Living on Earth

Sunday 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Living on Earth with Steve Curwood is the weekly environmental news and information program distributed by Public Radio International. Every week approximately 250 Public Radio stations broadcast Living on Earth's news, features, interviews and commentary on a broad range of ecological issues.

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A catastrophic failure of a large aquaculture pen near Cypress Island recently freed thousands of nonnative Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, near Seattle.

In the aftermath of this outbreak, the Wild Fish Conservancy has launched a lawsuit against Cooke Aquaculture, the international corporation responsible for the accident.

Of global warming, plastic waste and velociraptors

Aug 26, 2017

What do these three things have in common: the Earth’s temperature, waste from plastic products and velociraptors?

Answer: not much. Except they were all recently in the news and all are really interesting, or disturbing, depending on your point of view.

First: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, declared the first six months of 2017 the second warmest on record, just behind 2016’s all-time record. Why is this news? Because climate scientists had expected temperatures to cool down, and they haven’t much.

Rising temperatures, partly driven by global warming and longer drought seasons, have turned western forests into easy kindling for raging megafires that could threaten millions of people in the US.

This new, alarming situation has several causes, and a new book lays them out. It’s called "Land On Fire: The New Reality of Wildfire in the West," by nature writer Gary Ferguson.

As investigations continue into whether ExxonMobil misled investors by failing to report its own scientists’ predictions about global warming, the company and other fossil fuel titans are being challenged on another legal front.

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Residents who live in and around Clairton, Penn., about 15 miles south of Pittsburgh, have filed a class-action suit against US Steel, claiming air pollution from the company’s Clairton Coke Works has lowered local property values.

Seven decades into the age of nuclear power, the United States has yet to solve the problem of waste. While the US argues and dawdles, however, Finland says it has found an answer — it plans to build one of the world’s first long-term nuclear waste storage facilities in a labyrinth of underground tunnels.

New research from Duke University finds that typical amounts of household dust spurred the growth of mouse fat cells in a lab dish.

While this news may have you running for the vacuum, Chris Kassotis, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke’s Nicholas School for the Environment who conducted the research, cautions against overreacting.

In a setback to the Trump administration’s push to roll back environmental regulations, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t suspend rules meant to control leaks of methane and other pollutants from new oil and gas wells.

The oil and gas industry took advantage of having a friend in the Trump administration to press for a suspension of methane rules, says David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A new book examines 'The Book that Changed America'

Jul 24, 2017

No single book influenced US history more than Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” according to a new book by Randall Fuller, professor of English at the University of Tulsa.

A new study estimates that southern areas of the US, many of which are already poor, could face a 20 percent decline in economic activity if carbon emissions continue unabated through the 21st century.

The study was issued by economists with the Climate Impact Lab, a consortium of experts from the Universities of California, Chicago and Rutgers and the Rhodium Group.

Much of the Netherlands is below sea level and major floods have occurred every generation or so for hundreds of years. In a warming world with increased rainfall and sea level rise, the threat from floods is increasing worldwide, and the Dutch are leading the way in water management engineering.  

America’s air carriers have signed on to an international agreement for carbon offsets and reduction, arguing it will prevent unilateral charges over their emissions at foreign airports. But the Trump administration, after pulling out of the Paris Agreement, is reviewing that decision, despite vocal support for it from US airlines.

The Carbon Offsets and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, was signed on Oct. 6, 2016, at the UN. It currently has the voluntary support of more than 70 nations, representing nearly 90 percent of international airline activity.

In “New York 2140,” the latest novel from award-winning science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, melting ice sheets and wild storms have added 50 feet to sea level and submerged coastal areas, yet New York City is still a vibrant hub of global capital, with express boats zooming up the avenues and skybridges linking the skyscrapers that still stand.

A survey by a Pittsburgh pediatrician of 1,200 children living near some of the biggest polluters in the area shows that children who live near sources of pollution run the same risk of developing asthma as those exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

US Steel’s Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock, just outside of Pittsburgh, has been making steel for almost 150 years. Nearby residents, including the children of the Woodland Hills School District, have been breathing in the pollution the plant spews from its stacks, and researchers are finding that it's impacting their health.

The Seasteading Institute in California has an audacious mission: to establish floating societies that will “restore the environment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and liberate humanity from politicians.”

Like in the 19th century, when many people left the cities of the Eastern US to gain independence by claiming a patch of land and working it — which was known as "homesteading" — "seasteaders" hope to create a new social, economic and political frontier on the ocean.

Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, with a metro population of more than 6 million, is at risk of major devastation and massive loss of life from storm surges if a big hurricane were to hit, according to an investigation by reporters from The Texas Tribune and ProPublica.

The Trump administration has fired another shot in the long-smoldering Sagebrush Rebellion: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has issued a preliminary recommendation to shrink Bears Ears National Monument, which spans over 1.3 million acres. 

No one quite knows how this will play out. The Antiquities Act allows presidents to create national monuments but has no mechanism for presidents to reduce or undo them.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/johndonaghy/">John Donaghy</a>/<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/johndonaghy/6947280852/in/photolist-bzUCym-bNPoD2">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>

Research by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has found that laundered profits from the illegal drug trade contribute to deforestation along smuggling routes in Central America.

Steven Sesnie, an ecologist and the lead author of the research, says the drug economy is threatening some of the most remote, biodiverse forests in Central America — and the people who have lived there for thousands of years.

In an ancient forest in Poland, environmental activists are chaining themselves to logging machines to protect the trees from being cut down.

The Białowieża Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site that straddles the border of Poland and Belarus. It is perhaps the largest remaining primeval forest in Europe.

The current drought devastating sub-Saharan Africa is not only increasing hunger and disease, it is also creating more opportunities for violence against women.

Across the continent, it is solely the responsibility of women to collect water and bring it home for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

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Global Landscapes Forum/Flickr&nbsp;

A new report from a group called the Energy Transitions Commission shows that countries could cut global carbon emissions in half by 2040 and stay well below the 2-degree warming mark agreed to at the Paris Climate Conference.

The Energy Transitions Commission includes the chairman of Shell Oil, former US Vice President Al Gore, British economist Nicholas Stern and former US senator, and UN Foundation chief, Tim Wirth. The new report is titled, "Better Energy, Greater Prosperity." 

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Minale Tattersfield/<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/minaletattersfield/8426506439/in/photostream/">Flickr</a>

In what’s been called a “historic” decision, 62 percent of Exxon Mobil shareholders have called on the world’s largest oil company to report the impacts of climate change and international climate policies on its business.

India's renewable energy revolution is racing ahead

Jun 14, 2017
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Asian Development Bank/Flickr

In 2015, at the climate talks in Paris, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheaded the launch of an international solar alliance to raise $1 trillion to light up the developing world. Eighteen months later, Modi has turned promise into action.

India, a country of 1.3 billion people, is becoming perhaps the world’s best example of the revolution in green energy.

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Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

As the planet warms, many tree species in the eastern US are migrating.

Pines and spruce are heading north, while oaks and maples are heading west of their historical ranges, according to a recent study. In all, the newly published research confirms, 86 tree species in the eastern US are moving into new areas.

Trees don't just pick up and move, of course. Their seeds tend to spread in one direction or another, depending on local conditions, and saplings will have more success in places best suited to their natural traits.

A team of Belgian researchers has developed a device that will remove pollutants from the air and convert them into simple hydrogen — using sunlight, nanoparticles and a photoelectric chemical membrane.

Polluted air is bad not only for your physical health but also for your mental health and sense of well-being.

That is according to researchers at the University of York in the UK, who recently reported that, as nitrogen dioxide pollution increases, life satisfaction and personal happiness decline.

Solar jobs now outnumber coal jobs in the US

Jun 7, 2017

While coal still produces much more energy in the US than solar, solar jobs now outnumber those in coal by more than 2-to-1, according to the Department of Energy.

A team of US and Mexican researchers examining the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill off the Mexican coastline has been given an exciting new tool: rediscovered satellite data from the 1970s.

The team of US and Mexican researchers is revisiting Ixtoc to find out how the environment nearby has recovered and to learn how the area around the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill might look in the future. The "digital archaeology" done by two researchers has become an invaluable tool.

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North American oil and gas producers are rushing to build new pipelines as part of a bid to gain more power in the international oil and gas markets, but they are running into fierce opposition at home.

A revered 87-year-old ecologist has created a bold new proposal to stem global species loss.

Distinguished Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for a book on ants, and has been studying the challenge of species loss for years, focusing on unique habitats that should be conserved to protect the diverse ecological webs within them.

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