Category: Season 7

Preparing for Paris

When the Conference of the Parties meets in Paris in the coming weeks, it will mark the 21st time the nations of the world have met to try to strike a deal to combat climate change.  Given existing tensions between nations, and given that each country has a unique capacity to contribute to a comprehensive deal, we ask the question, “how can we measure success at the Paris negotiations?” Stanford researcher Aaron Strong and New York Time reporter Andy Revkin walk us through the history of previous negotiations to explore what went wrong, what we’ve learned, and why many are so optimistic about Paris.  They point out the areas where progress has already been made and where the potential sticking points lie.  As anthropogenic climate change continues to affect the world around us, success in Paris might look a little different than people have previously thought.

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

Learning to Die in the Anthropocene

Does climate change mean the end of civilization? Maybe that sounds crazy, but, then again, all the forecasts are deeply sobering. There are reasons for hope, sure, but there are also reasons to believe that humans are unleashing forces beyond anyone’s control. If we assume for the sake of argument that we are on a collision course headed for global catastrophe, how do we make peace with that reality? How do we comport ourselves as ethical human beings, and what does it mean to be living through the late stages of this explosive time period? These are just some of the questions that Iraq War veteran Roy Scranton grapples with in his new book, “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene.” Drawing on his experiences, Scranton uses the framing of the Anthropocene to capture a deep time perspective and to confront mortality in a way that is rare in public discourse. In this conversation with producer Mike Osborne, Scranton talks about his journey as an intellectual, his decision to go to war, and what it means for a civilization to learn to die.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Soundtracker

Listen up, because you never know when a sound will change your life.  Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton tells us the story of how he became “The Soundtracker,” an unorthodox career choice that has led him around the planet three times in pursuit of the last pristine soundscapes. Journey along with Hempton from tropical jungles to the frozen North as he records the music from the solar-powered jukebox that is Earth.

Image adapted from Randy Storey

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Evolution of Fire

Fire is evolving. The three necessary ingredients for fire – heat, fuel, and oxygen – each appeared at different times in geological history, meaning that fire wasn’t always around on Earth’s surface. Fire historian Steve Pyne describes the origin and evolution of fire over the past 420 millions years on Earth, including history’s true Promethean moment.

In a bonus segment, producer Mike Osborne chats with paleoclimate scientist Jud Partin about his new publication exploring the Younger Dryas, the most recent time in Earth’s history to experience abrupt climate change. Hear Jud describe what happened as Earth left the last ice age and why he’s still optimistic about abrupt climate change today.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

Fire recordings by matucha and dynamicell.

Rondonia

In the late 1970’s, tens of thousands of Brazilian agricultural workers found themselves out of work due to technological advances on farms.  To combat the problem, the government, with help from the World Bank, set up a program to settle people into the rainforest and allow them to farm commercial crops.  The hitch? No one had tested the soil to see if it could support the crops being grown.  From there, the ambitious social and ecological experiment quickly turned into a nightmare of Hollywood proportions involving strife between ranchers and local tribes, clear cutting of the rainforest, and disease outbreaks of all kinds.  What can we learn from what went wrong in Rondônia?

 

 

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Stakes

Climate change is one of the many defining characteristics of the Anthropocene.  But it’s about more than greenhouse gases, energy consumption, and rising temperatures.  Climate matters because of the ways it interacts with us.  So what is at stake?  On today’s show, we’re looking at those stakes at the global scale.  Our first story is about the link between climate change and human conflict, reaching across the planet and back through human history.  Our second story is about a radical approach that might enable humans to control the climate system – geoengineering.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

Seeds of Change

image taken by CIAT

At the dawn of the agricultural revolution, humans began to tinker with our seeds.  Over millennia, we’ve managed to breed plants for selective traits and grow more food.  As certain crops now dominate our agricultural fields, what will happen to all of those original seeds – and their genetic information – that were used to create our modern food system?  We travel to the extreme northern latitudes and visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to see how they are trying to curate our changing seeds.  In our second story, we see that humans aren’t the only force that tinkers with seeds.  With climate change, certain crops might adapt their own biology to warmer conditions.  Cassava, a major food staple worldwide that feeds over one billion people, has already shown the potential to adapt in a strange way – by producing more cyanide.  We speak with biologist Ros Gleadow to explore the complex relationship with climate change and the changing biology of cassava.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

Hidden Water

Most of the changes scientists see on our planet are either visible to the naked eye or directly measurable.  But changes to our water systems are among the most difficult to see.  In this episode, we travel from the Antarctic ice sheet capturing over 60 percent of all freshwater on Earth, to massive groundwater aquifers that remain particularly elusive, to a freshwater system that acts as the primary economic, cultural, and environmental driver of southern Asia.  In short, we go in search of hidden water.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

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History is a Mess

The very idea of an Anthropocene suggests that the world is changing faster than ever before.  And a growing number of historians, archeologists, and geologists are looking at our modern world in the context of deep time to place the rapid changes in their proper context.  In today’s show, Ian Morris discusses how societies have developed through all of human history – from Neanderthals to iPhones – and points out some trends we can extract and investigate from archeological data.  Specifically, Morris explains how geography drives human social development, but development changes the very meaning of geography.  If that sounds a little complicated… well, it is. But we speak with Ronan Arthur about the Native American Navajo as a sort of case study of this geography/social development concept.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

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A Slight Digression: Invertebrates

Invertebrates. Gutless, spineless– but perhaps underappreciated invertebrates. We probably don’t spend enough time thinking about that other category of organisms on earth, so on this episode we’re going to spend some time with maybe the most overlooked group of Eukaryotes: Fungi. As it turns out, there are (at least) five MIND BLOWING facts about fungi that we all need to know. We’ll then travel to Southeastern Alaska to study the changing forest community. A wave of climate-driven ecological change is sweeping across the region, and we’ll learn about what this means for forests and the people who live there. Finally on today’s show we leave the invertebrates and debut a new segment that we’re calling Convos with Kau (as in coversation with Kaustubh Thirmulai, PhD candidate in paleoclimate at UT-Austin).

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (license available here)

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