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The Compass


Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.


United Kingdom




Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.




Automation and the future of jobs

Economist Daniel Susskind asks what the new wave of high-tech automation means for jobs. He hears from a company leading the way in the development of driverless trucks, and a long-haul truck driver who’s deeply worried about it. If jobs like trucking disappear, many of America’s millions of drivers may be forced into sectors like the service industry, but, as we hear on our visit to the world’s first automated restaurant, that isn’t immune to automation either. With technology already...


Machines: What they do now that they did not do before

Technology has complemented our work since the invention of the wheel, but we may finally be approaching a point where automation stands to replace some human jobs entirely. Economist Dr Daniel Susskind explores how automation is affecting work in the United States, from fully automated restaurants to driverless trucks, and hears from the people whose livelihoods are being affected. A world without work could be a utopia, but without the correct policy to ensure people still have incomes and...


Gambling: A sure bet? USA

Native American Tribes have flipped their fortunes by building casinos on their land, but that is under threat from the new players in the market - the online sports betting companies. Dr Heather Wardle meets Greg Sarris, Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Northern California, who shows her why his tribe’s casino is a lifeline to the local community, and how online betting on smartphones is the new threat to his tribe’s survival. (Photo: USA Graton Casino, owned by the...


Gambling: A Sure Bet? Albania

Albania was plagued by problems caused by gambling; high levels of debt, divorce and suicide triggered the government to ban it. But it did not have the desired effect. Instead the ban sent the industry underground and into the hands of organised criminal gangs. Dr Heather Wardle sets Fatjona Mejdini, a journalist who writes about Albania’s development, the task of investigating the state of gambling in her country and asks whether banning betting can solve the problems caused by it.


Gambling: A Sure Bet? Kenya

Jonah is a university student, and a gambler. For him it is the only way he can earn a living. He explains why there are so few opportunities for young Kenyans like him and why betting on foreign football matches has become such an attractive and easy way to make money to fund his university studies. Gambling behaviour expert, Dr Heather Wardle, wants tougher laws on gambling but she wonders how that might impact the University students who need the money they earn from betting. Producer:...



Water is at the heart of many of the most serious ecological crises we face, including the biggest one of all: the climate emergency. Alok Jha shows how water itself may offer solutions to give us hope. Alok witnesses nuclear fusion in action at an experimental reactor in England. Simple seawater provides the fuel for this futuristic technology that has the potential to solve the world’s energy problems and eliminate fossil fuel power generation. Meanwhile chemist Fernando Romo walks us...


Ecological crises

Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water. Many of the serious geopolitical tensions over water as a resource that we looked at in the previous episode of this series are rooted in worsening ecological crises. In this episode, Alok shows how the global water crisis is inextricably linked to the climate crisis – and how neither can be dealt with alone. In Bangalore, we hear how...


Water as a resource

Journalist Alok Jha shows how the way we are using freshwater has made it a precious finite resource. And it’s a resource on the edge of collapse. By 2050, over half the world’s population will live in a water-scarce region. But rather than working together to manage crucial water supplies, powerful states are manoeuvring to control the remaining stocks for themselves. Beginning with one family’s well drying up in the desert of Arizona, and following the story all the way to political...


How water shaped us

Journalist Alok Jha argues that if humans are to survive and thrive for the rest of the 21st Century we must urgently transform our relationship with water. To change that relationship, we first need to understand how the relationship evolved. Alok looks at cultural history to understand how water shaped our deepest psychology. Alok finds that our relationship with water – always struggling for a balance between too much and not enough – fundamentally influenced the religious and spiritual...


Forests of folktale and imagination

Jessica unpicks the profound role that forests play in our imaginative life. We know of course that they feature heavily in the fairy tales and myths we use to navigate life as children, and as we hear from writers like Max Porter, Richard Powers and Melissa Harrison, they also offer ways of understanding the complexities of desire, politics and history in our adult lives. Poet Carl Phillips describes how forests mirror the wilderness within us, while Jinni Reddy tells of how she found...


Forests of science and knowledge

Writer Jessica J Lee, sets out to describe the myriad ways that forests operate in our lives and the life of the planet. She outlines the exciting developments that have taken place in our understanding of the ways forests work over recent decades, with science offering radical new ways of recognising these places as communities of mutually supportive trees rather than competitive spaces where individual trees fight one another for survival. She speaks with Peter Wohlleben who is one of the...


Forests of hope and the future

Writer Jessica J Lee, sets out to describe the myriad ways that forests operate in our lives and the life of the planet. In the final part of ‘Under The Canopy’, Jessica looks for stories of hope to set against the headlines depicting the mass deforestation that continues to take place around the world. She speaks with a variety of groups - in Canada, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Germany and Great Britain - who are finding different ways to re-invigorate forests, whether through peaceful protest,...


The New Arctic: Power

Contrary to popular opinion, the Arctic is not a pristine, empty white desert. It is home to four million people distributed across eight distinct nation states: The USA, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Federation. Allan Little looks at how the region is fast becoming fraught with geopolitical tensions. Despite all sides stressing this is still an area of low tension, Russia is building up its military presence and capabilities, with Nato...


The New Arctic: Tourism

Allan Little looks at the growing tourism industry above the Arctic circle which is raising complex social, economic and environmental consequences for remote communities. On the one hand, there are sustainable, indigenous-operated businesses that benefit from increasing numbers of visitors in search of authentic reindeer experiences and the Northern Lights, but other regions are experiencing the problem of mass tourism. On the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, we see how the Covid-19...


The New Arctic: Resource extraction

Global warming is happening twice as fast in the Arctic. As the ice melts, it poses an existential threat to local communities and indigneous culture, whilst opening up possibilities of economic opportunities. What is the future of mining, of green energy, of tourism in a world that climate change is making accessible for the first time in millennia? And where does power lie? Who will control the rapidly changing icy far north as it thaws? The US Geological Survey estimated the Arctic may be...


The New Arctic: Communities under threat

Allan Little investigates how the climate crisis is impacting different communities above the Arctic circle, from infrastructure damage to loss of life, eroding land and endangering thousand-year-old cultures and traditional knowledge. They are our eyes and ears on the speed with which our planet is changing. We look at Nenets reindeer herding on the Siberian tundra, infrastructure damage in Longyearbyen (the world’s most northern town on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard), and a...


My Perfect City: Communities in Barcelona

Barcelona has always put strong communities as a key aim of its urban planning. What has it got right, and should other cities follow suit? In the 19th century, Barcelona instigated the City Market system. Every neighbourhood had its own food market, where locals met and mingled, but some fell into disrepair, and new areas didn’t have them. A renewed interest in the past 20 years has seen new ones built and old ones invested in. In another major push, pilot schemes to reclaim public space by...


My Perfect City: Women entrepreneurs in Kochi

The cosmopolitan port city of Kochi is the commercial capital of the southern state of Kerala, which has a special track record when it comes to gender equality. Female literacy and life expectancy rates are among the highest in India, and greater access to economic opportunities has made Kochi a hub for women-led businesses, which not only boosts the economy but has lasting development benefits for society as a whole. The newly elected Mayor of Kochi, M Anil Kumar, is keen to make female...


My Perfect City: Integration in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is lauded for its policies on integrating immigrant populations into the city. What exactly has it got right? The second biggest city in The Netherlands is like many port cities. Over the decades it has been a magnet for immigrant workers, whose descendants now number more than 50 percent of the population and tend to live in certain neighbourhoods. Racial tensions brought the problem of integration to the top of the political agenda. Today, holistic approaches tackle education and...


My Perfect City: Housing in Vienna

In Vienna housing is considered a basic human right. Is it a model other cities should follow? In the Austrian capital, 60% of citizens live in subsidised social housing. Rent is affordable and developments are built to a high design and environmental specification. Many include swimming pools, schools, medical and sports facilities, while people from all walks of life live side by side, encouraging social cohesion. Fi Glover and panellists Greg Clark, urbanist and global city adviser, and...