Grazing peacefully through shallow waterways, the Florida manatee is one of the state’s most beloved creatures. Due to a multitude of compounding, human-caused crises, the last couple years have been some of the deadliest on record for manatees. Years of worsening water quality from Florida’s unfettered agricultural pollution and real estate development have resulted in increased toxic algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching the seagrass meadows upon which the manatees depend. In 2021, Florida’s manatees died in massive numbers, with a record 1,100 manatees – more than 12 percent of the state’s total manatee population – perishing. Most died by starvation. In this episode, we speak with aquatic biologist Patrick Rose, the ‘MVP of manatee protection,’ who has worked for more than four decades to propel manatees to public prominence and to translate manatees’ popularity into enforced protections for these animals and their habitat. Rose, the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, tells us about the heartbreaking cost to these gentle giants of human derelictions, the critical importance of cleaning up Florida’s waterways, and what it is about manatees that has inspired Rose and countless others to fight tirelessly for their future.
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.
In this trailer, Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale, introduces the Yale Environmental Dialogue, a new podcast from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies that will explore solutions to a sustainable future. In each episode, leading environmental thinkers from a range of disciplines, sectors, and political perspectives will share their ideas for addressing critical environmental challenges, and lead a discussion on these issues with colleagues and other experts on the likelihood of these ideas and innovations achieving meaningful change.