A Consumer’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (starts 7:55) You may be wondering if you washed the strawberries, blueberries or kale that you had for breakfast this morning enough to rid them of residue of potentially harmful pesticides. That is, if they were conventionally, not organically, grown. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 200 different pesticides remain in some form on popular fruits and vegetables that Americans eat every day. And before testing all the produce, the USDA thoroughly washes and peels them. Such tests show that simply washing produce does not remove all pesticides. In a recently released report, as part of its “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,”The Environmental Working Group ranked the pesticide contamination of 47 popular fruits and vegetables. Its analysis, which was based on results of nearly 50,000 samples of produce that the USDA tested, found that 70 percent of produce contains pesticide residues. But don’t despair: There is also good news in the report. Sydney Evans, a science analyst at EWG, and Liza Gross, an independent investigative reporter, speak with host Susan Moran about the EWG report and the broader societal and environmental implications of pesticides. See Liza Gross’ articles on pesticides and other issues.
Hosts: Maeve Conran, Susan Moran Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Maeve Conran Additional Contributors: Chip Grandits, Beth Bennett, Gretchen Wettstein Executive Producer: Joel Parker
This week’s How On Earth features the following two segments:
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/.
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
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.
Testing 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
Your 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
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.
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
On Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, better known as the IPCC, released the first bit of its Fifth Assessment Report, a volume with a plain name that may have a large influence on global policy. This first part of the report, part one of three, is the “sciency” part, documenting the current state of knowledge of climate change and its effects. The report sticks to the physical science of climate change—by how much the climate is changing, what’s causing it, and what the world might look like by the end of the century. The next two volumes of the report will address the societal impacts of climate change and, lastly, mitigation strategies.
HOE co-host Beth Bartel speaks with Tad Pfeffer, a professor at CU-Boulder jointly appointed between the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, (INSTAAR), and the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Pfeffer is one of the lead authors on Chapter 13 of the IPCC report, the chapter on sea level rise.
(start time: 5:50). We Coloradoans pride ourselves on our healthy habits — eating right, exercising, and paying attention to what’s in the food we eat. Yet many of the things we use everyday, like water bottles, sunscreens, makeup, and – OK, soda cans — are full of toxic chemicals. Many of them are untested, and may be insidiously making us sick. One of the more controversial compounds is BPA, which is used to make some hard plastic bottles and other food packaging. Today we have with us public health expert Dr. David Dausey to talk about BPA –bisphenol A — and other environmental toxins. He directs the Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health in Pennsylvania.
Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran Producer: Jim Pullen Engineer: Maeve Conran Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Jamie Williams (start time 5:40). Today on How On Earth we speak with Jamie Williams about land conservation. It’s safe to say that Williams should take credit for large swaths of land in the West that have been preserved as wilderness. He has served as The Nature Conservancy’s director of landscape conservation for North America as part of a 20-year career at the organization.
During that time he helped forge unlikely partnerships between ranchers, other landowners and environmentalists. And he led major efforts to garner funding in Congress for conservation, including the largest conservation purchase of private land ever – of 500 square miles of forest in northwest Montana.
Williams helped develop the large landscape focus within the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which aims to connect especially young kids to the outdoors.
Today, Williams takes the helm of another major conservation organization, the Wilderness Society.
Climate engineering (start time 18:12). Geoengineering means large scale, intentional manipulation of the climate to counter the effects of global climate change. Advocates have proposed ideas like placing giant shields in space to block the sun’s rays from striking the earth, and seeding the ocean with iron particles to speed up the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. Critics cite a host of social, moral, and technological problems.
Climate engineering may be a solution of last resort, but the time for last resorts may be rapidly approaching as we spew more and more carbon into the air.
We speak with Dr. Doug Ray about the readiness of climate engineering. Ray is an expert on energy and atmospheric carbon removal science and technology and is an Associate Lab Director at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran Producer: Jim Pullen Engineer: Jim Pullen Headlines: Jim Pullen Additional contributions: Maeve Conran Executive Producer: Joel Parker