228 episodes

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

The Compas‪s‬ BBC

    • News
    • 4.6 • 83 Ratings

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

    Solutions

    Solutions

    Water is at the heart of many of the most serious ecological crises we face, including the biggest one of all: the climate emergency. Alok Jha shows how water itself may offer solutions to give us hope.

    Alok witnesses nuclear fusion in action at an experimental reactor in England. Simple seawater provides the fuel for this futuristic technology that has the potential to solve the world’s energy problems and eliminate fossil fuel power generation.

    Meanwhile chemist Fernando Romo walks us through the fascinating science of artificial photosynthesis, which allows humans to mimic plants, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing energy in the process.

    But water historian Terje Tvedt cautions that the more reliant human societies become on water technologies, the more vulnerable we make ourselves to changes in the water landscape. An innovative 3D mapping project by activist geographer Hindou Ibrahim shows how technology must be married to grassroots organising and political action if it is to break out of the lab and help secure our water future.

    (Photo: Water droplets on a leaf. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 27 min
    Ecological crises

    Ecological crises

    Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water.

    Many of the serious geopolitical tensions over water as a resource that we looked at in the previous episode of this series are rooted in worsening ecological crises. In this episode, Alok shows how the global water crisis is inextricably linked to the climate crisis – and how neither can be dealt with alone.

    In Bangalore, we hear how incredible pollution levels led to a lake catching fire, before revealing how local water management decisions play into the global groundwater emergency. Then former Nasa scientist Jay Famiglietti provides a satellite perspective on the problem, showing how water disasters are both a result of the climate crisis and help fuel it.

    Back on earth, we hear what this means for Hindou Ibrahim’s pastoralist cattle herder community living on the edge of the rapidly shrinking Lake Chad, and Alok puts water lobbyist Maggie White on the spot to ask why water is not the urgent global priority it should be for leading politicians and policymakers.

    (Photo: Aerial photo of the Lake Chad, in the Bol region, 200km from Chad capital city N'Djamena. Credit: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images)

    • 27 min
    Water as a resource

    Water as a resource

    Journalist Alok Jha shows how the way we are using freshwater has made it a precious finite resource. And it’s a resource on the edge of collapse. By 2050, over half the world’s population will live in a water-scarce region. But rather than working together to manage crucial water supplies, powerful states are manoeuvring to control the remaining stocks for themselves.

    Beginning with one family’s well drying up in the desert of Arizona, and following the story all the way to political tensions in the Middle East, Alok argues that we need to recognise water as the most important shared resource in the world and take advantage of its cross-border nature to encourage international cooperation.

    (Photo: The Jordan river on mountainside. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 26 min
    How water shaped us

    How water shaped us

    Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water. To change that relationship, we first need to understand how the relationship evolved. Alok looks at cultural history to understand how water shaped our deepest psychology.

    Alok finds that our relationship with water – always struggling for a balance between too much and not enough – fundamentally influenced the religious and spiritual worldviews of early civilisations. And we still feel the effects of this in our attitudes towards water today.

    Alok uncovers a dark and compelling story of child sacrifice in 15th-Century Peru, hears how the water landscapes of Mesopotamia and Scandinavia shaped very different religious beliefs, and learns that many Islamic teachings about water have been echoed by modern science hundreds of years later.

    (Photo: Waterfall in a rainforest near Palenque, Mexico. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 27 min
    Forests of hope and the future

    Forests of hope and the future

    Writer Jessica J Lee, sets out to describe the myriad ways that forests operate in our lives and the life of the planet. In the final part of ‘Under The Canopy’, Jessica looks for stories of hope to set against the headlines depicting the mass deforestation that continues to take place around the world. She speaks with a variety of groups - in Canada, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Germany and Great Britain - who are finding different ways to re-invigorate forests, whether through peaceful protest, re-forestation programmes or internet start-ups. Jessica considers the best ways of re-building the strong, mixed forests that will prove so important in our battle against climate change.

    Forest sounds appear courtesy of the 'Sounds of the Forest' project

    Original musical composition: Erland Cooper

    Spells written by Robert Macfarlane and these are read by Maxine Peake and the Bird sisters

    Photo credit: Geoff A Bird

    • 27 min
    Forests of science and knowledge

    Forests of science and knowledge

    Writer Jessica J Lee, sets out to describe the myriad ways that forests operate in our lives and the life of the planet. She outlines the exciting developments that have taken place in our understanding of the ways forests work over recent decades, with science offering radical new ways of recognising these places as communities of mutually supportive trees rather than competitive spaces where individual trees fight one another for survival. She speaks with Peter Wohlleben who is one of the chief communicators of this ‘Wood Wide Web’ idea, and also expert on fungi Merlin Sheldrake about the crucial importance of mycorrhizzal networks in forest life. Jessica also hears from biologist Diana Beresford Kroeger and Haida leader Miles Richardson about how this new science is built on the back of much older, traditional knowledge held within indigenous communities.

    Forest sounds appear courtesy of the 'Sounds of the Forest' project

    Original musical composition: Erland Cooper

    Spells written by Robert Macfarlane and these are read by Maxine Peake and the Bird sisters

    Photo credit: Geoff Bird

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
83 Ratings

83 Ratings

jenymc ,

Best BBC podcast

While I love so much of the BBC’s material, this podcast is a standout. The diverse topics are fascinating and well covered. An in depth look at our world from so many angles, I’m endlessly entertained. Well done BBC

avm1406 ,

Robin Lustig’s new series

On freedom of speech is well written, presented and so topical.

S_Hermes_G ,

Love it!

Very impressive scope of stories researched for each episode. I’ve learned more from these multi-episode series than any other news/educational podcast I’ve found. None of the topics under discussion cover commonly known content - as so many other programs do. Rather, each features insider interviews that expose angles of contemporary issues I’ve never encountered despite being a news junkie. I can’t imagine the expense of bringing interviewers to so many distant (from one another) locations, organizing the many layers of translation that are typically needed for each story - If the story is in Cambodia, the interviewees include Mandarin, Vietnamese, English and Khmer speakers.

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