Living on Earth

Saturdays from 7am to 7:30am; Mondays from 9-10pm
  • Hosted by Steve Curwood

Living on Earth with Steve Curwood is the weekly environmental news and information program distributed by Public Radio International. Every week Living on Earth brings news, features, interviews and commentary on a broad range of ecological issues.

Joe Riis

Only a few dozen grizzly bears with bright yellow coats live in the forbidding Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In a new book, wildlife biologist Doug Chadwick writes about how these unique animals survive and what can be done to better protect them.

Chadwick first found out about the Gobi grizzly (called the mazaalai in Mongolian) almost by accident. He was tracking snow leopards in the mountains of Mongolia, near the border between Russia and Kazakhstan.

Jeff Vanuga/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service via Wikimedia Commons

On Jan. 18, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its first nationwide biological evaluation of three commonly used pesticides. The report found that all three were harmful to virtually all endangered species in the US.

US Army Corps of Engineers/CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 made clear how vulnerable New Orleans and the low-lying communities along the Gulf Coast are to fierce storms and surging seas. So, a master plan was devised to shore up defenses and repair the sinking coastline that protects the city. Now, authorities have released an updated $50 billion, 50-year plan that rethinks and bolsters those defenses.

 Omar Vidal/NOAA Fisheries West Coast/Flickr

The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, lives only in Mexico’s Gulf of California and is critically endangered, due to illegal fishing. Now, the Center for Biological Diversity plans legal action against the US government for its failure to sanction Mexico for not stopping the poaching of vaquitas.

A report from some of the top minds in environmental policy and economics is recommending a new way of evaluating the "social costs" of carbon pollution to keep up with the best available science.

Obama's hidden, and surprising, fossil fuel legacy

Feb 4, 2017

Investigative reporting by a joint team from The Guardian and the Columbia University School of Journalism reveals that the US Export-Import Bank financed around 70 coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel energy projects in foreign countries during President Barack Obama's terms in office.

These foreign fossil fuel plants are projected to release about as many tons of global-warming gases as the Obama Clean Power Plan would have saved.

fruchtzwerg's world/Flickr 

A new analysis of sea surface temperatures from an independent source corroborates updated global warming data released in 2015 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The results contradict allegations from some Republicans on Capitol Hill that NOAA manipulated its 2015 data to show continuous global warming, since earlier NOAA research had suggested the Earth was experiencing a warming "pause" or hiatus.

Rachel Ignotofsky via Facebook 

For writer and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky, the idea to profile 50 pioneering female scientists in her recent book, “Women in Science,” was spurred by conversations with educator friends. As they talked about the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math fields, Ignotofsky realized women aren’t just underrepresented in STEM, itself — the stories about their contributions don't get much play, either.

Coal country is pinning its hopes on Trump

Jan 28, 2017
Tammy Anthony Baker/Wikimedia Commons

One of the promises President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail was to reopen coal mines and put miners back to work. The message resonated in Pennsylvania’s coal country and helped Trump win the state last November. Now, people here are watching to see if he’ll keep his promise.

Many of these voters don't expect miracles, but they do want Trump to put coal first, according to some residents in the southwest area of the state.

Cracking the code of influenza

Jan 22, 2017
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/14547505471/">NIH</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>. Image cropped.

January’s cold, dry weather in many areas of the United States seems to usher in the perfect conditions for seasonal influenza — in humans. But for birds in Europe and Asia, flu season is already in full swing: An epidemic of the H5N8 flu has broken out among European poultry. In Asia, the H5N6 strain is widespread, and another strain, H7N9, has infected birds and even killed three people.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nsalt/2808207783/">Nick Saltmarsh</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

With nearly 9 million hogs on farms across the state, North Carolina is the country’s second-largest producer, behind Iowa.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/109aw/10672927735/">US Air National Guard/Maj. Matthew J. Sala</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

For activists Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit, climate change isn't just an abstract concept. Rather, it has faces and names: Eleanor and Gabriel, their children. And through their time capsule project DearTomorrow, Shrum and Kubit are hoping you’ll connect the planet’s future to your loved ones, too.

The 'Madhouse Effect' of climate denial in America

Jan 15, 2017
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidstanleytravel/16298322411/">David Stanley</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

2016 is a wrap — and with it, likely the hottest year ever recorded. Temperatures weren’t the only anomaly: Louisiana, for instance, saw floods so severe they should only happen every 1,000 years.

Millennials are the new 'fossil fuel freedom fighters'

Jan 7, 2017
John Silvercloud/Flickr

A new generation of nature writers is coming of age in America. They are beginning to understand how much of the pristine landscape their parents and grandparents enjoyed is now gone.

Sean Powers

At the end of November, hundreds of firefighters from all over the country battled the Rock Mountain Fire in North Georgia. Fighting the huge blaze in the tinder dry hills was a tough battle, but when it came time to rest, the firefighters, well-accustomed to makeshift lodgings, were offered an unusual, yet comfortable upgrade: a local Conservative Jewish camp.

Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia Commons&nbsp;

High levels of "fine particulate matter" (PM2.5) in the air — such as in haze or smog — can lower the stock market, a research team at Columbia University has found.

When particle pollution rises, the market goes down by small but measurable amounts, says team leader Matthew Neidell, an associate professor at Columbia University.

Jocelyn Ford

With unsustainable fishing affecting about 30 percent of the ocean’s wild fish populations and most of the rest already fished to the limit, aquaculture is playing an ever bigger role in putting fish on the dinner table. 

Today, fish farms are the fastest-growing source of animal protein — on the rise, globally, at about 5 percent a year. 

This farmer’s answer to climate change? Plant crops that trap carbon.

Dec 27, 2016
Eric Toensmeier

While discussions about climate change usually center on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Eric Toensmeier is focused on the other side of the equation: how to capture the carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere. 

And he thinks the answer might be in his backyard garden.

Some advice for starting your own backyard 'carbon farm'

Dec 27, 2016
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/70097310@N00/14455551824/">yaquina</a>/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>

For visitors to Eric Toensmeier’s home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the lush, 8-foot banana plant in the front yard is the first indication that something is unusual about his landscaping.

A walk around his stucco-covered house confirms it. In the back garden, about 300 species of perennials are thriving on just one-tenth of an acre: Raspberries, mountain mint, bamboo and bush clover all jostle for space alongside persimmon, chestnut and mulberry trees.

dconvertini/Flickr CC

Thomas Friedman's latest book, "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving In the Age Of Accelerations," is a manifesto for how to cope with our changing planet.

Right now, three powerful forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating exponentially — and “one of the hardest things for the human mind to grasp is the power of an exponential,” says the columnist for the New York Times. 

New England Aquarium

Overfishing, plastic pollution, warming temperatures and other impacts of human activities are changing the oceans — resulting in decreasing populations of everything from tuna to whales to dolphins. But humans are also causing one class of sea life to thrive: jellyfish. 

Penn State/Flickr

A planned industrial facility near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and up to 600 permanent ones. It is also forecast to increase air pollution in a region already falling short of federal clean air standards.

&nbsp;tdlucas5000/Flickr&nbsp;

To keep promises made at the Paris climate summit, Canada is rolling out a master plan to deal with climate change — including a phaseout of coal by 2030 and a phase in of carbon pricing by 2019.

At a meeting Dec. 9 in Ottawa, all of Canada’s provinces, save Saskatchewan and Manitoba, agreed to participate in a national carbon pricing program.