Environment

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We expected the cold. It was, after all, the Winter Olympics.

But the wind is what has made an impression on many of us visiting Pyeongchang. It's even caused competition schedules to be rewritten.

For a string of days last week, the wind blew steady at 15 to 20 mph, with gusts of 45 mph. Concession stands and security scanners were toppled; temporary tents were blown away.

On the worst day, it looked as if a massive dust storm had descended. Three days later, we were still shaking sand out of our boots.

Animals that live in the ocean communicate with sound — humpback whales, for example. But these voices could soon be drowned out by powerful sonic booms from vessels searching for oil and gas.

In the height of ski season this year, blades of grass and patches of dirt still dot cross country ski trails in Aspen, Colo. Conditions like this present a conundrum for professional skiers: Their livelihood relies on snow and cold temperatures, but essentials like travel and snow-making come with an environmental cost.

In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

Back in 1983, it seemed like a good idea.

Germany is considering free public transit in its cities in order to curb car use, as it hurries to meet the European Union's requirements for air quality.

In 2015, the top toxicologist for the state of Texas, Michael Honeycutt, was interviewed on Houston Public Radio. At the time, the Environmental Protection Agency was pushing for tighter limits on ozone, a type of air pollution that is hazardous for people with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

In Arkansas, there is a kind of David vs. Goliath battle underway over a weedkiller.

On one side, there is the giant Monsanto Company. On the other, a committee of 18 people, mostly farmers and small-business owners, that regulates the use of pesticides in the state. It has banned Monsanto's latest way of killing weeds during the growing season.

Terry Fuller is on that committee. He never intended to pick a fight with a billion-dollar company. "I didn't feel like I was leading the charge," he says. "I felt like I was just trying to do my duty."

California has a giant rodent problem.

To clarify, it's not that California has a huge problem with run-of-the-mill rats, it's that the state has an emerging problem with jumbo-sized critters.

Nutria, otherwise called Myocastor coypus, were thought to have been eradicated from the state's wetlands and rivers as far back as 1965, but they have mysteriously reappeared in three counties over the past year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Peter Tira told NPR.

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