Isla Earth Radio



Exploring Environmental Issues of Global Importance.


  • Coast Report

    31/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    If we gave our coastlines an environmental report card, what grade should they get? Surprise! There IS a report, and it gives our coasts about a grade "C." It's called the National Coastal Condition Report, and it's the third in a series started by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001. It's the first truly national assessment of all our coastlines' ecological health, including the Great Lakes, Alaska and Hawaii. Surprisingly, some areas scored better than before. The Northeast and the West have improved since the last report; while the Southeast and the Gulf of Mexico rank lower. Overall, our coastlines earned a down-the-middle "Fair," when it comes to water quality, sediment quality, habitat, contaminants in fish tissue and conditions for bottom-dwelling critters. But while "Fair" might sound as stinging as a bad grade in math class, it actually holds promise. Comparisons with the 2005 report card show slight improvements due, possibly, to

  • Health Factors Threaten Gorillas - But Why?

    30/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    What's a significant threat to the survival of captive gorillas? Surprisingly it's heart disease. It's ironic. In the wild, gorillas inch closer to extinction daily from habitat loss and poaching. Because of this troubling outlook for wild gorillas, zookeepers especially want to maintain captive gorillas in good health. Yet male gorillas in zoos and preserves have significant rates of chronic heart disease. So high that veterinarian Pam Dennis of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo describes heart disease as "a major threat to gorilla health." Are genetics a factor? Or diet, or exercise, or a virus? To find answers, researchers have formed the Gorilla Health Project, a collaboration of zoos across North America. They are pooling information to form a database about gorilla heart disease and other conditions affecting captive gorillas. At the Cleveland zoo, recent heart exams of two males in their twenties revealed signs of minor heart disease in one and advanced heart disease in

  • Coal Gasification

    27/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    It's no news flash that, over the years, one of the dirtiest sources of energy has been coal; in fact, it's among the top contributors to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The challenge, according to the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration, is that coal accounts for about fifty percent of all the energy produced in the U.S. Luckily, new technologies already in use are making coal a cleaner-burning fuel. Coal gasification is based on a technology that's been around since the 1850s. Rather than burning coal directly, it's exposed to steam and oxygen under high temperatures and pressures. The chemical reaction produces gases. So, how "green" is it? Well, the byproduct from coal gasification, hydrogen, is considered one of the cleanest burning fuels on earth. Yet, there is still the environmental impact of mining coal and transporting it. And, the process itself has a few glitches, like it still has carbon as part of the mix. While scientists conti

  • Recipe For Plastic Decomposition

    26/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    It's good to know that tomorrow's scientists are solving environmental problems today. Meet Daniel Burd from Waterloo, Canada. Daniel's interested in science and recycling. As a 16 year old, he was annoyed by the avalanche of polyethylene plastic shopping bags that his mother horded in a closet. Every time he'd open the closet, bags tumbled out. Daniel knew that to just throw the bags away would mean sending them to landfills, where they'd sit, without decomposing, for, oh, millennia. So for his school's science fair, Daniel isolated the microbes that break down polyethylene. First, he ground plastic bags into powder, then mixed in tap water, yeast, and a dash of dirt. Six weeks later his "bag powder" weighed 17 percent less! So he tried again, adding sodium acetate, which helps microbes grow. Another six weeks and his bags decomposed 43 percent. His project earned him a $10,000 prize, $20,000 in scholarships and interest from industry. The real winner c

  • Brighter Bulbs

    25/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    What do you get when you cross folk art with photonic technology? A very bright idea. Researchers at the University of Glasgow have combined cell phone displays and the craft of punched tin to create a new light bulb that could hit living rooms within three years. LEDs, or "light-emitting diodes" are the lights behind computer screens and cell phones: small, energy efficient -- but weak. That's due to their structure and material, which trap light the way thick lampshades darken a room. It's that analogy that got the researchers thinking. Taking a cue from the decorative art form of punched tin lanterns, they made more light escape from LEDs by, literally, poking them full of holes! Using a 21st Century version of lithograph printing they stamped billions of molecule-sized openings onto LED surfaces -- increasing brightness without increasing energy consumption. A low cost technique that can be mass-produced. It could mean a greener, brighter bulb on the market in the future. L

  • Farming The Wind

    24/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Farming has always been subject to the uncertainties of weather and market conditions. But farmers in Huron County, Michigan, have found something they finally can count on. The wind! Blowing across Lake Huron, the wind there is always ripe for harvesting. A patch of thirty two turbines have already been planted. And plans for 42 more are underway. Bob Krohn, a farmer in the area, anticipates reaping up to $30,000 per year from just three windmills on his property. It's a welcome source of revenue where incomes are fifteen percent below the national average. Michigan is another in a growing list of farm belt states like Texas, Iowa, Minnesota and others, where wind power is becoming a major industry. Many of these states require utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from alternative sources. Other than concerns about creating hazards for birds, windmills are readily accepted in rural areas. In fact, some see them as a way of preserving our rich agricultural heritage. Af

  • New Partners On The Range

    23/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    The words, "holistic," and "cattle range" aren't often heard together. But in California, "holistic range management" is indeed all the rage on the range. And that thanks to the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, a group of ranchers, conservationists and government officials. Each has far-flung agendas, but one common interest: To keep 25 million acres of Central California grasslands sustainable for both cattle and native species. Steve Thompson, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the coalition's acknowledged inspiration. He helped California conservationists and ranchers realize that despite their differences, each cares deeply about sustaining their state's natural beauty. So starting in 2001, the coalition began exploring ways to graze cattle on the ranchers' mostly private land, in ways that prevent overgrazing and sustain local wildlife. Since then, there's been a change...on the range. On one ranch, owners used state bo

  • Arctic Fisheries

    20/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    In 1945, John Steinbeck wrote a novel called Cannery Row. In it he told the story of life in Monterey, California -- a thriving fishing port at that time. But the story didn't end well, the ocean's changed, the fishing pressure stayed high and Monterey's sardine industry collapsed. Similar stories are now being played out in fisheries around the globe. In each case, the environmental question is the same. How much fishing can the fishery stand? Take too much of the ocean's bounty too quickly and you end up with a devastating collapse, as happened in Monterey. The facts are these: the number of fish that an ecosystem support is finite, that limit changes with climate, and fish can only make so many new fish each breeding season. Over-fishing now dominates most of the world's oceans -- the Arctic being but the latest concern. A study by the University of British Columbia found that actual catches there might be 75 times higher than originally reported to the United Nations.

  • High Fashion Green, For Less

    19/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Let's talk about high fashion and Target, the big box store. The two seemingly opposites converged, recently, largely because of the environmentally focused business ethic of runway designer Rogan Gregory. Gregory is a 30-something New York-based clothing designer. He's emerging as a style visionary, and he got that way by designing with sustainability in mind. That is, environmental sustainability. Gregory recycles T-shirts and designs urban, ultra-cool denim duds in certified organic cotton. Where's his stuff sell? Only in the poshest stores. His work caught the attention of Target. The chain wanted to reach the earth-conscious but budget-minded crowd. So it approached Gregory about working together. Some designers might have said no. But Gregory realized something: Clothes from organic cotton, bamboo and other eco-friendly fibers are usually on the pricey side. Only the Targets and Wal-Marts of the world will ever be able to place the massive orders necessary for prices on the

  • Glass Bottle Comeback

    18/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Believe it or not, just two generations ago, it was unheard of not to recycle glass beverage bottles. Today, that idea itself is getting recycled. Until the 1930s, most beer and soda came in glass bottles that got washed and refilled many times before discarding. Then beer companies introduced disposable cans, and well, the rest is history. In the '70s, some states passed bottle recycling laws or, "bottle bills," that require a refundable deposit, about a nickel, for beverages sold in glass bottles. These bills were designed to reduce litter. But they do more. Studies in states with bottle bills report big drops in roadside litter and increases in recycling rates. But today, legislators also like that bottle bills promote green manufacturing. Recycled glass can substitute for up to 70 percent of glass-making raw materials. That means factories can reduce industrial emissions and save on raw goods and energy consumption. With results like that, some states are exploring broader bo

  • Recycle Payday

    17/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Are you wasting your waste? A company called RecycleBank says: maybe! So they've come up with a high-tech way to encourage people to paying them! RecycleBank co-founder Ron Gonen figured that more people would recycle, if they just had some motivation. So he added a computer chip to curb-side recycling bins, the kind that garbage trucks pick up. When a truck picks up a RecycleBank bin, it weights it and records how much that household recycled. The heavier the bin, the more coupons and gift certificates a household earns, useable at local retailers. RecycleBank has even made recycling extra-easy: households can toss paper, plastic or metal all into one bin. The program is running in communities in the Northeast, and will expand to Dallas and Minneapolis soon. Does it work? Gonen says middle-income neighborhoods usually see a 100 percent boost in recycling, while low-income neighborhoods see about a thousand percent increase. Retailers like it for obvious reasons, and cities li

  • Few Plants Thrive With Change

    16/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    If you can't stand the heat...hang in there? That's what some species are doing in response to climate change. It might sound obvious. But until recently, common wisdom held that climate change prompts native species to migrate, or die. Now, instead, scientists are finding that some species not only adapt to change, but thrive. The star example is humble grassland vegetation in northern Britain. Researchers at Sheffield University studied slow-growing herbs and shrubs there, some more than 100 years old. They marked off plots of the grassland, and over the course of 13 years, manipulated their environment every which way they could: Fake summer floods, drought, nutrient shortagesthey even buried heating cables to simulate winter warming. By the end of the experiment, the grassland should have altered dramatically. But the plants were unruffled. They hadn't died off, and other plants didn't take their place. Why? No one's sure. The plants might be slow to react, or ma

  • Products For Responsible Consumers

    13/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Is it 'hip,' or 'cool,' to be environmentally sustainable? That's a question that some of the biggest companies are asking about the world's most popular products and the answer is 'sweet.' Take Dell. It recently held an "ideas competition" for environmentally sustainable computing. Two of the finalists were a PC that runs on hydrogen fuel cells, and another with a shell made of processed corn! Then there's Nike. It recently launched, "Trash Talk," a high-performance basketball shoe made from scraps off its factory floors. iPods are going greener too. Apple's latest contain no mercury and are sheathed in recyclable aluminum. Apple also collects old iPods: Customers bring them in; Apple recycles them via sustainable practices, and gives customers a discount off their next purchase. Does it pay to be green? Time will tell for some of the newer product lines, but it's already paying huge dividends towards a healthier planet th

  • Grasslands Ecosystems Best Left Wild

    12/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Which is better? A picture perfect golf course, or a wild and wooly prairie? Well, when it comes to ecosystem health, the more native plants -- the better. Scientists at the University of Minnesota and Nebraska went out to the Cedar Creek research area and created a hundred and sixty eight test plots. In some, they planted a single species of grass -- kind of like a golf course. In others, they planted a variety of native grasses and flowers -- anywhere from four to 16 species. What they discovered was fascinating. Those plots with multiple species did a lot better. They were more stable and up to two hundred and forty percent more productive. Also, the diverse plots needed no tilling, fertilizers, or pesticides. And because we're talking about perennials here, it's a plant-once mow-once-a-year kind of proposition. While mixing grass varieties wouldn't make for an easily manicured and maintained golf course green, your garden could benefit. And, maybe there are some open spaces in y

  • Saving The Penguin

    11/03/2015 Duração: 01min

    Sometimes, creating a preserve can help endangered species fast, like South Africa's Cape penguins. Until recently, this endangered bird, and the only African penguin, had a hard time finding food. That's because South Africa's once abundant sardine and anchovy populations had declined dramatically due to over-fishing. That forced the penguins to search farther for food, often causing exhaustion and leading to death. In fact, in just eight years, their numbers dropped 60 percent. But in 2008 the South African government, along with scientists and the South African fishing industry, decided to give the birds a hand. They fitted 91 penguins in two colonies with tracking devices to record their every move. Then after measuring baseline behavior they closed fishing in a twelve and a half mile radius around one of the colonies. Three months after the closure, the scientists described the results as "striking." Birds from the colony still open to fishing showed no changes. But bird