The Nature of Podcasts: 10 Wonderful Stories About the Environment

Podcasts may be hip but with hundreds to choose from, how can you find a good one? Where do you find the best podcasts about nature?

It’s your lucky day. Dig out your headphones, plug in and tune out, as we present 10 great short stories about nature, science and the world around us. The emphasis is on storytelling, not education or politics, and none of these episodes could ever be called dull or boring.

You don’t need a new app or software to play these episodes; just click on the big red Play buttons below and enjoy. If an episode does not play on your device, I have also included a link to each producer’s website, where you can stream or download the episode and listen to more great stories. All of the shows are available on iTunes.

Let’s Do Ecology!

Not sure where your life is heading? Worried you’re drifting? Maybe you should study ecology. Seriously. This is a wonderful tale of how one woman discovered science, herself, an axe-wielding professor, and lots more when she enrolled in an environmental science course. Enjoy this great stage show by Erin Barker from The Story Collider. It's the perfect story for first year uni students - drugs and swear words aside. [14 minutes, Web Site]Language warning: not for kids.

The Ant Wars

Ants in the kitchen? Count yourself lucky. When Argentine Ants invaded the USA, they formed huge colonies, hundreds of hectares in size, and the borders between the colonies turned into death zones.

Radiolab is the podcast-to-end-all-podcasts with amazing sound, editing and story-telling. It’s supposed to be a “science show” but you’d never guess. Join Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich in one of my favourite episodes, on the Argentine ant invasion. [20 min, Web Site].

No Dams

Somewhere in the ABC's archives there must be an oral history of the environmentalists who saved the Franklin River in Tasmania. This is the equivalent tale from the USA. It's a fantastic story by the The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, about the damming of America's rivers and the activists who tried to save them. Be inspired. [33 minutes,  Web Site].

Sounds of the Forest

Every week, Ann Jones creates a new episode of Off Track, the ABC’s radio show and podcast about the “great outdoors” – nature, travel, history and the environment. When I emailed Dr Jones to ask about her favorite episodes, she generously suggested this story, describing it in this way:

I love it because it’s immersive – it isn’t just someone stuck in the studio talking about nature – you actually get to hear the nature: the black cockies, the mozzies, the Leadbeater’s possum, the frogs and machine gun birds.

And it’s not just a species checklist, you can hear the air in the trees, the movement of leaves settling into the wet earth, the sticks being moved by tiny animals emerging from their hidey-holes and it’s all interpreted by Professor David Lindenmayer, a superb scientist and a magnificent translator of the many languages of the natural world.

The crescendo of this episode still brings me to tears.

The SoundCloud link above contains a 2 minute excerpt only. The link below contains the full story. [26 min, Web Site].

The Venus Thieves

One argument for saving a rare species is: it may contain a chemical that will be useful in the future. But when people think a rare species does have medicinal properties, the outlook can be grim. Just ask a rhino. The Venus Fly Trap is fast becoming an endangered species because of rampant poaching. The reason? Fly trap smoothies are being touted as a dodgy cure for cancer. The team at Criminal produce fantastic podcasts and this episode about the illegal trade in Venus Fly Traps is a beauty. [21 min, Web site].

A Terrific History of Twitching

By all accounts, the award-winning H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald is an amazing book. Regrettably, it is still on my must-read list. Earlier this year Macdonald gave the closing address at the 2015 Sydney Writer’s Festival. Her erudite and entertaining speech provides a short history of natural history – especially bird watching – in Britain. If you ever thought twitchers were a wee bit strange, you’ll soon learn why. Tune in for a fantastic history of bird watching, starring playboy falcons and Nazi skylarks. [36 min, Web Site].

The Lawn Wars

Would you go to jail for some grass? Not the kind of grass you smoke (or the kind other people smoke), the green stuff that people water and mow. No compilation of podcasts would be complete without an episode from Roman Mars, the podcast king of Radiotopia. This episode of 99% Invisible explores the social world of the urban lawn and the deadening impact of drought, climate change and water shortages – issues we are bound to hear more about in the future. [18 min, Web site].

American Hippopotamus

This true story is bigger than a hippo – and a lot longer too. Released by The Atavist magazine as a three-part “podcast”, it would be more accurate to call it a “free audiobook”. Either way, it is an extraordinary story about a real plan to introduce hippopotamuses to the USA, for meat and to control water weeds. If two and a half hours on hippos sounds too much, take a peak at the first installment and see if you can stop. The best is in Part 3. You can read the story on the web too. [Episode 1, 30 min. Entire story, 2.5 hours. Web Site].

On Meditation and Mindfulness

After six hours and nine shows on nature, you deserve a rest. This story has nothing to do with nature. It all takes place indoors; mostly inside someone’s head. It does focus on meditation though: an important activity in our ever-busy world. And Harvey Keitel has a lot to say too.

Everything, Nothing, Harvey Keitel is my favourite podcast of all time. It’s clever, creative and so damn funny. The story was created by Pejk Malinovski for the BBC and has been replayed on ABC’s Radiotonic, Radiotopia’s The Truth and others. This version comes from The Truth. See if you can relax with Harvey Keitel. [20 min, Web Site].

Share your favourite podcasts?

These entertaining episodes should keep you occupied for hours. Why not share your favorite podcasts with other listeners? We’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

Acknowledgements

The header photo of iPod earplugs is manipulated from an original photograph on Flickr, taken by Juliana LuzSome rights reserved.