Vox Conversations

Vox Conversations brings you discussions between the brightest minds and the deepest thinkers; conversations that will cause you to question old assumptions and think about the world and our role in it in a new light. Join Sean Illing, Jamil Smith, and their colleagues across the Vox newsroom for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.



How seashells shaped the world — and predict our future

Vox's Benji Jones talks with author and environmental journalist Cynthia Barnett about seashells and her new book, The Sound of the Sea. They discuss the evolutionary function and human appeal of seashells, the surprising role shells played in ancient trade and commerce, and how climate change threatens the creatures that call them home.

Host: Benji Jones (@BenjiSJones), Environmental reporter, Vox

Guest: Cynthia Barnett (@cynthiabarnett), author


  • “Seashells changed the world. Now they’re teaching us about the future of the oceans” by Benji Jones (Vox; Jul. 10)
  • The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by Cynthia Barnett (W.W. Norton; 2021)
  • The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum (Sanibel Island, FL)
  • Evolution & Escalation: An Ecological History of Life by Geerat J. Vermeij (Princeton; 1993)
  • Cowrie Shells and Cowrie Money: A Global History by Bin Yang (Routledge; 2020)
  • Scallops in motion (YouTube)

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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • VP, Vox Audio: Liz Kelly Nelson

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 2021-08-19  58m