environment | KCUR

environment

In North Dakota, A Changing Climate Threatens Crop Diversity

Mar 23, 2020

As Doyle Lentz drives out over his farm, just 20 miles south of the Canadian border, he expects to see snow and ice for miles. This is January, after all, in Rolette County, North Dakota. But this year, the horizon is broken up by fields of windblown wheat, piles of snow-packed, cut canola and stands of corn and sunflowers.

“That whole field should have been waist high when we harvested. As the rains and snows came, it just continued to flatten it. And of course, the quality just became terrible,” says Lentz, who farms around 6,000 acres that also includes barley and soybeans. “Consequently, it wasn’t worth harvesting. We hope to burn it, but with all the rain and snow, we don’t know what we’re going to do with it.

How Kansas City should be preparing for climate change.

Average temperatures in Kansas and Missouri are up a degree or two from a century ago. That may not seem like much, but only the Dust Bowl years were hotter than the last decade. KCUR's extensive reporting on this explains how climate change is already affecting us in the Kansas City metro area, as well as what we can do about it.

WICHITA, Kansas — An environmental watchdog group says most states aren’t stepping up to fill the gap left by budget and staff cuts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which could put Kansans at greater risk of exposure to harmful pollutants.

Segment 1: Morgan Orozco is a sixteen-year old who's playing an active part in local government. 

Sick of waiting for adults to do something about climate change, this high schooler is taking matters into her own hands.

  • Morgan Orozco, Sustainability Advisory Board member, City of Lawrence; vice chair, Kansas High School Democrats

Segment 2, beginning at 23:16: A tale of mice, friendship and what's really important.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — What if researchers could go to a single hub for vast deposits of information on a range of issues from water quality to court rulings to the medicinal powers of marijuana?

Armed with all that existing research, they might begin to draw conclusions that apply across the country. They might also avoid repeating the work of other researchers.

Segment 1: Environmentalism and the outdoors have long been seen as safe spaces for white people.

The concerns of climate change action organizations are wide-ranging and well-founded, but membership is largely white and adult. Learn the benefits and challenges of adding young people of color to these groups, apart from just making them more reflective of the communities they serve. The founder of an Atlanta group and the head of a Kansas City organization explained how they are bringing diversity and youth to the environmental ranks.

HARTFORD, Kansas — Some of Kansas’ major reservoirs are filling up with sediment, and if something isn’t done to address the issue, parts of eastern Kansas could see water shortages and insufficient flood control as soon as 30 years from now.

To help slow down the slow, but consistent, reduction of usable water storage in Kansas’ reservoirs, the Kansas Water Office is trying to help farmers in critical areas upstream of the lakes to reduce the water running off from their fields.

But if that isn’t widely accepted, state officials say taxpayers may have to pay millions more just to keep the water flowing.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Nicole Jackson came to the first Midwest SoulVeg Fest to get some inspiration on her slow path to being a vegan. She admitted that as a black person who grew up going to events centered on meat, it’s easier said than done.

“Sunday dinner after church, the cookouts, the barbeques, where we are just gathered by food that pulls us together,” said Jackson, who is from Olathe, Kansas.

WICHITA, Kansas — This city’s buses all run on diesel.

They navigate Wichita streets with the distinctive rumble of their time-tested engines, belching the distinctive smell of diesel and a concoction of carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

That exhaust clouds the air locally and adds to the greenhouse gases steadily transforming the climate globally.

Segment 1: An artist makes us look more closely at the disposable still life piling up on the kitchen table.

When Yoonmi Nam looks at the takeout containers, junk mail and plastic bags that accumulate around her, she sees a still life. Translating these objects into ceramics and putting them on a pedestal, she gives weight and permanence to the things that briefly populate our lives before getting tossed aside.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The results of global climate change are becoming readily apparent, and it’s affecting the younger generations inheriting a world of extreme weather.

Segment 1: Kansas City area officials adapting strategies for climate mitigation  

Since December 2018,  governments in the Kansas City region have been working to make their cities and counties climate resilient.  Two people behind the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition explained how everything from direct renewables agreements to LEED zero standard development are among the tools being used to meet that goal.

Segment 1: Making greeting cards more diverse.

Cards are about relationships. So if none of the greeting cards on the shelf represent the person you're reaching out to, or the occasion you're celebrating, it won't feel quite right. Hallmark's trying to make more communities feel "seen" in the greeting card aisle.

  • Monic Houpe, product director, Hallmark
  • Christy Moreno, editorial director, Hallmark

Segment 2: Why Kansas and Missouri astronomers are fighting to save dark skies.

WICHITA, Kansas — Large industrial operations — think electrical power plants, oil refineries, ethanol facilities —cough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the ton. That, in turn, warms the planet.

But now some researchers think Kansas could be a good place to pump the gas underground rather than up in the air.

Wichita — Cindy Hoedel and Scott Yeargain, who live in or near the Kansas Flint Hills, began looking into oil and gas operations near their homes as early as 2016.

The two, separately, worried about earthquakes and water quality issues that new wastewater injection wells would create.

Hoedel documented a few dozen instances where injection well permit applications didn’t follow Kansas Corporation Commission guidelines. That led to a KCC report identifying more than 1,000 similar cases.

Seg. 1: Recruiting Gen Z | Seg. 2: Fireflies

Jul 11, 2019

Segment 1: What changing recruitment techniques say about our changing culture.

Move over, millennials. The new new workforce is going to be made up of Generation Z, born in or after 1997. The incentives and benefits packages being offered to new recruits by major companies already reflect that generation's needs and values.

Segment 1: As the tourism industry grows, so do questions about the impact of travel.

Are there ways to enjoy greater acess to travel while also treading more lightly on the destinations we visit? Or do we simply need to cut back?

On a hot morning in Cape Girardeau, two men pulled up nets from a lake in hopes of catching alligator gar, one of the largest and most feared fish species in North America.

They’re scientists with the Missouri Department of Conservation, which has spent 12 years trying to restore the alligator gar’s dwindling population in the state. Its numbers in Missouri have fallen partly because the state doesn’t have strong regulations to prevent overfishing of the species.

Man-made structures like levees and dams have also separated the Mississippi River from the floodplain. They block the alligator gar from reaching critical habitat, said Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

After years of complaints from customers, rising costs and declining service from contractors, the Kansas City Council voted to ditch the contractors and have city crews do weekly trash pick-ups throughout the city.

City council initially met the plan with skepticism, questioning how much money it would save the city, but they eventually passed the measure unanimously.

Michael Shaw, the city's Solid Waste Division director says he, too, is confident in the cost-savings estimates.

Drive on any major highway in Kansas and you’ll likely see some roadkill.

For decades, biologists at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism have found a treasure trove in their counts of flattened animals. It’s a way to create a population index of raccoons and beavers.

In 1986, the scientists also started counting armadillos.

Terry Evans / terryevansphotography.com

Kansas City native Terry Evans has seen things firsthand that most of us never will: a melting glacier crumbling into the waters of Greenland, the breakage of land at fracking sites in North Dakota

But Evans keeps returning to her pioneering work documenting the Kansas prairie, even though she never intended to become a landscape photographer at all.

Segment 1: Expert in climate impact says ending poverty and hunger should be part of our strategy to protect the planet.

The lead author on several assessments for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  described the social causes and consequences of climate change on the fate of the disadvantaged and disempowered.

Montgomery City Division of Solid Waste Services / Flickr - CC

Kansas City recyclers take heart, for now.

Despite reports that some waste companies in the U.S. are burning recycled paper and plastic or sending it to landfills, processors in the metro are still finding ways to market recycled material.

Even though Missouri conservation officials have shipped in hundreds of prairie chickens over the last 40 years, the native species has steadily declined in the state.

As the Missouri Department of Conservation prepares to count prairie chickens this spring, the agency reported this week that the population in Missouri has dropped to fewer than 100. In the 1800s, there were hundreds of thousands of prairie chickens that roamed throughout the state. The birds that remain can only be found in small patches of prairie in western Missouri.

Segment 1: Why are young people getting involved in climate activism?

Cities nationwide saw young people turn out for a march against climate change on Friday, March 15. We visit with a local student activist to find out why they participated in Kansas City's.

  • Dawson Sims, college sophomore, UMKC

Segment 2, beginning at 10:57: How planting trees can help mitigate climate change.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

Segment 1: A Kansas City non-profit is advocating for people with rare diseases.

When you have a disease that's common, you can expect a swift diagnosis and a level of understanding from friends and family. But that might not be the case if your condition is rarely seen and little-understood, even by medical professionals. Hear about the obstacles facing patients with rare diseases and their families

It’s morning. You pull out your favorite box of cereal and pour it into a bowl. Then you go to your fridge to grab the milk, only to find that the jug is practically empty.

After you mutter a few unrecognizable words, you toss the milk container into your recycle bin and move on to finding something else to eat. We’ve all been there.

While you’ll likely never think about that plastic milk jug again, its journey into a complex system of waste has only just begun.

One morning after the next, semi-trailer trucks get off Interstate 70 near Colby in west-central Kansas.

They haul parts of giant wind turbines in 150-foot-long sections, the pieces to the Solomon Forks wind farm and the next monumental phase of the Kansas bet on wind energy. The farm will plant 105 turbines in the prairie, each towering 250 feet high.

The project is one of a wave of wind farms under construction in Kansas that will add 20 percent more electrical generation to the state’s output.

Segment 1: Is recycling still working?

After the recent closure of one of Kansas City's busiest free drop-off recycling centers, we take a look at state of the recycling system here in the Metro. 

Segment 2, beginning at 37:42: Iconic television tower might become a piece of art.

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