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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

January 6, 2006

Air Date: January 6, 2006

FULL SHOW

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SEGMENTS

DuPont in Sticky Situation Over Teflon Chemical / Jeff Young

(stream / mp3)

Legal problems and health questions are piling up for DuPont thanks to a chemical used to make Teflon and dozens of other consumer products. Living on Earth's Jeff Young tells us how this chemical's problematic nature came to light. (12:00)

Mine Closure

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Members of the Hopi and Navajo nations face the loss of up to 200 jobs due to the closure of the heavily polluting Black Mesa Mine. But other community members are jubilant at the protection of the Hopi sacred springs. Host Jeff Young talks with filmmaker Christopher "Toby" McLeod who has been making documentaries on sacred Native American lands since 1978. (06:00)

From Ashes to Bricks / Daniel Kraker

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Even with the closure of the Mojave power plant, coal and coal waste are a major economic force in Navajo country. And as Daniel Kraker reports from Arizona, Navajos have found a new way to use coal plant waste from ANOTHER power plant. They're making a new kind of concrete that could even help solve the reservation's acute housing shortage. (07:00)

Forecasting 2006

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Trend watcher Gerald Celente looks ahead and tells Living on Earth’s Jeff Young what environmental trends to watch for this year. (04:30)

Emerging Science Note/Mine Hazards

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Why the worst mining accidents seem to always happen around the holidays. (01:30)

Big Brother

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Following 9/11, Congress passed the U.S. Patriot Act to expand the government’s power to monitor U.S. citizens in its fight against terrorism. Recent documents obtained from the FBI by the American Civil Liberties Union show that those expanded powers are being used to monitor environmental and animal rights groups. Host Jeff Young talks with the ACLU’s Ann Beeson about what the documents show about the FBI’s activities. (07:00)

Greening California’s Seaports

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The Port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest seaports in the world, has some new and unusual leadership. It's all part of a turn of events for ports. They're under unprecedented pressure to reduce air pollution as it becomes clear their emissions equal millions of cars on the road each day. Living on Earth's Ingrid Lobet has the latest installment in the series "The Haze Over Trade." (07:15)

This week's EarthEar selection
listen / download

A rock concert in Death Valley, California.

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Jeff Young
GUESTS: Christopher "Toby" McLeod, Gerald Celente, Ann Beeson
REPORTERS: Daniel Kraker, Ingrid Lobet,
NOTE: Rachel Gotbaum,

[THEME MUSIC]

YOUNG: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.

[THEME MUSIC]

YOUNG: I’m Jeff Young. A chemical used to make Teflon and dozens of other consumer products is showing up in human blood across the U.S. There are growing concerns about its potential health effects, and hard questions for Dupont, the company making it.

TENANT: They make more money off of Teflon than they do probably any other chemical they have. So then why didn’t they take care of themselves while they were making it so they wouldn’t have all this pollution down the road? Now down the road has caught up with them.

YOUNG: A sticky situation for a non-stick chemical. Also, why is the FBI watching tree- huggers?

BEESON: The question really is whether we want the FBI to use its counter-terrorism resources against peaceful protest groups like Greenpeace.

YOUNG: Those stories and more, this week on Living on Earth. Stick around.

Back to top

[NPR NEWSCAST]

[THEME MUSIC]

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

DuPont in Sticky Situation Over Teflon Chemical

An aerial view of the Dupont Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, on the Ohio River. (DEP, State of WV)

YOUNG: This is Living on Earth. I'm Jeff Young, sitting in for Steve Curwood.

The corporate giant DuPont is in a sticky situation over a chemical used to make the nonstick material Teflon, one of its top selling products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the company failed to disclose what it knew about the potential health effects of the chemical, known as C8 or PFOA. DuPont knew the chemical was getting into water supplies near one of its facilities, knew that it was in the blood of workers, and knew it was toxic to animals in studies.

DuPont recently agreed to pay a record 16 million dollars to settle those charges. But other legal issues and many health and environment questions remain unresolved. The Department of Justice subpoenaed records for a pending criminal investigation. And scientists are scrambling to learn how the chemical gets into our environment, our bodies and what effects it might have. Much of this started in a very unlikely place – a cow pasture along the Ohio River.

[SOUNDS OF WALKING THROUGH FIELD]

YOUNG: Della and Jim Tenant own these grassy slopes just south of Parkersburg, West Virginia, where their family has grazed cattle for decades. In the late 80s the Tenants leased part of the land to DuPont. The company put in a new landfill to take non-toxic waste from its nearby facility. Shortly after the landfill went in, trouble started.

D. TENANT: The cattle started getting tumors, going blind, going crazy and acting like a bunch of crazy cows.

YOUNG: The cattle drank from a small stream near the foot of the DuPont landfill. And before long, the cattle were dying.

D. TENANT: It was awful. I saw a cow die one time. It had the most terrifying bawl, and every time it would open its mouth and bawl, blood would gush from its mouth. And there was nothing you could do. It was suffering and there was nothing you could do. And whenever you think about feeding all those animals to your children, all the time they were growing up, it’s something that puts a lump in your throat you can’t take away.

YOUNG: The Tenants would later learn that DuPont had dumped the chemical C8 in the unlined landfill. Just a few miles from the Tenant’s land, schoolteacher Joe Kiger lives with his wife in a tidy home overlooking the river valley. About five years ago he found a curious letter along with his water bill: a notice that a chemical had been detected.

KIGER: Fluorocarbon something or other, I can’t even pronounce it. I’m not a chemist.

YOUNG: At first, Kiger thought nothing of it. But on a second reading, he started to get interested.

KIGER: Red flags started popping up as far as guidelines established by DuPont, and I kept thinking, ‘wait a minute, what is DuPont doing dealing in our water?’ From that point on I told the wife, I said, ‘Honey, I think I’m gonna call some agencies find out what this C8 is. There’s some kind of a chemical in our water and I’m not even sure why it’s in there.’

YOUNG: You may never have heard of C8, but if you use stain resistant clothes or carpet, cook on Teflon pans, eat microwave popcorn or fast food French fries, well, you’ve probably used a product related to it. The full name is Perfluorooctanoate, it's abbreviated to PFOA or “Pu-Fo-uh.” The term “C8” comes from its chain of 8 carbons and it's part of a family of many fluorinated chemicals.

PURDY: They have peculiar properties compared to most of the chemicals we contact in our daily lives.

YOUNG: Toxicologist Rich Purdy worked with C8 before retiring from the 3M company in Minnesota. Those peculiar properties he mentions made C8 and related chemicals key ingredients for 3M’s Scotchguard brand products.

PURDY: You know how oil doesn't mix with water? Well, these chemicals don’t mix with oil or water. That property allows them, if you put them into like a fabric, to shed both water and oily dirt.

YOUNG: But Purdy and others started finding the chemical where it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s shown up in wildlife in the Arctic and in trace amounts in blood samples across the country. There’s a good chance that everyone listening to this story has very small amounts in the blood. And Purdy says these fluorinated chemicals are persistent in the body, and stick around a long time in the environment.

PURDY: We often remember DDT, we remember PCBs, we remember the dioxin chemicals. Well, these fluorochemicals are more persistent than all of those, much more persistent than those. As far as we can tell, their half-lives are in thousands of years.

YOUNG: At the time the Tenants’ cattle were dying and Joe Kiger was wondering about his water, little was known about C8 outside of the few companies that made and used it. That started to change when Kiger and the Tenants hired lawyers.

J. TENANT: It’s a poor way to have to do business that you have to sue a company to get them to do that which is right.

YOUNG: Jim Tenant sued DuPont for dumping C8 in the landfill near his pasture.

J. TENANT: They make more money off of Teflon than they do probably any other chemical they have, so then why didn’t they take care of themselves when they were making it so they wouldn’t have all this pollution down the road? Now down the road has caught up with them.

YOUNG: Tenant’s lawyers found animal studies showing high exposure to C8 is toxic. Those studies spurred Kiger to file what would become a massive class action suit against DuPont. That suit uncovered more disturbing health concerns about the chemical and details of how DuPont handled it. There were internal emails, like this one Kiger reads from. It’s from a DuPont attorney worried that the company’s reporting of C8 emissions was not accurate.

KIGER: “So we’ve been telling agencies results which are surely low. Not a pretty situation especially since we’ve been telling the water systems not to worry. Ugh!” And that’s a direct quote.

YOUNG: Six water districts around the DuPont plant were found to be contaminated. Other discoveries had to do with C8 in the blood of workers in DuPont’s Teflon division. The company knew decades ago that pregnant women who worked there had transferred the chemical to their unborn. Again, Kiger reads what he learned.

KIGER: In 1981 – now, this one upsets me more than anything – in 1981 DuPont found C8 in the umbilical cord blood of a baby born to one plant worker and in the blood of a second baby born to another worker. Two more workers gave birth to babies with birth defects. DuPont reassigned 50 women from the plant but the EPA was not told.

YOUNG: Disclosures like those led EPA to take action. Last February, DuPont settled the class action suit. DuPont will filter the chemical from water supplies and pay for some to drink bottled water. The $107 million dollar settlement was the talk of the town in Parkersburg, an economically struggling area where DuPont is a major employer. Kiger says not all of the talk was kind.

KIGER: We’ve been cussed, discussed, and everything else I could say as far as that goes. Things about how we’re gonna shut down DuPont and run em out of here. And ‘My God, what are you gonna do with all the money you get out of all this?’ and everything. Anyone who knows anything about class action suits knows the plaintiffs and the clients don’t get anything, I’ll leave it at that. (LAUGHS)

YOUNG: Lawyers took a healthy cut, of course, but they’re not getting the lion’s share of the settlement, either. Charleston attorney Harry Dietzler explains where the money went.

DIETZLER: We decided the best way to serve the class as a whole was to answer the question that everybody that's affected in the class wants to know, the question being: what does C8 do or not do to my body."

YOUNG: They set up a first-of-its-kind health screening program for residents around the DuPont plant.

RECEPTIONIST: Which water source did you consume to make you eligible for the project?

PARTICIPANT: Warren High School’s water system.

RECEPTIONIST: That would be Little Hocking, okay…[TYPING]

YOUNG: By the thousands, people like this young woman have come to temporary offices in trailers to fill out thorough health questionnaires and have blood drawn for chemical testing.

PARTICIPANT: My mom said it would help them figure out things about C8, so I said I would be willing to do it.

YOUNG: For her trouble, she’ll walk away with $400 from the settlement money. So far, 33,000 people have been fully tested, and another 63,000 have done the health questionnaire. Once complete, the data go to an independent science panel appointed by the court to judge if there is any link between C8 and human disease. If there is, DuPont will pay up to $235 million for further health monitoring. If there’s not, attorney Dietzler’s case is over.

DIETZLER: And that’s not a bad thing. Because that means the persons who have wondered and worried can be reassured that they do not have a concern. We get an answer which the community needs.

YOUNG: In 2000, 3M quit making and using C8 out of concerns about its persistence and potential health effects. DuPont continues to use it, and now manufactures the chemical at a new facility in North Carolina where the chemical is again showing up in trace amounts in surrounding water. The company says it will reduce C8 emissions, but some company watchdogs say that’s not enough.

LEWIS: The real risk from PFOA is not from plant emissions, except in very localized neighborhoods.

YOUNG: That’s Sanford Lewis, with a group called DuPont Shareholders for Fair Value. Lewis says DuPont has not been honest with stock owners about the financial risks stemming from health risks if the chemical escapes from the company’s products.

LEWIS: The real risk to most consumers is from your pants, it’s from pancake griddles, it’s from your carpet, it’s from an array of consumer products in which these materials are being utilized.

YOUNG: A former DuPont employee says the company knew C8 could escape from food wrappers, a charge the company denies. Part of DuPont’s recent settlement agreement with EPA includes a $5 million study into what happens when C8 products break down. EPA Deputy Administrator Susan Hazen says nothing so far shows a health hazard.

HAZEN: Many of the tests we have asked for will add more certainty to that, but at this point in time there is no information that would indicate that under usual consumer circumstances that the products we use that contain this class of chemicals are of concern.

YOUNG: The EPA is also conducting a risk assessment, the first step toward possibly regulating C8 and related chemicals. A draft report from EPA’s Science Advisory Board told the agency it should consider C8 a likely carcinogen in its studies for the risk assessment. Other health concerns to be studied include liver disease and developmental problems in the young and unborn. Rich Purdy, the toxicologist who worked with the chemical at 3M, urges a precautionary approach.

PURDY: I’d like to see uses in clothes banned, uses in food packaging banned, uses in carpets – the uses where we’re exposed to large amounts daily, I think they’re pretty dangerous substances.

YOUNG: DuPont’s spokesperson declined to be interviewed for this story, but the company did supply a number of written statements. DuPont says defects among babies born to its Teflon employees are likely unrelated to C8. It admitted no wrongdoing when settling the EPA charges of withholding information. And of the health concerns the company writes:

"To date no human health effects are known to be caused by PFOA even in workers who have significantly higher exposure levels than the general population."

YOUNG: You can read more of the company’s point of view, and hear an interview with a scientist planning one of the government’s ambitious new studies into the chemical’s potential health effects, by visiting Living on Earth online. It’s www.loe.org.

Related links:
- **WEB EXCLUSIVE: Scientist Kris Thayer of the National Toxicology Project talks with Jeff Young about the chemical C8 and its possible health effects.
- Dupont position statements and info on PFOA
- EPA page on PFOA
- EPA Science Advisory Board draft
- Environmental Working Group on PFOA
- Dupont Shareholders for Fair Value
- Ohio Citizen Action – Dupont campaign
- Society of the Plastics Industry on PFOA

Back to top

[MUSIC: Nils Petter Molvaer “Solid Ether” from ‘Solid Ether’ (ECM – 2001)]

YOUNG: Coming up: After 35 years, a coal mine closes in Black Mesa, Arizona. For some Native Americans who live there, it's a chance to save a sacred place; for others it's the end of a good paying job. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Tony Goddess “Bees” from ‘Music For Plants’ (Perfect If On – 2005)]

Mine Closure

Mining on Black Mesa, Courtesy of Sacred Land Film Project

YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young. For the first time in 35 years the Black Mesa coal mine in northeastern Arizona did not re-open after the holidays. In fact, it’s probably closed for good. The nearby Mohave Generating Station was shut down because of repeated pollution violations, and the Black Mesa mine supplied that power station’s coal.

So, for some 200 people in the Hopi and Navajo communities of Black Mesa, it means lost jobs and a rather bleak new year. For others, it means cleaner air and the preservation of places considered sacred for centuries.

Christopher "Toby" McLeod directs the Sacred Land Film Project. He's been making documentaries about native land conservation in the U.S. since 1978, when he first started working with the Hopi tribe of Black Mesa. Mr. McLeod, welcome to Living on Earth.

McLEOD: Hi, Jeff, thanks for having me.

YOUNG: You’ve been working with the Hopi for over 25 years. What did you think when you heard that the mine and power station there were shutting down?

McLEOD: All of us felt a huge sense of relief, notwithstanding the fact that there’s some suffering from the miners and the folks who are losing their employment there. But there’s been great concern for many years that Peabody Coal Company has been depleting the underground water supply, pristine, Ice Age water that emerges as springs at the Hopi villages there, and really gives the life and the name to every one of the Hopi villages. And depleting the aquifer at a rate of 1.2 billion gallons a year has been an overriding concern amongst the Hopi spiritual leaders for many, many years. So, relief, I think, and also a sense of hope, because many people working together have generated this positive outcome to clean up the air and protect the water.


Toby McLeod and Vernon Masayesva (Hopi activist, Black Mesa Trust, former Hopi Tribal Chairman) Photo by John Schaefer, courtesy of Sacred Land Film Project

YOUNG: Now, remind me, why did the coal mine need to use all this water?

McLEOD: Peabody Coal Company operated the only slurry line in the United States using water to move coal to the power plant. The power plant was 273 miles away from the mine, so they needed a huge quantity of water to run the coal, which was pulverized, through an 18-inch diameter pipe all the way to Nevada.

YOUNG: The tribal communities seem very split over this. There are those pleased with this shutdown, but there are also those losing their jobs, good paying jobs, and they’re not at all happy about that. How does this break down? Is there a clear majority opinion here?


(Courtesy of Sacred Land Project)

McLEOD: Both the Hopi and Navajo communities are just as diverse and divided over this kind of an issue as any other community throughout America. They have materialistic engineers who want to maximize their income and provide jobs and generate money. They have spiritual leaders and environmentally-sensitive people; they have biologists; they have people who are looking at the big picture and saying this is unsustainable, it’s a violation of our cultural instructions, and we have to stop it.

And ,I would say, amongst the Hopi and the Navajo there’s a deep value system that respects the Earth. And this is not to romanticize it; it’s just the way they are. The history they have in that place, their relationship to the animals and the water and everything, would lead, I think, the great majority of the people to feel very uncomfortable with a massive coal strip mine that was benefiting really very few people amongst their community.

Yes, there was economic benefit, there was a trickle-down of some of the millions of dollars that Peabody was spending in the communities, and there is individual suffering. But I think when you compare that to springs that have sustained the Hopi villages for a thousand years, you have to err on the side of caution to protect those springs. And I think most Hopi are probably quite happy that the burden is being taken off, the pressure is being taken off their water supply.

YOUNG: Do you see, is there a generational change at work here? As older members of these tribes give way to the next generation of their leaders, is there a similar understanding of the importance of these lands, commitment to preservation? Or is it being undermined – pardon the pun – by desire for commercial development?

McLEOD: There’s no doubt that the elders in Native communities are connected still to a different era. And they have the language and the songs, and they’re carrying traditions that through the 50s and 60s, with boarding schools and attempts to outlaw religion and language in Native communities, that created a real weak point throughout the 70s and 80s where the younger generation really didn’t have that cultural momentum and knowledge.

But there’s been a real renaissance in the last ten or twenty years. There’s been an attempt to revitalize the languages, to bring the elders back into the educational system so that knowledge of plants and knowledge of ceremonies, things like that, is now appreciated more, maybe, than it was ten or 15 years ago. So, I really do think there’s a cultural revitalization and that the younger people are actually listening.

That’s not to say that there aren’t casinos coming in, and that the kinds of temptations that all parents sort of struggle watching their kids do – video games, and, you know, get addicted to TV shows and things – that’s all happening out there, as well. But they have a cultural foundation. They have these places and they have this history and a sense of commitment to carry that on that I think will prevail over the long-term.

YOUNG: Filmmaker "Toby" McLeod directs the Sacred Land Film Project. Mr. McLeod, thanks for joining us.

McLEOD: Thank you.

Related links:
- Sacred Land Film Project
- Black Mesa Trust

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[MUSIC: Anonymous “Motherless Children” from ‘Sacred Lands Film Project Soundtrack’ (2005)]

From Ashes to Bricks

This home, built with flexcrete blocks, will be fireproof and wind-tested to 200 mph. (Photo: Gary Damron)

YOUNG: The place where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet is called the Four Corners region, and thousands of Navajo families there live in overcrowded, dilapidated buildings and trailers, often without running water or electricity. Many have waited for new homes — either from the federal or tribal government — for more than a decade. Now, the tribe has a state-of-the-art facility that turns waste from burned coal into a new generation of building materials. As Daniel Kraker of Arizona Public Radio reports, the Navajo hope it will solve their housing crisis.

[SOUND OF POWER PLANT]

KRAKER: Coal-fired power plants like the Navajo Generating Station just outside Page, Arizona, create 125 million tons of ash every year. That’s enough to fill the nearby Grand Canyon. A little more than half that is fly ash, the finest and lightest ash that would fly out the smokestack if it wasn’t captured. But at this enormous plant, environmental engineer Paul Ostapuk says a half million tons of fly ash are collected annually from the combustion airstream.

OSTAPUK: There’s 16 chambers, six electrical fields in each chamber. We charge the fly ash particles, they’re attracted then to electrical curtains, and we rap on those curtains and collect the fly ash down in hoppers.

[RAPPING SOUND]

OSTAPUK: So, that’s rapping.

[TRUCK SOUND]

KRAKER: Nationwide, about 60 percent of fly ash collected at power plants is landfilled or re-buried in the coal mines it came from.

[PASSING TRUCKS]

KRAKER: But that’s not the case at the Navajo Generating Station. Nearly all of the fly ash created here is trucked three miles down the highway to manufacture a unique new building material called flex-crete.

[PLANT SOUND]

KRAKER: Gary Damron manages the plant, which is owned by the Navajo Nation.

DAMRON: Right now, 40 percent of our mixture ratio is fly ash, so it’s a very large proportion.

KRAKER: The ingredients are mixed together and placed in a 20 foot long mold where millions of microscopic gas bubbles cause it to rise like a giant loaf of bread to about twice its height. It takes about two days for it to harden or cure.


This home, built with flexcrete blocks, will be fireproof and wind-tested to 200 mph. (Photo: Gary Damron)

[SAWING SOUND]

KRAKER: Then it’s sawed into bricks that look like traditional cinder blocks, but Damron says are more like an ideal combination between concrete and lumber. Though he says that makes some customers skeptical.

DAMRON: They’re like, ‘okay, we hear all the benefits.’ You know, it’s easy to work with, it’s a solid material, it has a very high R value as far as your heating and cooling requirements, it’s fire resistant, it creates a noise barrier. And they always say, ‘okay, tell me what’s wrong with it.’ Being that it’s a porous material, you do have to seal it. It’s susceptible to moisture if it’s left in a raw state; besides that, I don’t think there is a holdback to flex-crete.

KRAKER: Flex-crete is one of several building products known as aerated, or cellular, concrete that replace a portion of their cement with fly ash. The technology has existed for about 70 years in Europe, and more recently in this country. But Damron says flex-crete is the first concrete developed that doesn’t need to be autoclaved – essentially, cured in a giant pressure cooker.

DAMRON: To achieve the same thing we would achieve with flex-crete would cost this plant an additional 15 to 20 times more if we had to initiate an autoclave, and we would consume a large portion of energy to create the same thing.

KRAKER: Flex-crete, as well as other aerated concretes with names like e-crete and safe-crete, offer another environmental bonus. That’s because they use fly ash to replace cement. For every ton of cement produced, one ton of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

These new products, though, have been developed against the backdrop of a fierce disagreement over fly ash. The coal industry considers it a benign byproduct. Environmentalists, like Lisa Evans with the Clean Air Task Force, believe the ash, at least in its powdery form, is hazardous.

EVANS: Like the coal it came from, fly ash contains numerous heavy metals and other toxic substances, such as arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, boron and more, and when the ash comes into contact with water, these hazardous substances leech out of the coal ash and enter the environment, sometimes in quantities, or often quantities, that are harmful to health and the environment.

KRAKER: But the EPA says fly ash is not a hazardous waste. As a result, it’s up to the states to regulate its disposal. The results have been uneven. A landfill leak in Indiana and a coal ash landslide in Pennsylvania have contaminated drinking water supplies. Evans says stricter disposal regulations would spur utilities to find more ways to reuse fly ash.

[SOUND OF PUMPING WATER AND PEOPLE TALKING ]


(Courtesy of the ASU Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family.)

AUGUSTINE: It’s going to work for me…

[PUMPING]

KRAKER: In the northeast corner of the Navajo Nation, 73-year-old Mary Augustine tries out the water pump in front of her brand new home, the first on the reservation built with flex-crete. Mary and her husband Kee had been on a waiting list for a new home for years. Their old house had only one electrical outlet and a leaky roof. Now, Mary says, they’ll be able to stay here in this wide sandstone canyon dotted with cottonwoods.


The original Augustine residene that was demolished and replaced (left photo). Mary and Key Augustine's new home (right). (Photos courtesy of the ASU Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family.)

AUGUSTINE: We love to live here. We’ve been living here for almost 37 years. It’s just real quiet. You can just go out and walk and walk and walk. It’s something that you dreamed about, and it came a reality, yeah. (LAUGHS) And then some people say it’s just like the “Extreme Makeover” (LAUGHS).

KRAKER: That’s the TV show that rebuilds houses. This home, though, was built by the Navajo Housing Authority and designed by the Stardust Center for Affordable Housing at Arizona State University.

[DOOR OPENING]

KRAKER: Daniel Glenn, the center’s co-director, opens a door into the home’s entryway.

[DOOR CLOSES]

KRAKER: Inside it’s cool, despite the hot late summer sun. Glenn says he had planned to use straw bales, until he learned that flex-crete made a thicker 12 inch block.

GLENN: The disadvantage of straw bale is it’s not a good mass. It’s good insulator but not a good mass; in hot climates you need mass to absorb the heat. And so the 12-inch thick mass wall behaves extraordinarily well in this high desert climate.

KRAKER: That’s what the Navajo Housing Authority is banking on. The NHA financed the construction of the flex-crete plant in Page and has a 10 percent ownership stake in the technology. The Navajo Authority hopes its new, cheaper building product will help put a dent in the estimated 60,000 new homes needed across the reservation. For Living on Earth, I’m Daniel Kraker on the Navajo Nation.

Related link:
Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family

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[MUSIC: Languis “Photosynthesis” from ‘Music For Plants’ (Perfect If On – 2005)]

Forecasting 2006

YOUNG: A new year is upon us. Have any predictions for what it might bring? Well, Gerald Celente does. Celente is in the prediction business as president of Trends Research Institute. He saw gourmet coffee coming before most of us had heard the word “Starbucks,” and he heard the first rumblings of an anti-globalization movement years before the Battle of Seattle….just a few of the trends he has accurately predicted. He is a man slightly ahead of his time, and he joins us now to talk about environmental trends for the year ‘06. Mr. Celente, welcome to Living on Earth.

CELENTE: Well, thanks for having me.

YOUNG: Let’s talk about energy prices…certainly, one where there’s been a mix of good and bad news. You had gas prices shooting through the roof, oil companies raking in record profits. What do you think is on the horizon for our coming year?

CELENTE: Necessity is the mother of invention. As oil prices continue to go higher, you’re going to start seeing a lot more venture capital, a lot more interest in alternative energies. It’s only a matter of time. To think that we’re in the 21st century using fossil fuels is, by its very nature, a fossil idea. So, beyond the popular wind power and solar power, we’re looking at real energy breakthroughs that are going to make a huge difference, such as hydreno power, charge clusters, permanent magnets, zero-point energy, and even cold fusion. And as Wall Street and venture capitalists understand the profits to be made, both for the planet and for their pocketbook, you’re going to start seeing a lot more money moving into that area.

YOUNG: Is there a particular trigger point where people start being willing to invest in renewables?

CELENTE: When gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon, you’re going to see a lot of scrambling, both from Wall Street and Washington, to find an alternative energy. And here’s why: when people can’t go out and buy things – remember, two-thirds of our gross domestic product is generated by consumer spending – you’re going to see the government and investors start putting serious money into alternative energy solutions. Because if they don’t, and the consumer pocketbook closes up and only spends money on the necessities – food, clothing, and shelter, and not retail products – America is going to be in really deep trouble.

YOUNG: Big items in the news in the past year had to do with the threat of looming disease. We had news about mad cow disease, we have the continuing concern about avian flu. How’s that going to affect our behavior in the coming year, do you think?

CELENTE: You’re going to see a lot of people being a lot more cautious, and probably picking up habits they have in more populated countries like China. You know, where people will start wearing more masks. “Immune system buildup”--that’s going to be a big buzz word of the future. You’re also going to start seeing more focus on vitamins and therapies that can make people stay healthy in a world where you’re more susceptible to so many different strains and viruses and diseases that are potentially pandemic-forming. So, we’re going to see a lot more concentration on anything having to do with health, fitness, nutrition. Spiritual and emotional as well as physical nutrition, as well.

YOUNG: Generally speaking, where do you see the environmental movement going in the coming year? Or is it going to move at all?

CELENTE: We see a rebirth in the environmental movement that we haven’t seen probably over in the last decade. It’s a very interesting aspect to look at. As the economy’s boomed, for some reason there’s less of an interest in environmentalism. As the economy slows down, people become environmental again. So we saw the real last big push of the environment in the early 1990s – the economy wasn’t doing well--celebrating Earth Day 1990, 20 year anniversary. And now, where the economies are slowing down again, fuel costs are going up, people’s pocketbooks are being pinched, and again there is environmental interest. We think that this is going to be a big launch pad, 2006, for major environmental movement.

YOUNG: Gerald Celente is president of The Trends Research Institute. Thanks very much for talking with us.

CELENTE: Well, thank you for having me.

Related link:
Trends Research Institute

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[MUSIC: Brave Combo “Auld Lang Syne” from ‘Holidays!’ (Rounder Select – 2005)]

YOUNG: Just ahead: ecologists or eco-terrorists? The FBI monitors the activities of some major environmental groups. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, online at m-o-t-t dot org, supporting efforts to promote a just, equitable and sustainable society; 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: Caribou “Crayon” from `Semper Satago’ (Domino - 2005)]

Emerging Science Note/Mine Hazards

YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Jeff Young, and coming up: Cracking down on one of the last sources of unregulated pollution: America's busy seaports. First this Note on Emerging Science from Rachel Gotbaum.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

GOTBAUM: Winter is the most dangerous time for mine workers. That’s because explosions like the one that recently killed 12 miners and critically injured another in West Virginia are more likely to occur in cold weather.

Cold weather lowers the barometric pressure, and the lower pressure enables an odorless, colorless but highly flammable gas called methane to seep out of the mine rock and accumulate. Colder weather also brings dryer air which dries out the coal dust in the mine and makes it more explosive. In the winter months, to offset the accumulating methane, mine workers often turn up the ventilation system to disperse the gas from the mine shaft. But that ventilation system also keeps the coal dust from getting moisture and increases the explosive hazard.

So even a spark resulting from something as seemingly innocuous as static electricity can cause an explosion in a mine under winter conditions.

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Rachel Gotbaum.

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Big Brother

YOUNG: Spying is coming under increasing scrutiny here in Washington after disclosures that the Bush administration approved the secret monitoring of some U.S. citizens. The coming session of Congress will likely bring hearings into whether such tactics are legal and appropriate.

Another revelation of government monitoring is also making waves among Washington’s environmental groups. Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act show the FBI’s counter-terrorism agents have been keeping tabs on some environment and animal rights groups.

Joining us now to talk about that is Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ms. Beeson, welcome to Living on Earth.

BEESON: Thank you.

YOUNG: A lot of the information in these documents, it just doesn’t seem like it would have much to do with national security. There’s some stuff in there about a training workshop for the demonstration group Bread & Puppets, for example. There’s one agent who listens to a member of the Catholic Workers Group, an anti-poverty group, at a demonstration and takes notes, I’m quoting here: “In the author’s opinion, CWG advocates a communist-style distribution of resources.” Now, why on earth would the FBI care about this stuff in the first place? And what does it have to do with fighting terrorism?

BEESON: Well, that’s exactly our question. There may be some, you know, disagreement over whether and to what extent the FBI should investigate, you know, the illegal boarding of ships by Greenpeace. But do we really want them using counter-terrorism agents to do that?

There’s another document that is a history that’s titled “A History Background of the Environmental Rights Movement,” and that document says that, quote, “eco-terror is any crime committed in the name of saving nature.” That would mean any time the smallest law is broken – for example, someone steps onto a military base illegally – that that person has committed an eco-terrorism crime.

And that seems very dangerous. It makes one think about decades ago when it became very routine for the FBI to label very legitimate, peaceful, antiwar and civil rights groups “communists” just so they could again use a wider range of powers to investigate and infiltrate and monitor them.

YOUNG: Yeah, the label “terror” certainly carries a heavy stigma, at the least.

BEESON: Exactly. And not just a heavy stigma, but there’s a real question as to whether by using that label they then have available to them even broader powers. And yet, in the discussions about the USA Patriot Act and other expanded surveillance and monitoring powers that the government has, the government and the Justice Department and the president have emphasized repeatedly to the American public that it’s using these new powers only to investigate “real terrorists,” by which, I think, most Americans mean, you know, members of Al-Qaeda. I don’t think that most Americans think that the FBI is using its Patriot Act powers to look at Greenpeace and PETA.

YOUNG: Hmm. I spent some time reading over the documents pertaining to Greenpeace – there’s, I don’t know, 1,900 or so pages that I was flipping through – and a lot of it deals with the documentation of a demonstration that Greenpeace and other groups carried out near the Vandenberg Air Force base where they apparently tried to trespass in order to disrupt a missile test. Is that a legitimate reason then for the FBI to be monitoring or investigating what these groups are doing? I mean, that’s a federal military base there.

BEESON: Yes, that’s right. And again, I think here we have to distinguish among the various documents that we received. In some cases we would have no quarrel with some investigation by law enforcement into, you know, breaking the law. The question really is whether we want the FBI to use its counter-terrorism resources, and the great deal of additional power that it gains when it begins to label a group a “terrorist group,” against peaceful protest groups like Greenpeace.

YOUNG: You know, another thing I noticed is in the pages that I would call general background-type information on groups like Greenpeace, the FBI seemed to rely pretty heavily on research done by a couple of think tanks that are very conservative, pro-business, anti-regulation in their mindset and their mission. There’s the Capital Research Center, an outgrowth of the Heritage Foundation, and a couple of others who generated a lot of that information that the FBI apparently relied on. What do you make of that connection there?

BEESON: Well, I think that, unfortunately, it’s another bit of information that might lead one to conclude that the FBI is not, in fact, just doing this to investigate crimes, but is doing it purposefully to suppress legitimate dissent and criticism of the administration’s policies. There’s another example, actually, in one of the Greenpeace-related documents. What the document says is that the FBI is concerned that the protest itself could harm the public image of the missile defense system. Now, to me that sounds very much like the FBI trying to assist the administration in preventing criticism of its positions and programs from getting out there in the public. And that’s a very dangerous job for the FBI to be engaged in.

YOUNG: A lot of this is heavily whited-out or redacted, but just from what you can read on some of the pages that are otherwise completely blank it seems pretty clear that the FBI must have had someone working inside, for example, Greenpeace, and other local groups, in order to know ahead of time about upcoming demonstrations. Do you know anything from this about how the FBI did its monitoring?

BEESON: Well, we definitely know that they used confidential informants inside the organizations. That is another very disturbing revelation from these documents. It’s not just that they are investigating, you know, crimes after the fact, which might be legitimate, but that they have made a decision to place an informant inside advocacy groups. We know from history that this is a very dangerous activity for the FBI to engage in. I mean, it did this in many civil rights groups and many antiwar groups in the 60s and 70s, and not just for the purpose of monitoring the activities of the groups but also to actually disrupt the advocacy that the groups were engaged in.

YOUNG: Hmm. Very interesting. And you’re not done with this, so likely more boxes of documents on the way, huh?

BEESON: Absolutely, and we’re very determined to look through every page and to release to the public those documents that show that the FBI may be up to no good.

YOUNG: Ann Beeson is associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Thanks for joining us.

BEESON: Thank you.

[MUSIC: Tears For Fears “Change” from ‘The Hurting’ (UMG Recordings – 2001)]

YOUNG: We asked the FBI about its surveillance, monitoring and infiltration of environmental groups. Agency spokesperson Bill Carter responded. Quote:

“If an individual or organization is committing or conspiring to commit an act of violence for a cause, we consider that a terrorist activity. That is the definition of terrorism. Obviously, we are more concerned about international terrorism. We are not concerned about an individual or organization’s beliefs.”

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[MUSIC]

Greening California’s Seaports

(Photo courtesy of Bluewater Network)

YOUNG: Much of America's $1.5 trillion dollars in imports come ashore at seaports and traditionally, the income these ports generate for their cities has overshadowed concerns over air pollution from truck exhaust and ship smokestacks. But that's changing in California. Living on Earth's Ingrid Lobet has the latest in our occasional series "The Haze Over Trade".

LOBET: You might not guess right off that this man oversees the management and operations of one of the busiest seaports in the world.


(Photo courtesy of Bluewater Network)

FREEMAN: The largest source of pollution are the ships, the main damn engines and they spew out a huge amount of pollutants. They burn the dirtiest fuel in the oldest engines. That has to change

LOBET: That's David Freeman, a longtime environmentalist and public utilities expert. When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa named Freeman president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, he told Freeman to make the city's port the greenest in the country. One of the first things Freeman did was examine a recently hashed-out plan to control particles and nitrogen oxide pollution at the port and declare it insufficient. The plan had been considered ground-breaking. It aimed to reduce the number of pollution-related deaths by half.

FREEMAN: Well, I'm just a fellow from Tennessee who doesn't really understand differential equations, but I take half of 3,400, I get 1,700 – 1,700 premature deaths. I just don't see how that could possibly be satisfactory.

LOBET: Freeman headed the Tennessee Valley Authority, the southeastern water, land and power agency, under President Carter. He was also at the helm of LA's Department of Water and Power. Now he's asking this:

FREEMAN: What is the level of emissions where you can say the port of Los Angeles is not contributing unhealthy air? That's what I want to know.

MARQUEZ: It is a very dramatic change.

LOBET: Jesse Marquez is a public health activist who closely watches port issues.

MARQUEZ: Because, first of all, he doesn't come from the industry. Typically, they've always chosen an insider.

LOBET: Marquez, who’s never lived out of sight of the giant yellow cranes of the port of LA, says he's already noticed a change when he goes to port meetings.

MARQUEZ: One of the things that we're seeing immediately with the new board of Harbor Commission is that they are not hesitating, they are not waiting to find out when can we implement something and then when they say it will take six months to implement something, they challenge that. ‘Well, why is it going to take six months? Is it possible to do it in 90 days?’ So, almost everything that has come before them in the last two months of their existence, the agenda has been moved up.

LOBET: City leadership is only one source of pressure on the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The agency that enforces air pollution rules in the greater LA area recently vowed to press the ports and the shipping industry to the "maximum extent of its authority" in a new Clean Ports Initiative. It even floated a possibility no one has suggested before in the United States – treating the entire seaport complex, with all its ships and vehicles, the same as a single factory.

T.L. Garrett is with the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association which represents shippers and port terminal operators. His members agree, he says, that air pollution is a terrible problem, but a single pollution cap is a not a practical or fair solution.

GARRETT: Ports are not a single source. I think the port of Los Angeles has 160 tenants. I think the port of Long Beach has a similar number. You can't regulate them as a unified source in my opinion because basically what you're doing is you're saying to one company, ‘You're responsible for the sins of your competitor.’ I just don't see that working in a free market system.


(Photo courtesy of Bluewater Network)

LOBET: These businesses, who offer berths to incoming ships, and the shippers themselves, are already switching out diesel equipment for electric. They're selling old engines and buying newer, cleaner ones. Still, the pressure is on them from all sides. In Sacramento, the California Air Resources Board, perhaps the world's most powerful air pollution agency, recently voted to regulate ships 24 miles offshore, far outside the state's three mile authority. Ships off the coast of California will now have to burn a cleaner fuel in the engines they use for electricity. Until now, air regulators have said they lacked the authority to tell ships what to do offshore. But the Air Resources Board's Jerry Martin says now state attorneys have taken another look.

MARTIN: Our data shows that we can pick up ship emissions from 24 miles offshore. That means that that's affecting public health, and, of course, our job is to protect public health as much as possible.

LOBET: Even though the new measure doesn't affect ships' main engines, which are four times more polluting than the engines used for electricity, Teri Shore, Clean Vessel Campaign Manager for the Bluewater Network, says it's still significant.

SHORE: This is very important because it is the first time a state has exerted its authority to regulate emissions from ships that sail along its coastline and come into its ports. So these ships burn tons of fuel per hour, even when they are sitting at the dock. These ships burn the dirtiest fuels out there, literally the bottom of the barrel. They're 100 to 1,000 times dirtier than the diesel fuel cars and trucks run on.

LOBET: The cleaner fuel requirement will cost the typical cargo ship an average $3,500 per visit. The state estimates 200 to 300 million dollars annually in saved healthcare costs. The state expects to be sued over the new regulation. T.L. Garrett at the Shipping Association says it's too early to talk about that. But he says California shouldn't be regulating a problem that is national and international.

GARRETT: We don't want to see a patchwork of regulations where a ship that comes into Calfiornia is subjected to different regulations than one that goes into Washington, Oregon or Florida, or New York. We want to see a unified process, and we think the federal government is best positioned to ensure a unified process throughout the United States.

LOBET: Garrett says the trade and transport industries are hearing about air pollution as an issue not only in Los Angeles-Long Beach, but also in Houston, Seattle, New York and New Jersey. The new president of the LA Harbor Commission, David Freeman, says he's mindful of that, and hopes measures taken here will spread.

FREEMAN: We are a leader, and we are, by gosh, going to lead. You can call it a crusade or whatever you what to call it, but we are going to clean up all the ports in the world.

LOBET: Environmental justice groups have already begun organizing at port sites from Baja, California to British Columbia. For Living on Earth, I'm Ingrid Lobet in Los Angeles.

Related links:
- California State Efforts On Trade-related Pollution
- Port of Los Angeles Clean Port Efforts
- Port of Long Beach Green Port Efforts
- Blue Water Network Clean Vessel Campaign

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[MUSIC: Thomas Wydler & Toby Dammit “Heavenly City’ from ‘Morphosa Harmonia’ (Hit Thing Germany - 2004)]

[ROCK POPPING SOUNDS]

YOUNG: We leave you this week with a little rock music.

[ROCK POPPING SOUNDS]

YOUNG: When the sun sets on Mustard Canyon in Death Valley, California, the rock walls come alive as they cool and shift, crackling and popping as the temperature drops. Producer Guy Hand was there to record the Stones in concert.

EARTHEAR: “Mustard Canyon Rocks” recorded by Guy Hand in Death Valley, CA (2005)

YOUNG: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Ashley Ahearn, Chris Ballman, Eileen Bolinsky, Rachel Gotbaum and Susan Shepherd - with help from Christopher Bolick, Kelley Cronin, James Curwood and Michelle Kweder. Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Alison Dean composed our themes. You can find us at LOE dot org. Steve Curwood is away. I'm Jeff Young. Thanks for listening.

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