Current Event February 13, 2019
An ocean cleanup project in the Pacific has run into some problems cleaning up a floating debris field known as the Great Pacific garbage patch. The 2000-ft. long, U-shaped floating barrier is designed to catch plastic trash in the Pacific ocean, where an enormous garbage patch has collected. The ambitious system is the brainchild of a 17-year-old scientist. The device is not yet working exactly as hoped, but engineers are trying to address the issues that are getting in its way. Listen to hear more about this creative pollution solution and the inventor’s optimistic outlook on its potential to help the environment.
Current Event December 5, 2018
A new government report on climate change warns of the rapidly increasing negative effects of climate change and offers recommendations to help slow down its adverse impact. The report explains that not only are humans responsible for climate change, but our ongoing actions are making it worse. Listen to this interview with a climate change expert to hear about the urgency of this warning and what makes her hopeful.
Current Event November 26, 2018
The deadliest wildfire in California history has devastated a town called Paradise, burning homes and killing dozens of people. The town’s mayor, Jody Jones, lost her own home and has been evacuated along with 26,000 other residents. Jones said the town looks like a war zone, but she and others are committed to rebuilding. Listen to hear the mayor’s reflections on the current state of Paradise and plans for its future.
Current Event November 14, 2018
The Sahara Desert is expanding due to cycles of drought. A scientist at the University of Maryland who studies the earth’s atmosphere has proposed a solution to this problem involving solar panels and windmills. Listen to learn how her proposed solution could change the future climate of the Sahara region and harness energy at the same time.
Current Event November 7, 2018
Mexico City faces a water shortage because an underground aquifer that stores water is being drained faster than it is being replenished. In addition, the imbalanced drainage of the aquifer is causing the city to sink, leading to all sorts of other issues. Listen to this story to learn about the problems this major metropolis is facing because of high demand on its underground water supply.
Current Event November 6, 2018
Traffic, usually considered an urban problem, has been an issue at Yosemite National Park for a long time. While the park is sometimes shut down to all traffic because of forest fires, when it reopens, hundreds of cars come back to enjoy the majestic natural beauty of the park. Figuring out a solution to this problem has become even more important recently with an increase in bear deaths in the park. Listen to hear about how traffic jams in this popular national park are affecting the wildlife there as well as visitors’ experiences.
Current Event November 2, 2018
A popular, powerful weed killer has been banned in Arkansas, but some farmers are still using it. The herbicide intended for weeds also harms crops and wildlife. Although some farmers are planting new varieties of soybeans and cotton that are resistant to the weed killer, others are not. When farmers with the resistant crops spray the weed killer, it impacts their neighbors’ farms, often with dire consequences. Listen to hear about the battle in Arkansas among neighboring farmers, and then debate: Should farmers be allowed to use a powerful weed killer?
Current Event October 24, 2018
A recent report by a United Nations panel indicates that if we do not take action immediately to lessen the impact of global climate change, the negative consequences will be severe. A professor who worked on the report explains that global warming is already influencing our lives and the ecosystems that surround us. Listen to hear more about the rapid pace of climate change and what we can do to decrease the potential for disaster associated with it.
Current Event September 20, 2018
Monarch butterflies are in danger. In addition to their beauty, monarchs contribute to the ecosystem by pollinating wildflowers and by providing food for birds, small mammals, and insects. However, their life cycle depends on the milkweed plant, and its availability is shrinking. Listen to hear what conservation ecologists recommend as a solution to this environmental problem that many people can help to put into action.
Current Event September 13, 2018
Places without any human-made sound are rapidly disappearing. The “One Square Inch of Silence” project aims to preserve one such place in the Hoh River Valley, located in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Listen to a sound specialist guide a trek into the rainforest to experience natural silence.
Current Event May 3, 2018
Offshore wind can be a big business, and property that is windy with shallow water is perfect for installing and maintaining wind turbines. The federal government has leased sites for developers to build industrial-scale wind farms over the next decade. The area of New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is close to Rhode Island and New York, is an area with a sustainable wind source. The developers are very engaged with fishermen in the area, since the spinning blades confuse the instruments they use to navigate through fog. By working together, turbines can be put in locations that won’t interfere with fishermen’s routes. Listen to hear more about offshore wind projects in this area.
Current Event May 1, 2018
The rules for mining on public land, which have been around since the 1870s, were used by miners during the Gold Rush. Since then the mining law has not changed. The law doesn’t require mining companies to pay royalties for mining on federal land. Some lawmakers object to the law and say the government is losing out. They’ve sponsored a new bill, but it hasn’t passed. Meanwhile, President Trump has opened more public land to mining in California and Utah. Listen to hear about mining rights on public land.
Current Event March 21, 2018
The demand for convenience is creating problems on sidewalks in China, especially in its largest cities. Shared bikes and food delivery on scooters are causing clutter and congestion on sidewalks. In Shanghai, a city of 24 million people, shared bikes are left on the sidewalk, piled on top of each other. Food delivery scooters have no dedicated lanes in the street, so they speed through pedestrians on the sidewalk trying to make deliveries on time. With such limited walking space left on the sidewalk, people sometimes walk in the road which is dangerous. Listen to hear more about the problems the convenience economy has created in China.
Current Event January 9, 2018
Wet wipes began as baby products, but now people use them for many things including makeup removal and applying insect repellent. As more people find uses for disposable wet wipes, more of them end up in the toilet. However, even if the company says they are flushable, they aren't always. Wet wipes are causing blockages in sewer systems around the country. Companies that label their wipes as flushable are suing states that have created standards for flushability. Listen to learn where your wet wipes go and how wastewater plants are using a form of forensics to uncover which companies are clogging up the pipes.
Current Event October 25, 2017
Most people want to buy new phones with the latest technology, but new devices lead to electronic waste, or e-waste, when old phones are discarded. Phone companies used to offer free phones with contracts, which meant people got new phones every two years. Now contracts are changing and there are new ways people are thinking about phones. One way is the modular approach, where the components are detachable and replaceable. Another is to create longer-lasting phones that are better for the environment. Listen to this story about how new technology can help eliminate electronic waste.
Current Event September 21, 2017
More and more trash is being recycled instead of going into a landfill, but we are not very good at sorting out what is not recyclable. There are 400-500 tons of recycling that come into one facility in Rhode Island each day. In the pre-sort area, workers stand at the conveyor belt and remove anything that isn’t recyclable, especially items that will get tangled in the machinery. Some people are still confused about what can be recycled, such as plastic bags or kitchen knives. Listen to this story to hear about the types of trash at a recycling facility and the steps workers and agencies are taking to solve this problem.
Current Event May 2, 2017
A female baby mountain lion has been found in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Mountain lions in the recreation area are very isolated as the park is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, agricultural fields, and greater Los Angeles. Therefore, scientists believe that the baby mountain lion is likely a product of inbreeding among related lions with limited mating choices. This could lead to genetic defects and abnormalities in the mountain lions. Listen to learn more about the newborn mountain lion and the concerns about mountain lion inbreeding.
ELA Middle School
News about water shortages and droughts have inspired a new trend in dystopian books and movies. Water scarcity has been a source of conflict in places like Africa and the Middle East but also in America’s own history. Some believe that water scarcity is only going to get worse in the decades to come. This audio story features writers and filmmakers who have imagined what life might be like in a waterless world. Listen to learn more about what these storytellers imagine and what audience they hope to reach.
Current Event April 13, 2017
Southwestern Pennsylvania is coal country, though most of the mining and steel jobs are long gone. A reporter talked with a father and daughter who have very different outlooks on life. The father is skeptical about climate change. His daughter is in college with plans to be an engineer and work on environmental issues. Their first conversation about climate change happened a year ago and was revisited recently. Listen to hear the common ground and differences in opinion between this father and daughter.