Environment

The historic giant sequoia in Boise, Idaho, towers some 10 stories tall. At more than a century old, it also weighs a hefty 800,000 pounds and measures roughly 20 feet around at its base. Oh, and it had to move a few city blocks.

All of which raised a very good question: How the heck was that going to happen?

Ernest Littlebird put his grill out on the side of Route 39 in Lame Deer, Mont., under the shade of a tree and started grilling hamburgers.

"Come get a dollar burger," he says. "Good meal, you know, something to put in the belly at least."

Littlebird is an entrepreneur. This is his second year selling dollar hamburgers out of his minivan when he couldn't find other work. Jobs are scarce here on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and so is money.

But Littlebird thinks they don't have to be.

In a major property rights decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a decisive victory to state and local governments and environmental groups.

By a 5-to-3 vote, the justices made it much harder for property owners to get compensation from the government when zoning regulations restrict the use of just part of landowners' property.

The type of siding or "cladding" used on the Grenfell Tower in London — and suspected of feeding the massive fire that killed dozens of residents — is not allowed on the exterior of tall buildings across most of the U.S.

But a few states and the District of Columbia have relaxed their building codes in recent years and have started to permit the material's use.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On a typical block in Hong Kong, thousands of people live on top of each other. Pol Fàbrega thinks about all these people as he looks up at the towering high rises above the streets. And then he thinks about all that space above all these people.

"The square footage here is incredibly expensive," says Fàbrega, staring upwards. "But yet, if you look at Hong Kong from above, it's full of empty rooftops."

It is, he says, a big opportunity for growth.

In late May on the floor of a drilling rig on Alaska's northernmost edge, oil workers were dwarfed by giant pieces of machinery. They were slowly pushing pipe thousands of feet below the tundra to tap one of the biggest oil fields in North America: Prudhoe Bay.

Arkansas's pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical.

A live Asian carp — an invasive fish so threatening to local U.S. ecosystems that officials have struggled to keep it out of the Great Lakes — has been caught 9 miles from Lake Michigan, beyond a system of underwater electric barriers.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Truth And Lies.

About Michael Specter's TED Talk

Michael Specter explores why some deny scientific evidence — such as the safety of vaccines and GMOs, or climate change. He says denying can provide a sense of control in an unsure world.

About Michael Specter

Thirteen chefs divide into teams and begin to prepare appetizers, salads, mains and sides, and desserts. At their disposal are 300 pounds of "ugly" produce just rescued from local farms: purple cauliflower, cherries, shiitake mushrooms, pears, fingerling potatoes, shallots, kale and carrots.

Most of it looks super-fresh, though in some cases the produce is dinged or oddly colored enough to be unappealing to distributors.

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear's population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal's status to the state level.

The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published "in coming days" and "will take effect 30 days after publication."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you're standing in the blazing sun struggling to read this on your cellphone, there may be some relief in sight.

And you'll have a moth to thank.

The reason you have to find shade to read your phone is the way the light reflects off the screen. The reflection reduces contrast, washing out images.

One of the biggest threats to global agriculture these days is a tiny, bright red weevil.

These little crimson devils eviscerate coconut, date and oil palms, and are native to South Asia. But thanks to globalization, and the fact that these tenacious buggers can fly up to 30 miles a day — over the last three decades they've spread to more than 60 countries from the Caribbean to Southern Europe.

Some coastal areas in Texas and Louisiana are under a tropical storm warning and forecasters are warning of potential heavy flooding as Tropical Storm Cindy moved inland from the Gulf of Mexico Thursday morning.

Severe weather and flooding have already been reported over the past two days along the Gulf Coast. The storm made landfall early Thursday morning near the Texas/Louisiana border, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's ask why some of the nation's biggest energy companies say they're willing to support the fight against climate change. They say they are willing to be taxed for the pollution they create.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Steven Somsen's farm got a new addition last year, breaking up fields of wheat and soybeans that span as far as the eye can see from his rural North Dakota home.

"We ended up with some towers on our property," he says, nodding toward the giant, spinning, white wind turbines dotting the farmland around his house.

Xcel Energy, a Midwest-based utility, installed three on his land, among the 100 turbines placed near his remote community of Courtenay.

Firefighters in Portugal have gained control over a wildfire that swept through central Portugal over the weekend and killed at least 64 people, authorities said Wednesday. But the investigation into what ignited the wildfires, and why they proved so deadly, is just beginning.

The fire near the town of Pedrogao Grande "is no longer progressing," Civil Protection Agency spokesman Vitor Vaz Pinto told reporters, according to The Associated Press. The blaze, one of dozens that erupted Saturday, quickly swept through the hilly area about 120 miles northeast of Lisbon.

Copyright 2017 Minnesota Public Radio. To see more, visit Minnesota Public Radio.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

At the wine tasting room of Taylors Wines in Sydney, Australia, bottles are uncorked, poured, swished, sniffed and sipped. There's a lot for employees to toast this year.

"The Australian wine sector is growing at a fast rate," says Mitchell Taylor, the winery's managing director. "And what is exciting is the top level, about 20 to 30 dollars a bottle and above, that segment is growing at 53 percent."

That's thanks, in part, to China.

What if you could go back in time and follow your food from the farm to your plate? What if you could see each step of your meal's journey — every ingredient that went into its creation, and every footprint it left behind?

Ethiopia gave the world Coffea arabica, the species that produces most of the coffee we drink these days. Today, the country is the largest African producer of Arabica coffee. The crop is the backbone of the country's economy – some 15 million Ethiopians depend on it for a living.

The Endangered Species Act is facing a growing number of calls for significant changes. Momentum in Congress and in western states is building to give states more of a say when making changes to the landmark regulation that protects about 1,600 animal and plant species, and their habitats.

Animals like the Wyoming toad.

Back in 1985, there were only 16 of these palm-sized amphibians left at the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Laramie, Wyo.

Go To New York City For The Whales

Jun 18, 2017

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Over the last 2 years photographer Nichole Sobecki and journalist Laura Heaton have documented the devastating impact of climate change on one of the most unstable places in the world, Somalia.

Their reporting appears in Foreign Policy magazine in an article titled "Somalia's Land is Dying. The People Will Be Next."

Far below the surface of the ocean, off the coast of eastern Australia, is an area simply known as "the abyss." The largest and deepest habitat on the planet, the abyssal zone stretches well beyond Australia's waters and spans half the world's oceans — but it remains largely unexplored.

Marine biologist Tim O'Hara recently set out change that, on a monthlong expedition with about two dozen scientists from seven countries. The voyage dredged up hundreds of previously unknown species along the way.

About 20 percent of baby food samples tested over a decade-long period had detectable levels of lead, according to a new report from Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group.

The group evaluated data collected by the Food and Drug Administration from 2003 to 2013. This included 2,164 baby food samples. They found 89 percent of grape juice samples, 86 percent of sweet potatoes samples and 47 percent of teething biscuits samples contained detectable levels of lead.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration failed to follow proper environmental procedures when it granted approval to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.

It's a legal victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists, who protested for months against the pipeline. Oil started flowing through it earlier this month. The tribe fears that the pipeline, which crosses the Missouri River just upstream of its reservation, could contaminate its drinking water and sacred lands.

The Bosphorus is a strait that separates Europe from Asia — and in recent days, its normally dark blue waters have turned a remarkable turquoise.

Some residents of Istanbul, noticing the suddenly bright and milky waters, wondered on social media whether the hue was caused by pollution or an earthquake that shook the region on Monday, AFP reported.

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