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

Terra Talk

Air Date: Week of

In an environmental send-up of “Car Talk,” the Gaia Sisters tackle the ecological dilemmas of their listeners with gusto and glee on their “talk show”. Produced by Underground Railway Theater and written by Kathy Civoli and Living on Earth's Chris Page.


And now, it's time for those curmudgeons of compost, the Gaia Sisters.

(Theme music from Car Talk up and under)

PHYLLIS: Hello, this is Phyllis.

DIERDRE: And Dierdre.

PHYLLIS: We're the Gaia Sisters coming to you from the Island of Manhattan with yet another edition of:


DIERDRE: Yes, the call-in show you know and love, with occasionally practical tips for easy ways to a better planet.

PHYLLIS: Switchboard's lit up, so let's go to our first caller. Hello! You're on Terra Talk.

CALLER: Hi, this is Dawn. I'm calling from Vermont.

PHYLLIS: Vermont! I was up at a protest in Vermont.

DIERDRE: Wasn't that the zukes not nukes organic farming vigil?

PHYLLIS: Nah, I think it was the time we buried a car.

DIERDRE: You buried a car?

PHYLLIS: Yeah, to signify the end of the industrial revolution. Symbolically of course.

DIERDRE: There you have it, folks, my principled and muscular sister has actually dug a hole in the wilds of New England to inter a gas guzzler. (Laughs)

DAWN: Hey guys?

PHYLLIS: Oh yeah, Dawn, what was the question?

DAWN: Well I read recently that it takes about 6 gallons of water every time you flush a toilet?


DAWN: And my roommate said she heard that we if we put a brick in the tank -

PHYLLIS: Aaaaaargh!!!

DIERDRE: Oh no, not the brick. Not the brick! Hoo, Dawn, Dawn, honey, get with the program.

PHYLLIS: I think what my sister is trying to communicate, Dawn, is that using a brick is a surefire way to keep your local plumber employed.

DIERDRE: Uh huh.

PHYLLIS: You see, although the brick does displace water, it will also over time chip off tiny brick flakes that will lodge themselves in your plumbing system.


PHYLLIS: The way to go is to take a plastic bottle and fill it with water -


PHYLLIS: Put that in your tank and flush it.

DIERDRE: Oh, no no no no no. That is a fine temporary solution, Dawn, but what you really want is to invest in a low flush toilet -

PHYLLIS: Oh, here we go.

DIERDRE: That will save you far more water than your brontosaurus of a porcelain waste dispenser. I for one have this nifty Swedish model -

PHYLLIS: Naaaah, no no no. Dawn, you are a perfect candidate for a composting toilet.

DIERDRE: You're not pushing that indoor outhouse you use.

PHYLLIS: Oh, we had a small odor problem but I installed a little fan right under the seat.

DIERDRE: Oh hold on, hold on, hold on. Your john has a fanny fan?

PHYLLIS: With a rechargeable battery.

DIERDRE: (Hoots) Well, Dawn, such are the valiant absurdities concocted by yours truly in the quest for ecological purity. Hi, you're on the air.

CALLER: Hey, yo. My name is Jeff, I'm calling from Minnesota.

DIERDRE: Oh yeah.

JEFF: I'm having real problems with my compost heap.

PHYLLIS: Oh, talk to us, Jeff!

JEFF: You bet. Well, it was going real well for the first 6 months or so, you know? But it's lately gotten kind of real stinky, and it's kind of hard to turn.

PHYLLIS: Okay, Jeff. Two questions, right? When did you start growing corn in your organic garden?

DIERDRE: (Laughs) And when did you move the pile from your front yard to underneath the kitchen sink because your neighbors threatened you with a health violation?

JEFF: How'd you know that?


PHYLLIS: We know all.

DIERDRE: We see all.

PHYLLIS AND DIERDRE: Because we are the Gaia Sisters! (Laughs)

DIERDRE: But seriously, Jeff, your corn cobs. They have been the bane of many a hardy composter's existence.


DIERDRE: They just won't decompose like good little vegetables. They sit there like these nuggets of discord in the middle of your happy compost family. What you gotta do is mince those corn cobs into pulp.

PHYLLIS: And your stink problem, Jeff, probably also comes from your little pile not getting enough sunlight and oxygen. Gotta roll up your sleeves and really aerate that sucker.

DIERDRE: Try adding eggshells.

PHYLLIS: And coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are marvelous for getting that rich humusy texture.

DIERDRE: Okay, Jeff, good luck. Hoo! I just never thought that being an eco-warrior would be so pungent.

DIERDRE: (Laughs) Okay, next caller.

CALLER: Hi, this is Mark from Boston. I'm calling for my wife. I have a recycling question.

PHYLLIS: He's calling for his wife.

DIERDRE: (Laughs) Maybe he should recycle his wife. I'd like to recycle my brother-in-law.

PHYLLIS: Okay, we'll get serious. Mark.

MARK: Well, I recently insisted that my family start using cloth napkins.

PHYLLIS: Uh huh.


MARK: But my wife says the amount of energy in water it takes to clean the napkins every week is as bad as the amount of trees cut down to make paper napkins.


DIERDRE: Mm hmm hmm.

MARK: So what do you think's better?

PHYLLIS: Excellent question there, Mark.

DIERDRE: Well, what's the answer, my systems-minded sibling?

PHYLLIS: Hey, get off my back. Can't you see I'm stalling? (Laughs) Mark, you have run up against the classic conundrum of the earth-loving individual. Whether 'tis nobler to use energy to keep cleaning a thing or to make more of that thing from a renewable resource, which unfortunately you gotta throw out.

DIERDRE: Also known as the disposable diaper dilemma.

PHYLLIS: Gets so confusing sometimes it seems the best solution is not to have kids.

DIERDRE: Though the problem is, I mean you could have your tubes tied for Mother Earth, but you still slobber when you eat.

PHYLLIS: Mark, we suggest you do what we do.

PHYLLIS AND DIERDRE: Use your sleeve. (Laughs.)

PHYLLIS: Our next caller.

CALLER: Yeah. Uh, I'm calling from Phoenix. I've got a question about my '73 Ford pickup.

DIERDRE: I'm sorry, you have the wrong program.

PHYLLIS: Another hour of Terra Talk has mercifully come to a close. I'm Phyllis.

DIERDRE: And I'm Dierdre. And whether you wear your Walkman as you wander through the redwoods -

PHYLLIS: Or cruising through town on your solar-powered car -

DIERDRE: For God's sake, make sure to tune in to -




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