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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Listeners Speak Up

Air Date: Week of

Last week's show on the intimidation of environmentalists resulted in a lot of reaction as well as some first hand reports of similar incidents from listeners.


CHAMON: This is Julie Chamon from Port Townsend, Washington. I've just finished listening to your, um, threat on the greens and your interview about War Against the Greens. And I want to confirm that that book is telling it the way we're experiencing it here in Jefferson County. We have had people in public meetings stand up and threaten to shoot people through the head, take them outside and beat them up, and various and sundry other abuses, poisoning of dogs.

NUNLEY: That's one of the many responses we received to our recent program exploring charges of violence and intimidation directed against environmental activists. We spoke in that program with investigative journalist David Helvarg, who has detailed many of the charges in his book, War Against the Greens. Joy Toles Cummings from Taylor County, Florida, called in with this comment.

CUMMINGS: I live in a dioxin contaminated, chlorine bleaching pulp mill community, where the water, air, soil, fish, and wildlife have been poisoned by the pulp mills' organochlorine toxics for the past 40 years. Many members of my environmental group, Hope, have been threatened, shunned, and antagonized by the pollution supporters here. One of our members was beaten, raped, and told that she would be killed if she didn't stop seeking clean water. And we're in David's book, and we'd like to thank him for exposing this widespread situation. Of course, such violence is directed at us to try to scare us into being quiet about the pollution, which of course we will not be quiet. We will continue to oppose pollution and will become louder, and better at educating people about dioxin and organochlorines, and environmental degradation.

NUNLEY: Author David Helvarg laid responsibility for much of the atmosphere of fear at the feet of the growing Wise Use Movement. We spoke about that with Wise Use leader Charles Cushman. Mr. Cushman denied that his movement was fomenting violence, and called the charges a new level of McCarthyism. But he said he could understand why residents of some resource-dependent communities might feel moved to threats and violence. That brought this comment from Robert Payton of Oakland, California.

PAYTON: I think that in part we need to take some lessons for the Environmental Justice Movement, that have tried to challenge environmentalists to bring humans back into the environmental agenda. And I think maybe in part that the Wise Use Movement is reaping seeds that have been sown by environmentalists. And we've seen successful organizing between environmentalists and labor, for instance. Recognizing that these communities are our allies and not enemies.


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