Living On Earth

News & Information: Sat • 10am-11am
  • Hosted by Steve Curwood

An in-depth exploration of the latest scientific, political and social elements related to environmental change. 

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Living on Earth's explorer-in-residence Mark Seth Lender visited Iceland and found Black-Legged Kittiwake daring to nest right on the cliffs, despite the wild waves lashing the shore below. These are his impressions:

Lava works its way down, steams and smokes and spits as it meets cold water. Then, wears away, retreating inland till only the core remains: Black basalt crystalized in octagons like giant’s teeth, a long wall grinning and gnashing towards an ancient sea, while the sea grins back.

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Robert Pittman/NOAA; Wikimedia Commons

In the Pacific Northwest, a nautical hub for ships and naval training, endangered orcas and other marine life are struggling to be heard over the noise.

While orcas are not endangered globally, the orca population near Seattle is. To communicate above the din of ocean traffic and industry, orcas must increase the volume of their calls. This extra effort requires them to eat more, and could be stressing the whales, according to new research at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

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Wikimedia Commons

A study on mice suggests that the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, could have adverse effects on parenting behavior.

BPA has become one of the most visible and controversial of the thousands of chemicals known to affect human bodies and minds. BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical that has been implicated in a host of adverse health effects, including cancers, reproductive deficiencies in males and females, neural behavior deficits and immunological problems.

Woman farmers take center stage in US agriculture

Aug 21, 2016

Women farmers are increasingly challenging traditional, male-centric notions about farming in the US, and a recent book aims to encourage more women to join the movement.

The book is called "Woman-Powered Farm: Manual for a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle from Homestead to Field." As its title suggests, it is a handbook for women contemplating the jump to farming. 

Underfunding and low prioritization of wildlife crimes are hampering efforts to clamp down on wildlife poaching in the Pacific Northwest.

While poaching of animals like rhinos and elephants makes global headlines, in the US, species with horns are also ripe for targeting. The trophy antlers of a western mule deer can fetch $1,000 or more. In the face of strict limits on hunting, poachers often step in to meet the demand.

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Mick Baker)rooster/Flickr

The UK’s vote to leave the European Union has raised questions about how Europe will meet its commitments to mitigate the effects of climate change under the Paris climate agreement.

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WildEarth Guardians/Flickr 

Critics have long argued that the royalties coal companies pay for mining on US public lands are well below fair market values. Now, the Department of the Interior has moved to close a major loophole to address this criticism.

Leasing public land for coal extraction is a three-step process — and two of those steps are problematic for the public, says Michael Greenstone, a former chief economist for the Obama White House who now teaches at the University of Chicago.

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Eric Toensmeier

With nurturing, even a degraded backyard can yield a delicious bounty of produce — and maybe even true love. 

Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates have become accomplished permaculture gardeners in an unlikely place: a small, degraded backyard in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Permaculture is an agricultural system that is highly integrated, sustainable and self-sufficient. “Permaculture is meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health,” Toensmeier says.

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North Carolina State University

The honey bee gets all the headlines, but other species of bees pollinate our plants and help sustain food production. Take the squash bee, for instance.

There are 20 species of bees that specialize in squash pollination — and one of them, Peponapis pruinosa, is making headlines of its own lately.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power station in California, which was built in an earthquake zone 30 years ago, is now scheduled to close by 2025. But not far from New York city, the operators of Indian Point, an even older reactor with a history of problems, are resisting calls to shut down.

In June, House Republicans attached an amendment to the defense authorization bill that stopped the Defense Department from spending money to plan for climate change.

The amendments blocked funding associated with implementing executive orders — some of which go back to President George W. Bush — that resulted from bipartisan efforts to establish goals across the federal government for energy security, conservation, climate resilience and sustainability.

The next time you’re tooling down the highway somewhere in America, take a look around: Those miles of medians and roadsides along our highways offer unexpected environmental benefits.

All those broad, green strips along the nation’s highways turn out be vital habitats for many small critters, as well as pollinators including bees, butterflies and birds.

A new book explores the hidden value of urban weeds

Jul 12, 2016
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Helen Palmer

New York City landscape architect David Seiter is on a mission to emphasize the aesthetic and environmental benefits of what he calls "spontaneous urban plants" — what most of us call weeds.

“My intention is to rebrand weeds and get people to think about their ecological and performative values,” Seiter says. “We wanted to use the title, SUP, to get people's attention, and get them to think about what plants might be acceptable in an urban environment.”

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UK Department for International Development

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama recently announced a public and private financing package to leverage $1 billion for solar power development in India.

The deal was announced when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington in June and marks a milestone in cooperation between the world’s second- and fourth-biggest emitters of climate-changing gases.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/24522890902">James St. John/Flickr</a>

A startling fact about horseshoe crabs: Their blood is worth about $60,000 a gallon.

Why? Horseshoe crab blood contains a chemical that makes its blood clot in the presence of even the most minute trace of bacteria. So biomedical companies use the crab’s blood to make sure vaccines and medical implants aren't contaminated.

Roundup, the most commonly-used pesticide in the world, faces an existential crisis.

Ever since the World Health Organization in 2015 declared glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, a probable carcinogen, European regulatory agencies have been rethinking its future.

Forty years ago, the National Audubon Society began Project Puffin, an attempt to restore the threatened seabird to its native nesting islands off the coast of Maine. Today, you can watch their success live on the internet. 

From Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, a live video stream shows puffins raising chicks in an underground burrow and hanging out on the rocks. These weatherproof cameras provide an intimate look into the homes and lives of puffins.

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Alan English/Flickr&nbsp;


The terrible drought afflicting the American West has sparked soul-searching about water management in the region. For the first time in many decades, the viability of dams and other infrastructure that supply water to cities and farms throughout the region has entered the conversation.

After major flooding in 1998, China introduced the Natural Forest Conservation Program, a logging ban to help protect against erosion and rapid runoff. A recent study in Science Advances of 10 years of satellite data found significant recovery in some Chinese forests.

But it's not all good news. Andrés Viña, an author of the paper, says this reforestation is probably shifting deforestation elsewhere.

Climate change is a huge threat to our national parks

Jun 19, 2016
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Erik Salard/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Climate change is not just incinerating boreal forests — it’s also presenting new challenges for one of America’s most beloved icons — its national parks.

The director of the National Park Service, John Jarvis, recently called climate disruption the single greatest threat to the integrity of the parks that has ever been experienced. And this is causing a wholesale rethink of planning for the future of the parks.

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