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The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton
Freakish weather events this summer--droughts, wild fires, record-breaking heat, and the "derecho" storms across the East--have inflicted economic damage on millions of American voters. But an eerie silence on climate-related subjects is the reaction from the U.S. presidential candidates, and public opinion on global warming has eroded because of the economic downturn.
Coyotes, which are native to the West and Midwest, over the last three decades have been moving into Maryland and the East and multiplying in suburban and even urban environments like Baltimore and Washington, DC. Genetic testing of some of the animals in the Chesapeake Bay region suggest they are mixed-breed "coywolves" -- larger coyotes that are the product of the animals breeding with their mortal enemies: wolves. (Photo of coyote from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
In a shallow bay of the Potomac River an hour south of Washington, D.C., lie the remains of 214 wooden cargo ships from World War I, some of which have sprouted trees and become islands. The so-called "Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay" is a reminder of the waste of war, and also of nature's resilience and ability to transform even a junkyard into an insurgency of life. (Originally aired 7/15/11.)
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.)
The eastern United States just experienced the warmest spring on record, shattering previous highs. On land, warm temperatures caused cherry and apple trees to bloom prematurely. In the Chesapeake Bay, algae bloomed earlier than normal, fed by runoff pollution from last fall's major storms. Photo of algal bloom by Chesapeake Bay Program.
Seagrasses are important breeding grounds for fish and crabs, but they are in decline around the world because of pollution, seafood harvesting, and climate change. Along Virginia's lower Eastern Shore, however, 4,300 acres of eelgrass have returned to once-barren coastal bays. The Johnny Appleseed of eelgrass is Robert Orth of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who has worked with partners, including The Nature Conservancy, to plant 41 million seeds.
A new public middle school on the West Side of Baltimore, the Green Street Academy, is teaching city students about conservation and sustainability as it prepares them for green jobs of the future. The 275 students, led by Principal Ed Cozzolino (above), learn about growing and marketing organic food by running a fish farm, chicken coop, and greenhouse.
Several species of shorebirds that migrate along the Atlantic Coast are in decline, including whimbrels, whose numbers have plummeted by half over the last two decades. Scientists are trying to discover the causes--which could range from climate change to hunting--by attaching satellite transmitters to whimbrels and following them to their nesting grounds in Canada and Alaska.