The Science of Sustainability

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Rainwater Harvesting: Is It All Wet?

Rainwater Harvesting: Is It All Wet?

It's an El Niño year, which raises hopes for significant rainfall this winter. But after years of drought, some local homeowners aren't counting on it. They're conserving water by reviving the ancient practice of rainwater harvesting. But how much can they really save? Katharine Mieszkowski reports.

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Boom Time for Open Space

Boom Time for Open Space

This month marks an anniversary no one will celebrate: two years ago, the economic downturn many call "The Great Recession" began. Here in Northern California, like just about everywhere else, housing prices have tumbled. But for some, there's a silver lining to the real estate bust, as Amy Standen reports.

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Decoding the Emotional Brain

Decoding the Emotional Brain

People with pseudobulbar affect — a neurological condition common in patients with Lou Gehrig's disease — have overwhelming emotions at inappropriate times: They laugh uncontrollably at funerals, cry even when they aren't sad. Scientists at UC San Francisco believe that by putting these people into MRI scans, they can learn more about how emotions are created and controlled in the human brain — and what happens when those systems break down.

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Web Extra: Photosynthesis and Foosball

Web Extra: Photosynthesis and Foosball

Photosynthesis seems like a simple process, but scientists are still trying to understand how it works. They've discovered that plants may be using quantum physics. As Lauren Sommer found out, the best way to understand it is through foosball.

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A Bumpy Ride for High Speed Rail

A Bumpy Ride for High Speed Rail

Last year a majority of California voters approved a multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail project. Now comes the hard part: squeezing a 220-mph train system into California's densely populated cities. Some communities that voted in favor of the train now say they don't want it rolling through their neighborhoods. QUEST looks at the stretch between San Francisco and San Jose and how the train might change the local landscape.

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Getting Paid to Go Solar

Getting Paid to Go Solar

If you have solar panels on your house, you can count on reducing your electricity bill. Maybe you'll pay nothing at all. But what if you produce more than you use? Well, until recently in California, you could consider it a gift to the local utility. But now, thanks to a new law, that will soon change. Amy Standen reports.

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Saving Our Parks

Saving Our Parks

It may seem that California's parks dodged a bullet recently when the Governor announced that all of the state's financially strapped parks will remain open, but state parks still have to cut $14 million in spending this year. This may lead to rolling closures, maintenance cuts and layoffs. Hoping to solve a chronic funding problem, environmentalists are considering a ballot proposal that would place a fee on car registrations to help fund parks.

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Catching the Drift – Part Two

Catching the Drift – Part Two

Conflicts over pesticide use have increased as new suburbs push up against farming areas in California. In the second part of our series, Sasha Khokha looks at how community residents are looking to document the impact of pesticides on their own health when those chemicals drift off the farm.

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Catching the Drift

Catching the Drift

Every year California farmers spray more than 150 million pounds of pesticides to keep insects from ravaging crops like almonds, oranges, and grapes. But when those toxins drift onto nearby farmworkers and communities, they sicken hundreds of people each year. California legislators tried to fix the problem five years ago, but new laws don't appear to have made much of a difference.

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Predicting the Next Big One

Predicting the Next Big One

It's been twenty years since the Loma Prieta Earthquake ravaged downtown Santa Cruz and damaged San Francisco's Marina District and the Bay Bridge. QUEST looks at the dramatic improvements in earthquake prediction technology since 1989. But what can be done with ten seconds of warning?

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How to Identify a Bullet

How to Identify a Bullet

Last month, the FBI released a report showing violent crime has dropped for the second year in a row… down nearly two percent in 2008, from a year earlier. Still, many homicide cases go unsolved. A new technology called "bullet microstamping" aims to help change that. But will it work? Amy Standen reports.

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Predicting Swine Flu

Predicting Swine Flu

Why do some people get severely sick from swine flu and others barely feel it? As flu season ramps up, scientists at UCSF's Viral Discovery Center are racing to learn more about the 2009 H1N1 virus, including how it's evolving, and whether our current treatments will remain effective.

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Personalized Medicine

Personalized Medicine

We all know that, thanks to our DNA, each of us is a little bit different. Some of those differences are obvious, like eye and hair color, but others are not so obvious, like how our bodies react to medication. Researchers are beginning to look at how to tailor medical treatments to our genetic profiles. Some of the biggest breakthroughs have been in cancer treatment.

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The Politics of Green Wine

The Politics of Green Wine

Wine grapes are one of the most sprayed crops in California. A growing number of farmers are choosing not to spray and are doing other things for the environment, too. The challenge is there are now so many choices when it comes to green wines, it can be baffling for the eco-conscious consumer. Organic, sustainable, biodynamic, natural… what does it all mean?

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Getting to Zero Waste

Getting to Zero Waste

As of September 2009, San Francisco residents faced warnings, and even fines, if they failed to recycle, as the city aims to keep ever more garbage out of its landfills. But, after twenty years of curbside recycling and, more recently, composting programs, Californians produce more waste than ever.

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New Nuclear

New Nuclear

In California, nuclear power has long been a subject that's "radioactive." But recent polls suggest that Californians may finally be warming up to the idea and a new study suggests that a clean energy future may not happen without it. Craig Miller reports on the prospects for a "nuclear revival" in the Golden State.

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Playing with Lead – Part 2

Playing with Lead – Part 2

Months after the federal government enacted stricter standards intended to keep lead out of children's toys, a KQED investigation found merchandise that violates the law still sitting on many Bay Area store shelves. In part two of the series, QUEST looks at the challenges of keeping leaded toys out of stores.

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Playing with Lead – Part 1

Playing with Lead – Part 1

Congress recently passed tougher limits on lead levels due to the large number of recalls of imported toys. But the new law, which went into effect in February, doesn't seem to be keeping dangerous items off store shelves, as reporter Oanh Ha found out.

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The Economics of Household Recycling

The Economics of Household Recycling

Once they leave your driveway, your discarded bottles, newspapers, and other recyclables become part of a multi-billion dollar global commodities market. Last month's phone bill, for example, might be sent to China to be reincarnated as next month's iPhone packaging.

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Journey to the Farallones

Journey to the Farallones

They've been called "California's Galapagos." Nearly 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge lie the Farallon Islands. This year marks their 100th anniversary as a national wildlife refuge. While the islands are off limits to tourists, reporter Lauren Sommer caught a ride with marine researchers to learn about how changes are affecting life there.

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