Why We Exist: The Reason for Humanosphere

Not What We Mean
Human and Sphere

Flickr, Laughing Squid

Not What We Mean

What is Humanosphere?

It was already a word — an obscure one, yes, but existent — generally referring to all of humanity. (Checkout a non-definition here.) KPLU and NPR intend Humanosphere to become your go-to read for news, dialogue and learning about matters of global health and development.

KPLU is among 12 NPR stations nationwide that received support for this pilot project, funded by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation.  Each station chose a different topic.

It’s about exploring new ways of covering the news, and most importantly, about building community.

Space Needle from South Lake Union

Slightlynorth / Flickr

The view from Seattle’s hub for Global Health research

Our focus will be global, based out of Seattle, now a world epicenter for many international efforts in health and development. An obvious reason for launching this site here is the presence of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest philanthropy and a leader on many fronts in global health and development.

But, the movement to improve the Humanosphere is much bigger than any single organization or nation. Seattle alone has hundreds of organizations devoted to humanitarian causes. They, in turn, work with thousands of others across the globe. Their success depends on a global sense of community. So does ours.

We need your help to build up a Humanosphere community. As we develop this site over the weeks and months to come, what are your tips? Ideas? Advice?

You can comment, of course, on any story or photo, or email directly to our primary news curator/blogger, Tom Paulson, at tpaulson@kplu.org. More features and more opportunities for engagement are on their way.

– Tom and Keith Seinfeld (Tom’s boss!)



About Author


Humanosphere will sometimes post articles from authors from around the globe. Although these folks are not regular contributors, we hope you enjoy this change of pace.

  • Terry Lawhead

    The term Humanosphere is so awful I guess it works…and boy it is awful. Like, the Holocene Scene. Or Quaternary Query. Or Rhetorical Epieulogy. Anthropocene Activism.
    Does one build community exclusively within the Humanosphere? You guys are smart, of course not. But then again, it is so bad, it works. I suspect that may be the strategy.
    Of course the Humanosphere is a train wreck and many wonderful brilliant people are trying to help it heal. But except for some psychopaths that beat on innocent people, the Humanosphere is frequently a wreck because of the interaction of people and the biological world around them. Where does the Humanosphere start and stop? Our skin? Urban city limits? Watersheds and waste ponds? Dead zones of the ocean? Cellular activity. Odd distinctions, all of them. There isn’t one, of course, unless we make it up…
    I look forward to your new website and fully anticipate to benefit from the reporting by Tom Paulson. The stories you have listed are excellent and ones I have found nowhere else. I hope many people confront your editorial policies and constructively help shape Humanosphere into something essential to being informed and connected locally and globally. McKibben’s great line, “think globally, act neighborly” may feed into policy thinking. How can your information help people act neighborly as it also educates us and empowers us? What information builds community?
    A significant challenge you have laid down for yourselves. I am looking forward to it and hope I can in some small way contribute to your success and the success of communities within the Humanosphere (ugh. It still doesn’t roll off my fingers….. Best of luck and fortune to all of your hard work.

  • Thanks Terry. I know you mean awful in the best possible way.

  • Terry Lawhead

    So…..reducing poverty, huh? If we go upstream of that statement/goal, what do we find lurking there? economic development. I heard–urban legend, no idea if true–that Gates realized years ago that if he contributes to reducing the mortality rates in the countries his foundation serves he will eventually have to contemplate economic development–sustainable or not, but jobs for all those now healthy people who will need jobs and cash flows and tax bases, etc. I haven't noticed that particular front being worked on, but maybe it is. But Humanosphere is going to cover that issue? Pretty darn big subject, and it gets you stuck–the tarbaby effect–in many awkward positions. And last I noticed, Tom Paulson is still only one person–with many interesting personalities, but still one person locked in time/space as such. Will you bring in stories by others around the world or provide links to selected web based stories, etc? And here is the question, framed by Barry Lopez in his astounding wonderful interview by Bill Moyers: “Why is the Dali Lama laughing?” I hope Humanosphere somehow weaves the tone of why the Dali Lama can still laugh. And help us all get through what is already here. And somehow retain the alignment of stories you are going to have to try to balance to cover the virtually infinite subject you so ambitiously have chosen…..the Humanosphere! No, Tom, the name is not yet growing on me…maybe sometimes soon…

  • Ann Finkbeiner

    It's not either an awful name. It's a nice and interesting name — meaning, it sounds like what you do, Tom, which is nice; and I'm interested in your stories. Onward! Full speed ahead!

    • Tom Paulson

      Thanks Ann! I like the name, too, and at least it’s something even Terry now won’t be able to forget. Love it or hate, it the humanosphere (like the Dude) abides. I like your new blog (except for that movie with puppets).

  • Thanks Ann, I kinda like the name, too. It broadly applies to what we're doing, is a real word and fairly unique as a brand. Even Terry, whether he wants to or not, will remember it.

  • Just found out about Humanosphere via a CityClub tweet. Congrats on this great project! I am sure to become a devoted follower and will share this right now with my Twitter followers @Megchirps. I'm proud to live in Seattle where such important work is happening in the Humanosphere! Cheers …

  • Resultsbob

    I just found you, Tom! Fantastic! Congratulations! I hope your position and KPLU's commitment becomes permanent. Your voice is desperately needed! I am trying to catch up your past posts. Very smart, very interesting, and information in each that I had not heard before, and certainly had not seen in the print media. Thanks for providing your go-to spot. It is for me! I am putting you on my favorites right now!

    Bob Dickerson
    Seattle RESULTS