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

October 10, 1997

Air Date: October 10, 1997


Climate Change Treaties Warming Up

Steve Curwood has a frank conversation with Harvard University Professor Rob Stavins about what positions President Clinton's advisors are likely recommending he take on the eve of upcoming global treaties. Prof. Stavins has consulted with both the Bush and Clinton administrations, and is an economist who heads the program in Environment and Natural Resources at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. (05:45)

Pastured Poultry / Kim Motylewski

In the United States, the average American will have consume an average 90 pounds of chicken this year. Millions of chickens are raised and slaughtered every few weeks, most of them are caged for all of their short lives in giant hen houses, and then killed on assembly lines. Yet a small but growing number of farmers are finding that raising modest-sized flocks outdoors can be more profitable and easier on the environment than the giant operations. The secret is a bit of high tech fencing and a keen sense of timing, and to keep the hens moving every day to a fresh spot of pasture. Joel Salatin, is a leading promoter of this method. Living on Earth’s Kim Motylewski met him on his farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. (10:30)

A Different Cider / Jane Brox

For commentator Jane Brox, autumn on her family farm in Dracut, Massachusetts is usually the time of year that freshly fallen apples are turned into fresh apple cider. But this year, ecoli health scares have changed all that. Commentator Jane Brox is author of, "Here and Nowhere Else: Late Seasons of a Farm and Its Family." (03:05)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about... lightning bolts. (01:15)

Hemp to Replace Tobacco Crop? / John Gregory

Hemp, once a mainstay in Kentucky's economy, is now outlawed. But now hemp is getting a second look from farmers in Kentucky, who are seeking some alternatives to growing tobacco. John Gregory has our report. (07:30)

California Species Amendments

Plans for dozens of new construction projects will soon be back on track in California, following the passage of amendments to the state's Endangered Species Act. Cheryl Colopy has our report. (05:15)

ESA Commentary / John Shanahan

Commentator John Shanahan remarks on his dissatisfaction with the Endangered Species Act and how private land owners should be included more in the process. Shanahan is Vice-President of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution in Arlington, Virginia. (02:08)

Modern Day Homesteading

Host Steve Curwood interviews Linda Tatelbaum, who teaches English at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. She has just written and self-published a book of essays about the struggles and blessings of living the simple life; about which she says there is one prerequisite. Her book is Carrying Water As a Way of Life from About Time Press, Appleton, Maine. (07:55)

listener Letters

Responses to our special series on Middle East Troubled Waters. (01:30)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Kim Motylewski, John Gregory, Cheryl Colopy
GUESTS: Robert Stavins, Joel Salatin, Linda Tatelbaum
COMMENTATORS: Jane Brox, John Shanahan

(Theme music intro)

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

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

In less than 60 days the nations of the world are expected to sign a treaty in Kyoto to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But so far the Clinton Administration has yet to decide how it wants to fight global warming. Also, a poultry farmer in Virginia is trying to start a gastronomical revolution of sorts, by promoting local production and distribution of chicken.

SALATIN: We're not going to march on Washington. We're not going to ask for government programs. And we're not going to ask Ralph Nader to come and protect us. We're going to actually build a relationship with our food supply. We're going to eat fresh, local, raw, unpackaged, we're going to find our kitchen again and make food fun. And these are wonderful things.

CURWOOD: And the virtues of backyard shade this week on Living on Earth, but first news.

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(Music up and under)

Climate Change Treaties Warming Up

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
There may never have been as complex or confusing a set of issues to negotiate than the international efforts to address human-induced global warming. Science, technology, diplomacy, and economic perspectives all play a role. As do intense dynamics of competition and equity. So not surprisingly, even though global warming talks have been going on for more than 5 years, the United States has yet to take a position. But it must decide soon. In less than 60 days, an agreement with binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions is to be signed in Kyoto, Japan. And before then, by October 20th, the US needs to announce its position at a preparatory conference in Bonn, Germany. Part of the problem is that President Clinton's own advisors are sharply split. Robert Stavins has consulted with both the Bush and Clinton Administrations on environmental policy. Professor Stavins is an economist who heads the program in environment and natural resources at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. And I asked him what the President's advisors are recommending.

STAVINS: There's a range of perspectives, Steve, within the Administration, that actually reflects the range of perspectives that exist among the population as a whole in the United States. On the one hand, there is certainly the environmental community, and those people in general who'd like to be aggressive on global climate change, and they are certainly reflected in the Administration, those that are sympathetic to that view. And they would favor the target, essentially, that comes from the Berlin mandate, of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2010 to their 1990 levels. Which is approximately a reduction, it's believed, it'll be of about 20 to 25% of what they would otherwise be. Combined with that, those same individuals in the Administration, and I think in the country, would also favor the United States going it alone, if necessary, or certainly the United States cooperating with the other industrialized countries, and not worrying about whether or not the non-industrialized countries and the developing countries of the world participate. On the other hand, abroad in the land there are representatives from the business community, again reflected in parties within the Administration, who would favor much less ambitious goals. Partly because of the cost of achieving those goals and also because of perhaps skepticism regarding the benefits of trying to do something about the problem. Furthermore, those same people favor the United States participating in agreement only if it is broadly based, including really the developing countries.

CURWOOD: So where is the President on this? I mean, it sounds like he's getting competing advice. He said in his recent conference that he had people squabbling in his office for an hour and a half the other day about this issue. How is he going to decide? I mean, he's got to say something in what? It's less than 60 days.

STAVINS: Well, at the White House climate change conference recently, the President enunciated 4 principles, and I think if you look at those 4 principles and to some degree read between the lines, you can see where some agreement is already emerging, and areas where agreement could conceivably emerge in the future.

CURWOOD: Okay, tell me where there's one good piece of agreement.

STAVINS: Well, that one good piece of agreement is that any policies that the United States adopts ought to be cost effective and they ought to be flexible.


STAVINS: So that we achieve whatever the targets are at minimum cost to the economy.

CURWOOD: What's the best case scenario here? What's the worst case scenario? How costly could it be?

STAVINS: If one is asking how much could it cost to meet the target from the Berlin mandate of reducing emissions by the year 2010 to the 1990 level, then I think the mean estimate for most economic analysis is something like 3% of Gross National Product. Now, it could be higher and it could be less. Could it be as high as 5 or 6%? Yes. Could there be tragedies that it would look like the Great Depression? No. Okay. Could it very well look like the same kind of impacts as we had with the so-called oil crises in previous periods? Yes. That kind of economic impact. Best-case scenario is probably falling somewhat below that, but I'm not even sure what the sound ones would be.

CURWOOD: Mm hm. Where do you think, at the end of all this, we're going to come out?

STAVINS: I think that it's reasonable to anticipate that the United States is going to take a position which builds upon the notion that the science on this is real. Okay. The President has stated that. He's reiterated that several times. Secondly, I think the United States is going to go forward with a proposal which suggests that the goals need to be realistic. The United States is clearly not sympathetic to the European Union proposal or even the Japanese proposal, not only because of the level of the goals, but because of the fact that they're not insisting on broad participation. Third, I think it is unquestionably the case, and the President has stated this on several occasions, that we will propose internationally and for domestic implementation purposes to use cost-effective, flexible, market-based approaches. Now, because the President has also gone on record as saying that he will not propose taxes, knowing as he does quite correctly that those would be a complete non-starter in this Congress as they probably would have been even in previous Congresses, that does suggest that elements of something like a tradable permit system, the other market-based approach will be there. Finally, the country will go forward with the proposal that I think is going to be a credible proposal. What is not needed is a proposal that puts us on the moral high ground but we know will not be ratified in the United States, or we know that other countries could not agree to it. I mean, that seems to me a very, very cynical approach for this Administration or anyone to take, and I'm happy to say that I don't believe the Administration will take that approach, although some forces actually would like it to.

CURWOOD: I want to thank you for taking this time. Robert Stavins is professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Thank you, sir.

STAVINS: Thank you.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: It doesn't always take a tough guy to raise a tender chicken. Find out why, just ahead right here on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

Pastured Poultry

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

Folks here in the United States consume a lot of chicken. In fact, by the end of this year, the average American will have chewed through close to 75 pounds. This big appetite has made meat birds a big business. Millions of chickens are raised and slaughtered every few weeks, and most of them are caged for all of their short lives in giant henhouses and then killed on assembly lines. The old fashioned hen scratching in the yard is almost gone from America, except for a small but growing number of farmers who are finding that raising modest-sized flocks outdoors can be more profitable and easier on the environment than the giant operations. The secret? A bit of high-tech fencing and a keen sense of timing. The trick is to keep the hens moving every day to a fresh spot of pasture. Joel Salatin is a leading promoter of this method. Living on Earth's Kim Motylewski met him on his farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

(Sound of driving on gravel)

MOTYLEWSKI: At the end of the gravel driveway at Polyface Farm stands an old clapboard house and a newish mobile home. Here in the teeny hamlet of Swope, Virginia, Joel Salatin wrote and self-published Pastured Poultry Profits in 1993. The book sold thousands, and now farmers, economists, and entrepreneurs flock here, eager, curious, or incredulous, to observe the self-described lunatic farmer plying his trade on 100 open acres behind the houses.

(Footfalls on gravel)

SALATIN: What we're looking at here is a 20-acre field with 31 of these 10-foot by 12-foot by 2-foot high floorless pens. So these are almost like, you could call them little portable huts, if you will.

(Bird chirps)

MOTYLEWSKI: About 90 birds live in each pen. They nibble on pasture grasses, clover, and legumes for vitamins and minerals. Bugs provide protein, and the ground is a good place to scratch. But chickens can't live on grass alone, so Mr. Salatin doles out rations, too: corn, grain, beans, and seaweed. The idea is to mimic a bird's natural diet, save on feed costs, and avoid what he calls the drugs, disease, and filth of commercial coops.

(Metal clanking)

SALATIN: If you live with your nose in a bleach bottle all the time, you'd be sick, too.

(Chickens clucking)

SALATIN: And that's the way most confinement animals live.

(Clucking continues)

MOTYLEWSKI: The Salatins raise about 3,000 chickens at a time. An industry grower might raise 50,000 at a clip, in cramped indoor coops. Here the field smells sweet. There are no coops to clean and no manure-filled lagoons that could spill into the river. Just the gradual fertilization of the fields as broilers, layers, and turkeys march across them.

SALATIN: Go to the pen with the dolly here and just slip it under, and it acts as a kind of a portable axle and a prybar. And then just grab the handle on the other end. And so now the pen is just rolling on those lawn mower wheels on that dolly, and the chickens are just walking right on the pasture. They get a completely fresh salad bar, and all the clover and crickets and grasshoppers to go with it. They move away from their manure and all that, get a fresh place to lounge. And we do this every day. It takes about 30 seconds and there it is.

(Birds chirping; metal clanking, clucking)

MOTYLEWSKI: Good thing it's quick, because the Salatins have a lot to do. Joel, his wife Theresa, and their 2 kids gather 90 dozen eggs a day, herd cattle to new fields they're grass-fed, too slop pigs, milk Polly the cow, and repair everything that breaks.

(Sloshing water)

MOTYLEWSKI: So Mr. Salatin has arranged for the animals to help with the work. One example: grazing cattle are susceptible to parasites and flies that breed in piles of manure. But instead of injecting every cow with de-wormer, Mr. Salatin sends out the eggmobile, a trailer full of laying hens, to the fields.

SALATIN: Chickens free-range out from it, scratch through the cow patties, eat out the fly larvae, and generate eggs, about $4,000 to $5,000 worth of eggs. It basically hasn't cost us a dime. We haven't had to stir up the cows. We haven't had to cuss at the kids. Everybody's happy, the cows are happy, we're happy. And that's just a byproduct of the pasture sanitation program.

MOTYLEWSKI: If you ask conventional growers about pasturing, they say any savings on medicine or feed would be lost in the extra time and effort it takes to grow this way. Factory farm chickens are ready for market in about 6 weeks. Pastured birds take 7 or 8 weeks to mature. But Joel Salatin says he's coming out ahead. And not just in dollars and cents. He loves this land, the work, and sharing it all with his family from fuzzy chick to featherless carcass.

(A protesting chicken)

MOTYLEWSKI: Every few weeks in the summer, Joel's mother, wife, and kids and sometimes his brother's family, too, everybody pulls together to dress chickens in the back yard.

(Clanking metal)

D. SALATIN: They're killed in cones, upside down, and as soon as they're dead they go on to the scalder, and then they go on to the picker for about 15 seconds. They come out completely clean, no feathers, and then on to the eviscerating table and on to the chill tanks.

MOTYLEWSKI: Sixteen-year-old Daniel is the first link in a simple 7-person disassembly line. The family will process about 300 birds in 3 hours this morning.

(Water sloshing, metal clanking)

J. SALATIN: Yeah, we don't mess around when it comes to this. This is a sprint. But this gets us the freshest, the freshest bird possible to actually do it in the morning that the customer picks em up. They're literally only a couple hours away from having been in the field. And that's just as fresh as you can get.

MOTYLEWSKI: There are no broken intestines in this process. No chlorine baths. And according to the Salatins, less opportunity for disease. These birds do look delicious, plump, firm, and shiny clean.

(Water splashing; voices in the background)

MOTYLEWSKI: Studies commissioned by the family suggest their carcasses are cleaner, their birds leaner, and their eggs healthier than most store brands. Poultry scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are testing these health claims.

L. SALATIN: Of course, people who come, who get our chickens and they say ah, just like grandma used to grow! (Laughs)

MOTYLEWSKI: According to Joel's mother Lucille, demand for Pollyface products outstrips supply.

MAN: Howdy, howdy!

WOMAN: How are you?

MAN: Doin' well, how about you guys?

WOMAN: Real good.

MOTYLEWSKI: Four hundred families shop at the farm. Most customers are local, but some travel up to 200 miles to buy the chicken, turkey, beef, and eggs.

MAN: Twelve of them, with extra livers.

MOTYLEWSKI: Without middlemen, profits are healthy. Many customers say they'll never go back to store-bought chicken, even though at $1.45 a pound, these birds are about twice as expensive as commercial ones.

WOMAN: Oh, I think it's worth it. It's part of the cost of taking care of our environment. I really do believe that it's pay now or pay later, and I'd much rather support a local business and also take care of our environment, you know, in this area.

(Ambient voices; fade to clanking)

JOY: My name is Lisa Joy. I'm a pastry chef here at the Joshua Wilton House. I'm also the catering director.

MOTYLEWSKI: Chef Lisa Joy started cooking with the Salatins' chickens and eggs several years ago. Now she markets Polyface products to 2 dozen other restaurants in Virginia and the Capitol.

JOY: This is a white chocolate cake with lemon curd and blueberries. Oops, and that's my timer I'll go get some tarts.

MOTYLEWSKI: Between dessert and breakfast service, this kitchen uses 60 dozen eggs a week, and chef Joy says she can see and taste the difference.

JOY: At times when I haven't been able to get their eggs or I've, like, helped out at another restaurant that doesn't serve their eggs, I make a cake, and I was looking and going what's wrong? And then I realize it's the eggs, because the cake is just not as golden, it's not as moist, not as rich.

MOTYLEWSKI: How about the chickens and working with the chickens? What do you notice as a chef?

JOY: A lot of times with catering or bigger parties, you'll have to, like, cut up 1 or 2 cases of chickens at a time. When I cut commercial chickens my hand are swollen after I cut them. They, you know, there's something in the chicken that gets into your hands, and if you have any cuts or anything, it swells it. Joel's chickens I can cut, you know, the equivalent, and my hands are normal. And there's no smell, no, you know, anything. Nice and fresh.

(Muzak in the background)

MOTYLEWSKI: The Salatins welcome restaurant customers, but the family is wary of 2 things: growth, and regulation. Lucille Salatin.

L. SALATIN: We're not looking to supply the world. We're looking to supply our neighbors and people around who want this kind of food. And there's a lot of people who, you know, could care less; they just go and get the cheapest thing they can get. And if they want to be regulated and have all that and get it that way, that's their business. But we like to have the people who are really interested in being healthy and having this sort of thing to be free to do it if they want to.

MOTYLEWSKI: But not everyone lives within reach of a farm, and this method is geared for small-scale production. So skeptics dismiss pasture poultry as impractical for feeding large urban populations. Joel Salatin doesn't expect his model to replace the industrial one, but he does see producers like himself springing up all over, and recreating local food networks that can feed more and more people this way. Mr. Salatin says his customers are beginning to get the bigger picture, and that gives him chill bumps.

SALATIN: Yeah, they're really decided, hey, we're going to take our reins of our destiny and we're going to do something about it. We're not going to march on the Washington, we're not going to ask for government programs, and we're not going to ask Ralph Nader to come and protect us. We're going to actually build a relationship with our food supply. We're going to eat fresh, local, raw, unpackaged, we're going to find our kitchen again, and make food fun, and these are wonderful things.

(Ambient voices and clucks)

MOTYLEWSKI: For Living on Earth, I'm Kim Motylewski in Swope, Virginia.

SALATIN: This is doing something for yourself. It's the old independent American spirit that says okay, you can go eat Big Macs if you want to, but we're going to we're going to eat something that's really wholesome and nutritious. And something that we actually handled, touched, smelled...

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(Music up and under: Oh Shenandoah)

A Different Cider

CURWOOD: On the farm that Jane Brox runs in Dracut, Massachusetts, this is usually the time of year that freshly fallen apples are turned into fresh apple cider. But Jane wrote to us to explain that this year is different.

BROX: It had always been a sign of the year closing down to me. The full and hollow sound of cider apples, too small or scarred or bruised to sell as fruit, dropping to a pine box at my feet. Twenty, 30, 40 boxes filled that way. Then we'd bring them to a neighbor's farm to be crushed, pressed, and returned as jugs of tawny cider.

The early fall's pressing is full of the tart, light flavor of Macintosh. Cider turns richer as
the season lengthens, and winter apples, whose flavors are deepened by the frost, Northern Spies, Baldwins, and Golden Delicious, begin to dominate the mix.

By the short gray days of November, it becomes thick as liquor, and its warm round flavor feels like a certain stay against the coming cold. And always, if cider sits long enough, it begins to ferment. Then it's reminiscent of what cider first tasted like before Prohibition decreed an end to household distillation. A fermented drink aged in barrels in the stone cellars of farm houses, stored long beyond the fall season. Something to warm the blood, to wash down a winter meal, raised as a toast in friendship. Cider, the root of which means to drink deeply, to drink to intoxication.

But things will be different this year. Last year's scattered e-coli outbreaks reportedly traced to cider in unpasteurized apple juice across Colorado, California, and Connecticut, made national news. And ever since, rumors of new regulations and liabilities have run through every gathering of apple growers in the region. "They're going to require pasteurization", some say tersely. They say it's going to be a talk show topic this fall.

It was tough news when our neighbor said he just couldn't press this year's cider crop. The insurance company won't allow it. The liability is too high. Our only choice may be to sell the apples to a large concern in the Nashoba Hills. What will be returned to us won't be recognizable after our apples have been mixed with countless others, and the cider itself pasteurized. What will it taste like, I asked my neighbor. Just juice, was all she said. She shook her head. She was bitter, I could tell, and who wouldn't be? A fuel of rumor, a scattering of cases across the nation, and here we are with the watered-down thing. Just juice. A far cry from what we've known, and even farther from what those before us had known.

CURWOOD: Commentator Jane Brox is author of Here and Nowhere Else: Late Seasons of a Farm and Its Family.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the Ford Foundation; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and Stonyfield Farm, makers of pure all-natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 1-800-PROCOWS for Stonyfield's Moosletter.

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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

CURWOOD: Once a mainstay in Kentucky's economy, hemp is outlawed. But now hemp is getting a second look from farmers who are seeking some alternatives to growing tobacco. That story is coming up right here on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)


(Theme music up and under)

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

(Music up and under)

The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: Lightning kills more people in this country each year than tornadoes and hurricanes combined. More than 8,000 people in the past 50 years. That's probably because lightning is so ubiquitous. About 100 bolts hit the earth every second, 8 to 9 million every day. Most at risk: people outdoors on mountaintops or other exposed places, where the weather has shifted abruptly and there's no shelter handy. To ward off lightning, the Romans wore laurel wreaths, and the Germans kept yule logs on the fire. Across Europe they used to ring church bells to keep the bolts at bay, but after enough bell-ringers were struck dead the city of Paris made it illegal to ring bells during thunderstorms. Each year in the US a group of health care professionals holds the Lightning Strike-Electrical Shock Conference to devise better treatments and prevention strategies. This year's meeting takes place in Florida, which has the highest incidence of lightning strikes in the nation. But lightning isn't all bad. It helps create millions of tons of nitrogen fertilizer every year. And some claim lightning has even cured blindness and multiple sclerosis. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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(Music up and under: Lightning is Striking Again)

Hemp to Replace Tobacco Crop?

CURWOOD: As the proposed multi-billion dollar tobacco industry settlement lurches toward resolution, tobacco farmers worry about their future. So far there's been no cash compensation proposed for farmers who lose tobacco income. Tobacco has been the primary money maker for many Southern farmers for generations, but today diversification is the buzzword. Fruits and vegetables, specialty livestock, even aquaculture are in the mix now. And some tobacco farmers in Kentucky are looking to the past for a new cash crop. John Gregory has our report.

(Traffic sounds)

GREGORY: US Highway 60 near Lexington, Kentucky, cuts through some of the state's most scenic farm land. Farmer and business man Andy Graves looks across the road to a field that his family's owned for some 200 years. He sees the corn that's growing there now and recalls a crop from decades ago.

GRAVES: When dad's father was farming big, my grandfather was farming big, that's where they raised a lot of hemp is right over there, the last big years that they were growing it. Probably there in that field.

GREGORY: For hundreds of years, fibers from hemp stalks made strong paper, fabrics, and rope. The tall slender plant was Kentucky's first cash crop, and for many years the state led the nation in hemp production. But by the 1900s, hemp farming in the United States began a slow decline. Trees became the preferred source of paper, and hemp couldn't compete against imported natural fibers or emerging synthetic ones. Plus, the Internal Revenue Service began to tax hemp production in 1937. The plant did see a resurgence in the 1940s when the government licensed farmers and even encouraged 4H clubs to produce hemp for rope and parachute netting for the war effort. Kentucky hemp farmers are featured in a Department of Agriculture training film from the period.

(Music in the background: "My Old Kentucky Home." Man's voice over: "Hemp for fiber is ready to harvest when the pollen is shedding and the leaves are falling. In Kentucky hemp harvest comes in August. Here, the old standby has been the self-raked reaper, which has been used for a generation or more.")

GREGORY: The hemp revival was brief, though, and the last commercial crop was grown in Wisconsin in the mid-1950s. Now, with tobacco in decline, farmer Andy Graves thinks it's time to bring hemp back.

GRAVES: It might be a crop that can put some food on the table and maybe help pay the mortgage on the farm and buy some Christmas presents. Because that's what's tobacco's doing.

GREGORY: Mr. Graves is the president of the Kentucky Help Growers, a wartime cooperative that he and several other farmers recently revived. They say hemp is easy to grow and is environmentally sound. The plant requires few pesticides, and its deep roots prevent soil erosion. Using hemp to make paper reduces pressure on forests. The plant can also reduce dependence on petroleum. The woody inner portion of the stalk is an ingredient in biodegradable plastics. And hemp seed oil can be used for fuel, paint, and varnishes. Again, Andy Graves.

GRAVES: People want to be more environmentally sensitive and environmentally correct, and hemp, because of its amazing ability to be grown in so many parts of the United States, it can be the crop that can do that for us.

GREGORY: From Hawaii to Vermont, farmers and activists in 12 states want to grow hemp. But they just can't launch into production because growing hemp is against the law.

(Policeman's voice on walkie talkie:"Okay, 509, you can see us now, dope center right over here...")

GREGORY: Kentucky remains a national leader in hemp production, but these days it's called marijuana. The drug is the state's number one illegal cash crop.

(Voices on walkie talkies continue. A motor starts up.)

GREGORY: From June through September, the Kentucky State Police use helicopters to locate patches of marijuana planted along the wooded hillsides of central and eastern Kentucky. Ground crews in military humvees then move in and cut the plants. In 1996, the eradication force destroyed more than half a million plants and arrested some 1,200 growers. State police lieutenant Gerry Melton spots a cluster of marijuana plants growing behind a garage in rural Marion County.

MELTON: It's, you know, the proverbial needle in the haystack. You know, you've got the whole state of Kentucky to hide it in and that's the hard part of it is just being able to locate it.

(Cutting sounds)

GREGORY: Police photograph the marijuana as evidence, then cut the 274 plants with machetes.

(Cutting sounds)

GREGORY: Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis sativa, and both contain the psychoactive chemical THC. Plants containing less than one percent of THC are generally called hemp. Marijuana, on the other hand, is at least 10 times more potent. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the cannabis sativa plant as a narcotic regardless of its THC content.

CHERRY: Now we in the Justice Cabinet in the Administration are certainly very supportive of Kentucky's farmers.

GREGORY: Dan Cherry is the Secretary of the Kentucky Justice Cabinet.

CHERRY: It's very important that we find the right crops for our farmers. Crops which will meet their needs but not compromise our drug control strategies.

GREGORY: Hemp and marijuana look alike, so Cherry and law enforcement officials worry that unscrupulous growers would hide rows of marijuana in with their fiber hemp plants. They also fear monitoring hemp production would distract police from more important drug control efforts. And State Police Commissioner Gary Rose recently told Kentucky legislators that promoting hemp sends a dangerous message to children.

ROSE: The proposed legalization of hemp is in my opinion nothing more than an attempt to legalize the growing of marijuana within this state.

GREGORY: Hemp supporters, including established agricultural groups like the Community Farm Alliance and the Kentucky Farm Bureau say they have absolutely no interest in legalizing marijuana. Furthermore, they want police and the US Department of Agriculture to develop ways to license and monitor hemp production. And activist Andy Graves says hemp operations in Germany, France, England, and beginning next year in Canada, can serve as models for US production.

GRAVES: The head of the Mounties says well it's real easy. We know that the field and the farmers are licensed to grow this. We know where the hemp should be. And anybody that hadn't got hemp in that spot, we know that they're probably growing it illegal.

METCALFE: I think it's an issue whose time has come.

GREGORY: Republican State Senator Barry Metcalfe is drafting legislation for the 1998 session of the Kentucky General Assembly that calls for the University of Kentucky to develop a hemp plant with no narcotic properties, and to explore the economic potential of hemp.

METCALFE: And part of the research is to develop secondary, value-added markets for the hemp. Not just to grow it, but also to have a place to weave clothing, to develop strands for paper.

GREGORY: If Kentucky or other states are able to pass laws allowing hemp to be planted, growers would still need a permit from the DEA. And the agency has never granted such a license. For Living on Earth, I'm John Gregory in Louisville, Kentucky.

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CURWOOD: How to cope with the simple life when the simple life ain't so simple. A conversation with a modern-day homesteader is just ahead, right here on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

California Species Amendments

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
Plans for dozens of new construction projects will soon be back on track in California, following the passage of amendments to the state's Endangered Species Act. The projects had been put on hold when a court ruled that Governor Pete Wilson's waivers of the species protection law were illegal. Now the California law has been rewritten. Its proponents say the new measure will allow needed development to go forward in some sensitive areas without harming rare plants and animals. But some environmental activists disagree. Cheryl Colopy has our report.

(Hushed voices in halls)

COLOPY: The halls of California's capitol in Sacramento are quiet these days. The legislature has adjourned and the only flurry of activity is the scampering of dozens of urban squirrels on the capitol's tree-shaded lawns.

MAN 1: (on radio) Yes, they're coming out of where?

MAN 2: The Department of Fish and Game. Let me just double-check; I think they're 3160.

COLOPY: Upstairs in his office, Darryl Young worries that before long animals like squirrels, which can adapt well to human development, may be the only wildlife that will survive in California, now that the legislature has amended the state's Endangered Species Act.

YOUNG: Everyone's going to try to paint this in the best light possible, but what everyone seems to be is in a massive state of denial. What we've done is we have sanctioned the die-off of hundreds of species in our states. If I was an endangered specie, I would fire my lobbyists.

COLOPY: Darryl Young is the chief consultant to the California Senate's Natural Resources Committee. The new Endangered Species Act is meant to prevent any more critical habitat from being lost, but Mr. Young says one of its biggest flaws is that it does nothing to address the needs of species which are already in crisis. The revisions of the Act are aimed primarily at resolving the problem of incidental take, or harm to an endangered species from building, mining, farming, or logging in its habitat. The recent amendments spell out exactly how and when the state can issue permits for incidental take. They remove the legal cloud that's hung over builders since a court invalidated a host of permits earlier this year.

MANSON: These bills allow California to prosper in an economic sense and in an environmental sense.

COLOPY: Craig Manson is the chief counsel to the Department of Fish and Game, and he represented the Administration of Governor Pete Wilson during many months of negotiations with environmentalists and industry representatives. The Department of Fish and Game has begun drafting regulations that will require developers and farmers to compensate for any damage they do, for example, by transferring some land to the state for permanent habitat or trying to create habitat elsewhere. Craig Manson says critics who worry that these efforts won't be enough to stop the long-term decline of many species are reading the amendments too narrowly.

MANSON: These bills have safeguards for the protection of species while at the same time allowing agriculture and other economic activities to go forward. That's the way it's got to be in modern California.

COLOPY: A number of environmental groups are taking a similarly pragmatic view. The Sierra Club fought for stronger wildlife protections but failed. In the end it didn't endorse the legislation but also chose not to fight it. Sierra Club lobbyist Bill Craven says the legislation offers at least one major improvement: its provision for public review of permits to harm the habitat of endangered species.

CRAVEN: And that's where I think environmental groups are going to have a big role. I mean, it's our folks who know where these species live and who know where that habitat is, and who know if a proposed development is going to adversely affect those species.

COLOPY: Bill Craven says now that the thorny issue of incidental take has been resolved, environmentalists can concentrate on some of the law's weaknesses. He hopes to help craft new amendments to the Endangered Species Act to protect and expand habitat in order to foster recovery of some species. But others remain skeptical.

MUELLER: Do we want more K-Marts or do we want more bald eagles?

COLOPY: Tara Mueller of the Environmental Law Foundation says with the pressure of the permit logjam relieved, it's unlikely that law makers will be eager to consider further changes to the law. She says the legislation is a huge step backward because it expressly relieves everyone but the state of California of responsibility for helping restore the populations of endangered species.

MUELLER: I am concerned that it sets a very bad precedent for Federal ESA reauthorization, by endorsing a policy that private land owners, local governments have no responsibility to contribute to species recovery. And by letting a significant segment of society off the hook and not providing any funding to help the state meet its obligations, the species are the ones that will suffer.

COLOPY: Only time will tell whether California's new Endangered Species Act will help species recover or hasten their decline. But in the short term, supporters of the new law hope it will be seen as a positive precedent for the coming reauthorization of the Federal Endangered Species Act. For Living on Earth, I'm Cheryl Colopy.

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ESA Commentary

SHANAHAN: Advocates of the Endangered Species Act see it as a safety net that helps bring species back from the brink of extinction. Opponents, such as land owners who have lost the right to use their own land, believe it puts the welfare of plants and animals above people. But a new study shows that both may be wrong, at least about the law helping endangered species.

CURWOOD: Commentator John Shanahan.

SHANAHAN: The National Wilderness Institute is a group which promotes conservation through the use of market forces. It found that not a single species has recovered and been removed from the Endangered Species List because of the Act. Not one. According to the study, only 27 species have been taken off the endangered list. In more than half these cases, Federal officials decided it was a mistake to list them in the first place. For example, the pine-barren tree frog was originally thought to exist in only 7 locations. The frog was later found to thrive in another 315 places. So it was taken off the list. Other plants and animals were mis-categorized. For example, the supposedly rare Mexican duck was actually just a blue-eyed mallard. So it was taken off the list.

Some species have recovered, but for reasons unrelated to the Act. The Arctic peregrine falcon recovered because of the ban on DDT, as well as a cultural change among hunters. In earlier years, hunters and farmers commonly shot these birds' prey. But the practice went out of favor in the 1960s. The gray whales population has also rebounded, but its numbers have been increasing since the late 1800s, long before the Endangered Species Act was passed. The remaining species taken off the list, such as the long-jaw sisko and Sampson's pearly mussel, were not so fortunate. They went extinct. This study demonstrates what many have known for years. The Endangered Species Act is broken. It's time to scrap this law and start over. Until we know where to focus our efforts, we cannot help the species truly in need. Until we stop taking away people's ability to use their own land, we will never make them champions of species protection. If we are to save species from extinction, we need to make land owners the biggest supporters of the law, not its biggest opponents.

CURWOOD: Commentator John Shanahan is Vice President of the Alexis de Toqueville Institution in Arlington, Virginia.

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Modern Day Homesteading

CURWOOD: The simple life. Ever since Americans haven't had to live close to the land, some folks have been urging us back to it. From Henry David Thoreau to Helen and Scott Nearing, eloquent and convincing voices have extolled the virtues of living simply and frugally. But many people who have tried the simple life have found it, well, too complex. Linda Tatelbaum is one of the few who stuck it out. In 1977, she and her husband Kal bought 75 acres in Maine and built a house with no electricity and no running water. Today, with a few small adjustments, they're still homesteading. Linda Tatelbaum, who teaches English at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, has just written and self-published a book of essays about the struggles and blessings of living the simple life, about which she says there's one prerequisite.

TATELBAUM: I think you have to have a good sense of humor. I think you have to realize that what you're doing is totally ridiculous (laughs) and therefore worthwhile. Because you're doing something only because it pleases you, not because you have to.

CURWOOD: This is a wonderfully written book and this little passage I'd like you to read for us if you could.


CURWOOD: It's the last 2 paragraphs of the title chapter of your book, Carrying Water.

TATELBAUM: Yes. It's inconvenient in practical terms. How much easier it is not to think about the water you use. To open the faucet and let her run: this is a glory of another life. And yes, I could wish that the spring were up the hill from home, so that like Jack and Jill I could come running down when the jugs were full. But the spring is where it is, down in the vale, a stone-cool grove spiced with the scent of fern and rock and water. I walk uphill to the house, steady, my arms hanging straight from my shoulders as they are made to do, weighted by 40 pounds of water.

CURWOOD: The title of your book is Carrying Water as a Way of Life, and I have to say as a little boy I remember us always carrying water to this place in New Hampshire that had no running water. Or the standing joke was yeah, you run for the water.


CURWOOD: It's a heck of a lot of work. Water is heavy!

TATELBAUM: Right. It's heavy. But it's clean, at least, if you spill it on yourself.

CURWOOD: (Laughs) But I mean, the physical labor involved with homesteading this way is tremendous. Why do that much work?

TATELBAUM: Well, you do a lot of work if you don't do that, too. You might not think about it that way, but for instance, if you have all the conveniences and you live more of a standard American life your chances are you're working at least 40 hours a week and commuting, and having to put up with a lot of stress, and not really being very connected to your food, for instance, which is really important to me. And so there's a lot of tradeoffs, is that I do a lot of physical labor but I get some really substantial benefits from that. I'm strong, I'm healthy, I know what I'm eating. You know, those to me are very large benefits. And we eat in season from, I'd say, from April until November. And then after that we're eating stuff that we've put by.

CURWOOD: Put things by for the winter. That sounds like an awful lot of work.

TATELBAUM: Oh, it is. And I'm just at the beginning of it right now, right when teaching starts. So that's always an interesting trip is, you know, you start back to teaching just at the time when you're starting to bring all the tomatoes into the house, and you know what your weekends are going to be involved with, is jars. You've read the essay in there, there's a chapter in the book called Jars.


TATELBAUM: In which I say my life is involved with jars. Which it is.

CURWOOD: Well, how is this different from the rat race that most of us live, say, with a lot more electricity and a lot less canning? I mean, we're busy running from one thing to the next. You sound pretty busy, too.

TATELBAUM: Oh, I'm very busy. I mean, people who think the simple life means you sit around and admire trees all day don't have it right. It's very, very busy and it's complicated. But I guess to me it's a rat race of my own making, and that makes it different. You know, it's like I chose this. I got into this myself. But there are times, especially the end of September, I guess, when I'm in the midst of all the tomatoes and I'm thinking: why am I doing this? But then all I have to do is go to the supermarket and price what it would take me to replace my labor. One year I said that's it, I'm not doing this any more, and I went to the supermarket with a little list. And I got as far as the fruit juice, and I could see already that it would mean teaching full-time, being away from home all the time, in order just to replace fruit juice.

CURWOOD: Two years after you built this house, you had a baby.


CURWOOD: I'm wondering, you know, what was it like?

TATELBAUM: Well, we were very methodical about it. Before we even decided to have a baby, we went scouting around to look for a doctor that would understand us. And we actually wanted to have a home birth. And we found a doctor that did home births, and we went to see him, and he said no, sorry, I don't do them when there's no running water and electricity. So he drew the line at that. So we said well okay, we'll have a hospital birth, then. The nurse was a little concerned; she said we had to get a refrigerator right away. As soon as she told me I was pregnant she said, "Well, you're going to have to get a refrigerator." You know, as if that was sort of the prerequisite for raising a baby. She didn't understand the concept of a pregnant woman going up and down cellar stairs several times a day but, you know, I stayed pretty healthy all through the pregnancy, and I think that the work had a lot to do with that.

CURWOOD: And yet now, today, you do have electricity from photovoltaics.


CURWOOD: What made you change your mind that, well, maybe it was time to get solar power?

TATELBAUM: You get tired of kerosene lamps after a while. They are dirty, you know, it
doesn't smell too good. You're dealing with kerosene. You're trimming wicks all the time. You're cleaning chimneys. It's not that much fun. And we decided lights would really be great. I mean this is something most people take completely for granted, so we were, like, this is what we want in our lives. One of the things about living this life is, and for a long time, is you have to make choices. If you feel like you're starting to wear out, chances are you're going to have to quit the whole life unless you make some changes, and to me some of the easiest changes to make were to, say, buy my flour and not grind my own flour. And then even now, you know, I don't even usually bake bread any more. So that was one thing that went. I try to make it really, really clear that we don't do everything pure. That we do have modern, some modern pleasures and conveniences, because I think people are very threatened by the idea of, at least the concept that they have that you live this pure life. Because then they feel bad, you know, they feel insecure. Like, oh well, uh, I eat prepared foods so I must be bad because you're so pure. So one of the reasons for writing the book was to let people know that whatever little piece of a simple way of life that you can do and that you like to do, that's going to help you feel a little bit more connected to making some choices about your life.

CURWOOD: So compromise is a way to keep your ideals?

TATELBAUM: Yeah. I think so. Somebody that came to one of my readings said something very interesting to me, and I hadn't thought about this. He said, you know, you haven't changed. You've just, you just had all these youthful ideals that were in the way of what was your core values, and you kept your core values. But you were able to drop some of that youthful, you know, insistence on doing everything pure. And I thought that was a really interesting way of looking at it and I was very pleased to hear that. I like to imagine that I'm sort of picking up on somebody's wasted labor, you know, somebody whose place went to seed and, you know, the well tumbled in and the house burned down and all that. And I like to think of myself as kind of fixing that up and bringing it back to being a productive place where a family can live and eat and have health.

CURWOOD: Linda Tatelbaum's new book is called Carrying Water as a Way of Life. Published by About Time Press in Appleton, Maine. Thank you for joining us.

TATELBAUM: Thanks a lot, Steve.

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listener Letters

CURWOOD: And now it's time to hear from you, our listeners. Our series on water conflicts in the Middle East provoked a range of responses. Yuri Gurevich, a listener to WUOM in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called the reports “conscious and sophisticated anti-Israeli propaganda. You say that the Palestinians want cooperation and Israelis want domination. Have you ever heard about Palestinians that do not want cooperation?" Mr. Gurevich writes, "I do not say that Israel is right and Palestinians are wrong. They certainly have well-founded grievances. I do say that you should not be in the business of producing biased and poisonous reports." But others like David Rubin, who listens to WBUR in Boston, applauded our efforts. Mr. Rubin writes that the series "cut through political rhetoric and reached the realities of everyday life for ordinary people. I also appreciated the inclusion of alternative voices among Israelis, calling for a more equitable distribution of water resources. Such calls are now unfortunately the true voices in the wilderness. Such first-rate radio journalism as your series points the way."

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We appreciate all your comments. To reach us, call us on our listener line any time at 1-800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. Once again, LOE@NPR.ORG. And check out our web site at www.loe.org.

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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our production team includes Daniel Grossman, George Homsy, Liz Lempert, Jesse Wegman, and Julia Madeson, Peter Christianson, Roberta deAvila, and Peter Shaw. Peter Thomson heads our western bureau. Chris Ballman is the senior producer. We had help from Dana Campbell and Carolyn Martin. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director, and Jeff Martini engineered the program. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Our program is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. I'm Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

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ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the W. Alton Jones Foundation for reporting on environmental economics; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; the Great Lakes Protection Fund; and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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