In the long months we’ve all been confined to our homes, many people have become reacquainted with the vibrant life just outside their doors, finding unexpected joy, companionship, and hope through partaking in the cycles of love and loss that happen in the skies and yards around us. It is this wonder to be found in the natural world, from observing the habits of the nesting chipmunk family under her house, to watching a monarch butterfly break out of its chrysalis, that our guest, Margaret Renkl, captures so evocatively through her writing. In her book, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, and in her weekly opinion columns for The New York Times, Renkl introduces readers to the profound joys and sorrows unfolding in the world around us. In stories about growing up in the South, the heartbreak of losing her parents, finding the perfect squirrel-proof finch feeder, and hearing the chattering of birds in her yard as they warn of a lurking snake, she grounds the extraordinary and uplifts the everyday. In this episode, we talk with Renkl about how loving nature and mourning it go hand in hand, how backyard nature can provide comfort during times of grief, the impetuousness of squirrels, and how she turned her Nashville backyard into a wildlife sanctuary.
Mecca Griffith interviews Christian ethics professor Jennifer Herdt on the human capacity for both empathy and exclusion—and society’s proven ability to create change in the face of injustice.
When an entire country can’t do social distancing, when thought leaders tell citizens COVID is a hoax, when a healthcare system can’t even handle a day-to-day basics – what does a national response to COVID look like? And how is it possible that countries across much of the world are completely unprepared for this crisis? What international systems are in place to fight global pandemics, and why are they failing now? For answers to these and other questions, join me as I explore the impact of COVID in the Global South with two extraordinary guests.
Benjamin Mason Meier has dedicated his life to thinking and writing about the intersection of public health and global justice. He is an Associate Professor of Global Health Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A prolific scholar, he is the author of Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World (2018), available on Amazon. His forthcoming text will be published in June 2020 by Oxford University Press: “Foundations of Global Health and Human Rights”. You can follow him on Twitter, where he is @benjaminMmeier.
My second guest, Dr. Deqo Mohamed, is an OB-GYN and the founder of the Hagarla Institute, a public health initiative in Somalia. She’s been recognized globally for her work and holds an honorary doctorate from Chatham University. For over a decade, she ran an IDP camp of over 90,000 people outside Mogadishu. Prior to that, she worked with Doctors Without Borders during Somalia’s measles outbreak. Today, she is once again bringing her intelligence, strategic thinking, human compassion, and resourcefulness to help her country brace itself for the ravages of disease – this time, COVID-19. Her Twitter handle is @dwaqaf.
The Big Picture is made possible with the support of Yale Law School’s Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights. My producers for this episode were Tasnim Idriss and Ryan McEvoy; Allison Rabkin Golden contributed research. Our theme music was composed by Ravi Krishnaswami at COPILOT Music. For updates on future episodes of the Big Picture, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
Roughly two-thirds of emerging infectious diseases — including COVID-19 and almost all recent epidemics — originate in the bodies of animals. Microbes have spilled over from animals to humans for time immemorial, but, as our species dominates the biosphere and transforms the frequency and nature of human-animal interactions, the rate at which microbes are jumping the species barrier is rapidly accelerating. In this episode, we speak with investigative journalist Sonia Shah, author of “Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond,” about the history of viral infections and how our treatment of animals and the planet — via the burning of fossil fuels, biodiversity loss, deforestation, factory farming, the wildlife trade, and more — is fueling the eruption and spread of infectious diseases.