In the 1970s, scientists proposed what has become known as the Gaia Hypothesis: the idea that earth is best understood not as a passive substrate or background to life but as a life form in its own right. Our guest, journalist Ferris Jabr, believes the time has come to revive that idea. To understand how sentient creatures have evolved on this planet, he suggests, is not only to grasp that animals—human and otherwise—are offshoots of an evolutionary tree; it’s to see the tree itself as one element of a dynamic, interrelated organism. We speak with Jabr about the art of science reporting, the limits of life, and what the white cliffs of Dover are made of.
What happens when chefs and scientists work together? On this episode of Chewing the Fat, flavor chemist Arielle Johnson chats about how her work has blended the kitchen and the laboratory. Understanding flavor, it appears, might not just help us push the boundaries of cooking, but also deepen our commitment for how to affirm food cultures and knowledge around the world. Plus, a few notes about good science and myth-busting the paleo diet!
Chewing the Fat is a podcast from the Yale Sustainable Food Program. We cover people making change in the complex world of food and agriculture. We’re home to brilliant minds: activists, academics, chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, journalists, policymakers, and scientists (to name a few!). Taken together, their work represents a reimagining of mainstream food movements, challenging myths and tropes as well as inspiring new ways of collaborating.
The podcast is an aural accompaniment to our on-campus Chewing the Fat speaker series, aiming to broaden our content beyond New Haven. Episodes are released every two weeks, featuring interviews, storytelling and more.
On the farm, in the classroom, and around the world, the Yale Sustainable Food Program (YSFP) grows food-literate leaders. We create opportunities for students to experience food, agriculture, and sustainability as integral parts of their education and everyday lives. For more information, please visit sustainablefood.yale.edu.
During his travels in South America at the close of the 18th century, the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt came upon a parrot speaking the words of a lost Indian tribe. The encounter inspired our guest, acclaimed author and New York Times Magazine writer Charles Siebert, to imagine the echoes of human language that might persist, in nonhuman voices, once we are gone. We speak with Siebert about his reporting on humans’ wonder for and wounding of animals, the reach of metaphor, and what he discovered in the gaze of a chimpanzee named Roger.
A concert pianist-turned-entomologist and bedbug expert, Dr. Gale Ridge is an insect detective. She solves mysteries and helps thousands of perplexed, struggling people with all varieties of bug problems — from bedbugs to agricultural pests to imaginary bugs that infest our consciousness. Dr. Ridge speaks about her sleuthing and how she brokers peace between the humans that walk in her door at the Connecticut Insect Inquiry Office and the tiny segmented animals we’ve learned to fear.
Termites outweigh humans ten to one. If they went on strike, ecological chaos would ensue. We speak with science writer Lisa Margonelli, author of the new book Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology, about the questions these small creatures raise about technology, power, morality, and the nature of scientific progress.
Twenty minutes southeast of Des Moines, Iowa, you’ll find a large, unassuming cement complex with fenced in grounds. You’d never know it, but inside are five bonobos—including the world-famous Kanzi—thought to be the only remaining nonhuman apes capable of communicating verbally with humans. We speak with Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh about what she’s learned from and about bonobos, humankind’s gentle cousins, during an extraordinarily ambitious, 30-year investigation into their minds.
Dr. Peter Godfrey-Smith is professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney and the author of Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and The Deep Origins of Consciousness. We discuss how our distant evolutionary cousins, cephalopods, are challenging ancient assumptions about the nature of consciousness. For more information about the episode and about Dr. Godfrey-Smith’s work, visit whenwetalkaboutanimals.org.
A few years ago, our guest, Dr. Natalie Kofler, was completing her postdoctoral training in molecular biology at Yale University. She was actively using CRISPR gene-editing technology to study the mammalian cardiovascular system to try to develop better tools to treat human vascular diseases. While attending talks on conservation biology at the Yale School of Forestry, she started to wonder: Could the invasive emerald ash borer be genetically edited with these same techniques to save American ash trees? Could coral reefs be genetically edited to be more resilient to warming waters? Should humans develop and use these technologies to change nature? If so, how? And who gets to decide?
Today Dr. Kofler is a leading thinker on these questions and an important voice on the potential environmental applications of gene-editing technologies — technologies that have the extraordinary potential to end malaria or to suppress Lyme disease, but also to change or delete entire species and to transform life in previously unimaginable ways. To think clearly about their use, she says, forces us to rethink who we are, to define what is important to us, and to reconsider how far our human knowledge of nature’s interconnectedness extends. Dr. Kofler serves as founding director of Editing Nature, a Yale University initiative that works to explore the potential environmental applications of newly developed and developing gene editing technologies, to promote public engagement around their use, and to strengthen the regulatory process to ensure these technologies are used responsibly. She is also the author of numerous scientific research papers, most recently as the lead author on a Science Magazine paper calling for a new global governance body to assure the just and informed evaluation of these technologies’ benefits and risks.
Listen as we are joined by Dr. Kristaps Keggi and Dr. Yetsa Tuakli-Wosornu in a conversation with our Editor-in-Chief about the importance of mentorship in medicine, the role looking back at the history of medicine has at its advancements, Yale’s surgical firsts and Yale’s role in technological innovations in orthopedics!
Conversations with thinkers whose work has challenged us to rethink our place in the animal kingdom. Subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud.