The Podcast from Living On Earth
House Democrats on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis have released a massive climate action plan that aims to end carbon pollution and build new clean energy and transportation systems, while also helping communities adapt to climate disruption. Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) joins Steve Curwood to discuss what the plan means for environmental policy and environmental justice communities moving forward. And as tickborne diseases like Lyme disease become more common in our warming climate, some homeowners in the thick of tick country are turning to guinea fowl to control the bloodthirsty arachnids.
EPA Approves GMO Mosquito Trials + Court Finds EPA Violated Pesticide Safety Procedures
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Published: July 9, 2020
EPA has given biotech company Oxitec the go-ahead to test the effectiveness of genetically modified mosquitoes in parts of Florida and Texas, generating environmental safety concerns. Also, a federal appellate court recently found EPA did not adequately consider risks and problems when it approved the herbicide Dicamba for new uses. That approval has created huge problems for farmers who do not use the chemical or who don’t want to buy seeds of genetically modified crops that can tolerate it.
The innate curiosity about and connection to the natural world that many of us experience as children are often lost on the path to adulthood. Author Brigit Strawbridge Howard found her way back to a childlike fascination with nature with the help of some of the world's most important pollinators: honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees. She shares tips for helping diverse bee species thrive in your own backyard.
The City Council of Arlington, Texas has taken a historic stand by refusing to expand a fracking complex located next to a preschool that serves primarily Black and Latino children. Also, eye contact can be powerful, a knowing look exchanged between beings. And for Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, nothing compares to catching the eye of a wild elephant.
Harvard is one of the latest in a series of wealthy institutions around the world announcing steps towards pulling their investments in the fossil fuel industry. But Harvard’s announcement has been called too little, too late. Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature” and cofounder of 350.org, reflects on what the divestment movement has achieved so far and how it all began. Also, why racial justice goes hand in hand with the fight for a cleaner environment, and the big takeaways that the coronavirus pandemic has for the climate crisis.
How Systemic Racism Exposes Black Americans to Pollution and Extreme Heat
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Published: June 24, 2020
Systemic racism has set Black Americans up for far greater exposure to pollution, and extreme heat brought by climate change. Both environmental concerns have been primarily caused and exacerbated by white Americans, yet it’s Black communities that bear the brunt of the harm. Also, some stereotypes about who can be “outdoorsy” can leave people of color out. So environmental educator CJ Goulding actively and creatively works to encourage young people of color to feel that they belong in the outdoors, too -- with an assist from his Air Jordan "Bred 11" sneakers.
Juneteenth and African Foodways + Farming While Black
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Published: June 22, 2020
African Americans celebrate their ancestors’ emancipation from slavery on June 19th, a holiday known as Juneteenth. On that day, families gather to picnic and cook out. The voyage from Africa isn’t often on people’s minds, but it is in their stomachs, by way of the foodways from across the Atlantic. Also, Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York is dedicated to not only growing food, but also cultivating environmental, racial and food justice. Its ten black, brown and Jewish farmers aim to dismantle racism within the food system while reconnecting people of color to the earth.
COVID-19 and Healthy Buildings + Pandemic Reduces Rhino Poaching
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Published: June 17, 2020
The pandemic continues to spread, with over 7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide by June 12, and research has shown that much of this spread has happened indoors. What we can do in our own homes, buildings, and even cars to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Also, more than 80 percent of the world's African rhino population lives in South Africa, making the country the epicenter of the rhino poaching world. Though the number of rhinos killed has steadily decreased since 2014, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a major drop in poaching.
Climate Loss and Damage from Big Oil + Lyme Disease Risk in City Parks
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Published: June 15, 2020
Several coastal counties and cities in California are suing Big Oil to seek compensation for the steep costs of adapting to sea level rise. Now the litigation is one step closer to trial. Also, people in cities have been relying on parks for a dose of fresh air during the pandemic, but lurking in the leaf litter and elsewhere in the park might be the tiny ticks infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Border Wall Threatens Sacred Lands; and Reopening National Parks
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Published: June 10, 2020
The Tohono O'odham Nation has been confined to a tiny fraction of the lands it once held in the desert Southwest. Now the Trump Administration’s border wall expansion threatens to further damage and restrict their access to sacred and archeological sites. Also, during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, most National Parks closed their doors to visitors, allowing wildlife including bears, pronghorn, and desert tortoises to venture into usually-crowded areas of the parks. As parks gradually reopen for the summer season, NPS employees are working to keep animals and visitors safe.
Now more than ever, public parks are providing some relief for those self-isolating in cities. But some have been closed for fear of overcrowding and even without a pandemic, some public spaces may not be truly open to all. A new book of poetry called “The Park” uses the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris as a lens to peer into inequality and exclusion. Also, in the wake of a confrontation and false accusation against Black birder Christian Cooper by a white dog walker he confronted in New York City, a group of Black scientists, birders, and nature enthusiasts came together on social media to create the first ever Black Birders Week. It’s giving a voice to birders of color everywhere, who face prejudicial suspicion and policing while pursuing their passion.
Outdoor Learning Safer in the Pandemic + "The Pear Tree"
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Published: June 3, 2020
As some schools and pre-schools prepare to reopen, educators are considering the health and educational benefits of outdoor learning to help lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission. In Scotland, nature-based preschools were already popular before the pandemic. Also, writer Jennifer Berry reflects on the wonders of a pear tree from her pre-pandemic life. Warblers, mockingbirds, and cedar waxwings are just a few of the creatures that find a feast in an old yet fruitful pear tree.
Lulu Miller of NPR’s “Invisibilia” joins Host Steve Curwood to discuss her new book, “Why Fish Don’t Exist”, which follows the astonishing story of fish scientist David Starr Jordan. He discovered thousands of new fish species around 1900, and kept going even as he faced repeated disasters that threatened to obliterate his life’s work. But his stubborn optimism had a dark side.
Backyard Tigers in America + The Lion in the Living Room
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Published: May 27, 2020
Private ownership of big cats is completely legal in several US states. In fact, experts estimate more tigers live in captivity in the United States than remain in the wild. Bobby Bascomb speaks with investigative journalist Rachel Nuwer, host of the podcast “Cat People”, about the exotic predators living in roadside zoos and backyards. Also, America is a nation of cat-lovers, but the reality is that they don’t always bother to love us back. They don’t need to, as we provide for them anyway, according to the book, The Lion in the Living Room. Author Abigail Tucker shares with Steve Curwood how house cats came to thrive in a human-dominated world, and how we didn’t tame them -- they tamed us.
American cities were once home to large numbers of livestock: cows grazing Boston Common, pigs roaming through what’s now downtown Manhattan. Then the nineteenth century brought cultural change and reform, and a new relationship with animals. The history of this transformation is the focus of Animal City: The Domestication of America by environmental historian Andrew Robichaud, who spoke with Jenni Doering.
Long before the COVID-19 disruptions forced dairy farmers to dump swimming pool quantities of milk into fields, a third of all food produced was going to waste. That waste has huge consequences for hunger and the climate, but it's also a major opportunity to reduce food waste, feed the hungry, save money and reduce carbon emissions. Also, sustainable living can be as much about returning to old, thrifty traditions as it is about innovative technologies. How to make your own food scrap soup, orange peel cleaners and more. And a team of paleontologists in New Zealand has discovered fossils of the largest known parrot to ever exist, estimated to be a whopping 3 feet tall and 14 pounds.
The success of the Paris Climate Agreement took the thoughtful cooperation of all nations of the world and coordination by the UN team led by Christiana Figueres. In her new book "The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis", Figueres shares her personal experience of leading the 2015 Paris talks and outlines key strategies for moving our society towards ecological responsibility. Figueres joined Steve Curwood at a recent “Good Reads on Earth” virtual event to discuss the urgent need to kick fossil fuels, the current pandemic crisis, and more. Also, climate disruption is wreaking havoc on the oceans of the world and the creatures that live there, including sea stars and salmon. Kori Suzuki reports.
The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court
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Published: May 13, 2020
Against long odds, in 2007 the United States Supreme Court decided the case Massachusetts v. EPA in favor of the states and environmental groups that had sought regulation of climate disrupting emissions. The case had enormous implications for environmental law, and it laid the legal groundwork for the Obama administration’s climate change policies as well as the global Paris Climate Accord. Harvard Law Professor Richard Lazarus, the author of the new book “The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court,” discusses with Steve Curwood the gripping behind-the-scenes story of how Massachusetts v. EPA made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Spring is in the air, and as insects face sharp declines, it's a great time to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. Also, it’s dandelion season and that means Grammy is on the prowl. At age 97 Virginia Dobell relishes picking the lawn-choking weed and cooking them up for her family.
With shelter-in-place orders affecting much of the country, zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers have had to close their doors. Many of these facilities have gone online to continue their mission with virtual visits, exhibit livestreams, and enrichment programs. Aynsley O'Neill reports. Also, across the country, animal care facilities are facing the question of how to care for their animals without visitor revenue during the coronavirus shutdown. Vikki Spruill, the President and CEO of the New England Aquarium in Boston, joins Host Steve Curwood to explain how her staff is taking care of more than 20,000 animals during the lockdown. And Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, witnesses an abundance of menhaden, and the creatures of the sea and air they help nourish.
Migrant farmworkers are considered essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and if they don't continue to tend and harvest the crops that feed America, there will be food shortages. Many face special risks during the pandemic, as they work in crowded conditions and more than half of them are undocumented, with poor access to healthcare and federal aid. We’ll hear from a longtime California farmworker about his fears and frustrations about working with little protection in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, a note on emerging science: as people around the world self-isolate and non-essential work is put on hold, the Earth has grown quieter, according to seismographic data.
A great migration is underway in the northern hemisphere, as migratory birds head north to start a family. Throughout their journeys these long-distance travelers rely on well-stocked pit-stops, like Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, Massachusetts. That’s where Steve Curwood meets up with ornithologist David Sibley one fine spring morning, to listen to copious birdsong and discuss the second edition of Sibley’s popular Guide to Birds. Also, Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, marvels at the speed and diligence with which a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers build and maintain a nest.
Erosion: Essays of Undoing: A Conversation With Terry Tempest Williams
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Published: April 27, 2020
Writer Terry Tempest Williams’ latest book, “Erosion: Essays of Undoing”, grapples with the erosion of democracy, science, compassion, and trust, as her beloved Utah red rock landscape faces oil and gas extraction, and the planet faces destructive warming. At a Good Reads on Earth live event, Williams spoke with Steve Curwood about how science and Native knowledge alike can guide us on a more sustainable path, and why erosion also creates an opportunity for evolution towards a better future. After the interview, Terry responds to audience questions.
This year, Earth Day turns 50. And from humble beginnings Earth Day has grown into the world’s largest secular holiday, celebrated around the world each year by more than a billion people. Activists, scientists, poets and pastors share their reflections for this special Earth Day, and Host and Executive Producer Steve Curwood reminisces on 30 years of Living on Earth. Also, Vermont Law School Professor Pat Parenteau reflects on the evolution of environmental law over the past 50 years, and what's ahead.
April 22nd, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, when some 20 million Americans peacefully rallied for protecting the planet. Steve Curwood speaks with Denis Hayes, coordinator of that very first Earth Day and founder of the Earth Day Network, about what April 22, 1970 was like, and how this year’s grand Earth Day plans have adapted to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Air Pollution Worsens COVID-19; and A Backyard BioBlitz
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Published: April 13, 2020
The novel coronavirus is deadlier to people who have years of exposure to high air pollution, emerging research finds. Dr. Aaron Bernstein of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, speaks with Steve Curwood about the link between air pollution and severe cases of COVID-19, and also notes people of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution. Dr. Bernstein also discusses the lifesaving health benefits of climate solutions that also clean up polluted air.
Also, every year, citizen scientists around the world participate in BioBlitzes: brief, intensive surveys of biological diversity over a set area and time. In 2020, social distancing didn't stop over 300 participants in 27 countries from cataloging observations of the world around them over a single 24 hours. Living on Earth's Bobby Bascomb, her husband Mark, and daughters Sage and Luna joined in April 5 and uncovered a multitude of life in their own backyard.
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