Arts Culture

Podcast review: John Green’s ‘The Anthropocene Reviewed’ is essential listening

The Fault in Our Stars author ponders the human experience in his hit podcast.

By Annette Lordereau

You may know John Green as the man who made you cry as author of a number of successful teenage romance novels, like The Fault in Our Stars. Or you may know him as that guy who talks about literature and history in the very useful YouTube channel Crash Course. Whether you knew him before or not, discover John Green, the podcaster.

Halley’s Comet passes Earth about every 75 to 76 years and it is one of the many fascinating subjects that are reviewed in the podcast.

“When [Halley’s Comet] visited us in 1986, my dad had just brought home a personal computer, the first in our neighbourhood.

“One Halley earlier, as Mark Twain lay dying, the first movie adaptation of Frankenstein was released. The Halley before that? Charles Darwin was aboard the HMS Beagle. The Halley before that? The United States wasn’t a country. The Halley before that? Louis the XIV ruled France.

“Put another way, we are five human lifetimes removed from the building of the Taj Mahal and two lifetimes removed from the abolition of slavery in the United States. History, like an individual human life, is at both incredibly fast, and agonisingly slow.”

– From Episode 2: Halley’s Comet and Cholera, February 21, 2018.

‘The Anthropocene’ is the term used by geologists to describe the current era, which is shaped by human activity. And this is exactly what Green aims to talk about in his podcast; the ways in which humans have moulded their world. Each episode, he selects two topics, sometimes suggested by listeners, and gives a thorough, educational and an often philosophical review about them.

John Green 2
Credit: WYNC Studios / Complexly

Topics for review include everything from Super Mario Kart, to the act of whispering, to viral meningitis, to the just ‘the weather’, in general. Green even rates them on a five star scale. He focuses on the feelings, memories and reflections that the topics bring to mind. Listening makes you feel as if you could simply look up ‘Life’ or ‘The World’ on TripAdvisor and this is what would come up.

This might seem strange to you, why review feelings, or things that are here anyway, that can’t be bought and sold? My answer is that, since most things in our lives can now be reviewed, the act of going through an experience and then reviewing it has become an important and increasingly common way of communication and discussion.

Green is like the cool high school teacher who always got distracted from the lesson and ended up telling the class about a distant memory of his, or started out by talking about division but then somehow started a heated philosophical debate about multiple universes.

But if you enjoy that, you probably will not notice the topic changing, as you’ll be lost in your own thoughts too. This is because the discussion is relatable to all; after all, the theme is the human experience. Maybe you won’t even notice the advert that Green includes in the discussion as smoothly as possible.

To do him justice, Green never changes the topic for too long and always gets back on track. So I guess he’s like the cool high school teacher who blows your mind but still gets the lesson done.

The Anthropocene Reviewed is a highly stimulating and educational podcast that is at times eye-opening, at times unsettling and always very inspiring. Although I feel like it’s almost too inspirational, and could get you in that dreamy, speculative mood that I like to imagine Green is in when he writes his podcast, where you start to question everything. It’s a great mood for coming up with ideas for creative writing or maybe an arts essay, less so for focusing throughout the day. Instead, I recommend listening to this podcast during your daily commute or whilst walking around a city, so that you can be listening about the ways humans have shaped the planet while directly observing it.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Anthropocene Reviewed is available at https://www.wnycstudios.org/shows/anthropocene-reviewed/episodes as well as many platforms such as SoundCloud or iTunes.

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