The Environment in Focus

The Environment In Focus
2:25 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Sewage Overflows Feed a Garden of Troubles

On a road in Baltimore, from a gap in the pavement near a manhole cover, grows a tomato plant. Green roma tomatoes dangle like Christmas tree bulbs strangely out of place beside a steel guard rail.  Nearby, just west of Falls Road near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, several more unruly tomatoes and a squash plant rise and twist amid sewage smells beside an eroded section of the Jones Falls bike trail.  David Flores, the Baltimore Harborkeeper, has a theory about the origin of this well-fertilized garden flourishing on the banks of the Jones Falls.  It grows out of sewage.


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The Environment In Focus
1:34 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

The Canary in the Corn Field

In the late 1990s, farmers across the U.S. began planting a different kind of crop.  About 90 percent of farmers started raising corn and soybeans that were genetically modified to tolerate an herbicide called glyphosate or Roundup. That was bad news for monarch butterflies, the iconic symbols of summer, whose populations have plummeted by 90 percent since then.


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The Environment In Focus
3:30 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Government Surveillance of Environmental Activists

Over the last year, the news has been full of stories about U.S. government surveillance of its own civilians.  Among those worried about the government’s increased power to track and record the communications of people in the iPhone age are some environmental activists who in the past have been wrongly labeled "ecoterrorists" in government databases.


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The Environment In Focus
2:58 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Political Polarization and the "Green Scare"

From all the negative rhetoric you hear these days from Republican elected officials about environmental regulations, one might think that opposition to environmental policies has always been a litmus test for belonging to the G.O.P.

It is important to remember, however, that the conservation movement was founded in part by a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt.  And another  Republican President, Richard Nixon, created the Environmental Protection Agency.   Nixon is shown in this photo signing the landmark Clean Air Act in 1970.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Republican and Democratic politicians and voters alike overwhelmingly supported environmental spending and regulations.


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The Environment In Focus
1:54 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

The Lorax of Baltimore Plants His Last Tree

Dr. Michael Beer of Baltimore, a retired biophysics pioneer at Johns Hopkins University who founded an environmental organization dedicated to planting trees and cleaning up urban streams, died of a heart attack on August 22 at the age of 88.  To many, he was an inspiring example of how to live with nature, love your neighbors, and age with grace and purpose.


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The Environment In Focus
2:03 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

New Twist to Political Battle Over Eastern Shore Wind Farm

A new twist has surfaced in a long-running saga over what would be the first wind farm built on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

U.S.  Senator Barbara Mikulski, the powerful chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recently added language to a defense appropriation bill that would prevent the Navy from finalizing an agreement to allow two dozen 600-foot-tall wind turbines at the proposed Great Bay Wind Energy Center in Somerset County. 

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The Environment In Focus
2:29 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Report: Fracking Would Likely Harm Public Health in Maryland

Allowing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Western Maryland would result in a high likelihood that public health would suffer, according to a report released on Monday by the  University of Maryland. 

Air pollution from the diesel engines and trucks used in fracking would likely cause coughs, severe headaches, burning eyes and other health problems in Garrett and Allegany counties where drilling is contemplated, according to researchers with the University’s School of Public Health.

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The Environment In Focus
1:53 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels May Feed Underwater Grasses

Some aquatic vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere may actually be helped by the rising carbon dioxide levels that are causing global warming, researchers suggest.


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The Environment In Focus
1:42 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Cold Weather Deals Blow to Blue Crabs in Bay

Blue crab populations in the Chesapeake Bay have fallen for two years in a row, prompting Maryland officials to impose more restrictions on catching female crabs in an attempt to boost the population.

Natural resource police have also tightened minimum size requirements for catching crabs and recently launched a "Don't Get Pinched!" enforcement campaign.

“Crab populations are low, so Marylanders would like us to step up our enforcement efforts when it comes to crabbing violations,' said  Major Jerry Kirkwood of the Maryland Natural Resource Police

A scientific survey of the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population earlier this year found that the numbers had fallen to the lowest levels since 2008.  That was when the federal government declared the Bay an economic disaster area and allowed watermen to collect emergency relief funds.

“What we’re seeing this year is the number of adult female crabs – those female crabs that are creating the next generation – is very, very low," said Lynn Fegley, deputy director of fisheries at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  "It actually fell slightly below what we consider our safe threshold, which is why we are calling the stock depleted.” 

Fegley said unusually cold temperatures this winter killed about 28 percent of the Bay’s crabs. This compounded a problem from the previous year, when unfavorable winds and ocean currents meant record low numbers of crab larvae survived.  

Bad weather’s blow to the blue crabs is a reversal in what had been a great comeback story.  Crab populations in the Bay more than doubled between 2008 and 2010 after Maryland and Virginia imposed some restrictions on catching female crabs and banned dredging for hibernating females in the winter.

But after a brief spike, crab populations have plunged back into the danger zone.

The Environment in Focus
3:43 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Bullfrog Farming Spreading Deadly Fungus

Populations of frogs and other amphibians have been declining around the world and biologist Lisa Schloegel believes that she may have discovered why.


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