The Unnatural World

the-unnatural-world-9781476743905_lgThe Unnatural World (start time: 6:58): It’s an audacious topic for a book: the planet, and audacious individuals who are working to save — actually, to remake — human civilization and our home on Earth. David Biello is the science curator at TED and a contributing editor at Scientific American. His debut book, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age (Scribner), will be out in paperback next month. It explores how we have altered “nature” in so many ways, from burning fossil fuels and warming the oceans and atmosphere, to tearing down tropical rain forests, to killing off so many species. In this newest epoch, dubbed by many the Anthropocene, humans are not just messing things up; they are also inventing solutions, as Biello notes. Daring optimists in his book include Elon Musk and his Tesla electric cars and trucks.

Hosts: Chip Grantis, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grantis
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker

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Biofuels Tradeoffs

corn-field-farm-vertical-PA
Biofuels Tradeoffs (start time: 8:27): In this week’s show David DeGennaro, an agriculture policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation and author of a report called “Fueling Destruction,”  talks with host Susan Moran about the environmental consequences of biofuels, and about possible solutions. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed maintaining record support for biofuels, namely corn. Last week the EPA ended an open public comment period leading up to a decision to maintain, increase or scale back its current support of biofuels as part of the Renewable Fuels Standard, a federal mandate to blend corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels into conventional gasoline. NWF and some other environmental organizations, along with former California Congressman Henry Waxman, have been urging the EPA and Congress to reduce biofuels mandates. Increased demand for corn has led to the conversion of millions of acres of habitat-rich grasslands and into croplands — all without significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto
Additional contributions: Alejandro Soto

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The Alien Hunter & SETI

Contact cover-lrgToday’s show offers the following feature:
Extraterrestrial intelligence? (start time: 6:30): It’s mid-summer, a time when many of us like to spend leisurely time outside at night, gazing at the stars and planets, and asking the big existential questions, such as, Are we alone? Is there intelligent life waaay out there? Our guest today, science writer Sarah Scoles, has pondered these questions for several years. She discusses with hosts Susan Moran and Joel Parker her just-published biography, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Tarter, an astronomer, directed the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research. Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel Contact” illustrates Tarter’s astronomical work. In the 1997 movie Contact (stemming from Sagan’s novel) actor Jodi Foster played a character  who was loosely based on Tarter.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto

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The American Eclipse of 1878

Cover-300-wideThis August 21st, some parts of the Earth will be plunged into darkness in the middle of the day.  It will be a solar eclipse; the moon’s shadow will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, with the path closest to Colorado passing through Wyoming and Nebraska.

There have been many eclipses across the US, but there was a particularly special one nearly 140 years ago on July 29th, 1878.  That eclipse came at a time in American history of western expansion, industrial growth, new inventions and World’s Fairs, and a young country wanting to establish itself on the international stage of science and technology.

Our guest today is David Baron, author of a book about that eclipse.  The book is “American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World”.  David joins us to talk about that eclipse, the people involved in observing it, and its part in Colorado history.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Susan Moran
Producer / Engineer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome // Renewables

Rehmeyer coverWe offer two feature interviews on today’s show.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (start time: 11:49)  Imagine spending years waking up so sore and fatigued many mornings that you can barely move. And traversing the country to find doctors who could offer a clear diagnosis, only to find out they don’t really know. And feeling your friendships and professional relationships start to fray, as people question whether you’re making up your illness. For those who have suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS, or ME), or a similar disease, Julie Rehmeyer’s story may sound painfully familiar.  The science and math writer talks with host Susan Moran about her new book about the illness, called Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey Into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand. Rehmeyer will speak about her book on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Boulder Book Store.

Nevada Solar One plant, Photo credit: Tom McKinnon

Nevada Solar One plant, Photo credit: Tom McKinnon

Renewable Energy Debate (start time: 3:20): A bitter scientific debate, as reported in the Washington Post, has surfaced among two scientific groups that are both pushing to decarbonize U.S. electricity generation. On one side  are experts such as Boulder mathematician Christopher Clack, who contends in a new analysis that the U.S. can cut its carbon emissions by nearly 80%, using existing technologies, by  2030. On the other side of this feud is Mark Jacobson, an atmospheric scientist and engineer at Stanford University. He claims the nation can move to 100% renewable energy by 2055. This week, in a peer-reviewed analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Clack and colleagues call Jacobson’s vision of 100% renewables unrealistic, and says his calculations and modeling are full of errors. Jacobson and his group have countered Clack et al’s analysis is full of errors. Dr. Clack, founder of Vibrant Clean Energy and with NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder when he conducted this research, talks with host Shelley Schlender about the science, the debate, and what it means for the pursuit of clean energy.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Shelley Schlender
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineers: Maeve Conran, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Protecting Pollinators // Testing Drinking Water

Photo credit: Douglas Mills

Photo credit: Douglas Mills

We offer two features on today’s show:
Protecting Pollinators (start time: 0:58): Hills, prairies and gardens are neon green and in full bloom. A pollinator’s paradise, at least it should be. Birds, bees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators rely on the nectar from flowering plants. We humans rely on them; roughly one out of every three bites we take comes from food that would not exist if not for pollinators. National Pollinator Week is June 19 – 25.  It will celebrate pollinators and promote how humans can help protect them.  Vicki Wojcik, research director at Pollinator Partnership, an organization that focuses on conservation, scientific research and education aimed at preserving pollinators, talks with host Susan Moran. Resources: Bee Safe Boulder (People and Pollinators Action Network), Colorado State Beekeeper Association, and Butterfly Pavilion.

drinking waterTesting Drinking Water (start time: 14:00): Two years ago Flint, Mich., turned the issue of lead in drinking water from a little known, or distant-past, hazard into a national scandal. Human error and coverups resulted in many Flint homes showing staggeringly high levels of lead in their drinking water. What happened in Flint has afflicted other cities. Water districts, which are required to monitor a sampling of homes in their districts for lead in drinking water, are stepping up efforts to prevent more Flints from happening. Here in Colorado, water districts use soda ash and other chemicals to keep their water from being overly corrosive, which was the problem in Flint. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender interviews Michael Cook, district manager of the Little Thompson Water District at the Carter Lake Water Filtration Plant near Loveland. The plant was recently out of compliance, meaning that samples from water district have shown higher levels of lead than what the state health department considers safe. Cook discusses what the district has done. (Boulder has its own water-filtration plant and has not been out of compliance at least in recent years. But all water districts must address similar concerns.)

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

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Treating Cancer Metabolically

KetonesIn their upcoming book, A Metabolic Approach to Cancer, authors Dr Nasha Winters and Jess Kelley, describe new developments in individualized therapies for cancer, based on nutrition and personalized genetic analysis. Almost 100 years ago it was found that cancer cells rely almost exclusively on burning glucose for their growth. In the last 10 years, it was found that limiting glucose (and other carbs) in the diet can curb the growth of cancer and mitigate some of the problems associated with conventional therapies like chemo. The authors expand on this theme and also apply an encyclopedic wealth of nutritional data and research to various physiological systems that can prevent or reduce cancer’s impact.

Hosts: Beth Bennett and Susan Moran
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Health Impacts of Oil/Gas Drilling

A well site next to Silver Creek elementary school in Thorton, Colo. Photo credit: Ted Wood/The Story Group

A well site next to Silver Creek elementary school in Thorton, Colo.
Photo credit: Ted Wood/The Story Group

Drilling’s Health Impacts (start time: 7:50): A pressing question on the minds of many Colorado residents, health experts, and others amidst a surge of oil and gas activity is this: Does living near an oil and gas well harm your health? A scientist at the forefront of exploring such questions is Dr. Lisa McKenzie, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz. She is the lead author on a recently published study that examines the potential impact of nearby oil and gas drilling on childhood cancer rates. The study’s important findings were challenged by the state Health Department, whose recent assessment concludes that nearby oil and gas operations poses minimal risk to residents. Dr. McKenzie  talks with How On Earth’s Susan Moran about her study, and the complex science of risk, correlation and causation.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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The Nature Fix

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgYour Brain on Nature (start time: 5:49): You may think it’s a no-brainer: that nature is good for your mental and physical health. After all, a walk in the woods or even an urban park brightens your outlook on life, at least for a little while. Turns out, the notion that being outside in nature boosts our mood, and even our creativity, has historical roots at least as deep as Aristotle.  A new book by  journalist Florence Williams explores the history of our biophilia, and particularly emerging neuroscience that reveals just how our bodies and minds are affected by getting out in the natural world. The book is called The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (Norton, 2017). The book stemmed from an article Williams wrote in National Geographic. A former Boulder resident, Williams will return to Boulder to give a talk about her book on Tuesday, February 28th, at the Boulder Book Store, at 7:30 p.m. She’ll also speak in Denver, on Wednesday, March 1st, at Tattered Cover Book Store, at 7:00 p.m.

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

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Citizen Science

Citizen ScienceCitizen Science (start time: 5:32): For those who would love to track birds and other creatures or to test drinking water quality in their community, for instance, but think it would require a degree in science to contribute to important scientific discoveries, our guest today aims to set the record straight. Dr. Caren Cooper is an associate professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. An ornithologist, she studies bird ecology, conservation and management through the use of citizen science. She wrote a recently published book called Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery. It highlights many examples of inspiring and important citizen science projects, including a meteorological-forecasting program and some others here in Colorado. Dr. Cooper is also director of research partnerships at SciStarter.com, which connects interested volunteers to a diverse range of research projects that they can work on. Additional citizen science programs can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon Society’s Rockies chapter.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Alejandro Soto
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributionsBeth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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