Environment

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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The Two-Way
3:37 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Which Is It? Hurricane, Typhoon Or Tropical Cyclone?

Typhoon Bhopa scene over the Philippine island of Palawan last December.
NASA Goddard's MODIS Rapid Response Team

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 5:21 pm

What's the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon and a cyclone? Nothing more than location.

As Super Typhoon Haiyan slams into the Philippines, we here at the Two-Way found ourselves revisiting old ground about the nature of tropical storms. In case you need a refresher (as we did), here is the lowdown:

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Animals
12:30 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

The Myth of the Woolly Bear

Legend holds that the length of a woolly bear caterpillar's color bands can be used to forecast how severe the winter weather will be. The myth dates back to colonial American folklore but was popularized by a 1948 study. SciFri finds out if there's any truth to the lore, and what the caterpillar's fuzzy bristles are really used for.

Animals
12:29 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

So Far, No Silver Bullet to Stop Lethal Bat Fungus

Since its appearance in the U.S. seven years ago, white-nose syndrome has decimated bat populations across eastern North America. Scientists say they've determined the culprit--a soil-dwelling fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans--and now they're investigating novel ways to stop it, including antifungal bacteria.

Around the Nation
4:32 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Here, Drink A Nice Glass Of Sparkling Clear Wastewater

One man's sewage is another man's drinking water. As wastewater comes through this pipe, straw-like filters get rid of any contaminants wider than a human hair. That's just one step of the purification process.
Amy Standen KQED

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 6:51 pm

In California's Silicon Valley, there will soon be a new source of water for residents. That may not sound like big news, but the source of this water – while certainly high-tech — is raising some eyebrows.

With freshwater becoming more scarce in many parts of the country, the public may have to overcome its aversion to water recycling.

Ah, The Stench Of Drinking Water

If text could transmit odor, you'd know where this water is coming from.

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The Salt
3:08 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Forget Barley And Hops: Craft Brewers Want A Taste Of Place

The brewers at Scratch Brewing Company add wild plants like spicebush, goldenseal, wild ginger, chanterelles and wild rose root to their beer to give it the flavor of the Illinois woods.
Aaron Kleidon Scratch Brewing Company

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 11:37 am

Last week, Aaron Kleidon went for a walk in the Illinois woods and returned with a bag of lotus seeds. The seeds were bound not for his dinner plate, but for his pint glass.

In a few months, Kleidon will have lotus-flavored beer at the small brewpub Scratch Brewing Company, which he owns with two friends in Ava, Ill. The microbrewery specializes in beers with seeds, leaves, roots, fruits and fungi foraged from a nearby wooded property. The brewers have even made a saison from chanterelle mushrooms.

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Environment
4:56 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Thanks To Parasites, Moose Are Looking More Like Ghosts

A large bull moose is inspected by a hunter at a weigh station in Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 6:48 pm

The news for moose is not good across the country's northern tier and in some parts of Canada. A recent and rapid decline of moose populations in many states may be linked to climate change, and to the parasites that benefit from it.

In Minnesota, moose populations have dropped from a high of more than 12,000 two decades ago to fewer than 3,000 now. Moose in some parts of Manitoba have declined by 50 percent and more.

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NPR Story
5:07 pm
Sun November 3, 2013

How An Aqueduct Turned Los Angeles Into A 'Garden Of Eden'

Los Angeles saw a dramatic boom in growth after the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. The system delivers water from the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the city.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 12:36 pm

Today the beauty of Los Angeles is dramatically symbolic of the ancient prophecy the desert shall "blossom like a rose."

This blossoming was made possible by the birth of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, opened 100 years ago this month. The opening of the aqueduct might as well have been the birth of the modern West and the image of the city as a Garden of Eden.

The vast quantities of water the aqueduct moved made Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities across the region possible.

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Environment
12:26 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Recovery, One Year Later

A year after Hurricane Sandy, recovery efforts are still ongoing, and questions remain about how to rebuild and prepare the coastlines for the next storm. A group of experts discusses rebuilding and protective options — from sea walls to "oyster-tecture" — and considers calls for a "managed retreat" from the shore.

The Salt
3:18 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Are Farm Veterinarians Pushing Too Many Antibiotics?

Cattle crowd inside a feedlot operated by JBS Five Rivers Colorado Beef in Wiley, Colo.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 5:27 pm

In a barn outside Manhattan, Kan., researchers from Kansas State University are trying to solve the riddle of bovine respiratory disease. They're sticking plastic rods down the noses of 6-month old calves, collecting samples of bacteria.

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The Salt
5:08 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Heat, Drought Draw Farmers Back To Sorghum, The 'Camel Of Crops'

A test field of sorghum outside Manhattan, Kan., planted by Kansas State University.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 9:07 pm

Much of the world is turning hotter and dryer these days, and it's opening new doors for a water-saving cereal that's been called "the camel of crops": sorghum. In an odd twist, this old-fashioned crop even seems to be catching on among consumers who are looking for "ancient grains" that have been relatively untouched by modern agriculture.

Sorghum isn't nearly as famous as the big three of global agriculture: corn, rice and wheat. But maybe it should be. It's a plant for tough times, and tough places.

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Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
4:08 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

In Sandy's Wake, Flood Zones And Insurance Rates Re-Examined

An emergency responder helps evacuate two people with a boat after their neighborhood in Little Ferry, N.J., was flooded.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 6:00 pm

When Sandy blew into East Coast communities a year ago, it was flooding that did the most damage.

That's in part because the average sea level has risen over the past century — about a foot along the mid-Atlantic coast. That made it easier for the storm to push the ocean onto the land.

And scientists say there will be many more Sandy-style storms — that is, torrential rain and wind that create heavy coastal flooding — and they'll be more frequent than in the past. But preparing people for that means changing the way they live, and that's proving politically difficult.

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The Salt
11:09 am
Wed October 30, 2013

How Much Water Actually Goes Into Making A Bottle Of Water?

The amount of water to make the bottle could be up to six or seven times what's inside the bottle, according to the Water Footprint Network.
Steven Depolo Flickr

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 12:22 pm

Environmental activists have long claimed that bottled water is wasteful. Usually, they point to the roughly 50 billion (mostly plastic) bottles we throw away every year.

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Environment
5:59 pm
Sun October 27, 2013

Predicting Quakes Still Shaky, But Being Prepared Is Crucial

Cars lie smashed by the collapsed Interstate 5 connector a few hours after the Northridge earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994, in California.
AFP/Getty Images

Morning recess at St. Augustine Catholic School in Culver City, Calif., is like recess in many other schools. Children run and play in the afternoon sun. But nearby, away from the basketball hoops and the games of tag, the staff is preparing.

Next to the playground sits a cargo container full of supplies: water, duct tape, an axe, a shovel and a generator along with gasoline. All of these supplies are here just in case the freeways are cut off or the power goes out — in case there is a major, destructive earthquake.

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Around the Nation
8:00 am
Sun October 27, 2013

Is Rebuilding Storm-Struck Coastlines Worth The Cost?

The Long Beach High School marching band prepares to march down the Long Beach boardwalk during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Sun October 27, 2013 2:10 pm

One year ago Tuesday, Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, devastating shoreline communities from Florida to Maine.

Many of these areas have been rebuilt, including the Long Beach boardwalk, about 30 miles outside New York City. Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new boardwalk Friday.

Ninety percent of the funding for the restoration came from the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $44 million to repair the devastation.

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Environment
12:47 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Climate Change Aids Toxic Slime's Advance

Sewage and fertilizer runoff into China's Lake Taihu have fed a nasty bloom: an annual explosion of frothy cyanobacteria, which release neurotoxins into the lake. Hans Paerl, a marine and environmental scientist who studies Lake Taihu, says the warmer temperatures brought by climate change only contribute to the slime's advance.

The Salt
10:00 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Report: Meat Producers Ignore Pleas For Health, Environmental Reform

Chickens in a mechanized hatchery in Monroe County, Ala.
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 10:41 am

Five years ago, a landmark report excoriated the animal agriculture industry's practices and laid out a road map for how it could do better. But in the years since, the problems are just as bad — and maybe even worse.

That's the conclusion of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. This week, the center scolded the industry again with a review of how it has fared in the years since the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released its original report.

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Environment
6:00 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Delegates To Debate Watered-Down Plan For Antarctic Marine Preserve

A lone emperor penguin makes his rounds, at the edge of an iceberg drift in the Antarctic's Ross Sea in 2006.
John Weller AP

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 7:57 pm

Less than 1 percent of the world's oceans are set aside as protected areas, but diplomats meeting now in Australia could substantially increase that figure.

Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union have convened to consider proposals to create vast new marine protected areas around Antarctica.

This same group met over the summer and didn't reach consensus, so it's now considering a scaled-back proposal.

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The Salt
4:41 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Are You A Sage Foodie? A Quiz To Test Your Food Literacy

Screenshot of the Food Literacy Quiz

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 6:06 pm

So, Food Day is almost upon us (it's Oct 24). And maybe it's time to test your mettle.

The folks behind this celebration have devised a Food Literacy Quiz to gauge your knowledge of all things food — from farm to table.

Think you know tomatoes? Well, by evaluating a series of photos shown in the first question of the quiz, you may learn something about how its seeds are dispersed.

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The Two-Way
11:10 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Norwegian Town's Bright Idea Is A Shining Example Of Ingenuity

People gathered on a spot in front of the town hall of Rjukan, Norway, last week, where mirrors have focused sunlight.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 2:22 pm

Archimedes would be proud of the town of Rjukan, Norway. So would Sam Eyde.

Rjukan, home to about 3,500 residents and situated about 70 miles west of the capital, Oslo, has installed a trio of giant mountaintop mirrors to focus light into the valley town's square during the cold (and dark) winter months.

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Environment
5:19 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Diplomats Try For Deal Protecting Marine Life Near Antarctica

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 6:47 am

Diplomats are trying once again to preserve a vast swath of the ocean around Antarctica. Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union are meeting in Australia now, where they will consider proposals to create a marine protected area that would curtail fishing in the Ross Sea. Previous efforts have failed, but advocates say a scaled-back proposal this time around may stand a better chance.

Around the Nation
4:54 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

15 Years Of Wrangling Over Yellowstone Snowmobiles Ends

A bison crosses a road ahead of a herd of snowmobilers in Yellowstone National Park in 2003. New federal rules announced Tuesday will further restrict the noise and exhaust such vehicles are allowed to emit inside the park.
Craig Moore AP

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 9:08 pm

The U.S. government Tuesday announced new rules for snowmobiles in Yellowstone that should make the country's oldest national park cleaner and quieter.

The rules were 15 years in the making because of intense wrangling between snowmobile operators and environmentalists. But both groups support the plan and give credit to snowmobile makers for designing cleaner machines.

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Environment
4:54 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Despite Efforts, The Rio Grande Is One Dirty Border

Kayakers head out on the Rio Grande toward one of the international bridges that connect Laredo, Texas, and the town of Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. Raw sewage and animal carcasses float in the water.
Neena Satija Texas Tribune

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 7:13 pm

There's one easy way to find out how bad the water quality is in the Rio Grande: get into a kayak.

Paddle through chocolate brown water in Laredo and the overwhelming smell makes it hard to breathe. A dog's carcass floats by; there are many dead fish, too.

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The Two-Way
4:27 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

In Cost-Cutting Move, NOAA To Stop Printing Nautical Charts

This undated photo made available by NOAA shows a computer displaying an electronic nautical chart aboard a ship.
AP

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 11:21 am

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency charged with surveying the nation's navigable waters to help keep mariners off the rocks and out of the shallows, will cease printing paper charts after mid-April.

Partly as a cost-saving measure, the NOAA's Office of Coast Survey will offer charts only via on-demand printing, as PDFs or electronic charts.

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