Nature, truth & reconcilliation

Ecologist Madhu Katti contemplates Mandela’s legacy today on  KVPR 89.3fm in Fresno California.

“Can we expand Mandela’s vision of reconciliation to our own planet, to offer ourselves a shot at redemption from Nature, just as he offered his oppressors? Unlike him, Nature is amoral and lacks conscience. It is up to us, therefore, to recognize the consequences of our actions, admit our culpability, indeed our own guilt, in destroying Nature, and seek forgiveness—through actions which repair the damage we have done.”

Madhusudan Katti. “There is power in reconciliation,” The Moral is, 21 January 2014

Credit, Madhusudan Katti

Credit, Madhusudan Katti

Evolutionary ecologist Madhusudan Katti works in the intensely agricultural and urban central valley of California, studying ecological and evolutionary processes in a human dominated landscape, and looking for ways to help other species coexist with us – a field Michael Rosenzweig had dubbed “reconciliation ecology.”

Katti also has a semi-regular spot on his local NPR station for the series The Moral Is, a co-production of Valley Public Radio and the Bonner Center for Character Education at California State University Fresno. The show features Fresno State faculty from cross-section of disciplines.

His next radio essay, musing on the application of the late, great Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation principles to humanity’s relationship with nature, will air on Valley Edition, KVPR 89.3fm in Fresno California, today between 9 and 10 am, Pacific Time. (The 5 minute spot usually airs late in the hour.)

kvpr valley edition logoMissed it? You can read and listen online at KVPR.


Katti started writing for the program three years ago. He is part of a rotating stable of five or six contributors, and produces a radio essay four or five times a year. Philosophy professor Andrew Fiala asked him to join the program, which previously had no science contributors.

“The reason this happened, was that I got myself out of ecology circles,” Katti said.

He met Fiala in the mountains at a philosophy departmental retreat, shortly after arriving at Fresno State as an assistant (now associate) professor of biology in 2004. Katti saw fliers for the retreat around campus.

“The title intrigued me so I decided to drive up there. They were surprised to see a scientist show up,” Katti said. That impulse has led to valuable conversations with people from other scholarly contexts and traditions, who are also thinking about nature, ethics, and society.

Now in its eleventh year, the program actually predates Valley Edition. Under the original format, Katti sent his scripts to the station, where production staff recorded it for radio.

“Somebody would read it out, and inevitably they would mangle my name, of course,” he said.

When Joe Moore, host of Valley Edition, came on board at the station, he invited the professors to read their own scripts. Katti now goes into the station to record his radio essays, with help, and sometimes a bit of coaching, from a producer. He has also done some recording on his own, filing stories from Sweden and India while on sabbatical last year.