Elemental: Covering Sustainability

A multimedia collaboration between public radio and public television stations in Colorado, Arizona and California.

PHOENIX – Luis Marrufo, his brown eyes bright but focused, hunched over a client lying on a cushioned table. He pressed the sharp end of the tattoo machine into his client’s forearm, the needle dispensing carbon-colored liquid into his skin in vibrating bursts so quick they’re almost invisible to the naked eye. The low-pitched buzz ...

July 18, 2019

ALAMOS, Mexico – This is a “pueblo magico” (magic town), rich in beauty and cultural and historic significance. It’s also near an important ecological crossroads in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The foothills are home to the northernmost tropical deciduous forest in the Western Hemisphere, and it’s a critical connection point between jaguars ...

July 17, 2019

SAHUARIPA, Mexico – A century ago, jaguars roamed much of the Southwest, including most of Arizona. Today, the only glimpses of the endangered big cats in the United States are caught on cameras just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. In a recovery plan released in April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said bringing jaguars ...

July 16, 2019

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. – Sitting on well-worn couches in a living room lined with climbing guidebooks, Todd Gordon and Tucker Tech reminisce on a friendship that has lasted nearly 40 years and rock climbing careers that have lasted even longer. They’re swapping tales in the house where Gordon, 64, lives with his family on the ...

July 15, 2019

ST. GEORGE, Utah – The drive behind an enormous water project in southwestern Utah, the Lake Powell Pipeline, shows no signs of slowing even after the seven Colorado River Basin states signed a new agreement this spring that could force cutbacks and more conservation. Despite the shrinking of the overtapped Colorado, four Upper Basin states ...

July 12, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a three-part series. BIG PINEY, Wyo. – It’s late May in Wyoming. Snow fell the night before, and more is on the way. That’s why it’s good that rancher Chad Espenscheid is behind the wheel. The roads are sloppy and Middle Piney Creek is running high. All this ...

July 11, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 1 of a three-part series. COAL CREEK CANYON, Colo. – The Colorado River is short on water, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The river and its tributaries provide water for ...

July 10, 2019

FARMINGTON, N.M. – Nestled in the heart of San Juan County, Farmington has a population of about 45,000, making it a bustling hub in rural northwestern New Mexico. It is the largest city for hundreds of miles, and its major highway is a two-lane road. Bordering the Navajo Nation, Farmington is also home to abundant ...

July 9, 2019

LONG BEACH, Calif. – There’s a 2-mile rock wall off the coast of Long Beach that’s been one of the most important — and controversial — pieces of infrastructure in Southern California for the past 70 years. The barrier is a breakwater, and it was designed primarily to stop treacherous ocean waves from regularly flooding ...

July 8, 2019

TUCSON – Along a parched riverbed where only dust and wild grasses have held sway for the past 70 years, the Santa Cruz now flows. As of June 24, under the watch of Tucson Water Department officials, a section of the river just west of downtown will receive a maximum of 2.8 million gallons a ...

July 5, 2019

HEBER CITY, Utah — Tucked below the jagged, snowy Wasatch range 20 miles south of Park City, the Heber Valley looks like a miniature Switzerland. Dairy cows graze in bright green pastures and a small farm sells artisan cheeses and milk. But the valley’s days as a bucolic farmland may be numbered. Over the past ...

July 3, 2019

LOS ANGELES – Thanks to our ultra long-rainy season, we finally said goodbye to drought conditions in California. But the reality is we’re still living with the aftermath of one of the worst droughts on record, possibly the worst in 1,200 years. Just look to the Sierra Nevada where more than 110 million trees have ...

July 3, 2019

DENVER – Retiring Colorado’s fleet of coal-fired power plants could cut carbon and save utility customers billions of dollars, according to a new analysis by the Sierra Club. The study looked at the economic impact of replacing 10 coal units in the state with cheaper wind and solar. The Sierra Club hired the consulting firm ...

June 28, 2019

VERDE VALLEY, Ariz. – The Prescott National Forest is implementing a two-year camping ban in a popular area to help it recover from human impact. The area runs along the Verde River, stretching from Cottonwood to south of Camp Verde. It’s a dispersed camping area, meaning the Forest Service does not collect trash or provide ...

June 28, 2019

PHOENIX – The Lower Colorado River Basin does not avoid a shortage in 2020 despite the plentiful snowpack on the Rocky Mountains this past winter. Why? Well, the new Drought Contingency Plan defines different “tiers” of shortage. The Lower Basin will not drop into a Tier One shortage next year because Lake Mead will almost ...

June 28, 2019

PHOENIX – Fire retardant is one tool in battling wildfires, including the Woodbury Fire east of Mesa. But is the mixture of water and chemicals, including thickening agents, a danger to people and the environment? Dolores Garcia, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Land Management office in Phoenix, said retardant is crucial in areas where ...

June 28, 2019

PHOENIX – The towering, often terrifying thunderstorms that signal the start of Arizona’s monsoon season typically begin in mid-June and last through the end of September, but meteorologists say we’ll likely see a delayed start this year. The meteorology department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott this week predicted a much later start to the ...

June 24, 2019

LOS ANGELES – Monterey Bay is one of the most beautiful and pristine-looking places on earth, but look below the surface and researchers have found evidence it’s teeming with microplastic. The tiny pieces are smaller than a grain of rice and have been discovered floating through water columns as deep as 3,800 feet and in ...

June 24, 2019

PHOENIX – U.S. recycling has nearly collapsed, prices have soared and the environmental waste problem has hit a crisis point, since China, the largest buyer of U.S. recycled products, stopped buying nearly 18 months ago. Now, recycling centers are looking to rebuild processing plants across the U.S. and that requires a policy change and millions ...

June 24, 2019

MOAB, Utah — About 40 miles north from the tourist hordes in town and set against a backdrop of tan clay and red mesas, the vista looked primed for a nature magazine cover shoot: early afternoon, the desert bloom in full force, awash with purple and yellow flowers. Quiet. But it wouldn’t stay that way ...

June 14, 2019

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