They call it the "burning season" in the Amazon, and when we arrive in Brazil's western state of Rondonia, it's on fire.

A thick, acrid smoke permeates everything, making it difficult to see. Fire, people say in Rondonia, is part of the culture of the state: The ash from the burned trees is the only way to make the land fertile, argue some. Others say fires are also started to simply clear land for cattle. Or to make space to build a house. Fire allows people to eke out a living off the land in the rain forest.

Episode 661: The Less Deadly Catch

Nov 4, 2015

Halibut fishermen in Alaska used to defy storms, exhaustion and good judgment. That's because they could only fish in these handful of 24-hour periods. It was called the derby, and the derby made fishing the deadliest job in America.

Today on the show, the economic fix that made fishing safer. And why a lot of people hate it.

On the show we introduce you to David Fry, the owner of the Realist halibut boat.

Note: This episode contains explicit language.

When cacao farmers like Emilio Rivera first heard of a government-backed initiative that would help them prune branches and leaves from their trees, they were skeptical.

After all, a lush cacao tree with more, not fewer, branches meant more profits, the farmers said. That's been the traditional way of thinking for generations of cacao farmers here in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

In this part of the Amazon rain forest, they call it "the war over wood."

It has front lines.

One of them is here, in Machadinho d'Oeste in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.

The self-described "Guardians of the Forest" defending the land don't look like fighters, at least when we first meet them. But they are pitting themselves against criminal logging gangs that have infiltrated their protected reserves.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



York County, Neb., is on Keystone's proposed route. Jenni Harrington's family has a farm there, and the pipeline would have and could still cut through it. Jenni Harrington, welcome back to the program.

JENNI HARRINGTON: Thank you very much.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



After spending years as a political football in the U.S., the Keystone XL pipeline's would-be builder is now asking for a timeout in the review process. Why now? Changing politics in the U.S. and Canada, falling oil prices and mounting pressure from environmentalists have marked a turnaround for the company, which had pushed for approval of the project, and its supporters.

Here are five things to know about where the pipeline stands now:

1. Geography gives the U.S. government a say

Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child's school telling you not to worry — that they're ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.

That's pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.

Landfill fires are pretty common, but this one is different. It's only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there's no barrier in between.

TransCanada, the company applying to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that is designed to run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, has suspended its U.S. permit application while it works with authorities to gain approval for its preferred route through Nebraska.

TransCanada has asked the State Department to pause its review of the application to build the project, The Associated Press reports.