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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Nuclear energy gets a 'green' boost in New Jersey

Jun 24, 2018

After eight years of environmental rollbacks under former Republican Governor Chris Christie, recently-elected Democratic Governor Phil Murphy is embracing greener policies.

Mr. Murphy has signed bills to promote offshore wind and higher renewable portfolio standards for power companies and rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). But probably his most controversial measure commits New Jersey ratepayers to spending $300 million a year to keep two aging nuclear power plants alive.

Nine-year-old Izerman calls his home, the Marshall Islands, "the only place that I would ever live in if I had to choose.”

That line could come from any one of the approximate 25,000 people under the age of 18 who live there.

Hair products that for years have been targeted at the African American community may be causing health problems for its customers.

Researchers at the Silent Spring Institute, working with epidemiologist Tamarra James-Todd at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, measured the concentrations of chemicals in 18 of these products. What they found was that each product contained four to 30 types of chemicals.

When delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference left Paris in December of 2015, they did so with the international pact to allow temperatures to raise no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — in what later became known as the Paris Agreement.

There was also an established consensus, though, that allowing only a one-and-a-half degree increase would be ideal.

In the 1960s, just about all of the beaches on Long Island Sound in Connecticut were off-limits to people of color. Then Ned Coll came along.

In his book, "Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline," historian Andrew Kahrl describes Coll’s creative protests to smash the color bar and open the beaches to all children wanting to cool off on hot days.

The human dilemma of climate change is front and center in Alaska.

The far north is warming much faster than the rest of the world, causing permafrost to melt and forcing coastal Alaskans to retreat from the sea. Yet, $9 out of every $10 in state coffers come from the North Slope production of petroleum, which accelerates climate disruption when it’s burned.

The most toxic town in America

Jun 9, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency named Kotzebue, Alaska, the worst industrially polluted town in the United States earlier this year. The not-so-bragworthy distinction came from an annual EPA data set called the Toxics Release Inventory. 

No refuge for wildlife in some US wildlife refuges

Jun 9, 2018

A new report from the Center for Biological Diversity finds that chemical pesticides, totaling half a million pounds, are sprayed annually within some United States national wildlife refuges.

About 560 national wildlife refuges cover more than 150 million acres across the country, with some areas completely off-limits to humans and others open for hunting and fishing. But a number of national wildlife refuges also allow commercial agriculture, which exposes migrating birds and other wildlife in those refuges to yearly spraying of pesticides.

Could lava one day be used to store excess CO2?

Jun 3, 2018

Can there possibly be an upside to the disaster unfolding in Hawaii, as the Kilauea volcano continues to spew lava and ash? Certainly not right away; but perhaps in the long-term some of that lava might serve a useful purpose.

Scientists believe that solidified lava and magma could perhaps safely store large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and help combat global warming.

New emails uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that a US Food and Drug Administration scientist found residue from the herbicide glyphosate on nearly every food item tested, including cereals, crackers and honey.

The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference set to take place in Poland is a little more than six months away. The conference — also known as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24 for short — represents the next formal opportunity for the 197 nations to continue to form a plan to go forward with the Paris climate agreement of 2015, created at COP21.

Saving Kerala’s Fresh Water

Jun 1, 2018

Heavy monsoons are typical in Kerala, India, where the rain irrigates crops and fills drinking wells. But over the past decade, the rains have been more volatile, partly due to a changing climate. The unreliable rains have heightened fears of drought, which could be devastating for an area trying to increase its organic agricultural production.

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.

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