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Why It Matters

Author: Council on Foreign Relations

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Each episode of Why It Matters breaks down an issue that is shaping our world's future. Join host Gabrielle Sierra as she speaks with the leaders and thinkers who are facing these questions head on. Fueled by the minds at the Council on Foreign Relations, Why It Matters brings some of the world's most compelling stories home to you.
25 Episodes
As climate change accelerates, some scientists are researching ways to alter our climate to slow down warming. But the method, called solar geoengineering, comes with some serious risks. Featured Guests: David Keith (Harvard University) Shuchi Talati (Union of Concerned Scientists) Gernot Wagner (New York University) For more information on this episode, visit us at
Works of art and cultural heritage sites are common casualties in war. In many cases, the sale of plundered treasures has helped finance ongoing conflict. In this episode, two experts examine the history of conflict-driven looting. Along the way, they trace the opaque, unregulated international art market that allows irreplaceable treasures to travel from strife-torn regions to the catalogues of prestigious auction houses. Featured Guests: Amr Al Azm (Professor of History and Anthropology, Shawnee State University) Tess Davis (Executive Director, Antiquities Coalition) For more information on this episode, visit us at
For decades international students enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S., with strong consensus that they fueled American innovation, job creation and competitiveness. But in recent years the pipeline of international students has come under threat, and other nations are seizing the opportunity to take in the world’s brightest students. Featured Guests: Esther D. Brimmer (Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA) Edward Alden (Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; the Ross distinguished visiting professor at Western Washington University)
Pricing Our Climate

Pricing Our Climate


As the effects of climate change move from scientific predictions to daily headlines, some investors have begun sounding the alarm about impending dangers to financial markets. In this episode, experts break down the intersection of climate change and the economy, and examine whether the persuasive power of the dollar can be leveraged in the fight for climate action. Featured Guests: Kate Mackenzie (Green Columnist, Bloomberg) Michael Greenstone (Professor of Economics, University of Chicago) For more information on this episode, visit us at
Hosting the Olympics is a monumental undertaking that often leaves behind rusted stadiums and financial losses. So why do nations compete to do it? This episode examines the political history of the games, and the soft power that countries hope to gain by hosting them. Featured Guests: Jules Boykoff (Professor of Political Science, Pacific University) Katharine Moon (Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College) For more information on this episode, visit us at
Living in History

Living in History


Whether you think we are making history or repeating it, it’s safe to say we are living in a historic time. In this episode, Why It Matters asks three historians to weigh in on how to use the past to examine the present and make better choices for the future. Featured Guests: Richard N. Haass (President, Council on Foreign Relations) Margaret MacMillan (Professor of History, University of Toronto) Annette Gordon-Reed (Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School) For more information on this episode, visit us at 
The killing of George Floyd, the anti-racist protest movement that followed, and the administration’s response have shaken America, and reverberations can be felt across the globe. It is unclear what type of reform will follow the U.S. protests, but it is undeniable that the world is watching what happens closely. Featured Guests: Chika Oduah (Independent Multimedia Journalist) Keith Richburg (Director, Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong) For more information on this episode, visit us at
It is estimated that twenty to forty million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Of these, the majority are trafficked for labor, and many of them are exploited in the United States. Featured Guests: Susy Andole (Voices of Hope, Anti-Trafficking Program, Safe Horizon) Mark P. Lagon (Chief Policy Officer, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria) Anita Teekah (Senior Director, Anti-Trafficking Program, Safe Horizon) For more information on this episode, visit us at
China is undertaking massive infrastructure projects across the world and loaning billions of dollars to developing nations. On paper, the objective is to build a vast trade network, but is China also exporting authoritarianism? Featured Guests: Jessica Chen Weiss (Associate Professor of Government, Cornell University) Elizabeth C. Economy (C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies) For more information on this episode, visit us at
WhatsApp With India?

WhatsApp With India?


Roughly four hundred million people in India use the encrypted messaging platform WhatsApp. Now, the country’s ruling party is trying to force WhatsApp to let the government trace and censor messages. The outcome could change digital freedoms in the world’s largest democracy, and could have strong implications for the future of privacy everywhere. Featured Guests: Seema Mody (Global Markets Reporter, CNBC) Vindu Goel (Technology and Business Reporter, New York Times) Chinmayi Arun (Resident Fellow, Yale University) For more information on this episode, visit us at
Wearing the World Out

Wearing the World Out


What’s the true cost of cheap clothes? Fast fashion has become a multibillion-dollar industry in recent decades, reshaping the world’s shopping habits. But the industry’s low prices disguise a staggering environmental cost. Featured Guests: Elizabeth Segran (Senior Staff Writer, Fast Company) Linda Greer (Senior Global Fellow, Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs Beijing China) Amber Valletta (Activist, and founder, Master & Muse) For more information on this episode, visit us at
Is the coronavirus a zero-sum game in which we must choose between saving lives and saving the economy? In this episode, we sit down with two experts to find out.
Season Two Trailer

Season Two Trailer


Now more than ever, it’s clear that global problems can become local in a flash. In season two, Why It Matters dives into a new set of challenges that will shape our lives in the years to come.



The worldwide spread of the new coronavirus has pulled back the curtain on the vulnerabilities of our interconnected world. Now we are left asking some basic questions. What lessons have we learned so far? Guests: Sylvia Burwell, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Frieden, former Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor, Financial Times Shannon O’Neil, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations   
You’re making the rounds at a party when someone asks you about NATO. Is it still important? The alliance is credited with preventing a third world war, but a lot of us don’t know what it is or how it works. This episode takes a look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from the ground up, paired best with a cold drink.
Dimming The Sky

Dimming The Sky


As climate change accelerates, some scientists are researching ways to alter our climate to slow down warming. But the method, called solar geoengineering, comes with some serious risks.  Guests David Keith (Harvard University)Shuchi Talati (Union of Concerned Scientists)Gernot Wagner (New York University) Show Notes
The aftershocks of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election are still being felt today. Is the United States ready for 2020?
Robots That Kill

Robots That Kill


Militaries around the world are designing artificial intelligence–powered weapons that could one day make their own decisions about who to target. The technology could change warfare, but at what cost?
At the start of the new year, the Why It Matters team takes a look at some of the best interview segments that didn’t make it into the episodes.
Antibiotics have saved untold millions of lives, but bacteria are learning to outsmart them at alarming rates. Projections show that by 2050, ten million people could die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Comments (1)

Lu Kai-Mo


Nov 10th
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