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The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton
In an effort to revive depleted Chesapeake Bay oysters, federal and state agencies are working together to plant about 400 million juvenile oysters in a new 4,500-acre sanctuary. Stephanie Westby, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows oysters growing in Harris Creek, a tributary to the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Students at more than 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. are campaigning to urge school administrators to divest from fossil fuel companies that contribute to global warming. At Johns Hopkins, students including Katherine Jochim and Jon Smeton recently met with the university's vice president of finance to urge the school to sell all coal, oil, and gas-related stocks in the university's $2.7 billion endowment.
Pollution from rainwater flushing over streets, parking lots, and suburban lawns is growing in the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland lawmakers last year required the state's largest municipalities to create stormwater pollution control fees. But some local officials are rebelling. (Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program.)
Smallmouth bass are one of the most popular freshwater sport fish, worth about $150 million a year to Maryland's economy alone in sales of everything from boats to fishing rods. But die-offs and disease have hit smallmouth in five Chesapeake Bay tributaries in recent years. Scientists theorize that a "perfect storm" of pollutants, parasites, and rising temperatures may be to blame. Photo of bass with skin discoloration from Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Bamboo is often cut down and ripped out of parks, because it is an invasive species that crowds out native plants. But a Baltimore-based company called Bambeco and others transform what some consider a nuisance weed into an amazing array of products, from picture frames to flooring and towels.
The Maryland General Assembly's 2013 session concluded last week with big news: approval of a bill that will help subsidize the construction of what could be America's first offshore wind farm, east of Ocean City. Lawmakers also voted down bills that would have delayed stormwater pollution control fees, encouraged recycling, and outlawed hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
Utility companies across the country are replacing old-fashioned electricity meters in homes with new digital "smart meters." BGE and other utilities say the new meters save money and can help conserve energy. But protesters including Jonathan Libber (a former EPA attorney, above) complain about possible health risks from non-ionizing microwave radiation (which also comes from cell phones, microwaves, and televisions).
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.