Environment

On Mike Pink's potato farm at dawn, the sun is an angry red ball low in the sky.

This summer, wildfire smoke has blanketed much of the West for days and weeks. And that smoke has come between the sun and ripening crops.

Pink watches as his year's work tumbles onto a fast-moving belt and into a waiting semi truck. He's got most of his 1,600-acre potato fields yet to harvest on his 3,000-acre farm, spread over about 40 miles between Burbank and Basin City, Wash. And this thick smoke makes him nervous.

The illnesses started appearing in late March. Here and there, across the country, people were checking themselves in to hospitals, sick from toxic E. coli bacteria. At least 200 people got sick. Five of them died.

Shortly after the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Paris accord, a global pact to combat climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron assumed the mantle of environmental crusader with a pointed rebuke of the Trump administration: "Make our planet great again," he declared just hours later.

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It has been a year now since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. There was widespread damage, including to several toxic waste sites that were flooded during that storm. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports on one of the largest of them.

Researchers investigating the effects of air pollution conducted math and verbal tests over the course of multiple years on more than 25,000 people in 162 Chinese counties. They matched those results with pollution conditions at the time of each test, and found sobering results.

The Trump's administration's proposal to relax regulations on carbon emissions is welcome news in coal producing states like Wyoming, even as people in the industry acknowledge its impact would be limited.

Helping Clean Florida's 'Red Tide'

Aug 26, 2018

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More Americans die from the effects of heat than of any other form of severe weather, and this summer has seen one heat wave after another. Some places in the U.S. and elsewhere have recorded their highest temperatures ever. In fact, the average temperature around the planet over the past four years has been the highest ever recorded, and nine of the 10 hottest years were all in this century. (The other was 1998.)

Talkin' Birds: The Damage Of Plastics

Aug 25, 2018

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

BOBBY DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet.

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Time now for "Talkin' Birds."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet. Tweedilly, dillidy, deet.

An audience gathers around the transparent 14-foot-long "culinary instrument" in a restaurant called Creator in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood.

A lengthy drought in Europe has exposed carved boulders, known as "hunger stones," that have been used for centuries to commemorate historic droughts — and warn of their consequences.

The Associated Press reports that hunger stones are newly visible in the Elbe River, which begins in the Czech Republic and flows through Germany.

"Over a dozen of the hunger stones, chosen to record low water levels, can now be seen in and near the northern Czech town of Decin near the German border," the AP writes.

A huge pack of floating ice along the northern Greenland coastline is breaking up and drifting apart into the Arctic Ocean — another consequence, scientists say, of global warming caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"We've never seen anything this large in terms of an opening north of Greenland," says polar scientist Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists along Florida's Gulf Coast are working to battle an unusually intense red tide algae bloom, which has killed tons of wildlife, shut down businesses and kept tourists away from beaches this summer.

One of the largest supermarket companies in the U.S. has announced it is phasing out single-use plastic bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste.

The Kroger Co. says it plans to stop distributing single-use bags completely by 2025 across its chains.

Updated at 12:35 p.m. ET

Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a Category 4 storm as it moves closer to Hawaii, the National Weather Service said Wednesday.

The NWS says a hurricane warning is in effect for Maui and Hawaii, which is also known as the Big Island, while the islands of Kauai and Oahu, where Honolulu is located, are under a hurricane watch.

Maersk, the world's largest container line, is about to test the frigid waters of the Arctic in a trial of shorter shipping lanes that could become viable as warmer temperatures open up the Northern Sea Route.

On or around Sept. 1, Denmark-based Maersk plans to send its first container ship through the Arctic to explore whether the once inhospitable route could become feasible in the future. Many analysts see the test as a turning point for both the shipping industry and the Arctic.

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The Trump administration has moved to formally replace the Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that former President Barack Obama once lauded as the single-most important step America has ever taken to fight climate change.

The long-anticipated proposal, called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, would give individual states more authority to make their own plans for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Across California and the West, where dozens of large wildfires are burning, public health agencies are urging people to seal off their windows and doors, change filters in air conditioning units and in some places wear masks if they have to go outside for any extended period.

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On the High Plains in West Texas, hot winds blast through cotton fields as far as the eye can see.

In the middle of it all is a tiny vineyard.

Andis Applewhite is the owner. She's an artist whose family has worked this land for a century. They once planted crops more typical of the neighborhood, like cotton and wheat. Applewhite decided to try something different: She put in a couple of acres of cabernet franc grapes.

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Americans In Combat

Aug 20, 2018

Journalist C.J. Chivers doesn’t sugarcoat the American war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Environmental activists are using a new strategy to block construction of oil and gas pipelines. It already has worked in New York where construction on the Constitution Pipeline has stalled. Now activists are trying the strategy in Oregon.

The proposed Jordan Cove project includes a pipeline that would transport natural gas across the Cascades mountain range to the Oregon coast. There it would be turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export.

Plastic trash is littering the land and fouling rivers and oceans. But what we can see is only a small fraction of what's out there.

Since modern plastic was first mass-produced, 8 billion tons have been manufactured. And when it's thrown away, it doesn't just disappear. Much of it crumbles into small pieces.

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India's southern state of Kerala may get some much needed relief in the coming days as the forecast shows less rain for the area that has been dealing with deadly monsoon floods for more than a week.

More than 350 people have died and at least 800,000 others have been displaced, according to The Associated Press. But there are fears that the number of dead could increase as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

Reporting from Mumbai, NPR's Lauren Frayer says that, "tens of thousands of people have been rescued from flooded homes ... but many more are stranded."

Less than a month after an earthquake killed hundreds of people, the Indonesian island of Lombok experienced a series of quakes on Sunday.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured a 6.9 magnitude quake late Sunday evening local time. That quake came after two others earlier in the day that registered at magnitudes 6.3 and 5.4 respectively, according to The Associated Press.

Mountain Gets A Downgrade To A Hill

Aug 19, 2018

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