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

January 28, 2005

Air Date: January 28, 2005



Tyson on Titan

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When the Huygens space probe landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, on January 14th the world watched in awe. Living on Earth invited Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, to talk about the mission. Tyson tells guest host Bruce Gellerman about Titan’s unusual features, what we didn’t learn from Huygen’s data, and why the government is shifting its priorities for space exploration. (11:45)

Environmental Report Card / Ingrid Lobet

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The U.S. may rank number one in terms of world influence and power, but its standing is less than stellar when it comes to the environment. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports on an international eco-index that rates each nation’s environmental performance. (03:00)

Clear Skies / Jeff Young

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Republicans hope their new power in Congress will win passage of President Bush's rewrite of the Clean Air Act, his "Clear Skies" bill. But Living on Earth’s Jeff Young reports from Washington that a few key Republicans favor a tougher approach to air pollution. (05:00)

Living Toxic / Katherine Mieszkowski

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Katherine Mieszkowski, a senior writer at the online magazine, Salon dot com, explains why her body has become a toxic waste site. (03:40)

Victoria's Got A Secret

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It’s no secret that sex sells, and Victoria’s Secret has built an empire on this maxim with its “barely there” catalogs, one million mailed daily across the nation. Now, an environmental advocacy group is taking the lingerie enterprise to task with a full-page ad featuring a racy model sporting a chainsaw. Guest host Bruce Gellerman talks with Mike Meikson of BCA Marketing Communications about how to sell the environment with sex. (04:15)

Emerging Science Note/Problem-Solving Matters

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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that finds the difference between men and women is grey and white, at least when it comes to their brains. (01:20)

Newfoundland: A Map of the Sea / Chris Brookes

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A rare look from inside a community that has lost its longtime reason for being. Newfoundland producer Chris Brookes listens to what was lost and what has remained in two communities since the disastrous over-fishing of the region’s Atlantic cod. (15:30)

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Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Bruce Gellerman
GUESTS: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mike Meikson
REPORTER: Ingrid Lobet, Jeff Young, Chris Brookes
COMMENTATOR: Katherine Mieszkowski
NOTE: Jennifer Chu


GELLERMAN: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.


GELLERMAN: I'm Bruce Gellerman. For as long as anyone can remember, cod was king in the Canadian Maritime province of Newfoundland. Then, about a dozen years ago, the fishery collapsed, taking with it thirty thousand jobs and a way of life. Many people left the island. Others stayed to make a living through tourism, but now wonder if they're selling out their heritage.

KIERLEY: You can get all nationalistic about it, and say, well, Newfoundland is not for sale. Go home, filthy tourist maggots. This is ours. It's not a souvenir. And there's a lot of people who are like that.

GELLERMAN: But not all. Other islanders say: adapt or die.

HAMLIN: We had fish one time. We had employment. We got tourists now. We're fishers of people basically now, rather than fishers of cod.

GELLERMAN: Life after cod, and clouds on the horizon for President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative. Those stories and more - this week on Living on Earth. Stick around.


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

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Tyson on Titan

GELLERMAN: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman, sitting in for Steve Curwood.

Talk about "Lord of the Rings." On January 14th, a nine foot tall, robotic space probe named Huygens, made a soft-landing on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. For a few hours, the instruments aboard Huygens collected data and images—the first ever of the surface of the mysterious cloud-shrouded moon…and what pictures they were! One scientist called the landing "one of the greatest achievements in the history of space exploration."

Joining me to put things in perspective is Neil deGrasse Tyson—an astrophysicist and director of New York's Hayden Planetarium. Dr. Tyson, welcome to Living on Earth.

TYSON: Hello, great to be back.

A Huygens Descent Imager/ Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument image shows two new features on the surface of Titan. A bright linear feature suggests an area where water ice may have been extruded onto the surface. Also visible are short, stubby dark channels that may have been formed by 'springs' of liquid methane rather than methane 'rain'. (Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

GELLERMAN: I saw some of these images - the surface is very exotic.

TYSON: Yeah, it's one of the more exotic surfaces in the solar system. It's cold - about 300 degrees below zero Fahrenheit - and, you know, we say, okay, it's cold, so what? Well, there's certain gases that we've come to know and love here on Earth, like methane, which comes out of your stove if you live in big cities. That methane on Titan, it's so cold it has liquefied. And so, methane is abundant on Titan, and in a liquid state it's made lakes and rivers and tributaries. And so, one of the things that makes it odd is that it has these features that we normally associate with water, and it's cut by moving hydrocarbons.

GELLERMAN: If my high school biology serves me right, isn't methane a byproduct of metabolism? And doesn't that suggest life?

TYSON: You remembered almost all of it correctly. (LAUGHS) It's an organic substance; it's an organic molecule, and so, it's one of these fundamental ingredients that you'd find in any soup that contains life. On Titan, it's not alone among the molecules that we find there that we know are precursors to the formation of life. If we look at Earth before life formed it's got a lot of the same features--kind of spooky--a lot of the same features that we see on Titan. So, in fact, there are astrobiologists who see Titan as kind of a laboratory into Earth's past simply because of how rich it is in organic ingredients.

GELLERMAN: But there's no hope that it would ever evolve from a proto-Earth into something new?

TYSON: Well, we don't know. For example, life on Earth is the only life we know, and we're pretty sure life that we know requires water. But maybe other kinds of life, it doesn't necessarily require water but maybe it just requires a liquid of some kind. We know water is useful in the body to move nutrients from one part of your system to another. Maybe it's not the water that matters, but just a liquid.

So it's fun to speculate, at least from the science fiction angle, what kind of life could exist there today, using liquid methane as its mechanism by which you can move a circulatory system around in a creature.

Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Queen © Reprinted by permission of Prometheus Books)

But apart from that, as best we know on early Earth, it took a long time for life to get started - well, you wouldn't want to wait around that long. (LAUGHS) You know, a few hundred, a couple hundred million years. So, yeah, we wouldn't want to wait as long as it might have taken for life to start on Earth, to look around on Titan. So, what you do is look and try to use it to inform some uncertainties that remain in the early Earth.

GELLERMAN: What do you mean?

TYSON: In the early Earth we have some fossil records, we see some rocks, the evidence is just kind of fragmented - whereas here is a whole world just thriving with organic molecules. And so, that will help us pinpoint what might have been going on in the early Earth, even before life had formed.

GELLERMAN: I heard that they had volcanoes that were spewing ice?

TYSON: Yeah. We think of volcanoes as these places where hot lava comes out, but the physics of a volcano is not so much that things are hot but that what was once a solid turns to gas. And when you have gas it builds up pressures and it's got to release somehow, so it punches through the surface of the planet. So on Earth what punches through is hot gases, and lava spews forth. On Titan, you just need some heating to render the methane gaseous. There are other gases there, by the way. Ammonia is there, there might even be some alcohols, the kind of things that you find in your kitchen, or in the kitchen cabinet. These are common household ingredients, but if they get warmed up and turned to gas, it's going to punch through the surface of the moon and you can get what we call "ice volcanoes."

GELLERMAN: I heard that the space probe had six instruments, and one of them failed. It was by an experimenter in Idaho. It was supposed to measure wind velocity or something, but somebody didn't turn the instrument on.

TYSON: Yeah, well, these spacecraft and space probes, they have a certain amount of real estate on their surface. And what you do is you invite people to propose experiments that get attached to the various sides of the spacecraft. And one will measure, for example, magnetic field. One will measure wind velocity. There's a microphone on the probe that's measuring sound. There's another one that measures whether the craft was bobbing - because it might have landed in one of these lakes - and so the bob meter would tell you if that's in fact what it had done.

And so, yes, one of the experiments, they think there was an error traceable to a human error, but I think that remains to be fully analyzed in terms of the nature of that error. But it's not, I mean, it's a very big, complex spacecraft. You know, we keep thinking of human error as, "My gosh, there's human error!" Well, okay, when you're researching on the frontier there are human errors, and it's not…from a scientific point of view it's actually quite natural. And none of us, except the guy who's losing his data, is losing sleep over this fact. It's just a very natural phenomenon on the frontier of cosmic discovery.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Tyson, what didn't we learn from the space probe that landed on Saturn's moon?

TYSON: What didn't we learn? Well, first of all, it only landed in one spot. So, you know, it's a big moon. It's bigger than our moon. It's the second biggest moon in the entire solar system. One of six moons bigger than Pluto, by the way, and it's also bigger than Mercury. So, it's a big world out there. And, so, what didn't we learn? Well, the probe only had battery life for a couple of hours, so we weren't there long enough to see how things change. Does it rain methane? Does it snow methane? Does it, you know, what's the other side of the moon look like? You know, what at any moment is in the dark side? Over time, how much does the climate or the weather change? So, these long- time, baseline questions can't be answered by two hours' worth of data.

GELLERMAN: This probe hitched a ride on the Cassini spacecraft, which is, I guess, still up there?

TYSON: Yeah, yeah. In fact, the Cassini was the communication link back to Earth from the Huygens probe. So, when Huygens descended down it didn't have a big enough antenna to talk to Earth so it talked back up to Cassini, and Cassini then beamed back to us. But Cassini has its own trajectory around Saturn, and so one of the limits to how long Huygens could communicate with us was how long Cassini was in view and close enough to actually receive these signals and beam them back. And so, there was Huygens still giving us this faint signal even though Cassini had to drop off and pick up at the rest of its orbits around Saturn. But it's going to be making this big loop orbits around Saturn for the next several years which includes views from above. We never see Saturn from the top, and that'd be especially striking because that's where you see the ring system broadside. And that would be…I'm looking forward to that view.

GELLERMAN: Well, this experiment, this probe, was a very expensive gamble. What did it cost…1.3 billion dollars?

TYSON: No. Well, it's more than $3.2 billion, but it's spread over a dozen years or so. It's seven years to get out there, a few more years in orbit around Saturn. So, the real cost you have divide by the number of years, and you get a few hundred million dollars. Which, of course, sounds like a lot until you realize that that's, you know, Americans spend more on lip balm than the cost of this mission. So, you know, put it, keep it in context.

A Huygens Descent Imager/ Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument image of a dark plain area on Titan, seen during descent to the landing site, that indicates flow around bright 'islands'. The areas below and above the bright islands may be at different elevations. (Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

GELLERMAN: Well, just recently there was a report that the Hubble space telescope, which has been up for about 14 years now, needed some repairs and that the Bush administration is going to be cutting the budget and not making those repairs. I know a lot of your scientific research was done with the Hubble space telescope…

TYSON: That's correct and still is - I'm on a data stream that's actively being obtained from the Hubble telescope as we speak. So, yes, that's a controversial decision because here's this perfectly fine working telescope, and it's ready to be serviced according to its natural schedule. But it gets serviced, of course, by the manned mission, the manned program services this unmanned telescope. And the new space vision for NASA leaves little room to go and repair the Hubble telescope. Because what it wants to do is go finish, use the shuttles to finish building the space station and then retire the shuttle and phase out our participation in the space station, so that the manned program can do something other than drive around the block. It's been going around in low-Earth orbit for the past 32 years. So, the controversy here is we know it's a great telescope, we know it's bringing back great data, but there's a whole other vision statement that NASA is in desperate need of. And it's the weighing of those two that is now the field of debate.

GELLERMAN: But you're part of that vision statement, you were -

TYSON: Yes, I was. I was appointed by Bush to serve on a commission to establish a trajectory for this vision statement going into the future - 10, 20, 30 years into the future. And it was dubbed the "Moon, Mars and Beyond" commission because the moon and Mars were targets in this effort.

GELLERMAN: "Moon, Mars and Beyond." So…Mars?

TYSON: Yeah, Mars, yeah, yeah! I mean, if you're going to spend 10 billion dollars out of the 15 billion dollar NASA budget on the manned program, do something other than go drive around the block - you know, boldly going where hundreds have gone before, which is low-Earth orbit. Go back to the moon, on to Mars, visit asteroids. You know, one of these asteroids has our name on it. It has our name on it just like it had our name on it 65 million years ago and took out the dinosaurs. Let's go up and get comfortable with these things and figure out how to deflect them out of harm's way. There's a lot of work to be done in the solar system that is not served by not leaving low-Earth orbit.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Tyson, does one of those spacesuits have your name on it?

TYSON: (LAUGHS) Well, there's an asteroid with my name on it, yeah, but it's not headed towards Earth. (LAUGHS)

GELLERMAN: No, would you like to go to Mars?

TYSON: Would I like to go to Mars? Um, I was never really intrigued by space travel even though I'm of the generation who was. I was, you know, I'd love to know what it's like to be weightless, I think that'd be kind of cool. I'd bring a little bag with me, you know, ‘cause I was never good on the amusement park rides (LAUGHS). But other than that, no. I mean, I'm intrigued and I'm excited by it, but there're people who would climb over others to get to that place. So, they - I'd let them do it.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Tyson, I want to thank you very much, it was a real pleasure.

TYSON: It's a pleasure to be here, thanks.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of New York's Hayden Planetarium. His latest book is called "Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution."

[MUSIC: Gustav Holst "Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age" Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn (Telarc) 1990]

GELLERMAN: Coming up: Where do you think the U.S. ranks among the world's nations when it comes to protecting the environment? To find out - keep listening to Living on Earth

[MUSIC: Paul Horn "Danca Das Cabecas (Head Dance)" The Altitude of the Sun (Black*Sun) 1989]

Related links:
- European Space Agency
- NASA's Cassini-Huygens site
- Neil deGrasse Tyson's webpage
- "Origins: 14 Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution"

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Environmental Report Card

GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Just ahead: Victoria's Secret exposed. But first, mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the greenest country of all? Would you believe Finland? That's the conclusion of more than 50 researchers who, for the past six years, have been working on an index to rank nations of the world from the most eco-friendly to the least. The latest rankings were announced at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and as Living on Earth's Ingrid Lobet reports, the U.S. got mixed reviews.

LOBET: The environmental report cards are in, and the overall marks for the country that prides itself on having hosted the first Earth Day could be better.

The United States placed 45th out of 146 nations on the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index, trailing Botswana, Albania, and Papua New Guinea.

The index is a joint project of Yale and Columbia universities and it rates countries on 76 environmental factors including population density, coal consumption and deforestation. It then assigns a ranking based on the results.

Daniel Esty directs the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and helped develop the index. He says U.S. performance on environmental issues ranges from excellent to negligent.

ESTY: With regard to some things, like provision of drinking water, the U.S. is the best in the world. But with regard to other issues—waste and consumption and particularly greenhouse gas emissions, the United States is really at the bottom tier of the world.

LOBET: Esty says the index isn't meant to gauge standard of living….but with its focus on natural resources consumption and pollution, it does weigh heavily against industrialized, heavily populated nations like the United States.

Still, many highly developed countries like Germany and Japan placed much higher than the U.S. And Esty says the index shows that countries, including Finland, Sweden and Norway, are able to stay competitive in world markets while protecting the environment.

ESTY: Old myths die hard, and I think the myth you have to sacrifice economically to be environmentally sound is one that's persisted for decades. And I think this is where we really need to look at the data and have policy driven off the real facts and not people's long-standing opinions which may be misinformed.

LOBET: The sustainability index was first unveiled at the World Economic Forum in 2002. The U.S. also ranked 45th in that tally. Some countries, like South Korea and Belgium, were so dismayed by their low scores in the first index that they used the results as a roadmap for improving their environmental policies. In this year's index both countries jumped more than 10 places.

ESTY: The index is meant to provide a policy tool so that environmental decision-makers have some capacity to understand how they are doing in addressing the full range of environmental challenges.

LOBET: Esty and his research team plan to release the next ranking in 2008. For Living on Earth, I'm Ingrid Lobet.

[MUSIC: Bob Dyan "Cold Irons Bound" Time Out of Mind (Columbia) 1997]

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Clear Skies

GELLERMAN: Republicans in Congress are in the midst of their latest--and what may be their last--push for President Bush's proposal to change the Clean Air Act.

The president calls it his "Clear Skies Initiative" and claims it will cut three of the major pollutants produced by power plants. But Clear Skies critics say simply enforcing existing laws would do a lot more to protect the public's health. Living on Earth's Jeff Young reports.

YOUNG: On a snowy Earth Day nearly three years ago, President Bush laid out his vision for a new law on clean air.

BUSH: We will set mandatory limits on air pollution with firm deadlines, while giving companies the flexibility to find the best ways to meet the mandatory limits.

YOUNG: But that bill languished in Congress for years. Now a new Congress, with a broader Republican majority, is considering a new Clear Skies bill.

[SOUND: GAVEL - "Meeting will come to order"]

YOUNG: Republican Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and George Voinovich of Ohio launched hearings on the bill Inhofe says will bring historic reductions in air pollution.

INHOFE: This is the most aggressive reduction, mandated reduction, in pollutants in the history of this country, of any president of any time.

YOUNG: Inhofe says the bill would cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—the components of soot, smog and acid rain—and the neuro-toxin mercury by 70 percent over the coming 13 years.

He claims the bill's cap and trade programs that let companies buy and sell pollution credits will make those cuts faster and cheaper than is possible with current law. That part attracted the support of major players in the power industry. Lobbyist Frank Maisano says the power companies he represents in the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council are tired of constantly fighting clean air lawsuits.

MAISANO: So, instead of sitting in court and fighting out the semantics of whether or not you're following the complexities of the Clean Air Act, we have created a cap and trade program that says either you meet a cap or you don't, and if you don't there are things you have to do--you either trade or you meet it.

YOUNG: But the senators also heard from state regulators who worry Clear Skies would take away some of their most important tools in the Clean Air Act—such as the right to take action against pollution blowing in from other states. And critics say Clear Skies would cut provisions that ensure that pollution is reduced at the power plants that most threaten public health. Frank O'Donnell of the non-profit Clean Air Watch says Clear Skies does more to help power companies than the public.

O'DONNELL: It contains loopholes, it contains protections for big polluters, and it postpones cleanup deadlines way up into the future. And, really, we can do much, much better under current law if we just enforce it.

YOUNG: Environmentalists like O'Donnell favor other clean air bills that would mandate steeper cuts in emissions in a shorter time, preventing thousands more premature deaths. Both sides have competing analyses to support their arguments and The National Academy of Sciences was asked to weigh in on some of the proposed changes. That study is not due until the end of the year but a preliminary report from the Academy says it is "unlikely that Clear Skies would result in emission limits at individual sources that are tighter" than possible under the existing Clean Air Act.

While the debate rages about which approach would best reduce the big three pollutants, a fourth emission is lurking in the legislative shadows. Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee is co-sponsor of one of the two alternate bills that would also make power plants control the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

CHAFEE: That's the threshold we have to cross when you're talking about global warming, and that's recognizing that carbon dioxide plays a part in that and, therefore, it should be regulated. And I think we can do it, regulate carbon dioxide, without adversely affecting our industries.

Chafee is a Republican member of the environment committee considering Clear Skies and without his support it's unlikely the president's bill will pass. But Senator Inhofe, the committee chair, calls global warming a hoax and says a cap on carbon dioxide would kill Clear Skies.

INHOFE: Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant I think we understand that. And while some would sacrifice these massive reductions that would be mandated for a political agenda, I think it's wrong.

YOUNG: So, this standoff on CO2 could doom one of the president's most ambitious environmental items: a rewrite of the Clean Air Act. It's something clean air advocate Frank O'Donnell finds an almost fateful twist when he considers President Bush's history with carbon dioxide.

O'DONNELL: It is ironic that in the year 2000 then-candidate George Bush pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power industry. A pledge that he broke soon after he took office. And right now, that could become a poison pill ultimately to any major change in current law.

YOUNG: Hearings on Clear Skies will continue through February. The bill's political outlook remains mostly cloudy. For Living on Earth, I'm Jeff Young in Washington.

Related links:
- Clear Skies - EPA site
- Clear Skies - White House
- Sierra Club's critique of Clear Skies
- Clean Air Watch
- interactive map

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Living Toxic

GELLERMAN: In a few months the White House is expected to announce new restrictions on mercury emissions. High levels of mercury have been showing up in many species of seafood, and the people who eat them, including commentator Katherine Mieszkowski.

MIESZKOWSKI: Too bad Superfund is bankrupt. Because I recently discovered that I am a toxic waste dump. I'm a walking, talking contamination site whose mercury pollution level exceeds federal health guidelines for a woman my age. And, depending on your taste for big carnivorous fish, like shark and albacore tuna, you too could be swimming with the stuff.

As part of a study being conducted for Greenpeace, anyone can get their mercury level tested for 25 dollars. When my own mercury test kit arrived in the mail, I enlisted a co-worker to play the role of medical assistant/hair stylist. She cut a hair sample from the back of my head close to the scalp.

I really wasn't worried. I was curious, but I don't eat THAT much fish. So, after I mailed the sample to a lab at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, I promptly forgot about it.

Then, a few weeks later, I found out that I am contaminated. My results came back as 1.08 micrograms of mercury per gram of hair, just over the threshold of 1 part per million that's considered safe. And I am not alone. In preliminary results, the study found that 21 percent of women in their reproductive years exhibited mercury levels that exceed federal guidelines.

I rationalized that since I'm just .08 over the limit, it isn't really that big a deal. But when I called the director of the Environmental Quality Institute, which did the testing, he told me: "If you have a level above 1, it's definitely a cause for concern."

Mercury can put a developing fetus or nursing child at risk for brain damage. Children born with high levels of mercury can have learning disabilities, lower IQ, and behavioral problems, like sluggishness. The mom need not have any of symptoms whatsoever to exhibit levels that could harm a child.

The largest manmade source of mercury pollution is the coal-fired power plant, which puts the toxin squarely in the middle of energy politics. The Bush administration is poised to issue new guidelines for regulating mercury pollution in March 2005. But some environmentalists argue their proposed measures won't cut the pollution quickly enough.

If you're concerned about mercury, the EPA suggests you leave big predatory fish, like shark, swordfish and tilefish, out of your diet completely. You're also supposed to limit your intake of other fish and shellfish to about 12 ounces a week -- about two average meals. Albacore tuna is typically higher in mercury than light canned tuna, so limiting albacore to once a week is also advised. Especially recommended are salmon, catfish and shrimp, which all have "decent amounts" of omega-3 fatty acids and relatively low mercury levels.

But watchdog groups challenge the EPA's guidelines as not aggressive enough, suggesting that they subject women and their fetuses and young children to too much risk, while pandering to the fish industry.

Still, the best way for me to get my levels back down into the no-worry zone is to change the fish I eat. And the good news is I can actually get rid of some of that mercury. When people stop eating contaminated fish their levels can drop in just a few months. So, I am cutting back on those tasty carnivores, and I plan to get another test early next year. Let's hope I'm no longer toxic.

GELLERMAN: Katherine Mieszkowski is a senior writer at the online magazine Salon dot com.

[MUSIC: Paul Horn "Friendspip" The Altitude of the Sun (Black*Sun) 1989]

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Victoria's Got A Secret

GELLERMAN: Sex sells and few companies use sex as succ-sex-fully as Victoria's Secret. The seller of women's intimate wear churns out a million eye-catching catalogs a day.

Now, Forest Ethics, a San Francisco based environmental group, has taken a page out of Victoria's playbook. The group placed a full-page ad in the New York Times featuring a come-hither model sporting a bustier, black stockings, garter belt, spiked heels, angel wings, and a chainsaw.

The ad is designed to draw attention to the forests Victoria's Secret cuts down to produce paper for all those catalogs. Joining me is Mike Meikson creative director for the New York City ad agency BCA Marketing Communications. Welcome, Mike.

MEIKSON: Thanks, Bruce.

GELLERMAN: Provocative ad, huh?

MEIKSON: Yeah, they definitely didn't hold back on the fashion end of this.

GELLERMAN: Does an ad like this work? Is it effective?

This full-page ad appeared in The New York Times.
(Courtesy of Forest Ethics.)

MEIKSON: You know, it's a little sad as far as I'm concerned because it's such a good cause and yet the ad, in my opinion, fails on so many different levels to get across the message; despite the provocative lingerie the layout is just really unfortunately done. It's just very confusing when you see it flipping through a newspaper you really don't know what it's about at all.

GELLERMAN: So, you think many people might have just looked at this, stopped, said "what's that?" and just kept on going on without reading the content?

MEIKSON: Exactly. Exactly. Just looking at this as an ad, I think it's important to imagine it in the context of, you know, a commuter flipping through it on their way to work in the subway. You know, they have a million other things on their mind and to ask somebody to get down to the nuts and bolts and the nitty-gritty of Canadian deforestation, you're really asking way too much of the average person.

GELLERMAN: What could have they have done differently?

MEIKSON: Well, there's a number of different things they could have done. They could have drawn an analogy between Victoria's Secret and their worship of the female body with - there's kind of a classic link in literature and art between the female body and the Earth. They could have made a number of different comparisons between, you know, "we're trying to keep you beautiful and the Earth beautiful". I mean, obviously, these are just kind of half-baked thoughts, but they could have moved it in that direction. What I would have suggested is figuring out a call to action - some way for the average reader of this ad to get involved. Make that the focus of the ad. Perhaps a petition or some other program designed to encourage companies to reduce paper use.

GELLERMAN: You know, advertisers try to get a bounce that is, you know, somebody else, a news organization picking up the story and I read about this, after I saw the ad, in USA Today; we're doing this conversation as a result of the ad…

MEIKSON: Uh-huh. Exactly.

GELLERMAN: So, does that make for an effective ad?

MEIKSON: Well, perhaps. I mean, the PR aspect of it is definitely a good one. The ad itself is no more effective. In fact, I think that they would have gotten even more spin and more PR if they had taken an approach that made them seem more like they were trying to play on the same team as the corporations and effect change in sort of a constructive and positive way rather than looking, in my opinion, sort of like a bunch of wild-eyed radicals. Just looks like a bunch of angry people who are very frustrated, perhaps justifiably so, but aren't so interested in constructive criticism. They just want to get known.

GELLERMAN: Angry people in stockings and garter belts.

MEIKSON: Indeed.

GELLERMAN: Mike, how much would an ad like this cost in the New York Times? A full-page ad?

MEIKSON: Somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty grand. It's a lot of money, especially for a non-profit.

GELLERMAN: You think it's ironic that they've actually used so much paper to produce this full-page ad in these national newspapers?

MEIKSON: You know, I did think about that. But I guess you could make the case and they would probably argue that newspapers, you know, serve a fairly essential function in terms of delivering news and they're subsidized by ads so it's not something that they necessarily want to wipe out. It's this totally egregious delivery of catalogs which, in most cases, as anyone who's been a victim of overflowing mailboxes, is just out of control and probably doesn't accomplish very much for the amount of waste it creates.

GELLERMAN: Mike Meikson is Creative Director of the ad agency BCA Marketing Communications in New York City. Michael, good speaking to you. Thank you very much.

MEIKSON: No problem. Good to be here.

GELLERMAN: Anthony Hebron, a spokesman for Limited Brands, which owns Victoria's Secret, told us the lingerie retailer is working to boost the content of recycled paper in its catalogs from ten to eighty percent. To see the Forest Ethics ad, visit our website - Living on Earth dot org. Victoria's Secret, check your mailbox.

[MUSIC: Paul Horn "Altura Do Sol" The Altitude of the Sun (Black*Sun) 1989]

Related link:
Forest Ethics

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Emerging Science Note/Problem-Solving Matters

GELLERMAN: Just ahead: twelve years after the collapse of their fishing industry and the loss of 30,000 jobs, Newfoundlanders troll for tourists, instead of cod. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: On the heels of remarks by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers that men may have innate qualities that make them better at math and science than women, there's new research on that touchy subject.

According to a study conducted by the University of California at Irvine and the University of New Mexico, men and women have an equal capacity to problem solve. They just use different parts of their brain to do it.

Researchers took detailed MRI images of 48 participants' brains, then tested them with IQ questions. They then measured the parts of the brain used to determine the answers.

Turns out that when trying to discover a solution to a problem, men use approximately six and a half times more of the brain's gray matter than women, while women use white matter 10 times more than men.

Gray matter is, essentially, a hub for the brain's neuron cell bodies that produce information. White matter accounts for the nerve fibers that connect neurons together into a network for processing information.

Fields such as mathematics requires activity that occurs in the gray areas of the brain, while language skills require more networking within white areas. And even though both types of brains have different neurological pathways, they are able to come to the same conclusions.

So, while male and female brains are different, this study appears to show that, at least when it comes to problem-solving, separate can be equal.

That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jennifer Chu.

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

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, supporting the creation, performance and recording of new music; The Kresge Foundation. Building the capacity of nonprofit organizations through challenge grants since 1924. On the web at k-r-e-s-g-e dot org; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The W-K Kellogg Foundation. ‘From Vision to Innovative Impact: 75 Years of Philanthropy'; This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Bob Dylan "Cold Irons Bound" Time Out of Mind (Columbia) 1997]

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Newfoundland: A Map of the Sea

GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. In 1992, catastrophe struck the once-gigantic Atlantic cod fishery off Newfoundland. Scientists and fishermen suddenly discovered that the Northern Cod had been fished to commercial extinction. A ban on catching cod was put in place, but it came too late. And the fishery has never recovered.

Chris Brookes is a Newfoundland journalist who's watched his fellow islanders grapple with the consequences. His report is part of "Worlds of Difference," a documentary series on global cultural change.


MAN: I don't know, some people say this is a metaphor for life. You know, life is a big elaborate dance. And it's all about keeping your feet while the music changes. Because the music does change, right?


BROOKES: Okay, this recording is the Fort Amherst foghorn. I make a lot of recordings. Like this one (SOUND OF FOGHORN). This is the sound of fog, rolling in the harbor past my house. [FOGHORN] When I'm recording, it's the sound of the present. I put the tape on a shelf and when I play it back days or weeks or years later, of course, it's become the sound of the past. [FOGHORN] A little spool of memory, measuring the gap between then and now. And I feel like there's something sad about the gap, but I don't know why. It's just things changing.


BROOKES: Of course, this isn't really the sound of fog; fog is something you can't hear on the radio. This is a foghorn: a thing that evolved entirely because of fog. So, it's kind of like the voice of fog.


BEST: Okay, how about that?

BROOKES: I made this recording of the singer Anita Best last summer.

BEST: Ready?

BROOKES: A navigational song.

BEST: [SINGING] From Bonavist' Cape to the stinkin' isles, The course is north for 40 miles, When you must steer away noreast till Cape Freells Gull Island bears nor' norwest. Then nor' norwest 33 miles, three leagues offshore lies Whadhams Isles, where all the rock you must take there, two miles south scuddies from miles it bears…

BEST: Sometimes songs were used as navigational aids for people who couldn't really read charts and maps. And you wanted to be able to make the right turns to get around the reefs and rocks and stuff, you know.

BROOKES: So, it's kind of a sung map?

The vanished Newfoundland fishing community of Harbour Deep. Founded in the 17th century, its last residents left in 2002. (Credit: Fred Campbell)

BEST: Yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, in a symbolic kind of way, yes, we used to sing our way around the world. Like the Australians have the song lines. It's an interesting idea to find your way around in the world by song.


Therefore, my friend, I would you advice, since with all those rocks and danger lies, that you may never amongst them fall, but keep your love and weather them all.


BROOKES: A friend of mine likes to point out that Newfoundland is the oldest non-aboriginal culture in the Americas. Before the Plains Indian had the horse we were here, singing the fishing grounds. Like the foghorn with the fog, we evolved entirely because of the fish, and for five centuries we sang, we danced, we spoke the language of fish. Our culture was their voice. Then, suddenly, the fish were gone.

It was 12 years ago. The tapes on my shelf sound like this.

NEWS MUSIC, NEWSCASTER: In the news tonight, net loss. Atlantic ground fish stocks nose dive amidst warnings of economic disaster in the maritime fishery..[FADES TO MALE VOICE]: It's a major and social economic catastrophe. It's the best way of saying it. [FADES]

SAM: There's always hope. Not much of it. But my mind frame now is telling me that the fish is not gone, it's moved somewhere. Right? And in time it'll come back to us. It's just, you can't even imagine never having a cod again.

BROOKES: Twelve years later people can imagine it. The cod fishery is still closed, taking 30,000 jobs with it. Lots of people have left--there were 12,000 a year leaving the island at one point. And some fishing communities have died


BROOKES: This is one of them. A place called Harbour Deep. I took my tape recorder there four years ago when it was still alive.

MAN: I remember seven miles….

BROOKES: It was a three-hour ferry ride to get there. No road.


BROOKES: The community itself. It was Sunday.


BROOKES: A decade earlier the little church would have been full. But listen to this recording and you'll hear just ten voices. [SINGING: We will rejoice…] And outside of the church no one was rejoicing. They were talking about leaving.

WOMAN: We're just packing now, getting ready to go.

BROOKES: Where are you going?

WOMAN: On the ferry tomorrow, going to New Brunswick.

BROOKES: You been here all your life?

WOMAN: Yes, yeah, I've been here all my life.

BROOKES: Has it changed a lot in the last few years?

WOMAN: Yes. Yeah. I mean, people are moving out too now, you know, it makes a lot of difference to the place. There's no in-shore fishery like there used to be. Years ago, you know, everyone would be fishing here, that made a lot of difference. Now, that's all gone. And there's not many people around. And that makes it look lonely.

Would you like to have a cup of tea? You said you'd like to have a cup of tea. I'll give you a cup, too.

BROOKES: Thank you.

BROOKES: The fish didn't come back, and the people left. A year after I visited, the isolated fishing community vanished from the map. But it lives on as a dance. A dance that for centuries was done nowhere else but in Harbour Deep. A pattern of steps called Running the Goat.

The Harbour Deep dance "Running the Goat." (Credit: Rick West)


BROOKES: Let me put that tape back on the shelf for a minute. [CHANGES CASSETTE TAPE] And play you… this one.


MALE: The museum.

BROOKES: This fishing community is still here. So far. Petty Harbour.

HARRIS: And this is the picture that was donated to me a little while ago.

BROOKES: Petty Harbour, 1898. As it was then. The only place you'll find a commercial cod fishery here today is in the town museum. Petty Harbour is near Newfoundland's capital of St. John's - and the proximity to the city gives it a fighting chance for survival. Its little museum isn't that unusual - but the office just down the hall is. The sign on the door says "Petty Harbour Development Corporation."

HAMLIN: My name is Jim Hamlin. And I'm on the Petty Harbour Manage Co. Development Corp.

HUTCHINGS: My name is Nat Hutchings, I'm the mayor of the community.

HAMLIN: I think there's been a great psychological change. For many people, their lives were totally changed - who they were, their productivity. Your identity is tied to what you can produce. And how you see yourself being productive. And others see you being productive. You know, you take that away, it's a big change.

HUTCHINGS: It's more like a culture shock. I mean your culture all your lifetime is the fishery, the fishery. I mean, you eat and you live and you're breathing the fishery. And all of a sudden, I mean, that's gone. It's like a death, it's so total, and there's no getting that part back, so after a while, you gotta do something. I believe that's what the community done. Ninety-nine percent of the community said, I can't live like this, I got to go on with my life. Our community got to be sustainable. The people in the community said listen, I'm going to do something. I'm not gonna fail.

HAMLIN: The consensus was that people saw that tourism could be a way in which to create new employment, create new business opportunities. And help make the bridge to what, I guess, has become the new economy for us.


Petty Harbour plans to build a heritage fishery interpretation center near this wharf to attract tourists. (Credit: Bruce Lane)

BROOKES: The new economy at work. This used to be Weir's General Store in Petty Harbour, selling groceries and canned goods to residents. Now it's the Old Craft Store, offering crafts and souvenirs to tourists.

WOMAN: It's still an old-fashioned shop….

BROOKES: If the town development corporation has its way, shops like this are just the beginning. Their four-year Strategic Tourism Plan predicts that if they can raise the funds and build infrastructure, the average visitor would drop 25 dollars per visit on food, souvenirs and attractions. That could generate three million dollars a year and 150 jobs.


BROOKES: This is the architects' plan here, is it?

HAMLIN: Yes, it's basically a four-year plan, putting in place basically the infrastructure—you know, interactive history, museum, restaurant--that you need in order to attract people, keep people here. To have people spend their money in our communities.

BROOKES: It's a tourism industry that you're basing on the identity…

HUTCHINGS: What we have now. Basically. Just adding say some infrastructure

HAMLIN: Amenities, right? People want, you know, to see what you have, but they're consumers too. Our philosophy is a change in that we've looked for new ways in order to maintain our communities. And one of the new things is the tourism industry.

KIERLY: Okay, here's how it's gonna go….

BROOKES: Ironically while the live community of Petty Harbour tools up a four-year plan to catch tourists, the dead community's dance doppelganger is already reeling them in. Not, of course, in Harbour Deep, the community's gone, but in tourist entertainments elsewhere around the island. This one is held in Trinity Bay, and every Wednesday night from June to September Running the Goat dance is a big hit with tourists. Tonya Kierley calls the dance.

KIERLEY: Harbour Deep is part of that race of communities that's gone. And what have we got to show? Oh, we got their dance. You know, we have the essence of Harbour Deep in a dance, in a little vile, that I can take out every Wednesday night and open it go look, poof, look here's some pixie dust from Harbour Deep. And now for a moment - for 25 minutes, we're all going to be people from Harbour Deep, Running the Goat. It's disgusting in a way, but completely inevitable and natural and good in another.

For visitors and for locals alike, to be able to dance in a choreographed piece of authentic - it's a very loaded word there - authentic Newfoundland dance and music is the experience they're looking for. It is the shoehorn into the cultural experience. I can't tell you how many people leave the dance hall and say, "You've made my stay."

BROOKES: Teaching a dance like that to tourists, it's obviously different than a community, which used to do it as its own dance.

KIERLEY: Mmm-hmm. I stopped doing the dance for a long time, actually. Because I wasn't sure the ends justified the means. Academically, my training is as a folklorist. And the longer that I operated in the tourism industry as a folklorist the more I began to realize that tourism is eclipsing culture and swallowing it up whole. And what they're spitting out is enough to make your gall rise. We're laying down and giving it away. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night. Believe it or not. It bothers me. But, you can get all nationalistic about it, and say, well, know, Newfoundland is not for sale. Go home, filthy tourist maggots. We are not a cultural strip mine. This is ours. It's not a souvenir. And there's a lot of people who are like that. But then, Newfoundland, treasure or not, it's just dancing. So, that's how I justify it.


HAMLIN: You know, it's all about being able to adapt.

BROOKES: What do you say to the critics who say well, Newfoundland communities refocusing toward tourism is going to turn the place into a kind of a folksy Disneyland?

HAMLIN: Well, there are skeptics. But the thing about it too is do you just throw your hands up and say, is that then end of us as a people? Have we been here five hundred years for that?

HUTCHINGS: There's another way of looking at it. We had fish one time. We had employment. We got tourists now. We're fishers of people basically now, rather than fishers of cod.


BROOKES: So, there'll be a Petty Harbour small boat museum and a Petty Harbour fishery interpretation center and, with luck, the community will thrive. Thanks to heritage tourism that's not unlike the audio tapes sitting on my shelf: spools of memory measuring the gap between how things used to be and how things are now. Between an economy based on the greatest fishery in the world, blindly destroyed a decade ago and one based on the memory of it. A memory recorded, and played back, for others.


BROOKES: For Living on Earth, I'm Chris Brookes in Newfoundland.

[MUSIC: Ulli "Tomorrow All Will Be Well Again" Ageless Guitar Solos (Water's Edge) 1996]

GELLERMAN: Our story on Newfoundland and the collapse of cod is part of the series "Worlds of Difference," a project of Homelands Productions - and made possible with funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For photos from Newfoundland, see our website - Living on Earth dot org.


Related link:
"Worlds of Difference"

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GELLERMAN: Every week, Living on Earth brings you stories about the environment. Now, it's your turn. We invite you to send us your stories. Just visit Living on Earth dot org for complete details. We'll tell you how to make a recording, which could be as simple as picking up the telephone - or sitting down with a friend and talking into a tape recorder perhaps, like this listener, who was inspired by a small creature to pen a poem…

LISTENER: After rain, which he likes, snail opens his door and comes out with his house. He sees his next meal with his feet and tries to avoid toad who calls him dinner.

GELLERMAN: Ribbitt. So, what's your story? We'll choose some of your recordings and post them on our website. We might even put it on the air. This is not a contest. There are no winners, no losers. It's simply a call for self-expression. Visit Living on Earth dot org for directions, sample submissions and a chance to tell your story. Don't choke, or croak.

[EARTHEAR: Eric La Casa "Linspirdurivage" EarthEar Vol. 2, Oct. 01]

GELLERMAN: We leave you this week on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Eric La Casa composed this piece from recordings he made of waves hitting the shoreline and swirling in rocks along the coast near Rovinj, Croatia.


GELLERMAN: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Chris Ballman, Christopher Bolick, and Eileen Bolinksy, with help from Carl Lindemann. Our interns are the Katies - Katie Oliveri and Katie Zemtseff. Our technical director is Paul Wabrek. Alison Dean composed our themes. You can find us at Living on Earth dot org. Steve Curwood's on vacation. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER 1: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science; and Stonyfield Farm. Organic yogurt, smoothies and cultured soy. Ten percent of profits are donated to efforts that help protect and restore the earth. Details at Stonyfield dot com. Support also comes from NPR member stations, and the Ford Foundation, for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the Wellborn Ecology Fund

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