Living on Earth

Saturdays at 4:30pm
  • 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.

UK officials have confirmed that a five-year beaver reintroduction pilot program in England was a success and the first beavers to live in England for centuries will be allowed to stay.

The Eurasian beaver is native to the British Isles but was hunted to extinction nearly 500 years ago. Not long ago, however, a beaver family mysteriously turned up in the River Otter in Devon, England.

In times of danger and stress, our minds tend to incline toward negative thoughts. It’s human nature. But in her new book, family therapist and executive coach Rosamund Stone Zander argues that we can train ourselves to resist this impulse and harness an optimistic mindset that will carry to carry us through difficult times. 

Interstate I-70 is an engineering marvel that crosses the Rocky Mountains, linking East to West. Earlier this summer, the highway was closed for two weeks because of the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon. Experts say it’s just one example of the transportation disruptions that will likely worsen as the effects of climate change increase nationwide.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's latest nominee to the Supreme Court, is an acolyte of the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At age 48, she would become the youngest justice on the court. Like her mentor, Barrett seems likely to rule against important environmental legislation, which could hinder US efforts to mitigate climate change.

Every four years, a 6000-mile marathon run called Peace and Dignity Journeys unites Indigenous runners from all over North and South America, seeking to heal the wounds left from colonization and displacement.

In his memoir, “Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land,” Noe Álvarez shares how the communal run helped him reclaim a relationship with the land and reconnect with his parents' migration and life of labor in the agricultural fields of the Northwest.

Appalachian miners who experience the debilitating, terminal condition known as black lung disease have to fight to get the care and government support they need, even in the best of times. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic is making life even harder.

“You gotta wear a mask, and with your breathing problems and stuff, it’s hard to walk around and breathe through the mask. It's like sucking in hot air."

Jerry Coleman, former coal miner, Cabin Creek, West Virginia

Research shows Black and Latinx voters are generally more likely than white voters to list the environment and climate as top concerns. Yet, often due to voting obstacles, Black and especially Latinx voters are less likely to exercise their right to cast ballots. So, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and other environmental advocates are pushing get-out-the-vote efforts among these groups.

A recent Supreme court ruling has given Native Americans in Oklahoma renewed sovereignty over their tribal lands — an area of roughly 19 million acres.

The land in question marked the end of the Trail of Tears for the five tribes that underwent forced relocation in the mid-1800s: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Muscogee Creek. They built a new life in eastern Oklahoma, only to have their land stripped away, bit by bit, over the next century and a half.

Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently passed away at the age of 87, was best known for championing women’s rights. But she also leaves behind a remarkable environmental legacy.

Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate is historic. Harris is the first Black woman and Asian American on a major US presidential ticket,

But their pairing is historic in another way, too: On issues of climate and environmental justice, Biden-Harris is one of the most progressive presidential tickets this country has ever seen, thanks in part to substantial pressure from the party’s left for strong climate action.

Chinese fishing fleet threatens Galápagos Islands

Aug 17, 2020

Ecuador is on alert after its navy discovered a fleet of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels near the Galápagos Islands.

The famous archipelago, located more than 600 miles off Ecuador's coast, helped inspire Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and is home to the second-largest marine reserve in the world. Ecuadorian officials worry that the Chinese fleet will capture fish that wander out of the formal boundaries of the marine reserve, threatening the balance and diversity of one the Earth’s most important ecosystems.

COVID-19 has thus far cost the world over 700,000 lives and vast sums of money in lost gross domestic products and government rescue plans. A new study published in the journal Science suggests we might avoid the next pandemic and save trillions of dollars by spending just a fraction of that amount to curb deforestation and the wildlife trade.

As the United States confronts its long history of racial injustice, powerful environmental groups like the Sierra Club are coming to grips with their own history of racism and white supremacy.

The national environmental movement in the United States is still dominated by white voices and often excludes people of color. The environmental justice movement, which is typically community-based and more often driven by people of color, is frequently an afterthought among large green organizations and the foundations who fund them.

The United States has lost more than 11 million of acres of farmland to development over the last 20 years, according to a new report.

A series of studies by the American Farmland Trust shows that agricultural land is increasingly being converted, fragmented, or paved over — threatening the integrity of local and regional food systems. Of special concern, the report notes, are the loss of farmland to low-density residential development at the edge of urban and suburban areas.

In another attempt to undo decades of environmental regulations, the Trump administration recently released a revised regulatory interpretation of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, that will weaken it significantly.

For the past 50 years, NEPA has underpinned virtually all federal environmental law in the United States. It requires that the federal government study the potential consequences of major infrastructure projects such as pipelines, dams and highways.

The field of wildlife tracking is getting a major upgrade thanks to a new initiative called ICARUS. It uses special equipment on the International Space Station to allow researchers to track much smaller species than ever before, including tiny migrating birds and even insects.

Autumn-Lynn Harrison, program manager for the Migratory Connectivity Project at Smithsonian Institution, says the ICARUS tags will include a number of different sensors that collect GPS, accelerometer and temperature data.

Few people on planet Earth are more deeply involved with missions to search for life elsewhere in the universe than astrobiologist Sarah Stewart Johnson.

Three major environmental groups are demanding that Facebook take steps to curb the spread of racism, extremism and misinformation about climate change on its platform.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and 350.org have joined more than 1,000 other companies in pausing their advertising on Facebook this month as part of the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign.

Most other environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have yet to take a stand on Facebook’s policies around hate and climate denialism.

On July 14, 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall arrived in what is now Gombe National Park, Tanzania, to begin her breakthrough study of wild chimpanzees. Soon after, she realized that if chimps were to survive into the future, she had best speak out on their behalf, as well as for the forests and their human stewards.

Now, 60 years on, the iconic scientist, naturalist and activist is still advocating passionately for the conservation of the natural world.

The Environmental Protection Agency has given biotech company Oxitec the go-ahead to test the effectiveness of genetically modified mosquitoes in parts of Florida and Texas.

Oxitec has been developing genetically modified mosquitoes in hopes of reducing local populations of mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, yellow fever and the Zika virus. About 750,000 people die each year from mosquito-borne illnesses, making the insect indirectly responsible for more human deaths than any other animal in the world.

The innate curiosity about the natural world that many of us experience as children is often lost on the path to adulthood. Author Brigit Strawbridge Howard found her way back to a childlike fascination with nature with the help of some of the world's most important pollinators: honeybees, bumblebees, and oft-overlooked solitary bees.

The town of Verkhoyansk in Siberia hit a record-high temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20, the highest temperature ever recorded within the Arctic Circle — and scientists are worried.

“I was shocked at the magnitude of it, but perhaps not necessarily completely surprised to see these types of spikes in temperature because this has been happening for a number of years now." 

Susan Natali, Arctic program director, Woods Hole Research Center

The city council of Arlington, Texas, took a historic stand last month by refusing to expand a fracking complex located next to a preschool that serves primarily Black and Latino children.

Arlington, which is located between Dallas and Fort Worth in North Texas, is a city of 400,000 people and already home to about 350 natural gas fracking wells. The city lies on top of a formation called the Barnett Shale, which is rich in natural gas.

The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 touched off massive protest demonstrations around the world against police brutality and systemic racism. The demonstrations have also opened many people’s eyes to another form of racism: the unequal impacts of pollution and climate disruption on people of color.

Related: A global push for racial justice in the climate movement

In South Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic and strict government-imposed lockdown have led to an unexpected consequence: a major decline in rhino poaching.

More than 80% of African rhinos remaining in the world are in South Africa, making it the hotspot for rhino poaching. The number of rhinos killed for their horns has been slowly declining over recent years, but the pandemic and lockdown have quelled rhino poaching even more.

Anti-poaching efforts may get a boost from a DNA database for rhino horn

Jun 22, 2020

Of the world’s endangered animal species, none faces a more dire situation than rhinos. With just 25,000 or so rhinos left in the world, the threat of extinction looms large.

But now an international database that keeps track of 75 percent of them may offer some hope.

South African law requires that a tissue sample be collected any time a rhino is moved from one park to another or receives medical care. The sample is used to create a DNA profile for each animal that can be recorded and, in case the animal is ever poached, matched to confiscated rhino horn.

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

Jun 22, 2020

The Trump administration’s rush to complete sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border before the November election is threatening to damage and restrict access to sacred and historic Native American sites in the region.

The border wall was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and in his bid to keep that promise, dozens of environmental laws, from the Endangered Species Act to the Clean Air Act, were suspended to fast-track construction.

A new book of poetry by John Freeman, “The Park,” uses the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris as a lens to peer into the paradox of how public green space can provide refuge and access to beauty for some while excluding others.

For the last five or six years, Freeman has spent his summers and winters in Paris. Most of the time, he lives near the Luxembourg Gardens, so it has become “a kind of second home” to him, he said.

Big cat ownership in the US is a big problem

Jun 5, 2020

"Tiger King," the Netflix documentary series about the infamous tiger breeder Joe Exotic, has taken America by storm. But while the show may be entertaining to some, its subject is highly problematic: Private big cat ownership in the US is dangerous and the animals suffer greatly for the success or pleasure of their owners.

Long before COVID-19 disruptions forced dairy farmers to dump millions of gallons of milk into fields and farmers to plow under fields of vegetables, a third of all food produced globally was going to waste, with huge consequences for world hunger and the climate.

In less affluent countries, a lot of food becomes spoiled on the way to market, but in the US and other rich economies, most wasted food is thrown out at home because it has rotted in the fridge or on the counter.

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