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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.




Walking the Iron Curtain: Wild lands reunited

In May 1952 East Germany sealed its entire border with the capitalist west. Over the next 37 years 75,000 people would be arrested trying to flee the Communist East and hundreds would die in the attempt. Today the barbed wire and machine guns are gone and the old border has been transformed into a protected wildlife zone. It's a home to lynx, wolf and wildcat and a vital corridor for migrating birds and mammals. Mary-Ann Ochota begins her journey along the old border, meeting the people...


Life on the line

Ladakh is a region at the centre of the 50-year-long border dispute between India and China, which flared up again in June 2020. Journalist and broadcaster Ed Douglas speaks to local village leaders whose communities are struggling to preserve their lives and livelihoods amidst perpetual military unrest. He also speaks to former politicians and political experts about the consequences of what happens here for the wider geopolitical stability of Asia’s two biggest countries, and those caught...


Saving Asia’s water towers

If the Himalayan glaciers melt, a billion lives and whole ecosystems will be at risk. Journalist and broadcaster Ed Douglas joins innovative community projects in Ladakh and Nepal looking to mitigate the impact of climate change now and in the future. Their success or failure will determine the future environmental security beyond their local region, to all of Asia. Presenter: Ed Douglas Producer: Clem Hitchcock Editor: Susan Marling A Just Radio production for BBC World Service (Photo: A...


High lives

Spanning five countries, the Himalaya is home to peoples who have adapted to living in the harshest of conditions. Journalist and broadcaster Ed Douglas, author of the first major history of the Himalaya has been visiting these remote communities for 30 years. Now they are opening up to him about the challenges of living on the roof of the world. Ed's friends from the Sherpa and Rai groups in Nepal reveal how genetically and practically they have evolved to be able to live long term at such...


Money, money, money: Power

Do we still have faith in money? Trust expert and fellow at the Said Business School at Oxford University, Rachel Botsman, investigates the shifting power plays in the global management of money, gathering pressures towards decentralisation and optimism in the world of finance. Presenter: Rachel Botsman Producer: Frank Stirling and Leo Schick A Storyglass production for the BBC World Service (Photo: A man uses contactless payment with QR code in supermarket. Crdit: Getty Images)


Money, money, money: Psychology

Rachel Botsman, a Trust expert and fellow at the Said Business School at Oxford University, looks into the psychology and the morality of money. Among others, she talks to Jain accountant Atul K. Shah, activist and onetime refugee Ghias Aljundi and psychologist and happiness guru Dr. Laurie Santos. Producer: Frank Stirling and Leo Schick (Photo: Businessman reaching out for falling bank notes. Credit: Getty Images) A Storyglass production for BBC World Service


Money, money, money: Value

In the second episode Rachel explores the subject of value. Beginning with the volatility of Bitcoin, she goes on to find out about growing up in Brazil's years of hyperinflation, living in the gift economy of an Indonesian island and whether money is the root of happiness. Producers: Frank Stirling and Leo Schick (Photo: A representation of the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Credit: Edgar Su/Reuters) A Storyglass production for the BBC World Service


Money, money, money: Trust

Do we still have faith in money? Trust expert and Fellow at the Said Business School at Oxford University, Rachel Botsman, talks to people from all over the world about their relationship with cash, with banks, with currencies, with credit cards and crypto. In this first episode she asks how much we should trust money. With politician and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, economist and author Eshwar Prasad and investor and entrepreneur Soulaima Gourani. (Photo: Thousands of...


Slick: 4. The oil thieves

The newest player in the Niger Delta is not a multinational company, it is Nigeria’s enormous illegal oil industry. Oil thieves cut the pipelines, siphoning off oil, which they refine in the bush and sell on the black market. BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones meets an oil thief king pin, as well as an exuberant local politician, taking on this illegal business and treks deep into the forests of the Niger Delta to visit an underground refinery. And we catch up with Victoria Bera. For...


Slick: 3. Black creeks

BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones travels to the creeks of the Niger Delta to investigate the impact that oil pollution continues to have on communities and their environment. What she finds is alarming. And she speaks to Shell to ask them who is to blame for the ongoing environmental damage. Presenter: Mayeni Jones. Producer: Josephine Casserly Editor: Bridget Harney (Photo: Landscape destroyed by oil pollution. Image courtesy of Fyneface Dumnamene)


Slick: 2. On trial

In the 1990s, as oil spills devastate the environment, Shell becomes persona non grata in Ogoniland. Then, when Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ledum Mittee and other activists leading the charge against Shell, are accused of incitement to murder, they come face to face with the power of Nigeria’s military government. BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones investigates a miscarriage of justice which has become an infamous moment in Nigerian history. Presenter: Mayeni Jones Producer: Josephine Casserly...


Slick: 1. The great white hope

When oil company, Shell D’Arcy first struck black gold in Nigeria, there were celebrations on the creeks of the Niger Delta. Many of the locals had no idea what this thick black substance was, but it would go on to shape their lives and those of everyone in the region for decades to come. BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones hears about how hope and hospitality turned to resentment in the early days of oil in Nigeria. Reporter, Mayeni Jones Producer, Josephine Casserly Editor, Bridget...


Emotional Baggage: June Angelides

Psychiatrist Henrietta Bowden Jones talks to June Angelides about how she set up Mums In Tech on maternity leave, and how she was inspired by her entrepreneurial family in Nigeria, and particularly by her late grandmother. June reveals why she gave up a good job to set up the first coding academy in the United Kingdom for young mothers. And talks about the stress it caused but also knew that the time was right for her to do this. June followed in the footsteps of her uncle Ben Murray Bruce,...


Emotional Baggage: Halima Begum

Halima Begum is the CEO of the race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust. Her career as a civil rights campaigner began when she formed Women Against Racism in 1993, which was forged by her experiences of being racially abused by the National Front every day she went to school in East London. She reveals just how her mother coped with the threats that the family received on a daily basis. And it how it contrasted sharply with the welcome and love that Halima received from the teachers in...


Emotional Baggage: Maya Youssef

Musician Maya Youssef talks about her painful decision not to return to her parents' house in Damascus when the civil war in Syria began. She reveals how playing music brings back such vivid memories of her homeland that she feels she has returned to her birthplace, even though she has not been there for over a decade. (Photo: Maya Youssef and her qanun. Credit: Igor Studio)


Emotional Baggage: Dina Nayeri

Psychiatrist Henrietta Bowden-Jones talks to novelist Dina Nayeri about her experience of escaping Iran and seeking asylum. The author of The Ungrateful Refugee reveals why she left her homeland without her father, her "co-conspirator in life", and why that sense of loss that has always stayed with her. (Photo: Iranian American novelist Dina Nayeri during the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2019, Scotland. Credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)


It's a Bird's World: Noise pollution

When noise levels rise, birds react. Noise is one of the top environmental hazards to which humans are exposed. It has also been linked to reduced breeding success and population decline in birds. So what happened to birds during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown when our cities fell silent? Many people said they could hear birds as they were singing louder. Did their singing change and if so, how and why? What can we learn about noise pollution and its effects on us from the birds?...


It’s a Bird's World: Viruses and infection

Just like us, birds can become infected with viruses – and some of these can be transferred to us. As we’ve seen with the coronavirus pandemic, there are real challenges when it comes to controlling the spread of viral infections. Any attempt to try and stay one step ahead of a virus requires really good monitoring, especially as many birds travel long distances and migrate. Birds are invaluable as sentinels in our attempt to map and control the spread of infection. In this episode we look...


It's a Bird's World: Toxic substances

How the deaths of vultures and sparrowhawks have alerted the world to serious environmental problems. Like the canaries which were used to detect toxic gases in coal mines, birds play a vital role in alerting us to substances which can damage a healthy environment. The price they pay to alert us can be losing their lives. Presenter: Mya-Rose Craig Producer: Sarah Blunt (Photo: White-rumped vultures, slender-billed vultures and Himalayan griffons feed on a dead cattle. Credit IUCN/Sarowar...


Why We Play: Old age

Many of today’s old people grew up in an era when life was hard, retirement short, and opportunities for play limited. But as we live longer, we need to seek out playful activities, for both physical and mental health. We visit a bridge club for older people, where many members started to learn the game after they retired, to keep their brains sharp and give them social opportunities. We visit a care home in Scotland where the management frequently organise play sessions, such as pretend...