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

November 17, 2000

Air Date: November 17, 2000



Living on Earth co-host Diane Toomey talks with Paul Rogers, the environment reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, about the federal government’s plan to tackle the problem of rising traffic and congestion in Yosemite National Park. (05:00)

Marine Sanctuaries / Jennifer Niessen

President Clinton is hoping to extend protection of America’s waters before he leaves office. Right now, there are thirteen designated marine sanctuaries. That’s less than one percent of the nation’s waters. As Jennifer Niessen from KPLU in Seattle reports, the President is calling for a broad system of marine protected areas. (06:45)

Animal Update / Maggie Villiger

Living On Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on the discovery of a tiny animal in the cold springs of Disko Island in Greenland. (00:59)

Agent Orange / Owen Bennett Jones

Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the United States during the Vietnam War, has left its mark on the environment and people’s health a quarter of a century after the end of the war. Owen Bennett Jones reports on the efforts being made in Vietnam to address the problems caused by the herbicide. (05:40)

Listener Letters

This week, listeners comment on our coverage of the presidential election. (03:00)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about Antarctica. One hundred eighty years ago, a young American seal hunter sighted land on this barren icy continent. (01:30)

Arizona Car Plan

A tax subsidy program in Arizona has the state’s budget bleeding. The plan helped defray the cost of buying vehicles that run on alternative fuels. But now state officials are trying to figure out how to pay for the runaway cost of the program. To top it off, the plan will probably do little to clean up Arizona’s air. Diane Toomey speaks with KJZZ reporter Mark Moran. (05:45)

Health Update

Living On Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on how the key to preventing the tropical disease leishmaniasis may be found in a tiny sandfly, the disease’s carrier. (00:59)

New Dinosaurs

Host Steve Curwood speaks with paleontologist Paul Sereno. He’s in the heart of Niger’s Tenere desert on a four month expedition to search for unknown dinosaurs. (06:50)

Smoky Bay / Geo Beach

Alaska, smoke and memories: former firefighter Geo Beach tells how one morning, it all came together. (03:05)

Enviroart / Dmae Roberts

Dmae Roberts reports on an abandoned lot in Portland, Oregon that gets revitalized by the work of a dance choreographer. (07:45)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOSTS: Steve Curwood, Diane Toomey
REPORTERS: Jennifer Niessen, Owen Bennett Jones, Dmae Roberts
UPDATES: Maggie Villiger, Cynthia Graber
GUESTS: Paul Rogers, Mark Moran, Paul Sereno

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CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, it's Living on Earth.

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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

TOOMEY: And I'm Diane Toomey. President Clinton is spending some of his last days in office enhancing protection of several natural places on land and sea. The people who are managing the areas welcome the attention, but say the president needs to provide more than words.

BERNTHAL: We don't have enough resources to really do our job. I think there's been an improvement in the budget situation, but it's -- it's still not enough.

CURWOOD: Also, the toxic legacy of Agent Orange, 25 years after the war in Vietnam.

HATFIELD: The levels that we got around this particular base, the hot spot that we found, are equal to any level that was measured even just after the war. So it appears that in some places the toxin hasn't really reduced at all.

TOOMEY: And we dip into our mailbag for your comments on the election. Those stories and more this week on Living on Earth. First news.

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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

TOOMEY: And I'm Diane Toomey. Last summer, some 25,000 tourists a day visited Yosemite National Park. That's more than double what officials once estimated the park could sustain. Now, after years of false starts, the federal government has finalized a plan to curb traffic and congestion in that majestic California wilderness. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recently outlined the plan, which will take ten years, and more than $440 million, to implement. Proponents say it will dramatically reshape how the park is used in coming years. Paul Rogers is the environment writer for the San Jose Mercury News. He was in Yosemite when Secretary Babbitt made his announcement. Paul, we'll get to the details of the plan in a bit, but first describe for me just how bad it gets in Yosemite on those busy summer weekends.

ROGERS: Well, as a lot of harried campers can remember, Yosemite Valley is a very popular place in the summer, and many people think it's being loved to death. Yosemite Valley is about one mile wide and about seven miles long. Now, to put that in perspective, that's only about one-seventh the size of the city of San Francisco. So, when everybody packs up their minivan and their ice chest at the same time and wants to see it on a hot summer weekend, you end up with an area that looks more like a shopping mall parking lot than a national park.

TOOMEY: I understand that the plan takes up 2,600 pages. How will it attempt to fix the overcrowding problem?

ROGERS: Yeah, this plan makes War and Peace look like a comic book. It is six times the size of a telephone book. And the idea, basically if you boil all that down, is that people would not be able to bring their cars into the valley on busy days. Essentially, the plan would create three new satellite parking lots, each more than ten miles outside of the valley. And when the 500 spaces inside the valley fill up, you would be asked to ride a shuttle bus into the valley from an outlying lot.

TOOMEY: And there are also plans to remove campsites and hotel rooms?

ROGERS: Yeah. In 1997, there was a very violent flood that swept through the Merced River, right through the heart of Yosemite Valley. And that destroyed a lot of cabins and a lot of picnic sites and campsites that had been there for years. This plan proposes not replacing a lot of those. And in terms of some of the details, it would reduce the number of campsites by about 38 percent from what were there before the 1997 flood. And it would reduce the number of hotel rooms and overnight cabins by about 36 percent, with many of those reductions coming from the lowest-priced accommodations at Housekeeping Camp in Curry Village.

TOOMEY: Who's not happy with the plan?

ROGERS: (Laughs) Well, the Park Service has always said that Yosemite is among its biggest political problem children. Any time they make any decision one way or another, somebody yells at them. And so, too, with this plan. Some people from the Sierra Club and some other environmental groups have said that the plan doesn't go far enough, and they would like to see more hotel rooms removed. They also complain that the buses might put out diesel pollution in the valley. Yet another group of people is saying that it goes too far, and that it will deny especially working families and people the opportunity to go camp as they always have, because they won't be able to get a reservation any more. One woman even described it to me recently as, the fact that she said, "They're turning it into a wilderness Club Med."

TOOMEY: Well, is the day coming when park officials will have to restrict just the sheer number of people entering the park?

ROGERS: That may be, and it's been something that has been under discussion for about 20 years, not only with this park but with other national parks. Secretary Babbitt told me in an interview recently that he is adamantly opposed to reservation systems for national parks. He calls that park rationing, and he doesn't think that Americans should be turned away from their national parks when they want to visit. Yet others, like David Brower, who recently died and who was one of the legendary environmental leaders of this country, has said that it's very similar to a movie theater, for example. If you fill up the movie theater, you don't sell more tickets so people can sit on each other's laps. And he and other advocates say that Americans are used to getting reservations for restaurants and hotels, and they'll have no problem doing it for national parks.

TOOMEY: The plan goes into effect in about a month. What effect, though, will the election of the new president have on its implementation?

ROGERS: It may be the $64,000 question on this plan. The new president can make a decision by executive fiat whether or not he wants to implement some of this plan, all of this plan, or whether he wants to put all six volumes of it on a shelf and not implement any of it.

TOOMEY: Paul Rogers is the environmental writer for the San Jose Mercury News. Paul, thanks for joining us today.

ROGERS: Thank you.

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Marine Sanctuaries

CURWOOD: Vast and limitless. That's how America's settlers viewed the western frontier, and it's the same way many of us look at our oceans today. The seas supply us with a bounty of food and fuel as well as recreation, but they've been taxed by overfishing, pollution, and drilling for resources such as natural gas and crude oil. On November thirteenth, President Clinton signed legislation which is designed to extend and improve the management of thirteen federal sanctuaries for marine life. This follows an executive order he made in the spring directing agencies to create a national system that links state and federal marine protected areas. From member station KPLU in Seattle, Jennifer Niessen has an update.


NIESSEN: The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington State is one of the largest marine protected areas in the country. Thirty-three hundred square miles of pristine ocean, kelp beds, and rugged coastline make up the sanctuary. Carol Bernthal is the sanctuary's superintendent.

BERNTHAL: We have 29 species of marine mammals, five different species of whales, lots of different sea birds. Common muirs, grebes, cormorants, sea otters, sea lions, orca whales. It's an extremely productive area.

NIESSEN: The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is an exception to the rule. Currently, less than one tenth of one percent of U.S. waters are protected. Regulations vary from limited or no development to tight restrictions on fishing. Elliot Norse, the president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute in Redmond, Washington, says America's coastlines haven't received nearly the same attention that's been bestowed on parks and wilderness areas.

NORSE: We are terrestrial creatures, and our biology equips us for living on land. When we drive past a place that's being mined or clear-cut and we see the devastation to the biota, most people feel a visceral reaction that says, "Hey, this is really troubling." But the sea surface looks pretty much the same whether the sea is dead or alive. And so as a result, we assume, "Hey, everything's okay. It looks pretty good to me."

NIESSEN: Norse and other scientists lobbied successfully to bring the declining state of our nation's waterways to the attention of the White House. Standing on a sandy beach of the Assateague Island National Sea Shore off the coast of Virginia and Maryland last spring, President Clinton unveiled his executive order.


CLINTON: I'm signing an executive order to create a national system to preserve our coasts, reefs, underwater forests, and other treasures, directing the Commerce and Interior Departments to work together to create a network of marine protected areas encompassing pristine beaches, mysterious deep water trenches, and every kind of marine habitat....

NIESSEN: The President's order calls for a plan to protect the reefs of the northwest Hawaiian islands. It also requires the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen water quality standards. One idea that's being discussed is to group marine protected areas into different regions, such as the west and east coasts, the Great Lakes, and Hawaii. Before federal agencies can get to specifics, states across the country are being asked to count their existing marine protected areas. Inventories are already underway throughout the country. But Carol Bernthal with the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary cautions that all of this planning won't go anywhere without money

BERNTHAL: We don't have enough resources to really do our job. I think there's been an improvement in the budget situation, but it's -- it's still not enough.

NIESSEN: Right now the National Marine Sanctuary Program operates with a budget of $26 million a year, roughly the cost of a single naval aircraft. President Clinton is asking for an additional six million dollars for the year 2001. Any new funding would have to be approved by Congress. The sanctuary Bernthal manages operates on a very tight budget. She says due to a lack of full-time staff, important regulations designed to protect wildlife aren't being enforced.

BERNTHAL: We have an overflight regulation within the sanctuary, that planes are limited from flying below 2,000 feet within one mile of the shorelines or offshore rocks, because of sensitive nesting sea birds. But other than having to be out here on a day where I happen to notice that there's a plane flying over, and I happen to get the tail number, we're not enforcing that regulation right now. So, how well are we really doing?

NIESSEN: The obvious benefits of marine protected areas are that they preserve existing habitat and wildlife and foster a safe environment for growth. According to Elliot Norse with the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, that growth can have economic payoffs. He says if marine protected areas are used to shelter key habitats where fish spawn, the fishing industry would benefit substantially.

NORSE: If it's truly protected, if there's no fishing, there's no oil drilling, there's no dumping of pollution, etc., the fish become much more abundant and much bigger. And this is important; this has an economic consequence. These fish reproduce many, many more young than small fish do. But within a marine protected area, the fish can grow older, and they produce many more young, and their surplus young leak out or are sent out of the protected areas into the adjacent waters.

NIESSEN: The Nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation's Doug Obiji says marine protected areas also bring in recreation dollars.

OBIJI: You look at a lot of the marine protected areas in Florida, say, and the tourist economy there is tremendously driven by scuba diving and snorkeling and other uses of the National Marine Sanctuary.

NIESSEN: But not everyone is convinced marine protected areas are good. Commercial fishermen who are already heavily regulated are concerned the national system will lead to more red tape and tighter fishing restrictions. While few fishermen will comment before seeing the final plan, Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations is optimistic.

SPAIN: Our view is that marine protected areas can be a useful tool if they're biologically based. They need to be primarily for the purpose of protecting marine resources, not just putting up big areas of the ocean off limits, just for its own sake.


NIESSEN: The plan for marine protected areas is expected to be completed and reviewed by the end of the year. For Living on Earth, I'm Jennifer Niessen in Seattle.

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CURWOOD: Coming up: Twenty-five years later, the legacy of the war in Vietnam includes troubling amounts of dioxin from Agent Orange. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

Now, this animal update with Maggie Villiger.

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Animal Update

VILLIGER: A tiny creature discovered on Greenland's Disko Island is in a class by itself, literally. The microscopic invertebrate belongs to a brand new category of animals and may even be a missing link between known classes of marine creatures. Called Limnognathia, this animal is only a tenth of a millimeter long, and a full third of that length consists of its extraordinarily complicated jaw. It scrapes this jaw over underwater mosses for food and can skewer particles as small as one bacterium for a snack. So far, only female Limnognathia have been found, leading scientists to conclude these gals can reproduce without the help of males. And why was Limnognathia unknown until recently? Previous investigations on Disko Island focused on warm springs, not the cold springs where Limnognathia lives, frozen solid for half the year under six feet of snow. That's this week's animal update. I'm Maggie Villiger.

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CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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Agent Orange

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

TOOMEY: And I'm Diane Toomey. President Clinton's trip to Vietnam in the week before Thanksgiving marks the first time a U.S. President has visited the country since the end of the Vietnam War. Mr. Clinton's visit is intended to promote continued cooperation on efforts to bring home the remains of American soldiers still missing in Vietnam. Also on the agenda is a new trade agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam. The trade deal was signed this year and now must be ratified by both countries. The United States has also recently agreed to work with Vietnam on another front: we've offered to share our scientific knowledge about Agent Orange. Agent Orange is the herbicide used by the U.S. military during a defoliation campaign called Operation Ranch Hand. An estimated eleven million gallons of Agent Orange were dropped on Vietnam from 1965 through 1970, and many in that country believe the toxic effects are still being felt. Owen Bennett Jones reports from Hanoi.

JONES: There were other defoliants, like Agent Blue, Agent Purple, and Agent Green. But the most powerful was Agent Orange, which contained high levels of the chemical dioxin. During the Vietnam War the United States sprayed Agent Orange on around fourteen percent of Vietnam's land. Back in 1965, some of it landed on U.S. veteran Tom Joyce.

JOYCE: We were out in the central highlands. One of the C-130s, I believe, came over, and just dropped it. We didn't know what it was. You know, we just: "hey, it's raining." You know, you would think it's just a short shower coming through. Twenty-four hours later the leaves are dead.

JONES: Tom Joyce now suffers from peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that affects his balance. He believes his condition was caused by Agent Orange. The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs has set up an Agent Orange registry to treat veterans. But proving a link between certain illnesses and Agent Orange is difficult and highly controversial.

(Vietnamese students counting)

JONES: At a school in Hanoi called the Peace Village, some Vietnamese 15-year-olds try to count from one to ten. They don't find it easy. They have cognitive problems. Vietnamese health officials say that's because they're Agent Orange victims. Since 1994, the Vietnamese government has worked with a Canadian-based environmental consulting firm, Hatfield Consultants. The result is the most thorough independent survey yet to assess dioxin levels in central Vietnam. Chris Hatfield, who conducted the survey, says some areas, called hot spots, have high concentrations of the chemical. Most of these hot spots are on former U.S. air bases where Agent Orange was stored, and one is located in the Aluoi Valley near the border with Laos.

HATFIELD: The levels that we got around this particular base, the hot spot that we found, are equal to any level that was measured even just after the war. So it appears that in some places the toxin hasn't really reduced at all. Dioxin has moved from the soils to the sediment of fish ponds and into the fish themselves that are raised in the ponds for food. Right up into the blood and the breast milk.

JONES: The suspicion that some 30 years after the U.S. stopped spraying Agent Orange dioxins could still be infecting fetuses through the placenta and infants through breast milk adds urgency to the demands for a clean-up.

MAN: Okay, right. (A creaking sound) Start working your way forward in your lanes, using your base sticks, sweeping the one point two meters ...

JONES: Some land mine clearers get to work in another former U.S. military base. The Vietnamese military and, more recently, Western aid workers have been trying to remove the mines left behind after the war. But the cleanup of something else in the soil, Agent Orange, hasn't even begun. Professor Le Cao Dai is the executive director of the Agent Orange Victim Fund, which is part of the Vietnamese Red Cross. Last year, Professor Dai released a report that said between 800,000 and a million Vietnamese suffer Agent Orange-related health problems. But, he says, the Vietnamese government is not sure how to approach the cleanup.

DAI: [speaks in Vietnamese]

TRANSLATOR: So far, the Vietnamese government has not been able to do anything to clean up. Some experts say we should use bacteria, but this method can only work in small laboratories. Several countries suggested dioxin would disintegrate if we burnt the land to a very high temperature, but there is no known method to break down the dioxin in the most seriously-affected areas.

JONES: Earlier this year, the U.S. Defense Department agreed to participate in an international research effort on Agent Orange. The American ambassador in Hanoi is Pete Peterson.

PETERSON: We have begun, or are in the process of beginning, a joint research effort on Agent Orange. And that is a serious effort. We are now in the process of working with the Vietnamese to establish the modalities for conducting that research, and we hope that that can get launched in the very near future.

JONES: U.S. officials say they hope to build Vietnam's capacity to deal with environmental issues. According to Chris Hatfield, people living in the affected areas are desperately in need of a solution.

HATFIELD: If it was in North America or Europe, some of the areas would definitely be cleaned up. But it's a very expensive proposition that's usually done with high-temperature incineration. So in Vietnam, as first steps we're recommending that the people just not live on the hot spots, and they don't dig fish ponds and they don't raise food there and things like that.


JONES: Back at the Peace Village some mentally disabled adolescents thought to be Agent Orange victims, are being taught traditional handicraft skills. Hopefully, the training will help them get a job. But Vietnamese officials fears there will be more victims to come, as long as one of the most persistent legacies of the Vietnam War remains in the country's ecosystem. For Living on Earth, this is Owen Bennett Jones in Hanoi.

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Listener Letters

CURWOOD: And now, time for your comments.

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CURWOOD: Not surprisingly, politics were the rage this week. There are a lot of angry Democrats out there, and it isn't George W. Bush who is the target. Robert Morris writes from Brooklyn, where he listens to our program on WNYC. He describes a political cartoon which he says perfectly reflects his views: "It depicts a Ralph Nader-like character standing in the midst of a forest of tree stumps, obviously the remains of a cut-down old growth forest. According to the sign in the cartoon, this forest is the "George W. Bush National Forest." Ralph Nader is depicted as saying, "What a wonderful party we'll have in four more years."

Paul Dewey listens to us on KQED in San Francisco and offered these views on the Green Party: "The reason the Green Party's viability is real and greater than that of other third parties is that the Green Party has a real positive agenda: the environment. The rise of the Green Party has been slow and steady, with a genuinely solid base built beneath it."

Dave Detrisac is less impressed. He listens to WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan. He says the Green Party, to its detriment, is about much more than the environment. "Other planks of the Green Party," writes Mr. Detrisac, "are demand for a 30-hour work week with no pay cuts, breakup of big banks into public community banks, and converting businesses into worker cooperatives, consumer cooperatives or public enterprises. I believe that those other planks in the Green Party's platform will overwhelm the environmental concerns and doom the party."

And finally, apologies to all, especially the Oregonians who noticed what proved to be an error in our coverage of the election in that state. At the time we went to air last week, George W. Bush was in the lead. But Al Gore eventually came out ahead by almost 5,000 votes. Exit polls are not perfect, and neither are we.

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Whatever your vote, we always welcome your comments on our program, Call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or write to 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. Our e-mail address is letters@loe.org. Once again, letters@loe.org. And visit our Web page at www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. CDs, tapes, and transcripts are $15.

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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 W. Alton Jones Foundation, promoting new ways to provide energy for the world economy without harm to the environment: www.wajones.org; and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for reporting on western issues.

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

TOOMEY: And I'm Diane Toomey. And this is NPR, National Public Radio. When we return: a fiscal fiasco in Arizona. A green effort has taxpayers seeing red. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: One hundred and eighty years ago this week, Nathaniel Palmer discovered Antarctica. Well, sort of. The 20-year-old American seal hunter is credited with spotting actual land, in the form of mountains, while others had spied only ice. Only a tiny percentage of Antarctica's land mass is visible. Most of the continent is covered by ice, with an average thickness of a mile and a half. If this ice sheet melted, the world's oceans would rise by about 200 feet. Ironically, all this fresh water is locked up on a desert continent, where less than two inches of precipitation fall each year, mostly as snow or ice. After all, the warmest summer temperatures on the continent barely top the freezing point. The coldest recorded temperature on Earth is minus 129 degrees Fahrenheit, measured at Antarctica's Vostok Station. And that doesn't even take wind chill into account. The only people who live on his inhospitable land are science researchers, but there are plenty of other species. Algae, lichen, and moss grow there, and insects and sea birds thrive. Most animals are concentrated on the coast. In the Antarctic Ocean, you'll find creatures including krill, fish, whales, and the seals that Nathaniel Palmer sailed in search of. To survive extreme climate conditions, these animals involved intriguing defenses. Consider the Antarctic cod. It can produce a natural form of antifreeze in its blood, which keeps body fluids flowing even in frigid waters. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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Arizona Car Plan

TOOMEY: Arizona is in the middle of a fiscal and political crisis, thanks to a disastrous subsidy program. The plan was designed to reimburse people who bought an alternative fuel vehicle or converted a conventional one. But the Arizona governor now describes the program as a cancer eating away at the state budget. Its estimated cost has soared from three million to half a billion dollars, eight percent of the entire state budget. The author of the subsidy bill was the speaker of the State House, but the Republican lawmaker was resoundingly voted out of office. The Arizona state legislature is meeting in special session to figure out what to do next. We're joined now by Mark Moran, news director at member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark, tell me how the program worked.

MORAN: Well, the cost of having the vehicle converted to run on natural gas, the licensing fee, and also a clean fuel tax credit provided by the state in many cases added up to as much as seventy percent off the price of a vehicle, as long as the person was willing to have the vehicle converted to run on natural gas and gasoline. State budget analysts predicted that they would spend between three and ten million dollars on this. Well, right now the price tag, as you and I talk, is about $483 million.

TOOMEY: Why did the program end up being so popular?

MORAN: Because while the law said these vehicles shall be equipped to run on natural gas, it does not say they must burn natural gas. And that's the loophole. They're bi-fuel vehicles, which means that they are equipped with two fuel tanks: a natural gas fuel tank and a regular gasoline tank. So people can go out and get these expensive vehicles and run regular gasoline in them. There was also no shut-off valve, which means as many people that could get to the car dealership before they sunsetted this program they were in.

TOOMEY: Not only did the program end up costing a lot more money, but it may do nothing to help clean up Arizona's air.

MORAN: Absolutely. That's the irony is that the idea was to entice people to buy a vehicle that could burn natural gas because it would clean up the environment. But in fact, there are only a handful of natural gas gas stations in the city. So people are going to go down to their corner store and put regular gasoline in them. They're probably not going to drive an hour across Phoenix traffic and put natural gas in when they're not required to by law.

TOOMEY: How could something like this get past both houses of the state legislature and the governor, who signed this bill?

MORAN: Well, I asked the governor when this whole thing came to light, and she said, "I wish I knew." You know, the bill was passed in one of those final nights of the legislative session, about two in the morning. The staff missed it, she missed it, and everyone underestimated the popularity because they missed this huge loophole. Now, because of the oversight, the governor says people are angry.

TOOMEY: You have some tape from an interview you did with the governor. Let's hear that now.

GOVERNOR: I am amazed, though, having been out and just kind of talking to people over the weekend, how many people are really upset, and rightfully so, about the fact that, first of all, the general fund is bleeding. And secondly, that there are people that are, you know, taking advantage of this. A lot of people I think would not have done it. But it is a free market, and it shows you what happens when government tries to tamper with the market.

TOOMEY: Well, the governor has put the brakes on the program, but there are thousands of people who are expecting a check in the mail. What are the environmental groups saying should be done about this?

MORAN: Well, they're skeptical, in large part, because of the way that the bill went through the legislature. It was also authored and aggressively marketed by the Speaker of the State House, Jeff Grosscost, who lobbied on various occasions for a natural gas company. He held informational meetings in his neighborhood and in his church about the benefits of this program, even after the state budget officials knew that the costs were spiraling out of control. And environmentalists are upset about that. He's since resigned from the House and was resoundingly defeated in the State Senate bid. The Sierra Club's Sandra Barr is obviously all for clean air, but she thinks the state's addressing the problem backwards.

BARR: It would be nice if we could find a way to encourage the most polluting vehicles to get off the road and replace them with alternative fuel vehicles. Instead, the cleaner-burning vehicles, the newer ones, are being replaced with these alternative fuel vehicles. And so, you're not getting the same kind of emission benefits as you would if you were taking the most polluting vehicles off the road.

TOOMEY: The Arizona state legislature is meeting now in special session to decide how to pay out these reimbursements. What are the options that are on the table at this point?

MORAN: Well, there's one very distasteful one for consumers who bought these vehicles in good faith, and that is to say -- the governor's proposing this plan -- if the vehicles have not yet been delivered to the people who purchased them, they won't get the tax credits. Well, people who bought these vehicles in good faith from the car dealer now go back to the car dealer and say we're not going to get our half price, and the car dealers are saying well, I'm sorry, we've got this contract and you have to honor it. People are stuck with $50,000 vehicles in some cases and can't get the tax credits back from the state if the vehicles aren't already being converted.

TOOMEY: Well, any way you look at this, it seems like it really is a fiasco.

MORAN: Absolutely. It's got just about everything you can imagine, was marketed heavily and aggressively by the House Speaker, who had lobbied for a gas company. A governor who is not running for re-election and admitted to me that she's glad she wasn't because she knows she wouldn't be able to win. The state Attorney General has a criminal investigation ongoing, and she will not only look into the House Speaker, but the ties to the rest of the people who are involved in this as well.

TOOMEY: Mark Moran is the News Director at public radio station KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks for joining us today, Mark.

MORAN: You're welcome.

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CURWOOD: Just ahead: discovering Africa's treasure trove of dinosaurs. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

Now, this health update with Cynthia Graber.

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Health Update

GRABER: The disfiguring disease leishmaniasis strikes millions of people in the tropics. It's transmitted by a sand fly and causes skin ulcers and sometimes even death. Now, a new study shows that the key to preventing the disease may be in the saliva of the sand fly itself. Here's why: after repeated bites from an uninfected sand fly, people develop an allergic reaction. These red, itchy welts are actually our immune system fighting off the bug's saliva. But as it happens, this reaction also kills the leishmaniasis parasites that live in the saliva. Scientists say this could explain why people who live in the tropics often come down with a much milder version of the disease. The U.S. Army has been trying to develop a sand fly repellent to protect soldiers from leishmaniasis. But scientists now say a few bites from uninfected sand flies may be just want the doctor order. That's this week's health update. I'm Cynthia Graber.

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CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth. You can hear our program any time on our Web site. The address is www.loe.org That's www.loe.org. And while you're online, send your comments to us at letters@loe.org. Once gain, letters@loe.org. Our postal address is 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. And you can reach our listener line at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. CDs, tapes, and transcripts are $15 each.

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New Dinosaurs

TOOMEY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And I'm Steve Curwood. Imagine the world about 100 million years ago, during the last great age of the dinosaur. During that time, known as the Cretaceous period, the world was breaking from one huge continent into two. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptors, the most famous dinosaurs of that era, all come to mind. But those dinosaurs actually lived only in North America and Asia. So, scientists have recently turned to remote areas of Africa and South America to discover what other creatures shared that time on Earth. Paul Sereno is a paleontologist who's been digging and making new discoveries in some hard-to-reach spots during the past decade. Right now he's on a four-month expedition in Niger's Tenere Desert, 100 miles from the nearest oasis. We have reached him on his satellite phone. Hello, Dr. Sereno.

SERENO: Hi, how are you doing?

CURWOOD: What have you discovered so far this trip?

SERENO: Well, physically, we've actually excavated 15 tons of dinosaur bone. The bone is wrapped in plaster jackets, and inside those plaster jackets are new species that have never seen the light of day. There is, among other things, the first dog-sized dinosaur. We often think of dinosaurs as huge or only huge, but in fact small dinosaurs are some of the hardest to preserve. And we know of the raptors from North America. Well, we've never found anything from Africa of small size until now, so that's going to be a real exciting skeleton to clean off. We've got new predators of the larger variety. We've got long-necked dinosaurs that need to be named. And we have the world's largest crocodile.

CURWOOD: The world's largest crocodile. How big is big?

SERENO: The animal reached 40 feet or more. Jaws essentially as long as my body. This is a big crocodile, maybe twice the weight of the largest living crocodile today.

CURWOOD: Oh my. (Sereno laughs) Why is it that this particular part of the Sahara has so many dinosaur and crocodilian bones in it?

SERENO: You need two things to preserve fossil bone. I mean, the first is you need the right conditions at the time of death of the animal itself. So this was an area, literally, that was accumulating rock at a fast rate. So that when dinosaurs died and were swept by rivers, their skeletons were ultimately encased in rock, and this was then buried by subsequent rock. The second factor you need is really desertified, desert-like condition, so that there are no trees or grass or soil covering up that rock that preserves the bone.

CURWOOD: There have been several ages of dinosaurs, and the Cretaceous was the last great age of dinosaurs. And there's this big difference between the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere, you're finding. What are some of the important differences that you've noted, and why is it helpful to science?

SERENO: Well, we're really talking about the largest scale interaction of the Earth and its inhabitants. How did the break-apart of a continent, a super-continent, affect dinosaurs? We now understand that dinosaurs really started out, they looked much more similar worldwide in the beginning of the dinosaur era, in the Triassic Period. In the Cretaceous Period, we're learning from the finds we've made on this expedition and the ones previous, there really were a different set of dinosaurs here. Something took the place of Tyrannosaurs in North America. There were no Tyrannosaurs here, but there is another predator, called Carcardentosaurus, that reached the same enormous size but comes from a very different line of predators than Tyrannosaurus. And the plant-eaters were very different. If you came back and transported yourself back to the Cretaceous Period in Africa, you'd know the difference. You'd see Spinosaurss, fish-eating Tyrannosaur-sized animals that are very common in the beds that we are sitting in right now. There's nothing like that in North America at any time that we know of.

CURWOOD: You set up a Web site where students around the world or anybody can follow the expedition as you guys keep on working. What prompted you to do this?

SERENO: Well, my wife, an educator, Gabrielle Lyon and I began Project Exploration. It's an outreach, a science outreach group in Chicago. And we found that really the outdoor experience, a thought of the past, dinosaurs, all this can really engage kids and adults in thinking in a way that few other subjects can. And so, we've wrapped up these expeditions in Project Exploration in a Web site that I think is going to break some new ground for these kinds of things. You can go and find updates. You can find the background. You can find the interviews. You can find the special moments. It's really a great way to really set a huge audience on edge to see what we bring back and reconstruct.

CURWOOD: What will happen to these bones after you do all the necessary research back in Chicago? Will they go back to Niger?

SERENO: Well, these bones are going to go back to Niger. We may have some special relationship in the future, but we're concentrating now on preserving and building a real basis in Niger, not only for the population and the preservation of the bones, the population of the country here to realize the gems of their patrimony, but also for future visitors to the country.

CURWOOD: I'm thinking that many scientists would have a career before they discovered a new species or maybe two or three. Sounds like you're discovering them by the tens.

SERENO: We are making discoveries at a pace that would astound most who would look at paleontological exploration and understand that it is a very difficult thing. Part of the reason is that nobody has done it before, nobody's been here before in this kind of capacity. And you have to be passionate to do this. Daily temperatures, 125 degrees. We loaded fifteen tons of bone on a cool day, 115 degrees. We had to dig those fifteen tons of dinosaur bone out of solid rock in the desert with the sun and sand, and we don't even have personal tents. We sleep outside. These are the kinds of things that people will go and actually not only want to do but come back with the experience of a lifetime as part of an adventure. But it takes a special crew. It hasn't been done, and that's why we can make so many discoveries. Because they're out here to be made.

CURWOOD: Paul Sereno is a professor of paleontology at the University of Chicago. We reached him by satellite phone in the Tenere desert in Niger. To follow his latest African adventures and discoveries, go to www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. Thank you, Professor Sereno.

SERENO: You're welcome.

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Smoky Bay

TOOMEY: Commentator Geo Beach used to fight fires in Alaska. When he smells smoke, it provokes a lot of memories. But they're not always recollections of destruction.

BEACH: The other day I woke up and dreamed I walked outside into an Autumn morning in New England. The air was full with the smell of burning leaves, and the sun cut down through blue air and underlined the edge of the atmosphere. That air carried maple leaves red as Canada and stone walls and the wake-me-up bite of Maine apple cider. And brown and orange leaves drifting on the side of the road and burning in piles in the back yard.

But after all, it wasn't New England. Just a few miles from my Alaska house, an old campfire had caught hold of the black spruce along the shore of Tustemena Lake and erupted into a forest of flame beneath the cool face of the glacier. And the smoke poured down onto Kachemak Bay like soup in a bowl. Kachemak Bay: the name means "smoky bay" or "smoking bay." It's an Aleut derivation describing coal seams that used to smolder in the bluffs that front the north shore. Right before my very nose Kachemak Bay was being reborn in smoke. And in an alchemy of imagination I was transforming a hidden wealth of memories -- old autumns along the North Atlantic, with leaves like gold tossed to children.

The day before I had flown back to Alaska from Los Angeles, from urban smog to this wild land's fire. I had gone down to cheer the marriage of an old friend, but first I needed to find a gift. And before I went to the wedding I remembered a poem by Tom Sexton. It tells a friend's story of how one spring, when he lived at the head of this bay, lightning struck a seam of coal that baked the clay around it red all summer. After winter storms washed it from its cliff, he would find shards scattered on the beach.

Before I packed my bag for California I bought a pottery bowl that captured a circuit of salmon swimming around the brim, and brought that as my gift. When I returned home from the wedding and woke up in that smoky dawn, I thought again about this Alaskan shore, where a slow fire transforms the earth. It's the gift of gods to see in mud a usefulness. And that smell of smoke rekindled some near-forgotten days from my childhood. That's another smokey Kachemak magic: to make out of the past a vivid present.

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TOOMEY: Poet and former firefighter Geo Beach lives in Diamond Cape, Alaska, overlooking Smoky Bay.

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CURWOOD: When you think of public art, statues and sculptures and murals come to mind. But there's a new movement in the art world to see the landscape as the artist's canvas. Dmae Roberts talked with a dancer in Portland, Oregon, about how she's choreographing a patch of earth into a new work of art.

JOHNSON: Pick up the shoulder girdle and gauge the scapulae. A brush and a brush, feel your standing legs straight. And a duck...

ROBERTS: At the Oregon Ballet Theater, Linda Kate Johnson is teaching her Wednesday morning class.

JOHNSON: Good. And come forward and through to your first position, and lengthen the legs...

ROBERTS: A dancer for most of her life, Linda spent the last nine years creating outdoor dance and performance pieces. But since last April, she's taken a sharp turn from the dance studio to a triangle of forgotten land surrounded by three major freeways in downtown Portland.

(Sirens and traffic)

JOHNSON: I grew up here on the other side of this hill, and as a child I drove by this at least five or six times a week. And it's been empty for 75 years, since 1930. There's never been anything on it except for weeds, and it's really considered a derelict space.

ROBERTS: This derelict space is known to the city as tax lot 1S1E4 Odd. Since last spring, Linda has been transforming this tax lot into a work of art.

JOHNSON: First thing I did was build a fence, which to me is like the frame of a picture. Because it's such a traffic island, there are over 50 signs within eyesight that tell you how to conduct yourself in an urban environment. So I wanted to use a twist on that, because I think gardens ask us to participate in another way. So I took old street signs and repainted them, and tried to direct the audience that came here in another way. So they say, "Breathe," "See," "Smell," "Touch," "Taste," "Be."

ROBERTS: Along with the signs and the pathways, Linda and her volunteers built a casita or gazebo. The garden beds are lined with about 250 straw bales, two scarecrows: one a windmill with rubber glove hands that turn in the breeze, and the sculpture of a woman named Boo adorned in a blue chiffon dress. Everything in the tax lot garden is made from recycled materials. Linda says she trucked in about 2,000 to 3,000 wheelbarrows full of organic soil. But none of this would have been possible without a $7,500 grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. The tax lot project is one of three temporary projects that were funded, and is part of a growing movement to make public art more interactive and part of what is naturally happening in the environment. Linda says she set off to not only change the urban landscape but the way people think about art. For her, every day in the garden is an improvisation.

JOHNSON: Well, for me this is a conceptual performance piece, because it's time-based. It has a beginning, middle, and end. The gardener and the plant materials and the volunteers are the performers, and the 5,000 or 6,000 automobiles and pedestrians and office people are the audience.

ROBERTS: One of the audience members who passed by the tax lot project is Peter Mason, who works downtown at the Department of Transportation. He happened upon the tax lot project during a lunch break, and then decided to become a volunteer. He says this plot of earth has added a special meaning to his life, so much so that he's contributed more than just his time to the project.

MASON: It's this little apple tree here. It's covered up a little bit by squash, which I think it probably likes. It keeps the roots nice and cool. And this is about a seven-year-old tree that's been grown in a pot.


MASON: These are shells from Coos Bay, and some fossil shells from the bottom of Coos Bay. I used to live down on the coast, and that's where this tree was originally potted. So I brought it some little friends from its original setting.

ROBERTS: So, you've really personalized it.

MASON: Oh, yeah. I think that's part of the magic of it, is that the people who get in here really do personalize it, and feel that we are expressing ourselves through this garden.

ROBERTS: The garden also helped Peter to express himself in another way when he brought coworker Holla Wenzel to the tax lot project.

WENZEL: I had a lunch date with Peter, and have enjoyed several dates in here since then. (Roberts laughs) We've had lunches in the gazebo and we've had dinner in the Adirondack chairs and talked and enjoyed the garden. And it's been real nice.

MASON: As a date spot it doesn't really compare to the 24-hour Home Depot. (Laughter)

ROBERTS: Linda says around 60 volunteers worked on the project. She estimates there was around $25,000 in donations of plants and materials. Several dancers, including Dawn Hoya Jackson, spent the summer working in the tax lot garden. Dawn says she felt like she was performing before pedestrians and cars.

JACKSON: It's very physical, and whenever we were filling all of the beds, tons and tons and tons of dirt, you definitely have to get a rhythm and a swing about it or you would end up injured and not be able to work any more. And I know that we were really conscious of it. I remember talking to Linda about that, really getting your whole body into it. And creating it, seeing it grow, is very similar to a dance piece.

ROBERTS: As well as resuscitating the urban triangle, Linda also set off to create a garden that would feed people. She says she's donated 700 pounds of organic produce to the local soup kitchens and nonprofit cafes that hire homeless workers. Linda says the tax lot garden has had a more direct impact on homeless people, who have taken to protecting the garden at night. The most satisfying part of this conceptual art piece has been the way it brought different peoples together, including her own mother.

JOHNSON: I grew up here, so one day the women who were, you know, my mother's age -- I think of them as a cluck -- brought lunch down to me here. There were, you know, four women that were 75, and were loving the garden and oohing and aahing over how beautiful it was. And then one of my homeless friends came and just served himself a bowl. He just sat down and started talking about golf, and southern Oregon. And clearly he'd been someone who'd been around the world and was very educated and very smart. And I think it was a whole re-education for them.

ROBERTS: The tax lot garden will continue until next April, when Linda says she and her volunteers will strike a set. To her, removing everything in the garden will be a final statement of her art project.

JOHNSON: So these people will go home at five o'clock, seeing the same thing they've seen for a year, very used to it. And then we will move in, and it will disappear, so the next day when they go by it will just be tilled earth. Everything will be gone. I think a lot of times we don't appreciate things until we realize they're out of our environment. It's a real demonstration. Something was here and now it's gone.

ROBERTS: Linda says luckily, the community garden program is interested in taking over the plot of land and putting in a regular garden. For now, the people passing by, like these little critics, will enjoy Linda Kay Johnson's tax lot 1S1E4 Odd in their own way.

CHILD 1: It looks like pumpkins. Pumpkin patch.

CHILD 2: Very, looks, very look it's nice. Flowers are beautiful.

ROBERTS: I couldn't have put it better myself. For Living on Earth, I'm Dmae Roberts in Portland, Oregon.


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TOOMEY: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Next week, 10,000 people a year risk their lives like this:

MAN: Getting beat up, trashed, taken to school, getting taught a little lesson by the river. Every once in a while you start feeling too confident. The river will reach up and smack you and give you a little education. (Laughs)

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TOOMEY: Extreme kayaking in Hell's Canyon, Oregon, next time on Living on Earth.

CURWOOD: We're produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production staff includes Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Cynthia Graber, Stephanie Pindyck, Maggie Villiger, Nathan Johnson, Jennifer Chu, and James Curwood, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, and Carly Ferguson. This week we welcome Milisa Muniz to our staff.

TOOMEY: We had help from Jessica Camp and from Rob Perkins at Rex Recording in Portland, Oregon. Alison Dean composed our themes. Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Liz Lempert is our western editor. Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor. And Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And 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 for reporting on marine issues; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the James and Kathleen Stone Foundation; the Town Creek Foundation; and the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues.

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