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The Compass

Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.

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Depression in Japan

Up until the late 1990s, depression was all but unknown in Japanese society and pharmaceutical companies had given up on trying to sell anti-depressants there. Fast forward to today and court cases alleging overwork depression and overwork suicide, reassuring commercial branding of depression as a "cold of the soul" and increased media attention have turned Japan into a highly medicated society. In the first episode of a five-part series about mental health and culture, Christopher Harding explores how in just a few years, psychiatrists, lawyers and the pharmaceutical companies helped introduce 'depression' to Japan. Producer: Keith Moore (Photo by Tori Sugari)

26mins

11 Aug 2016

Rank #1

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Dams

Half of the world’s river systems host hydro-electric dams. They offer reliable electricity but their construction forces people from their homes and disrupts the natural life of the river.Scores of dams already span the Mekong River, the great waterway linking China to Vietnam. They’ve brought power and jobs to some of the most undeveloped parts of South-East Asia and the building boom shows no sign of ending. But the impact of the massive building programme on those living in the Mekong Delta and along the river is immense: silt deposits are disrupted and fish populations are displaced, as are many of the millions of people that depend on them. Reporter Peter Hadfield sails up the Mekong to meet those communities living with the dams on their doorstep and discover how their lives are impacted.Meanwhile, presenter Didi Akinyelure is in western Europe to find out why the countries that pioneered hydro-power are now turning their backs on it. In Switzerland they are releasing floodwater from their dams to bring life back to a tamed mountain wilderness. In France dams are actually being dismantled to revive fish life on Normandy’s rivers. So how should we feel about dams? Do developing countries need the reliable low-carbon electricity they provide? Can they be built in less damaging ways or should we call a halt to the age of the mega-dam?(Photo: Ota Khami, 55, stands where his home use to be before it was bulldozed to make way for the Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng, Cambodia. Credit: Getty Images)

27mins

25 Apr 2018

Rank #2

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The Cold War Legacy: Brazil

Brazil’s controversial new President, Jair Bolsonaro, has praised the country’s military dictatorship, which took power in 1964 and ruled for 21 years. In an echo of the language used by the generals back then, President Bolsonaro claims he is saving his country from Communism and he has vowed to wipe the reds off the map. His critics say he is a threat to democracy.In this sharply divided country, some say Brazil is reliving the Cold War. Through history, culture and the classroom, the BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson explores Brazil’s Cold War legacy.Presenter: Katy WatsonProducer: John Murphy(Photo: Brazilian army tanks arrive at Guanabara Palace, on 01 April 1964 in Rio de Janeiro during the military putsch. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

27mins

30 Oct 2019

Rank #3

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My Perfect City: Oslo

Oslo is now the fastest-growing major city in all of Europe. Its growth is attributed to high birth rates and migration. Oslo is keenly aware that as the city expands, it is important to do so in a sustainable way. As a result, they have made a commitment to reducing carbon use and emissions while they grow, which some would say is an impossible challenge. Can Oslo’s plans work? And can it avoid urban pitfalls that may lead to segregation and inequality? For cities that grow beyond their historic size, numerous problems can occur; from overcrowding, to inequality, to a potential loss of social cohesion as new populations arrive. But Oslo are doing their best to ensure that this does not happen. The city has proposed solutions in three crucial areas - decarbonising the city, ensuring social cohesion and a sense of belonging, and rebranding Oslo both internally for its citizens and as a new global player. Presenter Fi Glover, Dr Ellie Cosgrave, director of UCL City Leadership Laboratory and urbanist professor Greg Clark perform a rigorous investigation into the city's plans to grow quickly, but intelligently. They scrutinise the policies aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions and creating a zero-carbon infrastructure, they look at the plans for preventing segregated neighbourhoods, and at how the city intends to ensure that new inhabitants feel welcome and part of the new Oslo identity. Can Oslo join the list of cities who can prove to be a real example to others around the world?(Photo: Sculptures by Gustav Vigeland displayed in The Vigeland Park in Oslo. Credit: Rune Hellestad/Corbis/Getty Images)

50mins

17 Nov 2019

Rank #4

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Glaciers

Life in the Himalayas is tough at the best of times. Crops are dependent on the seasonal melt-water from the mountain glaciers. If climate change wipes out the glaciers then the people will be forced to move. As the global population increases and climate change tightens its grip the struggle for land intensifies. The tension over the ownership and the use of land creates new conflicts and inflames existing struggles. It also inspires creative thinking and fresh approaches to agriculture, development and conservation. Nigerian journalist, Didi Akinyelure meets the innovators determined to maintain their traditional ways of life in the face of the worst that the climate can throw at them. In the Himalayas the locals are building their own artificial glaciers. Known as ice stupas, these mounds of ice modelled on Buddhist meditation structures can hold water for agriculture right through the summer. Meanwhile, in the Alps, villagers are determined to save the glaciers that provide their groundwater and attract tourists. They have hired a scientist who plans to spray the glacier with artificial snow in order to deflect the heat of the summer sun.(Photo: Didi Akinyelure on a glacier in the Swiss Alps)

27mins

18 Apr 2018

Rank #5

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How modern life is changing our feet

For nearly two million years we evolved in close sync with our environment but 250 years ago the industrial revolution happened and changed everything. The innovation and technology it brought had many benefits but there was a physical cost as progress also designed out movement from our lives.From spending hours on our feet outdoors, our jobs have moved indoors and largely involve sitting down for most of the day in offices, factories or driver cabs. It has resulted in feet that are getting flatter, backs that are weaker and eyes that cannot see very much without help.Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid hears from evolutionary biologists, academics, anatomists and public health professionals in Singapore, Kenya, Australia, the UK and the United States; about the impact of modern life on our physical self and what we can do to return our bodies to the state that nature intended.The good news is there is no need to spend hours on treadmills or pumping iron, in fact we would injure ourselves a lot less if we were a bit more cautious when exercising. Our bodies are marvellously adaptable and reintroducing small movements into our daily lives in most cases will do the trick!(Photo: Womens' feets splashing in a pool. Credit: Getty Images)

28mins

15 May 2019

Rank #6

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The History of Wastefulness: The Tipping Point

After exploring our wasteful past and the reality of today’s trash challenge, Australian journalist Alexandra Spring asks if we are on the tipping point of a rubbish free future.Alexandra joins blogger Kathryn Kellogg to find out more about San Francisco’s growing zero waste ambitions. Encased in one single mason jar, Kathryn describes the tiny amount of waste she created over two years and how living without a trace has changed her life.Then, Alexandra meets the inventor Veena Sahajwalla, who shares her belief that we should consider our rubbish to be a resource for the future. As Alex discovers, this attitude and Veena’s engineering skills have stopped millions of tyres from ending up in rubbish dumps, and could lead to cities around the world being built from recycled materials. Producer: Chelsea Dickenson and Ben Cartwright.(Photo: A jar full of all the garbage blogger Kathryn Kellogg threw away in two years. Credit: Audio Always)

26mins

23 Jan 2019

Rank #7

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How modern living is changing our faces

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at how modern living is changing our faces. With the help of professor Saw Seang Mei in Singapore and the UK's top ophthalmologist, professor Chris Hammond, he tells the story of how baffled scientists sought to understand the rocketing rates of myopia in the Far East, where more than 80% of teenagers are short-sighted. Dr Cregan-Reid learns about the various theories put forward before Australian researchers cracked the mystery in 2004. Spoiler alert: It is not to do with screens.Evolutionary biologist Professor Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, from New York State University, tells Dr Cregan-Reid about how our jaws have been reacting to changes in our diet. They are getting shorter and less dense, but our teeth are erupting as if it is still 50,000 years BC. At London's Natural History Museum, Professor Fred Spoor takes us through the impact the modern world is having on our teeth and the shape of our mouths.Back in Singapore, the country's leading plastic surgeon, who spends most of his day reshaping people's jaws, tells Dr Cregan-Reid he thinks our faces are getting shorter but wider because of what we eat and the impact of stress on facial muscles.In the third and final part of Changing World, Changing Bodies, we learn why the 'you' that you see in the mirror most days may not be the 'you' that your DNA had planned.(Photo: Multi ethnic montage of teenage male portrait. Credit: Getty Images)

27mins

29 May 2019

Rank #8

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The History of Wastefulness: Rubbish Through the Ages

Alexandra Spring continues her exploration of how our relationship with rubbish has evolved through time at the foot of Monte Testaccio in Rome - a hill built of 53 million discarded olive oil amphorae, which were thrown away nearly 2000 years ago. She meets the architect Tom Rankin, who shares how this ‘dump’ is indicative of the Roman spirit to waste.Moving through the decades, the historian Agnes Sandras takes Alexandra back to France in 1883, when Parisian Prefect Eugene Poubelle sparked public outcry by forcing citizens to buy a box in which they would place their waste. They discuss how this early form of a modern day ‘bin’, or ‘poubelle’ in French, shaped how people viewed litter.Then, sharing her view on how our attitudes to waste have changed throughout the last century, professor of history Eiko Maruko Siniawer explains to Alexandra how a shift in ideology to embrace modern luxuries saw waste spiralling out of control at the end of the World War Two. Producers: Chelsea Dickenson and Ben Cartwright.(Photo: A woman holds pieces of ancient amphorae at Monte di Coccio alias Monte Testaccio ( Mountain of Crock), in Rome. Credit: Getty Images)

26mins

16 Jan 2019

Rank #9

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Chinese Dreams: Australia

As China grows in power, there are fears that it is trying to alter the course of Australian politics. The Australian government has legislated against "foreign influence operations" after allegations of Chinese spies making payments to lawmakers. More recently, there have been disputes on university campuses between students supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong and those loyal to mainland China – with allegations that the latter have the covert support of the Chinese Embassy. Are these genuine concerns, or are they merely the latest expression of covert racism towards Australia’s Chinese minority? Australian reporter Heidi Pett investigates for Chinese Dreams, a 5-part series examining how China’s rise is influencing countries across the globe.

27mins

25 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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My Perfect Country: Drug Decriminalisation in Portugal

In 2001 the use of all drugs was decriminalised meaning possession of drugs was now identified as a public health issue rather than a criminal offence. Today, whilst drugs remain illegal, users do not receive a criminal record and are instead referred to rehabilitation and treatment programmes. Drug related deaths, HIV infection rates and use of legal highs are at an all-time low.My Perfect Country traces the development of the policy over the last 15 years and asks whether other countries should use this model for their own legislation on drug control. The architect of Portugal’s policy Joao Goulao explains how the policy was implemented and Doctor Rodrigo Coutinho explains how it was taken on by health services. Our roving ambassador hears from the volunteers of mobile units that does not wait for patients to come to them and hears emotional recovery stories from former users. Presenter Fi Glover, academic Henrietta Moore, professor Alex Stevens from Kent University andTony Duffin of the Ana Liffey drug project in Ireland discuss how far Portugal’s policy has been successful and whether it would work in the perfect country.(Photo: A Portuguese flag flies above a demonstration against austerity, Lisbon, 2013. Credit: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images)

27mins

18 Feb 2016

Rank #11

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The Battle of Ideas in the Middle East - Part One

Kevin Connolly travels through the Middle East to look at different ways in which the Arab states in the region are confronting the ideas of the so-called Islamic State and how well-equipped they are to fight them. Through social media sites, a network of sympathetic preachers is promulgating a jihadist vision of Islam and recruiting fighters from across the Middle East. Tunisia and Libya are among the key recruiting grounds and the largest providers of ‘foreign fighters’ in Syria and Iraq. From the markets of Morocco to the boulevards of Beirut, Kevin Connolly talks to those who are engaged in the frontline of this battle of ideas. He asks if educational systems are helping to promote positive narratives of Islam to combat the underground appeal of IS. He visits a university in Jordan where a touring theatre company is staging a comedy show to fight back against extremism. In Jordan he meets the imams who have been arguing directly over the internet with representatives of the so-called Islamic state. He also meets the parliamentary speaker left broken hearted when his son was recruited to become an IS suicide bomber. And, after years in which western analysts have talked about the slickness of IS online propaganda, we ask young people in the Arab World what they think of the videos that glorify violence.

27mins

17 Mar 2016

Rank #12

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Soul Music: Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez

Written by Joaquin Rodrigo in 1939, the Concierto de Aranjuez is a guitar classic. It was written amid the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, and in circumstances of poverty and personal tragedy. Soul Music explores how the piece touches and changes people's lives. The composer's daughter Cecilia Rodrigo explains how the blind composer was inspired by the fountains and gardens of the palace of Aranjuez. Nelício Faria de Sales recounts an unforgettable performance deep inside one of Brazil's largest caves, while David B Katague remembers how the piece got him through a difficult period of separation from his family in the Philippines. Guitarist Craig Ogden explains the magic of the piece for a performer, and actor Simon Callow recalls how hearing the piece was a formative experience for him during his schooldays, when it turned rural Berkshire into a piece of Spain.(Photo: Blind Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901 - 1999) playing the piano at his home in Madrid. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

27mins

31 Mar 2016

Rank #13

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My Perfect Country: Cuba

After 2017 brought a string of hyper-active and destructive hurricanes in the so-called Atlantic Hurricane Season, it is said that Cuba is a world leader in both hurricane preparedness and recovery, as it has one of the lowest fatality rates. It has been a cornerstone of their government for decades – at the heart of the model is the promotion of local level decision-making that relies on co-ordinated early warning systems, high-quality weather forecasting and community preparedness. Most notably, when disaster hits, every Cuban at every level of society has a role to play. Children are educated from a very young age of what to do in the event of a hurricane and there is an annual nationwide training to ensure plans are kept up to date. As the country also gives a particular focus to vulnerable members of society, other Caribbean countries are starting to take notice of Cuba’s policy – and this model could be implemented globally.However, Cuba’s achievements may be under threat as Hurricane Irma in 2017 took Cuba by surprise and shook the foundation of its policy. Efforts to rebuild and bring the country back to order are still taking place – with some critics doubting Cuba’s priorities.Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore ask whether Cuba’s lack of action in the aftermath prevents this policy getting their stamp of approval.(Photo: Cubans flags are hung from balconies to dry during the cleanup after Hurricane Irma in Havana, 2017. Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP)

27mins

17 Jan 2018

Rank #14

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My Perfect Country: Estonia's Digital Society

Fi Glover and digital guru Martha Lane Fox look at the digital revolution pioneered by the government in Estonia – where people vote, get their medical prescriptions even pay for their parking, online. With the help of Professor Henrietta Moore from the Institute for Global Prosperity and Taavet Hinrikus from Transferwise they ask - could it work where you are? Estonia’s digital services have revolutionised the country since its independence from the Soviet Union with 600 services now being available online. E-Estonia has the fastest broadband speeds in the world, was the first to allow online voting in a general election, all classrooms are online, all medical records online, and it has more start ups per person than Silicon Valley in California. But does the networked society come at a price?(Photo: People gathered on 20 August 2010 in Toila, Estonia for the world's first ever digital song festival. Credit: Raigo Paulla /AFP/Getty Images)

27mins

4 Feb 2016

Rank #15

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Islam, People and Power: The Sunni Traditionalists

The anti-government protests that began in the Arab world in 2010 triggered division between the religious scholars of Islam’s largest branch – the traditional Sunnis. Some of the most senior Sunni scholars in the world held fast to the idea that revolution, and even simple protest, was forbidden in Islam. Others decided to back armed groups in Syria, though not the global jihadists of al-Qaeda and ISIS.Presenter Safa Al Ahmad travels to Egypt to meet Dr Abbas Shouman, one of the most senior scholars at Islam’s most famous seat of learning, Al Azhar University. She also tells the story of Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, a famous Syrian Islamic scholar whose stance on the uprisings cost him his life.(Photo: Anti-Government protesters in Cairo. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

26mins

17 Nov 2016

Rank #16

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China: The start of the Silk Road

The sky is hidden by smog in Lanzhou on the Yellow River; this transport and manufacturing hub is pumping Chinese goods out to the world. In this last programme, we find out how the Belt and Road Initiative has brought new people into this growing metropolis and how businesses are benefiting from the new infrastructure.Presenter: Peter Shevlin and Martin Yip

28mins

26 Jun 2019

Rank #17

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The Cold War Legacy: India

Divya Arya looks at what happened in India at the height of the Cold War, and afterwards as the Berlin Wall came down, 30 years ago. She explores the rich politics of a country which chose not to pick a side during the Cold War. Where realpolitik and clever diplomacy have been key components for Indian leaders on the world stage from Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1940s to Narendra Modi today. As two superpowers fought for power and influence during the Cold War, India played a game of diplomacy, moving between the USA and Soviet Union, whilst trying to prioritise its’ own interests. The Non Aligned Movement was founded in a newly independent India, by the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. It is the position that India took when it formed a coalition of countries which refused to pick a side, instead remaining friendly with both. Nehru believed that in an atomic age, peace was the only guarantee of survival. This stance was tested during the 1950s and 1960s; India signed a quasi-military agreement with the Soviet Union but trade liberalisation has brought India closer to the USA more recently. How is India navigating international relations today? Does it bend to the will of the USA or can it continue to choose its own path as it did during the Cold War?Presenter: Divya AryaProducer: Nina Robinson(Photo: Maharaja Krishna Rasgotra (M K Rasgotra) is an Indian diplomat and former Indian Foreign Secretary under Indira Gandhi)Credit: Nina Robinson, BBC

27mins

13 Nov 2019

Rank #18

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How modern life is changing our backs

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid investigates what the last 250 years has done to our backs. What is it about modern life that has promoted back pain, especially lower back pain, from a rarity to the number one cause of pain and disability in the world?In the remote Kenyan Village of Pemja, Dr Cregan-Reid meets people with such excellent backs that they are the subject of international study. He hears from pain-wracked workers in Nairobi whose backs today are a pale version of those of their grandparents' and at the London Design museum he comes face-to-face with the artefact that has done most to weaken our backs - the chair.Chairs with backs are now so ubiquitous it is reckoned there are around 10 for each of us but as recently as 1800 they were a rarity. Not that we have much choice but to sit down today. At the start of the 19th Century fractions of one per cent of people sat down for a living but today three quarters work in offices or drive for a living. We put our spines into positions they were not designed to sustain for hours on end.He discusses with Australian academics their research which claims that half of back pain is in the mind and why simple movement is probably more effective than surgery, manipulation and powerful painkillers in getting to the bottom of back pain.(Photo: A woman rubs her lower back. Credit: Getty Images)

28mins

22 May 2019

Rank #19

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My Perfect Country: Canada

Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore from the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London are building an imagined utopia made up of the best solutions to the world’s problems. They look at a sustainable fishing scheme in British Columbia in Canada called catch share, a quota system based on dedicating a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, co-operatives or fishing communities.It means fishermen have the ability to catch a certain amount of fish each year and are responsible for not exceeding that amount, promoting stewardship of the seas. Just outside Vancouver, local reporter Madeline Taylor goes to meet the fishermen who spearheaded the scheme at the British Columbia groundfish fishery, which has evolved over the last 40 years from an open access, high discard fishery to a full retention, fully monitored fishery that accounts for all catch whether retained or released. Could it work elsewhere? With the help of Erin Priddle from the Environmental Defense Fund, the team discuss the achievements and shortcomings of this model for sustainable commercial fishing and whether it should be adopted as a policy for an imagined perfect country.(Photo: A commercial fishing boat on British Columbia's West Coast. Credit: Getty Images)

27mins

14 Feb 2018

Rank #20