• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

December 20, 2002

Air Date: December 20, 2002

FULL SHOW

(stream/download) as an MP3 file

SEGMENTS

No Gore in 2004

(stream / mp3)

Al Gore has taken himself out of the presidential running in 2004, leaving a party of contenders for the Democratic nominee. Host Steve Curwood talks with Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, and Bob Zelnick, chair of the Journalism Department at Boston University and author of the book "Al Gore: A Political Life," about Gore’s environmental legacy. (10:30)

Health Note/Music & Exercise / Jessica Penney

(stream / mp3)

Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on how music may help people exercise. (01:15)

Almanac/Polar Night

(stream / mp3)

This week, we have facts about polar night. Contrary to popular belief, most Arctic communities experience polar twilight, not absolute darkness, for the winter. (01:30)

Neo-Pagans / Robin White

(stream / mp3)

Solstice is one of the most important times of the year for Pagans, people who practice an environmental religion with pre-Christian origins. Producer Robin White reports as the numbers of neo-Pagans have grown, they've soft-pedaled earlier claims to links with original Pagans. (07:00)

In Search of Hairy Spiders / Sy Montgomery

(stream / mp3)

You’d think it would be impossible to link tarantulas with the idea of celebrating Christmas. But for commentator Sy Montgomery, it’s not a stretch. (03:45)

Letters

(stream / mp3)

This week, we dip into the Living on Earth mailbag to hear what listeners have to say. (02:30)

Factory Farm Rules / Tamara Keith

(stream / mp3)

Reaction continues to pour in following the announcement of new EPA rules governing factory farms. Tamara Keith from member station KQED reports that some say they won’t address the problem of manure lagoons. (03:00)

Business Note/Cell Phone Recycling / Jennifer Chu

(stream / mp3)

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on an international effort to recycle cell phones. (01:20)

Rethinking Timber / Anna Solomon Greenbaum

(stream / mp3)

In the aftermath of widespread fire this past summer, the Bush administration is speeding up, what it calls, necessary tree-cutting and limiting the public's chance to object. Living on Earth’s Anna Solomon Greenbaum reports from our Washington bureau. (05:00)

Stewardship Contracting / Guy Hand

(stream / mp3)

From the forests of North Idaho, producer Guy Hand reports on an experiment that has environmentalists worried. It, too, is aimed at reducing bureaucratic slowdowns and, also, at giving local people more say. (08:00)

Mistletoe Memories / Lee Ann Woods

(stream / mp3)

Commentator Lee Ann Woods remembers the days when she would go out–with her father and a shotgun–to the southern mountains to hunt down misletoe. (02:45)

This week's EarthEar selection
listen / download

Show Credits and Funders

This Week's Music

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodREPORTERS: Robin White, Tamara Keith, Anna Solomon-GreenbaumCOMMENTATOR: Sy Montgomery, Lee Ann WoodsGUESTS: Deb Callahan, Bob ZelnickUPDATES: Jessica Penney, Jennifer Chu

[THEME MUSIC]

CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

Critics say the new White House agenda for our national forests puts profits ahead of environmental protection. But others call the change refreshing.

KLEIN: The previous administration really put an emphasis on ecological values over all others. And what this administration seems to be doing is advocating a shift back to the Congressionally-mandated multiple use sustained yield, where you're going to look at balancing ecological, social, and economic values.

CURWOOD: Also, as former Vice President Al Gore takes himself out of politics, we take a look back at his environmental record. Some say Gore went too far, others say he didn't go far enough. And others say he was just right.

CALLAHAN: He did a very good job. Could more have been done? Absolutely. Could more have been done earlier? Absolutely. Did he do a good job? Absolutely.

CURWOOD: Absolutely Al Gore and more this week on Living on Earth, right after this.

[NPR NEWSCAST]

Back to top

 

No Gore in 2004

[THEME MUSIC]

CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. When former Vice President Al Gore decided against making another run for the presidency, he left the field wide open for other Democratic hopefuls. The Democrats won't pick their nominee until next year, but none of the likely contenders are as closely tied to the environment as Al Gore.

To talk about Mr. Gore's eco-legacy, I'm joined now by Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., and Bob Zelnick, chair of the Journalism Department at Boston University and author of “Al Gore: A Political Life.” Hello to you both.

ZELNICK: Greetings.

CALLAHAN: Hi, how are you?

CURWOOD: Now, we've seen Al Gore pursue a variety of political issues over the years, but when do you think the environment became such a big focus for his career? Let's start with you, Bob Zelnick.

ZELNICK: I think it began to come into focus for him during his Congressional years. He was someone who was instrumental, for example, in the legislation that set up the Superfund clean-up fund.

I think it became more of a passion with him after his unsuccessful 1988 campaign and the serious injury of his son. As you know, that was a period of great introspection in Al Gore's life, and he decided to write a book called “Earth in the Balance” about man's assault on the environment, and some promising remedies that he saw. And, of course, the centerpiece of that was the global warming problem, and he was really the only one speaking about it at the time.

CALLAHAN: I think he actually came to Congress as an environmentalist. I believe those values were shaped early on when he was a part of the Vietnam War generation and the environment was clearly an issue, along with peace, that people in that generation were thinking about. And “Earth in the Balance” was always in his head before the campaign in '88 and during, but I think he realized after that first failed campaign he wanted to say something to the American people. And he realized that what he wanted to say that wasn't being said was about these environmental issues, and he wrote what turned out to be a very important, informative book.

CURWOOD: How well received was this book, Bob Zelnick?

ZELNICK: Well, I think it was well received. It was critically received in some areas, but it was an international bestseller, and it has been through edition after edition. I think as time went on, there was more of a scientific consensus behind the views expressed in “Earth in the Balance,” at least many of them.

I would say though that Gore's political line was not quite as straight and direct as one might suppose. Yes, he did talk about the ozone layer and he did start to talk about global warming during the '88 campaign, but others began to ridicule him and called him "ozone man" and suggested that he had better get on something a bit more mundane if he wanted to succeed. And he started talking about jobs and some populist-type issues in '88, as well as defense. He tried to paint himself as the moderate, pro-defense Democrat, which indeed he was.

And I think we'll get up to the 2000 campaign, but I would think that Gore muted the issue pretty much during the 2000 campaign, despite his having championed the Kyoto Treaty that addressed global warming.



Al Gore on the 2000 presidential campaign trail.


CURWOOD: This agreement, international agreement, which has now been ratified by 100 countries, resonates with Al Gore's own book “Earth in the Balance” which really sounds a clarion call on climate change. And yet some would say that Al Gore did very little for the Kyoto Protocol. It was going down for the count in Kyoto and it's true that he flew out there in 1997. But, in fact, the resolution that pretty much crippled it that went through the Senate, the White House paid no attention to and didn't fight. And indeed, even in the lame duck period of the Clinton administration, when Clinton or Gore could have stood up for Kyoto in The Hague when it was having tremendous difficulties, little was said.

So some would say there was a lot of rhetoric from Vice President Gore about the Kyoto Treaty, but not a lot of action. How fair is that analysis, Deb Callahan?

CALLAHAN: Clearly, it is interesting that global warming, being one of the hallmark issues of Vice President Gore's career, that when he was vice president, and this issue was squarely on the international table, that it wasn't moved forward forcefully by this nation which is by far the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

I think that it could have been different if we had agreed that getting started in these reductions, in hindsight, getting started, and getting some measures on the books in the U.S. and providing some leadership, instead of getting the whole ball of wax, that might have put us in a different place.

But as you said, Steve, the Byrd Amendment that was passed in the Senate that said that we need to have not just the United States reducing, but other third world nations must also reduce. And that sort of politically sort of set up the people who wanted to see the Kyoto Treaty ratified. It put us in a tough place, because you had to argue against something that looked like parody.

ZELNICK: But the vote was clearly an indication that Kyoto, in the form that Gore negotiated it, was not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. I don't think there is any question about that. And why Gore moved ahead with it, number one, I think it was, at least it put something out there that reflected his views and the views of the constituency that he cared about.

And second of all, I think he felt that once it was on the table there, and being adopted by countries, there would be increasing political pressure which he could address during his first presidential term, to perhaps get some trading rights, or whatever it was, that might make it a little bit more palatable, and use his political clout to move ahead in his presidential term.

But I think there was a series of political misjudgments and, obviously, the consequence of it is there is no treaty at all, and no pressure on the current administration to move in that direction.

CURWOOD: I want to play some tape actually from the 1992 campaign when Living on Earth talked to Al Gore when he was running for Vice President. He seemed actually to be pretty optimistic about what could be accomplished environmentally, although he sounded a cautionary note as well. Here is some of the tape we recorded then.

GORE: At the present time, the maximum that is politically feasible still falls short of the minimum that is really effective in reversing this global environmental crisis. But that doesn't mean that one ought to throw up one's hands in despair, but rather, expand the boundaries of what's politically feasible.

CURWOOD: So here we are, Al Gore in 1992. How effective do you think he was at expanding those boundaries, Deb?

CALLAHAN: I think that's an important question, and I think that there were two important audiences in 1992 for Al Gore and the environment and his position as vice president. And the first audience was the public; you know, leading the American public to understand what was possible and what were the threats around the environment, and where can we and should we go.

The second very important audience for Al Gore was the president himself, Bill Clinton. And, in fact, I think Gore very wisely recognized that here was a president who had not been that exposed to the marketplace of environmental ideas. And so I think Al Gore recognized that probably one of the greatest benefits that the environment could derive is if Gore could successfully engage Bill Clinton's very active mind into these issues of the environment.

And interestingly, in the second term of that administration, you could see President Clinton really stepping up and into environmental issues; not only around climate change, but also into these issues of health and safety issues, the air pollution, the public lands, the forests, we see the roadless law and other things. And now that he's out of the presidency, Bill Clinton shows that Al Gore really did succeed in teaching that audience.

CURWOOD: Bob?

ZELNICK: Well, I don't dispute the factual narrative. I might put a slightly different spin. I don't know that Bill Clinton, when he was an innocent babe in the woods during the many years that he served as the governor of Arkansas, I think he sacrificed environmental values in that state to the chicken industry and other important political interests in his state. And I think, to some extent, Gore probably persuaded him of the argument that Deb has made, that you can do some good things for the environment and make it politically palatable, or even advantageous.

CURWOOD: Some would say that Al Gore as vice president didn't do enough in terms of the environment. How fair is it to say that Al Gore really got stymied in terms of the environmental agenda while he was vice president of the United States, that it was pretty much put on hold during his time there?

CALLAHAN: It's a very important question. Did Al Gore do enough? And as I think about how the Clinton/Gore administration worked on the environment, it's interesting that it wasn't all centered around the president. Those actions weren't all centered around the vice president. In fact, there were people throughout the agencies that had strong environmental perspectives, and leadership in the Forest Service, at the Environmental Protection Agency, at the Council of Environmental Quality.

I think what's important is we're stepping back and thinking of the legacy of Al Gore. He really had more influence on creating an awareness of the federal government's role in environmental policy than anyone who has ever gone before him, and I say that including President Nixon, under whom many of our nation's key environmental laws were passed.

So I think he did a very good job. Could more have been done? Absolutely. Could more have been done earlier? Absolutely. Did he do a good job? Absolutely.

CURWOOD: Debra Callahan is president of the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C. Robert Zelnick is author of “Al Gore: A Political Life” and also teaches journalism at Boston University. Thank you both for joining me today.

CALLAHAN: Thanks, Steve.

ZELNICK: Thank you.

[MUSIC: Baden Powell, “Petite Valse” AGELESS GUITAR SOLOS/ULLI (Waters Edge, 1996)]

CURWOOD: You can hear our program any time on our website. The address is www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. And while you're online, send your comments to us at letters@loe.org. Once again, letters@loe.org.

Our postal address is 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138. You can reach our listener line at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. CD's tapes and transcripts are $15.

Back to top

 

Health Note/Music & Exercise

CURWOOD: Just ahead, what it means to be a pagan in the 21st century. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.

[THEME MUSIC]

PENNEY: A new study says music may help people go the extra mile while exercising.
It's known that exercise helps people with lung diseases, like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but working out can be tiring for people with severe respiratory problems. So researchers at Ohio State University tested a way to make exercising easier.

The study involves 24 people split in two groups. Both groups exercised by walking for at least 20 minutes, two to five times a week. Researchers gave one group cassette players and tapes with a mix of classical, country western, Motown, and big band music to listen to while walking. All participants wore electronic pedometers that measured distance. After eight weeks, the people with the music increased the average distance they walked by 43 percent, while members of the other group walked 15 percent less. Overall, the average music listener walked 24 percent further than the average non-listener.

The participants with the cassettes also reported that their breathing improved during normal daily activities. The researchers believe that music may be distracting patients from the discomfort of their illness. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Jessica Penney.

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

[MUSIC: Davy Graham, “Angie” AGELESS GUITAR SOLOS/ULLI (Waters Edge, 1996)]

Back to top

 

Almanac/Polar Night

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Wimme, “Boiling Spring”, WIMME (Rockadillo, 1995)]

CURWOOD: With the winter solstice upon us, you may start feeling sorry for folks who live above the Arctic Circle. In the far north, people encounter the true polar night, which is a 24 hour period of no sun, to experience this deepest winter darkness at about 400 miles above the Arctic Circle on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.

But communities above the Arctic Circle still do get a bit of winter sun. Even when there is no direct sunlight, the atmosphere bounces the sun's rays around the curve of the earth. This reflected light creates a surprisingly bright polar twilight, enough to read by for at least a couple of hours each night.

And if you head north this time of year, don't be surprised to find yourself yearning for the sun. Some people can't sleep without the sun setting their internal clocks while others start to hibernate.

Thoroughly modern folks at the high latitudes have found a way around this problem. Many turn on daylight spectrum lamps for a daily dose of sunshine. Of course, there is another more pricey cure for the seasonally affected: hop a plane to the tropics.

And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC FADES]

Back to top

 

Neo-Pagans

CURWOOD: The winter solstice is indeed here. Since the misty times before written records, people have celebrated the turning of the seasons. Even the Christmas tradition of decorating with lights and greenery comes from the older Pagan holiday of the winter solstice.

These days, modern Pagans and witches greet the solstice with chants and invocations, and they link their worship of the earth with environmental activism. But some critics say neo-Paganism is a modern fiction, and today's winter solstice rituals have nothing to do with how Pagans celebrated in the past. Robin White has our story.

[SOUND OF DISTANT CARS]

WHITE: These days, the towering monument at Stonehenge in the south of England is skirted by a road, and tourists are kept at a distance. But Brian Davison was the inspector of Stonehenge for ten years, and offered a rare chance to walk between the stones and feel their ancient power. He describes what it's like to watch the sun rise on the winter solstice.



Photo courtesy of www.christiaan.com


DAVISON: If you stand in the middle of Stonehenge, you gradually see stones materialize out of the night. Your brain tells you it's the spaces between the stones are getting lighter. What it looks like is that the night is getting darker; that the stones are solidifying out of the night.

WHITE: The people who built Stonehenge didn't leave a guidebook about how they used the site, but Davison says there is no doubt the stone circle was built to face the sun on the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice was central to the farming society around the great monument.

DAVISON: In the middle of winter, it's getting a bit grim; the nights are getting longer, the days are getting shorter. Are you going to go into everlasting night? And there comes a point when the relentless march of the sunrise and the sunset stops, and you know it's all right. There will be a spring.

WHITE: Flash to the middle of a San Francisco winter four and a half thousand years later, and half a world away. Starhawk, a Pagan author and self-described witch is not so much worried about whether the spring and harvest will come again, but she is out in her garden, which is full of fallen leaves and the decay of winter, and she's getting excited over a brew of worm tea, a mix of water and wormcasting she gives to her plants.

STARHAWK: And they love it. They just perk right up. If you're listening you hear "Oh great, give me some more of that" you know?

[SOUND OF RUSTLING LEAVES]

WHITE: Listening to the natural world is a habit for Starhawk and central to her religion. She helped found the modern Pagan movement with her 1979 book “The Spiral Dance” which made links to ancient earth-based religions. Most Pagans today are, in fact, environmentalists.

STARHAWK: For Pagans, the earth is a living being, and all of the plants, all the animals, are recognized as being conscious and communicating with us. And what they're saying is "Help! We're under assault."

WHITE: Starhawk has joined environmentalists at protests such as the ones at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and the Free Trade Meeting in Quebec. But at demonstrations, she doesn't hold placards, she holds rituals. Rituals are the center of neo-Pagan worship and some of the biggest still happen on the winter solstice. The neo-Pagans believe in a female earth-goddess and a male god, sometimes called “the Green Man.” In San Francisco, one group of Pagans celebrates the solstice on the beach.

[SOUND OF DISTANT WAVES]

DAVIS: I invoke the Green Man, the god of rot; the god who makes green things grow from everything that has died and decayed.

WHITE: Pagan Jack Davis demonstrates the invocations used at the beginning of the winter solstice ritual. There is an element of theater and improvised poetry in the language in Davis' movements. He says the Pagans usually strip off their clothes and race into the ocean for a purifying splash.

DAVIS: At least for me, for Paganism, it is what of this makes sense to me. You know, at some level we make up religion. There is a need for it and we make it up.

WHITE: But this "making it up" has got Pagans into trouble with some academics and historians.

ALLEN: It's sort of like having your own costume party, in a way.

WHITE: Catholic writer Charlotte Allen.

ALLEN: You can get dressed up in medieval costumes. It's like having a renaissance fair right in your own home. And if you look at the pictures of those ceremonies, you see everybody is dressed up in some kind of long dress, and guys wearing wizard hats, and things like that.

WHITE: Allen published an article in The Atlantic Monthly debunking neo-Paganism as a concoction from the 1950's. She takes issue with the Pagans’ claims that there is an unbroken link between their religion and the Pagan practices which existed before Christianity.

ALLEN: The whole notion of there being a kind of a holdover religion that dates back to the Stone Age, it just is not substantiated.

WHITE: Rather than being pre-Christian, Allen thinks Pagan rituals take some of the customs cast off by the Christian Church. Pagans are fond of altars, chalices, candles and old language-- things that Allen says some Christian churches have given up.

In later editions of “The Spiral Dance” Starhawk has backpedaled claims that neo-Paganism is directly descended from ancient religions. But she says it's the essence of the religion that's important.

STARHAWK: There is just no question about the fact that people all over the world have always had some kind of spirituality rooted in the land that they come from. And those things don't just die away. They transform into something else. But if you dig deeper, it's about these forces that are very old and very universal.

[SOUND OF BELL TOLLING]

WHITE: Back in England again at the University of Bristol, Pagan historian Ronald Hutton says the world itself has changed and it's not surprising that Paganism is different.

HUTTON: The great difference between ancient and modern Paganism is that ancient Paganism is in a world which was dominated by natural forces, so you're forever worrying about bad weather, epidemics, floods, droughts, natural disasters.

WHITE: Now, he says, the natural world could be overwhelmed by human forces. Drawing on the early Christian record, Hutton says the ancient Pagan solstice celebration would be familiar to us. They ate a big meal, they gave gifts, and shared with the poor, and they burned fires for light and warmth. The winter solstice was about making up for absences in the world around and Hutton says today's Pagans, by embracing ecology and inventing magical rituals, are doing much the same thing. For Living on Earth, I'm Robin White.

Back to top

 

In Search of Hairy Spiders

CURWOOD: Spending a night looking for a tarantula may seem more like a Halloween activity than a Christmas one. But Living on Earth commentator Sy Montgomery is just back from the rainforest of French Guyana in South America. There, she found tarantula hunting to be an apt way to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.

MONTGOMERY: We had located the burrow: a distinctive, two-inch wide silk-lined funnel leading deep into the red rainforest soil. Such is the daytime retreat of Ephibophus murinus, the skeleton tarantula.

The lure of big hairy spiders brought me to this tropical paradise. I had just spent a week bush-bashing in the rainforest with arachnologist Sam Marshall. We had already met several tarantula species, including the Goliath bird-eater, the largest tarantula in the world. Scientists doubt that it actually consumes birds, but with its legs outstretched, it's big enough to cover your face.

We had actually handled the pinktoe tarantula, a gentle, fuzzy black spider with, yes, a dash of pink at the end of her legs. She had paced over our palms without incident. But now, on our last day in the rainforest, we hoped to see what is doubtless among the hundreds of tarantula species one of the most spectacular: the skeleton tarantula, so-named for the stunning yellow stripes on its hairy purple-black legs.



Photo Courtesy of Dr. Samuel Marshall


We marked the burrow with orange surveyor's tape so we can find it later that night. For only at night do these spiders emerge, hunting under cover of darkness.

It's a fine thing to enter a rainforest at night. Here, the darkness is warm and heavy as velvet. We're surrounded with the breath of the forest, the pulse of insects, the honk and chime of frog songs. We thread through the jungle paths and finally, we see the orange tape. And there, illuminated in the beam of our headlamps, is the skeleton tarantula. About the size of a child's hand, she sits on her throne of silk--immobile but very alert, just outside the mouth of her burrow.

It would be difficult to imagine a creature more alien. Like all spiders, she smells with her feet. She tastes with the hairs on her legs. Her skeleton is on the outside. Her blood is not red but clear. Her stomach is in her head and she digests her food before swallowing it. And yet, this creature lives on our planet.

Meeting her here in the darkness of the rainforest isn't at all frightening. Instead, it is humbling. She's magnificent. The yellow stripe on each of her eight legs reminds me of the tail of a comet. She's a starburst from the heavens, a star fallen to earth.

In an instant, she senses our movements, feeling us through subtle vibrations in the ground. With that, she disappears down into her burrow.

Oh, I say to my companion, it feels like Christmas. And why? At this time of year, we Christians rejoice that God came to us in human form. But here is God too, now, on earth among us. God comes to us here again and again, in the living forms and shapes of creatures so beautiful, so bizarre, so unlikely that, like the first Christmas, we are stunned by the unexpectedness of the blessing.

CURWOOD: Commentator Sy Montgomery is author of “Search for the Golden Moon Bear: Science and Adventure in Pursuit of a New Species.”

[THEME MUSIC]

Back to top

 

Letters

CURWOOD: Time now to hear from you, our listeners. WTSU listener Joe Scanlan from Montgomery, Alabama, applauded Clay Scott's reporting on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers.

"Thanks so much for your piece on the continuing struggle between the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the rivers that run through our states" wrote Dr. Scanlan. "Anyone with common sense can see that there is not enough water to supply the continuing explosion of population in the Atlanta region. If something isn't done immediately, our biggest concern will be the continuing shipment of water, not oil."

Our story about the music inspired by the life and words of Koko the gorilla who uses sign language intrigued many listeners. Joel Anderson, who hears us on WVGR in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says he found the interview superb. "This kind of story is all the reason I need to listen to public radio,” he writes. "It's entertainment and education that simply can't be heard anywhere else."

WKSU listener and outdoor sports enthusiast Don May from Copley, Ohio, was excited about our stories on LED technology. "I'm an avid caver, scuba diver, camper and biker," Mr. May writes. "LEDs help solve the battery drain/size/weight problems a lot of us have been having over the years."

And finally, this note on LEDs from Ron Zorger of Akron, Ohio. "I just bought some beautiful blue faceted globe-shaped LED Christmas lights at our local craft store," he writes. "They're more energy efficient and last longer than regular bulbs. They're cool to the touch, and non-breakable, which makes them safer for pets and children and accident-prone adults too."

Your comments help brighten our program. Call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Our email address is letters@loe.org, once again, letters@loe.org. And visit our web page at loe.org, that's loe.org.

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

Back to top

 

Factory Farm Rules

CURWOOD: In a decision long-awaited by the livestock industry and people who live around so-called “factory farms,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules covering huge hog, chicken and dairy cow operations. But critics say the regulations don't go far enough to keep manure out of fresh water supplies. From member station KQED Tamara Keith reports.

KEITH: The nation's livestock operations produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure every day, most of it in massive factory-style operations where animals are housed by the thousands. Much of this manure is stored in large pools known as lagoons, but nutrients and pathogens often escape into the environment. The EPA's assistant administrator for water, G. Tracy Mehan, says the new rule is intended to keep livestock waste out of the nation's waterways.

MEHAN: We expect to see substantial reductions in phosphorous and nitrogen in sediments and pathogens, even some benefits to air pollution, just by change in practices.

KEITH: Under the plan, some 15,000 large-scale livestock operations will have to apply for permits and develop plans for handling manure and waste water.

[SOUND OF COW MOOING]

KEITH: Central California dairy farmer Rodney Kamper washes down about 200 of his cows before they're milked. This water mixed with manure will soon find its way into Kamper's football-field sized lagoon system. Kamper will have to apply for a permit under the new EPA rule, but he doesn't mind much.

KAMPER: We're not out here intentionally trying to do anything wrong. We're trying to be good stewards of the operation of our land, and we are doing as many things right as we can. And if little problems arise sometimes, we want to fix them.

KEITH: But this rule doesn't fix the problem, says Melanie Shepherdson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

SHEPHERDSON: Instead of setting minimum enforceable standards, EPA created a self-permitting scheme that essentially shields polluters from liability, and keeps what they're doing out of the public eye. It's really a disaster for public health and for the environment.

KEITH: Commercial fisherman turned environmental activist, Rick Dove, says that in eastern North Carolina where he lives, large factory-style hog farms are polluting horribly despite a state program that is already more strict than the new federal rule.

DOVE: I've got over 20,000 photographs and hours of digital video that show under these waste management plans, this waste being discharged directly to streams, rivers, creeks and wetlands. And when nature brings storms on through here, the whole thing breaks loose.

KEITH: Dove says that over the years he's seen millions of fish killed in local rivers and streams. He predicts increasing pollution, and a growing grassroots movement will eventually force more dramatic change.

For Living on Earth, I'm Tamara Keith in Fresno, California.

Back to top

 

Business Note/Cell Phone Recycling

CURWOOD: Just ahead, rethinking how the federal government manages our forests. First, this Environmental Business Note from Jennifer Chu.

[THEME MUSIC]

CHU: Ten major cell phone manufacturers have taken the first step towards establishing the first global cell phone recycling system. Nokia, Sony-Eriksson and Motorola are among the companies that recently signed an agreement to explore more environmentally sound management of old and obsolete phones. The initiative is part of an international treaty to handle the disposal of hazardous waste.

Platinum, silver, cadmium and mercury are just some of the materials found in an average cell phone. Individual nations have set up recycling programs to retrieve these metals in phones for later use. And several manufacturers already recycle old phones by reselling them at a lower price to consumers in developing countries.

Other companies, like Motorola, are improving the design of their phones to have less of an environmental impact, making newer models lighter by using less metal.

According to the independent research firm, Inform, Incorporated, an average cell phone, including handset, batteries and adapter, would create one pound of waste. In the U.S. alone, the organization estimates that 130 million cell phones will be retired each year. This could add 65,000 tons to the waste stream by 2005. That's this week's Business Note. I'm Jennifer Chu.

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

[MUSIC: Booker T & the MG’s, “Groovin” UNKNOWN (Stax Records)]

Back to top

 

Rethinking Timber

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

Major changes are underway at the U.S. Forest Service. Since the end of a summer that left six million acres blackened by wildfire, barely a week has passed without announcement of a new order, or a policy from the Bush administration. The proposals include tree thinning and timber cutting with far less environmental review.

The White House also wants greater authority for on the ground foresters, and officials are rethinking forest plans in the northwest and Sierra Nevada, with an eye towards more timber output. From Washington, Living on Earth's Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Mark Rey oversees the Forest Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a long-time timber industry lobbyist, Rey knows the forests: where the roads are, what's for sale, which areas are being considered for wilderness. He says their current condition is disastrous.

REY: We have forests now that are dramatically thicker with trees than what was the historic ecological norm. Stands which had a couple hundred trees per acre now have a couple thousand trees per acre.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Rey estimates almost 200 million acres of federal land are at high risk of fire due to overcrowding. Part of the solution, he says, is thinning small trees and brush, and to do that quickly, he wants to get rid of some of the environmental red tape that now confronts land managers and timber companies.

REY: The tragedy that we're facing right now is that we are applying well-intentioned environmental analysis requirements that take a good deal of time to execute, in a situation where the need to act on the ground is itself a compelling environmental initiative.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: To get things moving faster, the White House is proposing all fire-related work, from thinning to reseeding, proceed without environmental assessment or public comment. Citizen's objections would be subject to tougher guidelines. This is crucial, says Rey, because until now, environmentalists have been able to hamstring project after project with appeals. Mike Francis of the Wilderness Society says often they have no alternative.

FRANCIS: Just because they're trying to create this hysteria and this myth that the courts are somehow bad, and that people's ideas are somehow bad, doesn't mean that you don't use, in a democracy. The provisions that are given to us by the Constitution that allow us to challenge government action. Government in this country doesn't operate by fiat.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Francis says the administration's wildfire plan is just one sign that it wants to eliminate the public from the public lands. Recent proposals have come so fast, environmentalists have been able to do little but issue frantic press releases. One proposal would require review and public comments only on specific projects, not on forest-wide plans. Mike Francis argues the whole point of those plans is so people can see the big picture.

FRANCIS: If the Forest Service says, "We are going to protect five million acres of roadless area that now still exists. We're going to try to have this many board feet of timber coming off the forest," that sets the perimeters for what happens. And what that does is give you and me, as a citizen, an idea of looking at the forest and saying, "Okay, I know what they're going to do," then we'd pay attention.

But if Mike Francis says the government should listen to the will of the people, Michael Klein of the American Forest and Paper Association asks which people? Klein says the Bush administration is trying to give voice to the folks who live in and around the national forests. Contrary, he says, to what happened under the former Clinton administration.

KLEIN: You had local land managers, local knowledge, and local decisions being excluded to the benefit of national environmental activism groups based in New York or San Francisco who could completely overrun the local communities.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Klein admits it's not only local people who will benefit. The new forest planning regulations are exactly what his clients in the timber and paper companies have been asking for.

KLEIN: The previous administration really put an emphasis on ecological values over all others. And what this administration seems to be doing is advocating a shift back to the Congressionally-mandated multiple-use sustained yield, where you're going to look at balancing ecological, social and economic values.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: That balance, says Klein, is what Teddy Roosevelt wanted when he created the Forest Service almost a century ago. Mike Francis of the Wilderness Society also recalls the late president. But when he looks back, he sees Roosevelt trying to tame the great timber barons of that era.

Environmental groups are calling on their members to send letters of protest over the recent proposals from the White House. Mark Rey at USDA says he will read the comments, but this isn't a plebiscite and he won't be counting votes.

For Living on Earth, I'm Anna Solomon-Greenbaum in Washington.

Back to top

 

Stewardship Contracting

CURWOOD: There is one program the Forest Service wants to expand. It's an experiment that fits well with the Bush administration's determination to speed up logging in the national forests. It's called “stewardship contracting” and it's just now being tested at 84 sites around the country.

Producer Guy Hand visited one effort in north Idaho that could become a model for future forest management.

[SOUND OF MACHINERY]

SAVIDGE: This is a Scandinavian harvester.

HAND: Craig Savidge is proud of the sophisticated equipment he and his group of local volunteers are using in this dense conifer forest near Priest Lake, Idaho.

SAVIDGE: This machine will go up to the tree, it will saw the tree, it will drop the tree on its side--



(Photo: Guy Hand)


HAND: But he's happier still after a life in logging, to be trying a new kind of forestry. Rather than performing a single short-term project, Craig and his crew have won a stewardship contract. It gives them a whole package of responsibilities, stretching out over a seven-year period. The group is thinning fire prone stands, removing weeds, old roads, and more. In addition, the Forest Service is giving the crew more flexibility, right down to letting loggers choose which trees to cut.

SAVIDGE: I convinced the Forest Service that these were trained operators. They do this every day, they've worked for us for years doing this work.

[SOUND OF MACHINERY]

HAND: In the past, Craig's contracts have called for things that just didn't make sense. He has been instructed to plant seeds one day, then tear up the same ground with logging equipment the next.

SAVIDGE: I have practiced timber sales with industry for a lot of years and we used to do things that both the contracting officer and I knew were ludicrous. But unfortunately, that's what was in the contract and we had to do it. And under this contract, it's not what's in the contract so much, but what the end result is of your activity.

HAND: That end result is decided beforehand by each individual stewardship project. Here in north Idaho, thinning flammable forest and overgrown brush near communities is a primary goal. Even though that does mean cutting trees, the group says selling timber isn't their main objective.

SAVIDGE: The trees that we cut down are a byproduct of the restoration work we're doing. And because they have value, they cover costs over and beyond their own removal, but the removal of the hawkweed and the slash of field reduction work. [SOUND OF MACHINERY] It's just a blessing that by improving this, that we end up with cash to do these other things.

HAND: But the profit margins are slim in restoration work, so the Forest Service must sweeten the pot with larger, more marketable trees. They call it "goods for services" and conservationists aren't at all happy with that aspect of stewardship contracting. They believe connecting trees so closely to paychecks is a recipe for abuse. But the Forest Service says this is one of the few ways the agency can fund environmental improvements on public lands.



The Stewardship crew: Craig Savidge, Liz Johnson Gebhardt,
Mat Butler and Norgy Asleson.
(Photo: Guy Hand)


ASLESON: From the Forest Service's perspective, I view this as a new way of doing business.

HAND: Norgy Asleson, the Forest Service's project leader for this stewardship program, says the project can improve not only the environment, but his agency's relationship to the community.

ASLESON: The success of this project is really the level of public collaboration where the Forest Service is much more a part of the community and the community is much more a part of the Forest Service.

HAND: Community collaboration is encouraged in stewardship contracting, but it isn't ensured. In fact, most projects have been awarded to timber companies rather than communities. But the Priest Lake group believes local involvement is their strength. Novelist Liz Johnson Gebhardt is one of the group's volunteers.

GEBHARDT: The Forest Service is giving the communities that actually surround all these lands the opportunity to come in, and we talk, and we talk openly. This would never have happened before. They would never have even listened to us. The listening factor has been huge.

HAND: All this fresh communication has raised the area's awareness of environmental issues, and in so doing, blurred the line between tree hugger and timber beast.

SPRENGEL: For years, I've probably battled this community and probably they would have loved to see me hanging from the nearest lamppost.

HAND: Even environmentalists like Mark Sprengel of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance admits this experiment has brought some positive results.

SPRENGEL: I think one of the biggest surprises is to hear people that I had opposed for years suddenly starting to say some of the right things, acknowledging that past practices have been incredibly destructive and things had to change, and at the same time, wanting to be part of correcting the damages. I find that enormously encouraging.

HAND: But Mark also has concerns about giving locals more control of our national forests. So does Mike Petersen, director of the Lands Council, another conservation group.

PETERSEN: Let's look at the history of that local perspective. If they had been real stewards of the land, then why are the places so trashed? Why have we seen community after community surrounded by clearcuts? Unless they've all had this epiphany and they've changed their ways, they would be the last people I would trust with my public lands.

HAND: National environmental organizations point to several stewardship programs that seem to show little interest in stewardship. One project, also in Idaho, proposes to remove 70 percent of the forest canopy on its allotted land. Others plan to log deep into roadless areas. One is rumored to have been taken over by a right-wing militia group who says consensus smacks of communism.

[SOUND OF MANY VOICES AND CLINKING GLASSES]

HAND: Some environmentalists think the problem goes way beyond the issue of local control. Gary Macfarlane is watch director for the conservation group Friends of the Clearwater.

MACFARLANE: These are just some subtle ways that the so-called free marketeers of the world are trying to get the public lands out of the hands of the public and into private ownership.

HAND: Gary is volunteering today, too, not on the stewardship pilot, but at a Moscow, Idaho food co-op. He thinks the Bush administration is using stewardship contracting as just another way to dodge forest management safeguards.



(Photo: Guy Hand)


MACFARLANE: It's trying to get around perhaps the best public involvement process that this nation has, that's the National Environmental Policy Act. The National Environmental Policy Act allows anyone, any citizen of this country, to participate in that process.

HAND: Conservatives have also tried to remove the monitoring aspect of the stewardship program, a safeguard environmentalists say helps keep a project honest.

[MACHINERY SOUND]

HAND: All of this worries Priest Lake Stewardship volunteer Craig Savidge, a Republican himself.

SAVIDGE: I think it's throwing gas on the fire. Well, it's going to inflame the environmental community. When you tell them we're going to exempt public input from the appeals process, you've pushed them in a corner. They can go nowhere but against you.

HAND: And that could jeopardize the stewardship contracting program and Craig's attempt to prove that locals have something important to offer our national forests.

SAVIDGE: The difference is we live here. This is where we want to live. This is where we want to raise our families. What I'm saying is this is our backyard, we're going to treat it special.

HAND: Yet this notion of backyard is a complex one. Those who live in cities far from ponderosa pine and postcard horizons like to think of national forests as their backyard too. But distance can make a difference and those who live a few footsteps from badger dens and mountain meadows say they have a kind of knowledge we should listen to. They say stewardship contracting gives them a voice. But others say that when money and jobs are involved, locals are no better than anyone else at seeing the forest for the trees.

For Living on Earth, I'm Guy Hand.

Back to top

 

Mistletoe Memories

CURWOOD: Every year about this time, some folks head to the woods to harvest mistletoe from the treetops to decorate their homes for the holidays. But this year, commentator Lee Ann Woods is settling for an artificial version.

WOODS: I am about to hang some sad looking mistletoe in my house. It came in a cellophane package from a super store, and looks to have been dipped in bright green wax. And as if that wasn't enough, somebody or some factory had attached white plastic berries to it.

You're probably wondering why, if it looks so sad, I bought it in the first place. Truth is, I am desperate. Not desperate for a kiss, mind you. I need mistletoe because of the warm memories I have of hiking through the crisp December woods of the southern mountains to harvest it during the holiday season.

Mistletoe is a parasite that grows in the highest treetops. When my siblings and I were old enough, Papa taught us how to shoot his shotgun and a couple of weeks before Christmas, he'd take us mistletoe hunting. For mistletoe, I gladly toted a gun into the woods and sustained shoulder bruises from the kickback.



This year, Lee Ann Woods bought her misletoe from a store
rather than shooting it down from the treetops.


When harvesting mistletoe, the object is to aim so that you shoot a main stem, then you get a nice big bunch of the stuff. Papa could do this. Not me. Though I target practiced in the yard, about the best I ever did with mistletoe was to shoot bunches smack in the middle and watch tiny individual leaves float to the forest floor.

Even so, I proudly gathered the fallen mistletoe leaves into baggies, tied on red ribbons, and hung the little sacks throughout the house. It is to my mom's credit that she allowed me to do this because she was fastidious about her Christmas decorations, and I am sure that baggies of blasted green bits didn't exactly add elegance to the decor, or encourage lovers to linger.

I do not have bits of mistletoe that I shot out of a tree hanging in my house this year. But I can still spot mistletoe, whether on a backcountry road or driving down the interstate. And those round green bunches high in the trees call me back to a time when I could trot into the woods and gather a symbol of the holidays.

In trying to be true to a fond memory, but lacking the devices to get the real thing, I settled for a store bought version. This year's mistletoe may be waxy and plasticy, and a fake color of green, but it will help me recall those days in the December woods with my sisters and brother and Papa. It was not so much our bounty as it was our time spent together in the woods that brought much of the spirit of the season into our home.

[MUSIC: Kelly Joe Phelps, “Someone to Save Me” LEAD ME ON (Burnside, 1994)]

CURWOOD: Lee Ann Woods is author of “Up This Hill and Down: Thoughts on Life from the Southern Appalachians.” She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Back to top

 

And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Next week, going home again is the theme of this year's annual storytelling special with three unique homecoming tales from Rome, Boston and rural Louisiana.

FEMALE: It was always the same, just as I remembered it. I mean, everywhere you looked there was something green growing, and it smelled different, too. And when we finally turned the corner on Peabody Street going to my grandfather's house, everybody would start waving and yelling "Hey, glad to see you again. Oh, you back home, huh? How long you going to stay this time?"

CURWOOD: It's our annual storytelling special, next week on Living on Earth.

And remember that between now and then you can hear us any time and get the stories behind the news by going to loe.org. That's loe.org.

[SOUNDS OF CALLING BIRDS]

CURWOOD: We leave you this week with the Carolina Chorus. Lang Elliot and Ted Mack set themselves up at dawn in a shrub swamp in the Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina and recorded these solos of morning doves and gray catbirds. Carolina wren and a northern cardinal provide the back-up vocals.

[MUSIC: Earth Ear/Lang Elliot/Ted Mack, “Carolina Chorus” SONGBIRD PORTRAITS (Naturesound, 1999)]

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. You can find us at www.loe.org. Our staff includes Cynthia Graber, Maggie Villiger, along with Al Avery, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Liz Lempert. Special thanks to Ernie Silver.

And we bid a farewell, with many thanks, to Andrew Strickler and Nicole Giese, our interns who are leaving us this week. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental Sound Art courtesy of EarthEar.

Our technical director is Chris Engles. Ingrid Lobet heads our western bureau. 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 1: 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 Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporting the Living on Earth network, Living on Earth's expanded Internet service, the Ford Foundation for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, supporting efforts to sustain human well-being through biological diversity, and the Oak Foundation, supporting coverage of marine issues.

ANNOUNCER 2: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

 

This Week's Music







 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.