Environment

Environment
2:48 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

Why Farmers Plan To Plant So Much Corn This Year

U.S. farmers anticipate planting the most corn since 1936, a total of 97.3 million acres. Farmers are hoping to rebuild their corn supplies after last year's drought. Chad Hart, economics professor at Iowa State University, explains why farmers intend to plant high amount of corn this season.

Shots - Health News
5:25 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

China's Air Pollution Linked To Millions Of Early Deaths

Men walk along a railway line in Beijing on Jan. 12, as air pollution reached hazardous levels.
Wang Zhao AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 2:25 pm

More than 1 million people are dying prematurely every year from air pollution in China, according to a new analysis.

"This is the highest toll in the world and it really reflects the very high levels of air pollution that exist in China today," says Robert O'Keefe of the Health Effects Institute in Boston, who presented the findings in Beijing this week.

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Shots - Health News
3:55 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Could Wind Turbines Be Toxic To The Ear?

A maintenance worker looks out over an off-shore wind farm in Liverpool, England in 2008. Some people are concerned about the potential health effects of noise from wind turbines.
Christopher Furlong Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 11:18 am

The U.S. is embracing wind energy, with wind turbines making up half of the new electricity added to the power grid last year. But a smattering of people who live near the turbines say they're a nuisance — and making them ill.

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Around the Nation
3:43 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

In Missouri, Days Of Drought Send Caretakers To One 'Big Tree'

This bur oak, called "The Big Tree" by Missouri locals, has been around for centuries. When a drought hit the state last year, the community came together to offer help and water for the iconic tree.
Courtesy of Christopher Starbuck

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 10:52 am

The devastating drought in the Midwest last summer is a story often told by the numbers, with statistics on large crop failures, days without rain and thousands of parched acres.

This story is also about a tree — a bur oak in rural Columbia, Mo., that everyone calls "The Big Tree." Although it's survived all kinds of punishments during its 350 years on the prairie, last year's record drought was especially tough.

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Science
2:03 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

The Buzz On Bees: Why Many Colonies Are Collapsing

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 2:57 pm

Bees have been dying off in increasing numbers over the past few years. Experts say that habitat loss and disease are the biggest culprits, and some believe that pesticides are to blame. NPR science correspondent Dan Charles explains the possible causes and what is being done to stop this trend.

The Salt
1:32 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

From Pets To Plates: Why More People Are Eating Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs on the grill
Courtesy of Curtiss Calleo

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 2:00 pm

You may best know the guinea pig as a nervous little pet that lives in a cage and eats alfalfa pellets.

Now, the rodents are increasingly showing up on plates in the United States.

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The Two-Way
1:31 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

James Hansen, NASA Scientist Who Raised Climate Change Alarm, Is Retiring

NASA scientist and climatologist James Hansen in 2009.
Christopher Furlong Getty Images

"After nearly half a century of research in planetary and climate science for NASA, James E. Hansen is retiring on Wednesday to pursue his passion for climate activism without the hindrances that come with government employment," The New York Times' Dot Earth blog writes.

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Business
3:23 am
Mon April 1, 2013

EPA's Push For More Ethanol Could Be Too Little, Too Late

A decal advertising E85 ethanol is displayed on a pump at a gas station in Johnston, Iowa.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 8:50 am

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could soon issue a final ruling that aims to force oil companies to replace E10, gasoline mixed with 10 percent ethanol, with E15.

This move could come just as widespread support for ethanol, which is made from corn, appears to be eroding.

Mike Mitchell was once a true believer in ethanol as a homegrown solution to foreign oil imports. He owns gas stations, and he went further than most, installing expensive blender pumps that let customers choose E15, E20 and all the way up to E85.

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Environment
6:11 am
Sat March 30, 2013

State Gives Example Of New Federal Gas Standards

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 10:34 am

The Environment Protection Agency has proposed new rules that will require cars to run on cleaner gas. The rules are intended to lower sulfur emission and reduce smog, and they'd go into effect in 2017. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports they're similar to standards in place in California.

Environment
4:46 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

EPA Proposes New Rule To Clean Up Gasoline And Reduce Smog

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 7:55 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule to clean up gasoline. The regulation would reduce ozone and other air pollutants by close to 30 percent. That would benefit 100 million people who now live in areas that at times have unhealthful air. NPR's Richard Harris reports.

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The Two-Way
3:15 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

U.S. Navy Funding Development Of Giant Jellyfish Robot

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 4:09 pm

We've already seen drones shaped like various animals, including humming birds and dogs. Next is one made to look (and swim) like a jellyfish.

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Environment
5:33 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Federal Budget Cuts Hamper Waste Cleanup At Washington Nuclear Reservation

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 6:38 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Washington State, radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is leaking from underground containment tanks. The site contains the leftovers from plutonium production, some from World War II, most from the Cold War. And it turns out the federal budget sequester is slowing the cleanup.

From Richland, Washington, Anna King of the Northwest News Network has that story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

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Latin America
3:59 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

From The Stone Age To The Digital Age In One Big Leap

Chief Almir of Brazil's Surui tribe attends a press conference with Google representatives in Rio de Janeiro last year. Chief Almir has brought technology to his previously isolated people, who now use smartphones to send photos of illegal logging in the Amazon.
Vanderlei Almeida AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 6:38 pm

In the heart of the Amazon in western Brazil, an Indian tribe called the Surui lived in the Stone Age as recently as the late 1960s. They wore loincloths, hunted monkeys with bows and arrows, and knew little of the increasingly modernized country in which they lived.

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The Salt
12:18 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Mapping The Microbes That Flourish On Fruits And Veggies

You call it salad. The bacteria call it home.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 1:06 pm

Deadly microbes like salmonella and E. coli can lurk on the surface of spinach, lettuce and other fresh foods. But many more benign microbes also flourish there, living lives of quiet obscurity, much like the tiny Whos in Dr. Seuss' Whoville. Until now.

Scientists at the University of Colorado have taken what may be the first broad inventory of the microbes that live on strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes and eight other popular fresh foods.

It turns out the invisible communities living on our food vary greatly, depending on the type and whether it's conventional or organic.

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The Salt
2:06 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Why Illinois Is Roaring Mad About Lion Meat

An Arizona restaurant sold lion meat burgers in 2010 in an attempt to drum up business during the World Cup soccer tournament held in South Africa.
Matt York AP

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 11:44 am

When we heard a few weeks ago that Illinois was considering banning lion meat, our first thought was, who's eating lion meat? And why Illinois?

Turns out, lion meat has been gaining traction among adventurous foodies who argue that the meat can be an ethical alternative to factory-farmed animals — if the meat comes from American-raised circus and zoo animals that were sent to the slaughterhouse in their old age.

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Education
3:31 am
Wed March 27, 2013

A Hot Topic: Climate Change Coming To Classrooms

For the first time, new nationwide science standards recommend teaching K-12 students about climate change.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 1:29 pm

By the time today's K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping. Now, for the first time, new nationwide science standards due out soon will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about the climatic shift taking place.

Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education says the lessons will fill a big gap.

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Opinion
2:12 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Op-Ed: It's Time To Beef Up The U.S. Coast Guard

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

As global warming accelerates, the Arctic Ocean melts and the U.S. Navy estimates that by 2035 it may be ice-free for a month each year - that will mean more activity through the Northwest Passage, the Arctic shipping route which is already busier than ever. In an op-ed in Foreign Policy, James Holmes argues if and when that icy expanse opens regularly to shipping, the Arctic will need policing like any other marine thoroughfare, and he nominates the United States Coast Guard.

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The Salt
6:08 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Are Agriculture's Most Popular Insecticides Killing Our Bees?

Workers clear honey from dead beehives at a bee farm east of Merced, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 10:42 am

Environmentalists and beekeepers are calling on the government to ban some of the country's most widely used insect-killing chemicals.

The pesticides, called neonicotinoids, became popular among farmers during the 1990s. They're used to coat the seeds of many agricultural crops, including the biggest crop of all: corn. Neonics, as they're called, protect those crops from insect pests.

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The Two-Way
12:40 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

President's Pen Establishes New National Monuments

Kayak at Sunset San Juan Islands.
Mark B. Gardner San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 1:53 pm

President Obama on Monday designated five new national monuments, including one in Maryland dedicated to anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman and another setting aside Washington state's San Juan Islands.

"These sites honor the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," President Obama said in a statement. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."

Here's a list of the new dedications:

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The Two-Way
6:17 am
Sat March 23, 2013

Coal And Coral: Australia's Self-Destructive Paradox

The city of Gladstone near the Great Barrier Reef is the world's fourth largest coal-export hub. Dredges, like one seen here, have turned the harbor brown as they work to expand the coal port.
Richard Harris NPR

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 5: A return to shore finds that people prefer cars to corals.

It's not every day you open an in-flight magazine and read an ad touting "spitwater pressure cleaners for the mining industry." Flip the page and you'll also see an ad cajoling you to "snorkel, sip, snooze" on the Great Barrier Reef.

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The Two-Way
10:58 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Scientists Use Antacid To Help Measure The Rate Of Reef Growth

Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science takes a water sample during his experiment out on part of the Great Barrier Reef. The water is slightly pink because his team is using a dye to trace an acid-neutralizing chemical as it flows across the reef.
Richard Harris NPR

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 4: Richard catches up with one of the gurus of climate science out on the reef.

Ken Caldeira loves a challenge, and he has a big one right under his feet. He's standing on an expanse of coral reef out in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. It's being washed with water as the tide streams over the reef, from a lagoon to the open sea.

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The Salt
6:28 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Did Congress Just Give GMOs A Free Pass In The Courts?

Farmers harvest a sugar beet crop in Gilcrest, Colo.
Matthew Staver Landov

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 2:58 pm

Tucked inside a short-term funding measure that Congress approved Thursday is a provision that critics are denouncing as a "Monsanto Protection Act."

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Environment
4:54 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Environmentalists, Drillers Reach 'Truce' For Fracking Standards

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 7:47 pm

A group of environmentalists and drilling companies has crafted a truce of sorts over the rapid spread of natural gas production in the Appalachian Basin. Four major drilling companies and several environmental groups have agreed on 15 voluntary standards for cleaner drilling practices.

The practices of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — when companies inject water laced with chemicals deep underground to split open rock formations and get the gas to flow faster — are transforming the rural region in the Eastern U.S. into a sprawling industrial zone.

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Science
2:12 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

The Abnormally Normal Science Of Sinkholes

In the spring of 1981, a woman's house and part of a car dealership were swallowed by a sinkhole in Winter Park, Fla.
AP

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 2:58 pm

When a Florida man vanished into a massive sinkhole that opened underneath his bedroom in February, the case garnered national attention. Every so often, tragedies like this put sinkholes in the spotlight.

Researchers say that minor sinkholes occur all the time around the world without much notice.

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Environment
2:10 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

'Temperature Rising': Will Climate Change Bring More Extreme Weather?

The Star Jet roller coaster sits in the water on Feb. 19 after the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J., collapsed from the forces of Superstorm Sandy.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

According to the historical record dating back to 1895, 2012 was the hottest year this country has ever seen. But it's not just that the temperature has risen — from deadly tornadoes to the widespread coastal damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, we seem to be living through a period of intensified and heightened weather extremes.

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The Two-Way
10:35 am
Thu March 21, 2013

It's 'Birds Gone Wild' Out On Australia's Heron Island

On Australia's Heron Island, buff-banded rails like this one have become the avian equivalent of a weed.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 11:01 am

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 3: Waiting for a boat to the next island, Richard meets some rowdy birds.

Weeds are not a true category of plant. A weed is simply a plant that's growing where a person wishes it weren't.

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Environment
4:58 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Massive Sinkhole In Louisiana Baffles Officials

After the collapse of a salt mine in south Louisiana last year, a 9-acre sinkhole has flooded the area. It also caused gas and oil leaks, and local residents are fed up.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 6:43 pm

Louisiana officials are grappling with a giant sinkhole that's threatening a neighborhood. A salt mine collapsed last year, creating a series of problems regulators say they've never seen before, including tremors and oil and gas leaks and a sinkhole that now covers 9 acres.

Residents have been evacuated for more than seven months now and are losing patience.

Ernie Boudreaux lives in a trailer on Jambalaya Street in Bayou Corne, La. Strange things have been happening to his home, he says.

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The Two-Way
10:49 am
Wed March 20, 2013

On Australia's Great Barrier Reef, There's A Turf Battle Raging

Guillermo Diaz-Pulido from Griffith University in Brisbane grows bits of seaweed attached to pieces of coral in tanks at the research facility on Australia's Heron Island.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 11:02 am

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 2: The good news is life could get better for seaweed.

Picture a coral reef and the first things likely to come to mind are brilliantly colored fish swimming among stout branches of coral. Let your mind wander a bit more and you might imagine some sea turtles, stingrays and sharks.

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The Two-Way
1:03 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Flush With Oil, Abu Dhabi Opens World's Largest Solar Plant

Rows of parabolic mirrors at the Shams 1 plant in Abu Dhabi.
Marwan Naamani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 2:34 pm

Abu Dhabi, the most oil-rich of the United Arab Emirates, is now home to the world's single-largest concentrated solar power plant.

The 100-megawatt Shams 1 plant cost an estimated $750 million and is expected to provide electricity to 20,000 homes, according to the BBC.

Why, you might ask?

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