Environment

You know those nasty brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple? Those spots and other problems — like blossom blight and yellow leaves — are often caused by fungi. Apple growers usually fight back with fungicides, but a new study has found that those fungicides could be hurting honey bees.

"The long-standing assumption is that fungicides won't be toxic to insects," says May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

After two days of round-the-clock work to control water flowing over the Oroville Dam in Northern California, people who live downstream of the structure are allowed to return to their homes, officials announced Tuesday.

Nearly 200,000 people were affected by evacuations after water scoured enormous holes in two of the dam's concrete spillways beginning Sunday, raising concerns that the tallest dam in the country could fail.

In the world of electric cars, there's a chicken-and-egg problem: More people might buy electric vehicles, or EVs, if they were confident there would always be a charger nearby. And businesses might install more chargers if there were more EVs on the road.

The world is in a hyperinfectious era. And that means there are a lot of words being tossed around that you might not be familiar with. Or maybe you have a general idea of what they mean but wish you knew more.

Here are some key terms and definitions. And yes, there will be a quiz (coming in March so you have time to study).

Pygmy elephants. Monkeys with noses the size of beer cans. And a deer so small you could cradle it like a baby.

And right there, sitting on a leaf, is the strangest bug we've ever seen.

"Check out the size of it," says virus hunter Kevin Olival as he picks up a ginormous roly-poly. "It's the size of a ping-pong ball!"

Most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about what the farmed seafood we eat might itself be eating. The answer is usually an opaque diet that includes some kind of fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is usually made from ground-up, bony trash fish and forage fish — like anchovy, menhaden or herring — that nobody is clamoring for, anyway.

Except researchers now say these are the very types of fish that may be more valuable to humans who eat them directly, rather than being diverted toward aquaculture and other uses.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is now hitting the market, could be the first of a new wave of game-changing electric vehicles.

Its longer range and lower price could attract new buyers to the electric car market, but there's uncertainty over whether federal tax incentives will continue and whether California will be allowed to keep tougher emissions rules under President Trump.

The Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific is the deepest part of the world's oceans. You might think a place that remote would be untouched by human activity.

But the Mariana Trench is polluted.

At its deepest — about 7 miles down — the water in the trench is near freezing. The pressure would crush a human like a bug. Scientists have only recently explored it.

The other day, in Puerto Rico, I stumbled across one small piece of an agricultural revolution. It didn't look all that revolutionary — just an abandoned sugar plantation where workers are clearing away a mass of grass, bushes and trees in order to create better pasture for cattle.

The area around a huge dam at California's second-largest reservoir is in a state of emergency, with some 180,000 residents ordered to evacuate the area Sunday out of fears that part of Oroville Dam could fail. A glimmer of hope arrived late Sunday night, when officials said water had finally stopped pouring over the dam's emergency spillway.

The secondary spillway was in use because the main spillway had developed a huge hole, stressed by the need to release water accumulated from California's wet winter — and brought to a new crisis point by last week's heavy rains.

A Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City debuted a new dish last week that's getting a lot of buzz. It's a burger made entirely from plants.

This isn't just another veggie knock off. The rap is that this burger looks, cooks and even bleeds like the real thing.

The Impossible Burger, as it's known, is the culmination of a dream for Pat Brown. For 25 years, Brown was a professor at Stanford University. He was one of the stars in his field, studying a range of biomedical topics.

"Genetics and genomics ... cancer research — nothing to do with food," says Brown.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

About a 15-minute drive east of St. Louis is a complex of earthen mounds that once supported a prehistoric city of thousands. For a couple of hundred years, the city, called Cahokia, and several smaller city-states like it flourished in the Mississippi River Valley. But by the time European colonizers set foot on American soil in the 15th century, these cities were already empty.

The Environmental Protection Agency's presence at an environmental conference in Alaska this week was cut in half, after the Trump administration's transition officials ordered the change. The agency had helped to plan the Alaska Forum on the Environment — but days before it was to start, word came that half of the EPA's 34 planned attendees wouldn't be making the trip.

Getting people to change what they eat is tough. Changing a whole farming system is even tougher. The southern Indian state of Karnataka is quietly trying to do both, with a group of cereals that was once a staple in the state: millet.

Until about 40 years ago, like most of India, the people of Karnataka regularly ate a variety of millets, from finger millet (or ragi) to foxtail millet. They made rotis with it, ate it with rice, and slurped it up at breakfast as porridge.

With the Dakota Access Pipeline now cleared to cross under a reservoir in the Missouri River, one of the two Native American tribes fighting the pipeline has filed a legal challenge to the plan, according to the Associated Press.

An explosion at the compound of the Flamanville nuclear power plant was "a significant technical event but it is not a nuclear accident," an official tells local media. A fire that was also reported in the engine room where the explosion hit is now reportedly under control.

Ten thousand years ago, at the dawn of the agricultural revolution, many of our worst infectious diseases didn't exist.

Here's what changed.

It was a familiar scene for many in New Orleans East, part of the city's Ninth Ward.

"As helicopters hovered overhead and emergency response vehicles streamed into neighborhoods, it reminded them of [Hurricane] Katrina," reported Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO in New Orleans. "The area was hit hard by that storm, and now many families will have to rebuild again."

Colin Curwen-McAdams opens the door to his greenhouse in Mt. Vernon, Wash., and a rush of warm air pours out.

"Basically, it's summer all year long here," he jokes.

Curwen-McAdams, a PhD student at Washington State University, and WSU professor Steven Jones have developed a new species: a cross between wheat and its wild cousin, wheat grass. They call it Salish Blue. Their goal was to make something that's like wheat but grows back year after year.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, paving the way for construction of the final 1.5 miles of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline.

In doing so, the Army cut short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

U.S. energy policy is going through a big change under President Trump.

During President Barack Obama's term in office, much of the focus was on addressing climate change and renewable energy. Trump is focused on fossil fuels and putting people to work extracting them.

Read Donald Trump's "America First Energy Plan," and it's a lot like part of his speech before Republicans gathered in Philadelphia last month.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET

A wall of dangerous storms is moving across the South, threatening communities in their path with high winds, severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

For the first time in more than a century, plains bison are roaming in Canada's oldest national park. Banff National Park is hailing their return as a "historic and cultural triumph."

Helicopters lower the shipping containers carrying bison into a valley, in video posted on CBC. Then the doors of the containers swing open and bison charge into the park where they have deep historical roots.

If you're a germaphobe, make sure you're sitting down.

Back in 1999, a woman in California cleaned up rodent droppings in her home. Two weeks later, her liver started failing. Then she started to bleed internally — a hemorrhagic fever that would kill her. Eventually doctors found a new virus in her body, which very likely came from a rat.

In the foothills of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, a gravel road leads to a 10-foot-tall fence. Type in a key code, and a gate scrapes open. Undo a chain to get behind another. Everything here is made of metal, because the residents of this facility are experts at invasion and destruction.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says wildfires that killed at least 11 people and caused more than $300 million in damage are mostly under control.

"[These are] the worst wildfires that Chile has suffered in its history ... [but] are now mostly under control," Bachelet said over the weekend, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. "That doesn't mean, however, that we are letting down our guard."

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don't know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.

This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters' synthetic microfibers?

Pages