Environment

NPR Story
12:04 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Fires And Invasive Grass Threaten American West

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 2:02 pm

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.

NPR Story
12:04 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Ice Age Co-Stars: Horses, Camels And Cheetahs

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 1:59 pm

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.

Around the Nation
5:29 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Despite Record Drought, Farmers Expect Banner Year

With far less than half of their normal corn yield, the Ulrich brothers are relying in part on government-subsidized crop insurance to keep their farm afloat.
Frank Morris KCUR

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 12:39 pm

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.

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Technology
5:01 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Biodegradable Electronics Could End Toxic Trash

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 5:50 pm

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."

Animals
5:06 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Tourists Banned From India's Tiger Reserves

A tiger is seen in June 2008 at Sariska Tiger Reserve in the western state of Rajasthan, India, after being shifted from Ranthambore National Park. In an attempt to help revive western India's tiger population, a female tiger was airlifted to join a male at the national reserve.
AP

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 2:27 pm

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.

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Latin America
4:23 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Bolivia's Cerro Rico: The Mountain That Eats Men

Cerro Rico, or Rich Mountain, rises like a monument in Potosi, Bolivia. It has produced silver, and hardship, for centuries. Now it may be in danger of collapse.
Carlos Villalon for NPR

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 7:39 pm

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.

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Environment
5:51 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

As Arctic Ice Melts, So Does The Snow, And Quickly

Researchers say that springtime snow is melting in the Arctic even faster than Arctic ice. That means less sunlight is reflected off the surface. Bare land absorbs more solar energy, which can contribute to rising temperatures on Earth. Above, a musher races along the Iditarod in the Alaskan tundra in 2007.
Al Grillo AP

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 5:11 pm

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.

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The Salt
11:20 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Getting A More Svelte Salmon To Your Dinner Plate

An Atlantic salmon leaps while swimming inside a farm pen near Eastport, Maine. Studies show farm-raised fish, like people, benefit from exercise.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 5:01 pm

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."

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Around the Nation
4:18 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Vt. Town Hires Livestock To Save Money, Go Green

Charlotte, Vt., has a new, old-school strategy to keep cemetery grass cut: Let animals do the work.
Kirk Carapezza Vermont Public Radio

Originally published on Sun September 23, 2012 5:51 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
5:25 pm
Sat September 22, 2012

World Rhinocerous Day Pokes At A Serious Issue

Rhinos stand at a water hole in Mkomazi rhino sanctuary on in Mkomazi, Tanzania.
Chris Jackson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 1:39 pm

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."

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The Two-Way
11:20 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Synchronized Flushing In Zimbabwe Is Not A New Olympic Sport

Originally published on Sat September 22, 2012 2:10 pm

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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Science
6:36 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Chimney Rock Becomes Newest National Monument

A large sandstone feature in southwestern Colorado, Chimney Rock became America's newest national monument on Friday.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 6:53 pm

President Obama named a new national monument on Friday: Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado. With two sandstone spires soaring from a mesa, not only is Chimney Rock a spectacular place; it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient people who lived in that region more than 1,000 years ago.

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Environment
1:45 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

The Ugly Truth About Food Waste In America

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 2:42 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, an entirely different kind of food problem. Recycling paper and plastic, as you know, is an effective way to save money and energy. So why not recycle all the uneaten food that goes to waste? And there is an awful lot of it. Forty percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, which means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of 165 billion - with a B - billion dollars worth of food each year. But that's not all. Food waste, as it decays in landfills, also produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

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Energy
1:40 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Printing Solar Panels In The Backyard

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with our Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: What's in store for us this week?

LICHTMAN: I pretty much geeked out this week.

FLATOW: You geeked...

(LAUGHTER)

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Science
5:13 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Hungry Snakes Trap Guam In Spidery Web

Invasive brown tree snakes have gobbled up most of Guam's native forest birds. Without these avian predators to keep their numbers in check, the island's spider population has exploded.
Isaac Chellman Rice University

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 8:09 pm

The Pacific Island of Guam is experiencing a population explosion — of spiders.

There are more spiders there now than anyone can remember. To get a sense of how weird the situation is, I started out in Maryland. On my front porch, overlooking the Severn River.

At 6:30 in the morning on a cool fall day, I find two spider webs in a matter of five minutes. But if I were on the island of Guam, I might find 70 or 80 spider webs in five minutes.

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Science
4:16 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

What Drove Early Man Across Globe? Climate Change

An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.
DEA Picture Library De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 6:39 pm

Anthropologists believe early humans evolved in Africa and then moved out from there in successive waves. However, what drove their migrations has been a matter of conjecture.

One new explanation is climate change.

Anthropologist Anders Erikkson of Cambridge University in England says the first few hardy humans who left Africa might've gone earlier but couldn't. Northeastern Africa — the only route to Asia and beyond — was literally a no man's land.

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The Salt
3:44 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Shriveled Mich. Apple Harvest Means Fewer Jobs, Tough Year Ahead

A lonely Michigan apple.
Noah Adams NPR

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 2:42 pm

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what do you do when there are no apples? It's a question western Michigan's apple growers are dealing with this season after strange weather earlier in the year decimated the state's apple cultivation.

Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state's apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop.

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Energy
1:55 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Wind Power Plentiful, Study Says

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. How much of the world's energy needs could be met by wind power alone? Energy analysts are always quick to point out that the wind doesn't blow all the time, but it turns out that if you look worldwide, and you look up at the sky and not just at ground level, there's a lot of wind available, and that wind carries a lot of energy.

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NPR Story
1:49 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Field Trip To A Fungi Foray

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 2:10 pm

What happens at the Northeast Mycological Federation Foray? "Mushrooms only," according to attendee Gary Lincoff, an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and author of The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Science Friday stopped by the conference for mushroom talk, mushroom crafts, mushroom eats and a mushroom hunt.

Africa
1:56 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Gorillas And Guerrillas Share The Troubled Congo

Patrick Karabaranga, a warden at the Virunga National Park, plays with an orphaned mountain gorilla at the park headquarters in Rumangabo, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on July 17. The Virunga park is home to about 200 mountain gorillas, approximately a quarter of the world's population.
Phil Moore AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 11:19 pm

When crossing from Uganda into Congo at the shabby border town of Bunagana, I encountered a broadly smiling man in a black leather jacket named Hamid Kashaisha.

He asked if I wanted to see the gorillas. I replied that it's guerrillas — with guns, that is — that I wanted to see: the M23 rebels who, for the past two months, had occupied a piece of real estate in eastern Congo larger than Delaware.

That was no deterrence to the pitchman.

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Environment
5:18 am
Wed September 12, 2012

Arctic Ice At Lowest Level In Decades

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 9:28 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Here's some troubling news. Ice covering the Arctic Ocean has melted more dramatically this year than ever before. This year's loss of ice has exceeded the previous record by an area the size of Texas. NPR's Richard Harris reports.

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Science
5:52 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

'Astonishing' Arctic Ice Melt Sets New Record

Norman Kuring NASA/GSFC/Suomi

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 9:57 pm

Arctic sea ice has melted dramatically this summer, smashing the previous record. The Arctic has warmed dramatically compared with the rest of the planet, and scientists say that's what's driving this loss of ice.

To be sure, ice on the Arctic Ocean always melts in the summer. Historically, about half of it is gone by mid-September. But this year, three-fourths of the ice has melted away, setting a dramatic new benchmark.

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Environment
4:52 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Officials Combat Big Stink In Southern California

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 9:57 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Here are some descriptions of a foul smell that has stunk its way across a huge stretch of Southern California.

PAT STEVENS: Rotting fish, sewage, you know.

JOYCE THATCHER: It smells exactly like somebody's septic system overflowed.

SEAN NEALON: Like an old banana under the seat for, like, a week, and it just turns all black and gooey and, like, something's rotting.

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The Salt
3:48 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

How Oregon's Prized Pinot Noir Grapes Will Take The Heat Of Climate Change

Pinot noir grapes are notoriously finicky about the weather, and climate change has winemakers in Oregon thinking about the future.
Greg Wahl-Stephens AP

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 4:08 pm

Some grapes like it hot.

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NPR Story
1:29 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Arctic Sea Ice Melt Sets Record

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 2:46 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

Every summer, some of the ice that covers the Arctic Ocean melts. Come mid-September, it begins to refreeze. Scientists began to monitor this cycle in the late 1970s, and this year, they saw less ice than ever before - a lot less ice. NPR science correspondent Richard Harris joins us here in Studio 3A. Richard, nice to have you on the program.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Always a pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: And how big is this change?

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Shots - Health Blog
3:09 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

When Heat Kills: Global Warming As Public Health Threat

A man stands in a fountain in Washington Square Park on July 18, in New York City. Temperatures were expected in the upper 90's during another heat wave in the city.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 11:26 am

The current poster child for global warming is a polar bear, sitting on a melting iceberg. Some health officials argue the symbol should, instead, be a child.

That's because emerging science shows that people respond more favorably to warnings about climate change when it's portrayed as a health issue rather than as an environmental problem.

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Energy
1:59 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

Oregon Power Project Needs The Motion Of The Ocean

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

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NPR Story
5:24 am
Thu September 6, 2012

European Central Bank To Meet On Interest Rates

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 10:17 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When the European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting today, investors around the world will be watching nervously to see what the bank's head, Mario Draghi, says about interest rates. Draghi was recently quoted as saying he would do whatever it takes to keep Europe's debt crisis from growing out of control, and that could go beyond just cutting borrowing rates.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, any European Central Bank plan to use its resources to prop up Europe's weaker economies will face strong opposition from the Germans.

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Around the Nation
5:24 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Nesting Loons Help Researchers Track Toxins

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 10:17 am

Scientists have found that the aquatic birds are good indicators of toxins in the environment. That's why researchers have taken to the waters of western Maine for what's believed to be the longest-running loon monitoring study in North America.

Asia
1:15 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Vanishing Vultures A Grave Matter For India's Parsis

This image shows a Parsi Tower of Silence, circa 1955, near Mumbai, India. The bodies of the dead are left here to be disposed of by vultures.
Alice Schalek Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 7:42 pm

For any religion, keeping up traditions in the modern world can be a challenge. The Parsi community in India, however, faces a unique obstacle.

Parsis, who came to India from Persia (Iran) a thousand years ago with their Zoroastrian faith, have gone to great lengths to maintain their unique funeral rituals. But they've had to make a few adjustments to keep up with the times and to not upset the neighbors.

Parsi funerals begin in a way familiar to many faiths: prayers are chanted and mourners pay last respects.

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