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Friday, February 23, 2024

Andrew Yang on Micromobility and the Future of Cities

Former presidential and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang really likes to ride his electric scooter. He's been a big proponent of micromobility in general, among other grand ambitions like establishing a nationwide universal basic income. He's also trying to launch a new American political party—a near-impossible task in such an ideologically divided country.

This week on Gadget Lab, Lauren Goode talks with Andrew Yang at the Micromobility America conference in Richmond, California, about his plans for democracy and how cities might become more micromobile-friendly.

Show Notes

Andrew Yang’s new book is called Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.


Lauren recommends Maid, on Netflix. Mike recommends visiting Surfrider.org to learn about the oil spill affecting Orange County, California, and how to help.

Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.

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Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

MC: Lauren, are you a micromobility person?

LG: I thought you were going to ask me if I was a member of the Yang Gang.

MC: Are you a member of the Yang Gang?

LG: No, to your latter question and sort of to your first question. I have aspirations of being more of a micromobility person. Are you?

MC: I am all in on micromobility and no comment on whether or not I Yang ten. But we're going to talk about both of those things on this week's show.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays.]

MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor at WIRED.

LG: And I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

MC: We have a special show for you this week. A couple of weeks ago, former presidential and New York mayoral candidate. Andrew Yang made an appearance at the Micromobility America event in Richmond, California. Now, Lauren, you're the one who interviewed him on stage. It was a pretty wide ranging conversation. Wasn't it?

LG: We covered a lot of ground and we talked about his new political party. At the time that we taped this conversation, it was in late September and his new book wasn't coming out until October 5th, and that was sort of the moment at which he is like announcing this new political party. But I had known about it in advance and it had been reported in advance, so we talked about that and the challenges historically in our country of introducing a new, a third political party and what that looks like and why he thinks this time it could work.

We talked a little bit about universal basic income, which he has in the past, made a big part of his campaign platforms. And I think which generally more people are coming around to the idea of, or at least are willing to explore. And of course, because we're at a micromobility conference, we talked about micromobility. We talked about bikes and scooters and ride share and things like that and what his personal relationship is to micromobility. And so, yeah, it was, I thought it was a really interesting conversation. And then after that we rode some scooters and Onewheels and stuff like that.

MC: Nice. So as you mentioned, Yang's book comes out this week, Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy. And this conversation we're going to listen to took place around two weeks ago. A lot has happened since that conversation with Andrew Yang. He's on this sort of publicity tour for his book and for his political party. So, he announced on Monday of this week that he was going to leave the Democratic party and switch his political affiliation to Independent. He went on Tucker Carlson. That was a whole thing with his supporters roasting him for doing that.

LG: I didn't see that interview, but I hope I did a better job interviewing him than Tucker Carlson did. I'll have to check that out.

MC: Well, let's listen to the interview and then we'll find out.

LG: All right.

[Sounds of a crowd's applause fades in.]

Andrew Yang: Hello, micromobility! Yes. How fun is this? Voice amplification, technology of the future.

[Applause dies down.]

LG: I just got a message from Kara Swisher. Do you think I should check it?

AY: I talked to Kara yesterday.

LG: All right. Andrew, thank you so much for joining me at this micromobility conference. I wanted to ask you how you got here today?

AY: I got here via plane and then friend, and then Attivo scooter in the parking lot and then Onewheel in the atrium. And then my legs, to the stage.

LG: So you were trip chaining quite a bit.

AY: Multimodal, you would say. Am I right?

LG: Multimodal is a big buzzword today. So we're going to talk a lot about micromobility and personal transport devices. But I think first we need to talk about the elephant in the room, which is your new political party. Tell us what you're up to now.

AY: Well, thank you for asking. How many of you think that politics is working great right now? No one really.

LG: Not a single person raised their hand.

AY: Yeah, not a single person here. And so you have to ask yourself if you were in a market and there was a duopoly and a majority of the market actually wanted an alternative to the duopoly, why is there not a viable alternative that's come up in the last number of decades? And so that's a need that a lot of people have been examining, and I think I figured out a way to make that happen. In true Silicon valley fashion, there is a weak spot in the system that will enable us to have true political diversity of opinion, and hopefully may our democracy function better.

So that's what I'm working on right now. I know it sounds a little bit cryptic and too good to be true, but the new party will be launching on October 5th. And I have to say, these are exactly the sort of people that would love it because we have to move our country forward rather than continue to have this doom loop of these two sides that are just going to clash us all into oblivion.

LG: I think business insider may have scooped you a little bit. There was just a story that ran a few hours ago where they had said in your book, you offered more detail about this political party. Is it called Forward. Is that accurate?

AY: It's not left or right, it's Forward. That's right.

LG: It's Forward.

AY: I have a book coming out October 5th that breaks down why we need to head in this direction.

LG: That's right. That is also the title of the book that's coming out.

AY: Yes. I'm not very imaginative. There's going to be a lot of Forward-named stuff coming out.

LG: Right. And also one of your other organizations is called humanity forward. So I'm sensing a theme here. OK.

AY: And this conference has just been renamed Micromobility Forward.

LG: That's right. And so, talk a little bit about what the tenants or principles are of this new party that you plan to launch.

AY: I go into in greater detail, and we're going to be doing a series of press around it a little bit later, but some of the tenants aren't going to surprise anyone around universal basic income, which I believe is imperative. Fact-based governance, modern and effective government. These are things that are achievable, if we actually have a degree of both innovation and accountability in our system that we don't have right now.

LG: And it seems though that there is something of a history of third political parties failing, right? And that's partly, largely due to the way that our current government is structured, right? The way it's structured is that it, there needs to be a plurality, and of course there is the electoral college. And so that seems to have hindered efforts like this before. Why do you think your solution is going to work this time?

AY: I do want to rewind a little bit where if you look at the vision of the founding fathers of this country, we're living one of their worst nightmares. They were not pro-political party. You don't see a word about political parties in the Constitution or any of the founding documents. And they were actually feared factionalism, which unfortunately is what we have right now. If you look around the world at any mature democracy, you'll see that the number of parties ranges typically between half a dozen and 17, in the Netherlands. The United States is an anomaly in this dysfunctional duopoly. So if anything, what we should be asking is why have we accepted this level of dysfunction for so long?

Now there is a structural impediment to any third party arising. And we all know it very, very well, which is that it's difficult to win races when you have closed primary system. And so it's hard to get media attention. It's hard to get supporters. No one likes to do something that's not going to yield results. And so if you are in a third party, we've all been conditioned to think that it's going to be futile, and you're not actually going to be able to make the changes that you want. You should play in the existing sandboxes. I obviously have some experience playing in those sandboxes, but if you actually were to create a mechanism where people could have their own viewpoint expressed without fear of being bludgeoned, frankly, that you're going to enable like the bad guys or the worst guys to win, then you would see a completely different political landscape in the United States of America.

And I'm going to suggest to you all that, we're here in the Bay Area, we've seen innovation in transportation and our way of life in ways big and small. Why are we not seeing that innovation at the political level? We can make it happen, and that's going to be what I'm going to unveil in early October.

LG: I can see you doing a good job here of pushing people to October, and I'm going to keep asking you questions about this. Let's just take one of those, one of these principles that you seem to be a proponent of which is rank choice voting. How is something like that do you think in primaries in particular, how is that going to revolutionize our current system?

AY: Rank choice voting, how many of you know a lot about rank choice voting? Raise your hand if you know a lot about it.

LG: Some people do, but it's also, I think, confusing for a lot of people. Right.

AY: This is a very savvy crowd. So rank choice voting is a system where people rank multiple candidates and the first person, first candidate-

[Something falls to the ground with a clatter.]

LG: That's just an iPhone.

AY: …Who gets more than 50 percent of the voters then becomes the winner. And there's so many advantages to rank choice voting. Number one is it eliminates, what's called a spoiler effect, which is if you vote for someone who doesn't win, let's say a third party candidate, then your vote will just go on to another candidate, let's say a major party candidate, so all of a sudden you have no downside of voting for the minor candidate. It also discourages negative campaigning because if I trash my opponent and there are a bunch of people in the field, then maybe you like my trashing less, but you also like me less, and then a third person will end up benefiting. So there are many benefits to rank choice voting.

This is another archaic mechanism we've been saddled with, which is this plurality voting system. If you'd had a ranked choice voting system during the Republican primary, when Trump ran in 2016, he almost certainly would not have won that nomination, because if you look at the numbers, he was getting more votes than any of the other candidates, but he wasn't getting 51 percent of the votes. If the other voters had been able to rank their candidates, you probably would've seen another non-Trump candidate emerge. So when you look at some of the problems we've been struggling with, and I think a lot of people here would appreciate this, they're actually process problems. And we're being distracted by this clash saying, "Oh, vote for this person. Don't vote for this person." When really it's the plumbing that we have to fix. I love talking to you all about this because I feel like this is your language, am I right?

LG: But also you have a well worn reputation for talking to people who you wouldn't normally perhaps identify as a progressive, right? You kind of like to talk across both sides of the political spectrum. And what do you think about this new party is going to appeal to both sides of, on the political aisle?

AY: Lauren, I loved running for president and I presented a case that was natural to me, which was born out of facts and technology and economic trends. And I was stunned by the fact that we ended up activating a whole different set of people that weren't even natively political. Down the stretch of my campaign, someone did a survey and it showed that 42 percent of the people that supported me weren't traditional Democrats. I'm going to suggest again that this resembles many of the people who are here today, where some of you work in technology. You want things to work better. You see what's going on in our political system, and it's disheartening. Those are some of the people that my campaign helped to activate.

And the goal is to take some of that sense of optimism and possibility and innovation and insert it into our political system. It's strange to me that we've been waiting this long. And I was surprised myself at the fact that the language of facts was a new political language, but facts actually end up being really appealing to people on any side of the political spectrum, whether you're a Progressive, Independent, Libertarian, Democratic, or Republican. And so that's one reason why, if you survey people of different political alignments, a lot of them will say, "I don't agree with yang on everything, but I can listen to him."

LG: Let's talk about tech, actually. I mean, you're often identified as a tech entrepreneur. You are an entrepreneur. And I think that a lot of people saw you and still probably see you as a technocratic candidate. But at the same time, you, I mean, you didn't hold back from critiquing the technology industry during some of your campaigning. You talked about large corporations paying more taxes, for example. How has your thinking about the tech industry evolved over the past couple years in particular?

AY: I'm a fan of technology and innovation, but I think most people here realize that there are excesses that have taken place. I'm also a parent. I've got two young kids who are eight and six. They're growing up completely differently than I did. I grew up the son of Taiwanese immigrants in upstate New York, playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading sci-fi with my brother. And I see the way my kids are growing up, they love their screens. One of my sons literally said that his iPad is his best friend. And I know that my experience is not unique at all. So we should be trying to integrate what technology can do for us all with our own wellbeing, our family's wellbeing. And right now we sense that tech companies are great at solving market based problems, but there are negative externalities that have arisen, and again, our government is so behind the curve that all these externalities are completely going unaddressed. So to me, there is a balance that should be drawn. I think most people who work in technology would agree with that.

LG: Maybe we should talk about micromobility. Actually, I have one more quick question for you. When you think about this movement forward, does this new political party, is this a vehicle for you in 2022, 2024? What do the next couple years look like for you in those regards?

AY: We're going to be very for focused on 2022 in helping change the process so that people are rewarded less for extremity. Right now, if you look at members of Congress on either side, they're selected by the 20 percent most ideologically extreme in their districts. And 83 percent of districts are non-competitive. By that, I mean they're safely Democratic or safely Republican. So if you put a reasonable legislator into this system, they will quickly conclude that their incentives are best served by trying to placate the most extreme 20 percent in their district, and their goal is not to avoid a challenge in the general, because again 83 percent of these districts are foreground conclusions in the general, their political incentives are just to avoid getting primaried.

So these incentives will drive people on both sides towards seeming less reasonable, more extreme, less prone to compromise. And so this is something that we can change in November of 2022. We can unlock our legislators from this extremity by adopting a system of rank choice voting and open primaries that lets them appeal to 51 percent of the people in their district and not the most extreme 20 percent. That's the big process change we have to make. So that to me is a here and now problem and we hope to make progress on it in November '22.

MC: All right, we're going to pause here and then come back after the break with more of Lauren's interview with Andrew Yang.


LG: So we're at this amazing conference. You have a chance to ride some of these personal transport devices earlier. I brought sneakers so that I can hop on some afterwards. Some really cool innovations happening here today, being shown off here today, but this industry, or this subsection of the transport industry does face some challenges. And some of those are at the municipal levels, some are at the state level, some are just about our sort of general acceptance as a nation of these kinds of personal transport devices. What do you see as the greatest challenge right now to micromobility becoming more mainstream?

AY: I'm going to tell some stories about my running for mayor of New York City. So first a little bit about me personally, I own four e-scooters of different makes. I love them. I haven't yet had my kids ride them independently. I put one of them on the front and ride around with him on it. And it's difficult to integrate these e-scooters into a city like New York, because the natural temptation very quickly is to ride on the sidewalk, which is against the rules. And even the bike lanes, the interaction between e-bikes and e-scooters and cyclists, isn't always optimal and ideal because the you're going a different speeds, and the infrastructure is really just set up for one mode, which is bikes. So I think the biggest obstacle for micromobility is that we have infrastructure that is set up for legacy modes, whether that's cars, most often, bikes, to some extent, pedestrians, to some extent.

And the reality is that if you were to optimize a community for e-scooters or e-bikes, it would look significantly different. Very difficult to do in a city that's already optimized for something else, and by the way, you have limited municipal funds. And so if you're going to choose to spend it on something, it's hard to repurpose. So that to me is the greatest obstacle.

The greatest opportunity then on the flip side would be communities that can actually integrate and prioritize e-scooters and e-bikes and other micromobility devices from day one. And I think that would be a massive competitive advantage for some of those communities or developments in terms of attracting young people, in particular. I think you can sense that I love these devices. That I do.

And I would love nothing more than to see entire communities being able to take advantage of them. They're better for the environment. They're better for our mental health. They're less costly in terms of the sort of infrastructure you have to set up. I mean, there are so many wins, but I will say on a native human level, most of all, they're just fun. They're a blast. I think they're just better for our mental health. I believe that about biking, too. I think biking is great exercise and good for our mental and to me, a lot of the e-scooters are in the same camp.

LG: I think there are a lot of people who have safety concerns. Those are pretty legitimate concerns. It might be a road block. In particular, when you talk about traveling with your kids on a bike some people have concerns about that. How do you think that cities and states should be addressing safety as more and more of these personal transport devices are rolled out into the market?

AY: Yeah, and this is one of the things I was suggesting about the interaction. So one thing I'll say, if you're in New York City, there's a bike lane. Let's say to get to the west side highway, you cross the bike lane and then you get to the walkway. So what someone does very naturally is they look at the bikeway to see if a bike's coming and then they start walking. E-bikes sometimes are moving so quickly that you can look a direction, think you're clear. And then by the time you're walking, it'll actually enter the picture. So there is a, again, a safety issue if you're trying to mix and match some of these modes and infrastructure that's not designed for it. And then if you have a negative occurrence, you know that's going to make headlines in a very, very big way. Where there was a scooter company in New York City that had, I believe, a fatality and it made negative headlines and all of a sudden people wanted to look at it.

Which is legitimate, obviously. I mean, if someone dies, then you have to examine the practice and see whether it makes sense for the community. This is related to what I regarded as the greatest obstacle. And we are in political environments where if you have a negative injury or fatality, you know that everyone's going to want to ban it as quickly as possible. So for the future growth of micromobility, you have to try and make sure that people are riding in environments that are not going to result in that kind of injury or even fatality.

LG: What do you think that the pandemic has done for micromobility or to micromobility? It seems like for example, scooters were kind of on this path in certain cities around the US prior to that. And then for a while, it just, we didn't go anywhere. Essential workers of course, had to get from point A to B. People did have to go places, but in a lot of cases, scooters were untouched for a while. And now there's this kind of reemergence happening. I'm wondering if you see any kind of rethinking that's notable to you around this?

AY: I would love to talk to people in the industry about how Covid has affected your businesses, your companies, because I feel like it's cut in a number of directions. I think on one side, people probably bought more scooters. Is that correct? I'm not sure if that's right. Yeah, someone gave me the thumbs up. That because they were in circumstances where they were going to be working from home more, or they were in an environment where that was the best way for them to be able to get something to eat.

I feel like that would be a very positive drive. And I think that that's one reason why you're seeing some of these political issues rise, because someone buys a device, they love it, they use it, they ride it and then enough people do it. And then there's a problem. And then everyone looks up and says, "OK, what are we going to do to, to try and make sure that people can use these safely?" The thing to avoid a is that overreaction where I, and I think that is a real concern is that if bad things happen and then people complain, then they'll say these devices are a nuisance, when you have to try and balance the good with the bad. There's so much intrinsic, good to micromobility. It's a bit of a mouthful, micromobility.

LG: When you look at the way this in industry is headed, I tend to wonder if let's just take a company like Lyft, for example, who I know is here today. And Lyft has some multimodal solutions. They have car solutions. They have, they did have Lyft pool. I don't know if now you can take rides with other people because of Covid. There are bikes. There are scooters. And I kind of wonder if ultimately what's going to happen is we're going to see this movement towards a few companies owning the multimodal experiences, or if there's going to be a great un-bundling where there are just so many different options. People are able to sort of effectively trip chain using different modes from different providers and like what that looks like. Where do you see that going in the future?

AY: Well, the way you're asking the question seems to suggest that one would be better than the other.

LG: I'm going to attach no moral judgment to it. But I mean, we are seeing kind of ownership of certain companies over our technology experiences now. And we know how that's turning out.

AY: Yeah, and I think this is one of the excesses that I refer you earlier, where we're in an environment where a lot of the economic forces lead towards consolidation. And then if you have a company that achieves what Tim O'Reilly called "Supermoney," where you have a market cap where all of a sudden you could start gobbling up other companies that then the field consolidates very quickly. And that's where you would probably guess that a lot of industries are going to wind up over time. Which is something I'm not a fan of. I think that we should be examining, consolidation and acquisitions more when there's an industry that could end up looking like a duopoly or a monopoly, even at the extremes. I love little companies. I love innovation.

I ran a small private company myself for a number of years. That's how I came up. And it was the time of my life. I feel like I became an adult in that role. You feel like you're the head of a household when you run a small private company. I think a lot of you have that experience. And then we were bought by a public company and I thought that I would dig it, and I really didn't.

So because of that, I have an instinctive alignment with little businesses that have made it work.

LG: When you look at how government resources are allocated around transportation in particular, how much do you think should be focused on, let's say the electrification of mass transit systems versus creating more structure or providing more support around personal transport devices, which I think we're all agreeing here today are pretty cool, right? But sometimes, the focus, the emphasis on a shift in personal behavior doesn't necessarily enact the change, and we're seeing that with climate change too. That needs to come from sort of top down or systemic level. Talk about electrification of transit systems and how much we should be devoting to that.

AY: When I was running for mayor, I wanted to electrify New York City's fleet because you could make a big difference very quickly. I wanted to electrify the buses. I wanted to electrify the garbage trucks, which was the hardest one. Electric garbage trucks was…

LG: Why is that the hardest one?

AY: Well, it just it was very, very expensive to have an electric garbage truck, but I was going to do it. I was like, this is totally where we should be spending our money. I think bang for your buck in terms of being able to alleviate emissions and improve our energy signature, public mass transport is the way to go. And in some ways you can make that change more quickly and efficiently, because even though it's very expensive, you don't have a multitude of decision makers, and if you decided to go that direction, you could make progress pretty quickly. So I'm a huge proponent of public investment in that space. And I would suggest that if you succeeded in that, you'd probably see option of e-scooters and other things by consumers at the same time, because if you were used to electric vehicles, then I think it would improve everyone's comfort level.

LG: You're also a big proponent of universal basic income. You've called it the freedom dividend. And I'm wondering how you see that, or if you do see that, if there's any correlation between that and better transit systems, how that works?

AY: I think if everyone had a certain level of income, you would see adoption of micromobility go up. Because I think if more people had more money in their pocket, they'd probably run out and buy one of these devices.

LG: I don't know where that would fall on the priority list for UBI, but it's an interesting thought.

AY: Someone commented on the way in, someone said like, "how much is this device?" And then they said, "one month of UBI." And so I have a feeling that that adoption would pick up. But if people had money in their pocket, they would also be able to make better transit choices themselves, be able to balance their own needs in a more effective way. Right now we're making all of these bizarre time, money, energy, trade offs, where someone is spending an extra hour or two to save 10 bucks to get to a certain place. So if you were to put money into people's hands, they would make, I think, more efficient decisions, and I think that would end up improving both our infrastructure and people's personal choices.

LG: And in the time since you first introduced UBI as part of both your presidential and mayoral campaigns, has your thinking on that evolved at all, even the amount? Have you thought about a different amount that people might need? What experiments seem to be working for you, right now?

AY: You all remember when I was running for president saying everyone should get a thousand dollars a month and people thought of it as fanciful or far out? And now we're living versions of that. I think we all know this, right? I mean, someone's laughing. Tens of millions of Americans got the $1,400 check, the $600 check, the $1,200 check. 70 million Americans are getting a child tax credit of typically $600 a month over the, the last number of months. It's alleviated poverty in those families. Now, if anything, Andrew Yang's thousand dollars a month plan doesn't seem aggressive enough. You know what I mean? People are like, "oh, a thousand, why stop there?" So I'm a huge supporter of this child tax credit. My only complaint is that it's not in perpetuity and that it doesn't go to people that don't have kids.

LG: So would you, in a future campaign, basically not only extend you UBI as you've put forward, but actually change the amount that American households would be getting?

AY: No, I think we should be in position to think bigger. A thousand dollars a month still seems like a fairly good sweet spot because it's enough to lift people out of poverty still, but it's not enough to completely distort one's incentives because it's just a foundation. But I'm open to more and we're getting more data all the time.

The two big objections I got when I ran for president, and this is something that many of you can relate to, a neuroscientist in Seattle said to me that Andrew, your enemy is the human mind because the human mind is programmed for resource scarcity and when you go around saying that you can give everyone money, it doesn't compute for a lot of people. And he was right in that the biggest objections I got when I was running for president on this were number one, where do you get the money? At this point, this has been addressed because we've all seen that the CARES act 2.2 trillion, the rescue plan 2 trillion. The 2.2 trillion CARES act was enough to give every American a thousand a month for six months. Families got 17 percent of the 2.2 trillion. We always had the money. We could have done it any time we wanted to.

And then the second objection I got was people aren't going to spend the money wisely. And we're seeing what people spend the money on in real life, and it's exactly what you'd expect it to be: food, groceries, fuel, trying to find work. So the main objections I encountered as a presidential candidate have essentially resolved themselves. It's one reason why today, a majority of Americans are for basic income in some form. 80 percent are for cash relief during the pandemic, which unfortunately we're still dealing with.

So I'm thrilled and incredibly grateful to everyone who helped us make this case. Nationally, we've improved tens of millions of people's lives. The fact, anyone who supported me, you should really feel that. You should know that we helped advance and accelerate the end of poverty in our time, but we are not done. The truth is that the dysfunction in Washington is going to keep us from enacting obvious solutions that would make people's lives better. I used to think that the problem was that people didn't know about universal basic income, and I was determined to change that. Now I think the problem is that our government is not actually responsive to the people of this country. And my next mission is to change that, too.

LG: I think that's a great place to wrap and I think we're pretty much out of time. So Andrew, thank you so much.

AY: Micromobility, it's been a blast. Ah, it's great to be here. Let's give it up for Lauren, as well. Yay, Lauren.

[The crowd applauds, then the sound fades out.]

MC: Let's take another quick break and then we'll come back with recommendations.


MC: All right. Well that was a fascinating interview, Lauren. Good job.

LG: Thanks, Mike. Was it better than Tucker's?

MC: I couldn't tell you. We do have time for recommendations this week. So let's do our usual recommendations. Why don't you go first?

LG: OK. This week I have only watched a couple episodes of this. I know that we try not to recommend something when we haven't seen the whole thing or read the book in its entirety, but I started watching Maid on Netflix, which is based on a book by Stephanie Land, which I read a few years ago. It's based on a heartbreaking true story, and it's about precarity, really. It stars Margaret Qualley and she is a woman who is fleeing a domestic violence situation with a small child and basically needs to find work and ends up finding work as a maid, hence the title. But it really shows how some of the social services in our society, at least here in the US, kind of make it challenging for you to even get the support that you need.

For example, in one of the first episodes, you see the character go to social services for a place to live, to try to get work, but she can't get a job until she gets childcare and she can't get a stipend to support the childcare until she has a job. So she ends up in this kind of, she's stuck essentially and ends up having to temporarily place her child with like an unfit family member. And that's just the beginning. So yeah, I'm on episode three and so far I'm finding it really compelling and I recommend you check it out. And if you don't want to stream the series, I recommend you read the book Maid by Stephanie Land.

MC: So it's on Netflix. How long are the episodes?

LG: It is on Netflix and each episode is an hour.

MC: OK, good to know. Thank you.

LG: Mike, what's your recommendation?

MC: I'm going to recommend that everybody listening to the show go online and go to surfrider.org. That's surf R-I-D-E-R dot org, and learn about the oil spill that happened last week in Southern California. You may have heard on Saturday of last week, a pipeline bringing oil from the offshore oil drilling platforms to the port of Long Beach broke and spilled almost 150,000 gallons of oil into to the Pacific Ocean, about four miles off the coast. That created a giant oil slick, which moved onto the shore and is now impacting the beaches between Huntington Beach, south to Laguna Beach. This is the part of the world that I grew up in. This is my home turf. This is where I learned to surf. This is where I became an environmental activist in high school because of problems of pollution along the shoreline and safety for swimming, for humans and for animals and for birds along the shoreline.

So Surfrider puts together a page whenever there's a big environmental action like this and does its best to inform people what they can do if they want to take action and what they do if they want to help clean it up. Now, I should note that cleaning up an oil slick is very dangerous. So don't just go do it. You need to work with trained professionals. However, if you go to surfrider.org, they do have a signup that you can use to get information about when you're able to go help clean up the oil, what sorts of things they need help with and how you can help.

So if you sign up, you'll get on their list and you get the information once they're ready for regular old citizens like us to go down and to help clean it up. You can also donate. You can sign petitions. You can do all sorts of things, but really what I'm encouraging you to do is just go learn about it. Read about it. Read about why these things happen, why they're preventable, who gets accountable, what the laws are like and what the impacts are, because it's really important.

And if you like the ocean, then you should learn as much as you can about it. So that's my recommendation. Go to surfrider.org and click on the OC oil spill page, which is like, you can't miss it on the website, because it's the biggest news in the country right now for ocean people.

LG: I second that recommendation. I'm a card carrying Surfrider member. So thank you for that suggestion, Mike.

MC: Yeah. And it's really a shame and it's tough when something like this happens in a place that you know so well in a place that you're so emotionally attached to and like I'm several hundred miles away and can't really do anything. But also it's, like I was saying, even if I was there, I wouldn't really be able to do a whole lot. So, helping out from afar is perfectly fine, I think in this case. Especially given pandemic travel and all that.

LG: Yeah. And the Surfrider organization works on a lot of different issues. I mean, not just water pollution but they often host beach cleanups. They take legal action against any kind of violations of the laws that are designed to protect the California coast. There's a famous case, where there's a billionaire who tried to make part of a beach private up here in Northern California and Surfrider organization fought that. So they do a lot of great work.

MC: Yes, they do. All right. Well that is the end of our show for this week. It was a very political show, for some reason.

LG: Yeah, it was. Maybe we should go back to gadgets next week. I don't know. Well, tell us, I want to hear from our listeners what they think. If you like the show or if you want us to go back to talking about, I don't know, maybe like pixel phones or something.

MC: Yes. Please tell us how you felt about this week's show by tweeting at us. You can find all of our contact information in the show notes. Lauren, thank you for interviewing Andrea Yang.

LG: Thanks, Mike. It was fun.

MC: This show is produced by Boone Ashworth and we will be back next week.

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