• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

August 6, 2004

Air Date: August 6, 2004

FULL SHOW

(stream/download) as an MP3 file

SEGMENTS

California Government Overhaul / Ingrid Lobet

(stream / mp3)

When a team convened by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger went hunting for ways to cut government and pull the state out of its crushing debt, they suggested dissolving the legendary Air Resources Board. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports. (04:00)

Ford Boycott

(stream / mp3)

If you happened to page through the New York Times lately, you might have noticed a full-page ad asking consumers to boycott Ford vehicles. Environmental groups led by the Bluewater Network placed the ad in response to what they see as Ford’s lax efforts to better its fuel economy. Host Steve Curwood talks with Bluewater’s director Russell Long about the extent of the ad campaign’s success. (06:00)

Advocate Ads / Joe Therrien

(stream / mp3)

Non-profit advocacy groups haven’t always been able to reserve full-page advertising to promote their messages. Rates have traditionally been too high for start-ups and non-profits to afford. But Joe Therrien says major newspapers like the New York Times are starting to offer special rates for non-profits that may change the face of advertising. (02:30)

Toxic Trailway / Guy Hand

(stream / mp3)

Producer Guy Hand rides a new bike trail through the famously polluted former mining regions of North Idaho. The trail is a recreational Superfund site, designed by the EPA. (16:00)

Health Note/Location, Location / Jennifer Chu

(stream / mp3)

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that links community design to your risk of obesity. (01:20)

Listener Letters

(stream / mp3)

Comments from our listeners on some of our recent broadcasts. (02:30)

Have No Fear

(stream / mp3)

Thirty years ago, Frances Moore Lappe proposed a diet for the planet that made her an international food expert. She blamed the world’s food shortages not on a scarcity of food, but a scarcity of democracy. Her new book identifies fear as the underlying cause of most of today’s environmental problems. She and Jeffrey Perkins talk with host Steve Curwood about their new project, “You have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” (12:30)

This week's EarthEar selection
listen / download

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodGUESTS: Russell Long, Frances Moore Lappe, Jeffrey Perkins, Joe ThferrienREPORTERS: Guy Hand, Ingrid LobetNOTE: Jennifer Chu

[THEME MUSIC]

CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living On Earth.

[THEME MUSIC]

CURWOOD: I’m Steve Curwood. In northern Idaho the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to make the best of a bad situation. The EPA has poured asphalt over an old mining rail line to make one of the longest bike trails in the nation - and some folks are pleased with the results.

MALE: We've been on rail trails all over the country and this is the best rail trail I've ever been on.

CURWOOD: But others say the government has just paved over the problem and they don’t think attracting tourists to an environmental hazard is such a good idea.

TONI HARDY: It's beautiful, but it's contaminated and this is a Superfund; it's not a recreational trail.

CURWOOD: Turning poisoned land into a playground. Also, the independent agency that regulates air pollution in California and sets trends for the nation is now in the crosshairs of the Schwarzenegger administration. Those stories and more, this week on Living on Earth. Stick around.

[NPR NEWSCAST]

ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.

Back to top

 

California Government Overhaul

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

(Photo: State of California)

As California trudged forward under the weight of its record-setting debt, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger deputized a group of state employees to hold a magnifying glass to the expense sheet of state government.

Now their examination is done and they claim the nation's most populous and indebted state could save an average of $6 billion a year over the next five years by eliminating or consolidating many state agencies.

But as Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports, one recommendation may come as a shock to clean air advocates around the nation.

LOBET: The budget review culminated in a giant warehouse chosen for its symbolic value: a place where the state currently spends, or wastes, some $94,000 a month storing old furniture and computers. Amid fanfare, the reviewers presented their six-inch sheaf of cost-cutting recommendations.

MALE: Governor (CLAPPING) this is volume one (CLAPPING) and this is volume two.

(WILD CLAPPING AND CHEERING)

LOBET: Many Californians, including environmentalists, agree the state could well stand to reduce agency overlap and eliminate unnecessary boards. But most were surprised to see the California Air Resources Board proposed for elimination. Tim Carmichael is executive director of the Coalition for Clean Air.

CARMICHAEL: The suggestion that we would eliminate one of the most effective agencies in the world, not just the state, but in the world, at reducing air pollution is really curious.

LOBET: The California Air Resources Board is credited with pushing for new, clean technology that then becomes the standard across the country -- cleaner gasoline, cleaner boat engines, lawnmowers, paints. The results are measured in tons of pollutants kept out of the air.

Several people I spoke with think the budget reviewers swept the Air Resources Board into their broader recommendations to eliminate 118 boards and commissions, which can be quite costly to run. But some people, like Gail Ruderman Feuer of the Natural Resources Defense Council, think this is not simply a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

FEUER: I assume industry had a direct hand in it and it was very purposeful, but I don't know specifically who would speak with whom. Clearly the auto industry would be thrilled with this recommendation

LOBET: Or maybe not. One industry source wasn't so sure that dissolving the Air Resources Board would mean an improvement -- there would still be an air pollution division but it would be under the state's environment chief, Terry Tamminen. And could the proposed elimination of the Air agency be an attempt to kill its new effort to regulate carbon dioxide in tailpipe exhaust? No way, says Tamminen. The governor's committed to it.

TAMMINEN: He said in the Los Angeles Times and other places that he fully supports California's landmark greenhouse gas law and intends to defend it from the anticipated court challenges along the way, those are literally his words.

LOBET: Tamminen says any department reorganization might yield greater scrutiny of industry. And he rejects the refrain that environmental regulation means a steady loss of business in California. He cites the example of a new Fox animation studio that would have brought lots of new jobs.

TAMMINEN: But they ultimately chose to build it in Arizona and the top two reasons that they cited was not the cost of doing business or environmental regulation, it was rather the lack of it – it was traffic and air pollution. They didn't want to raise their families in the community as they found it in southern California.

LOBET: The recommendations of the budget reviewers are in any case very preliminary. They will have to pass through many screens, a special panel, public hearings, the governor, and then the legislature. And if he doesn't find success there, Arnold Schwarzenegger may try to bring the overhaul, in some form, directly to the voters.

For Living On Earth, I'm Ingrid Lobet in Los Angeles.

Back to top

 

Ford Boycott

CURWOOD: Joining me now is a man who has helped craft and push through new air pollution laws in California, Russell Long. He’s director of the Bluewater Network in San Francisco, and his group has been heavily involved in efforts to reduce emissions from ships and increase fuel efficiency in the auto industry.

His latest project takes aim at the Ford Motor Company in the form of a full-page ad that appeared recently in the New York Times. The ad lists what the group considers Ford’s failings towards the environment, and goes so far as to ask people to boycott Ford vehicles. Russell Long, welcome.

LONG: Thank you very much.

CURWOOD: Could you describe this ad for us as it appears in the New York Times?

LONG: Well, the first ad we ran depicts Bill Ford with an extended Pinocchio nose. And it goes on to mention that Mr. Ford has made various pledges to protect the environment, including the pledge on increasing fuel mileage 25 percent, and in year 2003 he reneged on that. And we subsequently ran another ad recently which actually shows the fuel mileage of the top three auto manufacturers in the U.S. – Ford, GM, and Toyota – and Ford is at the bottom and getting worse. And it’s been continuing to get worse for the past four years, ever since Bill Ford took over the company. And at the very bottom of the ad, of course, we have coupons to cut out that readers can send to us. We forward those to Mr. Ford, that state, “I pledge not to buy a Ford until you clean up your cars and you go to Congress and ask them to voluntarily increase the nation’s auto mileage efficiency. Until then the planet can’t afford a Ford.”

CURWOOD: Now, what kind of response did you get from Bill Ford, the CEO of Ford Motor? It seems that there’s a fine line between a group’s right to speak and questions of slandering or defaming him or holding him up to public ridicule. What kind of legal action has there been in response to these ads?

LONG: Well, they sent us a cease-and-desist letter from their attorneys, and we had to meet with our own attorneys to find out whether or not we’d violated the law. And our attorneys said no. Other than one extremely minor copy edit in our ad, they thought we were just fine. And so we let Ford know that we were happy to make the minor copy edit change. But, you know, unfortunately I think this is not the way you do business today. I think Ford has invested too heavily in attorneys rather than going out there and just getting the engineers to do the job right in the first place.

CURWOOD: I notice there’s no Pinocchio depiction in your recent ad – how much is that a function of the request, the letter from Ford, asking for a cease-and-desist in using that kind of imagery?

LONG: Well, it has more to do with the New York Times, unfortunately. They received some phone calls, apparently, from Bill Ford’s office, and there was a great deal of gnashing of teeth. And the New York Times decided they didn’t want to run that Pinocchio ad anymore. They’re okay with caricatures but they felt this one went a little farther than they liked. As far as the new ad, you know, we were not going to continue to run the Pinocchio nose anyway. I think the important thing here is the American public needs to understand this company is not a leader, they are a follower. And they are the worst of the bunch when it comes to fuel mileage.

CURWOOD: We have tried to be in touch with the Ford Motor Company about your advertisements, and they have declined to sit for an interview with us. But we should point out in Ford’s favor that they have taken some green initiatives. And they are building a hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape, which on its own gets pretty good mileage. Shouldn’t Ford get some kind of credit for taking these efforts to move forward?

LONG: I think they’ve done a great job with that vehicle – I think it will be getting 30, 35 miles a gallon, and that’s a big improvement over what we see with typical SUVs. But the problem is it’s not going to do anything on a large scale to decrease their emissions or to increase their fuel mileage averages. And until we see that hybrid technology in every single vehicle which they are building, it’s really not going to do a tremendous amount.

CURWOOD: What kind of response have you had to these ads? In particular, how many customers do you think your efforts are turning away from Ford?

LONG: Well, we’ve been receiving hundreds of letters from around the county, people signing these pledge coupons saying they’re not going to buy Ford vehicles. And it’s important that Ford no longer be perceived as having an environmental halo. In fact, that halo rightfully belongs to Toyota and Honda, who really have done tremendous things for the environment over the past ten years. And I think Ford is headed in the right direction with this one hybrid they have. But until they have a fleet of them, unfortunately we’re not going to be where we need to go.

CURWOOD: Russell Long is director of the Bluewater Network in San Francisco. Mr. Long, thanks for taking this time with me today.

LONG: My pleasure.

Related link:
Bluewater Network Ford Newspaper Ad [PDF]

Back to top

 

Advocate Ads

CURWOOD: It wasn’t long ago that Bluewater and other nonprofit groups were not able to place ads in such high-profile publications like the New York Times. That’s because rates for prime advertising space were expensive.

But today major newspapers and magazines are making room for cash-poor nonprofits and advocacy groups. The kinds of groups that Joe Therrien represents. He’s an account executive with the Public Media Center, the ad agency responsible for placing the Ford ad in the New York Times.

Mr. Therrien welcome.

THERRIEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Curwood.

CURWOOD: Now, I understand you’ve been in the ad business for quite a while. How have you observed the advertising market opening up to advocacy groups that may be on a shoe-string budget?

THERRIEN: It’s a significant change. It makes available powerful podiums like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, at prices that nonprofits can afford that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to use.

CURWOOD: Now, I’m wondering what exactly these special advertising rates are that are being offered to nonprofits?

THERRIEN: Well, if you wanted to buy a full page in The New York Times, the rate card tells you it would cost you net $127,000. But if you are a nonprofit or advocacy group that doesn’t have a tight timeline, then, if you were a client of mine, I would suggest that you look at what’s called a “standby rate.” You give the Times the authority to run your ad in the window of a week or two weeks or three weeks. You could get that same ad for $39,000.

CURWOOD: Now, in many cases, of course, these messages could be quite aggressive and confrontational. What’s been some of the most particularly challenging cases that you’ve tried to present, in terms of getting these ads to pass muster?

THERRIEN: Well, we had an ad several years ago that called on readers to boycott Japanese goods because Japan was the leading purchaser of Tiger penises, and its popularity as a medicine was causing the destruction of tigers throughout Asia. There was a very considerable fight with the editors of a major West Coast newspaper. Ultimately, they finally agreed to run it, since there was nothing lascivious about the ad. It was simply a statement of the part of the anatomy of the animal that was causing the destruction of the entire animal. It’s good to have that kind of a test because they’ll make you prove your point. If you can substantiate the proof of what you’re saying, you are not going to find resistance you can’t overcome.

CURWOOD: Joe Therrien is the principle with the Public Media Center in San Francisco. Thank you so much, sir.

THERRIEN: Thank you, Steve, I appreciate it.

CURWOOD: The Ford Motor Company declined to comment for this story but did send us a list of its environmental commitments. These include investments in hydrogen fuel cell and biodiesel technologies and hybrid electric vehicles. And later this fall the company’s first “no compromise” hybrid electric SUV, the Escape, is expected in showrooms. But in Ford’s recent corporate citizenship report, the company noted that the fuel economy for its U.S. fleet will decrease by more than two percent this year. Ford says the reason for the decrease is due to its decision to cut production of its ethanol burning vehicles.

Coming up: From toxic trail to bike path. The EPA paves over a Superfund site and invites tourists and controversy. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Govinda “Tu M’aimes” EROTIC RHYTHMS FROM THE EARTH (Earthtone – 2001)]

Back to top

 

Toxic Trailway

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Throughout the West communities are trying to build new, recreation-based economies over the old ones based on mining. The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a literal example. This new bike trail in North Idaho converts an old mining-era rail line to recreational use. It’s one of the longest Rails to Trails projects in America.

But beneath the miles of fresh asphalt there’s also toxic mining debris strewn the length of the line. Indeed, some call it a recreational Superfund site, a trail for bikers, hikers and skaters built to contain contaminants and promote tourism. Producer Guy Hand cycled the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes to see if this exploited piece of the American west can bury its past and pave the way to a brighter future.

[BANJO MUSIC AND CROWD NOISE]

HAND: It's not surprising that when the Coeur d'Alenes bike trail officially opened in June, people in the North Idaho mining towns that dot it's path were ready to celebrate.

SIJOHN: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we're getting started here.

HAND: This 72-mile long black strip of asphalt running through the mountains is a symbol of hope for residents who've been living under the label "Superfund Site" for over 20 years—a label that many says has been toxic to tourism despite the region's stunning beauty.

MOORE: And today on behalf of Union Pacific I'd like to present to the citizens of the entire Pacific Northwest, the state of Idaho, and Coeur d’Alene tribe, I present to you the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

[CLAPPING]

HAND: Ed Moreen is project manager with the Environmental Protection Agency.

MOREEN: When we were still constructing the trail, it was evident that the people in the basin were excited about the trail. In fact, when the contractors were placing the asphalt, it was still steaming and people were right behind the paver wanting to ride down the path on their bikes.

[SOUND OF DERAILLEUR SPINNING, PREPARING TO RIDE]

HAND: At the trail's eastern end, where I begin my bike ride, the rail line doesn't hide its polluted past. A sign explains how tailings laced with lead, cadmium, zinc, and arsenic were used to build the rail bed itself. Ore dust also drifted out of open or damaged rail cars. It spilled from derailed ones. It piled up in loading areas. Over a century, heavy metals so contaminated the rail line that in places soil measured 80 times the EPA safe lead level.

[SOUND OF MOUNTING BIKE, SHIFTING GEARS THEN RIDING]

HAND: This part of the trail goes right through the mining town of Kellogg. This is the town that is home to the Bunker Hill Mine and Smelter, where some of the worst pollution occurred during the mining era. You can see on the hills around the town the trees are still stunted from the tainted smoke that came out of the smelters.


The trail flanked on both sides by piles of mine waste in the town of Kellogg, Idaho. (Photo: ©Guy Hand Productions)

As concentrated as the rail line pollution is, it pales in comparison to the massive amounts produced by other sources. In addition to smelter smoke, mines dumped waste directly into waterways, killing all the fish in some streams. Before the EPA stepped in in 1983, the nearby Coeur d’Alene River ran gray from mine runoff. And local children suffered the highest blood lead levels ever recorded.

[BIRD SONG]

HAND: But soon the trail leaves the more obvious signs of mining pollution behind and rolls through a landscape that looks pristine, but still isn't. Lead concentrates under this part of the trail average nearly 8,000 parts-per-million, or eight times the Superfund site's safety standard.

HAND (ON BIKE): Gorgeous meadows off to my left.

HAND: The stubborn beauty of this place—the steep mountains, lush meadows, and shimmering waterways—has the power to wash away concerns about lead tainted soil. And that's just fine with Joe Peak, a businessman with high hopes for the economic future of these mining towns.

[BAR CROWD, CASH REGISTER]

HAND: The bike trail runs right in front of Peak's bar and restaurant, The Snake Pit.

PEAK: Right outside we have two bike racks and those bike racks on weekends are full. Usually on Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons it's not unheard of for 50 to 60 percent of our business to be trail related. Let me get some customers…

HAND: Peak's a little distracted on this early Saturday evening. The place is packed. He figures the trail is adding a hundred thousand dollars a year to his business.

PEAK: We could get anywhere from 75-150,000 visits per year and we feel that the spin off on that could be as high as $14 million a year in the Silver Valley and the corridor from Mullen to Plummer.

Need some change?

[BAR SOUNDS, THEN BIKING]

HAND: Just west of Peak's place the trail heads into some of the most stunning country of the ride.

The bike trail runs through this landscape. (Photo: ©Guy Hand Productions)

HAND (ON BIKE): Wow! I've just come around the bend through a narrow little draw and it opens up into a big valley. . . . spectacular.

HAND: A little further along I meet a young woman pulling her son in a kid cart behind her bike.

HAND: Hi. Do you ride the trail very often?

WOMAN: No, this is my first time on the trail. I'm actually from Colfax, Washington.

HAND: Oh really? Who's riding in back?

WOMAN: This is Adam. He is two years old. So he's not quite ready for a bicycle yet.

HAND: So what do you think of the trail?

WOMAN: Oh, I like it. It's great. How do you like the trail?

HAND: I think it's amazing. It’s gorgeous.

HAND: I find myself forgetting that just under the 2 1/2 inches of asphalt I glide over there's lead, arsenic, and more. Lead is a neurotoxin. It impairs cognitive abilities, especially in children. Arsenic, a potent carcinogen, can cause skin lesion and cardiovascular problems. But the EPA says the trail is perfectly safe. As long as you obey the occasional signs warning you to clean your hands before eating, stop only at designated rest areas, and stay on the asphalt.

[RIVER SOUNDS]

HAND: Yet, it's tempting to wander off. On this hot afternoon, a dip in the cool Coeur d’Alene River is hard to resist. The river and lake parallel nearly the entire length of the trail, but hold some of the highest concentrations of mine poisons in the nation. Still, a little further along, I see two young girls fishing, ankle deep in the river.

A warning sign on the trail with the Coeur d’Alene River in the background. (Photo: ©Guy Hand Productions)

VILLA: Most Superfund cleanups do not remove the last atom of contamination. In the Coeur d’Alene basin there is no way we would remove the last atom of lead, some lead is actually naturally occurring here.

HAND: Clifford Villa, assistant regional council for the EPA says that it's often easier to control the human usage of a contaminated area than to remove the contaminants themselves. It's an approach the EPA has employed at Love Canal and many other national Superfund sites. And here, when EPA determined it was impractical to remove the entire 72 miles of railbed contamination, a bike trail capping the problem seemed the best solution.

VILLA: One thing that the Rails to Trails program allows us is to insure the use of an area for recreational purposes. We actually did a risk assessment before the trail was constructed that estimated that people could use the trail up to 24 hours per week. That's some pretty intensive running or biking without any cause for concern about existing contamination.

HAND: But what about those two girls I saw fishing off the trail?

VILLA: Before the trail was built, people were using this corridor anyway. So we know people were here and we’re not going to keep people off. We're just going to try to control that use and promote safe uses as much as possible.

HAND: Villa says the EPA can't eliminate all risk, but since people are going to use the area anyway, he believes the trail has made things much safer. In fact, he considers the trail one of his biggest Superfund successes.

VILLA: It's very satisfying to not only take something away in the form of contamination, but to leave something behind in terms of something that all the people of this area can appreciate from here on.

[OUTDOOR SOUNDS]

SCHLEPP: As you can see, the trail actually comes by our hay shed there…

HAND: Farmer Mike Schlepp shows me where the trail of the Coeur d’Alenes cuts through his 550-acre farm at about mile post 33. He's a vocal critic of the trail and doubts the wisdom of attracting tourists to a Superfund site.

SCHLEPP: All of us landowners have had problems with people getting off the trail and wandering on to private property.

HAND: The EPA's own study admits that the trail will probably entice visitors to pick berries and wander off trail to hike, fish, or swim. The study says those quote off-trail exposures fall beyond the scope of the trail plan.

SCHLEPP: We actually had a family that left the right of way and were attempting to set up an overnight camping spot with their children. One of the children was still an infant. And we did explain that they were actually having their children recreate on a heavy metals site and asked them to leave and really they were quite belligerent. Regretfully, they just went down the trail about a mile and a half and set up camp for the night just off the right of way.

HAND: The EPA says trail managers will catch violators like these, but Schlepp argues that the former owner of the line, Union Pacific railroad, should have removed the contamination altogether—just like any other landowner.

SCHLEPP: I have not seen anywhere in Superfund law that it says that if a polluter can actually make the problem big enough that he can be relieved from cleaning it up because it's just too big.

HAND: The EPA is expanding its Superfund work from the worst hit mining towns to the entire basin. But now that the railroad is enshrined as a bike trail, the cleanup Schlepp hoped for will never reach his property. He says that every time it floods, and it floods frequently here, the contaminants contained in the trail get flushed into his fields.

SCHLEPP: They will eventually have the entire basin cleaned up except for this 150-foot wide swath of contamination that goes right through the underbelly of the basin.

[SOUND OF BIKE RIDING]

A sign praising the trail in the village of Harrison, Idaho. (Photo: ©Guy Hand Productions)

HAND: Riding on the trail south of Harrison, I come across several signs put up by landowners. One sign says "Wash your hands before you eat, toxic trail under your feet." That sign was painted and put up by Toni and Rog Hardy.

TONI HARDY: The reality is this trail locks in a solution that we find unacceptable. This is a Superfund. It's not a recreational trail. It is a Superfund.

HAND: Rog Hardy says the bike path just doesn't properly cover a contaminated railroad that, like a Mayan pyramid, is flat and narrow on top but has exposed sides sloping out to a much broader base.

ROG HARDY: Well as you can see standing here, the asphalt is only about 10 feet wide and by the time you get down to the base of it, it's about a hundred feet wide, so you've only really capped about 10 percent of it. The rest of it is subject to rain and snow melt washing this stuff out into the lake and wetlands.

HAND: The EPA covered the sloping sides with a thick layer of crushed rock. And Hardy agrees that trail users are at little risk as long as they heed warning signs. His concerns are for those who live along the trail.

ROG HARDY: It's absolutely correct that the people that live here, that will continue to play as their predecessors have in the beaches, are going to get their dose of lead that's being supplied by these causeways that are being frozen in place.

HAND: And what about those residents who don't read -- like ducks?

[WATER SOUNDS, FLAPPING WINGS, QUACKING]

HAND: Dan Audet, Environmental Contaminant Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

AUDET: We're collecting blood samples from the waterfowl, which we'll analyze for lead. In addition we're looking at the sediments where the birds are feeding because these birds ingest sediment as they are feeding on various plants in the wetlands system.

HAND: Lead kills tundra swans, Canada geese, wood ducks, pintails, mallards, and more.

AUDET: We've had 12 species documented over the years that have died from lead poisoning. We suspect that hundreds of birds each year die from lead poisoning that are never found.

HAND: But since the railroad is only one of many sources of mine pollution in the basin, no one knows to what extent the trail is poisoning an already poisoned watershed. Audet hopes to find out.

AUDET: There are areas that seem to be leaching into the lake and whether those are truly contaminated, we hope to get a better handle on what the sediment concentrations are this year through this study.

HAND: If sediments are leaching, the EPA says it will adapt, and manage the trail differently. But critics argue that Superfund is seriously underfunded and the EPA is under considerable pressure from Idaho politicians and business interests to play down the pollution problem. Critics say the EPA rushed to cover the railroad's past with a thin layer of asphalt.

[SOUNDS OF BIKE RIDING]

HAND: Toward its west end, the trail enters Native American land where people are in no rush to cover up the past. In fact, for the Coeur d’Alene tribe, the trail was a footpath long before the mining era. Robert Matt of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe:

MATT: That entire watershed was our homeland. And when the government in the early 1900s, when they started taking our lands from us, there were promises that were made to the tribe about preserving the integrity of the resources and we would forever be able to have our traditional way of life preserved. Well, today many of those traditional uses and opportunities have been eliminated by the mining contamination and by the sediment.

HAND: In a sense the tribe created the new bike trail as well as the ancient footpath. In 1991 it was the Tribe who sued Union Pacific Railroad and mining groups, demanding a clean up of the entire basin, including the total removal of railway contamination. Though that goal is still far off, it jump started the notion of a bike trail. Matt says the tribe sees the path not as a way to bury the past but as a way to confront it—with signs and kiosks on the tribal section of the trail that illustrate the need for further cleanup.

MATT: Sometimes the information that needs to be put out isn't always attractive for tourists or economic development opportunities and those sorts of things and that's where we tend to get crossways with folks. But we're insistent that all the facts get put out and that people are made aware and we do that in hopes of finding support for clean up.

[INDIAN MUSIC]

HAND: At the western end of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, tribe members are celebrating the official opening of the trail.

SIJOHN: There's so much strength, and there's so much power in this trail. I looked at the faces of my own children, I look at the faces of the children of the Silver Valley, and they have hope now.

HAND: The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes offers both hope and a very good bike ride. The two kind of go together. After all, you can't help but feel encouraged with a warm breeze and beautiful scenery sliding by. But as I bike this basin I'm also struck by how — compared to the mountains and valleys around me—how ephemeral, how fragile this trail seems. It's not a work of geology, yet we hope it will act like one, that it will withstand time, rain, and erosion with the patience of granite. The Union Pacific Railroad promises, as part of its agreement with the EPA, to maintain the trail forever. But that's a very long time. Here in the Coeur d'Alene basin, we've created a pollution problem that some say could last for centuries. We can only hope that our solutions are as enduring.

[MUSIC]

Back to top

 

Health Note/Location, Location

CURWOOD: The author of “Diet for a Small Planet” has a recipe for overcoming our fears about environmental disaster. Frances Moore Lappé is just ahead. First, this environmental health note from Jennifer Chu.

[ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NOTE THEME]

CHU: A new study gives weight to evidence that where you live can make you large. The Georgia Institute of Technology has completed a $4 million, seven-year study of 8,000 households in Atlanta. The goal was to learn how people spent their time, where they traveled and how they reached their destinations. In the end, researchers found that community design clearly relates to your risk of becoming overweight.

People who lived in neighborhoods within easy walking distance of shops and businesses were seven percent less likely to be obese. Commuting has the reverse effect: for every 30 minutes you spend in a car, your chance of being obese increases by three percent. The study also shows that higher densities of streets, businesses and residences contributes to fewer vehicle miles traveled, reduced emissions and greater use of public transportation.

This is the first study to demonstrate that the built environment immediately around people’s homes is a good predictor of weight. Researchers hope the results will increase the demand for smart-growth neighborhoods and limit sprawl. They also note that one third of the study’s suburban respondents said they would prefer to live in a smart-growth environment. That’s this week’s health note. I’m Jennifer Chu.

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

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving Math and Science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12; Ford, presenting the Escape Hybrid, whose full hybrid technology allows it to run on gas or electric power. Full hybrid technology details at fordvehicles.com; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The Kellogg Foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families, and their communities. On the web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Govinda “Organic Beauty” EROTIC RHYTHMS FROM THE EARTH (Earthtone – 2001)]

Back to top

 

Listener Letters

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Time now for comments from you, our listeners.

[LETTERS THEME]

CURWOOD: Our look at the environmental records of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards was appreciated by many listeners. Among them: Jill Harmer, from Louisville, Kentucky, who called in to request that we continue this type of political reporting well past the campaign season.

HARMER: I really appreciate your telling about the candidates’ views on the environment in the last program. That’s what we need, the real issues. And I would like in the future for us to have issues, not just before the election, but timely, so we can call in and comment on them to the right places. Thank you so much for that special last program.

CURWOOD: Our roundtable discussion examining Senator Kerry’s campaign proposals for energy independence also struck a cord with listeners. Steve Dollase (Do-la-c), in Arlington, Virginia, believes it was a stretch when our guest from the Energy Future Coalition, Reid Detchon, said a hike in the gas tax wouldn’t cut oil consumption because demand for gasoline is to a certain extent “inelastic.”

“While gasoline demand is inelastic in the short-run, it is much more elastic in the long run,” Mr. Dollase writes. “Higher gasoline prices would, in the long run, motivate consumers to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, utilize mass transit, choose to live near where they work and alter their behavior in other ways which would reduce consumption.

Calvin E. Hilton, Jr., who hears us on WJCT in Jacksonville, Florida, also disputes Mr. Detchon’s comment that a gas tax would not change consumer behavior because transportation is not a discretionary purchase. “People spend a lot of time in their cars that is discretionary and people can decide to buy more fuel efficient cars to offset higher gas prices,” he writes. “I’m surprised that no one challenged his statement.

Finally, our report on the fate of Waterfront South, a neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey, drew several comments. City officials there are inviting in more industry to spur jobs and tax revenue, but residents in the largely Black and Latino community say they already bear more than their share of pollution.

Margaret Betz in Savannah, Georgia, writes: “Focused on the sensitive issues affecting the people there, the story demonstrated the environmental racism evident in our nation’s long-standing practices of dumping polluting industries into areas of the city’s poorest families. The same injustice is so very evident on the coast of Georgia.”

Your comments are always welcome. Call our listener line anytime at 800-218-9988. That’s 800-218-9988. Or write us at 20 Holland Street, Somerville, Massachusetts, 02144. Our email address is comments@loe.org. Once again, comments@loe.org. And you can hear our program anytime on our website: Living on Earth dot org. That’s Living on Earth dot O-R-G.

Back to top

 

Have No Fear

CURWOOD: It’s been more than 30 years since a little-known student from Fort Worth, Texas dropped out of graduate school and proposed a diet for the planet that made her a best-selling author and an international food expert. Frances Moore Lappe’s book “Diet for a Small Planet” hit stands with a message that reached more than three million readers. “Hunger,” she wrote, “is not caused by a scarcity of food, but by a scarcity of democracy.”

Now, she and co-author Jeffrey Perkins have singled out the one underlying cause for not just the food problems of the world, but also for many of the environmental problems that plague the planet.

In their new book, they outline how fear is the main factor when it comes to dealing with our environment. Frances Moore Lappé joins me in the studio now to talk about her book, “You have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” Welcome to Living on Earth.

LAPPE: Thank you very much, Steve.

CURWOOD: Now, Jeff Perkins is going to join us later in the conversation, but first I’d like to put this book in the context of your life, Frances. Or, everyone calls you Frankie, right?

LAPPE: Mmm-hmm.

CURWOOD: So, let’s back up a little to the days before “A Diet for A Small Planet.” What led to this book?

LAPPE: Well, I was a desperate twenty-something. I really wanted to understand why so much suffering in the world. And this was the era, this was the late ‘60s, and the world hunger crisis had just sprung onto the international marquee, if you will. And I thought if I could just understand: why hunger? And then why hunger in a world of plenty? That that would begin to untangle the economic and political order that seemed so impenetrable. And I focused it on food and realized, in my own modest study, that in fact there was more than enough food to make us all chubby – and yet, millions and millions were going hungry. And that was really the awakening for me.

CURWOOD: So how did your book help address this?

LAPPE: Well it simply said, look, we human beings have created hunger out of plenty. We’re creating scarcity every day because hungry people can’t make a “market demand” for the food they need. So we have these artificial surpluses that we feed to livestock then in the U.S. to produce meat, we feed 16 pounds of grain and soy to produce one pound of beef. And so I wanted to just awaken people that it’s in our hands – we have the power, if you will, to solve this problem, that we can create a sustainable food system in which we all can eat. And that was the thesis of “Diet for A Small Planet.”

CURWOOD: And it sells millions of copies. What was the appeal?

LAPPE: I think the appeal is that the message of the book is that what’s healthiest for my body is healthiest for the earth itself. And it changed me very profoundly as well.

CURWOOD: How?

LAPPE: Because I realized I wasn’t alone. I mean, I was just a kid writing this book and then millions of people responded and said, “oh yes, I feel that way too. I want my choices to matter too.” And so I felt I was not alone, and I realized that most human beings want a better world. And so ever since then I’ve been asking myself how can it be? That not one of us, if we went out on the street today, not one of us could find someone who would say, “yes, I think it’s a great thing that 16,000 children are dying today of hunger.” And yet, millions are going hungry.

So the question that has pushed me on to this book is, how can it be that we as societies are creating a world that as individuals we abhor? And when I peel away all those layers, ultimately it does come down to our own fear. And that’s what this book addresses. That it’s fear of the unknown, fear of being different, of separating from the pack. Because we humans evolved in tribes over eons of time where we became hard-wired to understand that separating from the pack could mean death.

And so I would go so far as to say, and Jeff in my book says, that maybe the most important decision we have to make today is how we respond to fear. In fact, in some ways I’m kind of hoping that this book could help people feel a little bit of pride when they’re feeling those sensations of fear, because it may mean that they are right at their growth edge. They’re right where they need to be for their own happiness, for our planet’s happiness.

CURWOOD: Well I’d like to bring in your co-author Jeffrey Perkins into the conversation now. Jeffrey, welcome.

PERKINS: Thank you.

CURWOOD: Jeffrey, I’m wondering if you could read for me a section from your book? And I’m thinking of the time when you and Frankie were getting in a cab in Boston.

PERKINS: One spring day not long ago, the two of us hailed a cab in Boston. Noting the driver’s strong Russian accent, Frankie asked, “so what do you think of America?” Hesitant at first, he finally blurted out “you Americans are all afraid.” As we approached Harvard Square, two BMWs passed us. “Those people are the most afraid,” the driver said, gesturing at the cars. “They’re afraid they’ll lose it. In Russia, we feared the KGB. Here you don’t trust anyone. You’re all afraid of each other.”

CURWOOD: That rings true.

LAPPE: It does.

CURWOOD: In a profound way. And we’re going to be talking about how this affects people concerned about environmental change, and what they are trying to do, or not trying to do, about it. But first, I need to know more about your work, Jeff. What was it that was going on for you that hooked you in to this notion of courage in a culture of fear?

PERKINS: Well, I began to ask my friends, really, what it is that they were interested in. And I would hear all these great ideas, and the things that they were interested in, and then I would always hear why actually exploring them wouldn’t be prudent. And I began to ask myself, what is the result of all of these people -- well-meaning, and people who have great ideas – what is the price for our society of all of us stopping ourselves from actually exploring them? That is really what made me take this seriously, because I felt that so much more is possible if we’re able to re-imagine this pulling back as actually a signal that we are on the right track.

And that’s really kind of what made me realize that perhaps it’s more cultural, you know? Our fear, as the cabdriver suggests, is really because of a culture which is kind of telling us to go along, even though we’re a democracy – you know, it’s kind of that balancing act. But I think it was really listening to the stories of other people and realizing that these are people who have so much to offer. When you know your friends and you know kind of who they are, you want them to get out there and do the most that they can do. And when they don’t, you kind of realize, what is this? You know, what is the real thing that’s holding them back here? So that was really what kind of got me going

CURWOOD: Now, this book seems to me that it could easily be shelved under “Self Help.” So Frankie, tell me, why do you also think it should go under, say, “Nature and the Environment?”

LAPPE: Well, let’s go back to this question of why are we -- as societies, and now a world community, in some ways – creating that which none of us as individuals want? I mean, none of us would want global warming, or the extinction of species, or air pollution that is now killing on average 200 Americans every day. So, to me, the environmental devastation that we’re experiencing is directly a result of people not being able to act on their own true heart’s desire. And that, then, relates very much to fear. And so what we talk about in our book, we tell stories – not just our own stories, but others.

And one of my all-time heroes in life is a woman named Wangari Maathai who, if she had simply responded in the hard-wired ways to fear, well, we would have missed out on a great deal. Because this woman planted seven trees on Earth Day in 1977. She was told by her husband, and then by the foresters in Kenya, no, no, no, you have nothing to offer.

Her plan was that to reforest Kenya would require tens of thousands of villagers planting trees, creating tree nurseries, and they said no, no, no, no, and really ridiculed her. And she kept walking and didn’t let the fear of rejection and ridicule stop her. And do you know what? That action has rippled, rippled, rippled now to 20 million trees that have been planted as a result of her not simply retracting with fear -- of criticism, of separation, rejection -- but walking with it.

So for me, the environmental crisis is very much connected to this misunderstanding of fear, that we are at a new point in our social evolution where we can consciously do something new and creative with fear, rather than simply – in our old hardwired way – simply retreat before it.

CURWOOD: Now Frankie, in your book you say that there’s anti-community that’s being formed in the world, and that there’s a corporate culture of anti-community that’s going global. Can you give some examples of this?

LAPPE: Well, certainly if we believe that the only way that we’re going to stay accepted by the tribe, and if we believe that there’s not enough to go around, then we will be driven by this narrow production more and more and more and more and more. Which, of course, is one aspect of why species extinction, air pollution, groundwater – now we’ve created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, in part result of runoffs from agriculture – because of this production drive based on the scarcity myth. The point is that we’re driving more and more production, but it’s not connected to human need. And so it just keeps on spinning and creating more and more fear.

CURWOOD: Now, let’s look at your own process in doing this book. I believe you wrote that at some point, maybe halfway through the process of putting this thing together, that you guys froze up! You said, Ohhhhhhhh – fear, doubt, insecurity took over. And you weren’t sure if you were going to be able to finish this thing. Why? And what made you go on? Jeff?

PERKINS: Well, there was a time in the process where the book was called “Fear Means Go,” and what’s interesting is we actually found that publishers were – they told us people won’t buy a book called “Fear Means Go.” (LAUGHS) So we had to put it at the end of our title. But really what the truth of the matter is is I think we, in our own process, were dealing with these issues and saying, are we crazy here? Are we missing something? And I think that’s really a sign that you’re on to something.

We had to basically look back at our lessons, which we have to do all the time. And I think that’s the most important thing to recognize, is that Frankie and I have lots of fear, and it’s not that we’ve somehow graduated. I mean, I talk in the book about a time when I needed to speak on the work that I’d been doing around fear, and really feeling like I should be above it – like somehow I become the expert, you know? And instead, what it really became was to be humbled again and realize again, wow, this is such a powerful gut reaction that is so natural.

I mean, I think the most important thing in this book is to help people investigate this further. It’s not to say that in every situation you should ignore your fear or, you know, jump off the building. That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re really saying is, for too long we’ve ignored this most powerful emotion and its consequences, and what we’re really saying is, let’s look at this. Not only as an individual but as a culture, as a community.

LAPPE: Yeah, in my case, about six months before deadline I was diagnosed with cancer. And I thought, oh my goodness, how am I going to do this book? My radiation treatments are going to be right up to the very end of this deadline. And when three months before the deadline I was facing these radiation treatments, and I was just absolutely gripped with fear. I was very teary, and just felt alone in the world, and how can I possibly do this? And then I thought, Ah! You know, every once in a while it’s a good idea to listen to one’s own advice! (LAUGHTER)

And I started taking what we were writing to heart, and within, really, about a week, I transformed the whole experience of my radiation treatments. And I started imaging that actually this was an expensive spa that I had signed up for. And I started re-framing the whole experience for myself as an opportunity to really focus on healing, to focus on myself, to have a break from the deadline pressure. And within a week I started looking forward to going to these radiation treatments every day. And it was – I laughed so hard because at first, I completely forgot the message of our own book. And then when I started listening to my own advice I realized, yeah, it’s possible to re-frame our experience, to use our consciousness to re-frame.

CURWOOD: Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins are co-authors of the book “You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” Thank you both for joining me today.

PERKINS: Thank you.

LAPPE: Thank you.

[MUSIC: Govinda “Synthetic Beauty” EROTIC RHYTHMS FROM THE EARTH (Earthtone – 2001)]

Back to top

 

CURWOOD: Coming up next week on Living on Earth – mercury. It’s a known toxic metal that damages the nervous system. We try to keep it out of the food we eat and the air we breathe. But in some communities, it’s sprinkled around the house, burned in a candle, applied to the body – often to bring luck.

FEMALE: I think we’re not just being contaminated by the incinerator. I think we’re contaminating ourselves by using this product in our homes.

CURWOOD: The ritual use of mercury, next week on Living on Earth. Until then you can hear us anytime and get the stories behind the news by going to Living on Earth dot org. That’s Living on Earth dot O-R-G.

[COAL SOUNDS]

CURWOOD: We leave you this week with the rhythm of a coal train winding its way through Colorado. Clay Reeves recorded the scene for the CD “Day of Sound.”

[EARTH EAR: Clay Reeves “Coal Train” DAYS OF SOUND (Earthear – 2003)]

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced for the World Media Foundation by Chris Ballman, Christopher Bolick, Eileen Bolinsky, Jennifer Chu, Ingrid Lobet, Susan Shepherd and Jeff Young with help from Carl Lindemann and Kelley Cronin. Our interns are Jennie Cecil Moore, Diana Schoberg and Monica Wright.

Special thanks to Ernie Silver. Our technical director is Paul Wabrek. Alison Dean composed our themes. Al Avery runs our website. You can find us at livingonearth.org. Environmental sound art courtesy of EarthEar. I’m Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes form the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science; and Stonyfield Farm. Organic yogurt and more. Women of inspiration speak at the Stonyfield Strong Women programs taking place in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Details at Stonyfield.com. Support also comes from NPR member stations, the Ford Foundation, for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the Wellborn Ecology Fund.

ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

 

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.