A core tension at the center of many environmental debates has to do with our relationship to technology. After all, the environmental movement that arose in the 1960s was propelled by a desire to “get back to nature,” but these days we have an increasingly hard time escaping technology. It’s somewhat ironic, therefore, that we use the language of nature to describe so many aspects of the digital universe. Probably the best current example is the mysterious “cloud,” which has become so critical for modern computational systems. In this short piece, we examine the environmental footprint of the cloud, and we dig into the language the describes the products coming out of Silicon Valley.
In 2011, author and editor Oliver Morton wrote a cover article for “The Economist” titled: Welcome to the Anthropocene. Many credit this article with jumpstarting popular interest in the term. On today’s show, producer Miles Traer sits down with Morton to discuss the anthropocene in the context of his new book titled “The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change The World.” The conversation touches on everything from pitching stories at the Economist to U2 spy planes to why geoengineering doesn’t scare Morton as much as some think it should. Listen along as we explore the Planet Remade.
THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.
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)
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.