Can Your Microbiome Protect You Against Covid?

This week on How on Earth Beth talks to Dr. Robynne Chutkan, about her newest book, The Anti-Viral Gut, in which she describes research elucidating the protective role of the microbiome. Many studies have confirmed the link between the health of our microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract—and our likelihood of getting devastating viral illnesses like COVID-19. Low-fiber diets, limited exposure to nature, and overzealous use of antibiotics can disrupt the microbiome. In her recent book, Chutkin lays out a plan for anyone trying to avoid or recover from a viral illness to rehab their gut microbes and restore their health.
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Shelley Schlender

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Grass-Fed Beef for a Post-Pandemic World

How on Earth’s Beth Bennett talks with authors Ridge Shinn and Lynne Pledger about how regenerative grazing can replace corn-based feedlots, which are responsible for significant climate emissions, nitrogen pollution, and animal suffering. Their book, Grass-Fed Beef for a Post-Pandemic World, outlines a hopeful path out of our broken food system via regional networks of regeneratively produced meat. They talk about how this ancient method of animal husbandry can restore degraded farmland, increase biodiversity, combat climate change by reducing emissions and sequestering carbon and produce nutrient-dense, healthy meat for consumers.  More information at Big Picture Beef.

Also, Shelley Schlender talks with Sarah Johnson, a professor of food, science and human nutrition at Colorado State University, about a recent study indicating that in mice prone to artery disease, those that ate belgian endive reduced the instability of artery plaques. That may be important, because in people, unstable plaques can trigger heart attacks.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bennett
Producer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Recycling: Obstacles and Progress

High angle close-up of pieces of recyclable garbage on conveyor belt inside waste management facility.

Recycling: Obstacles and Progress (start time: 4:35): This week’s How On Earth focuses on the state of recycling and composting in Colorado and well beyond. A newly published report by Eco-Cycle and CoPIRG shows that Colorado ranks well below the national average, and below its own goals, on recycling and composting. But the report also highlights some recently passed legislation that could help dramatically improve the landscape, by holding producers responsible for the waste that their products generate. Host Susan Moran interviews Suzanne Jones, executive director of Eco-Cycle; and Anja Brandon, the U.S. plastics policy analyst at Ocean Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit organization.

Host, Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shannon Young
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline Contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Song of the Cell: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s New Book

Today on How on Earth, Beth talks with Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee. His first book, The Emperor of All Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. His new book, The Song of the Cell, explores our radical new ability to manipulate cells. Mukherjee tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. He combines accessible and exciting science writing with his own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, to pull us into the expanding story of cell biology.
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Show Producer:Beth Bennett
Headline Contribution: Joel Parker

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Clean Water Act 50 years later

Photo from Creative Commons

Clean Water Act, Then and Now (start time: 3:38): Two weeks ago was the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  The landmark law set out to clean up the nation’s lakes, rivers and streams, and to safeguard the water supply for humans throughout the country. While there’s been some progress since the act was signed in 1972, many view the law as a mixed bag, both nationally and here in Colorado.  By some estimates, at least half of the country’s rivers and streams do not meet the standard of the Clean Water Act. The legislation also faces new threats, including one from the U.S. Supreme Court. Host Susan Moran interviews two experts on the topic: John Flesher, a correspondent at the Associated Press; and Danny Katz is executive director of CoPIRG, which is part of the USPIRG network.
Colorado resources:
* CoPIRG new report on industrial polluters
* CoPIRG report Wasting Our Waterways
* State bill tackling lead in schools’ drinking water

Host & Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shannon Young
Headline contributor: Benita Lee

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Hearing & Hearing Aids

Starting this week, the FDA has approved the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids.  In light of that, in today’s edition of How on Earth, we play an Encore Feature from February 2020 of an interview we did with David Owen about his book, Volume Control, in which he explores the surprising science of hearing and the remarkable technologies that can help us hear better.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bennett
Producer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Benita Lee, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Sweet in Tooth and Claw // Fund Drive Show

We talk with author Kristin Ohlson about her recent book: “Sweet in Tooth and Claw”.  In it, Ohlson examines cooperative relationships found in the natural world and in human civilization. She says this view is missing from many of our cultural and scientific narratives because of a tendency to apply Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest into every examination of wildlife and mankind.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Show Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Feature Contributors: Benita Lee, Susan Moran

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Pollution Impacts on Gut Microbiome // Folding Proteins

Pollution Impacts on Gut Microbiome (starts at 1:00) The Environmental Protection Agency has downgraded the air quality in the Denver Metro and Northern Front Range area to “severe” nonattainment for ground level ozone.  Shannon Young talks with Dr. Tanya Alderete (University of Colorado Integrative Physiology Department) about a recent study showing how air pollution may also affect the gut microbiome in people as young as infants.

Folding Proteins (starts at 15:53) Proteins are essential for the function of our bodies and other biological systems.  One mystery is how proteins containing hundreds of amino acids are able to quickly and efficiently fold into  the necessary complex structures.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Dr. Larry Gold about this origami mystery and how the Deep Mind artificial intelligence consortium created the AlphaFold program, which predicts the 3D structure of proteins and won a Breakthrough prize.  Also check out this presentation about identification of protein structures given by Dr. Krzysztof Fidelis.

Host: Joel Parker
Show Producer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Feature Contributors: Shannon Young, Shelley Schlender

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Beavers: Engineers for Our Planet

Photo credit: Chris Canipe

Today’s show features:
Employing Beavers (start time: 11:12):  Some consider them pests. Others praise them as saviors of the environment. Whatever your impression of these furry swimming rodents, beavers are gaining more proponents for their ability to make landscapes, and thus humans, more resilient to climate change. Through their dams and lodges, beavers raise water levels, moisten fire-prone forest soil, slow water speed, and thus prevent flooding while storing more water. Host Susan Moran talks with Jessica Doran, a wildlife biologist with EcoMetrics Colorado; and Aaron Hall, senior aquatic biologist with Defenders of Wildlife, about the promises and complexities of employing beavers as ecosystem engineers.
Beaver resources:
iBeaver (crowdsourcing App from Defenders of Wildlife)
How On Earth 2018 interview with Eager author Ben Goldfarb
Rewilding the American West (Ripple et al, BioScience, 2022)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Show Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender, Tom Yulsman

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The Amazing…Honeybee!

On today’s show Beth talks to Prof Michael Breed about honeybees. Sure, there is a little on their decline which is concerning to all of us, but we focus on many remarkable aspects of their biology. If you want to go deeper, you can visit Mike’s website or the book he mentions in the interview.

Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Show Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Shannon Young

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