Environment

There's a chestnut tree in a nature reserve in Duesseldorf, Germany, and it has a mailbox. People have sent it 5,500 letters and postcards since 2007.

They wrote to the spirit of the tree named Juechtwind or "where the wind always blows," and every piece of mail was answered.

Last year the almost 200-year-old tree got sick, struck with a fungal disease, and had to be cut down.

But now tree counseling has been taken over by its younger brother named Erona, which means summer breeze.

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Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

Just 12 years ago, researchers feared that the California Island fox, a species about the size of a cat inhabiting a group of islands off the Southern California coast, was toast. Non-native predators and pesticides had dramatically reduced their ranks. The few that remained were placed on the endangered species list.

A federal jury found Pacific Gas and Electric Company guilty on five felony counts of failing to adequately inspect its gas pipelines before the blast that incinerated a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., in September 2010. The utility was also found guilty of one count of misleading federal investigators about the standard it used to identify high-risk pipelines.

PG&E was acquitted on six other charges of violating pipeline safety laws.

Worm isn't a scientific term. According to one of the Smithsonian's worm experts, Anna Phillips, a worm is just "an organism that is long and thin ... without legs ... that's not a snake."

It's dusk at a park in Dallas, and white sheets are pinned up next to tall trees, fluttering like ghosts in the wind. They've been lit up with ultraviolet lights to attract moths.

A handful of people are holding up their smartphones, zooming in on the small dark specks that fly to the cloth.

"Bugs have become my obsession," says Annika Lindqvist. "And the more you look, the more you have to look at the tiny things, and when you blow them up you see that they are gorgeous."

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Severe Drought Hits Majority Of Massachussetts

Aug 6, 2016
Copyright 2016 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

On a game ranch on the plains outside Johannesburg, where a few shrubs are the only things that break the view across the vast, flat landscape, a handful of workers drop feeding bins from a flat-bed truck.

They're watched by about a dozen rhino waiting for feeding time. There's something odd about the animals, though: They don't have horns.

Buried below the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, there's an abandoned U.S. Army base. Camp Century had trucks, tunnels, even a nuclear reactor. Advertised as a research station, it was also a test site for deploying nuclear missiles.

One year ago — on Aug. 5, 2015 — an EPA crew at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of orange water filled with mercury and arsenic.

The toxic spill flowed into the Animas River, eventually running into New Mexico's San Juan River and into Lake Powell. So far, disaster response and water quality monitoring have cost the EPA about $29 million — and the problem isn't over yet.

Each day, 520 trucks with more than 7,000 tons of garbage trundle through the potholed streets of Dunmore and Throop, Pa. The two small towns, just outside of Scranton, are home to the Keystone Sanitary Landfill. The trash, however, comes from all over — just about half arrives from out of state.

Keystone Sanitary recently requested a 40-plus year extension of its permit, which is slated for another eight years, but local activists are pushing back.

There's a voracious little bug destroying forests across the eastern U.S. Scientists say emerald ash borers, exotic beetles imported accidentally from Asia, have killed as many as 50 million trees.

They're now threatening groves in New York's Adirondack Mountains that are used to make an iconic kind of baseball bat.

McDonald's is no longer serving chicken raised on antibiotics that are important to human medicine. The company made the pledge last year, and now reports that it has completed its transition to the new antibiotic policy ahead of schedule.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Joshua trees are weird. They've got shaggy bark, twisted branches and needle-like leaves.

"It's something that you don't even imagine could live on Earth and here it is," says Cameron Barrows, standing right beneath one. "It's something very alien."

They stretch across the dusty valley of Joshua Tree National Park.

"It's like a Dr. Seuss book," Barrows says.

A five-hour drive southwest of Madrid, I pull into a tiny town square filled with songbirds and an outsized Catholic church — where Eduardo Sousa and Diego Labourdette are waiting.

They're an odd couple. Sousa is a jovial fifth-generation Spanish farmer. Labourdette is a soft-spoken academic — an ecologist and migratory bird expert — who teaches at a university in Madrid. But they're in business together — in the foie gras business.

When agricultural extension agent Tom Barber drives the country roads of eastern Arkansas this summer, his trained eye can spot the damage: soybean leaves contorted into cup-like shapes.

He's seeing it in field after field. Similar damage is turning up in Tennessee and in the "boot-heel" region of Missouri. Tens of thousands of acres are affected.

A wildfire on the central California coast has burned more than 38,000 acres and could continue throughout August. Already, the Soberanes fire has destroyed at least 60 homes, and one man died when a bulldozer he was driving near the fire line rolled over on steep terrain.

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WildEarth Guardians/Flickr 

Critics have long argued that the royalties coal companies pay for mining on US public lands are well below fair market values. Now, the Department of the Interior has moved to close a major loophole to address this criticism.

Leasing public land for coal extraction is a three-step process — and two of those steps are problematic for the public, says Michael Greenstone, a former chief economist for the Obama White House who now teaches at the University of Chicago.

Copyright 2016 WGBH Radio. To see more, visit WGBH Radio.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced criminal charges against six more people — including the state's former water quality chief — in connection with lead-contaminated water in the city of Flint.

All six people are current or former state employees in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

It's a balmy Sunday night in late June in San Francisco, post-Pride parade, and I'm about to eat dinner in a pristine blue dumpster in a dead-end SOMA (South of Market) street. The event, Salvage Supperclub, seeks to draw attention to food waste and encourage home cooks to not throw out less than ideal, yet still edible stuff.

A glance at the menu and the evening looks promising. The hosts are gracious, the guests friendly and the organizers earnest. The dumpster is simply but tastefully decked out: glass tea lights, long wooden benches, bar towel napkins.

Times are tough for Chesapeake oysters.

For one thing, they used to be bigger. "If you look at what people were saying back in the 1600s and 1700s about oysters, people had to cut them in half before they could even eat them," says Denise Breitburg, an ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

You Think It's Hot Where You Are?

Jul 28, 2016
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The Mendenhall Glacier is visible from the visitor center parking lot. But it's still pretty far and if you traveled all the way to Juneau, Alaska, you probably want to get up close to the blue tinted ice.

Touching the face of the glacier can be tricky. You're separated by cold, silty water, and a hike over the ridge could take hours.

Visitor center staff know that. And inside, they use it to prove a point.

Winter storms have been eroding coastal bluffs at California's Redwood National Park, and as the cliffs disappear, the buried remains of Native American archaeological sites are at risk for falling into the ocean.

One such site is called Summer Place, says Suntayea Steinruck, a member of the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation and a tribal heritage preservation officer. Her ancestors hunted and fished around what used to be a small village there.

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