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

August 30, 2002

Air Date: August 30, 2002


(stream/download) as an MP3 file


Thailand’s Tigers / Orlando de Guzman

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Tigers around the world are threatened with extinction. In Thailand, there’s a conservation effort to save the Indochinese tiger. Orlando de Guzman reports. (11:25)

Health Note/Alcohol & Dementia / Diane Toomey

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new finding that moderate drinking may ward off some forms of dementia. (01:15)

Almanac/First Refrigerator

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This week, we have facts about refrigeration. In 1851, a doctor gave up his medical career and received a patent for a prototype of mechanical refrigeration. (01:30)

Bringing Back Buffalo

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The Great Plains used to be a land where buffalo were free to roam. Now, there are only scattered bands across that landscape. Host Steve Curwood talks with Dan O’Brien, author of the book "Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch", about the wild animals that restored his ranch, and his life. (08:25)

Wide-Open Night / Verlyn Klinkenborg

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Commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg travels west and reflects on how great wide open spaces can make even the hardiest traveler seek shelter. (03:35)

Noise Map

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British noise specialists will be taking sound checks of the United Kingdom in a two-year effort to map noise levels throughout the country. Host Steve Curwood talks with John Hinton, a noise specialist who put together the first ever noise map of an entire city. (03:00)

Animal Note/Caterpillar Repellant / Maggie Villiger

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Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on a novel survival technique for a caterpillar -- producing its own insecticide. (01:20)

Web Promo

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Author Sy Montgomery reads an excerpt from her book, "Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest." The book is being featured on our website, Living on Earth Today. (02:00)

The Ethics of Nature Photography / Guy Hand

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Producer and photographer Guy Hand reports on how some photographers ignore, manipulate, even destroy pristine landscape to shoot that one stunning, singular magazine cover. (13:30)


Elephants slumber on the grassland of Kenya in the middle of the night. ()

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Show Credits and Funders

This Week's Music

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodREPORTERS: Orlando de Guzman, Guy HandGUESTS: Dan O’Brien, John HintonCOMMENTATORS: Verlyn KlinkenborgUPDATES: Diane Toomey, Maggie Villiger

CURWOOD: From NPR news, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. This week, the truth behind some of those pretty pictures that grace nature magazines: sometimes they’re about as natural as a pinup model.

JOSE KNIGHTON: I started looking at landscape photography in the way you would look at foldouts from Playboy; the very selective precision with which somebody’s, you know, posed the landscape. The phrase that came up in my article was "beefing up the bosom of the Grand Tetons."

CURWOOD: As we’ll learn in just a moment, some photographers go beyond artful touchups and even ruin the very landscape they’re out to capture on film.

HUCKO: And I view his act as though he had taken a razor blade to the face of the person he was photographing. I mean, it’s worse than vandalism.

CURWOOD: Behind the scenes of nature photography this week on Living on Earth. Coming up, right after this.


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Thailand’s Tigers

CURWOOD: Welcome to an encore edition of Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. It is illegal to hunt or sell tigers anywhere in the world, and yet three tiger species are already extinct. And in most places the majestic animal’s future is threatened. But Thailand provides a bright spot. There, a movement is under way that is raising hopes for survival of the nation’s remaining wild tigers. Orlando de Guzman reports.
DE GUZMAN: One of the least explored rain forests in Southeast Asia can be found here, at Kaeng Krachan National Park. This is Thailand’s largest preserve, and it straddles the Tenasserim mountain range that divides Thailand and Burma.
LYNAM: We’ve going to raft on the river about 30 kilometers and we’re going to stop off at a number of different places along the way where we see sandy banks, and there are a couple of salt licks along the way too, and we’re going to check out the signs of large mammals that are in the area.
DE GUZMAN: Dr. Tony Lynam is a tiger biologist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. He’s been conducting the first surveys of Indo-Chinese tigers in Kaeng Krachan in ten years.
LYNAM: Kaeng Krachan is one of the most remote wilderness areas in the whole of Southeast Asia. It’s like no other place. When you come in here, you sense a feeling of awe, because there are no people here. And we’re just starting to scratch the surface of looking at the wild life.
DE GUZMAN: Kaeng Krachan is home to several species of carnivores including leopards, civets, wild dogs and two species of bear. The park also supports several herds of elephant, wild cattle and hundreds of bird species. For the most part this 1,800 square mile park is untouched by poachers and hunters because it’s so remote. Great sections of Kaeng Krachan are only accessible during the dry season, from December to April, when the risk of acquiring a deadly strain of malaria is low and when the park’s rivers are tame enough to explore by raft.
DE GUZMAN: We’re off, down the Petchburi River, which tumbles and meanders through dense rain forest.
DE GUZMAN: Two hours down the rapids, we stop to rest next to a boulder tossed against a sandbank. Immediately, Dr. Lynam spots the unmistakable tracks of a tiger, large paw impressions about five inches across.

A camera trap photo of an Indo-Chinese tiger. (Photo: A.J. Lynam/Wildlife Conservation Society)

LYNAM: Look at this. This animal has come up here and it’s walked back the same way. See that? It’s walked up here, it’s walked back, walked up here, walking back. The tigers are probably moving from that side of the river, swimming across this deep channel, coming up here along the bank and walking along, maybe going all around this bend, here and way down the stream. So they do swim, and they’re probably swimming across the river and just crossing the channel.
DE GUZMAN: During the dry season, the Petchburi River becomes the main highway and feeding ground for tigers in this park. Many of the higher mountain streams have dried up. Tigers and their prey come down here to drink. In January, Dr. Lynam set up 41 camera traps around the 21-mile stretch of the Petchburi River and captured photos of four tigers. That’s the most he’s ever photographed in one survey. Dr. Lynam believes Kaeng Krachan could be supporting as many as 50 tigers, potentially one of the largest tiger populations in Southeast Asia.
LYNAM: If we have the opportunity to extend our surveys to other parts of the park, I think we’re going to find more tigers. We’re going to find that this area supports a thriving population of tigers. That’s what all the evidence suggests so far.
DE GUZMAN: This is encouraging news. The Indo-Chinese tiger, the subspecies that’s found here, is facing extinction throughout Burma, Laos and Vietnam, despite international conventions that outlaw the sale and trade of tigers.
DE GUZMAN: A forest temple in Kanchanaburi province, about 100 miles west from the capital city of Bangkok. According to Buddhist tradition, temple grounds are sacred and it’s a sin to harm animals living around monasteries. For this reason this temple has become a refuge for tiger cubs rescued from poachers working along the Thai-Burmese border.
DE GUZMAN: This two-year-old male tiger, Pai Yo, was rescued by Thai border police a year and a half ago. Pai Yo lives with seven other tigers at this temple.
DE GUZMAN: They’re kept in cages no larger than a one-car garage. All the tigers here have become domesticated, relying on the monks for food and daily walks around the temple. Luang Ta Jan, the abbot of this temple, says it’s becoming difficult to take care of the cubs especially now that they’re getting bigger.
VOICEOVER: Some of the villagers around here are poachers, and sometimes they will bring the tiger cubs to us after they have shot and killed its parents. The poachers believe that by giving us the cubs to take care of they will be forgiven of their sins. These tigers won’t be the last to come here. As long as the poaching continues, we will have more and more tiger cubs ending up at our temple.
DE GUZMAN: In the illegal wildlife market, just about every part of the tiger has some value. Tiger bones are much sought after in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is ground up and made into treatments for rheumatism. There’s no scientific proof that this remedy is effective, nor is there any evidence that eating other tiger parts, such as the penis, scalp or claws, can increase sexual virility in men. Steve Galster is the director of WildAid, a U.S. organization that monitors the trade in exotic animals.
GALSTER: If you look at how much money tiger bone is fetching on the black market, you then start to understand why people are going after it. You know, we’re talking $300 per kilogram in some cases, plus you’ve got the bones, the whiskers, the penis, the skin. After you shoot a tiger and kill it, market it, wholesale it, you might get ten to even 30 thousand dollars for the animal.
DE GUZMAN: The demand for tiger body parts and the high price they fetch in the black market have created highly organized criminal rings around Southeast Asia. Poachers often cross international boundaries. Tigers hunted in Laos may end up in Vietnam or China. Steve Galster says these poachers are one of the biggest threats to tigers in the region.

Steve Galster (left) of WildAid monitors the trade of wild animals in Thailand and all over the world. The above photo was taken in Russia. (Photo: Global Survival Network)

GALSTER: Definitely the trade in tigers is organized. I mean, this has been going on for a while. You take a look at Burma where there used to be a lot of tigers, you’re doing surveys now there through WCS, they’re finding there’s very few left. They’ve cleaned them out. And you’re talking about forests where they still have other animals. These are precision hunters. They went in, they cleaned out the tigers, because there was a trade.
DE GUZMAN: While the black market for tigers is a significant threat, biologist Tony Lynam of the Wildlife Conservation Society has been documenting another, possibly more damaging, threat to tigers in the wild. What’s going unnoticed and unchecked is that tigers are being starved out of the forest.
LYNAM: The threat that is really knocking out tiger populations all over the country – and this is not just isolated to Thailand, it’s also something that’s happening in neighboring countries – is the hunting of animals that tigers eat, the prey species, the sandbar, the wild boar, the gaor, other species of animals that make up the tigers’ prey. That’s happening at a very alarming pace and it’s not being controlled, for the most part, in most areas.

Dr. Tony Lynam of the Wildlife Conservation Society. (Photo: A.J. Lynam/Wildlife Conservation Society)

DE GUZMAN: At Thailand’s oldest and most famous national park, called Khao Yai, in central Thailand, a more aggressive anti-poaching program is under way. Here, a recent survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society has found that tigers are almost extinct in the park, and their prey species are being hunted by poachers.
A team of five rangers from the Thai Royal Forestry Department wade through chest high razor grass deep inside Khao Yai, in search of poachers. But these aren’t ordinary park rangers. They’re armed with high-powered assault rifles, global positioning systems and long-range radios. These rangers are being supported by WildAid and the Wildlife Conservation Society and trained by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Chonpon Sayadan, the leader of this patrol, says looking for poachers is a very dangerous job.
VOICEOVER: The reason why we have to carry guns is to protect ourselves, so that if we meet people who are going to use force against us, we can return fire. Two years ago, we ran into a group that was armed with automatic rifles, AK-47s, and they shot and killed one of our officers.
DE GUZMAN: Before the patrol started, officials estimated there were between 300 to 500 poachers in Khao Yai at any given time. Now poaching has been disrupted and poachers have retreated into the more remote areas of the park, beyond the reach of the rangers. Officials say it’s impossible to patrol the entire park, but say they’ve managed to reduce poaching significantly. But despite the program’s apparent success, there are fears that it may have come too late for Khao Yai’s tigers. For the past two years, Dr. Lynam of the Wildlife Conservation Society has been setting up camera traps and looking for tiger tracks inside Khao Yai. What he’s found is alarming: all evidence suggests there are fewer than 10 tigers left at Khao Yai.
LYNAM: So what it suggests to us is that tigers are really quite endangered here; tigers are on the verge of extinction in this park.
DE GUZMAN: Even if efforts to save these few remaining tigers prove to be too late, conservationists hope that by improving the way this park is managed, Khao Yai can serve as a model – and warning – for other parks in Asia trying to save their endangered tigers. For Living on Earth, this is Orlando De Guzman, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.

Related links:
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- WildAid

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Health Note/Alcohol & Dementia

CURWOOD: Just ahead Buffalo for the Broken Heart. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: It’s known that light to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. But vascular disease is also associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. So researchers in the Netherlands wanted to see if moderate drinking might also protect against these conditions. Over the course of six years, they followed 8,000 people aged 55 or older who showed no signs of dementia. Turns out, almost 200 of these people developed various forms of dementia, and the average alcohol consumption of this group was about one-third of one drink a day. Then researchers turned to the people who did not develop dementia. When they took into account age, smoking habits, weight and other factors, they found that light to moderate drinking – in this case, one to three drinks a day – reduced the risk of dementia by about 40 percent. What’s more, when researchers looked at the risk of developing vascular dementia – that is, dementia caused when areas of the brain are deprived of oxygen due to strokes – moderate alcohol consumption reduced that risk by a full 70 percent. But the researchers also note there was no protective effect against dementia in people who consumed more than three drinks a day. That’s this week’s Health Note, I’m Diane Toomey.

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


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Almanac/First Refrigerator

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: As the weather warms up, you can head to the fridge for a tall glass of iced tea or a frosty mug of lemonade, all thanks to what happened in a sick room in Florida 160 years ago. That’s when Dr. John Gorrie got the idea for what would become the precursor to the modern refrigerator. 1842 was an especially hot, humid summer in the Gulf port town of Apalachicola, Florida and yellow fever had broken out in the town. So Dr. Gorrie designed a mechanical ice-making machine to cool his patients down. He eventually got so caught up in the idea that he quit his medical practice, went to work in his lab and won the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in May 1851.

Before the refrigerator, people often used water, cool or frozen, to chill their food. The Greeks dug huge pits insulated with wood and straw and filled them with snow. Romans stored their food in clay pots, surrounded by water and fanned by slaves. And centuries ago, the English wrapped blocks of ice in flannel, packed them in salt, and buried them underground. But ordinary ice goes pretty fast in the middle of an August heatwave, so everyone who enjoys a quick and easy cold one during the hottest months might want to stop and lift a glass to Dr. John Gorrie. Hear, hear!


CURWOOD: And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.

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Bringing Back Buffalo

CURWOOD: Since the last days of the Wild West, the Great Plains have been known as cattle country. But long before ranchers put cows to pasture there, the plains ran wild with buffalo. During the late 1860s, 60 million buffalo were hunted and killed for their flesh and hides or simply for the thrill. By 1875, only scattered herds of the animals remained. Now about 75 ranchers throughout the northern Great Plains are trying to bring the buffalo back. Dan O’Brien is one of them. He raises buffalo in the Black Hills of South Dakota. And he’s author of the book "Buffalo For the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch." Dan, welcome to Living on Earth.

O’BRIEN: Thanks, Steve, it’s good to be here.

CURWOOD: First of all, what brought you to the Black Hills?

O’BRIEN: I came to the Black Hills probably 28 years ago, a kid out of graduate school, and I think what I needed at that time was to get away from all that crunch of industry. I was from the rust belt. It was within weeks of Kent State. I wanted to get away from all of that turmoil. And I came out here and when I hit the Great Plains and was able to look around and could see the possibility for solitude and to build a life, an honorable life, it took. And I’ve been here ever since.

CURWOOD: You have to explain to us what the title of your book means. I mean, what do you mean, buffalo for the broken heart?

O’BRIEN: I went through a rough period in my life, as I think we all do from time to time, and it coincided with a rough economic period in Great Plains agriculture. And the whole book is a two-year memoir, really, of my efforts to regain health for myself and to regain health for my land via the conduit of buffalo.

CURWOOD: Dan O’Brien, there’s a passage in your book where you describe one of your first encounters with the buffalo of the Black Hills. Could you read a little from this, please?

O’BRIEN: Sure, I’d be glad to: "Trying to make a life as a cattle rancher in the economy of the Great Plains makes for a lot of driving, and one afternoon a dozen Septembers ago it led me to a remote dirt road along the southern boundary of Badlands National Monument. I was thinking about the mortgage payment that would come due in October and the recent, inexplicable dip in cattle prices that would cut my income in half. I drove too fast and when I came over a dusty rise, I nearly ran into an enormous bull buffalo. He reclined luxuriously in the center of the dirt road, stretched out in the sun like a 2,000-pound tomcat. By the time I’d braked, I’d gotten way too close and was struggling to get the gear shift into reverse, when he raised his head and looked straight into my eyes. We stared at each other for perhaps a minute, and for that minute all my business worries were dwarfed by this dose of reality lying in the road ahead. Leisurely, the head dipped and the legs pulled under the great beast. The short, paintbrush tail whipped in the dust and the bull rocked once, twice, and up onto his feet. He shook like a dog, creating a cloud of dry South Dakota soil that drifted away in the cooling evening breeze. He took one last look at me before he moved off the road, into a nearby draw, and out of sight."

CURWOOD: And somewhere between that first encounter and now, you changed hats, from being a cattle rancher to a buffalo rancher, farmer, herder? What changed your course and why buffalo?

O’BRIEN: I’ve always been a fella that likes the wild and there was something about cattle that always made me a little bit uneasy, because they are so tame. There’s a myth about cattle. That myth is that it’s a tradition that reaches back almost to the beginning of time in some people’s mind. In fact, the tradition of cattle is only probably 80 years old. Cattle grazing is an experiment that has not panned out very well on the Great Plains. And as a result, our communities have been dying ever since that great experiment started, 80 years ago. And when I finally put together the economics for using my grazing land to raise buffalo, and how to do it in a wild way, there was no stopping me. I was not satisfied with tame, old Hereford cows anymore.

CURWOOD: If I were to come out the front door of your house, what would I see? And how big is your place?

O’BRIEN: Well, my place is 1,700 acres and when you step out the front door of my house you see Bear Butte, off to the southeast about six miles, it’s a sacred site for the Sioux, and you see the Black Hills, another three or four miles straight south.

CURWOOD: You have 1,700 acres but, how does the song go, buffalo like to roam? How do you fence those guys in?

O’BRIEN: It turns out that buffalo are not some crazy animal that crashes around into things, but I didn’t know that at the time. I built five wire fences and built about eight miles of that around my place. And I have found that they actually do not test the fence. If they have enough grass where they are, if they have enough pasture where they are, they don’t want to roam. They only roam when they need to, but when they need to, they do go.

(Photo: Wild Idea Buffalo Meat)

CURWOOD: If you take the ecological lens to look at cattle as livestock or buffalo as livestock there in the northern Great Plains, what do you come up with?

O’BRIEN: Just because cattle and buffalo look a lot alike, doesn’t mean that they’re treating the land the same way. Now, on my place, for instance, 50 years of cattle or thereabouts has really stressed native plants and by putting buffalo back on the plains, some of those native plants are definitely starting to come back.

CURWOOD: How do you prepare these buffalo for market? I mean, to cut to the chase, how do you slaughter them?

O’BRIEN: We have gone to great lengths to get inspection of our meat where we can kill the buffalo in the field. What we do is let the animals grow to two years old and then we go out and try to randomly select our group for slaughter and we shoot them right there, right out of the herd, the same herd they’ve been with their whole life. There’s no ramming them into trucks and trailers and hauling them off to a slaughter plant where they’re killed full of adrenaline and fear. They just lay down and go back to the ground that they’ve lived on their whole lives. And it’s a distasteful part of the job, but it is a part of the job and I like to believe, the same way that my Lakota friends believe, that if you do these sorts of things with honor, that the buffalo does not take offense.

CURWOOD: In one part of your book you quote some lyrics from a Jerry Jeff Walker tune called "Night Rider’s Lament." Perhaps you could quote from that, or at least a piece of it, right now.

O’BRIEN: Well, I think I can remember: "They asked me why do I ride for my money, why do I rope for short pay? I ain’t getting nowhere and I’m losing my share. They say I must have gone crazy out there."

CURWOOD: So what strikes you about those words?

O’BRIEN: I have friends, of course, all over the country and they really do wonder what I’m doing out here without a television and without any movie theatre to go to, or symphony or any of that sort of thing. And it strikes me that there is something intrinsic in us all, certainly in the Jerry Jeff Walker song, that leads me to believe that everybody needs a little bit of that open space and everybody needs a little bit of what I’ve got. And that, finally, in the balance, I’m not deprived at all. Perhaps I might even be the lucky one.

CURWOOD: Dan O’Brien is author of the book "Buffalo For the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch." Dan, thanks so much for taking this time to talk with me.

O’BRIEN: You bet. Thank you, Steve.

[Jerry Jeff Walker, "Night Rider’s Lament"]

Related links:
- Buy Buffalo for the Broken Heart
- Wild Idea Buffalo Meat Company

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Wide-Open Night

CURWOOD: Sometimes people travel to get away from the rush, and noise and smell of the crowded city. That was one thought on Verlyn Klinkenborg’s mind as he flew out West recently to visit a brother in Wyoming. And there, in the midst of the wide-open space, he found a reminder about why we seek contact with each other in the first place.

KLINKENBORG: My flight into Casper, Wyoming at sunset restored everything to scale; a slow turbo prop plane, more than half empty, the Casper Airport, nearly deserted, except for a man and woman in National Guard uniforms with black rifles, slung barrel-down across their backs.

I sat behind the wing, looking out at the rivets on the trailing edge. The snow-matted thatch of Colorado hovered below, tilled ground, running north from Denver to Fort Collins, and breaking suddenly near the Wyoming line, where an ocean of short grass spread without interruption to the dark eastern horizon.

I’d spend all day in crowds, at check-in counters, in security lines, in the thigh and elbow crush of the viewless airliners. And now, here at last, was the pure impassioned abstraction of flying once again. The ground subsiding at takeoff. The occasional sideways skid of the plane on the currents of air. The shuttering and ticking as crosswinds caught us on the final approach. It felt like a rite recovered at last, a perspective too vital to be curtailed.

Long wind shadows cast by haystacks and windbreaks stretched eastward across the snowy plains. The ranch buildings below had herded together out of the cold wind into the pale reach of a yard light. On the ground, I drove westward, out the hundred-mile stretch of blacktop that passes through Powder River, Moneta, Shoshoni, Riverton. The snow shone like a version of the moon’s thin light. A coyote stood beside the highway, his coat brushed thick, looking like a crossing guard with miles and miles of crossings to watch over. The Powder River sign, population 50, seemed to be exaggerating.

A winter night can seem almost infinite here under the smooth, cold sky. Even the smallest undulations in the open ground, the tightest switches of grass, look like welcome cover from a wind that’s always blowing. Sooner or later, all that open makes you want to find someplace where the rooflines limit the winter sky just a little.

When I finally pulled in to the small town of Lander, 20 minutes beyond Riverton, the sense of relief came not so much from the street lights, which are hidden until the very last, but from the depth of the hills; from the willows on the rivers and creeks. The cottonwoods in town have that look, too; a witch’s head of bare, tangled branches against the night.

The streets lie still and broad. The houses lit within themselves, the darkness deep and even. I had traveled all day with my back to the East, to the huddling crowds of New York City. I thought that I’d come West again, looking for endlessness, which is easy to find in central Wyoming. But what I really found, once again, was a place where you can still feel the power of settlement and urged to band together in the night.

CURWOOD: Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about the rural life for The New York Times. You can hear our program any time on our website. 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 again, 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. You’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth.

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Noise Map

CURWOOD: Over the next two years, scientists in the United Kingdom will be roaming the country listening for noise. As part of a European Union directive, they will map noise levels from the Cliffs of Dover to the Shetland Islands and everything in between. It’s all part of an effort to reduce noise pollution. John Hinton is one of the hundreds of noise specialists who will be gathering this data. He also led a project to create the first noise map of an entire city, his hometown of Birmingham, England. Mr. Hinton, welcome to Living on Earth.

HINTON: Hello, Steve.

CURWOOD: Tell me, how do you go about mapping noise? Are there people going to be out there with meters taking readings? How do you do it?

HINTON: It’s not so much that people are actually going out there and measuring the noise. It’s getting together all of the data on traffic flows, traffic speeds, train movements, aircraft movements, perhaps some noise measurements around industrial sites. And then the software is used to calculate how that noise from the sources propagates throughout the city. Tells you how bad the problems are in cities like Birmingham and across the whole of the UK during this two-year project.

CURWOOD: Well how bad is the noise problem?

HINTON: Well, the European Commission have estimated that around 20 percent of the population of Europe are exposed to noise levels which are, they think, unacceptable – that’s noise that was above 65 decibels. And that equates to about eighty million people across Europe, which is a significant number of the population.

CURWOOD: If there had been a noise map made of the UK forty years ago, how would it compare to today’s map?

HINTON: I think it’d show that the noise levels from transportation sources were much less, even along the major roads that existed in those days. And there is a lot of concern that areas, so called quiet areas of tranquility, away from major cities are now being reduced because of this spread of transportation noise.

CURWOOD: I’m wondering what there is in the way of emerging technologies to deal with the problem of noise.

HINTON: Well, emerging technologies: there are things like low-noise road surface. The UK government has an action plan to replace all the surfaces on trunk roads – that’s the major roads across the UK – with low-noise road surface, where that’s appropriate. There is developing technology to produce low-noise tires, as well. And pedestrianization of major cities is a good way of reducing traffic noise, providing you replace the private car with proper public transport.

CURWOOD: John Hinton is chair of the European Union’s working group on the assessment of the exposure to noise and a noise specialist in Birmingham, England. Thanks for taking this time with me today.

HINTON: And thanks very much for interviewing me, Steve. I’ve enjoyed it.


Related link:
The European Commission’s Noise Policy page

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Animal Note/Caterpillar Repellant

CURWOOD: Coming up, the journey of the pink dolphins comes to our website. First, this page from the animal notebook with Maggie Villiger.


VILLIGER: The European cabbage butterfly is considered a pest here in North America where it likes to feast on vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and of course, cabbage. Scientists wondered what allows this species to gain such a strong foothold wherever it goes. The bug’s secret turns out to be a chemical defense system it produces in its larval stage. Rows of hairs run along the length of these caterpillars’ bodies. The tips of these hairs secrete a clear, oily fluid that collects in drops. In laboratory experiments, researchers watched as ants interacted with the cabbage butterfly caterpillars. As soon as an ant touched the caterpillar’s glistening hairs, it would back off and start frantically cleaning whichever body part had even brushed against the larva.

For good measure, the ant would also clean the body part it had used to clean the initial point of contact. When the scientists isolated the irritating secretion they found a new group of chemicals they named mayolenes. These chemicals derive from a family of compounds that plants use to repel insect attacks. It looks like the European cabbage butterfly is such a successful invader thanks to its own shield of insect repellant. That’s this week’s Animal Note. I’m Maggie Villiger.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth


Related link:
Abstract of the article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science

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Web Promo

`CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. Coming up, the naked truth about nature photography. But first, Living on Earth commentator Sy Montgomery is also a book author and adventurer. Her latest book "Search for the Golden Moon Bear" will be on shelves in October. Meanwhile, listeners can go to our website at www.loe.org and hear Sy read from her previous work "Journey of the Pink Dolphins." The New York Times calls the book a captivating account of the pink dolphins – or botos – of the Amazon. Hear Sy recounting just one story that the native people told her about their elusive dolphins.


MONTGOMERY: In the floating house at Marchantaria, lived a man whose teenage daughter was beset by the attentions of an amorous boto. The dolphin had a distinctive white spot on the tail, and he was always near the house. At night he would come out of the water to visit her room and enter her dreams. He appeared in the form of a man wearing white shorts – with a spot on his leg. The boto never touched her, but she was very afraid. She felt his presence, his longing for her. Day by day, she appeared more pale and anemic. One night, the boto appeared to her mother in a dream, and asked her to give the girl to him. She refused. But the boto kept coming back, night after night. Finally, the family had to move from that place. Now the girl is twenty-five. She isn’t bothered by the boto anymore, she told us. But to this day, whenever she visits the river, botos come near the shore, desiring her still.

CURWOOD: To hear Sy Montgomery read from her book, Journey of the Pink Dolphins, go to our website www.loe.org and click on the book reading link. There you’ll be able to play her readings for immediate listening or download them to listen at your convenience. That’s www.loe.org.

Related link:
Buy Journey of the Pink Dolphins

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The Ethics of Nature Photography

CURWOOD: Ansel Adams, America’s most famous nature photographer, was born 100 years ago. Through exquisite black and white prints, Adams opened our eyes to the beauty of the American West and he worked to preserve its vast spaces. He believed that art and environmental activism should intertwine, that landscape photography should flow from a deep empathy for the land itself. Legions of photographers have since followed Adams’ path through the West’s grand photographic terrain. But photographer and radio producer Guy Hand explains some of them have forgotten what was most important to Adams – empathy for nature.


HAND: In photography school, instructors taught us all about light and composition but very little about relationships. After graduation, as a photographic assistant in New York, I had the good fortune to follow some of my favorite photographers around the world.

MAN: So we’d like to do here two shots.

HAND: We shot in the jungles of Borneo and the beaches of Bora Bora. We snapped our way through the Philippines, the Swiss Alps and Death Valley. But we seldom developed relationships with the places we photographed.

MAN: The most difficult thing for me is the light.

HAND: Time was tight, deadlines non-negotiable, and the imperative to bring back stunning, singular images often eclipsed everything else. We were, in a sense, blinded by our own visual ambitions. So when I heard that a photographer had damaged delicate art, possibly the most frequently photographed icon of the desert southwest, I was saddened but not surprised.


HAVEY: From KUER News in Salt Lake City, I’m Michael Havey. A photographer who lit fires under Delicate Arch during a workshop has changed his plea to "guilty" on seven federal misdemeanors. Each charge against Michael Fatali of Springdale carries a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in prison. Fatali originally pled innocent after setting a series of fires to demonstrate a nighttime lighting technique to amateur photographers. The fires have discolored the red sandstone around the arch and may prove impossible to remove.

MCKINLAY-JONES: This stuff right here, that’s rabbit brush. And this is four-wing salt bush.

HAVEY: Ranger Karen McKinlay-Jones of Arches National Park is pointing out the plants we’re passing along the trail to Delicate Arch. She investigated the Fatali case and has agreed to show me the damage done by the photographer’s fires. As we climb uphill through spectacular red rock sandstone, Karen reminds me of the good things art and photography have done for the national parks.

Arches National Park Ranger Karen McKinlay-Jones points to discolored sandstone at the base of Delicate Arch burnt by a photographer's illegal fires. (Photo: Guy Hand)


MCKINLAY-JONES: My first views of Yellowstone were Thomas Moran – his paintings. And so beginning with those early portrait artists and then people like Ansel Adams, all these people have encouraged people to come to parks. And sometimes if I sound harsh about commercial filming or whatever, I always have to go back to the idea that it was through art – be it painting or sketches or photography – that the national parks have really become even more popular and accessible to the public.

HAND: After a good 45 minutes, the trail narrows to an icy ledge of sandstone. Karen carefully steps to its far end and stops and turns toward me. She wants to catch my expression as I round the final corner and suddenly see Delicate Arch for the first time.
(Laughs.) Geez. Amazing. No matter how many pictures of the place you see, it never prepares you for the real thing.


HAND: It’s unbelievable.

JONES: Like I said, you know, I’ve been up here probably over 1,000 times. I still get goosebumps. I still love watching people as they come around the corner and they see it, and they are just blown away.

HAND: It’s an elegantly surreal site. This perfect arch perched on the edge of a sheer cliff. Edward Abbey said that if Delicate Arch has any significance, it lies in its power to reawaken our awareness of the wonderful.

JONES: Let’s go over and take a look.

HAND: The Park Service has spent many thousands of dollars restoring the Arch and from a distance you wouldn’t notice anything was wrong. But close up you can see the work hasn’t erased all the evidence of the fires that were set here, even though they were lit over a year ago.

MCKINLAY-JONES: It spread from where I’m standing here in front of me and all the way up to where you can see that dark spot on the rock.

HAND: Wow. Much bigger than I had thought.

MCKINLAY-JONES: You know, we averaged it at about two to three feet wide.

HAND: Karen assures me that the fires were an aberration. In the 18 years she’s worked here she’s never seen anything else like it.


HAND: Not far from Delicate Arch, landscape photographer Steve Mulligan is counting off a long exposure he’s making in Canyonlands National Park. He shakes his head at the thought of damaging the landscape just to get a picture of it, but he knows it’s happened before in the town where he once lived.

MULLIGAN: In a small city park in Colorado Springs, there are a couple hundred of these one seed junipers, which are old – they’re a couple thousand, I think. Oh, that’s bright...they are some of my favorite trees in the world.

HAND: Several years ago a photographer used those trees as his subject. Along with a camera, he carried another piece of equipment: a saw.

MULLIGAN: He was cutting off big branches so no one else could recreate his photo, as though all these trees hadn’t already been photographed thousands of times.

HAND: Steve lives in nearby Moab, Utah, a town flanked, not only by arches and canyonlands, but by chunks of beautiful country overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Countless movies, commercials, music videos and magazine ads have been shot here. Crews helicoptered SUVs onto buttes and turned red rock monuments into mammoth beer cans. Not exactly what Ansel Adams would have pictured, but big commercial productions infuse isolated towns like Moab with jobs and cash.

VON KOCH: Our office issues anywhere from 45 to 50 permits a year.

HAND: Mary Von Koch supervises film and photo shoots for the BLM office in Moab.

VON KOCH: The shoots that, I think, have the most impact are movies. We generally have anywhere from 120 to 300 people on set if we have extras. So, there definitely can be environmental impacts in the desert from having that many people and equipment on location. But for the most part, you can go out and you really do not see impacts to this area that you could say are specifically from filming.

HAND: One movie filmed a scene with 350 stampeding horses.

VON KOCH: And the lands from that are still reclaiming themselves. But it is a slow process. And we knew that with shallow soils and our low precipitation that it was going to be a while.


HAND: The movie was "City Slickers II" with Billy Crystal, filmed here in 1993. Local conservationists were not at all happy about this stampede scene. They also accused the film crew of building an unauthorized road in a protected wilderness area and dumping contaminated water into a local drainage.

STANTON: There has to be a balance between the environment and the economy.

HAND: Bette Stanton, former head of the Moab Film Commission, bristles at accusations leveled at Hollywood by people she calls ‘extreme environmentalists.’ After all, if camera crews hadn’t been here to bolster the economy, Moab would have been in big trouble when its uranium mine closed. Yet she says environmentalists are pushing the industry away by demanding tighter restrictions on filming and lobbying to turn one of the her favorite locations into a wilderness area.

STANTON: I’ll be damned if they didn’t designate that whole cotton-pickin’ area as proposed wilderness. Now, of all the country, that’s the easiest for film companies to get to. This is where they have been through all of these years, able to go in there and do all of this filming and all of a sudden it’s proposed wilderness, which put the brakes on and we had to find somewhere else to film.

McHARG: I think that line of thinking isn’t conscious of the actual environmental impacts that are very real in filming – either commercials or films or even still photography.

HAND: Herb McHarg works for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, a group fighting to get the American Red Rock Wilderness Act through Congress. He challenges film permits whenever he believes those shoots threatened public lands. But Herb worries that the images, themselves, might do more lasting damage.

McHARG: When a commercial shows sport utility vehicles, trucks and ATVs crashing through stream beds, through potholes, through vegetation and sensitive soils, and then members of the public see those things occurring, then they want to go out and use those same machines out on public lands. You wouldn’t think of filming a vehicle crashing through Central Park, let’s say, in New York, but that’s exactly what’s happening out here in these wild landscapes.


WOMAN: Do you have any books on antiques and all that stuff?

KNIGHTON: I usually have the Coevals in…

HAND: Jose Knighton, the manager and book buyer at Back of Beyond Books in Moab, thinks that nature photography affects culture in even more subtle ways. He began thinking about it when a photographer friend walked into the store one day looking for a calendar.

KNIGHTON: I said ‘Well, let’s go back in the back where I have all the calendars – all the landscape calendars – take a look at this year’s crop of eco-porn.’ The phrase just popped out of my mouth. And the more I started examining it, the more relevant it actually seemed, and I started looking at landscape photography in the way you would look at foldouts from Playboy: the very selective precision with which somebody’s, you know, posed the landscape.

HAND: Jose wrote an essay that was picked up by Harper’s. It created a stir in the photographic community.

KNIGHTON: The phrase that came up in my article that was ‘beefing up the bosom of the Grand Tetons,’ essentially.

HAND: And in the same way that glamour photography distorts our view of women, Jose believes landscape photography can distort our view of nature.

KNIGHTON: Somebody’s looking at this glamorous photograph of the Grand Tetons in sunset light, with, you know, storm glow and everything. You just realize what you’re not seeing is out there in all the plains around the Tetons, you’ve got fences that are blocking off the migration of antelope herds and wind up being trapped against those fences in blizzards and starving to death. You know, there needs to be some way of balancing those manipulative, glamorous images with what’s really going on in the landscape.


HUCKO: Well, under here it looks a little flat to me. What do you have in terms of a filter?

HAND: Bruce Hucko agrees. He stands with his students in the red glow of Moab’s Grand County High School darkroom. He’s teaching his class to make their first photographic prints. But he also hopes to teach them that photography is more than technique, that it should also include a respect for what gets centered in the viewfinder. That message is all the more important, Bruce thinks, in light of the fires set by the photographer at Delicate Arch.

HUCKO: And I view his act as though he had taken a razor blade to the face of the person he was photographing. I mean, it’s worse than vandalism.

HAND: Surprisingly, a three-year-old Navajo girl helped teach Bruce a lesson about building relationships between photographer and subject. He was hiking out of the canyon with the young girl riding on his shoulders. Below them, a few of his workshop students were beginning to take pictures.

HUCKO: And she yelled down to those people ‘Are you cheesing the canyon?’ And you know, at first I went ‘Isn’t that cute.’ And then much later I thought about it, and I went ‘Oh my God. She is so right.’ What she was saying was ‘Are you on a good rapport with the canyon? Have you put yourself in a situation with the canyon so it’s going to smile back at you?’

HAND: Of course, plenty of photographers work for a good rapport with their subjects. Yet after two decades making a living in photography, I’ve realized it’s not so different than any industry that profits from the natural world – whether it be logging, mining, agriculture, or art. In any of these pursuits, we have the choice to see nature as an object to be exploited or, as Ansel Adams did, as a relationship to be nurtured; to see not only with eyes, but our hearts and minds. For Living on Earth, I’m Guy Hand.

[SOUND OF CLASS. MUSIC: Dawna Hammers, "Harmony", DEEP INSIDE (new Clear Music - 1995)]


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Related links:
- More information on sound recordist Chris Watson
- Purchase ‘Outside the Circle of Fire’ from EarthEar

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CURWOOD: And for this week, that’s Living on Earth. But before we go, ever wonder what elephants do when their bellies are full and sun is going down? Well, like many animals, they go to sleep. And when they sleep, some of them snore. Chris Watson caught the action, or should I say the lack of it, with his microphone on the grassland of Kenya in the middle of one night. Listen to elephant slumber.


Living on Earth is produced by The World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. You can find us at www.loe.org. Our staff includes Cynthia Graber, Jennifer Chu, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum and Al Avery, along with Peter Shaw, Julie O’Neill, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Jessica Penney. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. We had help this week from Jamie McEvoy, Max Morange, and Emma Owodukunda. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental sound art courtesy of EarthEar.

Ingrid Lobet heads our western bureau. Diane Toomey is our science editor. Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor. And Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth. Today we bid a fond farewell to our technical director Dennis Foley, who’s off to LA to make sure the electrons that bring you Marketplace march in the right order. And joining us is Chris Engles, now the fastest tech in the East. Welcome aboard, Chris. I’m Steve Curwood, Executive Producer. Thanks for listening.

FEMALE: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for coverage of western issues; The National Science Foundation supporting environmental education; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporting the Living on Earth network, Living on Earth’s expanded internet service;

MALE: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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