A Tale of Two Grains

Food security may be the most important issue we’ll face in the coming decades. With global population on the rise and a changing climate, the future of food is greatly uncertain. These realities have prompted some scientists to start looking at crops that might be well suited to these global changes, foods that are drought resistant and nutritionally rich. That’s where “superfoods” like quinoa and amaranth come in. In this week’s episode, we explore these two crops and their potential to become staple components of our future diets. We first hear from journalist Lisa Hamilton, author of the 2014 Harper’s article “The Quinoa Quarrel.” Then amaranth expert Rob Myers walks us through the relative benefits of quinoa and amaranth, and the challenges to breeding both on a large scale. To wrap it up, Katherine Lorenz shares the story of a nonprofit she founded that uses amaranth to address malnutrition in rural Oaxaca, Mexico.

 

Will Allen, Urban Farmer

As cities around the world absorb more and more people, many urbanites want to reconnect with local food. This has led to the rise and spread of urban agriculture, and at the center of this movement is Will Allen, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Growing Power. In today’s episode, Allen shares his life story, and discusses his passion for urban agriculture and food security, as well as how urban farming can strengthen community ties. We also have a short bonus segment this week, brought to us by Reade Levinson. She recently traveled to Alaska to research salmon fishing, which is under threat from the side effects of the Canadian mining industry.

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

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Scars of the Past

Beneath Cambodia’s troubled history with the Khmer Rouge lies a complex agricultural legacy that reaches back centuries. Once the symbol of a thriving region, we see how a prolonged El Nino brought drought and increased human conflict, and how the ruthless Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge looked back to the temples at Angkor Wat and their proud agricultural heritage to motivate the atrocities of the Cambodian genocide. Producer Miles Traer speaks with mental health and water science experts to see how hundreds of years of agriculture have shaped the region. Traer shares his own thoughts on the relationship between food and conflict, and how he sees the standard historical narrative breaking down within Cambodia’s borders.

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

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Rondônia

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)