Environment

The Salt
1:04 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

I'm Not Just Gaming, Ma! I'm Helping The World's Farmers

Cropland Capture's developers hope players will find where crops are grown amid Earth's natural vegetation in satellite images to shine a light on where humanity grows its food.
Courtesy of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 3:05 pm

There's no easy way to track all of the world's crops. What's missing, among other things, is an accurate map showing where they are.

But the people behind Geo-Wiki are hoping to fix that, with a game called Cropland Capture. They're turning people like you and me into data gatherers, or citizen scientists, to help identify cropland.

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Environment
4:50 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Australia Disapproves Of Seeds In Katy Perry CD

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 1:27 pm

Singer Katy Perry's new album has been adored in some reviews, but one critic is the Australian Department of Agriculture. Seeds included in the CD could pose a threat to the environment there.

Animals
5:21 am
Sun December 1, 2013

Saving The Native Prairie — One Black-Footed Ferret At A Time

Biologist Travis Livieri checks a briefly sedated ferret's health status inside an improvised trailer clinic.
Elizabeth Shogren NPR

Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 2:25 pm

American pioneers saw the endless stretches of grassland of the Great Plains as a place to produce grain and beef for a growing country. But one casualty was the native prairie ecosystem and animals that thrived only there.

Some biologists are trying to save the prairies and they've picked a hero to help them: the black-footed ferret. In trying to save this long skinny predator with a raccoon-like mask, the biologists believe they have a chance to right a wrong that nearly wiped a species off the planet.

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Environment
5:37 am
Sat November 30, 2013

Tech Leaders, Economists Split Over Clean Energy's Prospects

Andres Quiroz, an installer for Stellar Solar, carries a solar panel during installation at a home in Encinitas, Calif.
Sam Hodgson Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat November 30, 2013 1:17 pm

There is a broad scientific consensus that to keep global warming in check, we need to phase out 80 percent of all oil, coal and natural gas by midcentury. President Obama has set a nonbinding target to do precisely that.

There are technologists who say this national goal is well within reach, but there are also economists who are quite pessimistic about those prospects. And you can find this range of opinion on the University of California, Berkeley campus.

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Environment
2:55 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

'Forecast Bust:' Why 2013 Hurricane Predictions Were So Wrong

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 6:49 pm

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season ends tomorrow. It'll be remembered as one of the quietest on record. Since June, there have been just two hurricanes, both were relatively weak. As NPR's Jon Hamilton reports, forecasters were expecting something very different.

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Americans to expect an unusually active year with between seven and 11 hurricanes. Other forecasters offered variations on that theme.

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NPR Story
4:42 am
Thu November 28, 2013

By Accident, Scientists Discover Lakes Beneath Greenland

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 5:34 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Flying to or from Europe, many a transatlantic traveler has gazed down at the brilliant white surface of Greenland and maybe wondered what is beneath those massive sheets of ice. Well, scientists have discovered jagged mountains, ravines that rival the Grand Canyon.

And now NPR's Richard Harris reports that for the first time they've come across some lakes under the ice as well.

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U.S.
3:06 am
Thu November 28, 2013

How Fracking In Pennsylvania Helps Clear The Air In New York

The building at 120 East 81st Street is among those converting from an oil- to natural-gas-burning furnace.
Jeff Brady NPR

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 4:45 am

The state of New York effectively has a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing as the government figures out how to regulate the controversial drilling technology. Still, the state is benefiting from a fracking-fueled drilling boom in next-door Pennsylvania.

For decades, oil has been the fuel of choice for thousands of residential buildings in New York City. But now there are fewer chimneys spewing black smoke. That's because the city has a program encouraging owners to convert to cleaner-burning natural gas.

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Energy
4:51 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Colo. Fracking Votes Put Pressure On Energy Companies

A vote to ban fracking in Broomfield, a suburb of Denver, headed to a recount this month after the measure failed by just 13 votes. Broomfield was one of four Front Range towns considering limits or bans on the drilling procedure some fear may not be safe.
Kristen Wyatt AP

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 8:45 pm

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The Salt
12:31 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Al Gore Goes Vegan, Following In Footsteps Of Bill Clinton

Former Vice President Al Gore has reportedly gone vegan.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 4:13 pm

The decision to give up entire food groups can be a radical attempt to reform an unhealthy diet, as former President Bill Clinton demonstrated when he revealed in 2011 that he'd gone vegan, after heart bypass surgery.

But more often in this day and age, eschewing animal products is political.

And so that's why we were interested to read that former Vice President Al Gore, one of the world's most famous environmentalists, had — like his former boss — gone vegan, too.

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Environment
5:14 am
Tue November 26, 2013

A View From China, India On Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, let's hear from some of the rest of the world. We're gonna go to China and India and to NPR correspondents in those countries, beginning with NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Beijing. Hi, Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Okay. So the Chinese declined to agree to controls on their carbon emissions, but is this a major priority for China?

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Environment
5:14 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Why Countries Invest Differently In Environmental Issues

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Across the world, countries make very different investments in the environment. We're not just talking about measures to combat global climate change. We're talking about investments in clean water, forests, biodiversity. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam joins us regularly to share interesting new research, and he's here to tell us about an unexpected factor that seems to influence environmental stewardships. Shankar, welcome back.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Hi, David.

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Environment
2:51 am
Tue November 26, 2013

What's In It For U.S. To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The chimneys of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station loom above a field flooded for rice farming near Mecheda, West Bengal, India, in July 2011.
Dibyangshu Sarkar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

The United Nations negotiations in Warsaw over a climate treaty are moving at glacial speed — and that's in part because there's a fundamental problem.

In the coming decades, carbon dioxide emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries are expected to grow quickly. Residents there aspire to lifestyles Americans and Europeans enjoy today, and those nations aren't willing to slash emissions, because doing so could slow their economic growth.

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Environment
6:09 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

U.S. May Be Producing 50 Percent More Methane Than EPA Thinks

The EPA tries to keep track of all sorts of methane producers — including herds of methane-belching cattle.
Emmett Tullos Flickr

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 7:59 pm

Methane is the source of the gas we burn in stoves. You can also use it to make plastics, antifreeze or fertilizer. It comes out of underground deposits, but it also seeps up from swamps, landfills, even the stomachs of cows.

And while methane is valuable, a lot of it gets up into the atmosphere, where it becomes a very damaging greenhouse gas.

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The Two-Way
5:11 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Rate Of Coastal Wetlands Loss Has Sped Up, U.S. Study Says

Saltwater wetlands that include marshes and shoals on Virginia's Atlantic coast. U.S. coastal wetlands losses were 25 percent greater from 2004-2009, according to a recent federal study.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 7:47 pm

The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.

"The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."

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The Salt
2:48 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Why Slather This Spinach Field In Poop? It's All For Science

University of California, Davis food safety field scientists Michele Jay-Russell, Paula Kahn-Rivadeneira, Anna Zwieniecka, Navreen Pandher and Peiman Aminabadi celebrate the first day of their experiment testing E. coli survival in soil.
Courtesy of Fhon Saharuetai

Originally published on Sat November 23, 2013 5:06 pm

Why are these scientists in hazmat suits smiling? They're standing in a field that they are about to spread with raw manure — four different kinds of raw manure, to be exact.

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The Salt
5:04 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Organic Farmers Bash FDA Restrictions On Manure Use

TK
Dan Charles/ NPR

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 3:01 pm

Many organic farmers are hopping mad at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and their reason involves perhaps the most underappreciated part of agriculture: plant food, aka fertilizer. Specifically, the FDA, as part of its overhaul of food safety regulations, wants to limit the use of animal manure.

"We think of it as the best thing in the world," says organic farmer Jim Crawford, "and they think of it as toxic and nasty and disgusting."

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World
4:52 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

At Climate Meeting, Tensions Rise Between Rich And Poor Nations

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 6:57 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

NPR's Richard Harris has covered the U.N. climate talks since the first treaty was negotiated in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. He's monitoring these new talks, and he joins us now to talk about this long-running argument over climate-related funding for the developing world. Richard, thanks for being here.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: My pleasure.

BLOCK: And we just heard Mr. Khan mention this goal of $100 billion in aid per year, starting in 2020. He thinks that's realistic. What does it look like from where you sit?

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World
4:52 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Poor Countries Push Rich Nations To Do More On Climate Change

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 6:57 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

We're going to spend the next few minutes talking about climate change and a campaign being waged by some of the world's poorest countries. U.N. climate talks are underway in Warsaw right now. And there, a group of developing nations is demanding that wealthy countries accept responsibility for global warming, provide financial support and pay for losses due to climate change.

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The Salt
11:52 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Can A Fish Farm Be Organic? That's Up For Debate

Employees at Pan Fish USA, a salmon fish farm, unload fish feed on Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Ron Wurzer Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 2:34 pm

This year, Americans are expected to buy more than $30 billion worth of organic grains, produce, coffee, wine and meats.

Some producers of farmed fish want the chance to get a cut of those profits, and retailers, who can charge a premium price for organic farmed fish, are with them. But an organic label for aquaculture is not coming easy.

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The Two-Way
4:41 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Researchers Find Ancient Seawater Had Twice The Salt

A map showing the impact areas of a large asteroid or comet that struck the Chesapeake Bay some 35 million years ago.
U.S. Geological Survey

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 6:57 pm

Scientists have discovered a pocket of ancient seawater that's been trapped underground near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay since the time of the dinosaurs — strong evidence that the Atlantic Ocean was once much saltier than today.

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NPR Story
4:34 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Is Running Your Car On Rubbish The Future Of Fuels?

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:07 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to scale back the amount of renewable fuels in our nation's gasoline supply, biofuels like ethanol made from corn. The EPA is responding, in part, to oil companies that say they're already taking as much ethanol as they can. They say any more and it will hurt quality. But there's another reason for the EPA's action. As NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, cheap biofuels haven't been developed as quickly as hoped.

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TED Radio Hour
9:20 am
Fri November 15, 2013

How Can Deserts Turn Into Grasslands?

James Duncan Davidson TED

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 3:06 pm

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Misconceptions.

About Allan Savory's TEDTalk

About two-thirds of the world's grasslands have turned into desert. Allan Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.

About Allan Savory

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Environment
3:04 am
Fri November 15, 2013

A Rancher And A Conservationist Forge An Unlikely Alliance

Trout fishing is big business in Montana, bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually.
Tom Murphy Getty Images/National Geographic

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:08 pm

Trout fishing is a magnet that draws people from around the world to places like Ovando, Mont. Just ask the owner of Blackfoot Angler and Supplies, Kathy Schoendoerfer.

"Every state in the nation has been through this little shop in Ovando, Montana, population 50," says Schoendoerfer with a mix of pride and perhaps a little fatigue. "And we've also had everybody from Russia, Latvia. We get a lot of Canadians, France, Finland, Brazil, Scotland, Germany, South Africa. We get a lot of business out here. You know, fly-fishing is huge."

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The Salt
5:59 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What's The Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

Illustration by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 7:29 pm

Food labels have become battlegrounds. Just last week, voters in Washington state narrowly defeated a measure that would have required food manufacturers to reveal whether their products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Supporters of the initiative — and similar proposals in other states — say that consumers have a right to know what they're eating.

But there are lots of things we might want to know about our food. So what belongs on the label?

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Politics
4:51 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Farm Bill Cuts Might Cut Conservation, Too

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 7:29 pm

Farm programs will likely cost the government less under any new farm bill, but the policy could be bad for the environment. Both House and Senate versions would end a big subsidy, called direct payments, that has paid money to land owners — whether they needed it or not — if they complied with certain conservation regulations. The two chambers' versions of the bill differ on how, or even if, to incent farmers to take care of their land. But both versions would stop funding to keep at least five million acres of land out of production.

Science
3:07 am
Thu November 14, 2013

As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy

Native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout swim in the cool waters of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park, Montana.
Jonny Armstrong USGS

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:53 am

In the mountain streams of the American West, the trout rules. People don't just catch this fish; they honor it. And spend lots of money pursuing it.

But some western trout may be in trouble. Rivers and streams are getting warmer and there's often less water in them. Scientists suspect a changing climate is threatening this iconic fish.

I joined two such scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey as they drove up a mountain road in Montana, in the northern Rockies, a place dense with stands of Douglas fir and aspen trees and braided with mountain streams.

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Environment
3:06 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Key West Awash With Plans For Rising Sea Level

A cyclist rides past buckled asphalt in Key West, Fla., after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Key West experienced widespread flooding with the storm surge.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 6:00 pm

Florida — especially South Florida — is very flat and very low, and in places like Miami Beach and Key West, buildings are just 3 feet above sea level. Scientists now say there may be a 3-foot rise in the world's oceans by the end of the century.

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Science
5:21 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Why Typhoon Haiyan Caused So Much Damage

This map from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory shows the amount of heat energy available to Typhoon Haiyan between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3. Darker purple indicates more available energy. Typhoons gain their strength by drawing heat out of the ocean. The path of the storm is marked with the black line in the center of the image.
NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 7:13 pm

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The Two-Way
12:01 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

'Stop This Madness,' Tearful Filipino Pleads At Climate Talks

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 12:32 pm

  • "Stop this madness," Filipino delegate Yeb Sano says at climate change conference
  • Choking back tears, Yeb Sano speaks of the devastation in the Philippines

His eyes filling with tears and his voice choking with emotion over the disaster inflicted on his country, the delegate from the Philippines pleaded at U.N. climate talks Monday for his colleagues from around the world to agree on ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for global warming.

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The Salt
4:32 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Can We Eat Our Way To A Healthier Microbiome? It's Complicated

While no one's sure which foods are good for our microbiomes, eating more veggies can't hurt.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 10:27 am

When our colleague Rob Stein got his microbiome analyzed recently in the name of science journalism, we were totally fascinated.

As Stein noted, it may be possible to cultivate a healthier community of bacteria on and inside us by modifying our diets.

Stein was advised to eat more garlic and leeks for his. But we wondered: Are there other foods that promote a healthy microbiome in most people?

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