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

October 3, 2003

Air Date: October 3, 2003



Energy Bill Update / Jeff Young

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Republican lawmakers say they’re near completion of a comprehensive bill to increase energy supply and reliability. But Democrats complain they've been kept in the dark as environmental provisions were cut and industry's pet projects were added. Living on Earth’s Washington correspondent Jeff Young reports. (05:00)

Air Pollution & Brain Cancer

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Air pollution from diesel exhaust has been known to contribute to respiratory problems like asthma and lung cancer. Now, new research may show a link between tiny particles of pollution and brain cancer. Host Steve Curwood speaks with Dr. Keith Black, director of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (06:00)

Emerging Science Note/The Price of Intelligence / Jennifer Chu

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Living on Earth's Jennifer Chu reports on fruit fly research that suggests it may not always pay to be smart. (01:20)

Almanac/Sweat It

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This week, we have facts about the first Turkish bathhouse in Brooklyn. In 1863, patrons warmed to the idea of soapy baths and massage. (01:30)

Ritual Slaughter Ban / Sarah Zebaida

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Some European nations are banning Jewish ritual slaughter. Advocates cite cruelty to animals. Others cry anti-semitism. Sarah Zebaida reports. (08:20)

Organic and Kosher / Cynthia Graber

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on an Orthodox Jewish organic communal farm in western Massachusetts. (03:30)

A Quixotic Fight

Don Quixote’s impossible dream becomes reality in his Spanish homeland, The residents of Luzaga, in the central plains of La Mancha, are protesting the development of a windfarm there. Host Steve Curwood talks with Celso Hernando, one of the residents leading the charge. (03:00)

Environmental Health Note/Bottled Water Woes / Diane Toomey

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on research that suggests mineral water may be a risk factor in campylobacter infection. (01:20)


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LOE dips inside our mailbag to see what listeners have to say. (02:00)

CA Governor Race

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Last week, we took a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's environmental platform. With the California gubernatorial recall vote imminent, we look at how green are the records of Governor Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger's two other main rivals. (04:50)

In Search of the Mouse That Roars / Jeff Rice

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There are stories, some even claim sightings, of the source of a sound so rare that recordings of it in the wild are near impossible. Producer Jeff Rice takes on the challenge, and hikes into the desert southwest on a quest for the howling mouse. (08:10)

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Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodGUESTS: Keith Black, Celso HernandoREPORTERS: Jeff Young, Sarah Zebaida, Cynthia Graber, Ingrid Lobet, Jeff RiceNOTES: Diane Toomey, Cynthia Graber


CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: I’m Steve Curwood. In the desert southwest a quest to try and capture one of the rarest vocalizations on earth. Most humans can’t hear the howl of the Northern Grasshopper mouse because the pitch is so high, but for some scientists the sound is an all-consuming passion.

SIKES: Right now, they are vocalizing like crazy in this room. We simply can’t hear it. We hear the tiniest, tiniest tip of the iceberg of what’s actually going on.

FINLEY: You talk about people think your crazy. Really, they think I’m crazy to spend my Friday and Saturday nights up here listening to the Grasshopper mouse howl all night. [LAUGHTER]

CURWOOD: Cry mouse, this week on Living on Earth. Also, a new study attempts to make a link between brain cancer and highway pollution. And, what’s in and what’s out of the energy bill moving through Congress. That and more on Living on Earth, right after this.


[MUSIC: Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban “Drume Negrita” MAMBO SINUENDO (Nonesuch – 2003)]

ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.

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Energy Bill Update


CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. A massive energy bill is nearing completion in Congress. President Bush made national energy policy one of his goals, and the August blackout added a sense of urgency. Republican leaders and industry supporters say the measure will improve energy supply and reliability. Democrats and environmental and public interest groups say it’s a bad mix of pork projects and giveaways for industry, as well as costly to public health and the environment. Living on Earth's Jeff Young has this update.

YOUNG: Republicans control the House Senate conference committee hammering out the comprehensive energy bill. They hoped the public concern generated by the August 14 blackout would energize their effort to quickly rewrite and pass the bill. But Democrats complain the Republican domination of the conference has led to a blackout of information. Massachusetts Democratic Representative Ed Markey quoted an old country song to express his frustration.

MARKEY: “Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” This is basically a small close-knit group of lobbyists - oil, gas, coal, nuclear - who are meeting to draft their dream provisions. That is just fundamentally wrong.

YOUNG: Democrats complain Republicans arbitrarily cut environmental items like the renewable portfolio standards. The standards called for electricity retailers to increase the mix of power they offer from wind, solar and other renewable sources up to ten percent within 15 years. Fifty-three senators expressed strong bipartisan support for the idea on the very day Republican conferees cut it from the energy bill. In its place, watchdog groups say they found extra provisions favoring fossil fuel and nuclear interests. Anna Aurilio is legislative director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

AURILIO: These dirty pork barrel provisions have started popping up. There’s a coal plant in Minnesota designed to potentially buy off a senator and get them to flip their vote on the Arctic Refuge, for example. There’s a couple of nuclear plants around the country, as well, that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars and generate radioactive waste. These are all provisions that were not in either the House or Senate energy bill. It’s clear that it’s gonna benefit the industry lobbyists who drafted the bill and not the American public.

YOUNG: Industry lobbyists are not shy about the opportunity the bill presents. Veteran energy lobbyist Frank Maisano calls it “the mother lode” but says that does not mean the bill is just a wish list for his clients. Maisano says the bill should and will give the industry what it needs to increase the nation’s energy supply.

MAISANO: People in this country want their lights on. They want their cars started. They want to get gas without waiting in lines for cheap prices. Many times you have people in industry who are trying to solve those problems, and at the other side you have environmentalists who are looking at the glass half empty saying, “We can’t do that. We can’t do that. We can’t do that.”

YOUNG: But it’s not just environmentalists or even Democrats complaining about the bill. In Florida, most Republican lawmakers oppose an item calling for an inventory of offshore oil and gas reserves. Florida Republican Representative Jeff Miller calls the study a possible first step to more offshore drilling, and that makes it hard for him to support his party’s energy bill.

MILLER: The governor, most of the state legislature and all but one member of the U.S. House and Senate have said very clearly this is not what the citizens of the state of Florida want. We don’t want offshore drilling along the coast of Florida and we’ll do what we need to do to make sure that our coastline is protected.

YOUNG: Another contentious item deals with the gasoline additive known as MTBE. The chemical makes gas burn cleanly but also leaks from storage tanks into groundwater, causing widespread contamination that could cost billions to clean up. Oil lobbyists and powerful House members from Texas and Louisiana want the bill to protect MTBE makers from some contamination lawsuits.

Then, there’s another issue that could short-circuit the entire energy bill. House leaders still want some oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, something the Senate has twice voted down. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle warned Republicans a third vote would be strike three.

DASCHLE: ANWR will kill the energy bill if it’s in the bill and they just need to know that.

YOUNG: Negotiations will resume in mid October with conference leaders confident they are near the finish line on a bill that’s been almost three years in the making and will have implications for years, perhaps generations, to come. For Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young in Washington.

[MUSIC: Various Artists “Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite” The Royal Tenenbaums (Soundtrack) (Hollywood-2001)]

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Air Pollution & Brain Cancer

CURWOOD: California state legislators say it’s their way or the highway when it comes to protecting school children from air pollution. Concerns over childhood asthma and lung cancer have led to the passage of a bill will block the building of new schools near major freeways and busy roads. Tiny particles from passing diesel vehicle pose some of the biggest dangers to health. Now, an emerging study may show that air pollution is not only linked to respiratory problems, but may also to brain cancer. Dr. Keith Black is heading up this study and directs neurosurgery at Cedar Sinai Medical Center. He joins me now from his Los Angeles office. Dr. Black, welcome.

BLACK: Thank you.

CURWOOD: Tell me, Doctor, what’s the best evidence to date that there may be a link between specific types of air pollution and brain cancer?

BLACK: Well, we know from animal studies that we’ve done, that when animals are exposed to toxins that we find in air pollution that they’re able to develop brain tumors. These toxins can include things that are released by diesel engines, such as ultra-fine particles that we know can readily cross the blood-brain barrier and get right into the brain. We also know that particular occupational exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust may result in a higher incidence of brain tumor development. Firemen, for example, that live in fire stations where the diesel engines for the fire engines are turned on. And this diesel exhaust is able to escape into the fire station, exposing firemen to very high concentrations of diesel exhaust, resulting in a higher development of brain tumors in fireman.

CURWOOD: Talk to us a bit about the blood-brain barrier. What’s its purpose and how effective is it ordinarily?

BLACK: Well, brain capillaries, or small blood vessels, are different from any other capillaries in the body, in that they essentially form a wall or a barrier. And that prevents most compounds from the blood from getting out of the blood into the brain. In fact, the main energy source for the brain, glucose, cannot get out of capillaries into the brain without being taken across by a special transport carrier in these brain capillaries. So most things that cannot be dissolved in lipids, or most water soluble molecules, will not cross this blood brain barrier. And that’s perfect as long as everything is normal and as long as the brain is healthy. But under abnormal circumstances, sometimes bad toxins can get into the brain that we don’t want to get into the brain. And it’s a very difficult barrier for us to deliver drugs and therapeutic molecules across, to treat diseases that may effect the human nervous system.

CURWOOD: Now tell me why you’re focusing on particulates. I can understand that chemicals, compounds can perhaps breach this blood-brain barrier, but why the special interest in particulates?

BLACK: Well, we know that, particularly along freeways, there’s a very high concentration of ultra-fine particles, that are released by diesel engines. And when we inhale these ultra-fine particles, they rapidly cross into our blood, and cross from blood into the brain.

CURWOOD: Now, how small are these ultra-fine particles?

BLACK: They’re extremely small. They’re in the range of what we would consider to be nanoparticles. And they’re so small, in fact, that they can rapidly cross almost any biological barrier, or any other barriers. You know you’re rolling up your windows, or your filtration system on your air conditioning unit will not filter out these particles.

CURWOOD: So what exactly is the mechanism of action here? How may air particulates, these ultra-fine particulates, cause tumors?

BLACK: What we’re speculating, at this point, is that they’re able to disrupt the molecular and genetic machinery in the cells, increasing the expression of bad genes, or cancer genes within these cells.

CURWOOD: Why start this study now? Why are you so suspicious of ultra-fine particulates?

BLACK: The unique opportunity that we have now is that we have a very well developed index of brain tumors in our population, particularly in southern California. And because of all the studies that have been done in southern California, we have very detailed analysis of our air pollution patterns. So, we can actually go address by address, zip code by zip code, and we can actually track the exposure into very detailed levels with how much time one has spent on the highway, how much time a child has spent riding the school bus, and so forth.

CURWOOD: To what extent do you think your study could revolutionize the perception of how dangerous particulates might be?

BLACK: I think that it’s easy to make the association between asthma and particulates, between lung cancer and particulates, because we’re breathing those in the lung. What we don’t understand readily is that these particulates are crossing from the lung into the blood system and they’re effecting other organs in the body. We’re focused on the development of brain tumors, but getting particulates into the brain may actually extend beyond brain cancer. We don’t know what the contribution of that may be to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, other neurological disorders, including autism and other disabilities.

CURWOOD: Dr. Keith Black is the director of neurosurgery at Cedar Sinai Medical Center. Thanks for taking this time with me today.

BLACK: Alright, well, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

[MUSIC: Beastie Boys “Instant Death” HELLO NASTY (Capitol Records-1998)]

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Emerging Science Note/The Price of Intelligence

CURWOOD: Just ahead: charges of cruelty in the slaughter of animals for kosher diets. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: It doesn’t always pay to be smart. At least that’s what researchers in Switzerland found out in their experiments with fruit flies. They allowed the bugs to lay eggs on gels flavored with either pineapple or orange juice. But to some of the gels they added a touch of bitter quinine. That way, flies could learn to avoid that particular flavored gel.

Scientists then presented the same flies with juice gels that contained no quinine. Some of them remembered which flavored gel had originally contained quinine, and avoided that flavor. Researchers then separated out those fast learners and bred them. It turns out the descendants of these so-called smart flies learned the same avoidance task in one try. Ordinary fruit flies needed at least three attempts.

But when researchers pitted the smart flies against ordinary ones in a competition for food, the ordinary insects won out. Why? Well, researchers think the smart flies spent more energy developing their brains and so had less energy to develop basic survival skills, like foraging for food. The authors say future research may determine whether primates, including humans, made the same evolutionary tradeoff for intelligence.

And that’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Jennifer Chu.

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

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

[MUSIC: Parlour “The Living Beginning” OCTOPUS OFF-BROADWAY ( Temporary Resistance, Ltd. - 2002)]

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Almanac/Sweat It

CURWOOD: Long before power yoga masters made you sweat it out in their steamy studios, Dr. Charles Shepard brought cleansing heat to the mean streets of Brooklyn. Dr. Shepard’s first in the nation Turkish bathhouse opened on October 6, 1863. Patrons could step through successfully hotter rooms reaching 200 degrees Farenheit to find a soapy bath and massage. And as Mikkel Aaland, sauna enthusiast and author of the book “Sweat” explains, head-to-toe cleanliness was certainly not the norm back in those days.

AALAND: Four out of six city dwellers in New York didn’t have any bathing facilities except for a pail and a sponge. And warm baths - if you had warm actually – that was only for the sick. Otherwise, you just used a small basin of cold water and a washcloth.

CURWOOD: Only a single patron walked through the bathhouse doors that October day, but word spread and soon Dr. Shepard could boast 15,000 customers a year. Copycats sprung up all over the city. But around World War I, Dr. Shepard’s bath and its clones would go the way of the buffalo, as showers started marching into every American household, a symbol of a more affluent lifestyle. But Mr. Aaland says sweat is making a comeback.

AALAND: There’s a lot of new interest in, not only the Russian baths, the Turkish baths or hammams, but the American Indian sweat lodge right is quite popular all over this country. Americans have always had a strange relationship with bathing, mostly because of our lifestyles and attitudes, but I think that’s coming around now.

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

[MUSIC: Parlour “The Living Beginning” OCTOPUS OFF-BROADWAY ( Temporary Resistance, Ltd. - 2002)]

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Ritual Slaughter Ban

CURWOOD: For many Jews, eating kosher food is a central part of daily life. And an important part of kosher law is the detailed rituals surrounding the slaughter of animals for food. Muslims also eat animal meat slaughtered according to procedures laid out in the Koran and known as the Halal. In Europe, there's a growing movement to ban meat products derived from these ritual slaughters. Supporters say they're protecting animal welfare, but some see it as veiled anti-Semitism. Sarah Zebaida reports.

ZEBAIDA: The term “ritual religious slaughter” may conjure up an image of a barbaric animal sacrifice, but Jewish leaders say these ancient detailed laws are built upon minimizing animal suffering. Jewish ritual slaughter involves slitting a fully conscious animal's throat with a sharp knife and letting all the blood drain away. The Muslim Halal method is similar but those rules allow for more compromise and interpretation. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, a community leader in London and a vegetarian on principle, says Jewish ritual slaughter is as painless a method as possible.

ROSEN: Now, the proof of it is, that if you cut your finger you don’t feel anything with a sharp knife or a piece of paper. It’s only afterwards when you rub the two sides together that you begin to feel a certain amount of pain. The Jewish method of slaughter requires there to be no damage, serious damage to the organs of the animal and that it should feel as little pain as possible. So, merely slitting with a very, very sharp knife the artery, and these knives are incredibly sharp. They have to be checked all the time. So, the feeling of fainting is all that the animal is actually going to feel.

ZEBAIDA: Contrast that with conventional methods of slaughter, which involve stunning animals with a heavy blow between the eyes, done with a bolt gun. Jews and Muslims aren’t the only ones to see stunning as unnecessarily painful. Animal Aid, an international animal welfare group, has described the stunning procedure as ‘barbaric’ and says that it often requires several blows to the head before the animal is actually knocked out. The group has called for all forms of stunning to be outlawed. Jewish law demands that each animal be killed in isolation. But in conventional slaughterhouses, stunning is generally done in large groups, where animals stand in full earshot of each other’s cries - a practice that critics say contributes to their suffering. Once the animal is stunned, a gunshot, decapitation, or death by electrocution follows. Again, Rabbi Rosen.

ROSEN: The trouble with other methods of slaughter - for example, a bullet to the brain - you can miss the brain. Or even electronics – you see with people who have been in death row; the electronic charges go through them and they don’t always kill immediately. Our method guarantees immediate loss of consciousness.

ZEBAIDA: But many European governments disagree with Rabbi Rosen. Citing animal cruelty, Finland recently joined Sweden and Spain in passing a modern law which bans ritual slaughter. Norway’s ban on ritual slaughter was introduced at the start of World War II and Switzerland’s ban has been on the books for more than a century. Both laws have their origins in the blatant anti-Semitism of that time. Two years ago, when the Swiss government tried to revoke the ban, the move created such a furor that the government pledged never to lift it. Miryam Holzner, with the Swiss government’s veterinarian association, says her government is motivated solely by a concern for animals.

HOLZNER: If you look at the last few decades, animal protection has gained a lot of weight within the population. It has become more and more important for human beings that animals are treated correctly.

ZEBAIDA: But Jews across Europe are today becoming increasingly alarmed that concerns over animal welfare are taking precedent over a freedom of religion. And for some older European Jews, this movement harkens back to the darkest of times. One of Hitler’s first moves to institutionalize anti -Semitism was to ban all kosher food and anyone caught practicing ritual slaughter was sent straight to a death camp. The current ban is evoking similar fears. Julian Voloj, from Germany, chairs the European Union of Jewish Students.

VOLOJ: First, I should say that I’m not religious. I’m not keeping kosher myself. But just the fact that in Europe is now changing--that there is a ban of kosher meat--brings me to the question if Europe considers itself as Christian continent with no Muslims and no Jews?

ZEBAIDA: While Scandinavian countries that have adopted or maintained the ban have strong records of upholding animal welfare, Switzerland and Spain do not. Spain has yet to adopt a national animal welfare law. And such practices as bull fighting and the summer fiestas where goats and donkeys are thrown from the tops of towers have earned Spain fierce condemnation from animal protection groups worldwide. Where some see animal protection, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen sees nothing of the kind.

ROSEN: I think there is a certain bias against religion and against religious practices. I don’t think there has ever been a time when the Jewish community since the war has felt itself to be under pressure and it’s interesting where this pressure comes from. This pressure comes from the sorts of arguments that are motivated by other agendas rather than the pure agenda of cruelty to animals.

ZEBAIDA: The issue of religious slaughter has stirred up a lot of debate among the Swiss people. A recent survey showed more than three-quarters of the population said they would like to see their government ban even the import of kosher meat. Erwin Kessler, an animal rights activist, has been campaigning vigorously for this. He’s 40,000 short of the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a referendum to completely ban kosher and halal meat entering Switzerland. Kessler has inflamed the controversy by publicly comparing kosher slaughter to the methods used by Nazis in concentration camps, but denies that his motives are, in fact, anti-semitic.

KESSLER: I don’t see any connection to wanting to eat meat and religion. It’s not a question of religion. If religion does prohibit to eat something, that’s okay, but no religion does force anybody to eat meat at all. We are today in a modern world cannot accept many things that have been prescribed by religion in earlier times.

ZEBAIDA: There are only a few thousand observant Jews in Switzerland that depend on imported kosher meat and Erwin Kessler says he has two solutions for them – become vegetarians or leave the country. Meanwhile, in Britain, the government’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee has recommended that the UK immediately ban halal and kosher slaughter within its borders. In the next few weeks, the British government will decide whether to adopt that recommendation.


ZEBAIDA: Ruben’s is London’s oldest kosher restaurant and it’s an institution, not only amongst the Jewish community here, but also amongst Muslims who are also permitted to eat kosher meat. The Jewish diners here say they’re in no doubt that their method of slaughter, known as shehita, is not unnecessarily cruel. But for the most part, British Jews believe their government when it stresses that this ban has been proposed with the sole intention of minimizing animal distress. But that doesn’t mean they agree with it.

FEMALE: I’ve always been brought up to keep a kosher home and I want to keep that tradition.

MALE: I believe shehita is as considerate a way as one can imagine for killing animals for human consumption. And if it is banned, then we will presumably get meat in frozen from Argentina or from other countries.

ZEBAIDA: Indeed, Britain's Minister of Agriculture has just pledged to maintain the import of kosher meat even if the government decides to ban the practice within the UK. But if Britain does end up requiring the stunning of animals before slaughter, that could well have an influence on ritual slaughter policies in other European countries. For Living on Earth, I'm Sarah Zebaida in London.

Related links:
- Dr. Temple Grandin's Web Page - Livestock Behaviour, Design of Facilities and Humane Slaughter
- OU Kosher

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Organic and Kosher

CURWOOD: The Torah, the Jewish bible, not only contains laws about ritual slaughter but it will also tell you that certain types of food can’t be planted together and that part of a farm’s output should be given to the poor. Jewish communities have many farms all over the world, but here in the United States the seeds of kosher farming are just being planted in western Massachusetts. Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports.


GRABER: On a warm, rainy Sunday, musicians wearing yarmulkes welcome visitors to the Jewish Farm Festival in Sunderland, Massachusetts. Several hundred guests mill about the open field and check out farm stands of vegetables, and tables of Jewish crafts. This land is not only the grounds for the lively festival – it’s also home to Eretz HaChaim, the Living Land.


ADELMAN: Hi. Welcome.

GRABER: Rabbi Chaim Adelman works the crowd of curious guests and old friends. He got the idea to create, what he believes is, the country’s only Orthodox Jewish organic communal farm about three years ago, when he was thinking about how to ensure that his food was strictly kosher. Soon, though, he was inviting others to build a life together.

ADELMAN: Let's start from scratch. A lot of communities suffer today – there's problems and unhappiness in communities, people don't feel fulfilled. So I thought, let's live a perfect life now.

GRABER: A perfect life, according to Rabbi Adelman, includes raising children in a close-knit community, growing spiritually, and bringing agricultural laws in the Torah to life on the farm. Today, there are eight families who plan to live in a small area of the 70-acre grounds. Eventually they hope to expand to thirty families.

TAMAR HELFEN: You’re hopping on the farm tour? Great.

GRABER: Tamar Helfen leads a few dozen people around the property. Despite the heat and humidity, she’s wearing a full-length jean skirt, a long-sleeve gingham shirt, and a blue kerchief covering her hair – in keeping with traditional Jewish customs about women’s modesty. She points to a small meadow that will eventually house a community hall and study center.

TAMAR HELFEN: We want to be open for all people to come visit. Jews and non-Jews, to come and be educated about the things we're trying to teach about Torah and the earth. So we hope to hold classes and retreats.

GRABER: Tamar’s husband Tuvia is the official farmer of the community. He takes the farm tour to the land he planted and is harvesting.

TUVIA HELFEN: There’s cucumbers here, and where we picked out all the melons from here…

GRABER: The organic food from the three acres he farmed this summer went to Eretz Hachaim members and was sold to the local community. In keeping with Jewish law, he says that when he plants fruit trees, he’ll have to wait three years before picking the fruit. Tuvia sees his work as holy.

TUVIA HELFEN: It's good work for a Jew to do, is get his hands into the earth so that his mind can be free in order to learn God’s Torah. It was recommended, actually, to farm.


GRABER: Rabbi Adelman stands near the crowd, surveying the scene with obvious delight. Though eating organic food isn’t a primary concern of the mainstream Orthodox Jewish community, Adelman says it’s an important part of what Eretz Hachaim is doing.

ADELMAN: Clearly, part of eating is eating healthy foods, too. We can’t abuse our bodies, that’s also part of our service of God. So, clearly, what we eat is going to affect us, so certainly organic and clean is the best way to go.

GRABER: The rabbi hopes that community members will be able to move into newly constructed homes on the land by next year. For Living on Earth, I’m Cynthia Graber.

[MUSIC: The Beastie Boys “Eugene’s Lament” THE IN SOUND FROM WAY OUT! (Grand Royal - 1996)]

CURWOOD: You’re listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from The World Media Foundation. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation, for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for coverage of western issues. Support also comes from NPR member; and Bob Williams and Meg Caldwell, honoring NPR's coverage of environmental and natural resource issues, and in support of the NPR President's Council; and Paul and Marcia Ginsburg in support of excellence in public radio.

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A Quixotic Fight

CURWOOD: Spanish author Miguel Cervantes made famous the plains of La Mancha, with the tales of Don Quixote, the fictional knight-errant who took up arms against windmills, mistaking the large, tilting structures for giants. Today, residents of La Mancha, in central Spain, are picking up where Don Quixote left off. Celso Hernando is a man of La Mancha and he’s leading his town Luzaga in protest against a recently proposed wind farm there. Mr. Hernando, welcome.


CURWOOD: What do you have in La Mancha today? Can you give me a description?

HERNANDO: Well, this is a very small town in the north part of Castilla a La Mancha. In the edge of the region there are mountains. And it’s a beautiful region. And they want to build a wind park on it. So, we started our fight against the windmills like Don Quixote.

CURWOOD: What is the kinship? What is the connection you feel to Don Quixote?

HERNANDO: He saw a mill and thought it was a monster. So, we see the mills in a similar way because we think that behind the mills is a great corporation, that, it seems to us, is a monster, too.

CURWOOD: So, I understand that there are already many wind farms in the region of La Mancha. What do they look like?

HERNANDO: It’s like an industrial landscape. They build a wind park in a mountain – that’s alright if, in that place, there is nothing of interest, no plants, no trees, no animal life. We support the wind power. What we don’t support is that you have to cut a lot of trees to put a mill.

CURWOOD: So far, what have you done to get your message out? How have you told people that you don’t want this windmill?

HERNANDO: It’s very hard because this is a very little town. We are talking about 200 people. We have made some demonstrations. We walked two miles to the peak, with signs, and in those signs we presented it to the administration and tried to convince them that everybody didn’t want the park.

CURWOOD: How successful was Don Quixote?

HERNANDO: They think that he died with no material winnings, but I think that the spirit was what he was struggling for, I think. So we are trying to stop this thing, and we have very few chances to win but we must fight.

CURWOOD: Celso Hernando is a resident of Luzaga, a town in the region of La Mancha. Thanks for taking this time to speak with me today.

HERNANDO: Thank you. Goodbye.

[MUSIC: Man Of La Mancha (Soundtrack) “Overture” (MCA – 1973)]

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Environmental Health Note/Bottled Water Woes

CURWOOD: Just ahead: the mouse that roared. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: Campylobacter infection is one of the most common bacterial food-borne illnesses, affecting more than two million Americans every year. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Eating raw or undercooked chicken is a known risk factor for the illness. But, in many cases, scientists don't know how people become infected.

So British researchers surveyed about 200 patients with campylobacter infection. They also surveyed a control group of people who had similar symptoms but not because of the campylobacter bug. Both groups were asked about their recent travel, food consumption, outdoor activities and contact with animals. The study confirmed that eating chicken remains the major risk factor for campylobacter infection.

But the authors were surprised to find that more than half of those infected had consumed bottled mineral water within the week before they got sick. That compares to only about 37 percent in the non-infected, control group. Researchers say this difference may indicate that bottled mineral water is potentially a risk factor for the infection. The authors add that as far as they know, campylobacter has never been found in bottled water, but that might be because testing for it is rarely done.

That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.


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

[MUSIC: Brian Eno “An Ending (Ascent)” APOLLO ATMOSPHERES AND SOUNDTRACKS (EG - 1983)]

Related link:
Article in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases

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CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. And coming up: Environmental politics and the gubernatorial recall election in California. But first…


CURWOOD: Time for comments from you, our listeners.


CURWOOD: Response to our coverage of recent acts of eco-sabotage proved that the same story can be heard in very different ways. Many who wrote in disagreed with our language and with each other. Bruce Tennant, a listener of WJWJ in Beaufort, South Carolina, felt we were too easy on the perpetrators.

“I heard your story on five different terrorist crimes,” he writes. “It was reported in a perfectly neutral way, simply stating what had been done in each case. Neither the host nor your western correspondent said, or even implied, any condemnation of the dastardly acts. To me your coverage shows LOE in a very unfavorable light.”

But Gary Stock, who listens to WUOM in Ann Arbor, took the opposite view.

“Whoa!” he writes. “LOE profiled Mike Leavitt, mentioned George Bush, yet reserved the term 'eco-terrorists' for frustrated activists?! What the Earth Liberation Front does may frighten people. And I don't think you need to endorse their tactics. But I do think you need to focus on the political environment in which such tactics seem to be the last, fading hope of bringing about change.”

Your comments on our program are always welcome. Write us at 20 Holland Street, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144. Our e-mail address is comments@loe.org. Once again, comments@loe.org.

And you can hear our program, and all our previous programs for that matter, by visiting our website livingonearth.org. And while you’re there, enter our contest to win a free fannypack from Patagonia or a year’s membership and some free credits to drive a ZipCar. Winners who like to walk will be able to strap on what Patagonia calls it’s “hip vault.” And those who need wheels for an hour, a day or a weekend can get access to cars like the Toyota Prius without the hassle and expense of owning one. For details on how you can win a Patagonia fannypack or a ZipCar membership, just go to our website, livingonearth.org. That’s livingonearth.org.


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CA Governor Race

CURWOOD: With Californians deciding whether to recall their governor, last week we looked at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s environmental priorities with Living on Earth Western Bureau Chief Ingrid Lobet, and she’s back with us on the line. How’s the campaign trail?

LOBET: There was one incident with Schwarzenegger in the last few days where a farmer in the Central Valley asked him “Why does California need to have it’s own regulatory body, CALEPA, when there’s already a federal EPA?” and Mr. Schwarzenegger suggested that he might eliminate the state’s Environmental Protection Agency. A Schwarzenegger staff person later said that he only meant eliminating any duplicated functions.

CURWOOD: Talk to me about the Democratic side here for a moment. Remind us about Governor Gray Davis and his record on the environment. Now, I remember last year he signed the country’s first law addressing climate change by regulating car and vehicle exhaust. That’s a pretty big deal. What else has he done?

LOBET: That was a big deal. It may be his most high profile and significant environmental policy act so far, but he’s done a lot that pleases environmentalists over time. When he picked the person to lead CALEPA, the umbrella regulatory body here, he picked the head of the California League of Conservation Voters. He went out and stumped for three huge environmental bond measures that have allowed beach water cleanup and the acquisition of open space. He signed a law requiring 20 percent of electrical power to come from renewable energy by 2017. He has signed significant legislation on children’s environmental health issues, and recently several bills to clean up the air in the San Joaquin Valley. The list is pretty long. I could go on.

CURWOOD: How much is Governor Davis trumpeting his environmental record during this recall campaign?

LOBET: He is trumpeting it somewhat, and it is true that he has signed a lot of environmental legislation recently. And maybe there’s some of it that he wouldn’t have signed without the recall, in particular, several land deals that sound as though they’re being rushed through. But other actions, like signing a compact with the governors of Washington and Oregon on steps to address climate change, he might well have that anyway. And some of it is also a question of legislators taking advantage of the fact that he is under pressure to bring these bills to his desk now.

CURWOOD: Now, if Governor Davis loses this recall, on the other part of the ballot his lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamonte, is there for Democrats. What do we know about his stances on land, air, and water issues?

LOBET: Well, Mr. Bustamonte comes originally from the Central Valley, and when he was in the state legislature he voted the way you might expect a rural Democrat to vote. He pushed legislation to allow landowners more freedom in developing their land where endangered species might live. He voted to allow farmers to continue using methyl bromide. But over time, observers agree that Cruz Bustamonte moved toward the environmentalist side. One thing that he did that everyone on the conservation side remembers him very fondly for was to fire four members of the Coastal Commission and replace them with pro-conservation commission members. He also supported the recent push to make farmers in the Central Valley take measures to clean up the valley’s terrible air. He adopted a zero tolerance policy on oil spills as lieutenant governor. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a 100 percent rating in 1997 and 1998.

CURWOOD: Let’s go back to the Republicans for a moment, Ingrid, and look at state Senator Tom McClintock, the other major candidate here. How different are his views?

LOBET: Tom McClintock is an articulate conservative. On most environmental matters he agrees with the Bush administration. He thinks that major industries should be free to expand without installing air pollution equipment. He disagrees with California’s new CO2 law, and he probably wouldn’t defend it. He does not agree with telling landowners what they can and cannot do on their land.

CURWOOD: Sounds like Mr. McClintock would be a stark contrast to Mr. Schwarzenegger and the other candidates.

LOBET: McClintock would represent a real change in environmental direction for California. And I think it’s good to remember that whoever wins in the recall election will lead the most powerful environmental program in the country, besides the federal government, and one that sometimes outmaneuvers the federal government.

CURWOOD: Ingrid, if the recall succeeds, where do you think the liberal, green vote would go? You’d think typically they’d be interested in Peter Comejo, the Green party candidate – also, there was Ariana Huffington, who I guess has pulled out. What do you think they’ll do?

LOBET: Well, it’s really so hard to say, and none of the experts want to speculate very much. I imagine those people are very much struggling with their vote right now. Peter Comejo, the Green candidate, has let them know he’s not going to blame them if they go ahead and vote for Bustamonte, so I expect some of them are going to do that. The Davis people right now are really focusing very hard on those voters, and trying to persuade them that they should do anything to keep Arnold Schwarzenegger from being elected and to vote “no” on the recall.

CURWOOD: Ingrid Lobet heads Living on Earth’s western bureau. Thanks, Ingrid.

LOBET: Thanks, Steve.

[MUSIC: Wes Montgomery “California Dreamin’” COMPACT JAZZ (Verve)]

Related link:
LOE piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s environmental platform">

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In Search of the Mouse That Roars

CURWOOD: Think of the word “quest” and you might think of such lofty aims as truth, justice, the Holy Grail. Well, producer Jeff Rice recently went on a quest not long ago. A quest for a sound. And, as you'll hear in this piece, a rather special sound at that.


RICE: Once near the Henry Mountains in Utah, I thought I might have heard one. But it's like trying to take a picture of a ghost. And all that came through on my microphone was the steady croaking of toads.


RICE: I wonder if I'll know it when I hear it.


RICE: I'm in the Idaho desert on the edge of a giant sea of sagebrush. The pioneers here complained of monotony, blowing wind – and strange creatures.


RICE: There was the jackelope, of course. And the four-toed sasquatch. But I'm here for something even stranger. Because it's real.


RICE: To steel my nerves, I stop off for a drink along the highway. I'm in Atomic City, a town of about 25 people, 50 horses, and 3 bars.


RICE: I'm on a quest…which some people here seem to think is pretty funny.


RICE: I'll be setting up camp on the edge of town so I can hike through the sagebrush at night with my microphone. I'm excited because there have been some sightings. I've been told a few of them have been trapped near here.

MALE: I would dare say that's a myth.

RICE: Outside in the desert, it's pitch dark. There are little red eyes peering from the dry grass. They could be almost anything. But I know that somewhere in the sagebrush a Northern Grasshopper mouse is howling.

MALE: It's a Northern Grasshopper mouse [LAUGHTER].


RICE: This mouse is about the size of a small hamster. You can find it in the sage prairie in places like Idaho, Utah, and Oregon. And on into Texas and even as far north as Minnesota. It's one of the few carniverous mice, thus its name. It likes to eat grasshoppers and scorpions and even other mice. But what makes this mouse interesting--to me, at least --is its call. According to reports by biologists, it waits for the dark of night, gets up on its hind legs, throws its head back and:

MALE: Howls like a wolf [LAUGHTER].


RICE: It's tempting to laugh, but it's true. One of the first biologists to make note of this behavior was Vernon Bailey. In 1931 he wrote that its howl was “as smooth and prolonged as the hunting call of the timber wolf.” And that it “is made with raised nose and open mouth in perfect wolf form.” Today, biologist Robert Sikes studies Grasshopper mice at the University of Arkansas.

SIKES: The mouse will kind of sit back on its hindquarters, point its nose toward the sky and howl. Another posture I've seen is where the mouse actually stands up on its hind legs, forepaws completely off the ground, standing up almost vertically and, again, points the nose towards the sky and howls. It's very much like a canid howling at the moon.

RICE: Now, I've heard a few campfire stories in my life, but this is one I had to check out for myself.

FINLEY: Oh it's definitely real.

RICE: That's Tommy Finley. He's a graduate student in Dr. Sikes' lab.

FINLEY: I don't think there's anything supernatural or anything like that. I think it's perfectly natural for this animal.

A Northern Grasshopper mouse eats a cricket.(Courtesy of R.S. Sikes, University of Arkansas at Little Rock)   

RICE: Sikes and Finley have been making recordings of grasshopper mouse howls in the lab, and were kind enough to give me some. Recordings are extremely rare. According to all the experts I spoke with, none of them knew of a recording of the howl that had been made in the wild. There's a pretty good reason for that. Here's what the recording from the lab sounds like.


RICE: Did you hear that? Maybe not. Here's the thing. As mighty as the howl is, it's really, really high pitched. And that's a problem for our puny human hearing. We hear frequencies as high as 20,000 hertz. And that's if you have just about perfect hearing. The Grasshopper mouse howl gets up to almost 14,000 hertz. Hear it on your car radio? Not likely. It works better if I lower the pitch by slowing it down.


RICE: There you have it. The howling mouse of the prairie.


RICE: So here I am, out in the desert trying to capture it on tape.


RICE: Nearby, what look like two owls fight in the darkness.


RICE: But the Grasshopper mouse remains elusive. If I want to be assured of hearing one in person, I need to go a little farther afield.


SIKES: Ok, we're in the Basic Animal Services Unit at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. We are housing currently just slightly over 600 of these Grasshopper mice. These are Northern Grasshopper mice.

RICES: At exactly 7:30 every night here, the lights go out in Dr. Sikes' grasshopper mouse lab. And every night the howls begin.


RICE: These mice are nocturnal, and are most likely to howl in the darkness. So, here we are, surrounded by hundreds of mice in cages, in the pitch black. I can't see my microphone in front of my face. At this point, I think what the hell am I doing here? But suddenly, Dr. Sikes becomes very excited.

SIKES: Right now, they are vocalizing like crazy in this room. We simply can't hear it. We hear the tiniest tip of the iceberg of what's actually going on. You can hear the mice moving around a lot here.

RICE: Mostly, what I'm hearing is the chewing of food pellets. And I admit that trying to listen to sounds that other people don't hear is the definition of insanity. Especially when it comes to howling mice.

Just ask graduate student Tommy Finley.

FINLEY: You’re talking about people thinking you're crazy, really. They think I'm crazy spending my Friday and Saturday nights up here listening to Grasshopper mice howl all night. [LAUGHTER]

RICE: But then, every once in a while, out of the darkness, there is a prolonged squeak--like a rusty hinge.

A Northern Grasshopper mouse and her litter.
(Courtesy of R.S. Sikes, University of Arkansas at Little Rock)


RICE: Ooh, he howled right there.

FINLEY: You see?

RICE: Yea.


SIKES: In fact, one mouse may be starting a call, a long loud call. And then immediately one or more mice will join in.

RICE: A pack of mice howl wolflike in the dark. It is all that I had imagined.

The meaning of the howl seems pretty apparent. Scientists think that it is territorial, in much the same way that a wolf's howl is territorial. Grasshopper mice have large ranges for their small size. Up to five acres, and the high-pitched howl will carry over a large distance. Dr. Sikes says the fact that a mouse howls and even looks like a wolf when it's doing it makes perfect sense.

SIKES: That would be the posture that I would take. You want to channel that emission where there's going to be the least interference, i.e. up. Not down into the ground. Not into the vegetation. But get it up. So I think that posture is probably correct. Also, if you watch singers, typically they don't sing when sitting down.

RICE: It's comforting to find that the same laws of nature that govern wolves, also govern mice – and men.


RICE: For Living on Earth, I'm Jeff Rice in the Idaho desert.


[MUSIC: Elliot Smith “Bye” FIGURE EIGHT (Dreamworks – 2000)]

CURWOOD: Our story on Grasshopper mice is part of the “Hearing Voices” series that is funded, in part, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

[MUSIC: Elliot Smith “Bye” FIGURE EIGHT (Dreamworks – 2000)]

Listen to a sample of the mouse's howling at normal pitch:
Listen to a sample of the mouse's howling slowed down:

Related link:
Prof. Robert Sikes webpage

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CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Next week, we join forces with member station WNYC in New York City to look at how global warming may disrupt the way people live in a major metropolitan area.

Some say the kind of extreme weather patterns that accompany climate change could flood out Wall Street, or threaten the city’s drinking water supply. But, so far, the warning signs are being ignored.

MALE: So far, one gets the feeling that they actually prefer not to know because then they don’t have to do anything about it. But I think that’s politically and financially, but even humanly, totally irresponsible.

CURWOOD: It’s “Degrees of Concern: Climate Change and New York City’s Future,” on the next Living on Earth. And between now and then you can hear us anytime and get the stories behind the news by going to livingonearth.org. That’s livingonearth.org.

[MUSIC: Elliot Smith “Bye” FIGURE EIGHT (Dreamworks – 2000)]

[Andrew Skeoch & Sarah Koschak “The Spirit of The Sooty Owl” TALL FOREST - AUSTRALIA]

CURWOOD: We leave you this week standing in a tall forest in Australia.


CURWOOD: That’s where Andrew Skeoch recorded this pair of extremely rare animals called Sooty Owls.


CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced for the World Media Foundation by Chris Ballman, Eileen Bolinsky, Jennifer Chu, Cynthia Graber, Ingrid Lobet, and Diane Toomey. You can find us at livingonearth.org. Andy Farnsworth mixes the program. Alison Dean composed our themes. Environmental sound art courtesy of EarthEar.


CURWOOD: I’m Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes form the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science; and Stonyfield Farm – organic yogurt, cultured soy, and smoothies. Ten percent of their profits are donated to support environmental causes and family farms. Learn more at Stonyfield.com. Support also comes from NPR member stations and the Annenberg Foundation.

ANNOUNCER2: This is NPR., National Public Radio.


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