Environment

It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The oil has long stopped flowing and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up oiled beaches and waterways, but the disaster isn't necessarily over.

Oil fouled some 1,100 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, but today, in most spots, you can't see obvious signs of the spill. In Orange Beach, Ala., the clear emerald waters of the Gulf roll onto sugar-white sand beaches.

The Environmental Protection Agency's new air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry may seem like odd timing, as President Obama has been trying to deflect Republican criticism that he overregulates energy industries. But the rules weren't the Obama administration's idea.

Several years ago, communities in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming complained about air pollution from natural gas booms in their local areas.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Wednesday to control the problem of air pollution coming from wells being drilled by the booming oil and natural gas drilling industry.

Currently, waste products from the drilling operations, which include a mix of chemicals, sand and water, can be pumped into open enclosures or pits, where toxic substances can make their way into the air. The new rules will require this fluid to be captured by 2015, and flared — or burned off — in the meantime.

Gaming the Forest

Apr 18, 2012
(Photo by Kevin Poh via Flickr Creative Commons)

A new app transforms tree leaves into currency…kind of changes your mind about raking season, eh?

The game, called Forest, will be demonstrated at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Austin, Texas, in May. It was designed by Jason Linder and Wendy Ju of the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.  

 

iStock/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are there health or environmental concerns with LED lightbulbs, which may soon replace compact fluorescents as the green-friendly light bulb of choice?     -- Mari-Louise, via e-mail

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is “pesticide drift” and should I be worried about it?

                                                                                                 -- Nicole Kehoe, Burlington, VT

 

Courtesy NOAA

It’s believed that the population of North Atlantic right whales off the New England coast is down to just 300-400.

The whales have been classified as endangered for decades, yet the remaining whales still face threats – including the often large threat of collisions with ships.

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping have developed an early warning system of sorts – through a smartphone app called WhaleAlert.

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that dams actually hurt rivers?-- Missy Davenport, Boulder, CO

Dams are a symbol of human ingenuity and engineering prowess—controlling the flow of a wild rushing river is no small feat. But in this day and age of environmental awareness, more and more people are questioning whether generating a little hydroelectric power is worth destroying riparian ecosystems from their headwaters in the mountains to their mouths at the ocean and beyond.

The last big ice age ended about 11,000 years ago, and not a moment too soon — it made a lot more of the world livable, at least for humans.

But exactly what caused the big thaw isn't clear, and new research suggests that a wobble in the Earth kicked off a complicated process that changed the whole planet.

Ice tells the history of the Earth's climate: Air bubbles in ice reveal what the atmosphere was like and what the temperature was. And scientists can read this ice, even if it's been buried for thousands of years.

The Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic, is peculiar: Every few decades, the average temperature of surface water there changes dramatically.

Scientists want to know why that is, especially because these temperature shifts affect the weather. New research suggests that human activity is part of the cause.

Scientists originally thought that maybe some mysterious pattern in deep-ocean currents, such as an invisible hand stirring a giant bathtub, created this temperature see-saw.

Filmmaker James Cameron recently reminded us of the wonders of the sea by diving solo in a submarine to the deepest spot in the ocean. Next year, if all goes as planned, a rather different expedition will take place 1,000 miles south of that dive: An Australian company will start mining for copper, gold, silver and zinc on the seafloor off the shore of Papua New Guinea.

A wildfire in the foothills southwest of Denver continues to burn out of control. It's destroyed dozens of homes and buildings, and with two people confirmed dead and another missing, it looks to be Colorado's deadliest wildfire in decades.

A day and a half after the fire started, the weather at the command post is so beautiful it's hard to imagine the nearby blaze is raging almost out of control. Mark Techmeyer of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department calls the Lower North Fork Wildfire a monster.

The Lorax

Mar 28, 2012
Reuters/San Diego Police Department/Handout

The box office success of the new Universal Pictures animated feature film “The Lorax” - based on a classic Dr. Seuss tale – creates a window of opportunity to consider environmental messaging to a new generation of future leaders. The original Seuss tale is beloved. I can still recite it from memory. “Tell us ‘The Lorax’ Dad!” my kids would beg. Like all Seuss books, The Lorax features rhymes, nuances and a moral.

Pipe Down! That Noise Might Affect Your Plants

Mar 26, 2012

Researchers haven't given much thought to the effect of noise and noise pollution on plants. After all, plants don't have ears — at least, not the kind you hear with — so there doesn't seem to be much point. But thanks to ecologist Clinton Francis, that could be about to change.

Francis is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. But he has spent the past few years in northwestern New Mexico, studying noise pollution in Rattlesnake Canyon.

Photo by Dovak, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

In Wisconsin, a bill that would authorize a hunting and trapping season for wolves sits on Governor Scott Walker’s desk.  The bill pits republican and democratic supporters against environmental and conservation groups who say the proposal has no basis is the science of wildlife management.

Shell Oil plans to explore for petroleum off Alaska's north coast this summer. The native people of Alaska have a big stake in both oil revenue and environmental protection. That conflict has played out in recent trips by Inupiats to Washington, D.C., to argue their case.

Photo by Karen Johnson for Creative Commons via Wordpress

Rising gas prices have again shifted the political debate between those calling for more drilling to meet America's fossil fuel dependency and those advocating for investment in alternative energy sources. Many environmentalists are convinced that we are nearing the day when fossil fuels are tapped out, or too expensive or too harmful to extract.

iStockPhoto

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: American farmers are an aging population. Is anyone doing anything to make sure younger people are taking up this profession in large enough numbers to keep at least some of our food production domestic?-- Beverly Smith, Milwaukee, WI

iStockPhoto

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I can’t seem to find any natural bug repellents that really work so I end up using the harsh, chemical varieties. Are there any really effective bug repellants that aren’t chemically based, or other strategies we can use to keep bugs at bay?                  -- Melissa Armantine, New Paltz, NY

This year, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services turns 25 years old.  Its Commissioner, Tom Burack says that over that time a lot of progress has been made in terms of clean water, air and land, but there’s still a long way to go.   “This legacy,” Burack says “requires vigilance and maintenance”. Those are tough goals, and with recent budget cuts to his department it makes it even that much more tough.

The man who warned us that aerosol spray-cans could destroy the earth's protective ozone layer has died.

F. Sherwood Rowland, better known as Sherry Rowland, was a Nobel-prize winning chemist at the University of California, Irvine. And he didn't just keep to the laboratory: He successfully advocated for a ban on ozone-destroying chemicals called CFCs.

Beached Dolphins Keep Cape Cod Rescuers Busy

Feb 8, 2012

Dolphins have been stranding themselves along the shores of Cape Cod, Mass., since the Pilgrims' times, and this winter is no different. What is different is how long the latest round of strandings has lasted — almost a month. So far, rescuers have counted 147 strandings and 38 successful rescues and releases.

PhotoDisc/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that Latino communities are among those hardest hit by air pollution? -- Miguel Aragones, Los Angeles, CA

iStock Photo/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I was horrified to read recently that our oceans are actually becoming acidic, that the continued burning of fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of our seas. What’s going on?  -- Kim Richardson, San Diego, CA

 

iStock Photo/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that cable and other pay TV boxes that sit atop television sets consume massive amounts of energy, in part because they are always on, even when the TV is off? -- Sam Winston, Metarie, LA

 

Hemera Collection/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that the bathroom is where over half of our household water usage takes place? What are some ways to take a bite out of that? -- Shelby McIntyre, Chico, CA

Yes indeed, some 60 percent of our household indoor water usage happens in the bathroom. As such, updating old leaky fixtures and changing a few basic habits could go a long way to not only saving fresh water, an increasingly precious resource, but also money.

Hemera Collection / Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that some companies are now looking to cut down forests and burn them as “biomass” for generating electricity. Is nothing sacred?   -- Audrey Barklay, Newark, NJ

The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest in the nation. They also have some of the dirtiest air, thanks to thousands of cargo trucks that pass through each day.

But this month marks the beginning of a new era, as tighter emissions standards go into effect.

'100 Percent Clean Energy'

A common trope in environmental stories is to put things in terms of jobs vs. the environment. But that's not what happened in the case of the ports.

USDA

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: There are a number of companies out there now doing “energy audits” for the home, after which they try to sell you attic insulation and other products and services. Is this just a scam or would it be wise for me to look into this?                            -- Bill Richards., New York, NY

 

Our issue Tuesday series continues with a look at where the Republican Presidential Candidates stand on the environment.  It’s a low priority for most G. O. P. voters this year, but the candidates do have their positions from energy policy to the impact of regulation on business to the elimination of  the E. P. A.  We’ll find out what they’re saying and how that’s playing in the Republican primary. 

Guests

Pages