You could listen to any number of podcasts on climate change, but HumaNature from Wyoming Public Media provides a more thoughtful meditation on why our environment is sacred.
A new show by Wyoming Public Media called HumaNature, however, turns the model of the informed host on its head. The host, Caroline Ballard, is purposefully not prepped for her interviews with people who tell stories about their experiences with nature. The result is absolutely delightful: listeners feel like they’re learning alongside Caroline…I like HumaNature for a few reasons: it doesn’t sound like other podcasts, it sounds like it comes from Wyoming and not from a studio in DC or New York, it helps transport me to a different place, and it’s short — episodes clock in under 20 minutes.
HumaNature is fine example of how a station can take a first-step into podcast-only content infused with a local (and national) sensibility. And, it’s another example of the return of “localism.”
This show from Wyoming Public Media has been around since mid-August, but it’s a recent discovery for me. Its host, Caroline Ballard — a transplant to the mountain west — tells some really incredible stories about humans in nature. Episode one hooked me with a fascinating and funny interview from a former whitewater rafting guide whose crew would recruit Racing Homer Pigeons to transport camera film from the rapids to the darkroom. Episode two tells the inspiring story of Debbie Salamone, a shark attack survivor turned conservationist. And episode three, When a Search and Rescue Becomes a Search for Something Else, was one of the most moving podcast episodes I’ve ever heard. The show’s latest episode just dropped yesterday — yes, I took an unexpectedly early lunch break to give it a listen, and yes, it was worth it.
The surprise-and-delight factor of HumaNature is totally of this world. If the show’s debut is any indication, enthusiasts of the great outdoors will stop howling at the moon as their primary source of audio entertainment and even atavistic recluses might see a reason to join the modern world. The tone is similar to Death, Sex & Money (the host Caroline Ballard even has a similar cadence as Anna Sale) except topics are grounded in the ground. The people administering these injections of nature, which come complete with a total sense of adventure, are the perfect pod for the cast. Their bios betray a crew of people who love the outdoors and just happen to know how to tell and produce an audio story—you know, the exact type of people you expect to find at Wyoming Public Media.
“It was supposed to be a leisurely float down the Snake River. But when they lost their guide, a group of tourists got more than they bargained for.” This was an exhilaratingly fun episode from a great series from Wyoming Public Media. Terrific storytelling.
“When A Search and Rescue Becomes A Search For Something Else” is a tragic and moving story about a group training in the Rockies to become outdoor guides, and discovering the aftermath of a couple’s lake trip gone terribly wrong.
PS) Some of the cutest podcast artwork around.
Wyoming Public Media hopes to use podcasts to broaden its reach and audience. The station announced Aug. 21 the launch of three new podcasts — HumaNature, The Modern West, and Open Spaces — marking its first foray into the medium. HumaNature looks at the relationship between humans and nature. The show will consist of first-person narratives, with guests “front and center” driving the story.
HumaNature has aired on these public radio stations: CBC Radio-Canada, KUT Austin, KALW San Francisco, New Hampshire Public Radio, Alaska Public Media, Marfa Public Radio, KMXT, KRZA, KRCC-FM, KSUT, KXRY, KHNS, and Wyoming Public Radio. It has also been featured on PRX Remix and on the podcasts Outside/In and HowSound.