Humans have long tried to mitigate their own destructive impact on the planet through conservation efforts. Often, those efforts are attached to one iconic species or another — the majestic bald eagle, cuddly cute baby seal, or awe-inspiring blue whale. But is this about them, or is it about us? On this episode, we take a closer look at conservation, and dig into the human motivations and emotions behind it.
We hear stories about a near-extinct fish called the delta smelt — and whether it’s actually worth saving; how a weird-looking bird has sparked a battle over land in the American West; and how plucky raccoons carve out their own existence in cities.
Also heard on this week’s episode:
* Out in sagebrush country — a remote area of the American West — a strange and beautiful bird called the greater sage grouse has sparked a war over land. Reporter Ashley Ahearn explains why the grouse’s fight for survival has put it in direct conflict with humans, and how — and whether — compromise is possible. This story is excerpted from the podcast “Grouse.”
* We talk with science journalist Michelle Nijhuis about what drives the conservation movement and the hard questions that not enough people are asking. Her book is called “Beloved Beasts.”
* What can bird songs teach us about the origins of human language? Plenty, according to Erich Jarvis, a neuroscientist and molecular biologist who explores the neurobiology of vocal communication. We find out more in this preview of our new podcast extra series — subscribe to The Pulse to hear the whole interview and others like it.