Environment

Humans get along pretty well with most microbes. Which is lucky, because there are a lot more of them in the world than there are of us. We couldn't even live without many of them. But a few hundred have evolved, and are still evolving, to exploit our bodies in ways that can make us really sick. These are the microbes we call germs. Think plague, flu, HIV, SARS, Ebola, Zika, measles.

This is a series is about where germs come from. In this first of three episodes, we see what our early encounters with germs may have been like — and how germs first got the upper hand.

The U.S. Embassy in Chile says it is sending an additional $740,000 for protective equipment and firefighting tools, as the country continues to battle more than 70 active wildfires that have killed at least 11 people in the past two weeks.

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Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET on Feb. 1

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Tuesday that the acting secretary of the Army had directed the Corps of Engineers to "proceed with the easement" necessary for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In the coming year, scientists are hoping to reintroduce the Socorro dove to Socorro Island, a place where the bird has died out.

Socorro, the ancestral home of the dove, is part of an island group off the west coast of Mexico nicknamed the Mexican Galapagos.

In the 1920s, the California Academy of Sciences noticed island birds and animals were disappearing fast. So the academy sent an expedition to Socorro with instructions to bring back live doves.

An archaeologist has launched a citizen science project that invites anyone with an Internet connection to help look for evidence of archaeological site looting.

Mika Peck, a conservation ecologist at England's University of Sussex, was frustrated. He'd been researching and publishing papers for years on the near-extinction of the Ecuadoran brown-headed spider monkey, and not much was happening to change the primate's extremely threatened status.

Not much, that is, until he started connecting the monkeys to gourmet chocolate.

Can New DNA Science Help Keep Our Fish Safe?

Jan 29, 2017

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest, holding a small vial of clear liquid.

"We should be safe mixing it now, right?" he asks his colleague, Kevin Weitemier, above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seemingly choreographed movements, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers, mixing two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Donald Trump is not only the U.S. president; he's also a golf industry giant. And like other golf course operators, he has a stake in the legal wrangling over a new environmental rule that could dent industry profits.

Here's where Trump is different from his peers: He gets to name the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and this week, the president may appoint a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, which soon will hear a case involving the environmental rule.

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Just as President Trump takes power promising to ramp up oil and gas production, a sudden resignation in a key agency threatens to put such projects on hold across the United States.

On Thursday, Norman Bay, one of just three current members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said he would resign effective Feb. 3, even though his term isn't up until next year. His announcement came shortly after Trump decided Bay's fellow commissioner, Cheryl LaFleur, would serve as the Commission's new chair.

"Rogue" accounts that have the look of those by real federal agencies are spreading like wildfire on Twitter.

The AltUSNatParkService Twitter account has gained more than 1 million followers and inspired the creation of many more "unofficial resistance" accounts for specific national parks and other entities, including accounts like Rogue NASA and AltUSForestService.

The government of Chile says wildfires that have killed at least 10 people are the worst blazes in the country's history.

Several firefighters are among the dead.

"We have never seen anything on this scale, never in the history of Chile," President Michelle Bachelet said earlier this week, after her administration declared a state of emergency. "The truth is that the forces are doing everything humanly possible and will continue until they can contain and control the fires."

The company that wants to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline says it has submitted a new permit application to the U.S. State Department.

The TransCanada announcement came just two days after President Trump took executive actions to speed the approval process for both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

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While the world becomes more wired through laptops, tablets and mobile phones, a mountain of electronic waste — or e-waste — is also growing. The greatest contributor to that stock of e-waste is Asia, according to a report published last week from United Nations University.

This week, President Trump's transition team put new restrictions on government scientists' freedom to communicate. The restrictions are being characterized as temporary, and some have already been lifted.

Heavy precipitation is erasing years of extremely dry conditions in parts of California, with the latest federal report showing that just over 51 percent of the state remains in drought — and no areas have the worst rating, "exceptional drought."

An underground pipeline that runs through multiple Midwestern states has leaked an estimated 138,000 gallons of diesel fuel, according to the company that owns it, Magellan Midstream Partners.

Clay Masters of Iowa Public Radio reported diesel leaking from a 12-inch underground pipe was initially spotted in a farm field in north-central Worth County, Iowa, on Wednesday morning. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Iowa Department of Natural Resources joined representatives of Magellan and other local officials at the site, Masters reported.

If Twitter accounts fall silent in the woods, can they still make a sound? Turns out, yes — lots.

Tuesday afternoon, a new Twitter account called "AltUSNatParkService" appeared and began tweeting out facts about climate change, support for the National Parks and comments in opposition of President Trump, who has called climate change a hoax created by China.

There have been no executive orders yet to undo President Barack Obama's signature climate plan, but many officials and environmental groups consider it as good as dead. The Clean Power Plan is on hold while a legal battle plays out, and even if an appeals court upholds it — a decision could come any day — the Trump administration is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The state of New York decided to forge ahead anyway. Like a number of other mostly liberal states, it is continuing with efforts to drive down the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

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Opponents who spent months resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline were disheartened by President Trump's decision Tuesday to "expedite" construction of the controversial project. Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, called the move "reckless and politically motivated." Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was "a slap in the face to Native Americans." Earthjustice, the law firm that represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, described it as "legally questionable at best" and vowed to take the Trump administration to court.

Tom Coleman is busy pruning branches off pistachio trees that aren't budding at an orchard just north of Fresno, Calif. He farms and manages more than 8,000 acres of pistachios across the state.

"Here's an example of some hanging down nuts from last year that just wouldn't come off because of the position on the tree, so we want to remove that," says Coleman.

Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency who want to publish or present their scientific findings likely will need to have their work reviewed on a "case by case basis" before it can be disseminated, according to a spokesman for the agency's transition team.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown is vowing to lead the nation on climate change, as the Trump administration pulls back. But the Trump administration could get in California's way.

In his annual State of the State speech, California Gov. Jerry Brown had one key message about climate change: perseverance.

"We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers," Brown said. "The science is clear. The danger is real."

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The Trump administration is pushing forward with plans for two major oil pipelines in the U.S., projects that sparked nationwide demonstrations and legal fights under President Barack Obama.

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