Environment

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Having just stepped into the shouting match over patents on genetically engineered crops, there are a few small things that I, too, would like to get off my chest.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's pay a visit now to one of the crucial parts of our country's ecosystem. Along U.S. coastlines, there are salt marshes that serve as nurseries for fish, crabs and other shellfish. They also protect coastal areas against flooding. Scientists warn that some salt marshes are disintegrating, and researchers have a pretty surprising theory about why that is. Here's NPR's Christopher Joyce.

Think you're part of the food-literati? True or false: 13 million more acres of farmland would be required to produce enough fruit and vegetables for the daily diets of all Americans to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines.

Scientists view climate change as one of the world's most pressing long-term problems. But the issue has barely surfaced in the U.S. presidential race. President Obama has taken steps to address climate change during his time in office. Republican challenger Mitt Romney would not make it a priority in his administration.

In fact, as Romney stood on the stage to accept his nomination at the Republican National Convention, he used global warming as a laugh line.

This chart offers another perspective on just how warm it was around the world last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

The agency has been keeping records since 1880 and the "average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for September 2012 tied with 2005 as the warmest September on record."

In previous elections, candidates from both parties have campaigned on pledges to be environmental presidents. This time, neither candidate is talking much about cleaning up the air or protecting scenic lands.

Instead, the debate has focused on whether and how much environmental regulations hurt businesses, especially the energy industry.

Mostly it's been GOP candidate Mitt Romney criticizing President Obama for what he sees as overzealous environmental regulations that strangle the economic recovery.

Environmental Rules

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IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. 21 years ago this week, way back in October of 1991 on the first-ever episode of SCIENCE FRIDAY, one of our show topics was the ozone hole, that bite out of the Earth's ozone layer caused by chemicals in our refrigerators, air conditioners, cans of hairspray. Our guest that day was the late Sherwood Rowland, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for his work on the ozone hole.

One way to measure greenhouse gases is simply to capture them at the source: You put an instrument on a smokestack, for example. Cities, however, are full of cars, buses, factories and homes that all use fuel or electricity. No one really knows how much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, comes from each.

Ecologist Kevin Gurney says he can find out.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In California, state officials are planning a multibillion-dollar environmental restoration of the inland delta near San Francisco Bay. There's only one problem: No one knows what the landscape used to look like. Ninety-seven percent of the original wetlands are gone, so the state is turning to historians for help.

This detective story begins on a sunny day in a dry field of corn, about an hour east of San Francisco.

Over the past 27 years, Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its live coral cover, and a type of starfish is partly to blame for the alarming decline. Mark Eakin, head of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, discusses how to save the world's largest coral reef system.

How much extra would you pay for local food? It's a familiar question. We face it practically every time we shop for groceries, either at the store or at the farmers market. But what about food that can save the lives of severely malnourished children?

Scientist Barry Commoner, a pioneer in environmental activism, died Sunday. Melissa Block speaks with Michael Egan, environmental historian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and author of the book, Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival: The Remaking of American Environmentalism.

As you take in your next breath of air, you can thank a form of microscopic marine life known as plankton.

They are so small as to be invisible, but taken together, actually dwarf massive creatures like whales. Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life.

"This invisible forest generates half of the oxygen generated on the planet," Chris Bowler, a marine biologist, tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

And, as climate change alters the temperature and acidity of our waters, this mysterious ocean world may be in jeopardy.

If you want to witness the health consequences of unsafe gold mining in northwestern Nigeria, the first thing you have to do is get to the mines

There's a crisis of severe lead poisoning near the mines that's killed hundreds of children and made thousands more sick.

A long, controversial investigation of a polar bear scientist has ended with his government employer saying it does not look like he engaged in any scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett is a wildlife researcher with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Department of the Interior. He and a colleague, Jeffrey Gleason, wrote an influential 2006 report describing apparently drowned polar bears floating in the Arctic, which they saw during a routine aerial survey of whales.

Photographer Robbie Shone used a lot of flashbulbs while photographing the famous French cave Gouffre Berger. A lot of flashbulbs — more than 600 in four trips.

To get an idea of the challenge of photographing inside a pitch black space, imagine firing your flash at a subject in a dark room. The result might look something like this. The foreground is harshly lit, while the background stays dark.

The Biology Of Birds Of Prey

Sep 28, 2012

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IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, the biology of raptors, moving from giant animals to the birds, we're going to talk about here in Boise. Just outside of town is the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. And that park has one of the highest concentrations of nesting raptors in the world, more than 20 different birds of prey, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, screech owls.

Cheatgrass, an invasive weed, is choking out native sagebrush in the Great Basin--and setting the stage for hotter, more catastrophic fires there. Jen Pierce, an expert on ancient fires, and Mike Pellant, of the Great Basin Restoration Initiative, talk about how fires are reshaping landscapes in the American West.

Mammoths and saber-toothed cats may be the most famous beasts of the Ice Age. But they shared the prairie with horses and camels, too--both of which evolved in North America and crossed the ice bridge into Eurasia, before disappearing here. Matthew Kohn and Christopher Hill talk about the lesser-known fauna of the Ice Age.

After one of the driest summers on record, recent rains have helped in some parts of the country. But overall, the drought has still intensified. The latest tracking classifies more than a fifth of the contiguous United States in "extreme or exceptional" drought, the worst ratings.

In some parts of the Lower Midwest, water-starved crops have collapsed, but the farmers have not. Farmers across the country are surviving, and many are even thriving. This year, despite the dismal season, farmers stand to make exceptionally good money, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A future in which a discarded cell phone dissolves into a landfill, rather than living on for thousands of years as garbage, may not be that far off. Melissa Block talks with John A. Rogers, a 2009 MacArthur Fellow and professor of engineering at University of Illinois, about his research into "transient electronics."

Can tigers and tourists coexist? The debate is rumbling through India, where the Supreme Court has temporarily banned tourism in core areas of the country's 41 tiger reserves. The unexpected and controversial ruling is aimed at protecting the last of India's 1,700 tigers.

Up until the late 1960s, big game hunters trod the forests of Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park, part of a sprawling tiger reserve southwest of Delhi. Under the court's recent ban, spotting one of India's big cats — a tiger or the more elusive leopard — inside the park is forbidden.

Near the mountain city of Potosi in the southern highlands of Bolivia, the cone-shaped peak of Cerro Rico stands as a 15,800-foot monument to the tragedies of Spanish conquest. For centuries, Indian slaves mined the mountain's silver in brutal conditions to bankroll the Spanish empire.

Today, the descendants of those slaves run the mines. But hundreds of years of mining have left the mountain porous and unstable, and experts say it is in danger of collapsing.

Arctic sea ice is in sharp decline this year: Last week, scientists announced that it hit the lowest point ever measured, shattering the previous record.

But it turns out that's not the most dramatic change in the Arctic. A study by Canadian researchers finds that springtime snow is melting away even faster than Arctic ice. That also has profound implications for the Earth's climate.

When it comes to farm raised fish, it doesn't pay to let them be lazy. Fish like wild salmon, tuna and eel are built for the vigorous swimming required during migration.

These fish are "uniquely adapted to a physiology of high levels of exercise performance," says Tony Farrell, who studies fish physiology in the University of British Columbia Zoology department. "Therefore when we put them in constrained environments and remove predators, the consequences are they become a little more like couch potatoes."

Cities and towns facing tight budgets have often neglected their cemeteries, an oversight that has left many of them in disrepair with broken fencing, crumbling gravestones, overgrown grass and persistent weeds.

But this summer, the Vermont town of Charlotte implemented a new strategy to both save money and keep grass in the town's graveyards under control, and it's a decidedly traditional way of doing it: Let goats and sheep do the work.

If you had a sudden urge to put a horn on your head, not use your knees and chew on some leaves, you may be catching the spirit of World Rhino Day. It's being celebrated all over the world with art shows, auctions, walk-a-thons and lectures with the theme of "Five Rhino Species Forever."

Residents of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, are engaging in a community-wide flushing of toilets today.

Is it a symbolic washing away of waste? A sign of protest? A commode "flash mob?"

None of the above.

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