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.

 

Environmental Icon David Suzuki

This week we bring you an intergenerational conversation featuring David Suzuki, who is a Canadian scientist, activist, and media figure. Since the 1970s, Suzuki has hosted both radio and television shows about the natural world and environmental issues. A self-described “elder,” Suzuki shares his views and long-term perspective on environmentalism with our producer Mike Osborne. Their wide-ranging conversation spans climate change, energy, shortfalls of the environmental movement, and the evolving relationship between humans and Earth’s ecosystems.

Climate Change: The Beginning

Humans have been altering the climate for a long time – but how long, exactly? This question is central to the Anthropocene debate. When did the human population collectively achieve colossal power that can be equated with geologic power? Was it at the start of the Industrial Revolution? Back during the Agricultural Revolution? And how on earth do climatologists pinpoint a date? This week, producer and resident paleoclimatologist Mike Osborne looks at two inflection points in human activity. Mike first discusses research on the global impact of Industrial Era emissions (newly published in ‘Nature’!) with scientists Nerilie Abram and Kaustubh Thirumalai. He then takes a step back in Earth’s history to the early Agricultural Revolution, and climate scientist Bill Ruddiman’s early Anthropocene hypothesis.

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.