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 week, we explore communication: how do we talk? how do we hear? and what the hell are we even saying? And what about the rest of the animal kingdoms? African elephants don’t just communicate through trumpeting – they also use seismic waves. Elephant behavior expert Caitlin O’Connell explains this “second language,” and how it’s helping advance hearing aid technology. She also tells us about her new work of fiction, Ivory Ghosts, which draws attention to the intensifying problem of illegal ivory trade. We then talk to evolutionary biologist Nicole Creanza, who explains that we can learn a lot about early human migration across the globe not just through genetics, but also through our languages.
This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (tracks used: Digya and Night Cave. License available here)
On today’s episode, our friend and co-creator of the wildly popular Science…Sort Of podcast, Ryan Haupt, joins us to talk about Pleistocene re-wilding. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry! Follow along as we try to figure it out too. Along the way, Ryan touches on the science of Iron Man, African elephant birth control, running zebras in the Kentucky Derby, and the worst safari ever.
Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, believes that in the Anthropocene we should widen our repertoire of conservation strategies, rather than exclusively relying on traditional conservation methods that “look backwards.” Emma also shares how her own relationship with nature has changed over the years, and suggests that we can learn to appreciate all forms of nature, from weeds growing in sidewalk cracks to grand mountain landscapes.