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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

October 16, 1998

Air Date: October 16, 1998

SEGMENTS

Escalante Wilderness: Monument of the West / Jenny Brundin

During the 1996 election campaign, President Clinton authorized the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the Utah wilderness. There's not much difference between a national monument and a national park, except that the creation of national monuments doesn't require the approval of Congress. Mr. Clinton may not have had the votes on Capitol Hill, but he did expect to get votes from the environmentally concerned public. The deal angered many local residents. Ranchers and farmers said it locked up land that had earned them their daily bread for decades. And the designation killed plans for a coal mine that might have created hundreds of jobs. Today, some folks are still mad, but dollars are beginning to flow to the community, from not- entirely-welcomed tourism. Jenny Brundin reports. (08:45)

Night Flight / Sy Montgomery

Migration time has begun, and we mostly notice it during the day. The afternoon sky can carry the "V" shaped formations of Canada geese, and it's possible to spot hawks passing over mountain tops at dawn and dusk. Most birds pass by more subtly, and sometimes we don't see them at all. But they don't get by commentator Sy Montgomery. She lies awake and listens for their voices in the night. Commentator Sy Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire and comes to us from New Hampshire Public Radio. (03:00)

Exploring Children's Nature Books, With Lynne Cherry / Lynne Cherry

If you want the kids in your life to explore and experience nature firsthand, entice them with a story book, says author Lynne Cherry, who has written and illustrated 30 children’s books. Her bestseller "The Great Kapok Tree" takes place in the Amazon forest, one of her favorite settings. It's a tale of how animals and a small boy gently persuade a logger to let a tree remain in their rain forest. Lynne Cherry joined Steve Curwood in the studio. Ms. Cherry is Director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Literature and is currently Artist in Residence at the Smithsonian Institution. Her most recent book, co-authored with ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, is called "The Shaman’s Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest. (08:55)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about... Twenty-five years ago this month, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, cut off all oil exports to the U.S. And so began America's infamous oil crisis. (01:30)

Wisconsin Senate Race: Enviro Scorecard / Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin has a long legacy of progressive politics dating back to the turn of the century, and the right to redefine Wisconsin's brand of innovative politics is being fought over this year, in a hotly contested senate race. Environmental activists have radically different assessments of the two contenders. The League of Conservation Voters has given incumbent Senator Russ Feingold its highest rating for four straight years. His challenger Congressman Mark Neumann has received one of its lowest scores. Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio has our report. ()

Removing High Lead from Low Income Community / Toni Randolph

Experts disagree on what is the safest method to clean up lead- contaminated soil, and some attempts to remove it can end up spreading it around. A new effort in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a neighborhood of Boston, aims to "cover-up" the problem in a way that benefits residents. From member station W-B-U-R, Toni Randolph explains. (07:40)

Young Men: Seeking to Conquer

We usually think people fight wars over political ideologies, or religion or ethnicity. But two researchers at York University in Toronto say there's something even more basic operating. Psychology professor Neil Weiner and his protégé Chris Mesquida (mes-Queet-ta) contend that the presence of young, unmarried men can help steer a society toward a war of aggression. According to their controversial theory, young men seek the resources they need to start and maintain a family, and often they believe they must go to battle to secure them. Professor Weiner explains that the critical factor is not just the numbers of young men in a society, but their proportion in the population. (06:30)

War Boys Response / Catherine Lutz

We asked Catherine Lutz, a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to respond to Professor Weiner's theory. Catherine Lutz is a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She comes to us via member station WUNC. (03:00)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Jenny Brundein, Chuck Quirmbach, Toni Randolph
GUESTS: Lynn Cherry, Neil Weiner
COMMENTATORS: Sy Montgomery, Catherine Lutz

(Theme music intro)

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

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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

To protect some red rock wilderness in Utah, President Clinton created the Escalante National Monument 2 years ago. Farmers and ranchers opposed the plan, and now a tourist boom threatens their landscape.

HAND: The wilderness, the wildlife, the endangered species, all of it in the end, it has to pay for itself as a package, or we won't keep it. That's the American Way.

CURWOOD: Also, we meet children's book author Lynn Cherry. She writes her environmental fables for kids, but also for adults who might have something to learn from story books.

CHERRY: When kids get involved, suddenly the blinders fall off of their parents, and they think, "Where are our priorities?"

CURWOOD: And as the season turns, Sy Montgomery listens for the cacophony of the great nights of migration. Have wing will fly, this week on Living on Earth. But first, this round-up of the news.

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(NPR News follows)

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Escalante Wilderness: Monument of the West

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. During the 1996 campaign, President Clinton used his pen to create the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in the Utah national wilderness. Now, there's not much difference between a national monument and a national park, except that the creation of national monuments doesn't require the approval of Congress. Mr. Clinton may not have had the votes on Capitol Hill, but he did expect to get votes from the environmentally-concerned public. The deal angered many local residents. Ranchers and farmers said it locked up land that had earned them their daily bread for decades. the designation killed plans for a coal mine that might have created hundreds of jobs. Today, some folks are still mad, but dollars are beginning to flow to the community from not entirely welcome tourism. Jenny Brundein reports.

(Footfalls)

MECHAM: Now if you look in here, you see the little hay plants are starting in here. See it? Boy, that'll grow up to be pretty.

BRUNDEIN: Stan Mecham snaps off a handful of oats and breathes deeply into them. This 150-acre farm tucked into a rolling valley is the love of his life. It also happens to be inside Utah's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Bordering his fields of oats and yellow clover are sculpted red rock cliffs that curve into a brilliant blue sky. As Stan Mecham climbs up a butte, he points out native grasses, Indian rice and spear grass. He runs his fingers over the hardscrabble earth.

(Cricket song)

MECHAM: Can you hear the crickets? Can you hear the wind this soft, see? Sometimes the wind is louder, but it's real quiet here. I love it here. It's just a peaceful spot.

BRUNDEIN: But Mr. Mecham is worried about the National Monument, designated by President Clinton 2 years ago. Worried about damage that tourism will bring to the land. And despite Clinton's promises that grazing rights will be respected, Stan Mecham thinks he'll lose his right to run cattle across his tiny section of the sprawling monument, a vast expanse of labyrinthian canyons and vermilion cliffs.

MECHAM: As far as I'm concerned it's a stewardship that I have here. And I feel some day we'll be accountable to God. I'm not going to get on a real religious kick, but I believe when I die, if I've made it a better place for the animals and for everybody else, what's wrong with that? Isn't that what I should do? Not do nothing? As far as I'm concerned, I think what they want is me out of here. Completely out of here.

BRUNDEIN: Tensions between the Federal Government and local people here still run high. Recently, there has been some cooperation. Planning a monument headquarters for one. And in May, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed a historic land swap between the state and Federal Government, the largest such deal in the continental United States. Before the monument designation, thousands of acres inside the site were school trust lands. They would have earned income for Utah's schools once developed. The new deal protects these acres inside the monument, And in other parks, from development. In exchange, Utah's schools receive a $50 million cash payment, plus land of equivalent value outside the monument. Governor Mike Leavitt.

LEAVITT: It's a very good thing for the school children, a great thing for the counties where the lands are located, And a wonderful victory for the environment, because we'll have 377,000 acres of pristine land within national parks preserved forever.

BRUNDEIN: Some rural Utahns complain that they weren't consulted about the swap, but at the same time locals are starting to conclude that ranching, farming, And mining are no longer their future. Tourism has started to blossom with the monument designation. Garfield County Commission Anne Parry, already fielding unusual questions from would-be sightseers.

LISTON: The first thing they say is, "Where is the Grand Staircase? Can we climb it? Is it wheelchair accessible?" One woman even asked, "Can my husband climb it if he has to use a cane?" And they go away very disappointed, actually, that there is no grand staircase to climb.

BRUNDEIN: The stairs, by the way, are a 7,000-foot incline of red rock cliffs and terraces some 90 to 100 miles long. Each community bordering the monument encourages a distinctive kind of sightseeing. The town of Tropic along the monument's northwestern border is trying to develop Heritage Tourism. Local women hope to sell traditional quilts to tourists. Former loggers want to market wood furniture. And along the monument's southern border, locals say their style of tourism needs the monument's water.

(A golf club swings)

MAN: The green is over this way. (Laughs)

JUDD: We've got a little 9-hole golf course here, And we ran out of water last year.

BRUNDEIN: King County Commissioner Joe Judd says the sandstone plateaus act like great sponges, collecting water for the town. Those formations are now inside the monument. As long as they continue to provide water, Joe Judd hopes there will be enough to expand the golf course to 18 holes.

JUDD: But in order to make that next jump to build that next 9 holes, somebody's got to come up with a couple million dollars. And you have to have the water. And you have to have a constant source, because you don't water a golf course for a couple of weeks and you don't have a golf course.

BRUNDEIN: The town is assured of its water rights. Mr. Judd says that could make the difference between high-level tourism, where visitors spend a few days and pocketfuls of money, And low-level tourism, where visitors breeze through.

(Milling and music, a bell rings. A man calls, "Come and get it!")

BRUNDEIN: It's the Chuckwagon Cook-out at Denny's Wigwam in Kanab. This is one of the town's more successful tourist businesses. But owner Dennis Judd says the designation hasn't boosted business because the monument, a desolate, isolated land mass, has no infrastructure. Indeed, a pamphlet by the Bureau of Land Management or BLM is titled, "Don't Die Out There."

JUDD: You know, we're talking off-road, off beaten trails. We're talking 4- wheel drives. We're talking no water. We're talking no restrooms. We're talking no places for them to go and get shade, things of this nature. And so yes, it will be some people come to see the Grand Staircase Monument. But how much will come remains to be seen by the accessibility made to it by the county or by the government or by the BLM or whoever's going to be in charge of making it accessible to the people.

BRUNDEIN: Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has said that instead of building lodges and restaurants in the heart of the monument, he wants to see development take place in the surrounding communities. Some county commissioners are arguing for paving a few major roads through the monument so tourists can travel more safely. Some are pushing for tourists to leave their cars in town for days, And local guides would take them into the monument. Residents like Susan Hand of Kanab are still grappling with this dilemma. They live here because they love the land. And now, instead of just living on it, they say they have to peddle it like a product.

HAND: I know for me, that going into the backcountry and having solitude there, is a really enriching experience on a spiritual level. I go out there, I see the hand of God. And I think for many people that's true. And it's an important release that we all need access to. But in terms of economics, the wilderness, the wildlife, the endangered species, all of it in the end it has to pay for itself as a package or we won't keep it. That's the American Way.

(Cricket song)

BRUNDEIN: Many officials here say they hope communities can develop a style of tourism that protects the environment and that provides good incomes to rural Utahns. The Bureau of Land Management is putting the finishing touches on the monument's draft environmental impact statement. Five alternatives will be presented, each detailing the types and levels of recreation and facilities in the monument. The public will weigh in on the plans in December and January, allowing rural residents some voice in determining their changing relationship with the scenic monument they live near. For Living on Earth, I'm Jenny Brundein.

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Night Flight

CURWOOD: Migration time has begun, And we mostly notice it during the day. The afternoon sky can carry the V-shaped formations of Canada geese, And it's possible to spot hawks passing over mountaintops at dawn and dusk. Most birds, though, pass by more subtly, And sometimes we don't see them at all. But they don't get by commentator Sy Montgomery. She lies awake and listens for their voices in the night.

MONTGOMERY: Half an hour after sunset, they begin moving in waves. Protected by the darkness, guided by the stars, millions of tiny song birds pass over our roof tops, flying invisibly through the night. The dark hides these fragile creatures from predators like hawks, who migrate by day. The evening's cool, stable air smooths their flyways. But to bird-watchers' frustration, night also shrouds the miracle of these songbirds' migration. But they can be clearly heard. Each species' call is as distinctive as its plumage.

If you like awake on fall nights, And listen, you can hear their voices.

(Song birds call)

MONTGOMERY: Five thousand birds may fly through a 1-mile cross-section in a single night. Flying in loose flocks, each bird spaced hundreds of feet from the next, they call to one another to stay in contact. Perhaps the calls serve as air traffic control, to keep birds who can't see one another from colliding. Or perhaps they call as we might whistle in the dark, to bolster their confidence during a dangerous and distant journey.

Bill Evans, a researcher at Cornell's Laboratory at Ornithology, has been listening to these calls for the past 12 years. He knows the voices, And which belong to whom. He told me, you can live the journeys these birds are making, the miraculousness of it. You can visualize all those birds going over without seeing a thing.

These nocturnal calls are often quite different from the territorial songs birds sing in the spring. After more than a decade of careful listening, Evans has amassed a personal aural field guide. A series of mellow whistles tells him a flood of rose-breasted grosbeaks are passing through. Wood thrush migration calls sound somewhat like the chime of a bed spring. Swainson's thrushes sound like spring peepers. In this way, Evans has pioneered a major new technique to measure for the first time which species are migrating where and when. Using his technique, for the first time ornithologists may be able to map precise migratory times and routes for individual species, as well as monitor dips and rises in population.

I can't see in the dark with my ears as well as Evans can. But as I lie awake on fall nights, these soft voices speak to me still. They speak of timeless journeys. They speak of the unknown that lies ahead. They speak of tiny creatures with the faith to undertake great ventures. These are the voices of courage in the dark.

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CURWOOD: Commentator Sy Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. She comes to us from New Hampshire Public Radio.

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CURWOOD: Coming up: how to turn your small fry on to the great big outdoors. Children's book author Lynn Cherry. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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Exploring Children's Nature Books, With Lynne Cherry

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Reading aloud at bedtime offers a child an experience that even the best show on television can't match. So, if you want the kids in your life to explore and experience nature first- hand, entice them with a storybook, says author Lynn Cherry, who has written and illustrated 30 children's books. Her bestseller, The Great Kapok Tree, takes place in the Amazon, one of her favorite settings. It's the tale of how animals and a small boy gently and surreptitiously persuade a logger to let a tree stand in the rainforest. Here's an excerpt.

(Tropical bird calls)

CURWOOD (reading): A troop of monkeys scamper down from the canopy of the Kapok tree. They chatter to the sleeping man. "Senhor, we have seen the says of man. You chop down one tree and then come back for another and another. The roots of these great trees will wither and die, And there will be nothing left to hold the earth in place. When the heavy rains come, the soil will be washed away, And the forest will become a desert."

Lynn Cherry joins us now in our studio. Welcome, Lynn.

CHERRY: Hi. Nice to be here.

CURWOOD: Tell me, who or what were your main influences in deciding to become a children's book illustrator and an environmental educator?

CHERRY: I think my main influence was my own personal experience. Because when I was a kid, I had a woods behind the house that I really loved, And I was bonded with. And I used to go and sit silently. If you sit really quietly, the animals come out and you get to see them up close. So I knew where everything lived, what tree, what hole, under what rock. And I came home one day. I was 8 years old. And they were bulldozing it. It was like, it was as if I had come home and they were bulldozing my own house. It was very traumatic for me. And so that was, I think, the formative experience, just watching my world be destroyed.

CURWOOD: There are a lot of different children's book writers and illustrators, but of course probably one of my most favorite is Dr. Seuss. I'm wondering if you were influenced by him. Dr. Seuss really seems to have an environmental message. Take a book like The Lorax, for example.

CHERRY: Yeah. Dr. Seuss was before his time. And his book The Lorax is about someone coming in, destroying a natural environment, and building a factory, creating Sneeds, which are things that everyone needs but they're really something that no one needs. His books are brilliant. They're fun and they're brilliant. I was greatly inspired by his books. In fact, I had a correspondence with him for many years.

CURWOOD: Uh huh.

CHERRY: And some of my most cherished possessions are these letters from him.

CURWOOD: Who do you typically write for when you're writing a kid's book?

CHERRY: I'm writing for kids but I'm also writing for the parents. And I always have, but then a couple years ago a study came out by the League of Conservation Voters. And they found that most people were getting their environmental information from educational materials that their kids brought home from school. And then I was absolutely convinced that what I was doing was really important. In fact, in A River Ran Wild, that book was written for children but it's used in junior high schools, high schools, even in colleges. And there's so much that an adult can get out of that book.

CURWOOD: Now, you would write ostensibly, then, for children of what age?

CHERRY: I'd say between 6 and 12, but you know, kids up to 100 years old are going to like the books.

CURWOOD: (Laughs) Of course. But why do you figure you're aiming at 6 to 12? This is your target. Why did you pick that as your target?

CHERRY: Because kids from 6 to 12 are developmentally mature enough that they can understand some of these concepts. That they can sort of separate them from themselves. And they can make a difference in the world. My books are -- I think they stand alone as far as stories, but they also inspire action.

CURWOOD: Do you get letters from kids telling you that your books have inspired them?

CHERRY: I get hundreds of letters. And they're not just about being inspired. They're also letters that teach me. Like, for instance, after I wrote The Great Kapok Tree, I got a letter from a child who said, "Well, you know, we have a rainforest right here in this country, up where I live in the Northern Pacific. It's the Ancient Forest." Believe it or not, I didn't know about the Ancient Forest back then. And I went to Oregon and Washington, And I saw these forests that were just staggeringly beautiful and thousands of years old. So that I was inspired to do a book about these forests called The Dragon and The Unicorn. And again, after The Great Kapok Tree, another child wrote and said, "How can you say you care about trees, when your books are destroying all these trees? Your books aren't on recycled paper." And I had been trying to get my publishers to publish my books on recycled or chlorine-free paper. And they'd resisted. But it was that letter that gave me the impetus to bring together 200 authors and illustrators of children's books and the publishers around the table with a pulp and paper expert from Greenpeace. And we told them where they could get the recycled paper, how much it was, here's a phone number of the distributors. Here's the quality. And it changed the industry overnight, where Harcourt is now publishing our books on recycled or chlorine-free paper. So, you know, one letter from a kid can make a big difference.

CURWOOD: Can you give me an example of how your readers have gone out and gotten involved themselves, gone out to make changes for the environment?

CHERRY: There were some kids in Michigan. And there was a forest, an old growth forest, that was going to be cut. And they were upset about this. They asked their teacher what can they do? So their teacher said, "Well, let's go talk to the developer, see if the developer will sell it to us or give it to us." The developer said he couldn't give it to them, but that he would sell it to them for $100,000. Well, these kids wrote letters to the newspaper. They did public speaking. They went to the other schools. They got these other schools involved. They motivated this whole community. The businesses gave them large chunks of money. And then they got on the radio. Then they got on television. And these checks started pouring in, And they bought this forest. In Coral Springs, Florida, a group called Save What's Left, kids, collected 3,500 signatures for a referendum so that some of the tax dollars could be used to purchase open land. Because they saw all the open land in their community just being paved over. More people turned out for this vote in Coral Springs than ever before in an election, And overwhelmingly voted for, there was a bond issue to raise the funds. And when kids get involved, suddenly the blinders fall off of their parents and they think, "Where are our priorities?"

CURWOOD: There's been a backlash against environmental education.

CHERRY: Mm hm.

CURWOOD: Some people say, "Ach, kids are being brainwashed with the stuff, being scared." How do you respond to that?

CHERRY: I think the problem is with the being scared part of it. And I think what's happened is that environmental education has not taken into account that children have to be a certain age before they're taught certain things. And you can't really tell a child in second grade about global warming. They're not going to have the developmental ability to really process it and do anything about it. They're just going to get scared. And so, with my books, I emphasize that up until grade 3 it's better to teach as little as possible about, you know, the problems of the world, And focus instead on the wonders of nature. Take kids outside. Work with the biologist. Learn about the ecosystem behind your school. Plan a butterfly garden. Build bat houses. Teach kids how to use binoculars. Look through a magnifying glass. I mean, there's this incredible world of nature out there. And then, as they get older, you know, fourth, fifth, sixth grade, then you can tell kids about CO2, global warming. But at that point, they're able to possibly do something about it.

CURWOOD: Lynn Cherry is director of the Center for Children's Environmental Literature, And is currently Artist in Residence at the Smithsonian Institution. Her most recent book, coauthored with ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, is called The Shaman's Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest. Lynn, thanks for joining us.

CHERRY: Thanks for having me, Steve.

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CURWOOD: It's 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 David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the W.K. Kellogg 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.

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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

CURWOOD: Just ahead, a community campaign to protect kids from high lead levels in a low-income neighborhood. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

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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.

(Theme music up and under)

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

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The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: Twenty-five years ago this month, the United States supported Israel in its 18-day October War with Syria and Egypt. To fight back, the Middle Eastern members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, cut off all oil exports to the US. And so began America's infamous Oil Crisis. Along with long lines and steep prices at the pump, many Americans were introduced to the concept of energy efficiency. The Nixon Administration funded research and development of alternative sources like solar power to help wean the country of its dependence on fossil fuels. But the alternative energy boom has since waned. And some energy experts fear current conditions are ripe for another oil cutoff. The US depends even more on foreign oil today than it did in 1973. And recently, energy prices have been hitting record lows, just like before the embargo. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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Wisconsin Senate Race: Enviro Scorecard

CURWOOD: Wisconsin has a long legacy of progressive politics dating back to the turn of the century. And the right to redefine Wisconsin's brand of innovative politics is being fought over this year in a hotly-contested Senate race. Environmental activists have radically different assessments of the 2 contenders. The League of Conservation Voters has given incumbent Senator Russ Feingold its highest rating for 4 straight years. His challenger, Congressman Mark Newman, has received one of its lowest scores. Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio has our report from this Great Lakes state.

(Rushing water)

FORAN: We're standing here on the shores of one of the most spectacular water bodies in the entire world.

QUIRMBACH: Frothy cold whitecaps pound the shores of Lake Michigan as Jeffrey Foran, director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Water Institute looks on. The lake is a vast and vital resource for the industrial Midwest. Jeffrey Foran says like all the Great Lakes, this one is less polluted than decades ago. Still, he says, progress on the clean-up has leveled off.

FORAN: It's not that long ago when one of the sister lakes to Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, was considered dead. And it's not that long ago when the Cuyahoga River coming out of Cleveland started on fire. And we had some of those same problems particularly along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. We don't have those problems now, thank heaven. But that doesn't mean that our vigilance is unnecessary. This lake is extremely fragile, And now we have different kinds of threats. But those threats in my mind are equally insidious.

QUIRMBACH: Beneath the waters of the Great Lakes lurk more than 40 toxic hot spots containing substances like dioxins, mercury, And PCBs. The US EPA says millions of pounds of toxic substances entered the Great Lakes in recent years. And what to do about the toxins is a flash point for Senate contenders Russ Feingold, a Democrat who arrived in Washington when Bill Clinton did, And Mark Newman, a millionaire home builder and member of the historic Republican freshman class of 1994. The environment is an even more sensitive topic in Wisconsin since the Washington, DC-based League of Conservation Voters launched a series of attack ads.

(Dramatic music and man's voice-over: "Yet Congressman Mark Newman voted to delay clean-up of our waterways. Newman also voted to gut clean air and water laws, And vowed...)

QUIRMBACH: The League this year named Representative Newman to a Dirty Dozen list of lawmakers who the group says are anti-environment and vulnerable in next month's elections. In contrast, Senator Feingold is tied for the League's most favorable ranking. Environmental activists criticize Representative Newman for refusing to take a position on a proposed zinc and copper sulfide mine that could pollute 2 major Wisconsin rivers, And for blocking the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative. They also complain about his 1995 vote to reauthorize the Clean Water Act. They say the measure would have increased sewage and toxic discharges into Wisconsin rivers and lakes. Representative Newman argues that one reason he backed the legislation is that it included cost-benefit analyses, an arithmetic he says the EPA ignores.

NEWMAN: If you do a cost-benefit analysis, if it's so costly that what's going to happen is you're going to lose the company to a foreign country where the environmental rules are more lax than they are in the United States, you could in fact enact new legislation that makes the environment worse.

QUIRMBACH: Representative Newman has built his political career on what he calls a commitment to balancing budgets and cutting back government spending. The incumbent, Russ Feingold, says his opponent's emphasis on cost-benefit analyses shows misplaced priorities.

FEINGOLD: The first thing I think you should do when you're talking about fish, health, And the health of our waters, is to ask what is the acceptable health level? In other words, you don't do the cost-benefit analysis until you first determine what is the level at which human beings and perhaps others are going to be safe. The Congressman believes in a cost-benefit analysis from the beginning. In other words, accepting a certain level of harm, health risk, And even death to people, including children.

QUIRMBACH: Green advisors, Representative Newman contends, are acting as partisan hit groups on behalf of the Senator. And whether coordinated with Mr. Feingold or not, environmental activists are criticizing Mr. Newman for his stance on another key environmental issue in the state: the dramatic loss of wetlands.

HULSEY: They don't even have soap curtains around the development to catch the dirt runoff.

QUIRMBACH: Brett Hulsey of the Midwest office of the Sierra Club leads a tour of construction sites in Waukashaw County, about 20 miles inland from Milwaukee. Five years ago this location was a farm, but now it's halfway to becoming a strip mall. A portion of the project is on hold, partly because of local and state concerns over the possible loss of about 5 acres of wetlands. Brett Hulsey says Mark Newman would hasten downstream flooding by sponsoring a bill that would allow developers to destroy up to 10 acres of wetlands without needing a permit.

HULSEY: It's an indication of both insensitivity to flood victims and the fact he just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that protecting natural habitat also protects our families and our communities.

QUIRMBACH: Brett Halsey says Mr. Newman should withdraw his legislation. The Republican says his bill would simply put back into place a Federal rule that the EPA changed 2 years ago in an autocratic way.

NEWMAN: It's the same typical argument that we go through with these folks all the time. When you have a bureaucratic agency that unilaterally changes a rule or regulation that affects lots of people without the input from the elected folks like myself from Congress, okay, I don't think that's good.

QUIRMBACH: The Republican's dislike for the EPA carries into other areas, And he's vowed to wage war on the Agency. Senator Feingold says his opponent's environmental strategy is a big step backward.

FEINGOLD: He fundamentally wants to turn back the clock. Prior to the days of Gaylord Nelson. Prior to the days of, frankly, Richard Nixon and William Ruckelshaus, who was the first director of the EPA. They are the ones who created the Environmental Protection Agency. Under a Republican president knowing that we simply cannot leave this up to local business people, local developers and Republican and Democratic governors at the state level, And expect to have a nationally clean environment. That's how we got in the mess in the first place.

QUIRMBACH: But Representative Newman contends his policies reflect a common-sense approach, And both candidates say they are the true inheritors of the Wisconsin progressive tradition. Environmental groups and the EPA have counted on Senate allies like Russ Feingold to block some of the more dramatic legislation that's come out of the House in the last few years. If Mark Newman is promoted to the Senate, the 2 chambers could be that much closer to seeing eye to eye on environmental affairs. For Living on Earth, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

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Removing High Lead from Low Income Community

CURWOOD: Lead poses a special danger to children, particularly those who have poor nutrition. One doesn't have to eat paint chips to get into trouble. Relatively tiny amounts of powdered lead paint from walls can be enough to poison a small child. Lead paint that's washed off the outside of a building can make the yard a dangerous place to play. Experts disagree on what's the safest method to clean up lead-contaminated soil. Attempts to remove it can end up spreading it around. Now, a new effort in Boston aims to cover up the problem in a way that benefits low-income residents. From member station WBUR, Toni Randolph explains.

(Children playing, shouting to each other)

RANDOLPH: Modest old single-family homes, some with paint-flaked walls, are squeezed into tiny lots in the inner-city Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Family life spills out into the streets here. In front of one home, grease- covered guys work beneath the hood of a car. In front of another home, young men sit on the porch listening to music blasting from a car parked out front.

(Music blares)

RANDOLPH: This is a low-income community, but many people here own their own homes, And they take pride in their scattered flower boxes and gardens. What grass surrounds the homes tends to be beaten down and scraggly, but the urban yards here serve as playgrounds and meeting places, And the residents are working at giving them a new lease.

(Bumping sounds)

RANDOLPH: In front of one 2-story home, teenagers appear to be hauling dirt for a landscaping project. But they're not just trying to make the yard look better. Their goal is to bury the lead in the yard. In poorer neighborhoods in old cities like Boston, many of the houses haven't been maintained, And lead-laced dust from disintegrating paint flakes pollute the soil. Seventeen- year-old Taurin Swindle is working up a sweat.

(More bumping sounds)

RANDOLPH: He and his coworkers covered up the contaminated soil in this yard with weed cloth, a thin cloth with tiny holes that allows grass to grow through it but won't allow the contaminated soil to pass through. Then, Taurin Swindle says, he and his colleagues top the cloth with several inches of mulch.

SWINDLE: And the next step is, we're going to put stepping stones on it, which allows people to go in the back, And also give us a nice finished look.

RANDOLPH: Some of the highest levels of lead are found within 3 feet of the house, along what's known as the drip line. That's the area where rainwater runs off the house and can wash lead-based paint chips into the ground below. To cover up the lead within the drip line, the teenage workers create a long wooden border surrounding the house. They fill it with clean dirt and cover it with rocks or shrubs and plants. Protecting the soil amounts to protecting kids, says Tricia Tillman-Reardon, who supervises the teenage landscapers.

REARDON: So that when the kids play in it, they won't dig deep enough. They won't be able to get dirt under their fingernails or on their hands, because kids, you know, put a lot of stuff in their mouth. Their toys and their fingers and stuff. So, this way they'll just get mulch and not contaminated soil.

(Teens continue to work)

RANDOLPH: The teens are part of the Dorchester Safe Yard Program. It's a pilot project designed to reduce children's outdoor exposure to lead. It's sponsored by Dorchester's Bowdoin Street Health Center, the Boston University School of Public Health, And the US Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA gave the project partners a grant totaling nearly $300,000 to try out the low-tech approach. The group hopes to prove that it's more cost-effective to cover up lead-contaminated soil than to remove it. That traditional remediation method requires home owners to hire someone licensed to handle hazardous waste. Lead is extremely toxic, And when it's ingested it poses special problems for children and pregnant women. Roy Petrie of the Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, explains.

PETRIE: Children in particular are at risk of lead poisoning because their exposure occurs at a time when their brain is developing very rapidly. Lead is moving to the brain, where it can cause permanent brain damage. And the consequences are a loss of IQ, And of course this continues on a continuum depending on the length of exposure and the degree of exposure, to mental retardation.

(Children and birds in the background)

RANDOLPH: Community health worker Naomi Shelton goes door to door in the neighborhood to recruit home owner participants. She stops at a 2-family house where several children are playing in the front yard. When the home owner peeks her head out of the second-story window, Naomi Shelton makes her pitch.

SHELTON: Hi. We're from the Bowdoin Street Health Center. I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about our Dorchester Lead Safe Yard Program that we have going this summer, And into the fall.

RANDOLPH: Naomi Shelton is invited upstairs to meet home owner Brenda Rosario. She listens attentively and then eagerly signs up.

ROSARIO: I saw a paper, they brought me a paper, And I read it. But I haven't had, it's real surprising that I'm here today. I don't have the time (laughs), you know, I work all day, I work sometimes until 8 o'clock. And then when you come home, 3 kids, And you're busy. But I did read about it before.

RANDOLPH: If she's eligible, Brenda Rosario would receive about $750 in labor and materials for landscaping in her yard. But to qualify, her soil has to show elevated lead levels.

(Scraping sounds)

RANDOLPH: The EPA tests the yards of home owners who sign up for the Dorchester program. Wess Straub, an industrial hygienist with the Bowdoin Street Health Center, analyzes the data during on-site testing. He looks for levels greater than 400 parts per million, but he allows some leeway.

STRAUB: An area that has lead levels of 1,000 in the front yard here I might not be concerned about. A thousand where the kids are playing, I'm concerned about. So it's not only the levels but what's happening there, that we're interested in, too.

(Traffic sounds)

RANDOLPH: The lead levels at this house make it eligible for the Lead Safe Yard Program. The program is not a scientific study that documents a correlation between blood-lead levels and soil-lead levels, says Roy Petrie of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Program in Massachusetts, because it deals with only one source of lead.

PETRIE: But what it's going to do is document and demonstrate a relatively low-cost approach that hopefully can last several decades. And that can be measured in terms of checking on re-emergence or re-exposure of the leaded soil itself over time.

CHILD: Mommy, there's [inaudible].

WOMAN: Open that door.

(Bird calls)

RANDOLPH: Researchers and residents hope the program becomes a model for reducing the toxic threat of lead. Residents say the project is already helping preserve their quality of life. Jeannie Sheffield signed up to have her yard landscaped. She's especially motivated since several of her 23 grandchildren now live with her in her Dorchester home.

SHEFFIELD: I've been in this neighborhood 30 years, And all these children that were here, they come over here every days, And there's lead or anything around here I want it to be taken care of.

RANDOLPH: For Living on Earth, I'm Toni Randolph.

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CURWOOD: We welcome your comments on our program. Call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or send us an e-mail at LOE@NPR.ORG. Coming up: a researcher says population demographics offer a clue explaining why young men seek to conquer. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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Young Men: Seeking to Conquer

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. We usually think people fight wars over political ideologies or religion or ethnicity. But 2 researchers at York University in Toronto say there's something more basic to the bellicose. Psychology Professor Neil Weiner and his protege Chris Mesquida contend that the presence of young, unmarried men can help steer a society toward a war of aggression. According to their controversial theory, young men seek the resources they need to start and maintain a family, And often they believe they must go to battle to secure them. Professor Weiner explains that the critical factor is not just the numbers of young men in a society, but their proportion in the population.

WEINER: Although all societies have young men, not all societies have war all the time. That is, if we look, wars are kind of episodic. That is, for long periods of time societies may be quite peaceful, And then there will be periods when there are, when there's conflict, when there's war, either external or civil. And so, the question for us was, if young men are the major perpetrators of all kinds of mayhem including war, why isn't war continuous?

CURWOOD: Okay. And the answer is?

WEINER: Well, we looked in this century and in the last century and at tribal groups and whatever historical data we could find. And we found that what seems to be significant is the ratio of males 15 to 29 versus males 30 and above. When the number of men between 15 and 29 equals about 60% of the size of the men in that society over 30, then you start to have real problems.

CURWOOD: Now is this dispositive? In other words, is this the reason why societies go to war? Or is this just a major contributing factor, as far as you're concerned?

WEINER: Well, we've looked at all sorts of other factors trying to see what correlates with war, and what may correlate with the ferocity of it. We've looked at economic factors and tried to find other factors. And this one, the ratio of younger to older males, seems to account for much more of the event than anything else than we've looked at. We've looked across -- we've got 156 countries in the last decade or so, we've got stuff that numbers in the earlier part of the century, the 19th century. So it seems to hold across time and space.

CURWOOD: You're telling me, then, that biology is destiny here.

WEINER: Well, not really. If we consider that war is an attempt to gain resources for marriage or for forming families. If there are alternative ways of doing it, then I think people prefer that. Because when we look at the data, there are some outliers, some cases where places have been relatively peaceful even though they've had for a period of time a high ratio of younger men to older men. Under those conditions, we find there's usually opportunities for young men to emigrate, to leave the country to gain resources, so immigration is a possibility. Or we find that there's a frontier for one reason or another within the country, that as technology allows the exploitation of a distant territory. Or some other circumstance in which economic opportunities are available.

CURWOOD: So, does your theory explain war more in more Aboriginal, primitive, tribal situations, or in our modern industrial society?

WEINER: Well, it does both. One of the things that I think sometimes people confuse about this idea, it would appear that war is something that breaks out in less developed societies. But that's because at this time in history, the less developed societies show this ratio of, a high ratio of younger men to older men. But once upon a time, in the last century, for example, it was the European countries that showed this ratio of, a high ratio of younger men to older men. Prior to the Napoleonic Wars, France had a very high ratio of young men to older men. It was a very young society. So, in my view, the Napoleonic Wars were essentially wars of the young Frenchmen against others in Europe.

CURWOOD: Wait a second, here. Just wait a second. Possibly, one of the crankiest wars the planet has ever seen was started in Germany.

WEINER: Uh huh.

CURWOOD: And the population demographic after World War I doesn't give you a whole bunch of young men.

WEINER: Well, I have an explanation for that. The Nazi Party itself, if we look at the demographics of the Nazi Party --

CURWOOD: Uh huh.

WEINER: -- was very young. The Nazi Party was a party of young men. And that's been recently documented. The second thing is, remember resources are part of my equation. And what happened in Germany after the war was, there was hyper-inflation, And then there was a depression. Both of those things really restricted the economic opportunities of young men. And in fact, I believe, in a sense it kept them younger than they really were chronologically. I think by delaying or prolonging their youth or delaying their ability to acquire resources, we kept them psychologically younger, And therefore more belligerent.

CURWOOD: I'm going to ask you to stick your neck out. Looking at the world right now, using your theory, where do you think the hot spots are and where they're going to be?

WEINER: The hot spots are clearly large portions of Africa. I would also say that India and Pakistan are going to be real hot spots. And clearly the Middle East; there's going to be trouble there for the foreseeable future. And I mean the ratio of young men to older men in places like Gaza are quite incredible. They're among the highest if not the highest in the world.

CURWOOD: Isn't this a rather dangerously simplistic way of trying to understand human behavior?

WEINER: Well, I think it is simple. I don't know if it is simplistic. Looking at these ratios, they do seem to account for what in statistics are a good part of the variance. But perhaps a lot of things in the world are simpler than we thought.

CURWOOD: Neil Weiner is a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto. Thank you, sir, for joining us.

WEINER: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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War Boys Response

CURWOOD: We asked Catherine Lutz, a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to respond to Professor Weiner's theory. Here's what she had to say.

LUTZ: Professor Weiner's ideas about the causes of warfare are dangerously simplistic, And, well, just plain wrong. First, his approach is based on the idea that genes compete to be passed to the next generation. He implies that warfare is caused by this biological imperative, but the data he presents are based on economy and population, not biology. Second, he claims men go to war to get resources to support a family. This just doesn't jibe with what we know about warfare. War is a complex social phenomenon, And the motivation of combatants is not the most relevant factor to explaining when and where it occurs.

Look at the conscripted armies of the modern state. They take young men to fight, often against their will or only with the help of media propaganda. In addition, warfare doesn't often have the benefits Professor Weiner claims it does. Research in New Guinea in the 1960s, for example, shows that war's victors rarely took land permanently from the vanquished, even in areas with high population density.

In other words, young men don't often acquire new resources through war. In many cases, living conditions radically deteriorate for young men and women in a society as the result of wars lost and even of wars seemingly won. The severely disabled survivor of war in Cambodia, for example, finds farming on land mine-infested fields much more difficult. To take another example, this one from the last millennium, Mayan rulers went to war and the result was societal collapse, as farmers crowded onto fragile rainforest land close to city centers to avoid being victimized by war.

Why do all of these men's genes seem not to know that war is not a safe marriage-enhancing game? And even if it were true that warfare occurs more often in societies with high population growth rates, there's a better explanation for this correlation. For example, warfare from 1945 until 1991 was fundamentally shaped by the existence of nuclear weapons, which pushed superpower conflict into proxy wars in those areas with high population growth. The severity of those wars was a function of the pursuit of power, profit, or principle, by societies with low population growth rates. But, of course, high rates of consumption. This is a widely-accepted view of why wars have occurred in the pattern that they have for the last 60 years. But Professor Weiner ignores it with his single-cause, single-outcome model of human behavior.

The evidence acquired by the world's scholars over decades of painstaking work is that human warfare has many causes and many potential solutions besides controlling the amount of young gene material floating around. Land reform and other kinds of resource redistribution, for example, have been a more direct and successful solution to the roots of war in some cases. This evidence will not go away because of a catchy slogan and simplistic thinking masquerading as research.

CURWOOD: Catherine Lutz is a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She comes to us via member station WUNC.

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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. We are produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production team includes Jesse Wegman, George Homsy, Terry FitzPatrick, Liz Lempert, Daniel Grossman, And Miriam Landman, along with Roberta de Avila, Peter Shaw, And Julia Madeson. We had help from David Winickoff, Anne Parry, and Laura Colbert. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Peter Thomson heads the Western Bureau. Our senior editor is Joyce Hackel, And Chris Ballman is the senior producer. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. 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 Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund; the Surdna Foundation; the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the Rockefeller Foundation; 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.

The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid transmission and distribution deadlines, it has not yet been proofread against tape.

 

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