Environment

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.

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The shaded areas of North Buffalo's Shoshone Park are not going to be shaded for much longer, as the invasive emerald ash borer has taken its toll on most of the trees in the park. 


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 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.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the source of an oil spill in Niagara Falls.

Dan Telvock

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer on Wednesday called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to “move into a higher gear” and conduct a comprehensive assessment of radioactive hotspots in Niagara County and Grand Island.

A new book explores the hidden value of urban weeds

Jul 12, 2016

For many humans, the great white shark is the scariest fish in the sea. But for scientist Greg Skomal and writer Sy Montgomery, these huge-jawed behemoths are simply fascinating.

Montgomery, the author of 20 books on wildlife, followed Skomal and his team as they searched the waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for these creatures. She and photographer Keith Ellenbogan tell the story in her latest book, "The Great White Shark Scientist."

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.

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.

Dan Telvock

The state has known for almost four decades that more than 60 properties are contaminated with radioactive waste in Niagara County and Grand Island.


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.

For years, science has known that pollution from smokestacks and exhaust pipes can promote diseases, including heart disease and asthma. Now, researchers in Sweden say polluted air also appears to be bad for mental health.

The University of Massachusetts has become the first major public university system in America to pull direct investments in fossil fuels out of its endowment.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is pushing ahead with plans to add a new dam to the largest hydroelectric dam complex in the world — without completing the social and environmental assessments required by law.


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.

A new way to clean the environment?

Jun 19, 2016

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.

Climate change is a huge threat to our national parks

Jun 19, 2016

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.

The incredible journey of one 3-year-old mountain lion

Jun 18, 2016

Another attraction has made its home at Canalside and it’s an exhibit with an environmental message. ‘Cool Globes,’ a set of a dozen large globes lined up near the waterfront, is designed to get people thinking about climate change.

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.

Massachusetts kids win a landmark climate ruling

Jun 12, 2016

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in favor of four young plaintiffs who claim the state has failed to follow through on laws that require reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The court, in a unanimous decision, ordered the state to stop dragging its feet and implement the law as written.

Brad Campbell, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation, one of the organizations involved in the lawsuit, calls this a “landmark decision.”

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.

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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