Environment

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?

Afghan officials say more than 100 people died in avalanches over the weekend, after nearly 10 feet of snow buried some parts of the country around Kabul and east to the Pakistan border.

Dozens of houses were destroyed and "people were reported to have frozen to death, trapped in cars," according to the BBC.

Plants that feed on flesh have fascinated scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin, and researchers now have new insight into how these meat-eaters evolved.

Even plants that evolved continents away from one another rely on strikingly similar tricks to digest their prey.

A report from some of the top minds in environmental policy and economics is recommending a new way of evaluating the "social costs" of carbon pollution to keep up with the best available science.

Republicans want to eliminate one of the nation's newest national monuments.

Former President Barack Obama created the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah just days before he left office.

Dionisio Yam Moo stands about four-and-a-half-feet tall, and his skin is weathered from years in the tropical sun. A "proudly Mayan" farmer, he grows corn, beans and vegetables on a six-hectare farm in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. The farm is surrounded by dense tropical forest, and crops grow amid fruit trees in thin soil, with the peninsula's limestone bedrock protruding in places.

Updated Feb. 3 at 4:45 p.m. ET

On Thursday the GOP-controlled House voted to overturn an Obama administration rule designed to keep firearms out of the hands of some people deemed mentally ill.

The action was the latest move by congressional Republicans to undo several of President Obama's regulations on issues such as gun control and the environment through an arcane law called the Congressional Review Act.

Researchers in Hawaii have captured dramatic footage of a "firehose" of red-hot lava plummeting down a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, sending fragments of lava and clouds of gray smoke into the sky.

It's coming from the big island's Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since January 1983.

More than 70 people were arrested on Wednesday afternoon near the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, as Western lawmakers expressed opposing views on the future of the $3.8 billion project.

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.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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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