Earth in Human Hands – Shaping our Planet’s Future

Dr. David Grinspoon (photo by Lawrence Cheng)

Dr. David Grinspoon
(photo by Lawrence Cheng)

Sometimes when we are having personal or health problems, it helps to get an outside perspective: talk to other friends who have experienced similar problems and how they dealt with them, and other friends about how they avoided those problems.  Talk to experts.  Then using all that input, we try to make the best choice to solve the problems and to live a long and happy life.  This is perhaps the situation we find ourselves in now with the health of our environment and the long-term viability of the human race.  So where to we look for that “outside perspective” and expert help?  The answer may be: look to other planets and talk to those who study them.  This is the approach astrobiologist Dr. David Grinspoon takes in his new book: “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future”. Dr. Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, and in 2013 he was appointed the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the Library of Congress.  We had a chance to talk with Dr. Grinspoon about how he compares Earth’s story to those of other planets, and how our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective.

The podcast of the show is below, and you also can hear the extended interview here.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Earth in Human Hands – extended interview

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This is the full interview with Dr. David Grinspoon, author of the book “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future”.  Excerpts of this interview by Joel Parker aired on How on Earth on our January 10, 2017 show.

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2016 Retrospective

2016-resetFor this end-of-the-year How on Earth show, we look back to 2016 with clips from some of our features from the past year: selections from the Our Microbes, Ourselves series, research about Zika, gravitational waves, and carbon farming.  Those are just a few of the topics we covered in 2016, which also included: electric cars, electric airplanes, renewable energy, climate change, using the microbiome as indicator of length of time after death, star gazing, pesticides, life on other planets, planets around other stars, stars in other galaxies, eggs, plant diversity, marine animal sex, wildfires, recent science graduates describing their thesis work, PTSD, light pollution, pollinators, lead in water supplies, Alzheimer’s research, the Rosetta mission, the New Horizons mission, missions to Mars – past, present, and future, sleep, cell phones, and more!

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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Biodiversity Matters // Scientists Implore Trump

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Gillian Bowser, research scientist, CSU

This week’s show offers two features:
Global Biodiversity (start time: 1:22): Scientists, NGOs and government representatives from nearly 200 countries have been gathering in Cancun, Mexico, for the UN Biodiversity Conference, known as COP13. They’re meeting to promote protocols and strategic actions related to biological diversity, climate change, food security, and even citizen science.  Gillian Bowser, a research scientist at Colorado State University, has studied international climate and biodiversity conventions, while working on issues such as women in sustainability, as well as citizen science. She discusses with host Susan Moran the importance of COP13, and the impact of citizens in scientific studies, such as identifying and tracking butterflies, birds and other species.

alan_rmnp

Alan Townsend, ecologist, CU Boulder

Scientists’ Letter to Trump (start time: 12:09) Last week roughly 800 earth and planetary scientists, as well as energy experts, sent an open letter to president-elect Donald Trump, urging him to take six concrete steps to address climate change and to help protect “America’s economy, national security, and public health and safety.” Trump has called global warming a concept created by China to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive, and he has picked a climate change denialist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Many scientists fear that a Trump administration will drastically decrease federal funding for climate research. Indeed, the Trump transition team has already issued a questionnaire to the Department of Energy to identify employees and contractors who have worked on climate change research. Alan Townsend, an ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder and one of many Colorado scientists who signed the letter, discusses these issues with hosts Maeve Conran and Susan Moran.

Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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Methane Emissions From Natural Gas

Oil and gas wells in Four Corners region. Credit: NASA

Methane Madness (start time: 2:20)  More than a decade ago, scientists noted that the area where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, known as Four Corners, appeared to be emitting a curiously large amount of methane. In a new study, a team of scientists have traced the source: more than 250 gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines and processing plants associated with oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin. The basin is one of many places where new drilling technologies, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have propelled a boom in natural gas extraction. The boom has transformed the U.S. energy mix. Our two guests discuss with hosts Daniel Glick and Susan Moran the science and public health aspects of this study as well as the human side of living near natural gas wells in Colorado. Dr. Colm Sweeney co-authored the recent Four Corners study. He is the lead scientist for NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab Aircraft Program, and he is a research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, at the University of Colorado Boulder. Our other guest, Dr. Christopher Clack, is a physicist and mathematician with CIRES whose research focuses on renewable electricity. He shares his personal experience with and documentation of natural gas extraction.

Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Contributor: Joel Parker

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Toward Sustainable Agriculture

Corn fields in Illinois

Corn fields in Illinois

Sustainable Agriculture (starts 3:06): We couldn’t feed the planet without nitrogen, a vital nutrient for crops. But most soils don’t produce enough of it to feed anywhere near our 7 billion-plus humans on the planet. So, for nearly a century we’ve been applying synthetic fertilizer—mainly nitrogen and phosphorus — to grow crops for animals and people. But we have overindulged, creating vast amounts of waste, in the form of nitrogen pollution of waterways and the atmosphere. State and federal regulations have pressured growers to dramatically reduce fertilizer runoff from their fields. But it’s not been enough. Another approach – call it the carrot versus the stick – is also taking hold. Major food retailers, wholesalers, and producers, such as Walmart, United Suppliers and Unilever are transforming their whole supply chains, making food production less carbon- and nitrogen-intensive. Suzy Friedman, a sustainable agriculture expert with the Environmental Defense Fund, discusses with host Susan Moran how programs such as SUSTAIN help large food companies shrink their environmental footprint.

Hosts: Natalia Bayona, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Tim Russo
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Electric Car Road Trips // Renewable Energy Nation . . . in 15 Years

Tesla Superchargers - Rural Arizona

Tesla Superchargers – Rural Arizona

Electric Car Road Trips (starts 3:42): We go on a road trip with How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender to see how all-electric vehicles are exceeding “range anxiety” by driving coast to coast, all on electricity.  Along the way we talk with Boulder Nissan’s Nigel Zeid about regional plans to help more drivers “plug in” and with Hunter Lovins, head of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

courtesy Solar Praxis

courtesy Solar Praxis

Renewable Energy Nation (starts 11:53): Joel Parker talks live with NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald and Christopher Clack, a mathematician at the University of Colorado-Boulder. They have developed a model that demonstrates how the entire U.S. can run on solar and wind power–with existing technologies, with no batteries, and at lower cost than today’s prices–within 15 years. For more information, see this video and these animations of:
U.S. Wind Power Potential
U.S. Solar Power Potential
U.S. Power Flow

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bennett
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Additional Contributions: Susan Moran

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Climate Change and Cities

Climate Change and Cities (starts at 5:05)  Sea level rise, severe storms, heat waves – these are just a few of the challenges cities might be facing as the climate changes in the next few decades.  So how should they adapt to cope with such events? And with urban developments being one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, what can they do to mitigate their impact?

paty2 2010These are questions that the Urban Climate Change Research Network has set out to address in its Second Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities.  The report gives the expected climate projections for 100 cities along with guidance on increasing resilience and reducing impact.  The Network released its summary for city leaders at the Paris talks only three weeks ago, and Boulder’s Paty Romero Lankao was there to promote the report — she was a co-editor of the report and coordinating lead author of the chapter on governance. Dr. Lankao is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who investigates the interactions between urban development and global environmental change, and in our show she talks with us about the outlook for cities and the report.

HostsJane Palmer, Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline Contributions: Susan Moran, Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer

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Beyond Cop21Paris: Climate Science & Policy

Today, Dec. 8, we offer the following feature:

Waleed Abdalati

Waleed Abdalati, photo credit David Oonk/CIRES

Changing Climate, Changing Policy (start time: 7:06): As political leaders are still hammering out an accord at the UN Climate Summit, or COP21, in Paris, to rein in global warming, today we discuss the underlying scientific facts about climate change, and the policy promises and challenges for our future. Hosts Susan Moran and Daniel Glick interview two Colorado scientists at the intersection of science and policy. Dr. Waleed Abdalati is a geoscientist and director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a partnership between the University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lisa Dilling with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Lisa Dilling, photo credit Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

Dr. Lisa Dilling is an associate professor of environmental studies, also at CIRES, who brings expertise in science policy related to climate issues. She directs The Western Water Assessment, a NOAA program that provides information for policy makers throughout the Intermountain West about the region’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. Contributing host Daniel Glick was an editor of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, and his team has produced videos on the immediate and human impacts of climate change.

Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender

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Historical Analysis of Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases

Adler_Cowk1223-19-e1438626342444When it comes to reducing greenhouses gases, every little bit helps, and that includes managing the greenhouse gases produced by how we grow our food.  Raising livestock and growing crops both generate greenhouse gases, and to gauge their impact, a new study takes the long range view.  The results were published in a paper: “Measuring and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas production in the U.S. Great Plains, 1870-2000” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  It analyzes 100 years of agricultural production, and it takes this look at farming close to home – it focuses on the bread basket of the United States – the Great Plains, which includes eastern Colorado.  Here to tell us more are scientists Myron Guttman (University of Colorado) and Bill Parton (Colorado State University)

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Kendra Krueger
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline contributions: Beth Bennett, Kendra Krueger, Joel Parker

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