What Went Wrong in Rondônia

In the late 1970′s, tens of thousands of Brazilian agricultural workers found themselves out of work due to technological advances on farms.  To combat the problem, the government, with help from the World Bank, set up a program to settle people into the rainforest and allow them to farm commercial crops.  The hitch? No one had tested the soil to see if it could support the crops being grown.  From there, the ambitious social and ecological experiment quickly turned into a nightmare of Hollywood proportions involving strife between ranchers and local tribes, clear cutting of the rainforest, and disease outbreaks of all kinds.  What can we learn from what went wrong in Rondônia?

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Urban Equation

As cities continue to grow, scientists are trying to define the “Urban Equation” – a mathematical expression that defines not just a group of buildings, but a complex network of physical and social interactions.  Why?  Because our cities control previously elusive aspects of human evolution.  To understand our cities is to understand us.  In this episode, Luis Bettencourt and Tyler Nordgren discuss various elements of the urban equation.  We see how complex networks give rise to creativity; how to break an urban metropolis down into a series of mathematical symbols; and how our cities are dramatically affecting a cultural connection reaching back nearly 400 years.


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This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin Macleod (Tracks used: Finding Movement and Perspectives.  License available here)

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[ESSAY] What happened to the middle in the GMO debate?

This essay was written by Miles Traer.  If you’d like to hear Miles read it, click play below.


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The debate surrounding genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs, is an absolute mess.  A huge part of the argument stems from genetically modified foods.  Some people trumpet GM wheat and corn for its drought resistance and ability to feed more people in parts of the world that desperately need food.  Others point to unwanted side effects like the creation of super-weeds and the potential loss of biodiversity as reasons to be wary of this new technology. But what drove my desire to do a GMO story for Generation Anthropocene was something entirely different and was born from two intertwined questions: how did the GMO discussion become so polarized and why does it continue to feel like the topic of GMOs doesn’t allow for a middle ground? Continue reading

Media, nature, and the zeitgeist

Today, we take a little bit of break from talking about science to instead talk about how media covers science, particularly the reporting on genetically modified organisms (more commonly called GMOs).  It’s a contentious subject, and Keith talks about why people tend to take it so personally, when he got interested in GMOs, and what caused him to become the “crop cop.”


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