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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

October 7, 1994

Air Date: October 7, 1994

SEGMENTS

Political Hot Potatoes / Jyl Hoyt

Jyl Hoyt reports from Idaho on how controversies over usage of the state's natural resources are dominating upcoming gubernatorial and congressional elections. Candidates are coming to loggerheads over mining, timber, and salmon fishing, versus wilderness preservation. (07:15)

A Vacation That Pays Back / Mary Boyle

Reporter Mary Boyle treks with paying vacationers who are spending their time off conducting environmental field research in Yellowstone Park. While on a working vacation, these individuals gather data as they enjoy their natural surroundings. (05:23)

Pick Your Own Pesto

Host Steve Curwood returns to the Caretaker Farm in Western Massachusetts for the fall harvest season as the third part in a series on "community sustainable agriculture." The Anderson family have paid shares in the farm, and Curwood is invited back to their kitchen to sample some homemade pesto they're preparing for the winter ahead. (08:23)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

Copyright (c) 1994 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or transmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.

HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Jan Nunley
REPORTERS: Paul Hockenos, Jyl Hoyt, Mary Boyle

(Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

In this election season, natural resources and environmental protection are top issues in much of the west. In Idaho, a pro-wilderness Democratic representative is facing a challenge from a Republican who's against more limits on mining and logging.

CHENOWETH: I am opposed to one more new acre of Congressionally designated wilderness.

CURWOOD: Also, we continue our series on community-supported agriculture. A member of one farm says it's changed how he feels about food.

D. ANDERSON: You suddenly begin to have a different relationship to the lettuce, and the beets, and the potatoes. You're really nurtured by it, because you've been there from the moment it was taken out of the ground.

CURWOOD: And eco-tourism at Yellowstone National Park, this week on Living on Earth, right after this news.

Environmental News

NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley with this summary of environmental news. A crucial link between pesticides and breast cancer may have been found by a team of academic and government scientists. The researchers at Cornell University and the US Department of Health and Human Services say they've discovered that certain chlorine-based pesticides promote the production of so-called bad estrogen, which has been previously linked with breast cancer. Dr. Devra Lee Davis is a senior advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services and a co-author of the new report. She says the pesticides stimulate estrogen receptors in the breasts.

DAVIS: There are chemicals that can go into those receptors like a key into a lock and turn them on so that they produce more estrogen. It turns out, certain foreign chemicals also can go into the lock and function as a key and turn on the production of estrogen.

NUNLEY: Davis says the new study shows that while certain pesticides can stimulate the production of bad estrogen, other chemicals found in food such as broccoli can work like keys to turn on the production of good estrogen, which may help fight cancer. The report has been submitted for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

After being shut out of Germany's Parliament in the last national election, the German Green Party is hoping for a comeback in this month's polling. The election is the second since German reunification, and the Greens are taking a broader and more moderate approach. From Berlin, Paul Hockenos has the story.

HOCKENOS: The Green Party has gone to great strides to temper its tone and modify its image since its 1990 election disaster, when it failed to win even a single seat in the Parliament. Christian Sturbela , one of the party's founders, explains that the Greens are no longer the radical protest party that they were in the 1980s.

STURBELA: [Speaks in German]
TRANSLATOR: The Greens have definitely matured over the years. We can't overlook the way that the Greens have reoriented their political goals towards what's concrete, practical, do-able, and away from the utopian idealistic hopes they had.

HOCKENOS: Part of their new moderation comes from their Eastern German partners, Coalition '90, a group that emerged from the former Democratic opposition to the Communist regime in East Germany. Derek Poppa is a former dissident who comes from the Coalition '90 wing of the party.

POPPA: [Speaks in German]
TRANSLATOR: The Greens and Coalition '90 see eye to eye on many issues, such as the environment and the problems of the Third World. But there are also differences. Our focus in East Germany was always on very different things, like state repression, basic questions of democracy, human rights, and also the problems of Eastern and Central Europe.

HOCKENOS: Despite their new look, the Greens' programs are still extremely ambitious. Their top demand is a tax on fossil fuels and heavy energy users. They are also calling for a full shutdown of all nuclear power plants, a 30-hour work week, and a ban on private automobiles in inner cities. Earlier this year, it looked like the Greens might bring these ideas into government. Polls showed them and the Social Democrats as likely coalition partners. At the very least, it appears they'll get back into the Parliament as part of the opposition, and it is perhaps there, where the party has its roots, that it will feel more at home. For Living on Earth, I'm Paul Hockenos in Berlin.

NUNLEY: Another US environmental law has come under fire as a possible barrier to free trade. An international trade panel will hear Venezuela's challenge to US clean air rules which limit imports of some types of gasoline. The EPA fears allowing those imports could raise US air pollution levels. The decision to take up the dispute follows a ruling by the 3-member trade panel upholding 2 US environmental laws. A panel of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, ruled that US auto fuel economy standards and the gas guzzler tax have a legitimate environmental purpose and do not discriminate against European car makers. The Clinton Administration says the ruling is a big victory in its effort to show that world trade agreements aren't enemies of environmental protection. Some opponents of the world trade agreement say the ruling doesn't change their belief that the new pact will erode environmental laws.

Meanwhile, the US EPA says the 1995 Honda Civic hatchback is the most fuel-efficient new car on American roads, averaging 47 miles per gallon in the city and 56 on the highway. Four other Hondas made the EPA's top 10 list, which also includes the Geo Metro, the Suzuki Swift, and the Ford Aspire. The biggest guzzler in the EPA survey is the Lamborghini Diablo, with an average of 9 miles a gallon in the city and 14 on the highway. The EPA says an average Civic owner will spend less than $350 a year on gas, while a Lamborghini owner will spend more than 5 times that. Not that most Lamborghini owners probably lose much sleep over shelling out those extra bucks at the pump.

That's this week's environmental news. I'm Jan Nunley.

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(Theme music up and under)

Political Hot Potatoes

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. As the midterm elections head into the final stretch over the next few weeks, environmental issues are looming large in several western states. And in Idaho, they could prove decisive. Management of the state's minerals, forests, and rivers, dominates the race to succeed outgoing Democratic governor Cecil Andrus, a strong environmental advocate. And the size of Federal wilderness is also being debated in a key race for Congress. Jyl Hoyt of member station KBSU has our report from Boise.

(Whistles, clapping, shouts: "One, two, three, four!" Drum rolls.)

HOYT: The high school marching band leads the Lumberjack Day's parade in Orafino. The celebration brought candidates for the Congressional and Governor's races to this timber town in northern Idaho.

(Truck horns)

HOYT: Republican Congressional candidate Helen Chenoweth rode into town on a logging truck. She's a local girl, and receives a warm welcome when she moves through the crowd.

(Man: "Fight for industry here now." Chenoweth: "I will, believe me. I mean, like a badger. Like a badger.")

HOYT: Chenoweth promises to "fight like a badger" for industry, because timber and mining in Idaho have declined in recent years. Environmentalists blame low mineral prices, timber overcutting, and mechanization for the hard times. But Chenoweth and many natural resource communities in Idaho blame the environmentalists, who want to tighten mining regulations, save endangered species, and add more wilderness. Helen Chenoweth.

CHENOWETH: I am opposed to one more new acre of Congressionally designated wilderness.

HOYT: Chenoweth's opponent, 2-term Democratic incumbent Larry LaRocco, tried and failed to add more wilderness to the 4 million acres already set aside in Idaho. Chenoweth says more wilderness would cost more logging jobs. She also wants to start mining in Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area, a razor-edged mountain range full of icy lakes. Chenoweth, a natural resource consultant, says such positions are mainstream. But her opponent is airing radio ads characterizing Chenoweth's stand on environmental issues as right-wing.

(Commercial: "Now she's bashing LaRocco because he's trying to stop a dam on the Payette River, the place my kids went rafting just the other day. What on earth is she thinking?" "Oh, who knows? I mean, she's taking the most extreme stand on this one, too. Even Republicans...")

HOYT: LaRocco's attempts to place himself in the mainstream comes amid what he says is a strong surge of right-wing money and resources coming into the state. LaRocco, a former stockbroker, says Chenoweth's campaign reminds him of 1980, when a strong conservative movement put Ronald Reagan in the White House and defeated LaRocco's former boss, the late Idaho Senator Frank Church.

LaROCCO: We had to put up with the far right and the radical right in 1980. I think that in some ways this 1994 race is a rerun of the 1980 race of the independent committees coming in and the resurgence, the re-energy of the right wing.

HOYT: The most contentious debate between the 2 Congressional candidates is their views on Idaho's dwindling salmon runs. The state hasn't had a regular salmon fishing season in more than 15 years. LaRocco blames 8 hydropower dams along the Snake and Columbia Rivers for the salmon's decline. Restoring the salmon could affect irrigation, livestock raising, shipping, recreation, and hydropower, in Idaho and downriver states. Chenoweth insists that salmon couldn't really be endangered because consumers can buy various species of salmon in a can at the grocery store.

CHENOWETH: And when we list the salmon as an endangered species, and yet we can harvest the salmon, and either can it or sell it over the butcher's counter, then it makes a mockery of the law.

HOYT: But that salmon probably doesn't come from Idaho rivers. LaRocco retorts that Chenoweth's stance is making a mockery of Idaho. LaRocco supports the salmon, but appears vague on what price the state should pay to help the fish recover.

LaROCCO: The salmon is endangered, and it's threatened, and we have to do things about it. It's going to change our way of life here for a while, hopefully not in any egregious way.

(In a bustling crowd: "Hi, how are you? I'm Larry EchoHawk . I'm running for Governor of Idaho. You could be shaking the hand of Idaho's next governor.")

HOYT: Salmon is also an issue for the Democratic candidate for Governor, Larry Echohawk. EchoHawk, who's hoping to fill the seat of outgoing Democrat Cecil Andrus, has made the salmon issue a major campaign theme.

ECHOHAWK: They're a magnificent animal, swimming a thousand miles from the ocean to the high mountain spawning areas of Idaho, and I think they deserve to have a solid effort to try to protect them.

HOYT: EchoHawk insists salmon can be saved without destroying other economies. Unlike Idaho's Congressional race, EchoHawk's Republican opponent, Phil Batt, agrees with the need to save the fish, but says he has clear philosophical differences with EchoHawk on natural resource use.

BATT: ...resource industry. He believes in more of a preservationist attitude. He's a great ally of President Clinton and the other people on the national scene who are restricting our resources in every manner.

HOYT: Linking EchoHawk to the Clinton Administration's efforts to reform mining, grazing, and timber, could be an effective strategy. The President is increasingly unpopular throughout the west, and came in third behind Perot and Bush in the 1992 election in Idaho. But analysts suggest that Idaho's Republican party is so far to the right that even some Conservative voters may feel more comfortable with the Democrats. Polls indicate that EchoHawk, a Pawnee Indian and a political moderate, is ahead. The wild card in both the Gubernatorial and the Congressional race is how the flood of new residents will vote. Many came for Idaho's pure air, whitewater rivers, and vast reaches of wild country. Old-timers tend to view Idaho's natural resources as tools to make a living. Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco says Idaho's newcomers helped send him to Washington for 2 terms. And although Chenoweth is giving him a tough fight, analysts suggest he'll likely hold onto his seat. And voters will probably put Democrat Larry EchoHawk in the Governor's office. Despite the anti-incumbent, anti-Clinton, and Conservative mood this election season, resource conscious voters and Conservative Idaho may well buck this national trend. For Living on Earth, I'm Jyl Hoyt in Boise.

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(Music up and under)

A Vacation That Pays Back

CURWOOD: Take pictures. Leave only footprints. That's the maxim for ecologically sensitive touring. But as crowds build in many of the eco-tourist hot spots, all those footprints are not without impact. In fact, in many US national parks, the crowds are destroying the very natural beauty that attracts so many visitors. So, what's the answer? Mary Boyle reports on a group in Yellowstone National Park that's taking a different approach to park tourism.

(Footfalls)

BOYLE: Ninety-five hundred feet in the Absoroka Bear Tooth Wilderness, hikers laden with brightly-colored backpacks, water bottles and cameras, trudge along a trail under a blue sky and billowy white clouds. Jagged peaks emerge in the distance. Rocks, mud, and animal tracks rest on the trail.

(Man: "That's so round it looks like a cat." Woman: "Yeah, it looks like a mountain lion." Man: "Yeah.")

BOYLE: But this is no ordinary high country vacation. This group is the latest research team for the Yellowstone Ecosystem Studies Alpine Lake Survey. Four staff members and 5 citizen scientists who have paid around $1,400 each are spending 2 weeks in the back country documenting the local ecosystem. Peter Karsee is the project's back country guide.

KARSEE: You know it's some reason for being here that's more than just personal, you know, recreation and fun hoggin' it. You know, we're actually contributing something.

(Running water, low murmurs of conversation)

BOYLE: During their stay in the mountains, the citizen scientists will monitor and log the birds they hear and see; map the location and habitat of the plants, small mammals, and insects they find; and also take water samples for an acid rain study.

(Woman: "This is an aqueous solution of iodine solution. Just take a - don't need much.")

PURNELL: I realize that a collection seems basic, but again it's very important data, and I knew we weren't going to be doing gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer analysis of this water out here in the field. I think volunteer support is very, very important.

BOYLE: Michael Purnell of Chatham, Illinois, is taking time off of his job as a state biologist to spend 2 weeks in the back country. The data collected on this trip is a part of a long-term project begun 2 years ago. It's very basic research; but Bob Crabtree a wildlife ecologist and the director of the program, says it's a vital supplement to the kind of narrow, short-term studies usually done by government and academic scientists.

CRABTREE: What's really needed to manage our land, our ecosystems, is a big picture, long-term ecosystem perspective. And we ask some basic questions, like: what's there, where is it, and what condition is it in?

BOYLE: But funding for this kind of research is scarce. So Crabtree set up Y.E.S. to take advantage of the current surge of public interest in the environment. He sees it as a sort of eco-tourism that gives back to nature.

CRABTREE: There is a huge potential of a research labor force, you might say, of eager minds and energetic bodies, sweating spirit to go out and help conduct some of this work. It's not a Club Med where you can go out and touch whales, although we have things, I think, as equally satisfying. People work. They really go at it hard, and I think they leave feeling they've really accomplished something.

(Footfalls on gravel)

BOYLE: And the accomplishments can be more than scientific. The participants on these trips include high school students, plumbers, insurance executives, and retirees. Many say their time in the field is an opportunity to gain perspective on their lives. Michael Purnell, the state biologist from Illinois, says his Y.E.S. project has caused him to take a serious look at his life.

PURNELL: This 2-week period, I feel strongly, is going to give me the time to think a lot about whether I want to continue in my current career, working for state government, sitting behind a desk, or maybe do something differently.

BOYLE: For 16-year-old Melissa Kravitz from California's San Fernando Valley, her Y.E.S. experience is a way of acting on her personal and generational commitment to the environment.

KRAVITZ: If our generation focuses on saving the ecosystems and saving the rainforests and saving endangered species and saving species in general, saving the planet, we'll make a tremendous impact on everything. On everybody.

(Man 1: "...filter screen you lungs. Here's an aphid, or an arachnid." Man 2: "Boy, this big arachnid, gee, that's a strange looking one." "Yeah." "That's a great one.")

BOYLE: The data collected by Kravitz and the rest of the Y.E.S. crew will help the Federal Government make more informed decisions about managing the Yellowstone area. And the citizen scientists working here will return home knowing they have taken an active role in helping preserve one of the country's most cherished regions.

(Man: "C'mon, my first beetle. Oh, what's that thing? Get it.!")

BOYLE: For Living on Earth, I'm Mary Boyle in Billings, Montana.

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(Man: "Have a nice decomposition going on here. Here's an ant, let's see...")

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Would you pay to spend your vacation helping national parks? Give us a call on our listener comment line at 1-800-218-9988. That's 1-800-218-9988. Or you can write to us at Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02238. We're also on the Internet: LOE @ NPR.ORG. Transcripts and tapes are available for $10.

( Woman: "That's celery. And what about the onions? Should I have more out here now?")

Pick Your Own Pesto

CURWOOD: On a small farm in western Massachusetts, a dozen or so people stand inside a faded red barn and fill baskets and bags with produce from long wooden tables. It could be any one of hundreds of farm stands around New England. But it doesn't take long to notice that here, no money is changing hands. This is a community-supported farm, and these people already own this food. They each bought a share in the farm's produce months ago. The return on that investment is measured in pounds of potatoes, lettuce, carrots, and onions.

CURWOOD: Well hi, there.

ANDERSON: How are you doing? Good to see you.

CURWOOD: Yeah.

ANDERSON: Yeah, great.

CURWOOD: So you're here to get your stuff.

ANDERSON: Oh yes, definitely. This is Tuesday, and we, you know, you center your lives around these days.

CURWOOD: We first met Dale Anderson and his 10-year-old daughter Chickie in the spring, planting potatoes here at Caretaker Farm.

C. ANDERSON: Are you gonna get the peppers?

D. ANDERSON: Well I'm sure, there's not a huge choice here.

C. ANDERSON: Okay, I'll have to get a pound. I think this is different kinds; I think the red is ruby and the other kind is some other kind of chard, but they both taste the same. That's good enough.

CURWOOD: This summer has been a good one for Caretaker farm and its members. But as the growing season winds down, Dale Anderson feels a sense of urgency, especially about some of the herbs.

D. ANDERSON: There's a lovely sign out there; I don't know if you happened to notice. But when you pick your basil for your pesto, and you want to make sure you get all you need before the first frost. The sign out there says, "Pick before October." We're trying to pick some more today, because we could have a frost any moment. So you've got to get your basil, as much as you can before the first frost.

CURWOOD: You're a serious pesto man.

D. ANDERSON: Oh. You could bathe in pesto at our house. We've got enough pesto, I think, to last us for 5 years. But we want more. Because there's nothing like pesto in the middle of January.

CURWOOD: Across from the barn, there's a small herb garden where Dale Anderson cuts the basil himself.

D. ANDERSON: See how deft I am? I'm just like a barber. I never make a mistake, otherwise I lose my finger, you see?

CURWOOD: Meanwhile, his daughter Chickie is between 2 rows of tomato plants, filling up a bag with cherry tomatoes.

C. ANDERSON: I think it's really neat that you can just pick this tomato and eat it without having to wash it, because they don't use pesticides and stuff like that. So you don't have to worry about any chemicals in your food.

CURWOOD: Nearby, another member of the farm is loading what looks like a hundred pounds of tomatoes into a cart.

CURWOOD: This looks like a major tomato operation here. Somebody's canning; are you canning a fair amount?

WOMAN: I'm going to make tomato sauce and freeze it. And maybe also some tomato chutney.

CURWOOD: The growing season may be coming to a close, but Caretaker Farm will help sustain its members throughout the long New England winter. Farm owner Sam Smith says this has become an important part of the farm's relationship with its community. The farm stores potatoes and onions at a root cellar, and distributes them to members, sometimes into spring. And they grow extra amounts of some produce, just so members can put them up for the winter.

S. SMITH: For years now we've been encouraging people to come and just pick, pick as much as they want, and freeze it or can it, put it by. So that the farm can contribute even a greater amount to their total family household food requirement.

(Door opening. Man: "Come right in. Okay.")

CURWOOD: The Anderson household is just a few minutes away from Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The screened-in back porch leads to the kitchen, where Dale and Chickie begin their Tuesday afternoon routine.

D. ANDERSON: Tuesday, from 3 o'clock on, is dedicated to vegetables. And the real change for us is by being a part of this whole program, you do participate in the creation of this fresh environment. Otherwise, I would do what everyone else does. Go to the store, like I do during the winter, and get my beets and whatever I can find and it takes less time doing it that way. But you don't - two things: you don't have as fresh food, which is one key item. You can literally taste the difference in the lettuce. But the other aspect of it is, you suddenly begin to have a different relationship to the lettuce, and the beets, and the potatoes. It's something very hard to explain. But you suddenly feel like you're, you're really nurtured by it, because you've been there from the moment it was taken out of the ground.

CURWOOD: Tell me, Dale, you do all the cooking here?

D. ANDERSON: Yes. I am now in charge of the kitchen. It's part of something that just has worked out very well. My wife has started her own business.

C. ANDERSON: Boy, is the cooking much better. Mom would just throw together something.

CURWOOD: One of Dad's favorite creations is pesto. He's been a pesto-making machine lately, stocking up on the stuff for winter like a squirrel stashing nuts. Chickie assembles the food processor as her father pulls together the ingredients. First, chunks of parmesan cheese, then a handful of pine nuts are tossed into the food processor. Then some olive oil, and the basil leaves.

D. ANDERSON: Okay, give it the gun. [Speaks loudly over food processor] Just like Mister Rogers used to show, you know, on TV, this stuff just magically turns itself into - turns itself, come on, turn, turn! It's happening. And once you stop it, take the top off quickly - oh, just take a sniff. Just take a...

CURWOOD: That's really strong.

D. ANDERSON: That is a -

CURWOOD: I'm going to - [sneezes] sneeze!

D. ANDERSON: That has a powerful effect on people. We've lost people, they go right out the door with that, that sneeze. All right, now, this is for my friend here, take a nice, nice taste.

CURWOOD: Thank you.

D. ANDERSON: Okay.

CURWOOD: [Bites into what sounds like Italian bread] Mmmmm.

D. ANDERSON: Yeah.

CURWOOD: Mmmm!

D. ANDERSON: Isn't that delightful?

CURWOOD: So how much pesto have you made this summer, so far?

D. ANDERSON: Well just to give you an idea here, come over here.

CURWOOD: We're opening the freezer, now.

D. ANDERSON: Go in the freezer, and this is the size, typical size -

CURWOOD: This is an old margarine tub, here. You've got -

D. ANDERSON: Four or 5 here. And then we have, you can scoot down and see more piled up there. Plus I have some downstairs in the freezer. So I'd say we have about 25 containers. And our goal is to have pesto throughout the winter.

CURWOOD: Dale squeezes the freezer door shut. Over the next few months, containers of pesto will emerge, and remind them of Caretaker Farm and the summer's labors. After the demonstration, Dale and his daughter and kitchen partner Chickie gather up the basil stems, the carrot and beet tops, and other scraps, and walk out to the compost heap.

CURWOOD: What has this done for your relationship with your kids?

D. ANDERSON: Oh I tell you, I think that it's just, for them, a wonderful experience both being at the farm and having that experience. But also I think, seeing me get involved with food in this way and finding it being a creative endeavor, I think it's inspiring.

CURWOOD: The compost heap is almost unrecognizable. it's covered with long green vines, with foot-wide leaves, still green basketball-sized pumpkins, and softball-sized acorn squash.

CURWOOD: Where did all this come from? You didn't plant this in here.

D. ANDERSON: No.

C. ANDERSON: We kept all of our squash that we got from the farm in the fall. There's like, tons of squash you get. And I guess we mostly threw away rotten pumpkins, like old Jack-O-Lanterns and acorn squash, they probably grew into the plants.

D. ANDERSON: So that's an add-on to the grandeur of Caretaker. You end up with - it follows you home. And we're just going to harvest this at some point; I don't know what the heck we're going to have, but we'll probably make pesto out of it. [Laughs]

CURWOOD: The Anderson's newfound relationship with their food, and the land and people which produced it, will continue through the winter. Meanwhile, the proprietors of Caretaker Farm will be reviewing the season's output and finances, and taking some lessons for next year. We'll check back with them in a few weeks as we conclude our series on community-supported agriculture.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Our series on community-supported agriculture is produced by Living on Earth's George Homsy. Deborah Stavro directs our program. Our associate producer is Kim Motylewski, and our producer and editor is Peter Thomson. Our production team includes Jan Nunley, Jessika Bella Mura, Julia Madeson, Nora Alogna, and WBUR engineers Frank DeAngelis and Mark Navin. Our theme music was composed by Michael Aharon.

Living on Earth is a project of the World Media Foundation, and is produced at the studios of WBUR, Boston. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.

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