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.

 

Ed Yong, author of ‘I Contain Multitudes’

There are billions of microbes both in and on our bodies. These invisible organisms form complex ecosystems, which are passed on to us as infants through breast milk, help digest food in our guts, and may even be correlated with a growing list of health conditions like obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autism. It’s no exaggeration to say that human life would not be possible without the microbiome. Science writer Ed Yong has been reporting on the microbiome for over a decade, and has just published his first book, ‘I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life.’ In this conversation with producer Mike Osborne, he reveals the evolutionary roots of the microbiome, what we know – and don’t know – about microbiomes across the human population, and how we as humans both create an imprint and are imprinted upon by the microbes in the environment all around us.

Food Nudges (Fudges?)

We all need food to stay alive, but when we’re filling up our grocery carts, it’s not like survival is the primary motivator. If you’re listening to this podcast, chances are you live somewhere with food options galore. And if you’re environmentally inclined, you probably take a little more time in deciding what to put in your mouth. Is it healthy? Is it organic? Is it tasty?! So much to think about everytime we eat! Today we have two stories that dive a little deeper into our decision-making process around food. First, we talk to professor Phil Howard, who has investigated the rise of the organic food industry and what it truly means to buy organic products. Then we meet Dr. Tom Robinson, who is at the forefront of understanding the cultural and sociological factors underlying the obesity epidemic in America.

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

Livelihoods, Poverty, and Climate Risk

Perhaps you’ve noticed recently that there’s been a shift in way experts are approaching climate change. While much of the focus (rightly) continues to be on “bending the CO2 curve downward,” there’s also been a growing literature on climate adaptation. The sobering reality is that climate change is already upon us – so given that we cannot escape some of the consequences, we’re now faced with a whole new series of questions. Who is most at risk? What are the social, cultural, and political forces that render some people more vulnerable than others? And, maybe most importantly, what can we do for the people and places who will suffer most?

On today’s show, we feature an interview with Petra Tschakert by producer Mike Osborne and student Sarah McCurdy. Dr. Tschakert was the Coordinating Lead Author of the AR5 IPCC report chapter “Livelihoods and Poverty.” In this conversation, we examine the often surprising influence of social dynamics on who will be most vulnerable to climate change, and learn more about the emerging research agenda from an expert on the frontier of climate adaptation.
 

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