The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton

The Environment in Focus is a weekly perspective on the issues and people changing Maryland's natural world.  There's a story behind every bend of the Chesapeake Bay's 11,684 miles of shoreline, in every abandoned coal mine in the Appalachian Mountains, in every exotic beetle menacing our forests and in every loophole snuck into pollution control laws in Annapolis. Tom Pelton gives you a tour of this landscape every Wednesday morning at 9:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.  He describes the people behind the news and discusses the broader government policies and trends shaping our ecology -- our land, our air and our Bay.

Tom Pelton is senior writer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  From 1997 until 2008, he was a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, where he won national awards for his environmental reporting.  He's hosted "The Environment in Focus" since 2007.

The Environment in Focus is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, which conserves the lands and waters on which all life depends. In Maryland, our work spans from the Chesapeake Bay to our western forests, protecting clean water and air, preserving recreational opportunities and saving our natural legacy for future generations.  Learn more at nature.org/Maryland.

Program Days: 
Wednesday
Short Program: 
Only Archive

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


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.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

photo%20of%20protesters%20outside%20cour
A lawsuit by an environmental group, the Waterkeeper Alliance, against Maryland-based Perdue Farms Inc. could create a legal precedent in which corporations that own chickens are held legally responsible for disposing of the vast amounts of waste produced by their contract farmers. The lawsuit, being argued in federal court in Baltimore, could also backfire, if the judge rules that the advocates' attempt to change state environmental policy is based on a shaky and shifting factual foundation.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

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.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

seahorsephotoNATIONALAQUARIUM_0.jpg
Seahorse populations in several parts of the world, including in the Chesapeake Bay, are threatened in part because of the destruction of underwater grasses that seahorses need as shelter. Amanda Vincent, a zoologist and seahorse expert at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, argues that governments around the world can help save seahorses by ending bottom trawling for shrimp (which rips up seagrasses) and reducing water pollution (which blocks light that grasses need to grow). (Photo from National Aquarium in Baltimore.)

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Aquaculture is growing in popularity around the world, but the high density of waste created by fish farms poses an environmental threat. David Love, a project director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, is trying to solve this problem through aquaponics -- the recycling of fish waste to feed vegetables growing on rafts.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Photo: EPA Chesapeake Bay Program

New pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay imposed by EPA in December 2010 promise to improve the estuary’s health.  But farm and development industry lobbying groups have sued in federal court to overturn the limits, arguing EPA exceeded its authority and is trampling on states’ rights.  A judge will now decide the landmark lawsuit.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


Tina Meyers, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper for an environmental group called Blue Water Baltimore, is among the clean water advocates asking Maryland to issue a stronger stormwater pollution control permit for Baltimore.  A coalition of waterfront businesses and residents have set a goal of making Baltimore Harbor swimmable and fishable within eight years. 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


Phragmites, an invasive species of reed believed to have been introduced to North America from England, is often seen as a monster because the grass stalks grow three times the height of a man and drive out native plants and wildlife.  But some scientists suggest the plant is more of a Jekyll and Hyde, because while it is bad for plant diversity, it may be good at protecting shorelines from erosion caused by rising sea levels and climate change.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Amid the rowhouses, graffiti and vacant lots of Baltimore, 10 farms have opened in recent years, growing vegetables and breeding chickens, rabbits and goats. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration is relaxing the city's livestock regulations to try to encourage more urban farms, which provide fresh food and an enhanced quality of life to the city.

 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

haber.jpg

The invention of nitrogen fertilizer was arguably the most important technological breakthrough of the 20th century.  But not many people know the tragic story of the German chemist who pioneered chemical fertilizer, Fritz Haber.  His wizardry allowed the growth of enough crops to feed about three billion people who might have otherwise starved, according to calculations by Jan Willem Erisman, James Galloway and colleagues, published in Nature Geoscience.  But the same innovation also contributed to major global environmental problems and was used to create powerful explosives that killed as many as 150 million people.


Contact Tom Pelton at pelton.tom@gmail.com