Review: Outside/In

Review: Outside/In

How do I introduce a podcast that is comforting, disquieting and fascinating, all in one? What of my life do I bring to the forefront of this short piece to grab you, and bring you in to something you might not have decided to listen to on your own? 

I’m struggling with this one because it’s about science and nature, but also about human curiosity. It’s a podcast I feel so at home with, nestled in its episodes, yet also am very uncomfortable with the realities that get presented in its episodes. It is a conundrum, which is one of my favorite things to wrestle with.

I want to tell you about how much I love nature, and how much science fascinates me. Yet, I was never quite good enough at math to become a scientist so I turn to podcasts. I want to tell you about camping, and how I feel better after a good day outside, but our apartment garden is the closest I get most days. So I am reviewing this podcast not just because it’s great, and from a local radio station*, but also because it’s like coming home to damp earth, fresh air, and great conversation. Damp earth can get stuck under your fingernails, though, and it's uncomfortable to live with.

Outside/In from NHPR (the station that brought us all Bear Brook)  is one of those podcasts that I suggest listeners just pick a title. Don’t read the description of the episode, just dive in. Scrolling through the backlog spikes curiosity in simple episode titles. Blue is the loneliest color might catch your eye, or Why did the road cross the chicken? 

Episodes sit around 30 minutes and the style ranges from stories through interviews, answering a string of listener questions, or mini-docu-style episodes on one important topic. You never really know what you are going to get other than a well-produced episode that will teach you interesting things. If you need to read the descriptions, they're going to give you a great overview. In the world of podcasts: if you’re a fan of Part Time Genius then I think you’d enjoy this podcast. It has a similar feel, but is more relaxed and has a more radio-style atmosphere than Part Time Genuis does.

You don’t have to listen to every episode, you don’t have to be caught up. The hosts have some banter, but they're easily followed. You only have to be curious and have 30 minutes on your hands. It’s great for a commute, a morning coffee, or even to roll through multiple episodes for your daily chores. The hosts don’t have much expectation, but the way that the listener episodes bring together curiosities of all science and nature-related types of topics feels like there’s a community bubbling, waiting to be a little bit more curious. 

On the other hand, this podcast faces topics head on. Climate change is real, humanity is facing consequences of its own making. You listen to episodes full of love and joy of the outdoors and curiosity, and then you follow them up with episodes on how communities are impacted by changes to our environment. It's easy to listen to on the surface, but the consequences of these stories can be rattling. What do we do, other than push forward with the best intentions?

I’ve always floated the tagline “be confident in your curiosity” and this is one of those podcasts that feels like it checks all of those boxes. It’s an excellent example of down-to-earth science communication. Curiosity, joy, and love are the main throughlines of this show, even if episodes can have heavy topics related to climate change and humanity’s future in the world. If this sounds like a podcast you’d like to add to your rotation, listen below. 

Listen to Outside/In wherever you get your podcasts!

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*support local!