Nature and Health

Photo: Jennifer Miller

Photo: Jennifer Miller

Nature is good for you.
It can be a walk in the woods that helps to calm your nervous system and spark novel ideas, or a wilderness retreat that helps to reduce symptoms of PTSD or ADHD.  But little is actually understood about how nature offers healing effects. What are the mechanisms? How much nature is enough, and to do what? And how enduring are the effects?  “Nature” isn’t only limited to places like Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park.  Nature abounds in some cities, as well.  City parks, tree-lined neighborhoods, your own garden – these are slices of nature that can have huge benefits to your physical and mental health.  However, many cities and neighborhoods that lack a healthy tree canopy, and produce a lot of air pollution from vehicle traffic are plagued by high rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, among other illnesses, among residents.  At a time when humans around the globe are migrating to cities at rates never seen before, it is critical that cities increasingly become part of the solution, not just a major culprit behind environmental degradation and human disease.

Today’s show is the first in a series we’ll offer on the connections between nature and human health. It’s called “Nature Rx.”

Our three guests today are working in the nexus between environmental conservation and human health, to make cities part of the solution:

  • Dr. Ted Smith, director of the Center of Healthy Air, Water and Soil, at the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute.
  • Christopher Hawkins, Urban Conservation Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy.
  • Janette Heung, principal and owner of JWG Global, a management consulting and research think tank in Colorado focusing on environmental conservation and public health.

Read more in the Colorado Outdoor Rx report and the UN Environment Programme report on air pollution.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Front Range Fracking // Planet+Human Health

Karley Robinson with her son outside their home in Windsor. Photo credit: Ted Wood

Karley Robinson with her son outside their home in Windsor. Photo credit: Ted Wood

Today’s show offers two features:
Oil & Gas Impacts (start time: 1:05) Proposition 112, which would require oil and gas wells to be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, parks and other buildings, has highlighted mounting public concerns about the health, social and other impacts of extensive drilling along Colorado’s Front Range.  Weld County is  center stage for the latest oil and gas boom; nearly half of Colorado’s 55,000 active wells are located there. Jason Plautz, a Denver-based journalist, discussed with host Susan Moran the science and politics surrounding drilling activities, and whether explosions such as the one in Windsor last December could happen in many other locations. Plautz and Daniel Glick wrote a feature article that has just been published in High Country News.

healthy_planet-imageHealthy Planet+Healthy Humans? (start time: 14:46) Matthew Burgess has been immersed in thinking about and studying how we humans, and the planet we inhabit, can both remain intact—in fact, can both thrive–well into the future. What’s he smok’in, you might ask? In fact, he is a serious environmental scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Burgess and nearly two dozen colleagues authored a recently published scientific paper that applies models to show how we can meet demands of increased populations and economic growth in 2050, while simultaneously achieving bold and effective conservation and climate goals set forth by the United Nations. Dr. Burgess is an assistant professor in Environmental Studies, with an additional appointment in Economics. And he works at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), the collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado. He discusses the paper and its implications with hosts Susan Moran and Joel Parker.

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

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Regenerative Medicine #1: Primer

regen med imageRegenerative Medicine (start time: 7:30): We begin our series on regenerative medicine with a discussion of scientific advancements, promises, caveats, regulations, and challenges of regenerative medicine therapies for orthopedic applications, such as stem cell, prolo therapy and PRP (platlet-rich plasma) therapy. Together, these therapies aim to regenerate or replace injured, diseased, or defective cells, tissues, or organs with the goal of restoring or establishing function and structure.  Hosts Susan Moran and Beth Bennett interview Jason Glowney, MD, founder of Boulder Biologics, which focuses on regenerative and integrative medicine.

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

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Cricket Chorus // Foliage Science

This week’s How On Earth features the following two segments:

Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo credit: Scott Severs

Snowy Tree Cricket.
Photo credit: Scott Severs

Late-summer Cricket Chorus (start time: 1:02) One of the most poetic sounds of the end of summer is …. no, not your kids kicking and screaming because summer is over. It’s the sound of crickets, katydids and other melodic insects “chirping” at night. Our focus here is Snowy Tree Crickets in Colorado. They are called “temperature” crickets because you can calculate what the temperature is outside based on how many times these crickets “chirp” in a certain time period. How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender took a stroll recently with two Boulder naturalists — Steve Jones and Scott Severs — to learn more about how, and why, crickets in general make their chirping sound, and why we hear so many of them in the evenings this time of year. Some resources about crickets and their brethren: 1)  http://songsofinsects.com/  2) biology and recordings of nearly all singing Orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids), at  Singing Insects of North America (SINA)  http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/Walker/buzz/.

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

Big Blue Canyon, Colo. Photo credit: Jeff Mitton

The Science of Aspen (and other) Foliage (starts: 9:40) One of the most iconic images of Colorado is aspen groves quaking in early fall in their brilliant yellow, orange and even red hues. This year, the aspen, and many other plants, are changing colors earlier than normal. Due largely to the extended warm and dry conditions, many aspen leaves are fading and shriveling without turning bright colors. Dr. Jeff Mitton, an evolutionary biologist and a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado Boulder, talks with host Susan Moran about what dictates the timing and intensity of foliage. Dr. Mitton also writes a bimonthly column, called Natural Selections, in the Daily Camera. Here’s one (of many) on crickets.

Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Contributions: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Email Anxiety // Food Waste

Bedtime laptop workThis week’s How On Earth offers two features:
Work-Email Anxiety (start time: 7:58) If you’re wondering why you often feel anxious on Monday mornings, despite having spent time with your family and friends over the weekend, you might recall the amount of time you spent glued to your smart phone or laptop, checking email because you worried that your boss would be expecting you to be virtually on hand. You’re hardly alone. Samantha Conroy, an assistant professor of business management at Colorado State University, discusses with How On Earth host Susan Moran a new survey-based study (under review) that she co-authored. It found that not only employees but their partners at home suffer from high anxiety when the employee feels pressured to be virtually available via email after hours.

WWF-Food rpt coverFixing Food Waste  (start time: 17:59)  We’re all guilty of it: waste. Tossing out peaches, broccoli and other food that has gone bad in the fridge. Or leaving pasta on our plate untouched at an Italian bistro. More than one-third of all food that is produced in the United States is wasted – in the field, at restaurants, in our own kitchens. The conservation organization World Wildlife Fund recently published a report on the huge environmental and health impacts of food waste, and on what can be done to reduce waste, and ultimately preserve grasslands and other natural habitat. Monica McBride, manager of Food Loss & Waste  at World Wildlife Fund, co-wrote the report, called “No Food Left Behind.” She shares the findings and recommendations with Susan Moran. Check out these resources at WWF on what you can do: A Food Waste Quiz and tips on reducing waste.

Hosts: Chip Grandits, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Headline Contributions: Beth Bennett, Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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Wildfire Health Impacts // Detained Immigrant Children Suffer Medical Woes

We offer two feature interviews on this week’s show:

Wildfire-induced hazey Denver skyline Photo credit: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Wildfire-induced hazey Denver skyline
Photo credit: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke (start time: 4:22) It’s peak wildfire season. Smoke from forest and grass fires contains particulates that can irritate eyes, throat and lungs — especially in children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma, allergies, heart disease. How On Earth host Susan Moran interviews Anthony Gerber, MD/PhD, a pulmonologist and an associate professor of medicine at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado, Denver, about the medical risks of breathing smokey air and what people can do to minimize the impact. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also offers info and warnings on air quality in Colorado.

Migrant children at detention center in Texas, Photo credit: Women News Network

Migrant children at detention center in Texas, Photo credit: Women News Network

Detained Migrant Children Suffer Medically (start time: 17:02) Since April, when the Trump administration’s controversial zero-tolerance policy went into effect to crack down on families crossing the border illegally, more than 2,300 migrant children have been separated from their parents and detained in government detention centers. More recently, about 200 of the children have been reunited with their parents, but bulk of them have not. As a result, many of the children suffer from physical and mental health problems. Colleen Kraft, a pediatrician and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, talks with host Susan Moran about the medical impacts on migrant children.

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

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Ocean Conservation: MPAs

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Credit: James Watt/NOAA

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Credit: James Watt/NOAA

This week’s show brings you the following feature interview:
Protecting Ocean Biodiversity (start time: 2:42) In honor of World Environment Day (today), World Oceans Day (Friday) the March for the Ocean (Saturday), and Capitol Hill Ocean Week (all week), we examine one of the biggest marine conservation tools: Marine Protected Areas. What’s working? What’s not, and why? And what does this have to do with residents of landlocked states such as Colorado? A lot. Hoe On Earth hosts Susan Moran and Sadie Babits interview Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, an assistant professor of marine ecology at Oregon State University. This interview expands our series called The Ocean Is Us. For info on this week’s local March for the Ocean events, go to Colorado Ocean Coalition. National events and resources at Capitol Hill Ocean Week, March for the Ocean, and Blue Frontier Campaign.

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

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Cancer Biology // Oil&Gas Health Impacts

Today’s show offers two feature interviews:
Adaptive Oncogenesis-978-0-674-98596-4-frontcoverNew Theory of How Cancer Evolves Inside Us (start time: 0:58): It is commonly known that cancer afflicts old people more than youth. Conventional wisdom has held we get cancer with age largely because we accumulate lots of genetic mutations over many years, and it’s the mutations that cause cancer. Our guest, Dr. James DeGregori,  deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, discusses with host Susan Moran his new theory–one that challenges conventional wisdom–about why and how we get cancer. In his new book, called Adaptive Oncogenesis: A New Understanding of How Cancer Evolves Inside Us, DeGregori argues that cancer is as much a disease of evolution as it is of mutation. Mutated cells outcompete healthy ones in the ecosystem of the body’s tissues. Dr. DeGregori is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

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. Photo credit: Ted Wood/The Story Group

Studying Health Impacts of Oil&Gas Wells (start time: 12:54) Many people living all along the Front Range are familiar with the sights and smells of oil rigs operating in fields near their homes and schools.  State regulators argue  that this convergence of people and oil rigs is safe. But many nearby residents and scientists are concerned about the potential health impacts of these drilling operations so close to residential neighborhoods and schools. Our guest, Dr. Lisa McKenzie, is the lead author on a new study that adds some critical evidence to back concerns of residents. It found that for people living within 500 feet of a well, the risk of their getting cancer over the course of their lifetime is eight times higher than the upper acceptable levels established by the federal EPA. Dr. McKenzie is an assistant research professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anshutz Campus. She discusses the study and its implications with hosts Daniel Glick and Susan Moran. (Here is our interview with Dr. McKenzie a year ago about a related study.)

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

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Geoengineering the Climate

Image credit: Daily Sun

Image credit: Daily Sun

Hacking the Planet (start time: 10:24):
It’s tough to wrap one’s mind around just how monumental and consequential the problem of climate change is. So dire that scientist and engineers for years have been exploring ways to “hack” the planet–to manipulate the global climate system enough to significantly reduce planet-warming gases or increase the Earth’s ability to reflect solar radiation. This audacious scheme, called geoengineering, only exists because many scientists think that human behavioral change, industry regulations, international treaties and national legislation, have not done enough — can not do enough – to keep us from careening toward climate catastrophe.
Our guests today have given this huge challenge a lot of thought and some research. 
Dr. Lisa Dilling is an associate professor of Environmental Studies at CU Boulder and a fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRESDr. David Fahey is a physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.  He directs the Chemical Sciences Division at NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder.

Some relevant materials on geoengineering:
2017 study on public perception of climate change;
2015 National Research Council committee evaluation of proposed climate-intervention tchniques.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Contributor: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Enlightenment Now

Book coverYou may be among many who wistfully harken back to the “golden days” of the past. For some people the past does look rosier, or perhaps the present looks grim, but, according to Steven Pinker, a Harvard University cognitive psychologist, that “golden age” of the past is a reflection of faulty memory.

We — most people in the world, anyway — are actually far better off than we were decades and surely centuries ago. That’s based on many metrics of progress, including literacy, safety, gender equality, lower poverty, and many more. Pinker presents in his new book an abundance of data as evidence of such progress. This progress, he argues, is rooted in the ideals of the Enlightenment some 250 years ago.

Pinker’s book is called “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.” Last week we played a couple of segments of an interview that How On Earth host Susan Moran and KGNU journalist Joel Edelstein conducted with Dr. Pinker. In today’s feature, we play that interview in full.

Hosts: Joel Parker
Producer: Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Joel Parker
Contributors: Tom Yulsman, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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