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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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.

A new way to clean the environment?

Jun 19, 2016
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Ari Daniel

In the quest to mend the ecological damage and imbalances humans are causing, many enterprising scientists are turning to the endlessly inventive natural world — for example bacteria that can metabolize oil spilled into the sea, or plants that take up toxic compounds. And such amazing life forms are everywhere.

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Tambako the JaguarFlickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Mountain Lions have been considered extinct in the Eastern United States for decades, but there is one lion who trekked from his home in the Dakotas to just a few miles outside of New York City.

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Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

The wildfires that swept the Canadian city of Fort McMurry earlier this year are now classified as the biggest natural disaster to ever hit Canada in terms of dollars. Some $6 billion worth of property went up in smoke.

In this era of global climate change, the far north is the fastest warming part of the world, with fires doubling in size over the past 50 years. People are now beginning to rethink how to protect forest communities like Fort McMurray.

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Colin Harris/Flickr&nbsp;

During his business career and, more recently, while running for president, Donald Trump has derided the science of climate change. He has even called it a “hoax” created by the Chinese. But that hasn’t stopped him from invoking the dangers of climate change in a bid to protect one of his golf courses from the dangers of sea level rise.

Environmental activists are urging the US government to “keep it in the ground” — that is, to ban any new leases of public lands to fossil fuel companies. The industry already leases more than 67 million federally-controlled acres. A new study details the benefits that could be achieved from this policy.

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&nbsp;Joe Brusky/Flickr&nbsp;

A majority of Americans — about 64 percent — say they are worried about climate change, according to a recent Gallup poll. At the same time, other polling and survey data show that our public school systems are teaching students almost nothing about it.

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Reuters

Liberal and conservative disagreement on climate change and the environment reflects the hyper-partisan times we live in. But it doesn't have to be that way, new research suggests.

According to eco-psychologist Christopher Wolsko of Oregon State University, environmental issues are expressed in the media and by advocacy groups largely within a framework of liberal values, which tends to exclude conservatives who might otherwise embrace the issues.

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