The Compass-logo

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.




Life in soil: Tasting the earth in France

Writer and environmentalist Isabelle Legeron is in France to see how cultivating a healthy soil, teeming with fungi and microbes, can enhance the flavour profile of food and drink - from cheese to coffee to wine. She explores the fundamental role soil plays in the notion of “terroir’ - the conviction that the natural environment in which plants are grown, can be experienced in the taste and texture of the food and drink made from them. Isabelle speaks to a cast of soil microbiologists, land...


LIfe in soil: The death of soil

Isabelle Legeron travels to Giessen in Germany, to the original laboratory of Justus Von Liebig the brilliant 19th century chemist whose work made way for the 20th century Haber and Bosch process. Liebig joined the spirit of the Industrial Revolution, where technical solutions were set to end starvation; he set out to make the soil more productive, echoed through the 20th century with the Green Revolution. But at what cost to the soil? With Environmentalist, Tony Juniper and Soil Scientists:...


Life in soil: The psychology of soil in California

Isabelle Legeron travels to California, a part of the world whose soil holds a complex history. She meets the indigenous Californians reviving ancestral methods of tending to the land, and the soil scientists exploring the impact of colonisation and agriculture on the soil of the Golden State. With indigenous Californian land steward Redbird (Pomo/Paiute/Wailaki/Wintu), director of the California Indian museum Nicole Lim (Pomo), indigenous ecologist Dr Melissa Nelson...


Green energy: Finance

How is the world going to get to net zero by 2050 and who is paying the bill? Former governor of the Bank of England, and UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, Mark Carney, recently put the figure we need to spend at 100 trillion dollars at least. Switching to renewable sources of energy, needs the global financial markets to pay for the necessary infrastructure. Costs will come down as the technology improves; take the example of solar panels where the last two decades have seen...


Green energy: Iceland

For over 100 years, Iceland has produced renewable energy from geo-thermal and hydro power to heat its homes and power industry. Iceland harnesses the volcanic hot water under the earth’s crust and the energy from damming its plentiful rivers and waterfalls that run through the island. It produces five times more green energy than its population needs. But decisions Iceland has made in how best to use this surplus energy and the environmental and moral impact on its landscape and population...


Green energy: Renewables

Allan Little investigates the best way to capture, store and redistribute the renewable sources of energy freely available all over the world – wind, solar and hydro. The sun gives earth enough potential power in one hour to provide the total energy needs of the globe for a year – if only we could catch and store it. From a purely economic angle, the costs of renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels. So what is holding us back from harnessing the power of the sun and wind to secure our...


Green energy: Transport

Allan Little looks at the challenges we face as we wean ourselves off gas and oil to renewable sources powering our cars, trucks, ships and aeroplanes. Green transport is crucial to a net zero future, but how transparent are the supply chains bringing the world the components we need? And how green is the electricity we are using to power electric cars anyway? Cobalt and Lithium, two essential minerals crucial for electric car batteries are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chile...


The reclaimers: The games people play

As the former ‘British Empire Games’ draws nearer, actor and musician Kema Sikazwe finds out what the world of museums can learn from the communities, artists and curators who are struggling to reclaim global stories about their culture and identity. Kema sees photographer Vanley Burke’s new exhibition, Blood and Fire, curated with Candice Nembhard at Soho House, former home of Matthew Bolton. At the Museum and Gallery, he meets members of We Are Birmingham who have remodelled the iconic...


The reclaimers: Into the valley

Travelling from Lusaka to the Gwembe Valley and then on to Kabwe, Kema Sikazwe hears from people living in communities where artefacts were taken. In the shadow of the Kariba Dam, Kema meets people who were forced from their land when the valley was flooded who explain how promises made at the time have not been kept. Finally, at the lead-mining site where the Broken Hill Skull was discovered in Kabwe 1921, Kema meets former workers who describe how their homes remain contaminated, more than...


The reclaimers: Return to Zambia

Returning to Zambia for the first time since he was three years old, Kema Sikazwe continues his journey exploring the impact of colonial legacies through museum collections. Since 1972, Zambians have campaigned to reclaim the ‘Broken Hill Skull’ from Britain. Kema learns what has led to the current stalemate, as the repatriation movement gathers pace. Kema also meets Zambian creatives who are fabricating their own interpretations of history with ‘digital repatriation’ initiatives, creating...


The reclaimers: Bronzes and Birmingham

Actor and musician Kema Sikazwe is on a mission to uncover his own personal history as he leaves the UK to return to his homeland of Zambia for the first time since he was three years old. As Kema travels, he learns how museums are telling the uncomfortable stories behind some of the objects in their collection. He joins pupils from his old primary school learning why The Great North Museum in Newcastle is offering to return an ancient musical instrument to Nigeria. Arriving in Birmingham,...


Walking the Iron Curtain: Booming Balkans

The borders of the Balkans have been splintered, cracked and remade countless times over centuries. Suspicions and hatreds, ancient and modern, still scar the landscape. Travelling through the southernmost regions bisected by the Iron Curtain, Mary-Ann Ochota meets the conservationists convinced that a shared love of the region's landscape and wildlife can heal division. From Trieste in Italy, a staging post for generations of refugees- including the Ukranian exodus of 2022- she travels...


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...