I’m always on the lookout for good new podcasts. (If you have recommendations, email them my way.) Recently, I was wanting more outdoor, nature, and environmental podcasts, but was having trouble finding them, or at least finding good ones. So I did a lot of digging and put together this list. Think of it like a shovel, so that your digging is easier than mine was. Likely you’ve heard of a number of these. Hopefully there’s a couple more you haven’t.
From New Hampshire Public Radio, Outside/In is an excellent little podcast covering all things outdoors. Because it’s based in New England, the topics always relate in some way to this northeastern region, but it never feels provincial—mushroom hunting, coydogs, and a series on the Hydro-Québec hydropower company are all recent subjects. The show feels defined by curiosity in the best way (think Radiolab minus all the artifice—sorry, Radiolab).
Episode Recommendation: “Leave It to Beavers” (released Apr. 13, 2017)
Threshold just finished its first season, which focused on the story of the American buffalo (bison bison). It’s a deep dive of narrative and investigative journalism that gets into the history, current status, and future of bison as a species and an icon, featuring interviews with historians, ranchers, Native Americans, and scientists. The topic is impossibly large and results in a captivating series that leaves you wanting to know more. (Side recommendation: the book American Buffalo by Steven Rinella, who also, by the by, has a podcast called “Meat Eater.”) The upcoming second season will take a similar reporting approach to another issue connecting our lives to the environment and natural world.
Episode Recommendation: As an episodic podcast, you have to start at the beginning. Boring, I know.
Living on Earth
Here is the more traditional radio show, a weekly hour-long podcast covering the environmental news headlines of the week. Living on Earth is particularly useful to stay current on environmental policy and scientific advances in understanding. The show does well addressing the big stories, but also reports on the stories that don’t make the news elsewhere.
Episode Recommendation: The most recent one, duh.
From the people of Outside Magazine comes the Outside Podcast, released weekly-ish. The content is high quality, though the feed can feel a little scattershot since they have different segments that basically feel like distinct podcasts (they’re even numbered differently)—“The Outside Interviews,” “Science of Survival,” and “Dispatches.” The upside, then, is there’s a variety of content to match your tastes. Dig interviews? Got you covered. Want to learn more about outdoors-related science? Check. My personal favorite is the Dispatch segment, which recently had a fascinating story on the winter survival skills of elite Finnish soldiers guarding against the Russian border.
Episode Recommendation: “Dispatches Ep. 18: Red Dawn in Lapland” (released Jan 23, 2018)
A bit less about “the outdoors” or “the environment” and more about outdoor and active lifestyles and the people living them—climbers, runners, and their ilk. If the hashtag #OptOutside had a podcast, this is what it would sound like. Or maybe it’s van life before the hashtag existed. That said, Dirtbag Diaries, like the Outside Podcast (above), features a number of different segments, so the stories vary from episode to episode. The same show that features “Endangered Spaces: Katahdin Woods and Water” also features “The Shorts—VanLife” (ugh). So, take your pick with this one.
Episode Recommendation: “Endangered Spaces: Bears Ears” (released Mar. 24, 2017)
Outlandish is a year-old podcast from, of all places, the U.S. Forest Service. (Not to be confused with the gamer podcast of the same name.) This podcast is part of the USFS’s rebranded “Your Forests Your Future” campaign, seeking to increase the “relevancy of public lands.” Outlandish just started in April of 2017, and it’s only getting better. The production is good and the interviews are engaging. Its introduction describes the show as “The gateway to all things public lands,” which “explores the people and stories that shape our favorite national real estate.” The thematic umbrella is just the right size, large enough to encompass a range of topics, from trail running to mushrooms to nature deficiency, without feeling like a crapshoot.
Episode Recommendation: “The Great American Road Trip: Part I” (Season 1, Episode 7)
Go West, Young Podcast
From the Center for Western Priorities, this podcast focuses on land and environmental issues and policy west of the hundredth meridian. The name of the podcast is cheesy, but the theme music (also cheesy) makes up for it. Each episode begins with a quick news roundup and then interviews that elucidate current issues in public lands and the environment. The production quality sometimes leaves a bit to be desired (think Skype interviews in hollow spaces), but the content is important and enlightening. The Center for Western Priorities are avid defenders of wild places and public lands, and this podcast doesn’t mince words when it comes to their stance on issues, especially during this Trump administration and Zinke assault.
Episode Recommendation: “Law professor John Leshy on the Antiquities Act and the Trump Administration” (released Nov. 9, 2017)
From the excellent High Country News, this podcast discusses the issues featured in the print and online magazine—“issues critical to the health of the American West.” This show is pretty bare bones, like Go West, Young Podcast (above)—intro music, then simple audio interviews with experts and professionals in the relevant fields.
Episode Recommendation: “How to Cover Indian Country” (released Nov. 30, 2017)
Also from High Country News, Range covers “the new American West,” the future of the West, what living looks like, as opposed to the more environmental focus of West Obsessed (above). Example topics to clarify this distinction: Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry; racial politics in the West; and the experience of establishing a new clothing manufacturing operation in the West. The production here is a bit cleaner, though still basically stripped-down interviews.
Episode Recommendation: “The Slums of Lake Tahoe” (released Apr. 6, 2017)
Terrestrial is also a relatively new podcast (April 2017) that has quickly established itself in the podcast realm. There are a number of climate change podcasts out there, and I don’t like any of them. Terrestrial is the high bar of how to report on stories of climate change and the environment more broadly—the stories focus on how we act and react to a changed and changing world. And the storytelling is a pleasure in terms of narrative and audio production. If you’re the type of person concerned about climate change, but want to hear about some things other than flipping climate change, this is the show. Because there are a lot of big issues out there.
Episode Recommendation: “The Secret History of Biosphere 2” (released Nov. 21, 2017)