Parks Service); “The Cities: The Price of Optimism” (Time, 8/1/69), “The Myth of the Cuyahoga River Fire” (Distillations Podcast, Science History Institute); “Bringing Back Trees to ‘Forest City’s Redlined Areas to Help Residents and the Climate” (NPR, 6/23/21).