Opting Out

Listen 48:51
Image: Bigstock/dolgachov

Image: Bigstock/dolgachov

There’s a comfort to the mainstream way of doing things — it offers standard solutions to standard problems. But sometimes existing systems don’t work or aren’t accessible, and we’re forced to carve out our own paths. On this episode, we explore stories of opting out — and finding new solutions. We hear about communities opting out of conventional internet service, universities ditching the GRE test as part of their admissions process, and people saying no to some aspects of medical care. Why we opt out, where it leads, and why, sometimes, it just might be impossible.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • In Detroit, roughly 40 percent of residents have no internet at home. In response, communities there and elsewhere are exploring mesh networks — a kind of shared wireless that’s built from the ground up. Steph Yin explains how it works, and the challenges these projects face.
  • Reporter Noam Osband talks with Jessica Zitter, a palliative care physician who wants her patients to know that opting out of aggressive medical treatments doesn’t mean they’re “giving up.” Zitter’s book is called “Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life.”
  • When Steven Morgan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he was given several prescriptions to stabilize his moods. The medications helped ease his depression and anxiety, but he also felt that they erased certain aspects of his personality and creativity. The physical side effects were severe, and eventually, Steven decided he wanted to learn to manage his illness on his own, without medication. Ethan Brooks reports this story.
  • Plastic poses a growing threat to the environment, and especially our oceans. We record what it’s like attempting to live without plastic for a day, and chat with Rose Eveleth, who imagines a world without plastic on her podcast “Flash Forward.”
  • When Tony Martinez scheduled his first colonoscopy, the doctor said he would need someone to drive him home afterwards because of the anesthesia. So Tony decided to opt out — and experience the full procedure without going under.

Segments from this episode

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