Environment

When restaurateur Nora Pouillon moved to the United States from Austria in the 1960s, she was surprised by how hard it was to get really fresh food. Everything was packaged and processed. Pouillon set out to find the find the best ingredients possible to cook for her family and friends. She brought that same sensibility to her Restaurant Nora, which eventually became the first certified organic restaurant in the country.

Pouillon writes about her lifelong devotion to food in a new memoir, My Organic Life: How A Pioneering Chef Helped Shape The Way We Eat Today.

America's biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

Producing food, after all, requires more water than almost any other business on Earth. And the outlook isn't pretty: One-third of food is grown in areas of high or extremely high water stress, while pollution and climate change are further limiting supplies of clean water around the world.

Here's a job that sounds perfect for either a superhero or a glutton for punishment: Get nearly 200 countries to finally agree to take serious action on climate change.

Two men have taken on this challenge. They're leading some international negotiations that will wrap up later this year in Paris at a major United Nations conference on climate change.

Warm weather has finally arrived in the Northeast. And along a wild stretch of New York state's Hudson River in the Adirondack Mountains, a section has been opened to paddlers for the first time in decades.

New landmark conservation deals in New York state have protected vast swaths of wilderness. Those deals have also opened waterways that had been closed to the public for more than a century.

Government Programs Aided Bald Eagles in Missouri

May 5, 2015
Gary Grigsby / KBIA

Bald eagles in Missouri were taken off the federal endangered species list in 2007.

The road to recovery took nearly 30 years.  

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) now reports that around 2,000 bald eagles spend part of the winter in the show me state.

Chickens in coops
Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

As the number of farms hit with avian flu grows over 100 nationwide, regulators are implementing containment plans meant to stop the virus’ spread, spare millions of at-risk birds and thousands of poultry farms.

Farms in many states, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, are struggling to contain an active outbreak.

“A rapid response is extremely important in an infectious disease outbreak like this,” said Jim Roth, head of the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.


Chipotle is trumpeting its renunciation of ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The company says that using GMOs — mainly corn in its tortillas and soybean oil for cooking — "doesn't align" with its vision of "food with integrity." According to Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold, it represents "our commitment to serving our customers the very best ingredients we can find."

It has been about a decade since beekeepers and scientists began documenting a decline in honeybee populations and other important pollinators.

Even if you're not a lover of bees or honey, you should know that bees are critically important to our food supply. They help pollinate billions of dollars of crops each year, from apples and carrots to blueberries and almonds.

So if bees are threatened, ultimately, the production of these crops will be threatened, too.

More Bald Eagles Calling Missouri Home

Apr 21, 2015
Gary Grigsby / KBIA

Thousands of bald eagles spend part of the winter in Missouri.  As winter approaches the eagles head south to eat fish from waterways that aren't frozen over as much as say, northern Minnesota.


Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s planting time for Midwest farmers and much of the corn they grow will end up feeding livestock in China, which has become a huge importer of grain from the Corn Belt. That means the farmers can’t just select seeds based on which ones will get the best yield. They have to think about where their grain will be sold.

China has its own rules for the kind of crops it wants and when American farmers don’t comply, China can close off its market.

In 2013, China discovered in U.S. corn a genetically engineered trait that, although permitted in the U.S., had not yet been approved in China. Chinese regulators rejected American corn because some of it contained the trait.

“When you hear China has banned all US corn,” said Ward Graham, a farmer in South-Central Iowa, “a person in my position? That’s not good.”


Five years ago, BP's out-of-control oil well deep in the Gulf of Mexico exploded. Eleven workers were killed on the Deepwater Horizon rig. But it was more than a deadly accident — the blast unleashed the nation's worst offshore environmental catastrophe.

In the spring and summer of 2010, oil gushed from the Macondo well for nearly three months. More than 3 million barrels of Louisiana light crude fouled beaches and wetlands from Texas to Florida, affecting wildlife and livelihoods.

Today, the spill's impacts linger.

The historic four-year drought in California has been grabbing the headlines lately, but there's a much bigger problem facing the West: the now 14-year drought gripping the Colorado River basin.

One of the most stunning places to see its impact is at the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, near Las Vegas. At about 40 percent of capacity, it's the lowest it's been since it was built in the 1930s.

Ailin Li / KBIA

When Samantha Schumer went out on a farm visiting family members, she was always terrified of cows. So when she knew she had to take science class in her freshman year, she was not thrilled at all. But, now, walking into the agriculture building becomes the best part of her day.

The state of California is asking a basic question right now that people often fight over: What's a fair way to divide up something that's scarce and valuable? That "something," in this case, is water.

There's a lot at stake, including your very own nuts, fruits and vegetables, because most of the water that's up for grabs in California goes to farmers. This year, some farmers will get water, and others will not, simply based on when their land was first irrigated.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Nate Storey’s greenhouse in west Laramie is packed with vegetables growing in long, upright plastic towers. Storey’s set-up is an urban farmer’s dream: the waste from fish tanks fertilizes the crops through plastic tubing that drips water onto the vertical garden. The greenhouse is small, but produces a lot of food. Like a proud father he shows off bok choy, butter lettuce and spinach.

“You can grow anything. People have grown some crazy stuff with the towers,” Storey says. “We’ve grown tomatoes and very large statured crops, watermelons. It works until they’re about 20 pounds apiece and then things start falling.”

An urban farmer’s dream in a decidedly not urban place.

When Gov. Jerry Brown announced the largest mandatory water restrictions in California history April 1 while standing in a snowless field in the Sierra Nevada, he gave hardly a mention to farms.

Killer of White Oaks in Ozarks Still at Large

Apr 7, 2015
Gary Grigsby / KBIA

MU scientists have narrowed down the possibilities of what might be causing white oak mortality in low-lying areas of Missouri Ozarks in the past few years.  But the mystery remains.

Dr. Sharon Reed is trying to solve the mystery.  She's an MU research scientist who has been working on the white oak mortality issue for some time.  She said some of her research is very low-tech like scraping bark off of dead white oak trees.  "Part of the process with the scraping is that we actually do try to isolate pathogens in the wood tissues.  And we do  that by taking out little chips from the areas that are darker in coloration."  

A proposed bill could affect the Missouri Department of Conservation’s budget. House bill 27 was proposed to reduce the conservation sales tax from one-eighth to one-sixteenth of a cent.

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown made water conservation mandatory in the drought-stricken state of California. "As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can," he said.

But if the four-year drought continues, conservation alone — at least what's required by the governor's plan — won't fix the problem.

Across California, communities are examining all options to avoid running out of water. Some, like the coastal city of Santa Barbara, are looking to the past for inspiration.

Humans have had such a huge impact on the Earth that some geologists think the human era should be enshrined in the official timeline of our planet.

They want to give the age of humans a formal name, just as scientists use terms like the Jurassic or the Cretaceous to talk about the age of dinosaurs.

But some researchers think that formally establishing an "Anthropocene" — as many call it — as part of the geologic time scale would be a big mistake.

MU Professor Finds Human Birth Control Affects Fish

Apr 3, 2015
Courtesy of UC Irvine / Flickr

  Ramji Bhandari, a MU assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, is conducting a study through USGS and is finding a synthetic hormone in human birth control pills that can cause defects in fish.

Villagers in a rural district of Kenya are getting a helping hoof to adapt to climate change. A newly introduced breed of "supergoat" is cutting the number of months per year that villagers in the district of Nyando go hungry.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

For years, some small towns and farmers along the Mississippi River have been battling each other over a flood project set up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On the western shore, farmers in southeast Missouri need the project to protect their valuable farmland. But small river towns on the eastern side of the river say the project protects those influential farmers at the cost of their small communities. As a last-ditch effort, the opposition to the project is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to kill the project all together.


Ray Dumas / Flickr

  Missouri hunters may soon have a new weapon in their arsenal -- the crossbow. The Missouri Department of Conservation is asking citizens for their thoughts on possible rule changes for the 2016 hunting season. Besides allowing crossbows, the department is looking to shorten the length of the hunting season after a decrease in the deer population over the last few years.

Sorry bacon lovers, we've got some sad news about your favorite meat.

To get those sizzling strips of pork on your plate each morning takes more antibiotics than it does to make a steak burrito or a chicken sausage sandwich.

Pig farmers around the world, on average, use nearly four times as much antibiotics as cattle ranchers do, per pound of meat. Poultry farmers fall somewhere between the two.

White Oak Mortality in the Missouri Ozarks

Mar 17, 2015
Gary Grigsby / KBIA

In the past few years white oak mortality has killed an untold number of trees in the Missouri Ozarks.

Bird Flu Threatens Missouri's Turkey Farms

Mar 13, 2015
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 A highly contagious strain of bird flu that was found on two Missouri turkey farms could hurt the state’s poultry industry. 

The virus isn’t dangerous to humans. But Missouri farmers produce more than a billion dollars-worth of turkeys and chickens every year. And the market for exports is big.

Lisa Jacobs / Flickr

 

Officials from the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission are making major changes to Boone County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. 

dishfunctional / Flickr

The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to control Chronic Wasting Disease, a degenerative brain disease that is infecting mid-Missouri’s deer population.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

After years of negotiations, a dozen countries – from New Zealand up to Canada –are on the verge of a trade agreement that could be worth billions of dollars to the U.S. agriculture industry. Many American farmers and ranchers are eager to see the expected benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

A free trade agreement across the Pacific Ocean could open up markets and raise prices for him as well as other rice producers, said Chuck Earnest, a rice farmer in southeast Missouri.


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