Environment

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan.

Wander through one of this country's fine museums of natural history and you'll see animals you'll never see in a zoo: the wooly mammoth, the dodo bird, animals extinct for centuries. But for Stewart Brand extinct doesn't mean gone forever. He's working on a new project, "Revive and Restore," to de-extinct animals we never thought we'd see alive.

As the climate changes, scientists are documenting measurable shifts in the natural world — from a tremendous loss in Arctic sea ice and an increase in extreme weather like drought, floods and heatwaves, to the migration of plants and animals to new latitudes.

E.O Wilson and Sylvia Earle see the through very different lenses. Wilson started with his eyes to the ground, following ants as they lead him to the study of biodiversity and human nature. Earle dove into the Gulf of Mexico to focus on aquatic plants. That underwater view ultimately led her to study the relationship between degrading seas and life everywhere.

Anchorage is one of the few North American cities that depend on a glacier for most of their drinking water. The Eklutna glacier also provides some of the city's electricity, through hydro power. So a team of researchers is working to answer a very important question: How long will the glacier's water supply last?

To get that answer, those researchers have to shovel a lot of snow. "It gets to be the consistency of really strong Styrofoam once you get down, maybe six or eight feet," glaciologist Louis Sass says as he flings pristine snow out of a growing hole in the glacier.

The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was the biggest United Nations conference ever, but it may be one of the biggest duds. It produced no major agreements — just a vaguely worded declaration that has been widely derided.

More than 45,000 people registered for the event in Rio de Janeiro, but diplomats couldn't even agree about the meeting's objective until 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday, just before heads of state and other high-level delegates started arriving in Rio.

The federal government could soon give the final go-ahead for Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Shell has spent $4 billion since 2007 to prepare for this work, and is hoping to tap into vast new deposits of oil.

But the plan to drill exploratory wells is controversial — opposed by environmental groups and some indigenous people as well.

Beaches on the West Coast are getting a regular dose of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The first few items were curiosities — a boat here, a soccer ball there — but as the litter accumulates, officials such as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire have acknowledged the scale of the problem.

"We are in for a steady dribble of tsunami debris over the next few years, so any response by us must be well-planned — and it will be," she said.

Beyond the obvious problem of litter, officials are on the lookout for hidden dangers.

Debris 'Everywhere'

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit health advocacy organization, says you should be concerned about pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, but not so concerned that you stop eating these foods.

That's the mixed message delivered in the eighth edition of EWG's annual Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce released today.

Diplomats and activists from around the world are meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week to talk about how the planet's growing population can live better lives without damaging the environment. The Rio+20 meeting marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio, a watershed meeting to address topics as diverse as climate change and biodiversity.

At this follow-up meeting, delegates hope to highlight an issue that was almost absent from the Earth Summit: making energy available to everyone in the world.

Massive N.M. Fire Threatens Endangered Fish

Jun 18, 2012

Ash and charred debris from the largest wildfire in New Mexico's history are threatening the survival of the Gila trout. Biologists are trying to save the fish by using electroshock to temporarily stun the trout and re-locate it to a hatchery. The trout is an endangered species that can be found only in four streams within the Gila Wilderness. Melissa Blocks talks to Jim Brooks, Project Leader of the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, about his team's efforts to save the trout.

Ever wanted to just disappear into a secret garden of earthly delights, of twists and turns of evocative ruin, exuberant tropics, the Zen of a Japanese teahouse?

Consider Chanticleer, in Wayne, Pa. It's part of the old Main Line ring of estates around Philadelphia. In fact, right across the street from the garden is the former home of Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, the heiress portrayed by Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story.

Desktop Diaries: Sylvia Earle

Jun 15, 2012

A moray eel, a flock of geese and a shrunken head are just a few of the things found in and around Her Deepness' office. Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic, has desks all over the country. A few months ago we stopped by her Oakland home-base for the next installment in our Desktop Diaries series.

Is Density Our Destiny?

Jun 15, 2012

The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.

But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.

The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.

The Motivating Mantra Of 'Why Not?'

Jun 14, 2012

For a long time, Camille Seaman's mantra was: "Why not?"

Why not give up a seat on a flight in exchange for a voucher? Why not use that voucher to check out Alaska? Why not walk out on that thin ice? What's the worst that could happen?

"I think sometimes ignorance allows you a bravery and courage," she says on the phone, "where if you had known, you would never do it."

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The fires now raging in Colorado and elsewhere may be bad, but scientists studying the relationship between wildfires and climate change have this warning: In the coming years, they're probably going to get worse.

Copyright 2017 KUNC-FM. To see more, visit KUNC-FM.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Scientists on an expedition off the coast of Alaska found something they had long thought was impossible. Beneath two, three, even four feet of ice in the frozen Chukchi Sea, they found algae. Not just a little but a bloom that ran at least 60 miles wide. The team just published its findings in the journal Science.

Here to tell us why it's a big deal is the man who led the expedition, Kevin Arrigo, professor of environmental earth systems science at Stanford University. Professor Arrigo, thanks for talking with us.

Kristen Iversen spent years in Europe looking for things to write about before realizing that biggest story she'd ever cover was in the backyard where she grew up. Iversen spent her childhood in Colorado close to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory, playing in fields and swimming in lakes and streams that it now appears were contaminated with plutonium. Later, as a single mother, Iversen worked at the plant but knew little of its environmental and health risks until she saw a feature about it on Nightline.

A Damned Dam On The Penobscot River

Jun 9, 2012

Like most members of the Penobscot Nation, Scott Phillips grew up near the Penobscot River and learned to paddle and fish as a young boy. He took to it like a duck to water. He became a competitive racer and eventually opened his own business selling canoes, kayaks and other outdoor gear.

Next week, the first of two dams on the river will be removed, altering the way it's used recreationally. The change could also be a boon to Phillip's business.

Survivors say the wall of water was like a tsunami that destroyed nearly everything in its path as it roared through a Black Hills canyon and into town. The flash flood that hit Rapid City, S.D., on June 9, 1972, was one of the worst floods in U.S. history. It killed 238 people and damaged or washed away more than 1,300 homes.

On Saturday, the city will read the names of those who died and reflect on how the flood changed the way the city and others towns across the country built themselves.

'It Was Hell'

A bizarre event has drawn scientists to a beach in Oregon — a floating concrete dock from Japan has washed ashore. It had been ripped from its moorings by last year's tsunami and floated across the Pacific.

The dock is encrusted with mussels, barnacles and other marine life from Asia. Scientists are amazed these organisms survived the 14-month voyage, but they're also worried some of these organisms could become pests in U.S. waters.

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're still weeks away from the hottest and driest part of the year, and fire season is already well underway: Colorado, Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico. In a few minutes, we'll talk with a meteorologist who tries to forecast fire conditions, and we'll focus on the pilots who swoop through smoke and turbulence to drop retardant on wildfires. Two of them died in the crash of an elderly plane in Utah on Sunday.

Do Plastic Bags Bans Help The Environment?

Jun 5, 2012

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, during his long and varied career, Oscar winner Morgan Freeman has played everyone from soldiers to servants, from cowboys to criminals - not to mention the almighty. In a moment, he'll tell us what music he plays for inspiration. That's our feature we call In Your Ear, and it's just ahead.

Beset With Bedbugs? Don't Bother With Bug Bombs

Jun 4, 2012

Bedbug infestations can be maddening. So readily available bug bombs that fill the house with a pesticide fog are understandably tempting. But research shows they're not likely to work.

Writing in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers from Ohio State University say they tested three popular bug bomb products on five different populations of bedbugs, collected "in the wild" from homes around Ohio. All three products failed miserably.

It's hard to go a day without hearing people brag about how they eat local. In-the-know consumers wax poetic about their local farmers' markets, and some even make pilgrimages to meet their rancher, visit cows grazing and see pigs playing happily in the mud.

Lightning Bug Of A Different Color

Jun 1, 2012

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IRA FLATOW, HOST:

And now for our Video Pick of the Week. Flora's still here and positioned perfectly to take us on a safari.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: We're still on safari.

FLATOW: We're still on safari.

LICHTMAN: The safari continues, this time to slightly larger organisms. See if you can see with your naked eye, and maybe in your own backyard. These guys are glow-in-the-dark - I have you already, don't I?

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: Millipedes - which, I didn't know - let me - can I tell you the story of how this came about?

Scientists at the University of Leeds are exploring ways to use magnetic bacteria to build biocomputers of the future. Meanwhile, another group of researchers, reporting in Science, write that they have unearthed deep-sea microbe that live off nutrients from the dinosaur age.

Forget Big-Box Stores. How About A Big-Box House?

May 30, 2012

When it comes to architecture, sustainability and affordability can mean many things: Salvaged wood becomes new flooring, old newspapers are shredded into insulation.

But a few architects are taking green building one step further: creating entire homes and businesses out of discarded shipping containers — an approach some have dubbed "cargotecture."

Approximately a quarter-million shipping containers pass through Oregon's Port of Portland each year. These are big boxes — 40 feet long and weighing thousands of pounds.

April and May are fairly quiet times for Maine lobstermen and women, with the height of the summer season still a couple of months away. This year, strange things are happening on the ocean floor. Many of the lobsters have prematurely shed their hard shells, and lobstermen are hauling large numbers of soft-shelled lobsters much earlier than usual.

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