Environment

The Smoggy Seas: Cargo Ships Bring Pollution, Health Risks

Jul 19, 2016

"Made in China" labels have multiplied over the past decades — and so have the trade ships docking in East Asian ports.

More shipping containers go through Shanghai than any other port in the world — and most of the world's 10 busiest ports are in China. Asian ports loaded or unloaded almost 50 percent of shipped goods in 2013, according to a U.N. report.

In the summertime, the air is thick with the low humming of bees delivering pollen from one flower to the next. If you listen closely, a louder buzz may catch your ear.

The air conditioner at Jim and Julie Powell's house has been fending off the 100-degree summertime heat for two decades — ever since they came to the Sun City retirement community just west of Phoenix.

"It's been a workhorse," Julie says. "It's probably 20 years old, but it does the job."

Inside, Jim leafs through their summer bills from the power company Arizona Public Service, or APS. He counts: "$183, $262, $250."

Steep, but predictable. Ever since he's heard about a new fee, though, he's begun to worry.

The first time he encountered a tiger shark in the water, marine ecologist Neil Hammerschlag was in the Bahamas conducting research. His team was on a boat and hadn't seen many sharks, so when someone yelled, "Tiger shark!" he grabbed his snorkel gear and camera and jumped into the water.

"One [tiger shark] moved right in toward me and came close," Hammerschlag tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "It opened its mouth, and I was looking through its mouth down its gut and seeing its gills from the inside."

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

A quick consultation with Dr. Google will tell you that drinking lots of water — and staying well-hydrated — can help you lose weight.

But is there any truth to this? A new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine adds to the evidence that hydration may play a role in weight management.

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

In northern New York state, logger Greg Hemmerich and his crew are clearing out an old pasture at the edge of a forest.

"There's a lot of balsam, lot of spruce, thorn apple trees," Hemmerich says. "Ninety percent of this lot is low-grade wood."

In other words, it's no good for furniture or paper or sawmills. But he'll make $80,000 to run the wood through a chipper and truck the chips to a nearby biomass plant.

"Everybody said that green power was supposed to be the wave of the future," Hemmerich says. "So I went full in."

The way clouds cover the Earth may be changing because of global warming, according to a study published Monday that used satellite data to track cloud patterns across about two decades, starting in the 1980s.

Clouds in the mid-latitudes shifted toward the poles during that period, as the subtropical dry zones expanded and the highest cloud-tops got higher.

About a hundred miles north of Miami on the Atlantic Coast, the town of Stuart is a picturesque waterfront community — with homes, restaurants and parks overlooking the St. Lucie Estuary. But in many areas now, when you approach the water, the first thing you notice is the smell.

"There's no way to describe it," says John Skinner, a boat salesman in Stuart.

But he still tries. "I would say hundreds of dead animals that have been baking in the sun for weeks."

Roundup, the most commonly-used pesticide in the world, faces an existential crisis.

Ever since the World Health Organization in 2015 declared glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, a probable carcinogen, European regulatory agencies have been rethinking its future.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Outside Susan Holmes' house in southeastern Oklahoma, visitors are welcomed by an entryway lined with oxygen bottles and a machine that collects and concentrates oxygen from the air.

"I take two inhalers twice a day," Holmes says. "And I have a nebulizer that I use four times a day, and I use oxygen at night."

She says her asthma returned when she moved to Bokoshe, a decaying town of about 500 people that is flanked by old coal mines. The huge pits have now been filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash.

Forty years ago, the National Audubon Society began Project Puffin, an attempt to restore the threatened seabird to its native nesting islands off the coast of Maine. Today, you can watch their success live on the internet. 

From Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, a live video stream shows puffins raising chicks in an underground burrow and hanging out on the rocks. These weatherproof cameras provide an intimate look into the homes and lives of puffins.

Robert Sauchelli doesn't have a solar panel, but he's all for the idea — before he retired, he devoted 21 years to energy efficiency work at the Environmental Protection Agency. To show his support, Sauchelli has been paying an extra 7.4 cents per kilowatt-hour to a clean power company, called Green Mountain Energy, through his energy supplier in Brooklyn, Con Edison.

Adelie Penguins In Danger

Jul 3, 2016
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A massive bloom of blue-green algae has hit four southern Florida counties, blanketing beaches in foul-smelling muck and raising health and environmental concerns.

Why Are Diamonds Worth So Much?

Jul 2, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Paris was at the forefront of public bike-sharing schemes, and it now has electric car-sharing schemes and is something of a laboratory for mobility. As of today, motorists with cars built before 1997, and motorcycles built before 2000, will no longer be able to drive them in the city during daylight hours on weekdays.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says keeping old cars out of the city will help lower pollution levels. But not everyone is happy about it.

Environmentalists are demanding that one of the most prized fishes on the planet be listed as an endangered species.

Last week, about a dozen environmental groups — including Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice — formally petitioned the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to consider listing the Pacific bluefin tuna as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. That status mandates the highest levels of protection from harm.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

As the water recedes in West Virginia, residents are taking stock of their losses. At least 23 people died in massive floods that swept across the southeastern part of the state on Friday.

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

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

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

Copyright 2016 West Virginia Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

23 Killed In Historic West Virgina Flooding

Jun 25, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

People talk about a flash of inspiration. But Xavier Helgesen's eureka moment came in the dark.

A few years ago, the American entrepreneur was traveling through Malawi to meet with clients for his book-selling company, Better World Books. He stopped in Monkey Bay, a town of about 30,000 people, to spend the night. What made this place unforgettable, he says, was that it was "100 percent off-grid."

During his daily bus commute in the bustling Indian city of Hyderabad, there was something that really bothered Narayana Peesapaty.

"Everybody was eating something on their way to work," says Peesapaty, who was working as a sustainable farming researcher for a nonprofit organization at the time. But it wasn't his fellow bus riders' snacking habits that troubled him. It was their plastic cutlery.

After 71 hours and 8 minutes of flight time crossing the Atlantic, Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in Seville, Spain. It's a major step toward the team's goal of circumnavigating the globe using only the sun's power.

The end of this leg means they've now completed 90 percent of that journey.

As The Two-Way has reported, the single-seater plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday with pilot Bertrand Piccard at the controls.

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