Topic: Environment

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Current Event October 25, 2017

Electronic Waste Created by Outdated Cell Phones

Technology Environment

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.

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Current Event September 21, 2017

Why We're Not So Great at Recycling

Education Environment

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.

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Current Event May 2, 2017

Mountain Lion Kitten

Life Science Environment Animals

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.

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ELA Middle School

Waterless Worlds is the New Dystopia

Literature Environment Climate Change Dystopian Fiction

News about water shortages and drought 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.

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Current Event April 13, 2017

Clash on Climate Change Beliefs within a Family

Politics Environment Climate Change Economy

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.

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Current Event April 12, 2017

The Challenges of Creating a Recyclable K-Cup

Environment

Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain, a coffee company, makes K-cup pods for single coffee servings. They are now trying to solve the problem of the waste created by these pods. The hot beverage machines are so popular they have created a recycling problem because there are now billions of used plastic cups that are not recyclable. Keurig has pledged to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020, which is a big challenge. Once a recyclable material is found for the cups, there is also the issue of sorting them at recycling facilities. Listen to hear more about the challenges of meeting this promise to recycle K-Cups.

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Current Event March 30, 2017

The Footprint of a Loaf of Bread

Environment Human Impacts Agriculture

Researchers have completed a study that documents the environmental impact of producing a loaf of bread. They determined the amount of greenhouse gas emissions at each stage of bread production—from wheat farming to transportation—and added up the total. They found that 2.6 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted each year in the U.K. as a result of bread production. The study’s authors hope the findings will lead to more efficient and sustainable production methods. Listen to learn more about the environmental footprint of a loaf of bread and how consumers can help make a difference.

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Current Event February 23, 2017

Wind Power on Forest Land

Environment

The very first commercial wind project on U.S. Forest Service land will locate 15 turbines on government land in southern Vermont by the end of 2017. This project sets a precedent since it's the first agreement in the country between wind developers and the forest service. Some support the turbines saying the project will bring jobs and save money, and some oppose the project. Protesters say this is public land and shouldn’t be developed because it will hurt wildlife. Listen to hear more about this project and what is being done to protect the land.

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Current Event February 8, 2017

Keystone and Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Get Green Light

Politics Economics Environment

Environmentalists are taking a strong stance against President Trump’s executive order to revive two controversial oil pipelines—Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Several environmental groups have vowed to fight these pipelines in the courts and the streets if they are moving ahead. In addition, there are still hundreds of indigenous protestors at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota who are committed to blocking construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Backers of the projects say we need pipelines to transport oil more safely and efficiently. Listen to learn more about Trump’s plans to expedite pipeline construction and the groups working to block these projects.

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Current Event January 10, 2017

Air Pollution in France Leads to Temporary Ban on Sports

Environment Weather and Climate Human Impacts

A week of high pollution levels in Paris has brought strict restrictions on driving. The Paris mayor is making public transportation free in an effort to reduce the pollution particles in the air. There are also health concerns if people breathe this air for more than an hour, so some school sports and outdoor activities were banned temporarily. Listen to hear more about how Paris is managing this pollution crisis.

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Current Event September 26, 2016

Native Americans Protest Oil Pipeline

Health Environment Protest

Thousands of Native Americans and supporters are protesting the construction of an oil pipeline from North Dakota to central Illinois, that will transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day. They are against it because a section of the pipeline will run near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe and its supporters have serious concerns about the project affecting their land and water. President Obama has ordered a temporary halt on the construction of the pipeline, but the Sioux tribe wants a permanent halt to the construction. Listen to hear more about this controversy.

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Current Event August 24, 2016

Solar Powered Plane Makes Historic Around the World Trip

Technology Environment Energy

For the first time in history, two pilots flew the Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, around the world without using any fuel. This technology will have to be developed more before the public will be able to fly in them. Nevertheless, this flight symbolized the innovative progress made by aviators and energy conservationists. Listen to the story to hear more about the flight from pilot, Bertrand Piccard.

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Current Event June 18, 2016

How Wind Affects Wildlife

Environment Animals Energy

The Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to find out how bears will react to a new wind project. It will be the first commercial wind project on U.S. Forest Service land and will include 15 turbines.They started tracking bears by using radio collars to see how they move around before the turbines are in place. The collars had many problems, so they started using cameras to track the bears. Now they have data to study bears and wildlife both before and after the wind project begins. Share this story with your students so they can learn more about this wind project in Vermont and its impact on wildlife.

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Current Event June 11, 2016

Preventing Flooding by Letting Rivers Flow Naturally

Environment Human Impacts

Beginning 200 years ago, many of Vermont’s rivers were straightened for agriculture, logging and to power turbines. Today one of three river miles in Vermont has been straightened, causing the waters to run deeper and faster – and erode away people’s property and roads. Vermont has experienced three 100-year floods in the past 30 years. Traditionally, the state and property owners have built expensive barriers to keep the rivers in line. Now the state is thinking about taking a new approach to floods: creating zones along the riverbanks where no new construction is allowed to let the rivers flow where they naturally want. Listen to this VPR News story and then use the questions below to discuss the issues it raises.

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Current Event April 16, 2016

Universal Recycling Law Keeps Food from Landfills

Environment Ethics

A new law in Vermont has created an opportunity. This law requires institutions to avoid sending lots of food waste to landfills. Now, much of the food that would have been thrown away is being donated to hungry local residents instead. In fact, food rescue was up 30% last year, while overall waste is down 56%. Volunteers check food items for quality and then re-box them before sending them off to people in need. Listen to the story to hear more about how the Universal Recycling Law has increased food donations.

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Current Event March 19, 2016

Storms Compromise Block Island's Former Landfill

Environment Climate Change

Recent hurricanes, along with ongoing climate change, are washing away an old, capped landfill on Block Island. As the land erodes, pieces of trash and debris are falling onto the beach and into the sea. Local residents and visitors are troubled by the contamination of the beautiful island. Engineers are trying to design solutions to the local problem, while leaders around the world are fighting against climate change. Listen to hear more about the environmental threats to Block Island.

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Current Event December 9, 2015

Oklahoma Earthquakes

Earth and Space Science Environment

Oklahoma has experienced more than 5,000 earthquakes this year. Some scientists tie these earthquakes to fracking, the extraction of oil and gas from deep within the earth. Fracking uses water to extract the oil and gas and is then injected into underground wells for storage. This can put pressure on faults and cause them to slip and trigger an earthquake. After inspections were ordered, state regulators shut down the water disposal wells, which slowed the earthquakes. But once the wells came back online the earthquakes started again. Listen to hear more about how oil is related to earthquakes in Oklahoma.

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Current Event October 29, 2015

Indigenous Groups Fight Logging

Environment Law Human Impacts

The Amazon in the north of Brazil is being deforested, and it is estimated that 80% of the wood harvested is illegal. Many environmental groups are fighting deforestation on the basis of its effects on global warming. But there’s one group of indigenous people in Brazil is fighting back against illegal loggers. This tribe is trying to preserve the trees because they are central to their way of life. They surround and warn illegal loggers and then drive them away with bows and arrows. There are many other issues with big business and corruption that affect this forest. Listen to this story to hear about some local efforts to protect the Amazon Forest.

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Current Event September 28, 2015

Volkswagen Caught in a Lie

Environment Transportation

Volkswagen, the largest car maker in Europe, is known for good gas mileage and being environmentally sound. This week it was revealed that for the last 6 years, 11 million of its diesel cars were equipped with software that cheated U.S. emissions tests. This is a huge problem for the Volkswagen brand, current owners and carbon emissions. Volkswagen's Chief Executive stepped down, but this is just the beginning of this scandal. People are looking for answers to how diesel cars will be fixed to meet emissions requirements, how that will affect car performance and whether other car manufacturers falsify emissions tests as well. Listen to learn more.

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Current Event September 24, 2015

Counting Fish with DNA

Environment Oceans DNA Biotechnology

New technology is revolutionizing underwater science. A brand new field is using DNA testing to study and track species diversity in various ecosystems and environments. Biologists can study one liter of seawater and identify the fish that swam through that water. This allows them to study fish and whales without having seen them and without the expense of divers and equipment. But, there are a few issues with some of the data, such as finding the DNA of food that was eaten miles away. Listen to how data from genetic testing can be used to protect marine life, and how it is changing the research process.

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