On The Radio- Iowa’s energy consumption


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Wind Energy (flickr/Aaron Arroy)

Kasey Dresser| July 1, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how Iowa’s energy consumption has increased over the years.

Transcript:

Iowa’s energy consumption has increased over the years—but have we been moving in a greener direction?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa’s population has grown from two and a half million in 1960 to just over three million now, and our methods of producing energy have grown and changed over the decades. In the 60s, Iowa was mostly run on natural gas and coal. Wind energy didn’t enter our sphere until the late 90s. Now, coal is our primary source of energy, followed by natural gas and wind.

The consumption of energy is measured in BTUs—British Thermal Units, with each unit representing the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. 

In the 60s, the average Iowan used about 217 million BTUs of energy per year. In 2016, that number jumped to a consumption of 488 million BTUs per Iowa every year, over double the amount of energy despite a population increase of less than a million.

New technology and an increased energy grid are partly to blame, but Iowa would benefit from cutting down energy use when possible, and relying more heavily on green energy—like solar and wind—to light our homes.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

On The Radio- Increasing Mass Extinctions


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The Iberian Lynx: a cat species from Spain. There are only a few hundred left in the world. (flickr/Mario Nonaka)

Kasey Dresser| June 24, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how human beings are causing mass extinction of over one million species

Transcript: 

Earths landscapes are changing and about one million species are in danger.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

With the human population passing seven billion, homo sapiens are pushing animals out of the picture in need for more space.

The sharp decline in species is likely to occur by 2050, and it will affect biodiversity. Humans are not the only problem that animals have to face, but global warming as well, a natural result of human treatment towards the environment. 

Nature provides trillions in non-monetized saving that benefits human beings every year. If wildlife and tropical rain forests cease to exist, our medicine would change drastically. Over 23 percent of the planets land area is being harmed because humans are producing more food than ever, causing land degradation. 

Our previous miniscule efforts of creating wild life refuges and efforts to protect individual species will no longer be sufficient.  Scientists have stated that nations need to step up in their efforts to protect natural habitats.  

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

 

Waste, water, and nitrates: Iowa’s growing problem


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Iowa’s livestock contributes heavily to our nitrate problem | Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | June 18th, 2019

Nitrates are not a new subject for Iowans. We’ve already published a nitrate breakdown that explains the nitrate pollution contributions Iowa makes to the many larger bodies of water our rivers drain into and how nitrate pollution can affect our bodies.

With some new research emerging, it’s become clear that Iowa’s nitrate problem is intricately linked with its status as a heavily agricultural state–our amounts of livestock have a heavy effect on the quality of our water, and the problem may be larger than we realize.

Back in March, Chris Jones, a research engineer from IIHR, broke down what he calls Iowa’s “real population”–a collective census of our state’s population, one that includes more than just its people. By calculating the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and total solid matter excreted by different types of livestock and comparing those values to human waste, he was able to roughly calculate how many people each livestock group accounted for–and the numbers are staggering.

According to this line of logic, pigs in Iowa roughly equal a mind-blowing 83.7 million people. Dairy and beef cattle account for 33.6 million people. Chickens and turkey nearly equal 16 million themselves. Altogether, our livestock theoretically gives Iowa–a relatively small state with less than 4 million humans–an extended population of about 134 million. Recently, Chris Jones applied his research to Iowa’s actual area to determine the concentration of those numbers, and, in the process, updated that overall population to 168 million after some new data from the USDA.

Iowa produces a lot of waste. Livestock-heavy watersheds tend to have higher concentrations of nitrate runoff. We are not a large state, but when we account for our animals, we are one of the most densely populated for our total land area.

Overall, dissecting the effect that agriculture and livestock have on the environment is tricky, because our state relies heavily on our agricultural economy for many, many things. Advancements in green and natural nitrate filters and better methods of waste management seem to be some of the solutions we can work towards to solve our looming nitrate problem.

 

On The Radio- West Nile virus in Iowa


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(flickr/cesar monico)

Kasey Dresser| June 17, 2019

This week’s segment looks at the unwanted guest brought into Iowa by the rain and flooding this season. 

Transcript: 

The West Nile virus may soon run rampant because of the flooding that has been occurring in western Iowa.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Mosquitoes are not abnormal residents in the western region of Iowa. Yet these types of mosquitoes, the Culex tarsalis (Cool-ex tar-say-lis)  is carrying a virus that could hurt human beings.

The Culex tarsalis, have risen in grand numbers because they gather and breed in large pools of water and flooded areas. Iowa State University came out with new research that shows western Iowa has the largest presence of the West Nile virus, due to the resurgence of these mosquitoes.   

Iowa State professor and entomologist Ryan Smith believes that the virus is concerning as it is the common mosquito-born disease in the United States. The virus could affect one in five people bitten by the mosquito, and could lead people to develop fevers and potentially fatal symptoms.

The best way to protect yourself, would be to consistently spray insect repellent or wear long sleeve shirts. Make sure that you are fully covered before stepping outside.

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

On The Radio- Multi-billion dollar floods


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Flooding in Des Moines from 2008 (flickr/Joe Germuska)

Kasey Dresser| June 10, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how Midwestern Governors are coping with flood season.

Transcript: 

The Missouri River saw record runoff during March’s multi-billion dollar floods.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that 11 million acre-feet of water flowed through the upper Missouri River Basin in March. That is equivalent to 11 million acres of land covered in one foot of water, 51 percent more water than the previous record set in 1952.

The corps increased storage and release at several dams in Montana and the Dakotas in an attempt to protect communities along the river from further flooding. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and the governors of South Dakota and Missouri do not believe those efforts are enough.

Together they are imploring the corps to find new solutions for controlling the Missouri River in the future. The trio did not mention climate change at their press conference, but scientists expect that the Midwest will experience more intense rain events and, therefore more frequent extreme flooding in coming decades as the climate warms.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

On The Radio- Praire can aid farming


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(flickr/L Fischer)

Kasey Dresser| May 13, 2019

This weeks segment looks at a study from Iowa State researching prairie strips on farm fields.

Transcript:

New research will test the impacts of prairie strips on farm fields over time.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Planting strips of native prairie on farms can limit erosion and provide habitat for wildlife, but how much time passes before those benefits take hold? Will the benefits remain if that land is re-planted with corn or soy?

Iowa State University researchers received an over $700,000 grant to study those questions over the next three years. To do it, they’ll plant some existing row crop areas in Iowa and Missouri with prairie plants, and vice versa.

The researchers will use buried tea bags to measure biological activity in the soil. Bags that decay more quickly indicate higher, healthier rates of decomposition. They will also create and test a computer model of statewide topsoil depth to understand how prairie strips affect erosion in surrounding areas.

Most fields have spots that produce low yields and might do better as prairie. Researchers will also weigh lost crop revenue against the economic benefits of converting those areas to prairie.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

How humans are accelerating extinction


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Human activity is changing the landscape faster than animals can adapt | Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | May 7th, 2019

From dinosaurs to dodo birds, species of animals occasionally cease to exist entirely–a prospect that is extremely chilling, upon second thought.

Extinction does not have to be caused by incessant poaching or hunting. Upsetting the balance of an animal’s habitat and ecosystem is enough to put it on the endangered list. Our population–slowly climbing past its current 7 billion–is putting every other living thing at risk in our attempts to gather resources for our own survival. Cow grazing in the Amazon, for instance, has contributed heavily to the steady disappearance to the rainforest, with swathes of land being burned down for the beef industry.

The loss of biodiversity–the relative number of different flora and fauna within a location–proves devastating for many developing countries that still rely primarily on hunting, gathering, and fishing to stay alive. At this stage, preventing losses in biodiversity is the only way to keep many of our nations properly fed, as they depend on steady crops and animal products for their nutrition.

Transformation will not come overnight. It is vital that an understanding and consideration of ecosystems and biodiversity be built into every aspect of our society–our gathering, trading, and marketing.

This is a stark reminder that continuing to proceed the way we are with our energy and resource gathering could prove fatal–not just to us, but to the many species of animals that help keep our planet balanced.