In 2013, a sperm whale washed up dead on Spain’s southern coast. In its ruptured digestive tract, scientists found an entire flattened greenhouse that once grew wintertime tomatoes, complete with plastic tarps, hoses, two flower pots, and a spray canister. The whale also contained an ice cream tub, mattress parts, a carafe, and a coat hanger. And that was just the obvious human refuse. Our toxic chemicals build up in whale blubber over years such that the concentration of pollutants in some whale bodies now far exceeds that of the water surrounding them. In whales’ vastness, the reach of humanity’s destruction is magnified — but so too is the potential of our compassion. In her genius debut book, Fathoms: The World in the Whale, writer Rebecca Giggs asks: Who are we to whales? What does it mean to pollute not just places, but animals? What can understanding our ecological crises through the perspectives of other creatures teach us about ourselves? In this episode, we speak with Giggs about the astonishing ways in which whales and humans live in each other’s wakes and the enormous power of the world’s largest mammals to expand our own moral capacity.
As Dr. Joseph Drew Lanham writes in his beautiful and deeply moving memoir, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, from his earliest days growing up in the piedmont forests and fields of Edgefield, South Carolina, he dreamed of flight. This fascination with the aerial journeys of the blue jays that stole his grandmother’s pecans and the crows that invaded his father’s cornfield sparked Dr. Lanham’s lifelong dedication to studying birds and to exploring what it means to be a “rare bird” himself: a Black man in a field that is overwhelmingly white and an ecologist finding freedom through wildness on land where his ancestors were enslaved. In addition to advancing scientific understanding of wild animals, Dr. Lanham has written extensively about the deep and often overlooked connections between how we treat nature and how we treat our fellow humans. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Lanham about how bird lives and Black lives intertwine in the story of the Carolina Parakeet, the language-defying joy of watching swallow-tailed kites, and why Emily Dickinson was right in declaring that “hope is the thing with feathers.”
Johann Lee (Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) joins Miriam and Kristi for a discussion about timing your law school application right: both choosing an admissions cycle and timing within a cycle.
Miriam Ingber (Yale Law School) and Kristi Jobson (Harvard Law School) discuss what they’re looking for in law school applicants, covering hot topics like grade inflation, graduate degrees, extracurriculars and work experience, and the GRE vs. LSAT.
Miriam Ingber (Yale Law School) and Kristi Jobson (Harvard Law School) will provide candid, accurate, and straightforward advice about law school admissions. Topics will include application timing, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and more!
Born in Paris to an African-American GI and a French woman at the end of World War II, Dr. Daniel Pauly rose from a difficult and extraordinarily unusual childhood in Europe to become one of the most daring, productive, and influential fisheries scientists in the history of the field — and the first to illuminate the global extent and significance of overfishing. A professor and principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Pauly has devoted his career to studying and documenting the impact of fisheries on marine ecosystems and advocating for cutting-edge policies to address it. The software, scientific tools, and methods he and his research team developed have transformed understanding of how humans are impacting oceans. His research makes very clear that fish are in global peril — and so, in turn, are we. If our species manages to reverse course and avoid the “watery horror show,” as he calls it, for which we’re on track, it will be thanks in large part to his and his colleagues’ vision, courage, and decades of tireless work. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Pauly about the “toxic triad” that characterizes modern fisheries (catches are underreported, science is ignored, and the environment is blamed when fish populations collapse as a result), how “shifting baseline syndrome” — a term he coined — results in slow and inadequate responses to overfishing and climate change, why fish are shrinking and struggling to breathe as oceans warm, and why we need to end high seas fishing and government subsidies of international fishing fleets.
As wildlife across Canada face unprecedented pressures from climate change and industrial development, Indigenous Peoples, who have relied upon and managed these animals for millennia, are leading the way on ensuring their protection. From Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon Territory, groundbreaking Indigenous-led protection initiatives are ensuring Canada’s treasured species like the boreal caribou and globally important landscapes are safeguarded for future generations. In this episode, we speak with Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) founder and director Valérie Courtois, an Innu forester who is a leading advocate for Indigenous-run guardianship and land protection across Canada. Courtois discusses the remarkable efforts of seven First Nations to pull caribou in the Ungava Peninsula back from the brink and her work empowering Indigenous peoples to manage and protect their ancestral lands.
Amid the systematic cruelties and alienating conditions which define our factory farm system, Farm Sanctuary stands out as an exemplar of human kindness. Over the past thirty years, Farm Sanctuary — co-founded and led by our guest, Gene Baur — has rescued thousands of farm animals from short, tortured lives in industrial confinement and allowed them to live out their days in comfort. There, these rescued cows, pigs, sheep and more serve as ambassadors, teaching millions of people — from schoolchildren to Hollywood stars — that farm animals are individuals with personalities and emotions and deserve to be treated as more than just widgets on an assembly line. In this episode, we speak with Baur about the origins and evolution of Farm Sanctuary, how animals who have suffered transform when they are treated with gentleness for the first time, and the globe wave of farm animal sanctuaries that his work inspired. From spur-of-the-moment calf rescues with celebrity supporters like Joaquin Phoenix to lawsuits against companies and government agencies, Baur has fought tirelessly to protect farm animals from cruelty and to promote a more compassionate world.
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.
The repercussions of the international wildlife trade, which is a primary driver of our planet’s biodiversity crisis, have recently hit close to home. With the society-altering impacts of Covid-19, which scientists think originated in wild animals, and the cultural storm around the Netflix hit “Tiger King,” the true cost of the wildlife trade and the U.S.’s role in driving it have become topics of national concern. In this episode, we speak with Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Zak Smith, who has fought for years to protect at-risk wildlife from exploitation. Smith discusses his work leveraging international, federal, and state and local mechanisms to safeguard some of our planet’s most iconic species — such as vaquitas, giraffes, and elephants — and his vision for a more sustainable, equitable world.