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.
A trendy outfit has never been cheaper than it is today. Not only that, the fashion industry is churning out new styles so quickly that the entire phenomenon has been dubbed fast fashion. The industry includes retailers like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and even Target and Walmart. Of course, it’s only natural that we love finding the latest styles at affordable prices. But our clothes have abundant hidden costs for both the environment and people. This week, producer Leslie Chang takes a closer look at the footprint left behind by the fast-moving fashion industry. We hear from journalist Elizabeth Cline, author of ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,’ as well as UMass Dartmouth Asst. Prof. Nick Anguelov, author of ‘The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry: Fast Fashion and Its Negative Impact on Environment and Society.’
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.
We tend to think of the world in terms of our relationship with it: as individuals, communities, civilizations. It’s harder to think about the earth before a textual record, before human history. This week, we dive into deep time with paleoclimatologist Page Chamberlain. What did the Western United States look like in the Cenozoic Era? How do the Rocky Mountains affect Europe’s climate? How can the climate 3 million years ago tell us about the climate today? In this conversation, Page and producer Mike Osborne banter about these and other questions surrounding Earth systems of the past.