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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Clinical Trials Test MDMA as PTSD Treatment

Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps

Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps

This week on How on Earth host Susan Moran interviews two investigators of FDA-approved clinical trials testing the efficacy and safety of the illegal drug MDMA — known in an altered form as Ecstasy or Molly — as a treatment (along with psychotherapy sessions) for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Our guests are Marcela Ot’alora and Bruce Poulter, investigators of the Colorado trial. Marcela is a licensed psychotherapist and Bruce is a registered nurse with a masters degree in public health

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that affects up to one in 12 people in the United States, and it’s at least as common in some other countries. It is a serious, and costly, public health problem. If the trials are successful,  MDMA, which has its critics, could become commercially available as a medically prescribed treatment by 2021. The trials are being funded by a nonprofit organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which promotes careful and beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana.

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

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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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Biodiversity Matters // Scientists Implore Trump

img_1606

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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Suggestible You: How Our Brain Tricks Us

sug_you_subtleo_yellow1-647x580The Science of Suggestibility (start time: 5:00) Scientists are learning more and more about how our expectations and beliefs influence how our bodies, including our neurochemistry, respond to pain and disease. The researchers are discovering that we are very suggestible creatures. But we are not all equally suggestible. Some of us can cure serious ailments even when we’ve knowingly taken a placebo remedy, but others can not. Herein lies a major puzzle that vexes drug manufacturers and medical practitioners. It’s a puzzle that has intrigued Erik Vance, a science journalist, since he nearly died from a severe illness when he was a toddler. His journey is detailed in a book that was just published today. It’s called Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain (National Geographic).  Listen to How On Earth’s Susan Moran’s interview with Erik Vance.

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

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