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.

Ways to Connect

The Keystone XL pipeline fight continues

May 27, 2017

President Donald Trump has given TransCanada a permit to continue construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, but a coalition of citizens, farmers, ranchers, Native American tribes and environmental groups have united to oppose the pipeline’s route through Nebraska’s Sandhills area.

Scientists have discovered about 200 new mineral compounds, created accidentally as a result of human activity.

The new minerals were identified by research scientist Robert Hazen and a team from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. Their study is published in the journal American Mineralogist.

Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide rallied for the People’s Climate March on April 29, but the mood was bleaker than the First People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014.

In September 2014, nearly half a million people crammed the avenues of New York for the first march to urge nations of the world to take bold action on global warming. It was the eve of the UN Climate Summit and PRI’s Living on Earth team was there. At the intersection of 46th Street and Sixth Avenue the atmosphere was joyful, almost like a carnival parade.

P
Gage Skidmore/Flickr 

Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is already under fire from both sides of the aisle, especially regarding carbon pollution and climate change.

Progressives and environmental groups are horrified that Pruitt has denied the human link to climate change, and conservatives are already saying that Pruitt hasn’t done enough to undo the EPA’s “regulatory overreach.”

The Goldman Environmental Prize, given out annually, honors an activist from each of the six inhabited continents. The North American Goldman Prize this year has been awarded to 32-year-old mark! Lopez, who helped end decades of environmental abuses by Exide, a company that operated a lead-acid battery smelter in East Los Angeles.

Lopez says he was reminded about the environmental problems Exide had inflicted upon his community after he graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz and went to visit his grandmother.

EPA budget cuts threaten programs to reduce kids' exposure to lead paint

May 9, 2017

Childhood lead poisoning remains a great threat to young children in the US. Nevertheless, the Trump administration proposes to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead programs and leave lead-reduction initiatives to the states.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a fifth of American homes contain enough lead-based paint to create a hazard to young children, whose developing brains can be harmed by even low levels of the toxic heavy metal.

The death and life of the Great Lakes

May 7, 2017

When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened on April 24, 1959, it created a link from the Great Lakes to the sea along the US-Canadian border — the fulfillment of a dream for the heartland of the continent. It also created an ecological nightmare no one anticipated.

Environmental journalist Dan Egan details the history of the Seaway and the modern problems it created in his new book, "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes."

The present partisan divide in America seems more bitter than at any time in recent memory. To try to better understand it, liberal sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild spent five years conducting what she calls an “empathic study” of her political opposites in Louisiana.

Y
Linda Tanner/Flickr 

The Yurok Tribe, which lives in Northern California near the Oregon border, is losing its way of life, as the annual run of Chinook salmon from the Pacific into the Klamath River is on the verge of collapse.

“The Klamath River is our lifeline,” says tribal chairman Thomas O’Rourke. “We have depended on this river since time immemorial. ... I grew up, born and raised, here on the Klamath River, and as a child there was a lot of salmon. We had runs, when I was a child, that don't exist here anymore.”

Russian scientists Sergey Zimov and Nikita Zimov — they're a father-son duo — believe they can slow the thawing of the Siberian permafrost by bringing back grazing animals to a swath of land called Pleistocene Park.

Siberia’s melting permafrost has enormous implications for the Earth’s climate.

Advocates for rebuilding America’s decrepit infrastructure are beginning to worry that the Trump administration will not follow through on its promise to invest $1 trillion in upgrading the nation’s rails, roads, bridges and transit.

Will El Niño return in 2017?

Apr 23, 2017

Just months after a powerful El Niño ended its 2015-2016 rampage through global weather systems, meteorologists see indications of another one forming in 2017.

El Niño began affecting the world’s weather in 2015 and ended barely a year ago. Typically, El Niños occur three to seven years apart, but dramatic winter flooding in California followed by unprecedented rains that buried Peru in deadly mudslides may be a signal that El Niño is returning.

What kind of interior secretary will Ryan Zinke be?

Apr 16, 2017

When it comes to the federal government’s stewardship of the environment, there is perhaps no more important official than the secretary of the interior. Ryan Zinke, a former Montana Republican congressman, recently took on the job, and he is being watched closely by organizations on both sides of the political divide.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the new US energy secretary. It’s an ironic choice: During his 2012 presidential bid, Perry said the Energy Department could easily be abolished — and some observers have suggested Perry didn’t actually understand the job he was taking when it was offered to him.

A team of scientists from the US and Mexico is studying the ocean floor near the site of the Ixtoc oil well blowout, in the hope of predicting the future health of marine life in the waters surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

L
Steven Melkisethian/Flickr 

A study in the journal Global Challenges suggests that attitudes among climate change deniers are not immutable, even among the most skeptical. The way information is presented can change people's opinions, under certain circumstances.

The new study builds upon a larger body of research that has examined what happens when researchers inform people about the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real.

Decades ago, London suffocated under poisonous smogs. Now, deadly air is back.

Diesel-burning vehicles are causing record levels of pollution linked to thousands of deaths in the UK, and the British government could face fines from the European Court of Justice if the smog is not controlled.

Conditions in London have become so bad that London Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan now suggests children should be given gas masks to protect their lungs.

B
Jason Lee/Reuters 

New research suggests that when it comes to air pollution, what goes around comes around.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — toxic air pollutants produced by fuel combustion — are typically treated as a local issue in places with smog and bad air quality. A recent study suggests, however, that these pollutants may actually travel long distances and affect people across the globe.

A
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters 

Shortly after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as the new EPA administrator, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent him a letter requesting that the agency re-examine new fuel economy standards set to go into effect in 2025. The letter alleges the rules would lead to extreme layoffs and added expenses in the domestic auto industry.

Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign disagrees. He believes the ambitious mileage requirements are key for US goals under the Paris climate agreement and that weakening them would cost American consumers, while boosting short-term industry profits.

The mild winter weather in New England is bad news for the region's moose.

In northern New England, moose number about 70,000, but changing weather seems to be throwing the balance of nature off-kilter, giving an edge to one of the animal's most dangerous enemies — bloodsucking ticks.

The US military sees climate change as a national security threat. So, it’s finding ways to adapt to global warming, to make the armed forces stronger and more flexible. 

For starters, green technologies such as solar "blankets" and hybrid vehicles have improved operations within the Marine Corps and the Navy, according to Capt. Jim Goudreau, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. He spent over two decades in the supply corps and is now the head of climate at Novartis.

P
Chris Yakimov/Flickr 

When President Donald Trump came into office in January, staff at several government agencies were told not to send out news releases or to communicate by social media, and most mentions of climate change disappeared from government websites.

Changing the message on issues that could affect policy is standard procedure with a change of administration, but many saw this as censorship of government scientists — akin to moves taken in Canada under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

S
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmemorialforthemountains/4534741523">ILoveMountains.org/</a>CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)

In one of its first acts, the Republican-controlled Congress overturned the Department of the Interior’s recent Stream Protection Rule. Coal companies are thrilled about the change, but some mining communities aren't quite so sure about it.  

President Donald Trump's repeal of an anti-corruption rule that required extractive industries — like mining, oil drilling and quarrying — to disclose payments to foreign governments has caused dismay among people who advocate for the poor and for transparency in government.

Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has sued the agency more than a dozen times. What does that mean for the future of the EPA and for environmental protections in the US?

As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt chaired an organization of Republican attorneys general who opposed many EPA rules and regulations. Perhaps most famously, Pruitt led a group of states and companies in the continuing court fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — a plan crafted by the agency he now runs.

A group of conservative elder statesman has proposed an ambitious carbon dividend plan that could entice bipartisan support, pay families $2,000 a month and cut greenhouse gas emissions more than Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

President Donald Trump has already taken bold steps to undo the climate agenda of his predecessor. He has announced gag orders and contract holds on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, as well as executive orders to expedite completion of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Ever wondered how long evolution actually takes?

We tend to think of it as an achingly slow process, spanning hundreds, even thousands of years. But scientists studying crested anoles — little lizards native to the forests of Puerto Rico — say that urban-dwelling anoles are adapting to their built environments much more quickly than that.

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court has sparked widespread speculation about how the appellate judge might rule on upcoming cases in the court’s docket, including high-stakes cases on environmental issues.

Gorsuch's narrow interpretations of agency powers, as well as his lifelong experience as an outdoorsman, could inform his findings if he is confirmed, but “it’s hard to read him because he has not written that many major environmental cases,” says Vermont Law School Professor Patrick Parenteau.

Only a few dozen grizzly bears with bright yellow coats live in the forbidding Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In a new book, wildlife biologist Doug Chadwick writes about how these unique animals survive and what can be done to better protect them.

Chadwick first found out about the Gobi grizzly (called the mazaalai in Mongolian) almost by accident. He was tracking snow leopards in the mountains of Mongolia, near the border between Russia and Kazakhstan.

Pages