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The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton
An apple tree grows in a city park, producing apples that are delicious and healthy but marred with ugly black blotches. In this essay, the author suggests that most apples would look like this without pesticides, suggesting that our modern idea of beauty is achieved through chemical warfare on nature.
Menhaden are a small, bony, oily little fish that have been called "the most important fish in the sea" because of their key role in the food chain, providing nutrition for striped bass, osprey, dolphins and many other species. Menhaden are being overfished by industrial fleets, prompting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Friday to mandate a 20 percent reduction in the annual catch.
In a case that sent shock waves through the biodiesel industry, a federal jury has convicted a biodiesel manufacturer, Rodney Hailey of Baltimore County-based Clean Green Fuel, of fraud for pocketing $9 million selling 23 million gallons of biofuel that did not exist. The case raised questions about the federal alternative fuel credit trading program that Hailey manipulated. Prosecutors said Hailey used the money to buy luxury cars including the Lamborghini above, as well as diamonds and real estate.
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's DOOM lab (Dissolved Oxygen and Oyster Mortality) is examining how oysters respond to sudden drops in oxygen levels in shallow parts of the Chesapeake Bay at night. These fluctuations are partially natural, but appear to be made worse by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Oxygen depletion may make oysters more susceptible to a disease called Dermo.
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has revolutionized America's energy supply, with the U.S. now looking to export liquid natural gas at terminals such as the Dominion Cove Point pier in Southern Maryland, which was built to import gas from foreign countries. But some environmentalists and manufacturers oppose exporting natural gas, because it could encourage even more "fracking" (which can cause air and water pollution) and drive up what are currently very low prices for natural gas in the U.S.
David Hackenburg, a Pennsylvania beekeeper and president of a trade group called the Honey Bee Health Advisory Board, says he and other beekeepers across the country have seen significant declines in bee populations over the last decade. A new study in the scientific journal Nature links widespread bee deaths to the use of a crop pesticides called neonicotinoids since the 1990s, although other factors may be at work, too.
It is a story line that seems more fitting for science fiction than life in the Chesapeake Bay. An invasive species of barnacle from the Gulf Coast, Loxothylacus panopaei, is hijacking the reproductive systems of Chesapeake mud crabs (above), transforming male crabs into female-looking crabs that produce fake eggs sacs full of larval parasites.