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The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton
The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blanketed the Earth with a haze of sulfur dioxide that temporarily cooled global temperatures by one degree Fahrenheit. Some scientists now see the intentional injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere as a potentially cheap and easy way to counteract global warming. Others warn, however, of potentially deadly unintended consequences.
Many people know that forests are better at absorbing water pollution and carbon dioxide than corn fields, housing subdivisions or almost anything else. But not all forests are created equal. Smithsonian ecologist John Parker is trying to discover if diverse forests are better than monoculture forests at fostering networks of underground, thread-like mycorrhizal fungi that eat nitrogen pollution.
Climate change and rising sea levels have combined with naturally subsiding land around the Chesapeake Bay to wash away dozens of islands. But Tangier Island Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge, a waterman, describes how his historic community is fighting to slow erosion with a new jetty to protect the harbor and an experimental system of buoys to reduce the impact of waves.
Wetlands are supposed to be protected because of their value as pollution filters and habitat for fish and birds. But federal and state agencies routinely approve permits for developers to destroy wetlands under the condition that they pay for the construction of artificial wetlands as replacements. These replacements, however, are not as productive biologically as real wetlands. (Originally aired 2/8/12.)
President Obama pledged to take action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution during his recent State of the Union address, and now is being pressured by protesters to deny approval for a tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Meanwhile, in Maryland, Governor O'Malley is again arguing for state legislation to help subsidize the construction of what could be America's first offshore wind farm.
Jeff Kelble, a professional fishing guide on the Shenandoah River in Virginia, was forced to abruptly change careers eight years ago when nearly all the smallmouth bass in his river died. So he re-invented himself as a full-time advocate for the Chesapeake Bay tributary, filed legal actions that helped reduce pollution, and enjoyed watching the bass populations come roaring back.
A Massachusetts company has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to market the world's first genetically engineered food animal, the AquaAdvantage Salmon, which would combine the DNA of three different species of fish. It would grow twice as fast as natural salmon. But some critics are fighting to stop "the frankenfish" (shown in rear, next to an Atlantic salmon.)