Dirt: A Look at Civilization in the Ground

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Earth Beat – The Dirt Show

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The Dirt on Clean
This program is about the ways we interact with our environment. Or, when it comes to dirt, how we do our best not to. And yet, dirt is unavoidable. We live on a great big ball of it – we walk on it and grow our food in it. So why are we so afraid of dirt? To answer the question, host Marnie Chesterton got on a very dirty phone line to Banff, Canada and spoke to Katherine Ashenburg, the author of “The Dirt on Clean, an unsanitised history of washing“.

Getting dirty in India
We’ve been talking about attitudes towards dirt in Europe and North America but we were curious to know if these ideas were common across different cultures. So we turned to our colleague Chhavi Sachdev, who lives in the bustling (and not entirely clean) city of Mumbai.

The Hygiene Hypothesis
Author Katherine Ashenburg responds to Chhavi’s experience with the “Hygiene Hypothesis“.

Many of us are still intent on spraying, sterilising and scrubbing our homes… and our bodies. This often involves cleaning products with all sorts of nasty-sounding ingredients. So what’s the cost to us and the planet? Here’s our 60 second round-up.

Can dirt make us smart?
According to experiments done by Susan Jenks and Dorothy Matthews, from the Sage Colleges in Albany NY, a certain bacteria that goes by the name of M. Vaccae and is found in common dirt, makes mice learn faster, retain that learning better, and helps them stay more relaxed while they’re learning. Marnie spoke to Susan Jenks and asked her what she was doing poking around in soil in the first place.

A craving for dirt
Eating dirt isn’t just the preserve of lab animals, apparently, it’s a pretty common craving among pregnant women. To find out more, Marnie asked Andrea Wiley, a professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, “why do women crave dirt when they’re pregnant?”

Dishing up dirt
Andrea mentioned craving the taste of dirt… next on our global tour of a world of dirt, we take you to a restaurant where they’re serving up the essence of dirt for dinner. And it’s not because they’re too lazy to wash the salad properly. Correspondent Ashish Sharma took a tour around El Cellar de Can Roca.

Contaminated dirt
Just in case all of this talk extolling the virtues of dirt has got you tempted to grab a handful from your backyard, stop. Before you do, you might just want to check it’s not contaminated. Earth Beat producer Ashleigh Elson joins Marnie in the studio to tell her “don’t eat the dirt” story.

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