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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

November 23, 2001

Air Date: November 23, 2001

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Sansonetti / Anna Solomon-Greenbaum

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Wyoming attorney Tom Sansonetti is the Bush Administration's nominee to be the nation's top environmental law enforcer. Living on Earth's Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports on how his Senate confirmation process is going. (08:40)

Salmon Carcasses

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Sounds counter-intuitive, but dumping tons of salmon carcasses into rivers could help live salmon survive there. Host Steve Curwood talks with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Kathy Shinn about this unusual airdrop program. (03:00)

Health Note: Herbal Certification

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a new certification program for herbal products. (01:15)

Almanac: Mr. Celsius

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This week, we have facts about Anders Celsius. Three hundred years ago the Swedish inventor of the Celsius temperature scale was born. (01:30)

Unearthing Gotham

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Host Steve Curwood talks with author Diana diZerega Wall about the landscape of New York City, then and now, and her new book, "Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City." (06:30)

China Garden / Dmae Roberts

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A traditional Chinese garden draws hundreds of visitors to Chinatown in downtown Portland, Oregon. But along with beauty, the garden has brought development pressure and higher rents. Dmae Roberts reports on how the city is coping with the downside of urban revitalization. (06:10)

Teamsters & ANWR / Julia King

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With the International Brotherhood of Teamsters lobbying heavily for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, commentator Julia King is wondering what happened to the fledgling alliances between unions and environmentalists. (02:55)

Tech Note: Detecting Fecal Contamination

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Living on Earth's Cynthia Graber reports on a new technology that can detect fecal contamination on meat. (01:20)

Native Corporations

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In the 1960s, to clear the way for the Trans-Alaskan Oil Pipeline, Congress gave Native Alaskans control of 10 percent of the state's land. Tribal members were required to form for-profit corporations and produce income by logging, mining and drilling. The dividends were welcome, but many tribal members say the corporations eroded their relationship to the land, and to each other. Guy Hand reports from Hoonah, Alaska. (13:10)

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Sansonetti

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. From the first days of the Bush Administration, some nominees for cabinet level posts have drawn criticism, as well as praise, on environmental grounds. And, while Gale Norton, Tom Ashcroft, and Spencer Abraham are now on the job as cabinet secretaries, the battles continue for the more junior positions.

WOMAN: Do you swear that the testimony you're about to be given before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

SANSONETTI: I do.

CURWOOD: Thomas Sansonetti is the nominee to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources at the Justice Department. If confirmed, Mr. Sansonetti will be charged with prosecuting the people and the companies that break the nation's environmental laws. And, as the government's top environmental lawyer, he would also help decide how to help defend the nation's environmental laws in court. Living on Earth's Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports on how the confirmation process is going.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Opening testimony came from two of Sansonetti's strongest supporters--the Republican senators from his home state, Wyoming. Craig Thomas and Michael Enzi both had high praise for Sansonetti's character, and each noted his accomplishments as solicitor for the Interior Department during the first Bush Administration. Senator Enzi particularly remembered Sansonetti's work on the high profile Exxon Valdez settlement.

ENZI: Over the years, I've watched Tom's legal progress, and I'm not surprised by his success. He sees every side of an issue, he can negotiate the most contentious situation, he's fair, he gets the job done, and he gets it done well. I highly recommend to you Tom Sansonetti.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: The Republicans departed promptly after their testimony, and Sansonetti was left facing Democrats, who proceeded to question him for close to two hours. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy told Sansonetti he's concerned the Bush White House is failing to enforce existing environmental protections, especially those enacted during the final stages of the Clinton administration. He pointed to the debate over a provision of the Clean Air Act that requires power plants to install new equipment to control emissions when they rebuild or expand their facilities. Industry has long argued the upgrades cost them too much time and money. In 1999, the Clinton administration sued a number of coal-fired power plants for violating the rule, a move Senator Leahy supported.

LEAHY: Now, various energy interests, including the coal industry clients for whom you've been lobbying in recent years, are reportedly making efforts to rescind Department of Justice and EPA enforcement.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Senator Leahy asked Sansonetti if he could enforce laws against companies he'd represented throughout his career.

SANSONETTI: I think I can, and I think that I have done so in the past. I had those clients, in the 1980s, and when I became associate solicitor it was my job to enforce the law against those folks. The same thing in the 1990s. I was responsible for the Office of Surface Mining. That was the organization that chased those coal companies that did not reclaim as they should. And I have never heard or been told that I did not do that job with vigor, and I would do it again.

LEAHY: Are you going to raise a question of appearance in the public?

SANSONETTI: I am delighted that you highlighted this issue. I have heard this from a number of different folks and I...

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: The conversation quickly turned to a subject that's provoked some controversy in Washington: at the American Petroleum Institute last spring, meetings were held as part of a series of talks designed to help guide Vice President Cheney in crafting the administration's energy policy. That process is now under investigation by the General Accounting Office regarding allegations that it was weighted unfairly with industry interests. Senator Leahy cited reports that Sansonetti played a major role in those meetings and Sansonetti said that was true. But he explained that he was simply there to take notes for the vice president.

SANSONETTI: My job was just to extract from them what they thought the new administration's policies would be.

LEAHY: Did you make any recommendations?

SANSONETTI: I wrote all of them down and turned them over, lock, stock and barrel, to the people that went over to the Department of the Interior. So, recommendations, no.

LEAHY: Did you take part in any of the recommendations that were made?

SANSONETTI: No.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Senator Maria Cantwell, from Washington state, used the ongoing debate over the roadless rule to test Sansonetti's commitment to defend the nation's environmental laws. The new rule would ban road building in almost 60 million acres of national forest. It was published in the final days of the Clinton administration, and logging interests quickly went to court to block it. The Bush administration said Cantwell failed to appeal the industry's lawsuits, and didn't even bother to show up at a hearing on the matter before a federal court.

CANTWELL: So here, we have a rule that's on the books and yet we're not really defending it. So, I guess my question to you is: do you think what the Department of Justice has done constitutes a defense of the rule?

SANSONETTI: This is a very important issue.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Sansonetti began by saying he didn't know enough about the case to judge the department's actions. Then he added this:

SANSONETTI: It is my position that if there is a law on the books and the United States is sued on that particular application of that rule, then it's my job to defend the United States and all of its people.

CANTWELL: So, does that translate into a position, if you are confirmed, that will defend the roadless rule on its merits, and instruct the attorneys to begin a substantive participation in the case?

SANSONETTI: Well, again, I'm not going to characterize what they've done, thus far, as either substantive or non-substantive, because it would be pre-judging what somebody else has done that I don't know. But, as far as where I go once I get into the building is concerned, I'm going to say, "What is the status of the roadless rule, as it exists?" And then I'll say, "Our job is to defend that."

CANTWELL: And defend it substantively?

SANSONETTI: And to substantively defend it. Yes, ma'am.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: In lieu of a defense by the government, several environmental groups have gone to court to uphold the roadless rule. One of the lawyers they've hired is Pat Parenteau. Parenteau is a professor at the Vermont Law School, and he has a bit of history with Tom Sansonetti. During the first Bush administration the Bureau of Land Management wanted an exemption from the Endangered Species Act so it could sell timber in areas where the Spotted Owl was at risk. The Fish and Wildlife Service fought the exemption, and Pat Parenteau was brought in to argue its case. But he says Sansonetti, who oversaw the proceedings, let politics get in the way of the legal argument.

PARENTEAU: The person that worked directly under him directed me to withdraw certain arguments that I had made on behalf of the Fish & Wildlife Service.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Rather than withdraw those arguments, Parenteau resigned. In another case, he says Sansonetti violated public participation rules, in a mining decision that benefited industry.

PARENTEAU: In politics it's called a tin ear, and maybe that's what it is here. He does not see the legal issues the way that I think an independent, objective lawyer ought to see them. He puts too much of his political baggage in the way of looking at the law.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: If confirmed, Sansonetti will quickly get a chance to prove his skeptics wrong. Recently, the Bush administration reversed a rule that authorized the government to veto irreparably harmful mining projects. Environmental groups have sued, and the case will likely be one of the first on the to-do list for Sansonetti. He can influence how quickly it's dealt with and what tone the government takes in its defense. Those who've worked with Tom Sansonetti warn critics against judging him too quickly. From their days together at the Interior Department, Jim Streeter recalls Sansonetti as someone who gave straight legal device. Streeter, who's now policy director at the conservative National Wilderness Institution, remembers one case where Sansonetti was trying to settle a dispute between the park service and property owners.

STREETER: Tom just waited. He waited for all the facts to come in. He did not side with one or the other based simply on ideology. It was, to him, it was a matter of looking at what is the law, what is the obligation of the government in this case.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Tom Sansonetti's nomination process is expected to resume after the Thanksgiving recess. For Living on Earth, I'm Anna Solomon-Greenbaum in Washington.

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Salmon Carcasses

CURWOOD: Wildlife officials in Oregon are trying a novel approach to increase the chances of survival for juvenile salmon. Recently, a helicopter dumped 37 tons of salmon carcasses into Oregon rivers. To explain why, I am joined now by Kathy Shinn, from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Ms. Shinn, how is unloading a bunch of dead salmon into these creeks going to help salmon who are trying to live there?

SHINN: What we're trying to do is mimic the natural system. When juvenile smolts or young salmon go out to the ocean and then they return, in three to five years, they carry back some of the nutrients that they acquired in the ocean. And those get recycled into the stream environment that nourishes the aquatic food chain on which those future young salmon depend.

CURWOOD: Why is a program like this necessary now?

SHINN: We have fewer returning wild fish. When we had abundant returns this natural process occurred on its own. So, we're trying to give a real boost to the system by providing carcasses at a level that we have not tried before, and we will be monitoring this to see if our efforts actually do produce more young wild salmon.

CURWOOD: I understand this is the first time you've used helicopters in this stream enrichment program. I'm curious as to how this exactly works. I mean, I'm guessing that the pilot just doesn't toss the fish out the window.

SHINN: No. As a matter of fact what we had is a large helicopter that had a long cable attached to a modified bucket. In that bucket there were 150 to 200 fish carcasses. The pilot flew along the stream and dropped those carcasses into specified areas of the stream.

CURWOOD: Well, just how much precision is required here, as you sprinkle these carcasses out of the helicopter?

SHINN: The pilots are actually very good at this. I'd say our success rate was very high in getting most of those carcasses into the stream. Even a few that get into the riparian areas along the stream do get eaten by other critters like bears, eagles. Those kind of animals will feed on those carcasses, as they always have, and recycle those nutrients into the system.

CURWOOD: Where do these dead fish come from?

SHINN: Our hatchery fish are used for several purposes. First of all, they're meant to be caught by sport and commercial anglers. Those that are not caught return to the hatchery and some of those are spawned to provide salmon for the future, to rear the brood stock for the next year. And those that are not used, if they are food quality fish, they may be donated to a food bank, to the federal prison system. And those that are not food quality, one of the beneficial uses is to use them in the stream enrichment program.

CURWOOD: I have to ask you, how does it smell?

SHINN: Well, you know, it doesn't smell real good, but that's part of the natural process that we sometimes don't like to think about. But historically, some of these streams, loaded with abundant wild fish returns, didn't smell real good. It eventually goes away.

CURWOOD: Kathy Shinn is an outreach specialist with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Thanks for filling us in on this project.

SHINN: Very happy to do so, Steve.

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Health Note: Herbal Certification

CURWOOD: Coming up later on our program: a look at how well some Native Americans protect the land of their ancestors--if they incorporate. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

TOOMEY: Under federal regulations the Food & Drug Administration does not have to analyze herbal supplements before they go to market. It's up to the manufacturers to police themselves, ensuring their products are safe and their ingredient lists are accurate. As a result, there's been increasing concern about the quality of herbal products. But now, companies can opt into a voluntary, non-governmental certification program for herbal products. The U.S. Pharmacopoeia, or USP, a non-profit organization that sets quality standards for drugs, vitamins and other dietary supplements, will run the program. As part of the certification process the U.S.P. will analyze a product to make sure its active ingredients agree with what's printed on the label. The supplement will also be screened for contaminants, and companies must submit to inspections of their manufacturing facilities. After certification, the USP will periodically perform random testing on off-the-shelf products. Herbal supplements that make the grade will carry the words "USP Verified" on their labels, along with a not-yet-determined symbol. Expect to see the first USP Verified products on the shelves late next year or early 2003. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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Almanac: Mr. Celsius

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC ABOUT THE THERMOSTAT]

CURWOOD: With winter coming, many of us are digging out those overcoats, but, if Anders Celsius had his way, colder days would mean rising temps. Confused? Yes, well, so were we. But, here's the story behind the Celsius rise to glory. Celsius was born 300 years ago this week, in Uppsala, Sweden, and he grew up to be an astronomer. He used lots of weights and measures in this work, but, being a scientist, Celsius was bothered by the large variety of thermometers in use at the time because each was based on a different scale. One defined boiling water at 60 degrees. Another, invented by the German scientist Gabriel Fahrenheit, set the boiling point at 212. Anders Celsius yearned for a practical universal scale, and so he made up his own. He chose fixed points, defined by the temperatures where water would boil and ice would melt, to delineate his scale. Then he divided the distance into 100 units. That's where we get those centrigrades from. Celsius designated zero as water's boiling point and 100 as its melting point. He did that to avoid negative temperatures, but it was a bit awkward to use. So, after his death, colleagues of Celsius reversed his scale and it went on to become the standard everywhere in the world--well, everywhere except the United States, of course. Here, only the fellow scientists of Celsius use his logical scale. But if you want to join them, here's the formula: Take the Fahrenheit temperature, subtract by 32, divide by 9, then multiply by 5. Got it? And that's this week's Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC: "THERMOSTAT"]

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Unearthing Gotham

CURWOOD: The trash cans and dumpsters of modern cities may not be the first things that come to mind when you think archaeology. But Diana diZerega Wall says today's refuse containers and 15th century urns share a common relic status. Ms. Wall is co-author of the book "Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City," and she says the city's diverse landscape and what lies below it is every bit a worthy dig.

WALL: I think that most people think of archaeology as the study of something long ago and far away. And this is less true now, but particularly when I first started doing urban archaeology in New York, about 20 years ago, one would go to some sort of a party or something like that and people would say, "What do you do?" And I'd say, "Oh, I'm an archaeologist." And they'd say, "Oh, where do you work, Israel, Turkey, etc?" And I'd say, "No, actually I just take the #6 to get to my site." The #6 is the subway line in New York.

CURWOOD: We have plenty of history books, Professor Wall. Why use archeology to look at the history of New York City?

WALL: I think that what we get from archaeology is we get a more democratic approach to history. Archaeologists basically study garbage, and everybody leaves garbage. Groups aren't systematically left out of the garbage record the way groups can be left out of the written record. But what appeals to me about archaeology is that you can gain insight into the ways of life of these groups that we don't really know that much about historically, by studying their garbage.

CURWOOD: Equal opportunity garbage, huh?

WALL: Exactly.

CURWOOD: Now, you write that the archaeologists can determine the eating habits of a particular household at a particular moment in the history of early New York City. How do you go about doing this? What do you look for?

WALL: What we look for is what archaeologists would call a feature, which is basically defined as a non-portable artifact, something that was made and used in the past. And inside the feature, which could be the pit from a privy pit in a backyard. Remember that people used to have out houses before they had flush toilets. Those were items that were introduced into New York City homes only beginning in the 1840s and 1850s, then.

CURWOOD: So, you're telling me you're digging in old privies.

WALL: Exactly. But what happens is, after those features have been used for their original purpose, and while they're being used for their original purpose, if we're talking about privy pits, people would use them to throw their trash away in. Archaeology is very good at being able to look at these very sort of mundane things like what people are eating and to be able to make up stories, looking at all of these different pieces of dishes and animal bone and seeds, etc.

CURWOOD: What kind of story would these dishes, bones, and privy remains tell you?

WALL: They could tell us what kind of china people were buying. They could tell us how people in the 1820s were using a kind of china which was very different from what they had used early in the 19th century, and then, in the later 18th century, it was different again. I was interested in looking at that when I was trying to look at the redefinition of what it meant to be a middle-class woman in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This is the moment when businesses were leaving homes and women were developing the sphere of domesticity. And what I could see, in looking at the dishes that they were using to set their tables and things like that, is that they were putting much more money, for example, into their dishes in the 1820s than they had in the 1780s and 1790s. And that told me something about their role and how they were rewriting their role.

CURWOOD: One of the things I found most fascinating about your book was that you said, hey, New York City is one archaeological site.

WALL: Mm-hmm.

CURWOOD: You treat it that way. What are the advantages of thinking that way?

WALL: I think that what that approach gives us is a different view of the city--it gives us a long view. It looks on a city as a part of its environment. We have about 11,000 years of history, in fact, that we can talk about, talking about the Native American presence here, before the city is even created at all, as a city. The other thing that's interesting is it allowed--these are things that I hadn't really seen, until we started looking at the city this way. This is a city that, until the early 19th century, was marginal. It was first marginal, during Native American times, to what was going on in the Midwest. The more advanced chieftain forms of cultures were located in the Mississippi Valley and the great waterways of the southeastern United States. We were just this marginal, peripheral little area, a little backwater, if you will.

CURWOOD: That's a fascinating notion: New York City, a hick town?

WALL: That's something, yeah. In fact, it wasn't even a town, it was a hick, I'd guess we'd have to say. A hick area.

CURWOOD: What one piece of material do you feel can capture the city of New York at this moment?

WALL: Are you speaking in light of the recent events on September 11th?

CURWOOD: It's hard to ignore them, isn't it?

WALL: It certainly is, yeah. When I have gone down to look at the site--and I have no special access. I stand back several blocks from where people are actually working. For a long time there was a large piece of the stainless steel facade of one of the towers that was made. If you're not familiar with the World Trade Centers up close, they were made in the form of sort of abstract gothic arches on the facade. There was a part of that facade hanging at about a 45 degree angle over the site. Somehow, having those gothic arches, with their sort of religious symbolism, to me, that was something that was enormously powerful, and it was also something that you could see, as sort of a landmark, from blocks away. So, even if people couldn't get close to the site they could see that, and of course those arches to them meant, this is the World Trade Center. And I think that that symbolizes the city at this moment. I think it sort of symbolized the fact that morality had gone awry in the city, as morality had gone awry in terms of our lives, that things were out of kilter.

CURWOOD: Diana diZerega Wall is associate professor of archaeology at City College in New York, and she's co-author of the book "Unearthing Gotham: The Archeology of New York City." Thanks so much for taking this time with us today.

WALL: Thank you so much, Steve. It's been a pleasure.

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China Garden

CURWOOD: A little more than a year ago, the largest classical Chinese garden outside of China opened in Portland, Oregon. After 15 years and 12 and a half million dollars, the city converted a block of concrete in the heart of Chinatown into a viable and busy tourist attraction. But, as producer Dmae Roberts reports, some residents of Chinatown have mixed feelings about the new-found prosperity that has come with the walled garden.

ROBERTS: Portland's Chinatown sits on roughly ten square blocks between homeless shelters and an ever-growing arts district. Once a thriving community with about 150 Asian families, Chinatown has dwindled the last few decades, to a handful of Chinese restaurants and gift shops. As rents increased, most of the family businesses have moved out, leaving empty storefronts. Chinatown was on its way to becoming an area of neglect until the recent surge of activity, from the classical Chinese garden.

WATSON: We have many school tours that come trough our garden and one that's coming in right now is in the entrance courtyard.

ROBERTS: Tour manager Lisa Watson enters the garden, already packed with groups of school kids.

WATSON: This is an area that includes a large archway that's very typical of gardens in China. It's guarded by two lions, one that has its hand on the earth, which is the male; and the other is the female, which has her hand on a pup, both signifying their importance in their role in the family.

ROBERTS: The garden is an architect's dream, with pavilions, archways, bridges and cobblestone walkways all centering around a large lake, laced with water lilies and lotus flowers.

WATSON: The best part about the garden for me, I think, is the location of it in the middle of a city and having a nice respite: an area where people can come during a busy work day and relax and enjoy the quiet, enjoy the waterfall, the scenery, and on a beautiful day like today, enjoy the sunshine.

ROBERTS: Standing in the Chinese garden, there's a moment you forget you're in the heart of downtown. Then we turn a corner, and see one of the largest skyscrapers in Portland.

WATSON: It's sort of overlooking one of our largest buildings in the garden, which is the four-sided hall. It's a really nice contrast, and it really does help to highlight the fact that we are in a very busy part of the city.

ROBERTS: Just how a garden space can mix with urban life is one of the challenges that face most cities today. And while the Chinese garden has far exceeded expectations to revitalize Chinatown by drawing in visitors, it's also luring new development that may not be sensitive to the needs of the garden or to the neighborhood. Randy Gragg, of the Oregonian newspaper, covers architecture and urban design. He's been following the development of this urban park and tourist attraction.

GRAGG: The neighborhood is under a lot of development pressure right now. You're surrounded by basically key development sites. Most of the blocks here are underdeveloped and they are likely to change hands and the buildings on them torn down. The heights around the garden right now, the zoning would allow for buildings as high as 250 feet.

ROBERTS: Gloria Lee, executive director of the garden, says she's confident new development won't literally overshadow the garden.

LEE: Mr. Kwang, the original garden designer from Suzhou, has shared with us the concept of "borrowed views," and I think for the garden some basic things are that when you look up that you be able to see light, doesn't necessarily mean that we can't have tall buildings. And it's my belief that I think we can accomplish both things, is to make good use of our land values down here, and still keep dutiful respect of how the design is handled, so that the "borrowed view," if you will, is pleasing for the garden.

ROBERTS: Assuring that the "borrowed view" won't be compromised is Gloria Lee's mission. But as property values increase, many of the Chinese residents may not be able to afford the rent. Bruce Wong's family used to own several businesses in Chinatown before moving out as the area deteriorated. Mr. Wong is skeptical that Chinatown will be able to keep its Asian identity.

WONG: Let's face it. If you go down to Chinatown now, and you go down on a weekday, not on a weekend, go on a weekday. And you go walk into a House of Louie, you walk into Seven Stars, you walk into Hung Far Lo, Fong Chong--any of them, it's not a standing line waiting, and you don't make a profit, on four or five tables a night. So we've got a real problem on income. How's he going to make it? So then, if I come by and say, "Okay, I'll buy that property from you, cash, 2 million bucks," they're going to sell it. And, as they sell it, more and more of the Asian ownership of the building and the property disappears.

HONG: Well, since the garden opened we've had a lot more people that came into the store.

ROBERTS: Joann Hong started the Great Era Gift Shop 25 years ago. As the owner of the building she's been able to hold onto her business through the years, when others have moved on. She credits the garden with rejuvenating the area.

HONG: The Tuck Lung building used to be a grocery store, and it was empty for quite some time. Royal Ginseng family went in and they put in their ginseng and tea shop, and it is a wonderful addition. I'm hoping that Chinatown will grow. I'm hopeful.

ROBERTS: Regardless, if Chinatown can hold onto the Asian community, the classical Chinese garden is, without doubt, a place of beauty. Here on a sunny day crowds of people get a chance to see a Chinese garden, perhaps for the first time. A positive introduction to Chinese culture, intertwining nature and art in the heart of a city. For Living on Earth, I'm Dmae Roberts, in Portland, Oregon.

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Teamsters & ANWR

CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth.

CURWOOD: Despite the recent decline in the price of oil, calls for domestic production of more crude continue to echo in the halls of Congress. ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, has become the proving ground. In the debate over opening up ANWR for exploration, some of the nation's biggest labor unions are weighing in on the pro-drilling side. It's all left commentator Julia King wondering what ever happened to the Teamsters and the turtles?

KING: Labor unions have a proud history of righting some of capitalism's inherent wrongs. One of those wrongs is the tendency to put the pursuit of profits ahead of almost everything else. From coal mines to vineyards, unions have worked tirelessly to shift attitudes about working conditions and living wages, and to create a balance between profit margins and social justice. For this, they should be applauded. But recently, some unions, notably the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have taken a giant step backwards with their support for an energy bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

It wasn't long ago that environmentalists and labor marched arm-in-arm in the Seattle anti-trade protests. But the much promised alliance has crumbled on drilling in the Arctic. "What environmentalists fail to realize," said a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, "is that we are not an environmental organization." Our responsibility is to grow the work force. Drilling, he says, will create almost 700,000 jobs. For some key house members, environmental concerns folded under the labor lobby.

Now, with the weakened economy and the war on terrorism, lawmakers in the Senate are under even grater pressure from drilling proponents to open ANWR, under the guise of reducing dependence on foreign oil. But, for unions, pitting economics against the environment is a dangerous game. If decisions are made based on jobs and dollars, without attention to broader social concerns, then we're back where we started--a place where profits trump everything, including the needs of workers.

Yet the Teamsters are using the same tactics the businesses have used for years: they want to add up the dollars in the Arctic refuge and declare the equation complete. Under any scenario, the oil that's in the refuge is finite. Any jobs that are created by the drilling will eventually disappear. Instead of clinging to old guard energy policies, in an effort to squeeze the last pennies out of an dying industry, unions would be wise to use their considerable political clout to help usher in a new era of clean, sustainable energy production. And if some unions can't see their way to support sustainable long-term energy plans, it's time for politicians to start questioning that sometimes blind loyalty to labor. While this may be a time for cooperation in the nation, it's not a time to turn our backs on wise energy policy.

CURWOOD: Commentator Julia King lives in Goshen, Indiana, and comes to us via the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

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Tech Note: Detecting Fecal Contamination

CURWOOD: Just ahead, Native Americans try the corporate model in Hoonah, Alaska. First, this Environmental Technology Note from Cynthia Graber.

GRABER: Today, inspectors checking meat for fecal contamination take a low tech approach. Trained workers examine carcasses under bright lights, using only their own eyes to detect problems. Inevitably, some of those inspectors are left wondering, is that small brown spot a blood clot, or could it be a piece of manure containing E.coli bacteria? After a number of E.coli outbreaks in the early 1990s, scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture thought there had to be a more effective method to test for contamination. They knew some biological compounds glow when exposed to certain wavelengths of light. Then they thought "Cows eat a lot of plants. Plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight to energy; so chlorophyll, a light sensitive compound, should be one of those compounds that would glow, under the right conditions." The scientists teamed up with a photochemist at Iowa State University. Together, they searched for the right wavelength to make digested chlorophyll light up. They found one: a blue light that makes even tiny spots of manure glow red. The research institutions partnered with a private firm to make machines big enough to check out entire animal carcasses. Now, they want to develop hand-held versions. The device could help prevent worker eyestrain, and make our meat safer, too. That's this week's Technology Note. I'm Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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Native Corporations

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. For decades, Alaskan natives struggled with the U.S. government over their aboriginal claims to Alaskan land. Then, in the 1960s, oil was discovered on the north slope. The route of their proposed pipeline to take the oil south ran through some tribal villages, so Congress stepped in with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The Act gave Alaskan natives nearly $1 billion and about 10% of the state's land. In exchange, tribes gave up claims to other property throughout Alaska, including the pipeline right-of-way. Many said the legislation would reconnect Native Alaskans to their land. But, as Guy Hand reports, some say just the opposite has happened.

[SOUND OF BOATS]

HAND: Floyd Peterson runs a charter fishing business in Hoonah, a native village that looks across the water at what he calls "ten miles of disrespect."

PETERSON: As we leave the harbor you'll be able to see across Port Frederick and the ten-mile stretch of clear cut.

HAND: Such sights are common in southeast Alaska, where native people have turned to logging their own land.

PETERSON: You can see the logging roads, the scrap limbs and trees dumped over the sides of the logging roads.

HAND: All this logging is due to an unusual stipulation written into the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act. It required that natives form for-profit corporations. Those corporations actually own the lands the federal government promised native peoples. Tribal members became not landowners but shareholders. And, to hold onto their assets, their land, these new native corporations had to do what all corporations do: produce income, show profit, and grow. In the timber rich panhandle of Alaska where the Tlingit people live, that meant logging, and lots of it.

PETERSON: I'm afraid that some of my native relatives have picked up on the white man's way of doing business. It's getting to be a joke here. It's almost over with. The loggers can tell you, they're going to be out of work pretty soon, because the timber's gone. It isn't on account of the environmentalists, it's because the timber's about gone, exported to Japan. We had enough timber here to last forever, if it was managed right.

HAND: Floyd faces the realities of native logging every time he leaves Hoonah harbor.

PETERSON: This is disgraceful. It makes me sick. And I'm in the charter business. All my clients all have the same comments, "Who done this? Why?"

HAND: It's never easy for Floyd to tell him it was his own people. Floyd motors toward a freighter that native stevedores are loading with old growth, destined for Japan. Though there are restrictions on exporting unrefined wood cut on federal land, there are no such restrictions on native land. The ship is top-heavy with timber.

PETERSON: I don't know how many board feet are on there, but I'd estimate 5 million board feet of raw timber on there, and sometimes there's two of them in there at a time, loading: one anchored out and one tied up to the moorings here.

HAND: Native land has been logged faster, and with fewer restraints, than Alaska's federal land. Tim Bristol is executive director of the Alaska Coalition, a conservation organization.

BRISTOL: The size of the clear cuts is far larger than you find on national forest lands. They're contiguous. The roads are built to a lower standard, they have smaller buffers along salmon streams. It's all about making money and distributing dividends to shareholders as quickly as possible.

[SOUND OF CAR STARTING]

HAND: Keith Walker disagrees.

WALKER: There's been some real battles and some real criticisms of native corporations, but, on the whole, I think they've done pretty darn well.

HAND: Keith is driving one of the 250 miles of logging roads that the company he owns, White Stone Logging, has built near Hoonah. He says those roads are in fine shape, and that there are plenty of trees left in the forest. He thinks native corporations are good for native Alaska.

WALKER: There's been a lot of talent in the native communities that have been fertilized by the money that has come from their timber operations. We've got a Stanford graduate, an MIT graduate, and they're now getting on into the management of the corporations, they're getting onto the board of directors.

HAND: Keith is one of hundreds of skilled non-natives who've moved to places like Hoonah from the lower 48, to work for native corporations. Locals seldom had the logging experience. He's been cutting timber on native land since the corporations were formed.

WALKER: To me, the trees is a big carrot. You grow them, you thin them, you use them. There's plenty of places where trees are protected, they're in national parks and forests and wilderness areas and what have you. But the trees that are in native corporation land are in working forests, and they're supposed to be a crop, and they're supposed to generate revenue.

HAND: Keith drives into a sorting yard where raw logs are stacked and waiting to be loaded on an Asian bound freighter. Keith has no problem exporting American old growth to the Orient.

WALKER: We had an old guy out here one time, old Japanese guy, and he was come up to this big spruce log we had, and he was rubbing his hand up and down the front of it, you know? And he was telling me, he says, It's just like velvet. When you get people like that, it's really a pleasure to deal with them, because they just appreciate really fine wood.

HAND: Keith's perpetual poker face softens to a smile.

WALKER: And that's the thing. Up here in Alaska, you've got some of the finest wood in the world. You can look at the ends of these logs, any log here--look at that, I'll just pull up the one here. Okay. Can you see the rings in that log there?

HAND: Not very well.

WALKER: That's because it's probably about 400 years old and it's just fine, fine grain. When you cut it up the wood is strong, it's durable, and when you cut the right grain, it's just beautiful.

HAND: But critics say this controversy isn't just about timber. It's also about native communities and what the Alaskan Native Claim Settlement Act did to them. Tlingit grandmother, Wanda Culp.

CULP: With the corporation becoming involved in speaking on the villages' behalf, they have effectively taken our tongues away.

HAND: Traditional tribal leaders were often pushed aside. Management positions were filled with corporate-savvy non-natives and tribal members eager to embrace this new way of life. Those unwilling to follow along found themselves isolated in their own communities.

CULP: It's impacted every facet of village life. Now, it's so different. We don't look at each other with the Tlingit respect that our grandparents had for each other. We don't look at each other and say, "Oh, there is my Raven relative." We don't do that. We look at each other with suspicion.

HAND: The trees began to fall before most natives knew what was happening or why. Wanda remembers taking a drive, nearly two decades ago, to a favorite mountaintop near the village of Hoonah.

CULP: And it's a very beautiful site. You could get up there and you could look all across Icy Straits, to Excursion Inlet. So, when the logging began and I had driven with some friends of mine up to the top and ran into an elder grandmother who's the same clan as I am, which is Teikweidee, Brown Bear clan. And her hand was clutched to her heart and there was tears brimming over her eyes.

HAND: The elder was stunned by the sight of a forest full of holes. So was Wanda.

CULP: And it began by hurting us, emotionally. Because, like all of the indigenous peoples of the world, we are tied to the land and the earth and the water and the air. So to see something like that coming in and happening right above our heads was a major shock.

HAND: Sealaska Corporation, based here in Juneau, is the native corporation cutting the timber around Hoonah. It's well-appointed headquarters seem a universe away from village life.

[SOUNDS FROM OFFICES]

HAND: But even in these modern corporate surroundings, Ross Soboleff greets me in the traditional native way.

SOBOLEFF: When we introduce ourselves, we talk about our membership in our tribe, and so my Tlingit name is Eech Te' and my Heida name is Staast. And I'm the assistant to the president of Sealaska Corporation. I'm also the vice president in corporate communications.

HAND: Ross has been with Sealaska for eighteen years.

SOBOLEFF: It's something that I've worked in most of my life, and I just play the hand that I'm dealt, and we try to make the best of the opportunities that it created for our native people.

HAND: Ross says that Sealaska Corporation is the largest private employer in the region. It offers jobs and dividend checks to poor communities that have had to live with too little for too long.

SOBOLEFF: Suddenly, native people were not on the periphery of the economy anymore, which is where we have been for one to two hundred years. But we, in fact, moved into being participants in the economy.

HAND: According to Ross, with political influence and a much-needed infusion of cash, the native community is again taking pride in its own history.

[TRIBAL DANCE SOUNDS]

HAND: Native corporations have set up foundations that sponsor cultural studies and tribal gatherings like this one, called "Celebration," a popular biennial event put on by Sealaska Corporation.

TRIBAL LEADER: The container of wisdom have been opened. Our grandparents are among us right now. Our ancestors are here.

HAND: Ross says that when he was a kid, before ANSCA, these kinds of cultural opportunities just weren't there.

SOBOLEFF: When you go around this region now, you'll see totems, you'll hear native people on ferry boats talking about native culture, and that resurgence, that interest in native culture, is due in large part to native corporations. It's likely if you saw a totem pole on your trip here, it's very likely, if it's contemporary, that we contributed the log to the artists to make that.

[SOUND OF PADDLING]

LANKARD: We don't have to strip mine, or oil drill, or sell our mother in order to create monies to be able to restore a culture.

HAND: Dune Lankard, of the Eyak tribe, is rowing a raft down Alaska's Copper River.

LANKARD: My Eyak name is Jamachakih, which means the little bird that screams really loud and won't shut up, and I have no intention of shutting up.

HAND: Dune is a vocal opponent of the native corporations.

LANKARD: The way that the whole Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was designed, the way that it was set up, the way that it was implemented, was to basically take people away from the land and their relationship, erase their relationship with the land.

HAND: Dune ties the future of native Alaskans not to corporate power, but to the preservation of wild places.

LANKARD: Yeah, you can spend a lot of time in these cultural centers learning a lot of things and having some really good lectures on who you used to be. But the thing is, is you got to remember who you are today, and get out here and live in these places and be a part of it. Because this is what the children need. The only way you're going to pass on your true self and your culture is to be able to teach these young Indian kids what it's really like to be out in the wild. And that is how you're going to have culture restoration and a connection to the land.

[BIRD CAWING]

HAND: What strikes me, as I spend time in native villages like Hoonah, is the lack of outward anger. Loggers and critics wave at each other as they pass on local roads. They seem to understand that the villains, if there are any, aren't one another. This is a conflict much bigger than people. It's a clash as vast as world views, a clash between cultures. A clash that, at least in the clearcuts near Hoonah, is already over. For Living on Earth, I'm Guy Hand, in Hoonah, Alaska.

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CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. The week beginning December 21st is the time for our annual holiday storytelling special, and the theme this year is Celebrations in Latino Landscapes. In cooperation with NPR's Latino USA, we'll bring you stories of celebration, culture and land from south of the U.S. border. We'll hear tales of the Day of the Dead in Mexico and growing up under mango trees in Panama. We'll also hear about what happens when a father breaks his long silence about life in Cuba to his U.S. raised son.

MAN: He said, "We would vacation at the beach, at Coj’mar, and they were celebrating the feast of San Juan y los Pargos, the feast of St. John the Baptist and the running of the red snapper. Some old tradition said that when the fish were running San Juan was sending them, and we would have a huge street party, with singing and dancing, and we would bring out the finest clothes, the pants and the shirts and the pants--you know, the clothes, you know. If some fisherman brought in a big catch of pargo, we would cheer and eat it. And if not, we'd have a huge party, so that San Juan will remember us and send us the food next year, you know? It was really just an excuse to get together and get drunk, really. But we did it every year, you know?" I heard a joy in my father's voice that I had rarely experienced. I know how his eyes crinkle up whenever he truly laughs, and I knew they were crinkling up now. I felt my own eyes as he talked. They were crinkling, too, just like my dad's. I asked about the land itself and how it inspired them in their celebrations. He was laughing out loud now. He said, "Mi'jo, we lived on an island, a tropical paradise, you know? Because the weather was always wonderful and we were on an island, we had many celebrations and parties on the beach. You know: fires, parties, waterskiing if you could afford a boat, and if not you get a little rowboat and you row it, you know?" He talked this way for some time. I was pacing around my house, my hands tingling, wanting so badly to share this with my brothers, with my wife. I asked about other celebrations, ones that are not just an excuse to party, but our phone connection was wavering. I yelled into the phone. He kept saying, "Mi'jo, I don't hear you." I cursed the phone company; I cursed the stupid company that made my cordless phone. I panicked. If we hung up, would the spell be broken? Would he remember years of exile and hardship and sadness and forget the dream of celebration that we were sharing?

CURWOOD: Join storyteller and actor Antonio Sacre, storyteller Elida Guadia Bonet, and Latino USA host, Maria Hinojosa, for the Living on Earth holiday special: Celebrations in Latino Landscapes, during the week of December 21st.

[SEAL NOISES]

CURWOOD: Before we go, our audio seal of approval on this show--Weddell seals, to be precise, in Antarctica, in mating season. Through six feet of ice, these are their territorial calls, recorded by Douglas Quin.

[SOUNDSCAPE CONTINUED]

CURWOOD: Living On Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production staff includes Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Cynthia Graber, Maggie Villiger, Jennifer Chu, and Gernot Wagner, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Milesa Mu–iz. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. We had help this week from Jessica Penney and Jonathan Waldman, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council, from Portland, Oregon. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental sound art courtesy of Earth Ear. Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Liz Lempert is our western editor, Diane Toomey is our science editor, Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living On Earth. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the National Science Foundation, supporting environmental education; the Educational Foundation of America, for reporting on energy and climate change; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, for reporting on marine issues and the environment; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; The Town Creek Foundation; The W. Alton Jones Foundation, supporting efforts to sustain human well-being through biological diversity -- www.wajones.org; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for reporting on western issues; The James and Kathleen Stone Foundation; and The Oak Foundation.

ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

 

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