A new decision by President Obama supports fishermen and local communities that oppose the prospect of offshore oil and gas drilling that would threaten the Southeast Bering Sea’s incredibly rich seafood harvests. In a project sponsored by the Captain Planet Foundation, high-school students in are restoring oyster beds in New York Harbor with a hatchery and artificial reefs that allow oysters to grow, reproduce and colonize new ground, leading eventually to the return of a self-sustaining oyster population. The chronicle of Dryden’s grassroots campaign to ban fracking inside the town’s boundaries, a decision upheld by New York’s highest court (produced with Earthjustice). Making and enforcing policies about hydraulic fracturing are often steeped in politics, but scientists are studying the impact of this drilling process on air, water, and human health – without all the shouting.
On a rafting adventure down the Etivluk River in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, a group of conservationists see first-hand why this immense landscape deserves protection as wilderness, despite its misleading name. Development, invasive species and fire are degrading Western sagebrush habitat that is critical for the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife. A coal-fired power plant Nevada produces coal ash that blows across the Moapa Indian Reservation, causing sickness and misery for the people who live there (co-produced with Earthjustice). To assist in conserving the vast range of California’s mountain lions, researchers use biology and computer science to better understand the movements of the majestic cats, resulting in benefits for humans as well.
Seamount of Life: Using special recording technology to document the spawning of endangered fish like the Nassau grouper, scientists in the Caribbean study spawning aggregation sites that are critically important for the survival of many ocean species. We follow them to one of these sites off the western coast of Puerto Rico that has been severely impacted by overfishing; conservationists say an effectively enforced marine protected area is urgently needed there.
Arctic Traffic: Climate change is causing a rapid loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, opening the region to more shipping traffic, oil exploration and other industrial activities that were never possible before. This is creating growing risks to whales, walruses, seals and seabirds – especially in the narrow migration corridor in the Bering Strait. The traffic also poses new risks to the region’s local native people who hunt and fish in small boats. Conservationists are pressing for new measures to protect the marine environment, wildlife and welfare of local residents in the changing Arctic.
Altamaha River Pollution: The Altamaha River in southern Georgia is a major waterway, still undammed, flowing in its natural state more than a hundred miles to the Atlantic and its spectacular estuary. But there’s a large pulp mill on the river that has been operating for decades, and critics say it has been discharging pollution into the river which they allege the pulp company refuses to clean up, and which the state of Georgia has been slow to address. We go to the river to see for ourselves.
Diatoms and Climate Change: In another story on the warming Arctic, we meet researchers in Greenland who gather samples of fossilized microscopic algae in lake sediments, discovering vital clues about past and current climate change in the region.
Much of Oregon is a desert; and in the dry, remote southeastern corner of the state there’s a wild and captivating canyon landscape carved by the Owyhee River. It’s been described as the largest intact, unprotected stretch of the American West, but it needs more protection from development pressure, including mining. A robust campaign for wilderness designation is making progress.
Sustainable Alaskan Village:
We travel to a remote Alaskan village, Igiugig, where young native Alaskans are adopting new technologies and green ethics to build a healthy, sustainable future while keeping true to their traditions.
With another report on emerging biofuels, we learn about new advances in converting algae into a wide range of useful products, including oil, growing the algae with by-products from corn ethanol distilleries.
Climbing Fish: Researchers study a type of Goby fish in Hawaii that climbs up steep waterfalls to reach its freshwater spawning areas, an amazing story of adaptation and evolution over time.
Saving the Upper Rio Grande: In northern New Mexico the Rio Grande runs through a spectacular gorge formed by a rift in the Earth’s crust. This river corridor is a critical flyway for migratory birds, and the arid plateau on either side of it is a major migration habitat for elk and deer. A pending bill in Congress would protect these areas as the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, in addition to designating two majestic cinder cone mountains east and west of the plateau as protected wilderness. The bill has widespread support among local Hispanic farmers and ranchers because it would allow their traditional hunting, grazing, fishing and wood-gathering to continue, preserving the culture that developed there over hundreds of years.
Facing Climate Change with Wind Power: Severe drought has taken a toll on farming and ranching communities in Eastern New Mexico. Residents are trying to adjust for prolonged dry times, and some are finding salvation in wind turbine projects that generate revenue for them as well as power for the Southwest.
Flying Aces of the Insect World: Just how do these insects pull off complex aerial feats, hunting and reproducing in midair? These four- winged insects pre-date dinosaurs, and can fly straight up, straight down, or hover like helicopters. Researchers are getting some inspiration from these insects, to improve small- scale aircraft design.
Peel Watershed: A hundred miles from the Alaska border in Canada’s Yukon Territory, the Peel Watershed is a huge area of wild and pristine rivers, arboreal forests and mountain ranges. Caribou from Alaska migrate to and from the region, but they face threats from a modern day gold rush that also threatens other wildlife including grizzly bears and wolverines. Efforts are underway to protect this land, and these fragile ecosystems. But it looks like a fight is brewing with miners and developers.
Indigo Snakes: Known as the “Lord of the Forest”, the eastern indigo snake is the largest native snake in North America, averaging six to seven feet in length. Endangered and in decline, this nonvenomous reptile is extinct from a third of its former range, the coastal plain of the Southeast. The Orianne Society is using cutting edge science, fire, and longleaf pine restoration to ensure the survival of not only indigo snakes, but an entire complex of animals that inhabit this unique landscape.
A special episode on controversial plans for offshore oil drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast. Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill, lingering oil is still found on beaches in Prince William Sound. How could offshore spills affect the lives of Inupiat Native Americans who depend on subsistence hunting and fishing? Native Alaskans find kinship with those who suffered from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A passionate marine scientist uses a deep ocean submersible to study the impact of the Gulf spill
hidden in the depths.