When Mountains Are Gods

If you look at a mountain, you might see a skiing destination, a climbing challenge, or even a source of timber to be logged or ore to be mined. But there was a time when mountains were sacred. In some places, they still are. What changes when you think of a mountain not as a giant accumulation of natural resources, but as a living being? Today's show is part of our project on kinship with the more-than-human world — produced in collaboration with the Center for Humans and Nature, and with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation. You'll find more information about the project at ttbook.org/kinship and humansandnature.org. Original Air Date: July 24, 2021 Guests: John Hausdoerffer — Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk — David Hinton — Lisa Maria Madera Interviews In This Hour: What Do You Owe The Mountains Around You? — 'These Are Live, Active Places': A Ute Activist Fights To Save The Bears Ears National Monument — A Poet Finds Life Lessons on Hunger Mountain — 'I Was Born To Volcanoes'

How Africans Are Building The Cities Of The Future

Africans are moving into cities in unprecedented numbers. Lagos, Nigeria, is growing by 77 people an hour — it's on track to become a city of 100 million. In 30 years, the continent is projected to have 14 mega-cities of more than 10 million people. It's perhaps the largest urban migration in history. These cities are not like Dubai, or Singapore, or Los Angeles. They're uniquely African cities, and they're forcing all of us to reconsider what makes a city modern. And how and why cities thrive. To find out what's going on, we go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to talk with entrepreneurs, writers, scholars and artists. In this hour, produced in partnership with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) — a global consortium of 270 humanities centers and institutes — we learn how the continent where the human species was born is building the cities of the future. Original Air Date: December 14, 2019 Guests: Dagmawi Woubshet — Julie Mehretu — Emily Callaci — James Ogude — Ato Qyayson — Teju Cole — Meskerem Assegued Interviews In This Hour: Rediscovering the Indigenous City of Addis Ababa — 'People As Infrastructure' — A Tour Of The Networked City — 'I Am Because We Are': The African Philosophy of Ubuntu — How Pan-African Dreams Turned Dystopic — Decoding Global Capitalism on One African Street — Life in the Diaspora: How Teju Cole Pivots Between Cultures — Can Artists Create the City of the Future? Further Reading: CHCI

Everything is Exhausting

Why don't we all just take moment to acknowledge that we are collectively exhausted? The pandemic, the protests, the President's Twitter feed — everything is exhausting. But maybe it doesn't have to be? Original Air Date: October 24, 2020 Guests: Katrina Onstad — Emma Seppala — Richard Polt — Filip Bromberg — Lars Svendsen — Anne Helen Petersen Interviews In This Hour: Can We Not? How The Pandemic Has Made Burnout Worse Than Ever — Sunday Night Blues, Monday Morning (Short) Fuse — Setting Too High A Bar For Success Is Running Us Ragged — To Waste Time Is To Deepen Life — Why Swedes Are Trading Jobs For Meaning — Have You Considered Doing Nothing?

As Read By The Author

As audio producers, one of the most fun things we get to do is bring the soundscape of a novel to life — cue the monsters, the storms, the footsteps of a creature emerging slowly from the ocean. So that's what we're bringing you today: Great writers, epic sound design. Original Air Date: July 03, 2021 Guests: Nnedi Okorafor — Neil Gaiman — Lidia Yuknavitch — N. K. Jemisin — Ann Patchett — Richard Powers — Pattiann Rogers — Lorrie Moore — Kelly Link — Mark Sundeen Interviews In This Hour: Nnedi Okorafor's Alien Invasion of Lagos — Neil Gaiman Brings Us To The End Of The World — Lidia Yuknavitch's Dream World: How Dreams Shaped Her Dazzling Speculative Novel — A Not So Distant Future in the N.K. Jemisin's 'Broken Earth' Trilogy — Ann Patchett on 'State of Wonder' — Richard Powers on Writing the Inner Life of Trees — Pattiann Rogers on Bee Poetry — Lorrie Moore on Bringing Characters To Life With Brevity — Kelly Link on 'Pretty Monsters' — Mark Sundeen on 'The Making of Toro'

Eye-To-Eye Animal Encounters

There's a certain a kind of visual encounter that can be life changing: A cross-species gaze. The experience of looking directly into the eyes of an animal in the wild, and seeing it look back. It happens more often than you'd think and it can be so profound, there's a name for it: eye-to-eye epiphany. So what happens when someone with feathers or fur and claws looks back? How does it change people, and what can it teach us? Human identity cannot be separated from our nonhuman kin. From forest ecology to the human microbiome, emerging research suggests that being human is a complicated journey made possible only by the good graces of our many companions. In partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature and with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation, To The Best Of Our Knowledge is exploring this theme of "kinship" in a special radio series. Original Air Date: February 08, 2020 Guests: Gavin Van Horn — Jenny Kendler — Ivan Schwab — Jane Goodall — Alan Lightman Interviews In This Hour: In The Eye Of The Osprey: A Physicist's Wild Epiphany — 100 Bird Eyes Are Watching You — The Look That Changed Primatology — Watching the Fierce Green Fire Die: Animal Gazes That Shaped Conservation Movements — The 600 Million Year History Of The Eye — 'We Are The Feast' — A Feminist Philosopher's Life-Changing Encounter With A Crocodile — How Do You Practice Kinship? A Brief Meditation — Sharing Eye-To-Eye Epiphanies With The Animal World Further Reading: "The Disruptive Eye" by Gavin Van Horn—"6 a.m. on LaSalle Street" by Katherine Cummings—"Salmon Speak ~ Why Not Earth?" by Bron Taylor—"The Eyes of an Owl" by Greg Ripley—"From Bestiary" by Elise Paschen

Our Time of Mourning

Is there a better way to talk about death? And to grieve? So many people have died during the pandemic — 4.8 million and counting — that we're living through a period of global mourning. And some people — and certain cultures — seem to be better prepared to handle it than others. Original Air Date: June 12, 2021 Guests: Heather Swan — Gillian O'Brien — Charles Monroe-Kane — Gabe Joyner — Rafael Campo Interviews In This Hour: The Barred Owl Who Came To Visit — How The Irish Talk About Death — How To Remember A Beloved Brother? A Memorial Tattoo — A Physician-Poet Bears Witness to the Pandemic's Lost Voices

The Resilient Brain

New experiences actually rewire the brain. So after all we've been through this year, you have to wonder — are we different? We consider the "COVID brain" from the perspective of both neuroscience and the arts. Also, we go to Cavendish, Vermont to hear the remarkable story of Phineas Gage, the railroad worker whose traumatic brain injury changed the history of neuroscience. Original Air Date: October 10, 2020 Guests: Margo Caulfield — David Eagleman — llan Stavans Interviews In This Hour: How Phineas Gage's Freak Accident Changed Brain Science — 'COVID Brain' and the New Frontiers of Neuroplasticity — The Pandemic and the Poets

Secrets of Alchemy

Once upon a time, science and magic were two sides of the same coin. Today, we learn science in school and save magic for children's books. What if it were different? What would it be like to see the world as an alchemist? Original Air Date: September 19, 2020 Guests: Sarah Durn — Pamela Smith — William Newman — Charles Monroe-Kane — Jason Pine Interviews In This Hour: Transmutation Of The Spirit — The Historical Lessons Embedded in Alchemical Recipes — Was Sir Isaac Newton 'The Last of the Magicians'? — The Buried Secrets of Czech Alchemy — Drug Store Alchemy in the Ozarks Further Reading: Maier: Atalanta Fugiens

Why Do We Have So Much Stuff?

If you wrote a list of all the things you own in your house, how long would it be? We surround ourselves with possessions, but at what point do they start to possess us? Original Air Date: September 05, 2020 Guests: Angelo Bautista — Eula Biss — Adam Minter — Giles Slade — Clare Dolan Interviews In This Hour: The Magnum Opus Of Pointless Stuff — 'A $400K Container For A Washing Machine': An Author Grapples With The Inherent Ickiness Of Homeownership — The Global Garage Sale — Why Stuff Doesn't Last Anymore — A Museum Of The Mundane

A Parenting Revolution

The pandemic has made it clear that parents are walking a tightrope with no safety net. We talk to parents about how they want to change the system, what it's like to raise black boys in a time of racial injustice, and how we might learn from ancient cultures to improve our parenting skills. Original Air Date: May 22, 2021 Guests: Alissa Quart — Brittany Powell — Michaeleen Doucleff — Amaud Jamaul Johnson — Cherene Sherrard Interviews In This Hour: A Parenting Movement Emerges From the Pandemic — Modern Parenting Tips From Ancient Civilizations — Two Poets On Raising Black Teenage Boys In America Further Reading: Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Growing Justice

A new generation of Black farmers are working to reclaim land, hoping to grow justice along with vegetables and plants. Original Air Date: August 22, 2020 Guests: Leah Penniman — Savi Horne — Venice Williams — Marcia Chatelain Interviews In This Hour: How Black Farmers Lost 14 Million Acres of Farmland — And How They're Taking It Back — 'When You Hold Land You Have to Keep It' — My Garden Is An Outdoor Parish — Cooking Greens: A Delicious Family History Lesson — The First Job, The Polling Place, The Community Space: How McDonald's Became 'The Closest Thing To Home' For Black Communities

The Weird, Wild World of Mushrooms

We owe our past and future existence on Earth to fungi. Some can heal you, some can kill you, and some can change you forever. And the people who love them are convinced that mushrooms explain the world. Original Air Date: June 08, 2019 Guests: Lawrence Millman — Paul Stamets — Eugenia Bone — Michael Pollan — Dennis McKenna — Robin Carhart-Harris Interviews In This Hour: Humanity? It All Started With The Raven and Fungus Man — The Soil-Cleaning, Insect-Warding, Smallpox-Curing Power of Mushrooms — From Candy Caps To Morels: Notes From A Mushroom Hunter's Cookbook — John Cage, Vaclav Halek and the Marvels of Mushroom Music — Did Magic Mushrooms Shape Human Consciousness? — 'Fantastic Fungi' And How To Film Them

Reading While Young

Remember when reading still felt magical? When a book could sweep you off your feet into another world? It might be that the best way to find your way back the magic is through a kid's book. We talk to authors about Wonderland, magic wands, unicorns and other children's stories that inspire. Original Air Date: May 01, 2021 Guests: Katherine Rundell — Quan Barry — Enrique Salmon — Ebony Thomas — LL McKinney — Lulu Miller Interviews In This Hour: Why A Pandemic Is The Perfect Time To Read Children's Literature — Quan Barry on 'White Fang' — Enrique Salmon on 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' — Is Hermione Black? The Answer Depends On How Old You Are — Alice The Doomslayer Rises In L.L. McKinney's Reimagining of 'Alice In Wonderland' — Lulu Miller on 'The Search for Delicious' Further Reading: Bookmarks Hub

Searching for Order in the Universe

When things don't go the way they're supposed to — viruses, star systems, presidents, even fish — we're often desperate to explain the chaos. In this episode, we search for order in the universe. Original Air Date: August 08, 2020 Guests: Patrik Svensson — Lulu Miller — Alexander Boxer — Margaret Wertheim — S. James Gates Jr. Interviews In This Hour: The Weird World Of Eels — We Call Them Fish. Evolution Says They're Something Else. — The Original Algorithm Was Written In The Stars — Seeing The World With A Mathematician's Eyes Further Reading: Nautilus: Eels Don't Have Sex Until the Last Year of Their Life—NYAS: The Mystery of Our Mathematical Universe

The Power of Pleasure and Joy

What if the most unselfish thing you could do was to pursue pleasure? To look for delight? To feel joy? We make the case for the transformative power of joy, pleasure and delight. Original Air Date: October 12, 2019 Guests: Ross Gay — Kathryn Bond Stockton — Laurie Santos — Lynne Segal Interviews In This Hour: 365 Days Of Delight: A Poet's Guide To Finding Joy — A Queer Theorist On Ecstatic Kissing — Laboratory of Joy: A Psychologist On The Science of Feeling Good — The Revolution Will Be Joyful: Feminist Lynne Segal On Fighting Power With Pleasure — The People Power Of Happiness

Living With Loneliness

After a pandemic year of social isolation, we knew loneliness would be a problem. But public health officials have been warning for years that in countries all over the world, rates of loneliness are skyrocketing. How did loneliness become a condition of modern life? Original Air Date: April 10, 2021 Guests: Jason Rohrer — Samantha Rose Hill — Claudia Rankine Interviews In This Hour: My Friend Samantha (The A.I.) — How Loneliness Can Lead to Totalitarianism — Being Black and Alone in America

Music On Your Mind

Millions of people are caring for someone with severe memory loss, trying to find ways to connect. One of the best ways anyone has found is music. We examine the unexpected power of song to supercharge the human mind. Original Air Date: August 17, 2019 Guests: Shannon Henry Kleiber — Oliver Sacks — Francine Toder — Anne Basting Interviews In This Hour: The Power Of Music And Memory: 'Music Was Waking Up Something Within Each Of Them' — The Deep Connections Our Brains Make To Music — It's Never Too Late To Learn To Play — MacArthur Fellow Anne Basting On Asking People With Dementia 'Beautiful Questions'

Who Owns Seeds?

It's easy to take seeds for granted, to assume that there will always be more corn or wheat or rice to plant. But as monocropping and agribusiness continue to dominate modern farming, are we losing genetic diversity, cultural history, and the nutritional value of our food? We speak to farmers, botanists and indigenous people about how they are reclaiming our seeds. Original Air Date: September 14, 2019 Guests: Bob Quinn — Robin Wall Kimmerer — Seth Jovaag — Cary Fowler Interviews In This Hour: Where Did We Go Wrong With Wheat? — The Wisdom of the Corn Mother — The Seeds Of Tomorrow: Defending Indigenous Mexican Corn That Could Be Our Future — Saving Seeds For Future Generations — Ancient Grains, Native Corn, And The Doomsday Seed Vault: How Growing Food Might Survive Disaster

Decolonizing the Mind

Colonization in Africa was much more than a land grab. It was a project to replace — and even erase — local cultures. To label them inferior. Music, arts, literature and of course language. In other words, it permeated everything. So how do you undo that? How do you unlearn what you've been forced to learn? Original Air Date: March 20, 2021 Guests: Adom Getachew — Simon Gikandi — Ngugi wa Thiong'o Interviews In This Hour: Reckon with the Past To Decolonize the Future — Reclaiming the Hidden History of Blackness — Never Write In The Language of the Colonizer

Discovering America's Black DNA

DNA tests are uncovering family histories. In some cases they're also revealing mixed bloodlines and the buried history of slavery. For African Americans, this can be emotionally-charged. What do you do when you find out one of your direct ancestors was a slave owner? And does it open the door to new conversations about racial justice and social healing? Original Air Date: March 10, 2018 Guests: Alex Gee — Erin Hoag — Annette Gordon-Reed — Anita Foeman Interviews In This Hour: How Do You Know Ruben Gee? — Searching for America's Racial History in a Graveyard — Uncovering America's Buried History: The Story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings — Changing Our Conversation About Race Using Genetic Testing Further Reading: "Black Like Me" podcast

Jazz Migrations

Music crosses boundaries between traditional and modern, local and global, personal and political. Take jazz — a musical form born out of forced migration and enslavement. We typically think it originated in New Orleans and then spread around the world. But today, we examine an alternate history of jazz — one that starts in Africa, then crisscrosses the planet, following the movements of people and empires — from colonial powers to grassroots revolutionaries to contemporary artists throughout the diaspora. This history of jazz is like the music itself: fluid and improvisatory. In this hour, produced in partnership with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) — a global consortium of 270 humanities centers and institutes — we hear how both African and African-American music have shaped the sound of the world today. Original Air Date: July 04, 2020 Guests: Meklit Hadero — Valmont Layne — Gwen Ansell — Ron Radano Interviews In This Hour: How Meklit Hadero Reimagined Ethiopian Jazz — So You Say You Want A Revolution — Reclaiming the Hidden History of South African Jazz — 'We Are All African When We Listen' Further Reading: CHCI Ideas from Africa Hub

Going Underground

Scientists and explorers have found a whole new world, ripe for discovery, under our feet. The earth's underground is teeming with life, from fungal networks to the deep microbiome miles below the planet's crust. It's an exciting place, and it's changing what we know about the planet and ourselves. Original Air Date: November 02, 2019 Guests: Robert Macfarlane — Jill Heinerth — Ben Holtzman — Werner Herzog — Christine Desdemaines-Hugon Interviews In This Hour: Why We Descend Into Darkness — A Cave Diver's Treks Through The Veins Of The Earth — How To Listen To An Earthquake — Why Werner Herzog Is Awe-Struck — Finding Our Ancestors in Ancient Cave Art

Mysteries of Migration

If you had to travel 500 miles across country, on foot, with no map, no GPS, without talking to anyone — to a destination you've never seen, could you do it? It sounds impossible, but millions of creatures spend their lives on the move, migrating from one part of the Earth to another with navigation skills we can only dream of. How do they do it — and what can we learn from them? Original Air Date: July 25, 2020 Guests: Moses Augustino Kumburu — David Wilcove — Stan Temple — David Barrie — Sonia Shah Interviews In This Hour: The Serengeti's Great Migration, Up Close — Why Do Animals Migrate? — Sandhill Cranes Make The Long Journey South — The Greatest Navigators on the Planet — The High Costs — And Potential Gains — Of Migration, Both Animal And Human

Rewriting the Romance Script

We take a look at the romantic tropes of modern love and how they're changing. Do the old dreams of true love and happiness ever after fit our new lives and new identities? Original Air Date: February 13, 2021 Guests: Logan Ury — Angelo Bautista — Jane Ward — Angela Chen — Bara Jichova Tyson Interviews In This Hour: The New Coffee Date: COVID-19 Pushes The Dating World To Zoom — Are Straight People Okay? — Love Without Touch, Desire Without Sex — Monogamy is Overrated