Local Routes: Age of Nature (Episode 601)


In this episode, we kick of the sixth season of Local Routes with an exploration of the human relationship with nature and a preview of the upcoming PBS program, Age of Nature. We look at some of our own local relationships to nature as well. Plus, we talk to a Grandfather about why he decided to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

A woman standing in  forest surrounded by brush and trees.
Hosting Episode one of Season 6 from the Apalachicola National Forest.

We kick off a new season of Local Routes in the Apalachicola National Forest. I love this location. I’m not only surrounded by trees, but we are only a short drive from Tallahassee, just off of Woodville Highway. A few hundred yards into the woods and you can’t hear the traffic from the road anymore. Occasionally, a bicyclist comes by on the dirt trail, but for the most part it is just us and all the things that live in the forest. We’ve done several stories and episodes out here over the years. Not far from my location is where WFSU’s Ecology Producer Rob Diaz de Villegas has done many stories on the striped newts of the Munson Sand Hills.

This time, we were inspired to hike out here to host the show because most of our stories today are tied into a special 3-part PBS program starting next week called Age of Nature. It explores the human relationship with nature. On October 14th at 10pm ET this first episode subtitled “Awakening” airs on WFSU Public Media. Thanks to a grant from PBS and Age of nature, we are able to do a series of stories ourselves exploring this topic locally. This project is headed up by Rob and he’s done a great job.

Bluff overlooking apalachicola River.
Bluff overlooking Apalachicola River

His first story for the Age of Nature Project is “Fire, Sand, and Water in the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines” and debuts in this episode. It explores how the bluffs above the Apalachicola River impact the ecology below. As always, Rob’s visuals are stunning and the EcoAdventure he takes us on is fascinating. He also expands on the science of this story in the WFSU Ecology Blog. If you haven’t explored the WFSU Ecology Blog before, this is a great time to start. This past Spring, Rob’s work on the blog and our EcoCitizen project last year won a Regional Edward R Murrow Radio, Television, News Director Association award for Best Multimedia in Small Market Television.

We are also going to be hosting a special online screening of the second episode of Age of Nature as well as a zoom discussion about our own local issues on October 20th tied into the Age of Nature program. The event is free. You can learn more or register on WFSU’s Ecology Blog.

Several other stories in this episode also explores the human relationship to nature. You may familiar with local author Susan Cerulean’s work. Her books include Coming to Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change and Coming to Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change. She recently wrote a new book t called I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird: A Daughters Memoir. WFSU’s Rob Diaz de Villages talked with her this summer about the ties between her experience with her father’s dementia and what she calls a “cultural dementia” that people experience with our environment.

A womaman standing in front of a sunset with a camera
Susan Cerulean takes photos of birds next to the water.

This spring another environmental topic came to a forefront on the national stage in the form of a viral video. It showed a white woman in New York’s Central park calling police on an African American man out bird watching and claiming she was afraid for her life. For many, it was a surprising look at how not everyone can experience nature in same way. For others, it was not a surprising situation at all. Shortly after Black Birder’s week this spring, we talked with Dara Wilson. She is not only a black woman, she is also on the boards of a variety of local environmental organizations. She reflected on her experiences trying to enjoy and learn about nature.

A woman in a green field with camera .
Dara Wilson takes photos of nature near Lake Jackson in Tallahassee

A grandfather who is 90 years old is the source of a skydiving adventure we went on in this episode. Actually, WFSU’s Mike Plummer stayed on the ground to tell Bill Coleman’s story. Mike discovered it wasn’t just about the thrill. The jump was about a special connection to Mr. Coleman’s family. I won’t spoil it for you. Check out the show or the individual story on this website.

A man wearing sunglasses and a hat

We’re glad to be back with a new season of Local Routes and hope to bring you some interesting adventures this coming year. Make sure you follow us on Facebook. We often release stories there and on our webpage ahead of the broadcast and you can see them before anyone else.

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Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.

Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.