Environment

If you're curious about what people really think about some of the hottest of hot-button food controversies, the Pew Research Center has just the thing for you: a survey of attitudes toward genetic modification, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully.

The survey results are published in a 99-page report that can keep you occupied for days. But if you're pressed for time, here are some of the most interesting highlights that caught our eye.

In eastern Tennessee, officials say a wildfire that tore through resort towns in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains earlier this week killed at least 13 people and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures, according to local officials and the state emergency management agency.

The confirmed death toll in and around the tourist town of Gatlinburg in Sevier County has climbed steadily since the fire raced into town overnight on Monday.

New Research Shows Invasive Plants Can Feed Farms, Power Homes

Dec 2, 2016
Photo by Sam Corden / Great Lakes Today

Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they’re harvesting them. They say these plants are a threat to biodiversity, but they can benefit farmers and even power homes.

Susan Bence

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided a glimpse of its realignment this week.

The announcement did not come as a surprise, but surely is raising some eyebrows. Over a year ago, the agency set out to streamline the DNR and make it more customer-friendly.

Change has been afoot at the Wisconsin DNR, since Republicans took control of state government in 2011 and this is the latest iteration.

Last year the Legislature cut the agency’s research team by 31 percent.

A single tornado can cause a lot of damage. But even worse are tornado outbreaks. Just this week, a cluster of at least 18 tornadoes struck the Southeast over two days.

Scientists are seeing bigger clusters in recent years, and they're struggling to figure out what's happening.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Princess Cruises will pay a $40 million fine for "deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up," according to the Department of Justice, which calls it "the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution."

The California-based cruise operator also agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges over illegal practices on five ships dating back, in at least one case, to 2005.

Calamari is a favorite on American dinner tables. But while the U.S. has a thriving squid industry, chances are the calamari you are eating made a 12,000-mile round trip before ending up on your dinner plate. That, or it wasn't caught in the U.S. at all.

More than 80 percent of U.S. squid landings are exported — most of it to China. The rare percentage of that catch that stays domestically goes to Asian fresh fish markets or is used as bait.

Ironically, the lion's share of the squid consumed in the United States is imported.

The governor of North Dakota says he has not authorized roadblocks or forcible removal of protesters from the area near the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple spoke to reporters in an effort to clarify the implications of an evacuation order he issued earlier this week, which he said had led to "some miscommunication" with local law enforcement.

Millions of years ago, a little beetle lived among beeches and buttercups on a sparely vegetated tundra at the head of a fjord in Antarctica.

The beetle was small — less than a centimeter long — and it was brown with the typical six legs and two antennae attached to a body protected by a hard shell.

An annual study released by the Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year.

That's the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon quickened; last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

In eastern Tennessee, deadly wildfires are still burning and authorities say it's still too dangerous for thousands of people to return to their damaged and destroyed homes and businesses.

On Wednesday, authorities in Gatlinburg, Tenn., said the confirmed death toll had grown to seven people, reported The Associated Press. Search and rescue crews from local law enforcement agencies and the National Guard combed through the remains of buildings looking for survivors.

In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman, the president and the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), respectively, explain why the organization decided to divest its holdings on fossil fuel companies.

Although the divesting decision is broad-ranging, they single out ExxonMobil for its "morally reprehensible conduct."

President-elect Donald Trump says environmental regulations are stifling the U.S. economy. He has vowed to roll back some of those rules, and he's also taken aim at the international climate agreement signed in Paris last year.

Now, environmentalists are getting ready to fight back. Some are soliciting donations by invoking an inevitable legal battle. And environmental attorneys are preparing their defense.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Local officials rushed to get people out of towns as a wildfire raced into Tennessee's Sevier County on Monday evening.

At least three people were killed in the blaze, according to The Associated Press, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday morning that at least four people were taken to hospitals with burns.

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