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Australia pledges millions to protect Great Barrier Reef

The Australian government on Sunday announced a multimillion-dollar investment aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the effects of climate change.

>> Read more trending news

Officials hailed the $500 million (about $377 million USD) effort as the government’s largest single investment for reef conservation

The bulk of the money -- $444 million (about $335 million USD) -- will go toward reducing pollution in the reef, mitigating the impacts of climate change and dealing with coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish through a partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, officials said. 

"We'll be improving the monitoring of the reef's health and the measurement of its impacts," Australian Environment Minister Josh Freydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it."

John Schubert, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, told the news station that the new government funding “brought real solutions within reach,” but some criticized the government for not focusing further on tackling climate change.

“There’s a huge missing piece in the puzzle,” Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign director Imogen Zethoven told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "The reality is, hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars has gone into reef rescue packages for nearly 20 years to deal with poor water quality. Yet we've had very little gain, so it's extremely important that this time around the money is spent properly and we start to see the tide turning."

The government released the following breakdown of the spending:

  • $201 million (about $152 million USD) for improving water quality through changed farming practices, like reducing the use of fertilizer and adopting new technologies
  • $100 million (about $75 million USD) for scientific research to support reef restoration, resilience and adaptation
  • $58 million (about $44 million USD) to fight crown-of-thorns starfish
  • $45 million (about $34 million USD) to support community engagement and awareness
  • $40 million (about $30 million USD) for enhancing health monitoring of the reef
  • $56 million (about $42 million USD) to expand environmental management and compliance operations on the reef

Aerial surveys conducted last year showed widespread coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef, an indication that water temperatures stayed too warm for coral to survive. Officials found severe bleaching in the central part of the reef, an area that was spared the severe widespread bleaching seen in 2016.

>> Related: Mass coral bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for 2nd consecutive year

Bleaching occurs when coral, invertebrates that live mostly in tropical waters, release the colorful algae that live in their tissues and expose their white, calcium carbonate skeletons. Bleached coral can recover if the water cools, but if high temperatures persist for months, the coral will die.

Eventually the reef will degrade, leaving fish without habitats and coastlines less protected from storm surges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lyrid meteor shower 2018: 8 stunning photos of the celestial display

This year's Lyrid meteor shower reached its peak this weekend, and photographers flocked to social media to share some stunning snapshots of the celestial display.

See the images below:

>> MORE: Lyrid meteor shower 2018: When, where and how to watch | More trending news 

What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events.

But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know:

>> Read more trending news 

1. When did Earth Day start?

The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 22 million people across the country came out in support of environmental reform.

"That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America," Gaylord Nelson wrote in the April 1980 edition of the EPA Journal. "It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the nation.

"It showed political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang."

Since then, celebrations have only grown. This year, organizers estimate more than one billion people in 192 countries will participate in events the world over. The day is celebrated each year on April 22.

>> Target’s Earth Day car seat recycling program offers 20 percent off new car seat, stroller

2. Is there a theme for Earth Day 2018?

This year, organizers are focusing on curbing plastic pollution.

"Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics," the Earth Day Network, which partners with tens of thousands of organizations in 192 countries to organize Earth Day events, said on its website.

The organization also said it "will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems."

Read more here.

>> Antarctica's ice retreating 5 times faster than normal, study reveals

3. How are people celebrating?

In Tokyo, thousands of people will attend beach cleanups, concerts, art exhibits, classes and other events coordinated by the Green Room Festival, according to the Earth Day Network. In India's Karnataka state, a "no plastic" event will feature workshops led by "organizations that are champions of environmental sustainability in fields including electric vehicles, solar power and zero-waste living," the network said. Cleanups also were scheduled in Palm Beach, Florida; New York; New Jersey and other locations across the United States and worldwide.

Read more here.

4. What are businesses doing?

Google marked Earth Day with a "video doodle" featuring primatologist Jane Goodall. 

>> Click here to watch

“It is so important in the world today that we feel hopeful and do our part to protect life on Earth," Goodall said. "I am hopeful that this Earth Day Google Doodle will live as a reminder for people across the globe that there is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that is beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm, to help protect species and their environments. And there are so, so many young people, like those in JGI’s Roots & Shoots program, dedicated to making this a better world. With all of us working together, I am hopeful that it is not too late to turn things around, if we all do our part for this beautiful planet.”

Read more about the doodle here.

Apple also joined in on the celebrations, announcing on April 19 that "for every device received at Apple stores and apple.com through the Apple GiveBack program from now through April 30, the company will make a donation to the nonprofit Conservation International."

In addition, Apple "debuted Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhone to recover valuable materials," according to a company press release.

“At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives, said in a statement. “In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.”

Read more here.

>> Tips for celebrating the 20th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom

5. How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get into the Earth Day spirit, from participating in a local event to changing your bills from paper to paperless. Here are some suggestions from the Earth Day Network:

  • Urge your local elected officials or businesses to make a substantial tree planting commitment by starting a letter-writing campaign or online petition.

  • Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible.

  • Pick up trash at a local park or beach.

  • Set up a screening of an environmentally themed movie. Consider supplementing the screening with a speaker who can lead a Q&A following the film.

WATCH: Alligator filmed along river in Tennessee has residents on edge

Video of an alligator along Wolf River in Fayette County, Tennessee, has many residents on the lookout.

>> Watch the news report here

Residents said an alligator in their neighborhood is alarming. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said the 7-foot alligator was captured on video by agents in the area.

Wildlife agents said alligators are naturally migrating into Tennessee from the southern border states.

The video below is one spotted in Fayette County along the Wolf River:

>> Click here to watch

In the Facebook post, the agency said:

"Recently a seven-foot alligator was videoed by TWRA Region 1 personnel at the Wolf River WMA in Fayette County. This latest sighting is one of several confirmed sightings of alligators in Southwest Tennessee.

"Alligators are naturally migrating into Tennessee from the southern border states. TWRA has not stocked any alligators in Tennessee. Alligators migrating into Tennessee is just another species that we must learn to coexist with like many of the other southern states.

"Alligators are opportunistic feeders that prey on fish, turtles, snakes, frogs, and waterfowl. Occasionally they will feed on larger animals such as possums, raccoons, and deer.

"Alligators can survive Tennessee winters by going into a hibernation-like dormancy called brumation. They can withstand periods of ice by sticking their snout out of the water before it freezes which allows them to continue breathing.

"TWRA would like to remind everyone that alligators are a protected species and catching or shooting one is a violation of the law. If you come across one while exploring the outdoors in West TN, leave it alone and enjoy Tennessee’s unique biodiversity."

Julia and Cole Stonebrook live in Fayette County.

"We live on the Wolf River like right there,” Cole said.

TWRA said alligators migrating into Tennessee is just another species that we must learn to coexist with like many of the other southern states.

>> Read more trending news 

TWRA could not give a number of alligators that may be in the area.

"People knew they were out there. This is just TWRA finally getting footage,” Cole said.

TWRA said alligators are a protected species, and catching or shooting one is a violation of the law.

Wildlife agents said if you see a gator, don’t approach it. Please call wildlife agents.

Earth Hour 2018: Landmarks around the world go dark for climate change awareness

From the Sydney Opera House to Paris' Eiffel Tower, landmarks around the world went dark Saturday night for Earth Hour.

>> Read more trending news 

The "symbolic lights-out event," which began in Sydney in 2007, is designed to raise awareness about climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund

>> Click here or scroll down to see photos from the event

Knock, knock! 9-foot gator removed from front doorstep of Florida apartment

Trappers removed a 9-foot-long alligator from the front doorstep of a Cocoa, Florida, apartment complex Monday afternoon. 

>> Read more Floridoh! stories 

Cocoa police responded to the apartments around 3:30 p.m. at 1612 University Lane after residents called concerned about the large gator roaming about the complex. 

>> See the Facebook post here

>> On WFTV.com: Woman fatally hit by bullet while trying to protect dog from being shot, police say

Police found the gator on the front doorstep of unit 903. 

A gator trapper arrived around 20 minutes after police and removed the gator

>> On WFTV.com: Florida woman pays nearly $500 water bill with pennies

According to state wildlife officers, it’s common for gators to roam around during warm weather looking for water. 

If a gator is seen outside its normal habitat, experts advise not to feed it or attempt to go near it. 

>> Read more trending news 

Instead, officials said to call local law enforcement or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service to have the gator removed.

5 tips for keeping a snake-free yard

Forget about "Snakes on a Plane”; we're more concerned with snakes in the yard. Even though snakes are nowhere near as prevalent as our irrational fears would have us think (assuming you don't live smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake territory), if you're a homeowner with a bit of landscape or yard under your direction, you may encounter snakes on occasion.

>> Daredevil squirrel makes Olympic dash onto ski slope, snowboarder misses it by inches

That should be no biggie, according to experts at the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

"As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them and often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction," the extension noted. Venomous snake bites are rare and you can readily take steps to treat them. If you're an avid gardener, you may even want snakes in your slice of the great outdoors, since they dine on rodents and insects and can actually help protect you from garden pests.

Not buying it? You can try to keep snakes out of your home life. Just understand that even the best measures are not 100 percent foolproof, according to America's Wetland Resources, which is based in the South.

"There are no magic or absolute solutions," AWR asserted. "There are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new 'breakthrough' is occasionally advertised. Horsehair ropes and trails of mothballs have consistently tested negative, and pest control operators have no answers."

But there are still plenty of valid ways to limit, or possibly eliminate, a slithery presence in your yard, garden or home. Here are five tips from the pros on how to keep snakes out of your yard:

1. Seal crevices. Closer to your home, seal the openings where snakes like to set up house. "Check the clearance of door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves," AWR recommended. "Don't neglect storerooms and sheds."

AWR added that sealing enough openings to make a difference is much more difficult if you own a raised wooden home.

2. Tidy up the yard. Snakes might choose to live on your property or simply travel through, according to AWR. You want to make your property as inhospitable as possible, so concentrate on ridding it of any places snakes would consider good spots to hide. Remove debris, from piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves to flat boats on the ground and piles of bricks or stone, AWR advised, and keep vegetation cut back.

3. Stop serving the snake's preferred menu. It's a win-win. When you take away potential hiding places for snakes, the spots where rat and mice families like to congregate are also eliminated. But take this one step further, AWR advised, and take further steps to get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour or so, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.

4. Combat the climbers. If limbs from a neighbor's yard hang over your fence, snakes may use them as an entry to your place. Consider working with your neighbor to get them trimmed.

5. Consider the snake-proof fence. If you live in an area where one or more venomous snakes are common, you may want to invest in a snake-proof fence, according to NCSU. "Small areas where children play can be protected from all poisonous and most harmless snakes with a snake-proof fence," it noted. "However, the cost of the fence may make it impractical to protect an entire yard."

Make a fence by burying 1/4-inch mesh wire screening 6 inches underground and building it up 30 inches, instructed NCSU.

"It should slant outward at a 30-degree angle from bottom to top. The supporting stakes must be inside the fence and any gates must fit tightly. Tall vegetation must be removed along the fence, both inside and outside."

It's costly, but you can snake-proof the entire yard with a concrete chain wall that extends six inches or so below the surface, noted AWR.

"If you already have a wooden fence and the boards are very close together, a good solution is to snake-proof the bottom."

>> Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says

One fairly cheap way is to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut in strips wide enough to overlap the bottom of the fence so it can be tacked securely and extend down into a narrow trench six inches deep.

AWR added another word of caution for either snake-proof fence design. (Spoiler alert: It's nightmare inducing.) "Many snakes climb by looping over objects and the above described design may virtually eliminate their entry," it noted. "Others, however, can crawl up vertical surfaces if they are rough, such as the trunk of a tree or a brick wall (including the side of a house)."

To overcome this creepy climbing capability, you can place a foot-wide ledge made of wood or metal flashing along the outer side at the top. "This structure makes the snakes lean out away from the wall and it will lose its grip and fall."

>> Read more trending news 

After all this snake talk, AWR does have one bit of great news. "Snakes are rarely abundant in any one location."

And if all your efforts fail and snakes do make their way into your yard, AWR recommended the ultimate fail-safe.

"The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to teach everyone to respect snakes and to be on the lookout for them," according to the AWR website. "Remember, don't touch it with your hands. Use a shovel to place the snake in a deep bucket with a cover. The chances of your encountering a venomous species is remote, but possible enough to always by careful!"

Super blue blood moon eclipse: Watch NASA video of the rare lunar event

The super blue blood moon total lunar eclipse, a highly anticipated, rare celestial event more than 150 years in the making, could be seen overhead early Wednesday.

READ MORE: 9 things to knowSuper blue blood moon eclipse: What you need to know | Photos: Super blue blood moon eclipse 2018MORE  

The full moon passed through the Earth’s shadow to create a total lunar eclipse. The moon appeared reddish, hence the name “blood moon.” Totality, when the moon was entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, lasted about 1 1/4 hours.

NASA officials shared a live stream of the event Wednesday on NASA-TV.

Wednesday's full moon was also the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons – that is, super-close full moons. It was the first of two blue moons in 2018. 

It marked the first blue moon total eclipse in America since March 31, 1866.

– WHIO.com and AJC.com contributed to this report.

California bill suggests fine, jail for giving plastic straws to restaurant patrons unless asked

A California lawmaker’s proposed bill that would greatly affect the food industry is facing heavy criticism.

California State Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, sought to address pollution by focusing on plastic – specifically, plastic straws, KGTV reported.

>> On Rare.us: Organizers arrested in California for allegedly feeding the homeless

According to Calderon’s bill, a server who offered a plastic straw to a restaurant patron without first being asked would face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways and oceans,” Calderon argued in a press release. “AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws. It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

>> Read more trending news 

The bill reportedly would apply only to waiters in sit-down restaurants, not bars or fast food establishments. Calderon also expressed his intention to dump the bill’s harsh penalties, according to Reason.

Despite the reasoning, several have criticized the proposed legislation as an example of government overreach.

Some even offered their own suggestions.

Others have accused the bill of being inspired by unreliable data on the number of plastic straws the public uses.

WATCH: Meteor spotted in Ohio, Michigan, Canada

The fireball lit up the sky just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

>> Click here to watch

The dashboard cam video was shared by Mike Austin as he was driving north on I-75 near Bloomfield Hills, north of Detroit, Michigan. 

>> On WHIO.com: 2017 fireball caught on WHIO-TV weather camera

The fireball also was seen from northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario, Canada

>> Read more trending news 

It is not known whether the meteorite dissipated in the atmosphere or made it to the ground or into Lake Michigan.

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