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

Nowhere in the United States has been experiencing the impacts of climate change in a more rapid fashion than Alaska where a steep rise in temperatures has been melting permafrost and causing sea levels to rise.

Last fall, a group of 16 Alaska youth decided to sue their home state through a non profit called Our Children’s Trust, claiming their fundamental human rights are being threatened by climate change.

As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faces mounting allegations of legal and ethical violations, Democratic lawmakers last month recruited a record number of federal lawmakers for a joint, non-binding resolution calling for his resignation: 39 Senators and 131 House representatives.

A group of six Democratic senators wrote to the Trump administration last month asking it to explain its ties to the conservative fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch.

The Koch brothers have claimed credit for administration policies such as shrinking national monuments, gutting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, killing a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Leading the Senate call concerning undue influence by the Kochs is Rhode Island’s Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Just five years ago, Kerala, a tropical state in southwestern India, imported almost 70 percent of its food. But today, the state is about halfway toward its ambitious goal of going 100 percent organic and agriculturally self-sufficient by 2020.

Kerala hosts a highly literate workforce, and many people choose to work abroad, so the state used to rely on imported food. When doctors and the public started to blame rising cancer rates on chemical pesticides from this imported food, it kickstarted an urgency to go organic.

April 2018 was the coldest and snowiest April on record for much of North America. That spelled trouble for migrating birds who arrived in the north expecting to bulk up on the spring emergence of bugs — and often found two feet of snow instead.

The extreme weather also worries bird experts like Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. One bad season can take a terrible toll on bird populations, he says.

Two grassroots heroes who defended their environments against powerful industries are among the seven recipients of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize.

They are Claire Nouvian, a French marine life advocate who advocated relentlessly for a more sustainable fishing policy in the European Union; and Manny Calonzo of the Philippines, who pushed his country to ban paint containing the neurotoxin lead.

Two women from South Africa who joined forces to stop a secret nuclear power deal between South Africa and Russia are among the seven recipients of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize.

The prize recognizes individuals who have stood up to vested interests, corruption, industry bullying and political repression to protect their communities and the environment. It is awarded to activists in each inhabited region of the world.

Activists in British Columbia are trying to stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which would nearly triple the flow of oil sands crude from Alberta to the port at Vancouver. The protestors say the project endangers the climate.

On October 11, 2016, American climate activists closed valves on five pipelines, halting most of the oil flowing into the US from Canada’s oil sands. They waited for arrest and when police arrived, they went quietly. They faced criminal charges in court.

Residents worry Massachusetts waste incinerator is contaminating waterways

May 12, 2018

Anyone who spends time in Revere, Massachusetts, can see the close relationship between this small industrial town north of Boston and the surrounding waterways.

The area is so used to the water that Revere resident Sandra Hurley Jewkes says that her mother’s house “becomes an island” five to seven times a year when the area is flooded.

Three generations of Jewkes’ family has lived in the house situated right next to the Rumney Marsh Reservation, a 600-acre state park that is a haven for various species of birds and marine life.

A growing list of US cities and counties are suing fossil fuel companies for damages linked to climate change.

Among the defendants are Shell and ExxonMobil. Emerging evidence suggests that these companies understood the warming effects of greenhouse gas emissions decades ago, yet engaged in a massive campaign to persuade the public otherwise and to discredit the science.

Kerala’s making an ambitious pledge to go organic

May 7, 2018

Despite its congenial climate, the Indian state of Kerala is not agriculturally self-sufficient. Relying on produce from neighboring states wasn't a problem for Keralans, who have high literacy rates and tend to choose better paying jobs over farm positions.

But then chemicals on imported food were blamed for high cancer rates. This, in turn, has sparked a revolution: A push by the state government to ensure its agriculture is 100 percent organic by 2020.

They have been around since the dawn of time, but until 25 years ago certain natural habitats never had rights — at least, not in a legal sense.

That changed in a landmark legal challenge in the Philippines in 1993, when a lawyer named Tony Oposa represented his children and another group of children in a case that argued that deforestation practices in their country violated the children’s rights to live in a healthy environment under the Filipino Constitution. The Supreme Court of the Philippines sided with Oposa and the children.

In January, the EPA announced it was withdrawing the 23-year-old pollution control policy known as “once in, always in.” In response, seven environmental groups and the State of California have sued the EPA, saying the rollback opens the door to huge increases in the release of dangerous air pollutants.

The majority of dog owners dutifully pick up after their pets in cities or neighborhoods, but sometimes they forget or don’t think about it when out in nature. Though this may not seem like a big deal, some experts say our dear dogs may pose a public health problem for nature — and for us.

The Island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is home to a rich ocean ecosystem and host to scientists dedicated to understanding it — including UMass student Matt Souza, who conducted a foundational study of crab populations in the harbor on the north shore of the island.

Souza, a student at the School for the Environment at UMass Boston, is getting his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science. 

Government agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the United States Geological Survey are breathing sighs of relief, as they will keep their federal funding or even see budget increases, thanks to a bipartisan federal spending measure enacted March 23.

There are several chemicals that have no taste or smell that could reach our drinking water without us realizing the inconspicuous harm they are causing. Then, there are some that have a particular property to them — such as smelling like licorice.

That is the case for MCHM, a chemical that was created to help in the washing of coal. Labeled as a coal flocculant, it has the ability to separate burnable fossil fuel from dirt and rock and other materials.

The mysterious aurora known as 'Steve,' explained

Apr 28, 2018

Thanks to collaboration between citizen scientists and astronomers, a strange phenomenon in the night sky, dubbed “Steve,” has finally been explained.

In 2017, a glowing purple-and-green ribbon across the heavens mystified sky-watchers because it showed up much further south than the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis. These observers decided to call it “Steve,” echoing the woodland creatures in the children’s movie "Over the Hedge."

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced that the agency will start the process of scrapping Obama-era auto emissions standards negotiated with the automakers, a move that, if completed, would double allowable vehicle pollution in 2025, compared to existing rules.

The prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement has been awarded to Paul Falkowski and James J. McCarthy, distinguished oceanographers who focus on climate change.

McCarthy is a Harvard professor who co-chaired a working group for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A sharp decline in biodiversity is affecting every region of the world, threatening the ability of citizens in many nations to find adequate food and clean water, according to a United Nations report.

A study from Columbia University has found notable differences in the DNA of neonatal babies born after a coal plant in China was shut down, compared with babies born in the same place while the plant was still operating and polluting the surrounding air.

Dr. Frederica Perera and Dr. Deliang Tang, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, found that babies born during the coal plant’s operation had shorter telomeres than those born after the plant’s closure — a result which seemed to validate the Chinese government's push to reduce air pollution.

Update April 16: On April 12, Judge Thomas Coffin, a Federal Magistrate judge in Eugene, Oregon, scheduled Juliana vs. United States to go to trial Oct. 29.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled on March 7 that the Trump administration's motion to dismiss a groundbreaking climate lawsuit was premature. The case was brought by a group of 21 young people who allege the government knowingly let carbon dioxide destabilize the climate, denying them the right to live in a habitable environment.

The Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent jeopardizes future research and excavation in one of the densest fossil troves in the world, according to scientists who work in the region.

After the Trump administration announced plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to nearly the entire US coastline, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke quickly followed up with another announcement exempting Florida from the new plans.

Now, a growing number of Republican and Democratic governors and legislators from coastal states are demanding the same exemption.

In the Caribbean, queen conches are living on the edge

Apr 14, 2018

The queen conch is a large marine mollusk with a beautiful shell that is prized for export. The gastropod inside the shell is featured on menus across the Caribbean. But the conch’s numbers are rapidly dwindling, and researchers say action is needed to save them.

FEMA maps lack up-to-date information on flood risk

Apr 8, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “patchwork quilt” of flood maps has coverage gaps and is obsolete in places, according to a recent study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nature Conservancy charity and the University of Bristol.

Russian internet trolls from the same outfit blamed for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election also created more than 9,000 social media posts designed to stir up enmity around energy and natural gas projects in the US, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a report from the Republican majority of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.


After a shocking number of deaths among North Atlantic right whales last year, no new births have been recorded so far this year, moving them ever closer to extinction.

Warming ocean waters have prompted the whales to move north from their usual summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine into Canada’s Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Canada has fewer rules protecting them from ship strikes, and 18 of these rare giants died last season alone. Now, the report that the population produced no new calves in the past year is causing great concern among scientists.

Pages