Environment

Bertha Vazquez has taught earth science for more than 25 years.

"For many years I covered the basic standard, probably like most people in the country do," she says.

Then one day, she says, she decided to throw that all out the window after seeing former Vice President Al Gore speak at the University of Miami at a screening of An Inconvenient Truth, his documentary about climate change.

"And it really ... hit me. This is 2007 and, I've got to tell you, I lost sleep," Vazquez says.

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Native American leaders from around the country are here in Washington, D.C., today. They are here to meet with President Obama in what is his last Tribal Nations Conference.

The worst smallpox epidemic in Boston history was a turning point for control of the ferocious disease in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It also helped launch America's first independent newspaper and set the stage for the American Revolution.

That's according to a new book called "The Fever of 1721," by Stephen Coss. 

For all the international furor over genetically modified food, or GMOs, the biotech industry has really only managed to put a few foreign genes into food crops.

The first of these genes — actually, a small family of similar genes — came from a kind of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Those genes make plants poisonous to certain insect pests.

When Frances Moore Lappe wrote the best-selling Diet For A Small Planet back in 1971, she helped start a conversation about the social and environmental impacts of the foods we choose.

And, back then, what she had to say was revolutionary. Her idea that a plant-centered diet could be better for the planet — and our health — than a meat-centered diet was considered radical. "It was heresy," Lappe told me during a recent interview.

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Saudi Arabia is such an influential player in the oil industry that any action it takes — or is rumored to take — can sway global markets. So it's not surprising there's a lot of speculation about whether its massive state oil company, Saudi Aramco, is trying to buy a refinery in Texas.

Farmers Enlist Chickens And Bugs To Battle Against Pests

Sep 20, 2016

In an effort to turn away from chemical pesticides, which have the potential to damage the environment, some farmers are looking in a new direction in the age-old struggle against pests. They're warding off intruding insects and noxious weeds with bugs and chickens.

Highly polluted air is bad for your health — and that's particularly true when it's air full of small particles from coal-fired power plants, as studies going back for years have shown.

But just how bad? For the first time, there's a study that actually quantifies how many years of life expectancy are lost based on a given amount of particulate exposure.

I'm the health reporter covering the Zika story here at WLRN in Miami, and I'm a pregnant woman.

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott made free Zika testing available to all pregnant Floridians through the Florida Department of Health, I was one of the more than 2,200 women who took him up on the offer.

The team at Planet Money set out to buy 100 barrels of crude oil right from the source, and then follow it from ground to gas tank.

After a little cajoling, Jason Bruns, a part-time preacher, part-time oil man in southern Kansas, agreed to pump us some oil from one of his wells in a cow pasture.

When do you get to actually touch crude oil? Never. It's silky, like shampoo. Don't try this at home kids.

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No chemical used by farmers, it seems, gets more attention than glyphosate, also known by its trade name, Roundup. That's mainly because it is a cornerstone of the shift to genetically modified crops, many of which have been modified to tolerate glyphosate. This, in turn, persuaded farmers to rely on this chemical for easy control of their weeds. (Easy, at least, until weeds evolved to become immune to glyphosate, but that's a different story.)

Health workers are piecing together a complicated puzzle in El Paso County, Colo. In January, three cities — Security, Fountain and Widefield — noticed synthetic chemicals known as PFCs in the drinking water.

During the Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C., President Obama announced the creation of the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

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The floods that hit Louisiana last month were caused by rainfall that was unlike anything seen there in centuries. Most of the southern part of the state was drenched with up to 2 or 3 inches in an hour. A total of 31 inches fell just northeast of Baton Rouge in about three days; 20 parishes were declared federal disaster areas.

Climate scientists and flood managers suspect there could more like that to come — in Louisiana and in other parts of the country.

From anthrax outbreaks in thawing permafrost to rice farms flooded with salty water, climate change seems to play a bigger and bigger role in global health each year.

The 10th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was an odd one: When the National Weather Service announced the formation of Tropical Storm Julia in northeastern Florida on Tuesday night, it marked one of the few known instances of such a storm developing over land rather than open water.

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The debate over the construction of an oil pipeline near a Native American reservation in North Dakota is now a national issue.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in Native American language).

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In North Dakota, work has stopped on one section of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. Still, over the weekend protesters continued to stream into camps set up near the construction site.

One protest camp is about an hour's drive south of Bismarck. A prairie there is covered with tepees, tents and RVs. Flags from tribes around the country line the dirt road into the camp.

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Louisiana Flooding Swamps Agriculture

Sep 10, 2016

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The Camp of the Sacred Stone is full of all manner of people — kids, elders, lawyers, laid-back hippies, and representatives of several Native American tribes — all gathered alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to resist construction of a controversial oil pipeline that would cut across the American heartland.

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