Environment

The Salt
3:06 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Turning Food Waste Into Fuel Takes Gumption And Trillions Of Bacteria

The digester eggs at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn contain millions of gallons of black sludge.
Courtesy of New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 1:12 pm

Every year, Americans send millions of tons of food to the landfill. What if you could use all of those pizza crusts and rotten vegetables to heat your home? That's already happening in one unlikely laboratory: the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn.

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The Salt
3:18 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Why We Should Quit Tossing Fish Heads And Eat 'Em Up Instead. Yum!

The head of a cabezon fish prepared by the author.
Alastair Bland for NPR

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Environment
12:10 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

WIR 03-07-2014

Robotics

Amy Davis, Program Manager of NASA's Robotic Alliance Project at Wallops

NASA ROBOTICS

Wallops Flight Facility Education Office

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Environment
9:41 am
Fri March 7, 2014

WIR 02-28-2014

Caroline Massey, assistant director for management operations at Wallops Island.

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Parallels
3:17 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Seeking Energy Independence, Europe Faces Heated Fracking Debate

Many countries in the European Union are drawn to the benefits of fracking: cheap energy and energy independence. But many Europeans, including these protesters standing outside EU headquarters in Brussels, object to the practice on environmental grounds.
Virginia Mayo AP

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 11:39 am

While watching the turmoil in Ukraine unfold, you may feel as though it has little to do with the United States, but the conflict is stirring a contentious debate in Europe over a topic familiar to many Americans: fracking.

Much of the continent depends on Russian natural gas that flows through pipelines in Ukraine. European countries are asking themselves whether to follow the U.S. example and drill for shale gas.

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Asia
4:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Chinese Superstar Lifts Ivory Cause Onto His Shoulders

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 7:50 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Chinese leaders and lawmakers are huddled in Beijing for the annual session of parliament, and one man towers above the rest. That's because he's seven feet, six inches tall. The former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming is one of China's best-known athletes. He's also in his second year as a member of China's nominal Upper House of Parliament.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn has this report from Beijing on the former basketball star's foray into law and politics.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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The Salt
1:31 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

How Yosemite Keeps Its Bears' Paws Off Campers' Hamburgers

Researcher Jack Hopkins used barbed-wire snares to collect hair samples from bears in Yosemite. Analysis of isotope ratios in hair samples showed how much of the bears' diets came from human food.
Courtesy of Jack Hopkins

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 2:33 pm

One of the great joys of camping out in a national park is chowing down by the fire. But campers aren't the only ones drawn to burgers and s'mores roasting over an open flame, beneath a mass of twinkling stars.

Those rich aromas can also prove irresistible to the local critters. From bears to foxes to coyotes, biologists have documented wildlife getting irrevocably hooked on our food and food waste. And for good reason: Our food is way more calorie-rich — and thus, better for making babies — than the standard black bear fare of insects and leaves.

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Around the Nation
5:12 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Law Aims To Keep Chicago From Becoming Petcoke Dumping Ground

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 8:39 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Refineries looking for a place to store an ashy petroleum byproduct called pet coke can cross Chicago off their list. A new, tough city ordinance bans new storage facilities and prevents existing ones from expanding.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Before pet coke is shipped overseas where it's burned as fuel, huge piles of it are often stored in open air facilities. Residents in Detroit complained so much about swirling pet coke dust, it ordered a company to move the piles out.

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Environment
4:35 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

With Waste Dump Closed, Where To Put Nuclear Leftovers?

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:42 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In New Mexico, the nation's only nuclear waste dump is closed. It's been several weeks since radioactive material was detected in the air at the site. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, the incident is shaping up to be yet another setback in the quest to find a home for America's nuclear waste.

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Environment
4:35 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Even After The Floods, The Drought Continues

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:42 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Here's some good news about the water situation in Northern California: More rain is falling today. San Francisco has seen eight inches over the past week and down south, L.A., has seen four. That's more rain than those two cities received over the whole past year. But the drought is still on and is still severe. And California's farmers are still looking at a bleak situation.

Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

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The Salt
11:53 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Chipotle Says There's No 'Guacapocalypse' Looming

An employee prepares to make fresh guacamole at a Chipotle restaurant in Hollywood, Calif.
Patrick T. Fallon Bloomberg

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 3:16 pm

Looks like reports of a looming "guacapocalypse" have been vastly overstated.

This morning, guacamole lovers woke to headlines warning that Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle could eventually be forced to drop the dip from its menu, if changing global weather patterns continue to drive volatility in the price of avocados.

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Around the Nation
5:09 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Wind River Indian Reservation's Borders Are Disputed

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 2:44 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

In Wyoming, the borders of the Wind River Indian Reservation recently grew by about a million acres, thanks to a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency. Tribes on the reservation see the EPA's action as righting a historical wrong, but the state is fighting the move. Wyoming Public Radio's Irina Zhorov reports.

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The Two-Way
12:57 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Virus Locked In Siberian Ice For 30,000 Years Is Revived In Lab

This electron microscope image provided by researchers shows a section of a Pithovirus particle, dark outline, inside an infected Acanthamoeba castellanii cell.
Julia Bartoli, Chantal Abergel AP

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:27 am

Scientists at a laboratory in France have thawed out and revived an ancient virus found in the Siberian permafrost, making it infectious again for the first time in 30,000 years.

The giant virus known as Pithovirus sibericum was discovered about 100 feet deep in coastal tundra. The pathogen infects tiny amoebas — simple, one-celled organisms.

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The Two-Way
10:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Nepal Cracks Down On Messy Everest Climbers

A Nepalese Sherpa collecting garbage, left by climbers, at an altitude of 26,250 feet during a special Everest clean-up expedition.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 12:08 pm

As Everest climbing season gets started this week, Nepal is enforcing a rule for scaling the world's tallest mountain that might sound like it came from your mother: Pick up after yourself.

While it's technically not a new rule, it has rarely if ever been enforced.

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The Two-Way
10:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Divers Find 65-Foot Crack In Columbia River Dam

Divers found a 2-inch-wide crack at the bottom of the fourth spillway pier from the left in this photo of the Wanapum Dam.
Grant County Public Utility District

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 11:39 am

A large dam in Washington state has a 65-foot-long crack below its waterline, say officials who are planning repairs at the Wanapum Dam, which is owned by a county utility. Divers found the 2-inch-wide crack that runs sideways after an engineer noticed an odd curve in a conduit near the dam's roadway.

Officials have said the public is not at risk.

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The Salt
5:12 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

Even In A Desert, Drought Spells Trouble For Ranchers

No snowpack, no hay: In the northern Nevada, cattle feed is getting hard to come by, as sources of water diminish in supply.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 2, 2014 7:09 pm

In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.

Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.

This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.

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Around the Nation
7:20 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Throw Me Something (Again), Mister: Mardi Gras Beads Revived

Beads are essential to celebrating Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, but what happens to the tokens when the revelry ends?
Sean Garnder Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sun March 2, 2014 11:30 am

In Louisiana, Mardi Gras comes each year with dozens of parades filled with marching bands, colorful floats and parade-goers who scream, "Throw me something, Mister!"

That "something" the crowd wants are beads. The goal of any Mardi Gras parade is to catch as many as possible. After the revelry, people often have so many beads around their necks they can barely turn their heads.

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The Two-Way
12:26 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Creation Museum: Bill Nye Debate Sparked Funding 'Miracle'

TV's "Science Guy" Bill Nye speaks during a debate on evolution with Creation Museum head Ken Ham on Feb. 4 at the Petersburg, Ky, museum.
Dylan Lovan AP

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 2:12 pm

Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum who last month debated TV personality Bill Nye "The Science Guy" pitting his Biblical literalism against Darwinian evolution, says the highly publicized showdown has been like manna from heaven for a foundering $73 million Noah's Ark theme park.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:03 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Polar Bear Flip-Flop: People Hated, Then Loved These Photos. What Changed?

Norbert Rosing National Geographic/Getty

Originally published on Sun March 2, 2014 12:56 am

This couldn't be.

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Animals
7:57 am
Sat March 1, 2014

In The Arizona Wilds, Burro Murders Baffle Investigators

In Oatman, Ariz., burros are likely to nuzzle with tourists and are notoriously difficult to move out of harm's way.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 11:03 am

In the desert outside of Phoenix, there have been 18 shootings in the last five years, a series of mysteries that has stumped federal investigators.

Let's be clear, we're talking about donkeys: specifically, wild burros, the federally protected asses of the Old West. In late January, out among the desert scrub and beavertail cactus, two from the Lake Pleasant herd were found dead.

"We consider that a murder scene," says Steve Bird, a burro specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.

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The Salt
3:21 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Drought Could Dry Up Nevada Dairy Farmers' Expansion Plans

There are about 2,000 dairy cows on Pete Olsen's fifth-generation farm in northern Nevada. A new milk processing plant is now putting pressure on Olsen and other dairy farmers to expand the size of their herds. But with the ongoing drought, farmers are struggling to get enough feed for the cows they already have.
Kirk Siegler/NPR

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 3:13 pm

When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.

That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.

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Animals
9:32 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

To Save Endangered Tortoises, Conservationists Deface Their Shells

Out of the 330 species of turtles and tortoises, over half are threatened with extinction, says conservationist Eric Goode.
Gloria Hillard NPR

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 11:18 am

They're a quiet bunch, the hundreds of animals residing at the well-guarded botanical oasis in California's Ojai Valley. They've been brought to the Turtle Conservancy from countries around the world, like modern-day refugees escaping certain and persistent perils.

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The Salt
3:01 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year

Nectarines are sorted at Eastern ProPak Farmers Cooperative in Glassboro, N.J.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:32 pm

The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad.

Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.

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Politics
3:26 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:38 am

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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The Far Reach Of The West's Drought
6:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

The Search For Drinking Water In California Has Led To The Ocean

Extreme drought conditions in California have state officials looking for alternative sources of water, including desalinated ocean water.
Richard Vogel AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.

On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day.

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News
4:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Feeling The Fiscal Squeeze, EPA Seeks To Slim Down

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Environmental Protection Agency has a lot on its plate, now add to that budget concerns. The agency is hoping to trim its staff. Like a number of other government agencies, the EPA is offering buyouts to employees.

As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it's all part of a shrinking federal workforce.

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Around the Nation
4:20 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Portable Potables: How To Fight Drought By Reusing Water

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Desalination is just one way of tackling the drought. Another technique to conserve water is quite simply to reuse it. David Sedlak is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California Berkeley. David, welcome to the program.

DAVID SEDLAK: Thank you for having me, Audie.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Is Planet Earth Under New Management?

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:31 pm

A hundred million years from now, when we're all dead and gone, a team of geologists will be digging in a field somewhere ...

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The Two-Way
6:02 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

California's Drought: A Shocking Photo And Other Updates

Images of Folsom Lake, a reservoir in Northern California, show the severity of the state's drought. The photo at left, taken on July 20, 2011, show the lake at 97 percent of total capacity and 130 percent of its historical average for that date. The photo at right shows the lake on Jan. 16, 2014, when it was at 17 percent of capacity and 35 percent of its historical average.
California Department of Water Resources

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:58 am

Farmers in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last month, are facing hard choices as a drought threatens to ruin their crops. They must weigh the costs of paying for irrigation against the chance that their fields will never get enough water this season.

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The Two-Way
3:43 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Winter Blahs Got You Down? 'Crowboarding' Video Can Help

A video of a crow using a jar lid as a sled has been a recent hit on YouTube. But as winter storms continue, many of us are running out of ways to enjoy the snow.
YouTube

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 2:46 pm

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