Plastic Pollution in Ocean

Photo credit: Conserve Energy Future

Photo credit: Conserve Energy Future

In today’s show we offer two related features:
Plastic Pollution in the Arctic, Green Chemistry  (start time: 7:48) Try to wrap your brain around this statistic: by mid-century the mass of plastic in the oceans will weigh more than the total mass of fish if we continue with ‘business as usual,’ according to the World Economic Forum. Plastic debris, ranging from plastic water bottles to fish nets to invisible fragments, is choking seabirds and mammals all the way up to the Arctic, and quite possibly harming human health. How On Earth host Susan Moran recently attended the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway, where she interviewed one of the speakers, Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia. Dr. Jambeck directs the Center for Circular Materials Management, where researchers are designing materials and processes that both reduce waste and, like nature itself, reuse waste.

Photo credit: Chris Jordan

Photo credit: Chris Jordan

Grassroots Efforts Curb Plastic Pollution (start time: 20:24) In case you’re wondering what’s land-locked Colorado and your daily life got to do with plastic pollution in the ocean, our guest, Vicki Nichols Goldstein, founder and executive director of the Inland Ocean Coalition, discusses regional and national campaigns to curb plastic waste. The Suck the Straws Out campaign is one of many. You can get involved, starting with attending the Colorado Ocean Coalition‘s Blue Drinks happy hour on Feb. 15 in Boulder.

Hosts: Chip Grandits, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineers: Maeve Conran, Chip Grandits, Evan Perkins
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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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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Himalayan Glacial Lakes

dec20Himalayan Glacial Lakes (starts at 5:20) Some scientists conduct their experiments in a laboratory — think clean white walls, artificial lighting, A.C. and a convenient coffee pot not far away. Not so for Ulyana Horodyskyj, a graduate student at the University of Colorado. For the last few years she’s been looking at glaciers and the lakes on top of them in Nepal. Last year she spent a year looking at how pollution affects glaciers high in the Himalayan Mountains. She hoped to set up the ultimate high-altitude laboratory on the oxygen-thin slopes of Mount Everest, but a fatal accident intervened. On this edition of How on Earth, she talks about her latest research, Himalayan glaciers and what it is like to do science at the top of the world.

Hosts: Jane Palmer, Joel Parker
Producer, Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producers: Jane Palmer, Kendra Krueger
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Nitrogen pollution // Electric vehicles

On today’s show we offer two interview features.
Feature #1:

Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, caused by excess nutrients, mainly nitrogen from fertilizer

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency published a seminal report about nitrogen, which is an enormous environmental and public health problem that some scientists put on par with the carbon imbalance. Nitrogen is essential for all life, including ours, but excess nitrogen in the environment is turning out to be a predicament of crisis proportions. It kills fish, creates “dead zones” in places like the Gulf of Mexico, contaminates drinking water, and causes human illnesses.
Co-host Susan Moran interviews Dr. Hans Paerl, who has served on the EPA science advisory board and co-authored the report.   He’s a professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences, at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences.

Tesla Roadster

Feature #2:
Our reliance on petroleum-fueled vehicles can be blamed, at least in part for a wide range of problems we face today, from local air pollution to global warming, the balance of payments deficit to political instability on a global scale.  One possible solution is to shift from a reliance on gasoline to the use of electricity for transportation.  Co-host Tom McKinnon interviews John Gartner, a senior analyst at Pike Research in Boulder, to discuss the electric vehicle outlook in the U.S.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom McKinnon
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham

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