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On Being Tumblr

On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

"Animals make us human." —Temple Grandin, from her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Photo by sleepyneko (distributed with instagram)

"Animals make us human."
Temple Grandin, from her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Photo by sleepyneko (distributed with instagram)

Anonymous asked:
Have you read Dr. Melanie Joy's book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows?Or Dr. Will Tuttle's book, The World Peace Diet? Or Dr. Charles Patterson's book, Eternal Treblinka, Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust?Might you interview Dr. Steven Kaufman, one of the founders of CVA, Christian Vegetarian Association, or Dr. Richard Schwartz, Director of JVNA, Jewish Vegetarians of North America?

Good morning, Anonymous.

Although I haven’t read the books you suggested (to be honest, never even run across these titles before) and wasn’t aware that Christians and Jews had formal vegetarian organizations, we have several staff members who are smitten with animals and our species’ relationship to them. We recently produced a show with Alan Rabinowitz titled “A Voice for the Animals” that you might enjoy. And Colleen Scheck, a former producer for our program, wrote a lovely post about the animal/human bond worth checking out.

Kind regards,
Trent Gilliss, senior editor


Photographing Panthera Onca

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

"The Maya said its skin was like the night sky. The jaguar was the gatekeeper to the underworld."

Steve Winter makes his living photographing some of the world’s wildest places and creatures for National Geographic: whether it’s Kamchatka bears in Russia or snow leopards in Ladakh, India. This month’s Smithsonian magazine features his stunning images of jaguars in Brazil’s Pantal wetlands.

Map of the Jaguar Corridor InitiativeIllustrated map of the Jaguar Corridor Initiative. (image: Panthera Foundation)

Winter’s photographs illuminate the story of the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which aims to create a “jaguar freeway” extending from Mexico to northern Argentina, giving these endangered predators the room they need to roam, hunt, mate — and ultimately survive. Zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, (whom we interviewed for "A Voice for the Animals") is one of the project’s leaders.

In the multimedia piece above, Winter describes his trial-and-error approach to photographing the Western hemisphere’s top terrestrial predator. At first he used methods that kept him safely at a distance but soon discovered that getting good pictures required patience, sun exposure, and the courage to confront the jaguar face-to-face. His fortitude yielded a bounty of memorable images of Panthera onca in action. See the results for yourself.


As I think about this map posted on The Denver Post's Tumblr, I can’t help but think about my own limited daily range with spurts of summer vacation routes and the like. Tracking humans migratory routes and spikes might surprises us — or depress us, non? Now, make this a project that compares this with data of other cultures and countries, or previous generations’s habits, and we might gain a new sense of what it means to be human in the 21st century:

MAP: New GPS data has scientists reconsidering assumptions about animals’ range, habitat

GPS tracking data collected from radio collars on mountain lions, lynx, wolves and other wild mammals are challenging scientific understanding of the animals’ range and habitat.

Until about five years ago, the use of GPS technology was limited.

Now, Colorado Division of Wildlife and other Western biologists are tracking more animals using satellites and computers and seeing them wander farther, more frequently and far beyond the bounds of what is believed to be their normal habitat.

read more

(map and photo by Colorado Division of Wildlife)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor


A Pictorial Corridor

by Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Conservation biologist Alan Rabinowitz has devoted his career to protecting “big cats” all over the globe — lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and more. His chosen vocation as a "voice for the animals" has brought him to places many of us only dream of visiting: the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, the jungles of Belize, the jaguar corridors of Brazil.

Experience a taste of Rabinowitz’s adventures for yourself. We’ve paired stunning National Geographic photographs of Rabinowitz’s work around the world with audio gems from his interview with Krista. Hear how Rabinowitz’s struggles with human physical impediments (a debilitating childhood stutter and more recently cancer) have shaped and fueled his passion. And while I’d love to someday ride atop an elephant, I’m glad to absorb these incredible photographs of tigers, panthers, and leopards from the safety of my desk.


More Science Behind the Human-Animal Connection
Shubha Bala, associate producer

I was catching up on my Radiolab and caught the "Animal Minds" episode. In line with our discussion on animals and spirituality, this episode delves into different scientific research on whether or not animals and humans have a mental or emotional connection.


Dog Ogling and Ursine Den Cam: Internet as Animal Habitat
Kate Moos, managing producer

It’s been a great couple of weeks for critters on the Internet. I’m an animal lover, a declaration I offer with neither pride nor embarrassment. Pictures of kittens make me smile. (Yes, you CAN HAS cheezburger!) Puppies elicit oohs of delight. I can’t help it. But although I’m not covert about it, I have my limits. I don’t send chain emails with pictures of a faun being nuzzled by a Golden Retriever, just for example. And the video that crossed my screen yesterday, of an orangutan playing with a black lab — well, never mind. You’re going to have to find that one on your own.

All of that said, I couldn’t help but notice that in the last several days, in the wake of the rebroadcast of our program with Katy Payne about elephants and whales, my casual online browsing has turned up some exceptional opportunities to ogle or listen to, or learn about, animals. First, there was the reappearance of Shiba Inu puppy cam (also above). Those of you who remember the first puppycam know that watching these puppies nurse, nest, and stumble about their pen is an occupation that — if unchecked — can take up hours of one’s life.

On the wilder side of things, Lilly the Black Bear achieved the animal kingdom’s equivalent of Lady Gaga's meteoric rise to fame by giving birth to her cub with thousands of people watching. And to offer a trifecta of pleasures, I also listened to an amazing story of human interaction with a whale on Radiolab this week. They take up a question SOF is very interested in pursuing in our own way: what is the meaning of the human-animal bond?

RubyIn all of these cases, from the most domestic to the most wild, it’s still not clear what mammalian response, possibly encoded in my DNA , makes the encounter so deeply affecting. Nor will I likely ever fully understand why being greeted by my dog Ruby offers such consistent, daily joy.

We’ve asked this question before, but we’re still curious: who would you most like to talk to about the human-animal bond?  What do you think is happening when we love animals? Just another form of human dominance at the top of the food chain? Or something more?


The Elusive Footage of Elephants Mourning
Colleen Scheck, senior producer

This week’s guest, Katy Payne, was one of the scientists interviewed in a recent 60 Minutes feature about the ongoing study of elephant behavior in the Dzanga forest clearing in the Central African Republic. This is worth watching because it contains beautiful and moving footage of elephant interaction, including how elephants behave after the death of a young calf in 2000. I believe, though have yet to confirm, that this is the footage Katy Payne describes in our program:

"…We were keeping a video record. It was very painful and hard for us to do so, but we did this for the rest of the day and all the next day. And during that time, more than 100 elephants, unrelated to the calf, walked past the place where the little corpse lay on the ground. Every single one of them did something that showed alarm, concern, or somehow showed they were aware of something novel that they were approaching. Some of them took a detour around. About a quarter of them tried to lift the body up with their tusks and their trunks, sometimes trying over and over again. One adolescent male attempted to lift up this little corpse 57 times, and walked away from it and came back five different times."

The feature focuses primarily on efforts to create an “elephant dictionary” from studying vocalizations, including infrasonic sounds. Katy Payne is as warm and passionate as she was with us, giving some impressive imitations of elephant vocalizations herself.


When the Day Breaks
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

This weekend I came across this beautiful animation created by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis at the National Film Board of Canada, which somehow seems especially fitting for a Monday morning. What begins looking to be a cute and clever animals-behaving-like-humans story (I especially enjoyed the first character’s hat) takes a suddenly darker and more contemplative turn. I have to say, I’m quite amazed that the film’s creators were able to attain this kind of emotional depth in a story where all of the characters are anthropomorphized barnyard animals.

Note: If you have a faster Internet connection you may want to check out the higher-quality version.


What Do Pets Do For You?

Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

So we’ve been trying to finally find someone to interview about the human animal bond, a show topic that’s been in the works for quite a while now. I was shocked to learn in my research just how much the relationship between humans and animals had changed over time. About 100 years ago, dogs in this country were primarily used for work on the farm, and rarely allowed inside the home. Today, 60-80% of dogs sleep with their owners at night in the bedroom, either in or on the bed.

Why have we gotten so much closer to these creatures? Is it our growing sense of displacement from nature that makes us want to form a bond with something non-human? Is it the same longing many people for natural places that a recent guest talked about in our show Pagans Ancient and Modern?

Of course, our desire to get close to animals is not new, as this amazing article from the New Yorker points out: the earliest artworks human beings are known to have created were cave paintings of animals. Maybe we bring animals into our home today for the same reason those first artists chose not to depict themselves but rather the living creatures around them. We want to get ahold of that wildness somehow. But I have to wonder what those cave painters would think if they could see us today, feeding the fish, changing the kitty litter, or doling out doggy anti-depressants.

(photo: m-louis/flickr)


Reflection on the Human/Animal Bond

by Colleen Scheck, producer

Oban in Como ParkI’ve just returned from one of my favorite weekend routines: an early morning walk through the park with my happy, bounding yellow lab, Oban. I live near one of the busiest parks in the state of Minnesota, but at 6:30 on a winter Sunday morning, it’s just the two of us, and, if we’re lucky, a few early-rising creatures. Today a chorus of woodpeckers guided us through a timbered path on the public golf course – the same path where last fall a large grey owl monitored our steps from atop a broken tree limb.

I treasure these walks with Oban for the opposing sense of solitude and companionship I feel with him. In simple ways, he reminds me about commitment and the reciprocity of relationship. I’ll walk along at a steady pace; if he runs ahead too far, he’ll turn around and wait for me to catch up, or if he lags behind, I’ll look back and find him running at me full speed to stay close.

“There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together” - a quote attributed to Gandhi, and one I thought of when I saw a recent New York Times story on the rehabilitation of the dogs abused by former NFL quarterback Michael Vick in his illegal dogfighting ring. The Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah houses 22 of Vick’s seized pit bulls who, despite suffering horrible abuse at the hands of humans, still seek human contact and affection (watch the accompanying audio slideshow on this).

We’ve talked about doing a program on the human/animal bond and its spiritual resonance (a topic of greater interest to the pet owners on our staff). Our recent re-broadcast of our program with Katy Payne reminded me of this. Since whales and elephants are not our domestic companions, I hope we can address similar themes of intuitive connection and belonging through the animals closer to our daily lives. I have yet to find a guest who would be a good fit for this topic. Any suggestions?


Calling Up the Elephant Lady

Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

As the newest member of the Speaking of Faith staff (I’ve been working for the show for almost 3 months now), I’m still navigating the somewhat awkward transition from fan to employee. This week’s upcoming show really brought that into relief.

Before I got this job, Whale Songs and Elephant Loves was perhaps my favorite show in the history of SOF. I remember listening to it more than a year ago, in my car, and there was that amazing moment when Krista points out how hard it is for people to really understand that their lives affect the survival of animals half-way around the globe. And Katy Payne gets very quiet and almost whispers, “Here we are on the radio; our task is to make this real. This planet, this planet is the only place where we have this kind of life. Let’s not blow it.” That just knocked me out. It seems so obvious, but when she states it that way I can’t help but marvel at the idea. This planet is the only place where we have this kind of life.

Flash forward about a year, and it’s now my job to get in contact with Katy Payne to find out if we need to update anything for the rebroadcast of the show. I dial her number, listen to it ring, and then suddenly that distinctive voice, somehow fragile and strong at the same time, is coming through my telephone. I tell her who I am and why I’m calling and she answers my questions, and I’m aware the whole time of how strangely small the world is, that a year ago I was marveling at the words over the radio of this woman who’s spent her life listening to whales and elephants, and now I’ve called her up and she’s listening to me. I’m almost surprised to find out she’s real. I thank her and say goodbye and she says, “Well, thank you. I loved that show. I think I’ll celebrate by listening to it again myself.”