Kinship With The More-Than-Human World

A Special Series in Partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature

In various cultures around the world, human identity cannot be separated from our nonhuman kin. The landscapes we call home — grasslands and forests, mountains and rocks, rivers and oceans — are shared by nonhuman beings who may be considered relatives. Age-old myths and modern science reinforce these kinship relationships. From forest ecology to the human microbiome, emerging research suggests that being human is a complicated journey made possible only by the good graces of our many companions.

In partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature and with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation, To The Best Of Our Knowledge is exploring this theme of "kinship" in a special radio series. Leading scientists, philosophers and writers illuminate ways in which “personhood” transcends the human species and shows how kinship practices can deepen our care and respect for the more-than-human world.

eyes

Exchanging glances with the natural world happens more often than you’d think. It can be so profound, there’s a name for it: eye-to-eye epiphany.More

Plant as person

If plants are intelligent beings, how should we relate to them? Do they have a place in our moral universe? Should they have rights?More

 The Brooks Range divides the continent north and south.

Science tells us mountains are giant piles of rock, formed millions of years ago. But that's not all they are — there was a time when mountains were gods.More

Interviews from this series

lonely plant
Audio

Once you acknowledge that plants are intelligent and sentient beings, moral questions quickly follow. Should they have rights? How can we think of plants as "persons"? Plant scientist Matt Hall sorts out these ideas with Steve.More

plant
Articles

Plants are intelligent beings with profound wisdom to impart—if only we know how to listen. And Monica Gagliano knows how to listen.More

The plants Brooke keeps on hand.
Sonic Sidebar

As a plant ecologist, Brooke Hecht knows plants. But then a few years ago, while at a professional conference, her young daughter who'd tagged along got sick. And that's when the healing powers of plants came to the rescue.More

Robin Wall Kimmerer (left) and Anne Strainchamps (right)
Articles

Emerging science in everything from forest ecology to the microbiome is confirming that our relationship with plants and animals is deep. Ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer also draws on Native knowledge to explain our intimate relationships with plants.More

Moonhouse
Audio

We're part of an extended web of kinship that includes not just people, but plants, animals, rivers and mountains. For Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, that knowledge has been passed down through many generations.More

Audio

People in the Andes have been telling stories about their mountains for centuries. Writer and educator Lisa Madera says they tell us something essential about the nature of mountains as geologic marvels and sacred sites.More

Hunger mountain's peak
Photo Gallery

Is there a special mountain in your life? David Hinton, who lives in Vermont, told us about the one he knows best — Hunger Mountain - which he's climbed 300 times. His thinking about mountains has been shaped by his study of ancient Chinese poetry.More

Poudre Lake is the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River
Articles

Environmental philosopher and bonafide "mountain man" John Hausdoerffer explains how mountains are connected to all life on earth, and what it means to treat them as "living kin"More

chimpanzee
Sonic Sidebar

In 1960, a young primatologist stared deeply into the eyes of a wild chimpanzee. She was Jane Goodall. He was David Greybeard. Their mutual gaze changed animal science forever.More

"Birds Watching." Printed reflective film mounted on aluminum on steel frame.
Photo Gallery

In Chicago, writer Gavin Van Horn and environmental artist Jenny Kendler visit her new art installation, which confronts viewers with the gaze of 100 giant bird eyes. It's meant to provoke curiosity, wonder, and awareness of how many non-human eyes are always watching us.More

Gavin on the 606.
Audio

Eye-to-eye epiphanies are experiences of kinship with the more-than-human world. Gavin Van Horn says kinship is also something to practice. He shares a few thoughts about how.More

owl
Audio

Dogs, cats, birds, frogs, even insects watch us. Each with a different kind of eye. What, and how, do they see? Ivan Schwab is an ophthalmologist who’s been fascinated by that question for a long time.More

osprey
Sonic Sidebar

Locking eyes with another creature in the wild can be a profound experience. For physicist and writer Alan Lightman, half a second of eye contact with a pair of ospreys felt like an epiphany.More

crocodile eye
Audio

The feminist eco-philosopher Val Plumwood was one of the few people to survive a crocodile's death roll. The attack reoriented her thinking about life, death, and what it means to be human.More

Northern Rocky Mountains wolf
Audio

There are two famous moments that helped shape environmental politics. Gavin Van Horn, of the Center for Humans and Nature, tells us what happened when Aldo Leopold met the eyes of a dying timber wolf and when Paul Watson looked into the eye of a dying sperm whale.More