Since 1983, FRONTLINE has served as American public television’s flagship public affairs series. Since its inception, FRONTLINE has never shied away from tough, controversial issues or complex stories, including in-depth reports on some of the most prevalent and controversial environmental issues that are affecting our daily lives. Below are a few of their pieces on important environmental issues.
How are the world's largest corporations and governments responding to the Earth's melting glaciers, rising sea levels, fires, floods and droughts? Heat features interviews with the world's top policy makers, government leaders, and leading CEO's from some of the largest carbon emitting corporations and countries in the world, as well as leaders of organizations that help businesses develop environmentally responsible practices. Despite increasing talk about "going green," environmental concerns are still taking a back seat to shorter-term economic interests. Every year in the United States, America's coal-fired power plants emit up to 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Climate experts nevertheless continue hoping for a radically changed planet in which carbon emissions are drastically reduced; though scientists have been working to clean up coal emissions, the technology must overcome many obstacles before it can be successfully implemented. In the mean time, in order to pressure businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, members of congress have introduced several pieces of legislation pushing a "cap-and-trade" program which would penalize businesses that did not keep emissions under a set limit.
Did you know that transportation is actually one of the smaller sources of the world's carbon emissions? See which other sources produce more on this pie chart. You can also watch Heat online in its entirety.
More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, some of America's most prominent sources of drinking water began to face new sources of contamination. Poisoned Waters reveals startling new evidence that today's growing environmental threat comes not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers' face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains and eventually into America's waterways and drinking water. Additionally, some of the greatest pollution threats stem from urban sprawl and overdevelopment, as new housing and commercial developments send contaminated stormwater into rivers and bays, polluting local drinking-water supplies.
Outraged Americans have formed citizens' groups, which have been successful in organizing environmental change. However, reversing decades of pollution and preventing the irreversible annihilation of the nation's waterways will require a seismic shift in the way Americans live their lives and use natural resources, experts say.
To find out more about what you can do to stop the contamination of water resources, check out this handy guide that can help you rethink your lifestyle habits. You can also watch Poisoned Waters online.
How safe is nuclear power? In March 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan caused a catastrophic meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Nuclear Aftershocks explores the aftermath of this meltdown, including the human health and environmental concerns, and the negative effect it had on the global opinion of the safety of nuclear power plants. In March 2012, almost a year after the Fukushima meltdown, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) responded to a post-Fukushima task force by adopting new safety regulations for American nuclear power plants. However, some critics believe that this should not be the end of nuclear power plant reform. American nuclear power plants, they argue, should expect that an accident can always happen and should actively work to prevent it.
As of January 2012, the U.S. had a total of 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states. Approximately half of these reactors are more than 30 years old, including several in Vermont, where 73% of the electricity produced is nuclear. In February 2012, the NRC approved plans for two new nuclear reactors, for the first time in decades, paving the way for new nuclear technology amidst concerns over an aging U.S. fleet.
Do you live near any nuclear reactors? Explore this interactive map for more information. You can also watch Nuclear Aftershocks online.
Related material, from American Experience: The last major nuclear incident in the United States happened at Three Mile Island in 1979. See a graphic of how a nuclear reactor works, and browse a second-by-second timeline of how the nuclear incident happened.
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