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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

June 26, 1998

Air Date: June 26, 1998

SEGMENTS

Grizzly Politics / Jyl Hoyt

In the long-running battles over the Endangered Species Act, politics has always been at least as important as preservation. And it's no different today. Congress is now considering major changes to the law, and the Clinton Administration is responding by moving to take a number of species OFF the Endangered Species List. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says the goal is to show that the law works, as well as to squelch critics who contend that once a critter goes on the list, it never comes off. Secretary Babbitt's "de-listing", as it's called, will start with a couple dozen high-profile species, including the bald eagle, the gray wolf, and other so-called recovery "success" stories. One such story is set in Yellowstone National Park, where the grizzly bear could get de-listed as early as next summer. But, many scientists who study grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem say that's a risky move. Jyl Hoyt from member station K-B-S-U in Boise explains. (08:15)

China's Environment Gets Lost in the Haze

President Clinton is in China this week, meeting with Chinese leaders, and environmental concerns are high on the agenda. With its one point two billion people, and rapid industrialization, China has the ability to thwart international environmental efforts, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China also has dire domestic ecological issues to contend with from polluted cities to factories that dump toxic waste into rivers, development gobbling up agricultural land, and large areas in the north sinking as farmers draw down the water table. To discuss the current state of China's environment we turned to Daniel Esty. He's director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University, and the author of "Sustaining the Asia Pacific Miracle: Environmental Protection and Economic Integration." Professor Esty visits China often, where, he tells Laura Knoy, it's become increasingly difficult to breathe the air. (04:55)

Urban Water Lesson / Richard Schiffman

Some of us don't know where our drinking water comes from. That's especially true for city dwellers whose water often travels from hundreds of miles away. Many folks don't make the connection between the picture postcards of streams in the country, and the water that flows from their faucets. Richard Schiffman reports on an event in New York City designed to change that. (04:25)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about... Buckminister Fuller who has been called the 20th century's Leonardo DaVinci. A self-trained architect, engineer, mathematician, and poet; he's best known for inventing the Geodesic Dome. (01:30)

Mental Health Practitioners Go to the Dogs / Nancy Cohen

The idea that bringing plants and animals into clinics and hospitals can make patients happier and healthier is gaining ground in the field of mental health. Advocates of "animal-assisted" therapy say contact with animals can help draw out severely withdrawn patients and help calm down the violent ones. There are plenty of anecdotes about the positive effects of animals on psychiatric patients, but few long term studies proving it works. Still, the number of animal-assisted therapy programs is growing. Nancy Cohen reports on a program in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that's sprung up without funding or staff training, but with a strong conviction that animals can help people heal. (06:30)

LOE Herbal Garden Spot

This time, Living on Earth gardening expert Michael Weishan meets with Laura Knoy for tips on growing herbs for your home garden. (05:30)

On Good Land: How One Small Farmer Survived the Onslaught of California Sprawl

According to the American Farmland Trust, about forty-six acres of farmland are lost every hour to non-agricultural uses, such as building new homes and businesses. And small farms are particularly vulnerable. But, farmer Michael Ableman has resisted the pressure of urban sprawl in one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets. For 17 years, Ableman has managed Fairview Gardens, a 12 acre organic farm in Goleta, California, a suburb of Santa Barbara. He’s written a book about his experience titled, "On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm". Michael Ableman joins Laura Knoy from Santa Barbara. (07:45)

First Rate Bird Calling Contest / JoAnn Mar

The Leonard J. Waxdeck bird-calling competition has been a tradition since the 1960's in Piedmont, California bringing the town some international notoriety. Producer JoAnn Mar attended this year's competition and sent us this sound portrait. (04:15)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Laura Knoy
REPORTERS: Jyl Hoyt, Richard Schiffman, Nancy Cohen, JoAnn Mar
GUESTS: Daniel Esty, Michael Weishan, Michael Ableman

(Theme music intro)

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

(Music up and under)

KNOY: I'm Laura Knoy.
The Clinton administration says the Endangered Species Act is working so well that it will soon start dropping some animals off the protected list. Grizzly bears are among the recovered species slated for delisting.

SERVHEEN: The grizzly bear situation in Yellowstone is one of the greatest conservation success stories of the 20th century, certainly one of the best ones under the Endangered Species Act.

But, others say the government is moving too fast, too soon, ignoring science, in favor of politics.

HONNALD: The federal agencies want to use the grizzly bear as a success story, and they care more about the public perception of whether things are going well than about the hard reality out on the ground of are bears doing well or not.

KNOY: The plight of the Grizzly, and the state of China's environment.
Those stories this week, on Living on Earth. First, news.

Back to top

(NPR News follows here)

(Theme music returns)

Grizzly Politics

KNOY: This is Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy sitting in for Steve Curwood. In the long-running battles over the Endangered Species Act, politics has always been at least as important as preservation. And it's no different today. Congress is now considering major changes to the law, and the Clinton Administration is responding by moving to take a number of species off the Endangered Species List. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit says the goal is to show that the law works, as well as to squelch critics who contend that once a critter goes on the list, it never comes off. Secretary Babbit's "de-listing", as it's called, will start with a couple dozen high-profile species, including the bald eagle, the gray wolf, and other so-called recovery success stories. One such story is set in Yellowstone National Park, where the grizzly bear could get "de-listed" as early as next summer. But, many scientists who study grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem say that's a risky move. Jyl Hoyt from member station K-B-S-U in Boise explains.

HOYT: On the Northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, a group of scientists and activists grab binoculars and spotting scopes and set out to look for Grizzly Bears.

HALF-PENNY: Well, there's been a sow and a couple of cubs working this area back here. We'll see if we can get on her.

HOYT: Back in 1975, when Federal scientists put the Grizzly on the Endangered Species List, they thought the huge bear was going extinct. But Chris Servheen, who leads the government's recovery team, says the picture has changed dramatically.

SERVHEEN: We see the population increasing at four percent. We see bears in places we haven't seen them in fifty years. We see bears south of Jackson, Wyoming, that we never thought we would see.

HOYT: Mr. Servheen and his team, using statistical models, estimate there are now four to five hundred Grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

SERVHEEN: The Grizzly Bear situation in Yellowstone is one of the greatest conservation success stories of the Twentieth Century, certainly one of the best ones under the Endangered Species Act.

HOYT: It's such a success story that the Federal Government is now thinking of taking the Grizzly Bear off the Endangered Species List, but many independent scientists say that idea is premature. Pioneer Grizzly researcher Lance Craighead believes there are perhaps a third fewer Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem than the government estimate and barely more than when the bear was first protected.

CRAIGHEAD: Statistically it's not a significant increase, and so to talk about "de-listing" them without taking into account what's happening to their habitat is really not supported by the facts.

HOYT: Mr. Craighead says the status of the bear's habitat and food supply is at least as important as their numbers.

(Sounds of running water)

HOYT: The 9500 square mile Yellowstone ecosystem is made up of Yellowstone and Teton National Parks and six national forests in three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

(Sounds of running water)

HOYT: Icy rivers cascade through the rich volcanic soils of the Yellowstone Plateau, creating nutritious grasses for elk and bison. These ungulates, as well as numerous plants, are food for Yellowstone Grizzlies. When there are plenty of such foods, as there were during the 1980's, bear populations rise, says Dave Matteson, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. But Mr. Matteson says the bison population is in trouble. Recent conflicts with local ranchers are forcing wildlife managers to drastically thin the herd.

MATTESON: We're standing to lose a good share of our bison because of a management plan that proposes to halve the herd and keep it that way.

(Footfalls)

HOYT: Mr. Matteson makes his way up a hill, checking for bear sign and searching for plants that bears like to eat. He kneels down and digs up a Spring Beauty, a favorite bear food. Plants like these are still abundant here, but they're not the high nutrition items Grizzlies need most. And like the bison, other big-ticket foods here are in trouble.

MATTESON: We're standing to lose a good share of the Cut Throat Trout because of Lake Trout that were unintentionally introduced into the lake.

HOYT: Mr. Matteson says the native trout swim up shallow streams where bears can catch them, but the introduced fish stay deep in Yellowstone Lake. And there are other problems:

MATTESON: Very likely, we'll lose most of the White Bark Pine, most of the Army Cut Worm Moths that the bears use on the eastern part of the ecosystem, both really important foods, due to global climate warming.

HOYT: Perhaps the biggest threat to bears here is roads for oil and gas development, for logging, for subdivisions.

(Sounds of bulldozers)

HOYT: Roads like this one being built North of the Park are gobbling up Grizzly bear habitat fast. Louisa Wilcox with Sierra Club's Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Project says if the twenty counties surrounding Yellowstone Park were taken together, it would be the fastest growing state in the nation.

WILCOX: And what was once open space along the Madison, the Yellowstone, the Gallatine Rivers are filling up with subdivisions, with people moving into this area to get a piece of paradise. And that in the long run is going to be a continued problem for Grizzly Bears. Ninety percent of the Grizzly Bears now that die, die as a result of conflicts that occur outside Yellowstone Park.

(Sound of footfalls)

HOYT: The group of bear watchers moves from one hill in Yellowstone to another seeing wolves, bison, elk, but still no bears. Carnivore ecologist Jim Half-Penny of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research says the importance of a healthy population of Grizzlies in Yellowstone goes far beyond the bears themselves.

HALF-PENNY: Anything we can do to benefit the Grizzly Bear is probably going to benefit a host of other species. If we provide good habitat for Grizzly, that's providing good habitat for black bear and for wolves, for deer, for elk...

HOYT: Critics say that talk about "de-listing" the Grizzlies is being dictated by politics, not science. The Endangered Species Act is under heavy pressure from Congress. So Doug Honnald of the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund says wildlife managers are scrambling to find ways to defend the law.

HONNALD: The Federal agencies want to use the Grizzly Bear as a success story, and they care more about the public perception of whether things are going well than about the hard reality out on the ground of are bears doing well or not.

HOYT: If the Government proposes this winter to take Yellowstone Grizzly Bears off the Endangered Species list, and most analysts say it will, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming would manage the bears. These states have been antagonistic to Grizzlies, and many environmentalists fear they won't be committed to maintaining a healthy population with enough rich habitat. But Chris Servheen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey says if the bear's future is in doubt, the Government will put them back on the Endangered Species list.

SERVHEEN: We are committed to be adaptive managers. That means that as new problems arise, as new threats come about, as we learn new things, we will change our management and respond to those to meet the needs of the bear.

MATTESON: Got to get some cubs coming in here.

(Sounds of conversation)

HOYT: In Yellowstone Park's Lamar Valley, the bear watchers finally get what they came for. The group ignores the sun setting into a dazzling golden sky and the full moon rising because finally a Grizzly bear walks into view.

MATTESON: Yup, can see her moving there.

GROUP: Oh yeah, there she is.
(laughter)

MAN: Oh, beautiful.

HOYT: Huddled around a spotting scope, these activists say they'll continue to fight any move to "de-list" the Yellowstone Grizzlies while the future of the bears' habitat remains uncertain. For Living on Earth, I'm Jyl Hoyt in Yellowstone National Park.

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(Music)

KNOY: For a tape or transcript of this program, please call 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-99-88 for transcripts and tapes. Coming up: China's environment gets lost in the haze as the nation pushes its way into the modern, industrialized world. Stay tuned to Living On Earth.

(Music)

China's Environment Gets Lost in the Haze

KNOY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy.
President Clinton is in China this week, meeting with Chinese leaders, and environmental concerns are high on their agenda. With its one point two billion people, and rapid industrialization, China has the ability to thwart international environmental efforts, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China also has dire domestic ecological issues to contend with. The nation is home to 5 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world. Its factories dump toxic waste into rivers, development is gobbling up precious agricultural land, and large areas in the northern part of the country are literally sinking, as thirsty people and desperate farmers draw down the water table to dangerously low levels. To discuss the current state of China's environment we turned to Daniel Esty. He's director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University. And he's the author of Sustaining the Asia Pacific Miracle: Environmental Protection and Economic Integration. Professor Esty visits China often, where he says it's become increasingly difficult to breathe the air.

ESTY: The pollution problems in China hit you in the face the moment you step off the airplane, and you can't escape them in any major city in China. The air is thick with particulates, that is, dust. It is also very difficult to see. You have smog problems. And I think you see the Chinese people facing very serious consequences, and anyone who goes as a tourist faces it as well. In fact, I frequently have heard people joke about the time they spend in Beijing causing something called The Beijing Cough, which is just one example of the respiratory problems that almost anyone who visits, and certainly everyone who lives in Beijing, suffers from.

KNOY: And is that just in Beijing, Professor Esty, or is that the case in other parts of China?

ESTY: Well, it's the case in all of China's major cities and increasingly in its smaller cities, as well. Chinese authorities admitted that in recent years twenty six percent of all deaths in China have been as a result of respiratory distress.

KNOY: All the predictions I've seen say that the Chinese are more and more getting off their bikes and into cars.

ESTY: Well, the same trend is true everywhere in the world, and the mobility provided by a car is an important part of the kind of aspirations that people have all over the world for development. And I think those that argue, somehow, that we're going to encourage the Chinese not to have cars are misplaced in their vision of the future, and, frankly, it's very hard to justify on moral grounds as well.

KNOY: What about the water pollution?

ESTY: Water pollution is a little bit harder to see because you don't necessarily come face to face with polluted water that you then are asked to drink. Certainly as a tourist you stay in hotels where the water is drinkable. But, in many villages, the water supplies are contaminated, and people are at a constant risk of quite serious digestive tract diseases, some of which can even be fatal.

KNOY: What caused things to get so bad?

ESTY: There has been a priority in China, for some number of years, on economic growth with little attention to the environmental consequences of this very fast rate of economic development. For example, when a developer, particularly one from the United States or Europe, comes with a proposal to build into a project some pollution control equipment and pollution control devices, frequently the Chinese authorities ask that those devices be taken out of the project, be stripped away. And, quite frankly, it's not just Beijing. In many cases now it's provincial authorities who are competing with each other to be the centerpiece for the next bit of economic growth without much focus on the environmental effects that all of this growth is causing.

KNOY: So, there's a competition going on between different cities and different economic zones to see who can get ahead the fastest?

ESTY: Absolutely right. We call it, in the academic world, "a race to the bottom" because in effect what each of these cities or municipal areas is doing is offering to be the most degraded environment, and therefore the cheapest place to operate, without any focus on what those pollution consequences might be.

KNOY: Professor Esty, you mentioned serious air and water pollution, twenty-six percent of the population dying of respiratory diseases, dirty water making people sick constantly. Is this causing any sort of environmental movement in China?

ESTY: It's very interesting to see the environmental movement beginning to spring up in China. Of course, the Chinese authorities are very nervous about this. In fact, they've been very hesitant about allowing environmental groups to become organized for fear this could become a rallying point for broader issues like the advancement of democracy.

KNOY: So the Chinese government has to approve these groups before they can do anything?

ESTY: Yes, that's one of the challenges in operating in China is that it is impossible to organize without at least some official support, that is to say, some approval from the government. Environmental education, for example, is generally accepted and thought to be a good thing. But, environmental advocacy or challenging of local environmental and pollution decisions would not be the kind of activity that the government accepts.

KNOY: What does that say to you, then, about the future of any strong environmental movement in China?

ESTY: It's very hard to sustain good environmental programs absent and underlying democracy. It turns out that the constant attention given to environmental problems by non-governmental organizations is a critical element of ensuring that the hard issues that have to be faced are constantly reexamined.

KNOY: Do you expect, Professor Esty, that any of these environmental issues will be on the agenda when President Clinton meets with Chinese leaders?

ESTY: I think it's very clear that a number of environmental issues will be on President Clinton's agenda. There is clearly an opportunity to build bridges between the United States and China on the environmental front. The U.S. has advanced pollution control technologies that would be of great value to the Chinese in addressing their water pollution problems, in taking on some of the air pollution issues they face, particularly, for example, in the power generating sector and in helping the Chinese to address their toxic pollution control issues. And I think there is also likely to be some discussion about climate change. The honest truth is, as everyone who looks at climate change knows, you cannot solve the problem if you don't have China pulling with you. So, finding a way to bring China on board the Kyoto Protocol, or some revised version of it, is a critical policy goal for the Clinton Administration.

KNOY: Daniel Esty is Director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University, and he's the author of Sustaining the Asia Pacific Miracle: Environmental Protection and Economic Integration. Professor Esty, thanks for joining us.

ESTY: Thank you for having me.

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Urban Water Lesson

KNOY: Here in the U.S., we often take the state of our environment for granted. Like the availability of fresh drinking water, for example. Some of us don't even know where our water comes from. Especially city dwellers. Their water often travels from hundreds of miles away. And many don't make the connection between the pretty picture postcards of streams in the country, and the water that flows from their faucets. Richard Schiffman reports on an event in New York City designed to change that.

(Sounds of people talking)

SCHIFFMAN: Recently sixth graders in Harlem learned that fresh water is not just something that comes out of the tap.

SEAMAN: When it comes from the wetland, how does it get here, what's the next step?

BOY: It goes to the reservoir, and then it goes through the pipes, and when we open it, it falls down the drain and then it goes to the river and it flows off the ocean and then it evaporates and it all happens again and that's the water cycle.

(Applause)

SEAMAN: All right, good work.

SCHIFFMAN: This student is one of thousands from around the country taking part in the Clean Water Works Program. It's been designed jointly by the detergent manufacturer Lever Brothers and the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group, to teach elementary school students about threats to the nation's fresh water resources. The Conservancy's Dan Seaman is across the street from P.S. 175 to help kickoff the program. He says learning about the water cycle connects the children to the whole history of life on earth.

SEAMAN: The idea that the water we're drinking today is the same water that the dinosaurs were drinking thousands of years ago, it's a really neat thing for the kids to realize that, that this is the same water that keeps cycling around and that we're drinking the same water for thousands and thousands of years.

SCHIFFMAN: Dan Seaman is in charge of a refuge in the Great Swamp, one of the state's largest wetlands. Later this spring he'll be taking this class on a canoe tour of the swamp which feeds one of the city's reservoirs. But these children don't have to go all the way upstate to see a living wetland.

WOMAN: We're standing in what is the pond-marsh-meadow area of the Harlem Success Gardens which is located on 134th Street between Lenox and 7th.

SCHIFFMAN: Kathy Tonies is in charge of this unique urban wilderness where the class on water is taking place. The garden occupies ten vacant city lots which used to be a hand out for drug dealers, littered with abandoned refrigerators and cars. Volunteers, under the guidance of the local school district, converted it into a green oasis amidst the tenements. The jewel of this garden environmental center is a small pond studded with water lilies and fringed with cattails and reeds.

GIRL: Oh, yeah.

TONIES: Andrea, do you see something going like this?

KIDS: Yeah, there's something green that's moving, let me see. Looks like it's got legs.

SCHIFFMAN: The students are looking through microscopes at a squirming green hydra and other tiny organisms. At a nearby table there are larger pond animals: snapping turtles, frogs and crayfish.

TONIES: They stay at the bottom of the stream and wherever they are you know it's a really healthy stream, because they can't survive in a dirty one.

BOY: How come so many crayfish live under the rocks and stuff?

TONIES: Well they hide. First of all they're a predator, right? And if you're a predator, what's your best way to find food?

WILSON: Today represents an opportunity to learn about the need for clean water and also the source of New York City's drinking water.

SCHIFFMAN: Teacher Larry Wilson wants his students to continue their investigations of water after they return home.

WILSON: We have these home testing kits, and what the students are going to do over the break is they will actually test, with the help of their parents, the pipes where their drinking water is coming from at home and looking for any lead which may be leaching out of the pipes into their drinking water.

SCHIFFMAN: The results of their tests will be sent to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Larry Wilson hopes that by informing children about their drinking water today, they'll be motivated to protect it in the future. And if a survey conducted as part of the Clean Water Works Program is accurate, many others agree. Ninety-eight percent of those polled said that we need to educate our children early about threats to the environment if we hope to save it. For Living on Earth, I'm Richard Schiffman.

SEAMAN: What do those animals and what do those plants, what do they need to survive? What's one of the things that they really need to survive? Yeah. Right. Water. And what about you, do you also need water?

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(Music plays)

KNOY: You're listening to NPR's Living On Earth. I'm Laura Knoy.

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 and the environment; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the W.K. Kellog Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; the W. Alton Jones Foundation, promoting new ways to provide energy for the world economy without harm to the environment, www.wajones.org. And Church and Dwight, a tradition of environmental responsibility; the makers of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, the standard of purity.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

KNOY: Some mental health practitioners go to the dogs. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy are just ahead, keep listening to Living On Earth.

(Music plays)

SECOND HALF HOUR

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, dedicated to your health and the health of the planet.

KNOY: It's Living On Earth, I'm Laura Knoy.

(Theme music)

The Living on Earth Almanac

KNOY: Buckminster Fuller died on July first, just fifteen years ago. Mister Fuller, or just plain Bucky, to his friends, has been called the 20th century's Leonardo DaVinci. A self-trained architect, engineer, mathematician, and poet, he's best known for inventing the Geodesic Dome, one of the cheapest, but strongest structures in existence. He also designed underwater cities, composting toilets, greywater-recycling basins, and an aerodynamic, fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car, called the Dymaxion. Fuller published 28 books, including, the classic Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. But, before fame, there was misfortune. After the death of an infant daughter and a failed business venture, Mr. Fuller considered ending his own life by jumping into Lake Michigan. Instead, on what he called "a blind date with principle," he unexpectedly and unexplainably stopped talking for two years, and pledged to commit his life to designing machines and structures for the social good. Buckminster Fuller was expelled from Harvard twice, but went on to earn 47 honorary degrees. And for this week, that's the Living On Earth Almanac.

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Mental Health Practitioners Go to the Dogs

KNOY: The idea that bringing plants and animals into clinics and hospitals can make patients happier and healthier is gaining ground in the field of mental health. Advocates of "animal-assisted" therapy say contact with animals can help draw out severely withdrawn patients and help calm down the violent ones. There are plenty of anecdotes about the positive effects of animals on psychiatric patients, but few long-term studies proving it works. Still, the number of animal-assisted therapy programs is growing. Nancy Cohen reports on one in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that's sprung up without funding or staff training, but with a strong conviction that animals can help people heal.

(Sounds of birds chirping)

COHEN: There are nearly as many animals and plants as there are patients at the Berkshire Medical Center's partial hospitalization program for psychiatric care. There's a chinchilla, a hedgehog, two lovebirds, a guinea pig, a tank full of fish, a finch, a rat and a frog. But the most esteemed member of the hospital's menagerie is a dog named Molly. She's a docile, but friendly chow-lab mix, who sports her own hospital photo I.D., signed with a paw print. She's often found sprawled on the floor, being petted by a patient.

PATIENT: This is Molly's favorite position, huh Molly. Molly just wants to be loved.

COHEN: Many patients like this 31-year-old woman say Molly's not only lovable, but intuitive. Even clinicians here say Molly has a kind of a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when someone needs attention. Kathy Gideon is a therapist at Berkshire and the unofficial guardian of the animals. She recalls one incident when a patient was out of control and Molly got there ahead of the staff.

GIDEON: By the time we came back in Molly was sitting there with her paw on the person's leg and the patient who had fetched me said, "I don't know what it is, but Molly always knows." (She laughs) The patient did calm down, we did talk it through, he did maintain control and went home that evening, but the intervention was certainly facilitated by Molly's intervention.

COHEN: At Berkshire Medical the use of animals is informal. There's no official budget for the program, animals aren't included in treatment plans, and the staff has no training in using pets in therapy. But clinicians here say pets can serve as catalysts for their patients who sometimes talk through an animal rather than directly to the therapist. They say because pets can provide a sense of unconditional love many times it feels safer for a patient, who is withdrawn or depressed, to reach out, start to trust and open up to an animal.

(Sound of Molly's collar jingling)

GIDEON: Come on, Superdog.

COHEN: About once a week Kathy Gideon takes Molly to visit patients in the hospital's intensive care psychiatric unit.

(Sound of door closing)

COHEN: On a previous visit to the I.C.U., Molly interacted with a patient who, up until then spoke only in whispers and avoided all eye contact with people. But after the dog left the ward, the patient, a young man, showered, got dressed, and asked when Molly would visit again. Today, a few weeks and a few visits later, he quietly greets the dog.

YOUNG MAN: Hi Molly. How you doin'?

COHEN: Kathy Gideon says this patient's interest in Molly seems to have helped him emerge from his withdrawn state. Today he felt well enough to speak to me, a complete stranger, about the dog.

YOUNG MAN: It's pretty good, it's like a, like a therapy kind of dog. It helps people out when they need help. She notices that you're there. She notices when you're feeling bad and when you're feeling good.

COHEN: Although this patient and many therapists say animals are helpful in psychiatric settings, there's little scientific data to back up these claims. There is research that shows a person's blood pressure or heart rate can go down if they're petting a dog. And there are numerous studies showing mental health improvements after contact with animals. The problem is most studies looked at a small number of subjects for a short period of time and didn't control for those elements that could confuse the outcome of the research. Dr. Cindy Wilson is a public health researcher at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

WILSON: We don't know if it's the animal or if it's the person that brought the animal to the room, because there's so many things that could factor into that. It's difficult to say the animal did it, the animal made the patient better.

COHEN: Many in the animal-assisted therapy field say that until scientists figure out if it is the animal that makes people better, there'll be little respect or funding for this type of medical intervention. Maureen Fredrickson of the Delta Society, a Washington-state-based group dedicated to promoting the health benefits of animals, says long-term, in-depth studies could help clinicians make even better use of animals.

FREDRICKSON: The potential for this field is great and I don't think we are going to realize the potential unless we have some hard empirical data behind us so that the programs have the same respect as more traditional forms of treatment.

COHEN: Maureen Fredrickson says the notion that humans can benefit from contact with animals and plants, a concept known as Biophilia, deserves consideration by the medical community.

FREDRICKSON: I think we have equated living with nature as being primitive and savage and we continue to pull ourselves away from those kinds of relationships in an attempt to say we're civilized if we live in cement and concrete. And I think that's where we've gotten lost on this journey. We've been lured by high technology is going to save humanity. And I think we have the tools for humanity and it might be living in our backyard.

COHEN: Despite the fact that using pets in health care settings is not fully credentialed or accepted, today there are about 2,500 programs in the U.S. alone that actively use animals in a wide variety of therapeutic settings. Those clinicians who embrace pets as a psychiatric intervention tool say its because animals are animals and not human that make them so helpful. They say it's the non-judging, unconditional attention of some pets that can help people heal. For Living On Earth, I'm Nancy Cohen.

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(Music plays)

KNOY: We welcome your comments. Call our listener line anytime at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-ninety-nine, eighty-eight. Or try our e-mail at loe@npr.org. That's loe@npr.org. Coming up, how one small farmer survived the onslaught of California sprawl. And, growing herbs for your garden. Stay tuned to Living On Earth.

(Music)

LOE Herbal Garden Spot

KNOY: This is Living on Earth, I'm Laura Knoy. And I'm standing next to the grill of Michael Weishan, Living on Earth's gardening expert, and Michael, thanks for having me over.

WEISHAN: Oh my pleasure. You're here just in time. We're about to throw the skewers on the grill.

(Sounds of sizzling)

WEISHAN: And there's one... and there is two. It's some chicken tenders with a little bit of rosemary and lemon juice, and this is one of my favorite summer dishes so I thought today that we would talk about growing and using herbs in the garden.

KNOY: That looks great, I can't wait to eat it!

WEISHAN: We're going to need a couple of minutes, so in the meantime let's go to the garden and there we'll talk about some of the basic herbs that we've used to prepare the meal.

(Footfalls)

KNOY: Everybody loves basil, it's the herb that lots of people try and plant, and it's the herb that sometimes makes people tear their hair out because it dries up, it goes bad. What advice can you give us on planting good basil?

WEISHAN: A lot of very well manured soil, and a lot of water are really the two ingredients. It's native to the Mediterranean, so it likes warm temperatures, and a lot of care. And you have to keep it pinched back, because of course if it flowers, the game is over. You have to start all over again, the stems get very leggy and very tough.

KNOY: Pinch it back, how far? That's always the question. You feel so bad , you know, tearing at this poor basil plant.

WEISHAN: Well you can actually take basil down almost to the ground and it will pop back up again as long as you leave one or two leaves alone so that it has some energy you can keep cutting it back rather vigorously.

KNOY: What are some of the more exotic herbs that you have here that people might not have heard of?

WEISHAN: Well this is one of my favorites. This is technically not an herb, it's more like a green, it's called sorrel. Taste a piece.

KNOY: Oh God!

(Both laugh)

KNOY: It's awful!

WEISHAN: No, no! You're supposed to say it's delicious.

KNOY: It's delicious!

WEISHAN: It's delicious. Mmm, it's very strong. Eastern Europeans use it extensively in their summer. It tastes slightly like rhubarb, and it makes the most phenomenal cream soup you've ever made. But it may be an acquired taste - raw.

(Both laugh)

KNOY: I didn't mean to insult your favorite herb.

(Weishan laughs)

(Footfalls)

KNOY: And what do we have here?

WEISHAN: This is actually one of my favorite herbs to grow in the garden. It's lovage. And as you can see it's about five feet tall, and getting taller by the minute. It's also very attractive to bees, they seem to really like the flowers. It's a replacement for celery in many dishes. It has a very strong celery-like taste. One of the things we're preparing today for lunch is a dish with tomatoes marinated with a little olive oil and lovage. It has a terrific flavor for all sorts of tomato dishes. And if you're a Bloody Mary fan, the stems of the plant are hollow, and they make terrific straws.

(Knoy laughs)

WEISHAN: Not all herbs are culinary either. We have a number here, for instance, like this is another fairly rare one, Tansy, and this is what was called a strewing herb.

KNOY: It smells good.

WEISHAN: Yeah, it has a very potent scent, sort of lemon-y would you say?

KNOY: Mint-y.

WEISHAN: Yeah, it's sort of a combination mint, lemon, I'm not.. it's hard to describe. But it was used in Elizabethan times strewn on the floor, and so people would walk on it and it would cover up the smells in the house because as people walked on them they would then crush the scent and release it. But if you have a problem with ants in your house, you just put a few of the leaves wherever the ants seem to be crossing on the trail, and you will have no ant problems at all. It's a complete ant repellent, exactly why no one's quite sure. People actually grow it commercially and use it in commercial ant preparations, so...

KNOY: Now if I ate this, would it taste good?

WEISHAN: No. One of the things when you do plant an herb garden there are certain herbs that have been used in cultivation for centuries that are somewhat poisonous. So obviously if you have young children or pets you want to pay attention to what you're planting.

KNOY: It's mid-June. Is it too late to start these plantings?

WEISHAN: No, now is actually the time to begin doing all of this type of stuff. These days you can probably go to any reasonably good nursery and find a selection of twenty or thirty of the more common herbs to plant in your garden. And it's the time to really use them for cooking as well outdoors.

KNOY: Okay Michael, let's go check on lunch.

WEISHAN: Sure.

(Sounds of utensils scraping)

WEISHAN: Alright here's the chicken, and the rest of the meal as you see is pretty much ready to roll. We have little tomatoes, which are actually store bought at this time of year I'm embarrassed to say, but tomatoes are coming soon. With a little of the lovage that we talked about sprinkled over the top with just a little salt and pepper. And you'll see it's quite a distinctive taste, along with a little fresh mozzarella, and the chicken tenders that we've grilled with the rosemary and the lemon juice.

KNOY: Mmmm. Did you make the bread yourself too?

WEISHAN: No, no the bread came from the store. I was supposed to do the herb bread but someone got a little busy in the office this morning and I didn't quite get up to do what I was supposed to be doing.

KNOY: Michael, thank you so much. This is absolutely wonderful.

WEISHAN: My pleasure, excuse with my mouth full, anytime.

KNOY: Michael Weishan is Living on Earth's gardening expert and he's the publisher of Traditional Gardening. If you have any garden questions you'd like to ask Michael, go to the Living on Earth web site. The address: www.livingonearth.org. That's www.livingonearth.org; Click on the picture of the watering can.

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(Music plays)

On Good Land: How One Small Farmer Survived the Onslaught of California Sprawl

KNOY: According to the American Farmland Trust, about forty-six acres of farmland are lost every hour to non-agricultural uses, such as building new homes and businesses. And small farms are particularly vulnerable. But, farmer Michael Ableman has resisted the pressure of urban sprawl in one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets. For 17 years, Ableman has managed Fairview Gardens, a 12 acre organic farm in Goleta, California, a suburb of Santa Barbara. He’s written a book about his experience. It's called, On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm. Michael Ableman joins us from K-T-Y-D in Santa Barbara. Michael, welcome.

ABLEMAN: Well it's very nice to be with you Laura.

KNOY: You came to Fairview Gardens seventeen years ago, what was the area like then?

ABLEMAN: At that time, Goleta was still very undeveloped. Driving up Fairview Avenue and in to the farm, was still like being in the remnants of a rural community. And I say remnants, it was beginning to be developed. And Fairview Gardens itself was caught somewhere between a back-to-the-land commune and the beginnings of the market gardens that were just beginning to change the American food scene.

KNOY: You have some amazing photos, Michael, from 1954, of Fairview Gardens from an aerial view, and 1998. Describe those photos to us, they are right at the beginning of your book.

ABLEMAN: Yeah, it's pretty striking. In 1954 which is actually the year that I was born, when you look at Fairview Gardens from the air, you see an entire expanse of agricultural farms, orchards, row crops, and when you jump to the next page in 1998, it's been described to me as if you were looking at a computer chip board. It's completely developed not a square inch of open land remaining except for the farm.

KNOY: There's a paragraph I'd like you to read about the last farm, besides yours, going under when your neighbor Helmut finally sold his land. Could you read that for us please?

ABLEMAN: Certainly, I'd be glad to.
"We all hear stories of the greed that undermines our global environment. But until the bulldozers are idling at your back door, it is an intellectual concept. The pain for us was real. For fifty-eight days an army of three hundred horsepower caterpillars, carry-alls and dump trucks moved and buried and leveled and graded hundreds of tons of topsoil.
With each day the farm was becoming more like an island. All around us, the once fertile and agrarian valley had become a sea of tract homes and shopping centers. The sense of complete isolation was the hardest to take. With this last development, the farm would be surrounded by suburbia. We were now completely out of context. "

KNOY: You go on to describe some of the struggles that you had with your new suburban neighbors. There was the former football player who didn't like your compost pile. And there were the rooster riots. What were the rooster riots?

ABLEMAN: Well, you know, we had just gotten over the year before being threatened with jail time over our compost piles. And then suddenly we were faced with a series of complaints from our new neighbors over the crow of our roosters. We were now in a suburban environment where the only natural sounds were the crow of the roosters. (Laughs.) We were told by the county that we would have to remove the roosters, or cut their vocal cords, and we refused. And eventually the District Attorney backed down, there was enormous community pressure in our favor. So, we still have roosters and they still crow at about four o'clock every morning.

KNOY: You had other conflicts Michael. It really seems like at one point it was endless. And you considered giving up, didn't you? Just retreating behind a big wall and isolating yourself from everybody.

ABLEMAN: I'm fairly stubborn. And at a certain point, I had two choices: One of them was essentially to kind of hole up on the farm as you described, and pretend like there was an alien force surrounding us. And the other choice was to begin to build bridges and to see this new population as an opportunity. And we chose the latter. And in fact that new suburban population essentially defined the change and the direction of the farm from just a producer of food, which was nourishing the community, to a producer of education and ideas which nourished the new community in new ways.

KNOY: Tell us about some of those early bridges.

ABLEMAN: Well the earliest bridges were through the children. The new developments were not designed to accommodate elements of nature. The developers and the designers did not take into consideration the needs of children to have some sense of place. And so kids were naturally drawn to the farm. It was a place where they could build their secret forts. It was a place where they could come and see food growing, visit animals, occasionally sneak a peach or a strawberry or a carrot. And it was just an incredible magnet for the neighborhood children. And I think that in a sense was the most dominating bridge between the farm and the community.

KNOY: So how are your relations now?

ABLEMAN: I think in general we are recognized as an important anchor in the community and as a very positive force and aside from the occasional flare up, I think that the relationship is going quite well. I mean, it went so well, that then we were faced with the possibility that the farm would be developed, within less than two years, through the Santa Barbara community we were able to raise three quarters of a million dollars to actually save the land and put it under a conservation easement. So I think when people are willing to put their money up, they must believe in it.

KNOY: Is this cooperation and education with the suburban community around you something that you see other small farmers doing?

ABLEMAN: Absolutely. One of the reasons that I wrote this book was not just to portray Fairview Gardens. But I see Fairview Gardens as a model and as an emblem for small farms everywhere. I think there's a whole new movement in agriculture, and it's a movement to return the honor ,and the pride, and the craft, and the art to farming. And I think it's being recognized by consumers because the quality of food is being appreciated that comes from these farms. The Farmer's Markets movement that have grown so rapidly throughout the country. One of the examples that we have tried to provide is a return to a form of social agriculture, if you will, that does not just require the one and a half percent of the population that is called farmers to be the food providers, but involves communities and shortens the link between the community and the source of their food.

KNOY: Well Michael, thanks for talking with us.

ABLEMAN: Well you're very welcome. Thank you Laura.

KNOY: Michael Ableman is an organic farmer in Goleta, California. His new book is On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm.

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(Sound of a rooster crow)

(Auditorium hubbub)

First Rate Bird Calling Contest

KNOY: In a high school auditorium in Piedmont, California a few hundred people gather for an unusual contest. The Leonard J. Waxdeck bird-calling competition has been an annual tradition since the 1960's in Piedmont. And it has brought the town international notoriety. After a short hiatus, the contest is back by popular demand. Producer JoAnn Mar attended this year's competition and sent us this sound portrait.

ANNOUNCER: Good afternoon.

(Audience laughs)

... and welcome to the Piedmont High School thirty-third Annual Leonard. J. Waxdeck bird-calling contest.

PIAZZO: My name is Joe Piazzo, and I am the faculty advisor for the Piedmont High School bird-calling contest. It started thirty-three years ago with a biology teacher, Mister Waxdeck, who thought it would be fun to get a group of kids together and practice some bird calls, just try and find a fun way of teaching ornithology.

GIRL: The Pelliated Woodpecker: Bradrbradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabrada (kissing noises), brhrbrhbrhbrh -- eeheeeeheeeeheeeeheeeeehehee

TWO GIRLS: Thank you!

(Audience applauds and cheers)

GIRL 1: Barb?

GIRL 2: What is it there Margie?

GIRL 1: I see a greater Prairie Chicken!

GIRL 2: Oh gosh, let me see those binoculars. Oh yah, what do you say we give it a call?

BOTH GIRLS: Oh yah, let's do, okay.
Awahyahwahyaywahyaywah yah (Smacking sounds)

GIRL 1: (Explaining) We slap some arms and hands to get a kind of a fluttering sound, and then we did some screeching, which is pretty obnoxious, but the birds tend to be kind of crazy.

BOTH GIRLS: Whuh whu whu whuh wheep whee wheep whee wheep whee whee whee...

BOY 1: Bamp bam bamp bam bum buh buh...

BOY 2: (Sings a song) Well if you ever go up north, I've got a question to ask ya,
I don't know much about ornithology but, I know the state bird of Alaska!

PIAZZO: It's a novelty. It is highly unusual and extremely entertaining. Strange, absurd sounds, and yet their real sounds. They're common in our environment. We may not be so aware of them until we study them, or hear them.

2 BOYS SINGING: Willo Ptarmagen, Willo Ptarmagen, by now we hope that you're all enriched. You will always be able to tell its unique and crazy yell, 'cause it sounds exactly like this. Arr arr whhe uh whee uh Urr urr aar arr ur urr...

(Audience laughs)

MAN: My bird, the Snowy Egret, stands about two feet tall when fully grown. Commonly it's seen in shallow streams and marshes: Raap raat raap yay yay ya raat raap raat raap raat yah yap yap yap wah wah wah. Thank you.

(Audience applauds)

MAN: (To reporter) It's way of perhaps laughing at ourselves, that we glamorize these birds and their bird calls in a particular way and we can all share in that joy and laughter.

ANNOUNCER: The judges have deliberated. The winners are... John Schomway and Carl Morren.

(Audience cheers)

KNOY: Sounds from this year's Leonard J. Waxdeck birdcalling contest in Piedmont, California produced by JoAnn Mar.

ANNOUNCER: And if you all would like to do your bird call again you can. Go for it!

SEVERAL CONTESTANTS: Screech! Scraw! Whoop! Yeep! Yah! Hee! Wubba wubba! Yay yay yah yah!

ANNOUNCER: Thank you!

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KNOY: And for this week, that's Living on Earth.

(Music: If you wanna be a bird...)

KNOY: We're produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production team is: Daniel Grossman, George Homsy, Jesse Wegman, Terry FitzPatrick, Liz Lempert and Miriam Landman along with Peter Christianson, Roberta DeAvila Peter Shaw and Julia Madeson. We had help from Jim Frey, Elsa Heidorn and Rebecca Sladek-Knowlis. Thanks to New Hampshire Public Radio. Our technical director is Eileen Bolinsky. Peter Thomson heads our western bureau. Joyce Hackel is our senior editor. And our senior producer is Chris Ballman. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Steve Curwood returns next week. I'm Laura Knoy. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund; the Surdna Foundation; the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; and the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com .

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

 

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