Environment

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Tonight, environmental activists celebrated at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Obama has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed pipeline which would've carried 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast had been under review for seven years.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The West Coast's historic drought has strained many Californians — from farmers who've watched their lands dry up, to rural residents forced to drink and cook with bottled water. Now, thanks to a blazing hot summer and unusually warm water, things are looking pretty bad for salmon, too – and for the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on them.

Preliminary counts of juvenile winter-run Chinook are at extreme low levels. These are salmon that are born during the summer in California's Sacramento River and begin to swim downstream in the fall.

English bursts with consonants. We have words that string one after another, like angst, diphthong and catchphrase. But other languages keep more vowels and open sounds. And that variability might be because they evolved in different habitats.

A region of southeastern Brazil is struggling to cope with a devastating flood, after two dams broke outside an iron ore mine and sent mineral waste and thick red mud over a large valley.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Brazil isn't lying to the world about how bad deforestation is in the Amazon. But it is, according to the very people employed by the government to protect the rain forest, "misleading" the international community.

According to the government figures, the rate of deforestation is down dramatically over the past decade. And there's a general consensus this is true. But critics say the numbers don't tell the whole story because so much of the Amazon has already been damaged or destroyed. And the country is still losing about 2,000 square miles of jungle each year.

New York's attorney general would like to know: Did Exxon Mobil lie to you about the risks of climate change and to investors about how those risks might reduce profits?

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office confirms that a New York Times story is correct in reporting that an investigation has been launched into Exxon Mobil. That story said Schneiderman issued a subpoena on Wednesday, seeking financial records, emails and other documents.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's getting harder to see the stars in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it's due to flares, drilling rigs and all the lights from the Bakken oilfield.

Since 2010, scientists with the National Park Service have measured a 500 percent increase in the amount of anthropogenic light there — no other national park in America has seen such a rapid increase in light pollution.

Kent Friesen is standing in a dark field in the North Dakota Badlands, peering into a huge telescope.

They call it the "burning season" in the Amazon, and when we arrive in Brazil's western state of Rondonia, it's on fire.

A thick, acrid smoke permeates everything, making it difficult to see. Fire, people say in Rondonia, is part of the culture of the state: The ash from the burned trees is the only way to make the land fertile, argue some. Others say fires are also started to simply clear land for cattle. Or to make space to build a house. Fire allows people to eke out a living off the land in the rain forest.

Episode 661: The Less Deadly Catch

Nov 4, 2015

Halibut fishermen in Alaska used to defy storms, exhaustion and good judgment. That's because they could only fish in these handful of 24-hour periods. It was called the derby, and the derby made fishing the deadliest job in America.

Today on the show, the economic fix that made fishing safer. And why a lot of people hate it.

On the show we introduce you to David Fry, the owner of the Realist halibut boat.

Note: This episode contains explicit language.

When cacao farmers like Emilio Rivera first heard of a government-backed initiative that would help them prune branches and leaves from their trees, they were skeptical.

After all, a lush cacao tree with more, not fewer, branches meant more profits, the farmers said. That's been the traditional way of thinking for generations of cacao farmers here in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

In this part of the Amazon rain forest, they call it "the war over wood."

It has front lines.

One of them is here, in Machadinho d'Oeste in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.

The self-described "Guardians of the Forest" defending the land don't look like fighters, at least when we first meet them. But they are pitting themselves against criminal logging gangs that have infiltrated their protected reserves.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

York County, Neb., is on Keystone's proposed route. Jenni Harrington's family has a farm there, and the pipeline would have and could still cut through it. Jenni Harrington, welcome back to the program.

JENNI HARRINGTON: Thank you very much.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

After spending years as a political football in the U.S., the Keystone XL pipeline's would-be builder is now asking for a timeout in the review process. Why now? Changing politics in the U.S. and Canada, falling oil prices and mounting pressure from environmentalists have marked a turnaround for the company, which had pushed for approval of the project, and its supporters.

Here are five things to know about where the pipeline stands now:

1. Geography gives the U.S. government a say

Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child's school telling you not to worry — that they're ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.

That's pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.

Landfill fires are pretty common, but this one is different. It's only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there's no barrier in between.

TransCanada, the company applying to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that is designed to run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, has suspended its U.S. permit application while it works with authorities to gain approval for its preferred route through Nebraska.

TransCanada has asked the State Department to pause its review of the application to build the project, The Associated Press reports.

Outside of Phoenix, in the scorching Arizona desert, sits a farm that Saudi Arabia's largest dairy uses to make hay for cows back home.

That dairy company, named Almarai, bought the farm last year and has planted thousands of acres of groundwater-guzzling alfalfa to make that hay. Saudi Arabia can't grow its own hay anymore because those crops drained its own ancient aquifer.

Reporter Nathan Halverson tells NPR's Renee Montagne that Almarai bought about 15 square miles in the Arizona desert.

The onset of the rainy season in Indonesia brings hope of extinguishing forest fires that have raged for weeks, spawning both an environmental and political crisis in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

This crisis, which recurs every year to some extent, extends deep into the country's politics and economics — and neither its causes nor symptoms will be easy to cure.

The Living and Dead in Good Company

Nov 1, 2015

Massachusetts’ Mount Auburn Cemetery is renowned as the final resting place for American luminaries including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fannie Farmer, and Charles Sumner. But as America’s first garden cemetery, it’s also a brief home for migrating birds every spring and fall. John Harrison and Kim Nagy, co-authors of the book Dead in Good Company: A Celebration of Mount Auburn Cemetery walk through the cemetery with host Steve Curwood and observe the wildlife and visit the deceased. (published October 30, 2015)

Greening Death

Nov 1, 2015

Each year, five million people die in the US. About half of them choose conventional burial and half choose cremation for their body, both methods that consume resources and pollute the air and earth. Now there’s a greener alternative on the horizon, the Urban Death Project. Katrina Spade, founder and executive director, explains Urban Death Project and tells host Steve Curwood how this environmentally-consciousness choice can bring meaning to death. (published October 30, 2015)

Beyond the Headlines

Nov 1, 2015

Peter Dykstra tells host Steve Curwood about some scary studies: one warns that some major cities will soon be hot as hell, and another cautions that processed meat is a carcinogen, and red meat is a suspected carcinogen. Then, we look athe efforts by some states to send the EPA’s new Clean Air Rules to the grave; and we take a look back on a humpback whale’s rise to fame thirty years ago. (published October 30, 2015)

Architects have long focused on ways to seal buildings up and make them more energy efficient, but new research demonstrates that good ventilation can be important for our cognitive abilities. Steve Curwood speaks with Harvard School of Public Health professor Joe Allen about the new study that documents the details and with John Mandyck of United Technologies about how the findings could influence the future of building design. (published October 30, 2015)

Building a Sanctuary for Endangered Bats

Nov 1, 2015

Bats around the country are struggling to cope with the invasive European fungus White Nose syndrome. But writer Don Mitchell is trying to help by turning his farm into a sanctuary for the endangered bats that live on his property. Living on Earth’s Emmett FitzGerald reports from the Champlain Valley of Vermont. (published October 30, 2015)

Living on Earth: October 30, 2015

Nov 1, 2015

Better Office Air Makes For Better Thinking / Building a Sanctuary for Endangered Bats / Greening Death / Beyond the Headlines / The Living and Dead in Good Company

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