Environment

Environmental stories

courtesy of Bill McKibben

Rapidly melting sea ice, crippling drought, violent storms--author and environmental activist Bill McKibben has been predicting these events for decades.  But now, he says, "We need to get serious about taking care of ourselves."  IPR's Charity Nebbe speaks with McKibben about what it will take to convince humanity to take action on climate change.  McKibben delivered the commencement address at Grinnell College on May 18.

Matthew Paulson / Flickr

Do the deer eat your hostas? Do raccoons share your sweet corn?

Humans and wild animals often clash because we need and want different things from the environment, but there are ways to successfully coexist with the creatures that wander the backyards and farms all across Iowa.

On this Wildlife Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with wildlife biologist Jim Pease about some principles of gardening with wildlife in mind.

Flickr / Sanofi Pasteur

Climate change is real and humans are contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere; that’s according to the fifth annual Iowa Climate Statement released Monday.

The statement contains signatures of 188 faculty and researchers from 39 Iowa colleges and universities. It warns that Iowans are experiencing negative health effects due to greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Dan Farber / flickr

Former Vice President Al Gore is in Cedar Rapids this week as part of his Climate Reality Project, a tour meant to teach people how to “take on the climate crisis." Participants in the three day session are encouraged to give press interviews, communicate with government officials, and organize others in the effort against pollution.

Gore says he believes this year is a turning point in government action on climate change, and he believes the environment will be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Colleen Chisman

As wild animals have adapted to our growing cities and towns, more and more people are encountering wildlife in their own backyards. What do you do if the wild animals you find are injured, orphaned, or displaced?

Julie Lesnik

Iowa State University primatologist Jill Pruetz studies the spear-wielding Savannah chimpanzees ofSenegal. Most recently, after documenting more than 300 tool-assisted hunts, the team found that while adult male chimps are the main hunters, it's the female chimps that hunt with tools more than males.

“It’s just another example of diversity in chimp behavior that we keep finding the longer we study wild chimps,” Pruetz says. “It is more the exception than the rule that you’ll find some sort of different behavior, even though we’ve studied chimps extensively.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The founder of the advocacy group NextGen Climate made stops in Iowa on Earth Day to ask presidential hopefuls for their support of clean energy initiatives. The wealthy environmentalist plans to spend more time in the state during the 2016 election cycle.

Tom Steyer, a California hedge fund manager, is promising to continue work he started during last year’s Congressional campaigns.

The effort aims to get politicians and voters to pay more attention to environmental issues.

Clay Masters / IPR

  The state’s largest water utility is restarting its nitrate removal equipment because levels of the pollutant are spiking in the rivers Des Moines uses for drinking water. 

The Des Moines Water Works recently sued three northwest Iowa counties (Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties) saying water from agricultural drainage districts contributes to the high level of nitrates. 

reynermedia / Flickr

Evangelical Protestants are more likely than any other religious group to be climate change skeptics, according to a November 2014 report from the Public Religion Research Institute. But one Evangelical Christian disagrees. 

Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She says it's frustrating that people see religion and climate science as mutually exclusive.

Clay Masters / IPR

It’s that time of year when Midwest farmers are preparing to plant their crops. This year though more may be thinking about the water in their fields, that’s because a lawsuit by Iowa’s largest water utility is targeting the nitrates farms send downstream and polluting the Des Moines metro's drinking water sources. Local governments and big agriculture interest groups alike are now watching this lawsuit.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The state's largest water utility has voted to proceed with its lawsuit against three northwest Iowa county boards of supervisors. Des Moines Water Works first announced its intent to sue back in January.

The water utility says high nitrate levels in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply the city's drinking water, are a result of nitrogen fertilizer runoff from farms in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties.

Jason Mrachina via Flickr

One of the famous Decorah eagles, a juvenile known as Four, died as a result of electrocution last week. 

Iowa DNR

Water use in Iowa has climbed 72% since the 1970’s, and according to state officials, current usage rates are unsustainable. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Three new natural gas-powered boilers are moving Iowa State University closer to compliance with new federal environmental regulations.

Dennis Brown via Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures outside have been frigid, but there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy gardening and prepare for the spring.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

What do you throw away? Do you think about it? Do you care?

Rachel Gardner

The groundhog predicted six weeks of winter, and that means six more weeks to plan for spring.

gapowell / flickr

Monarch butterfly numbers have declined dramatically. Now it looks like they may be put on the Endangered Species List.

Photo by John Pemble

The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

Seney Natural History Association / Flickr

Not too long ago, the call of the Trumpeter Swan was unheard in Iowa; the last nesting pair was seen in 1883. But with concentrated effort from biologists and conservationists, the species has made a comeback in the state.

Iowa DNR

If you’re looking for a healthy way to start the New Year, take a hike. IPRs Julie Englander spoke with Todd Coffelt, the bureau chief for state parks with the Department of Natural Resources. He says on January first, Iowa State Parks are participating in America’s State Park’s First Day Hikes…

For more information on Iowa State Parks First Day Hike go to the Iowa Department Natural Resources events calendar at www.iowadnr.gov.

Charity Nebbe

The population of bald eagles in Iowa appears to be plateauing. That’s according to wildlife biologist Jim Pease.

Brooke Raymond

Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Senate will soon vote on the long-delayed tax extenders bill. The legislation groups more than 50 tax breaks, including wind energy incentives.

Because Iowa is a leader in wind energy production, Grassley has been vocal on the need to extend the tax credits. But Grassley says the bill doesn’t go far enough.

John Marvig

A proposal to modify the Clean Water Act from the Environmental Protection Agency will face stiff opposition come January, says U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.  That’s when both the House and the Senate will be held by the GOP.

Grassley and other Republicans have spoken harshly against the Waters of the U.S. rule, which would increase federal oversight of U.S. waterways.

Jim Pease

Jaguars don’t roam the prairies and Hyacinth Macaws don’t perch in our oak trees, but today on Talk of Iowa we learn about the wild creatures of Brazil with wildlife biologist, Jim Pease.

Big cats, small primates, colorful birds, and rodents of unusual size. We also find out why the biodiversity of the Amazon matters here in Iowa.

"While we still celebrate the wildlife that we have here in Iowa, I think we need to remember how diverse it once was," says Pease. "Visiting places that are these 'mega-diversity' places is important for a number of reasons."

courtesy of Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo euthanized one of its giraffes last Thursday. Shani, a 21-year-old female, had lived at the Des Moines zoo since 1996. 

Kenneth Mertes

Many scientists believe that Earth is in the midst of a sixth great extinction. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, threats to biodiversity in the Midwest.

Eric Bégin

Furbearer season starts Saturday in Iowa. Hunters and trappers will likely see greater numbers of raccoons and coyotes from previous years, but fewer red foxes. 

Jeremy Weber

"Our problems with wolves stem from jealousy and competition...they're just like us," says Doug Smith, Yellowstone National Park wildlife biologist.

Clay Masters / IPR

Imagine being able to drive an all-terrain vehicle right up next to a sacred earthen Native American burial mound.

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