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

July 23, 2004

Air Date: July 23, 2004



The Democratic Ticket on the Environment

View the page for this story

Living on Earth takes a look at the environmental record of presidential candidate John Kerry. He's been steeped in the issues of acid rain, thinning ozone and climate change. But there's disagreement over where the environment ranks on his agenda. (08:15)

John Edwards’ E-Record

View the page for this story

Washington correspondent Jeff Young explores the environmental record of Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards. Edwards led an air quality battle but also voted counter to John Kerry on a few green issues. (04:30)

Energy and the Election

View the page for this story

John Kerry campaigns on "energy independence". But how would he make that happen? We'll hear from an energy expert on which of Kerry's energy proposals might work and might not. Also, our reporters, Jeff Young and Ingrid Lobet weigh in on the energy issues that could energize swing state voters. (17:00)

Faithful Voles / Jennifer Chu

View the page for this story

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on an injection that may encourage monogamy in voles. (01:20)

Listener Letters

View the page for this story

Comments from listeners on some of our recent stories. (02:00)

Waterfront South / Chris Ballman

View the page for this story

Living on Earth’s Chris Ballman reports on the fate of a neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey called Waterfront South. To spur jobs and tax revenue the city wants to site more industry in the Black and Latino community whose residents say they already bear more than their share of pollution. (13:45)

This week's EarthEar selection
listen / download

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodGUESTS: Reid DetchonREPORTERS: Chris Ballman, Ingrid Lobet, Jeff YoungNOTE: Jennifer Chu


CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: I’m Steve Curwood. Democratic presidential contender John Kerry gets high marks from some when it comes to the environment, and one group gives him a near perfect score on his senate voting record.

DUMANOSKI: I’ve always had the impression that he understands, that he gets it.

CURWOOD: But some New England Republicans say Kerry has been more of an environmental follower than a leader.

DELAND: And his lack of involvement in these issues really stood in stark contrast to rich tradition of environmental leadership in New England.

CURWOOD: And others predict a Kerry White House would mark a new environmental era.

TURNER: I think he would put out some pretty ambitious goals and try to reach them.

CURWOOD: John Kerry and the environment, this week on Living on Earth. Stick around.


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

Back to top


The Democratic Ticket on the Environment

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

John Kerry and John Edwards discuss their vision for America. (Photo: John Kerry for President, Inc. from Sharon Farmer)

On November 2nd Americans will choose their next president. Between now and then, if you live in one of those states considered "in play," you're probably witnessing a flood of political advertising. This week on Living on Earth, we try to step away from the ads and the convention fray with a look at how and how much the environment has mattered to the two men on the Democratic ticket, Senators John Kerry and John Edwards.

First, Senator Kerry. Now you can disagree over the significance of his record on the environment during his years of service as an elected official, but John Kerry has one. And the record begins during a period in his life that hasn't gotten much attention -- a period after Vietnam, after he was a prosecutor, but before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. The time was 1982, the place was Massachusetts. The environmental issue of the day was acid rain, and people were still coming to terms with it. Dianne Dumanoski was an environment writer for the Boston Globe at the time.

DUMANOSKI: Acid rain was a really dominant issue. We had lakes – actually we still have lakes -- that were acidified and had lost their fish, there’s been widespread damage to the forests in New England

CURWOOD: John Kerry had been elected Lieutenant Governor, traditionally a stepping stone in Massachusetts politics. The governor, Michael Dukakis, delegated the issues of state-federal relations to Kerry just as acid rain was becoming the premier cross-border issue.

DUMANOSKI: He sort of became the point person on acid rain and was the person that was doing all this organizing and collaborating with the other governors and the Eastern Canadian provincial heads of government. And there was actually a treaty that was signed in '83. It was actually the first agreement on acid rain. It really predated the agreements in Europe and this actually later became the blueprint for the provisions in the Clean Air Act that didn't get passed until 1990.

CURWOOD: Dianne Dumanoski credits Kerry with developing a strong grasp of this complex issue, in which pollutants are carried by the wind from the Midwest to the U.S. and Canadian east. Bob Turner also covered the earlier career of John Kerry and is now deputy editorial page editor at the Boston Globe.

TURNER: I do think that the work on the acid rain was to some extent was a model for the Clean Air Act in Congress, which he did play a significant role in, and which did pull enough states together and enough bipartisan support to produce quite a momentous piece of legislation.

CURWOOD: In his early years in the Senate, John Kerry also wrote a bill to keep fishermen from inadvertently killing dolphins in the huge nets known as driftnets. He also championed a measure that dealt with plastic garbage in the ocean.

TURNER: I would say the environment is definitely one issue -- I think it is one of his signal issues, and I think it has developed over a long period of time.

CURWOOD: But some who saw John Kerry in action back then say other members of the Massachusetts delegation were more apt to spearhead the charge for an environmental measure. Mike Deland was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the New England Region in the 1980s and chair of the President's Council on Environmental Quality in the first Bush administration.

DELAND: Well quite frankly at that time I was just not able to engage either the senator directly or any of his staff on the issues of the day.

CURWOOD: John Kerry could be counted on as a co-sponsor of environmental measures, and until the presidential campaign had a near perfect record from the League of Conservation Voters. But according to Mike Deland, that’s about as far as it usually went.

DELAND: There may have been an occasional speech on acid rain, but the real leader on that in Massachusetts was Governor Dukakis and then throughout New England John Chafee, and Senator Lowell Weicker and succeeded by Senator Lieberman in Connecticut and Moynihan in New York. And his lack of involvement in these issues really stood in stark contrast to the rich tradition of environmental leadership stemming from New England.

CURWOOD: But supporters point to Kerry’s consistent focus on environmental issues. He traveled to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where, among other efforts, nations tried to agree on ways to slow the loss of biological diversity and the production of gases that promote global climate change.

And that is also where he caught the eye of the woman he would marry, Teresa Heinz, one of the country's major environmental philanthropists, and the widow of one of the most ardent environmental advocates in the Senate, the late Pennsylvania Republican John Heinz. It would prove to be meeting of minds as well as emotions. Again, Dianne Dumanoski.

DUMANOSKI: I think his initiation on the acid rain issue gave him an early understanding of these other issues like ozone depletion and climate change. And I've always had the impression that he understands, that he gets it

MULHERN: Since I work a lot on clean water act issues I’ve become very familiar with Senator Kerry’s record because he’s been involve in a lot of the significant clean water and coastal protection debates of the last six years.

CURWOOD: Jean Mulhern lobbies members of Congress as senior counsel for the environmental law firm Earthjustice. Though Earthjustice can't endorse candidates, she agreed to discuss John Kerry's reputation.

MULHERN: Senator Kerry has been one of the leading advocates on the commerce committee for strengthening and improving these very important provisions on non-point source pollution in the Coastal Zone Management Act reauthorization. And I would say that that’s true, again in my own experience as an environmental lobbyist that’s true, on many of the other clean water issues that I work on that Senator Kerry has a very steady record of supporting strong protections for the nation’s waters and meaningful efforts to reduce water pollution.

CURWOOD: And Senator Kerry has at times worked on environmental issues that were not likely to win him any political points or media attention. He worked on the international agreement to phase out chemicals that are gnawing a hole in the earth's protective ozone layer. And the Senator also worked closely with a non profit group called Second Nature which helps suffuse environmental principles throughout academia. His wife Teresa Heinz Kerry served on the board.

There have also been higher profile issues, like the Clean Air Act of 1990, and more recently he led an effort on the Senate floor that blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We asked Bob Turner of the Boston Globe how much heat he thought a president John Kerry might be willing to take for an environmental issue he supports -- for example, cleaner power.

TURNER: Kerry pushes to a degree, but he also doesn't like to offend too many people. He 's for wind power, but he has reservations about the wind farm that’s proposed for Nantucket Sound near where he vacations. I think this is true of a lot of issues. I think he's to some extent pragmatic, not wanting to push too hard on something that has no chance of succeeding, but I think he’s someone who might put out some pretty ambitious goals and try to reach them.

CURWOOD: People also say that it is inevitable that his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry will tilt him in the direction of environmental protection even in a stiff political wind. But that’s not to say John Kerry’s connection to the environment didn’t start early. His mother was a naturalist, and read to him from Henry David Thoreau. He went to high school in the woods of New Hampshire, and the Forbes side of his family owns a string of islands off Cape Cod.

TURNER: I know he thinks of himself very much as an outdoorsman, you know he's a windsurfer and does things like windsurf for 20 or 30 miles at a time, and he does a lot of outdoor things like that. I think he’s to some extent a naturalist and a hunter, which some people feel is a contradiction there but there are a lot of hunters who are pretty good naturalists.

Related links:
- Boston Globe Online | John Kerry: A Candidate in the Making
- John Kerry for President

Back to top


John Edwards’ E-Record

CURWOOD: There is, of course, another member of the Democratic ticket to consider:

EDWARDS AT CAMPAIGN RALLY: So whaddaya think? Kerry-Edwards, a new team for a new America!


CURWOOD: North Carolina Senator John Edwards has been busy on the campaign trail introducing himself as the candidate for Vice President. Our Washington correspondent Jeff Young joins us now to talk about where Kerry’s running mate stands on the environment. Jeff, Senator Edwards served just one term in the Senate and held no office before that. How much of an environmental record has he managed to accumulate in this time?

YOUNG: Well for a first term Senator he has a pretty good record here. Edwards voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he voted for renewable energy and better fuel efficiency for vehicles. And Edwards was a leader in one of the biggest clean air fights during his time in Congress.

CURWOOD: What was the dispute there?

YOUNG: The Bush administration made some controversial changes to part of the Clean Air Act called New Source Review. This dealt with when older, dirtier coal fired power plants would have to add pollution control technology. Edwards said those changes would weaken the Clean Air Act and he led a pretty high profile fight against those changes starting with hearings on the possible public health impacts.

EDWARDS: I think our priority here should be about pollution that’s killing senior citizens, causing kids to get asthma and smogging up our national parks. And I believe that what you’re proposing is wrong and I intend to do everything I can to stop it.

YOUNG: Edwards pushed an amendment to delay those changes to the Clean Air Act. It failed but he persisted, demanding full disclosure of the science behind the rule change and at one point even calling for the resignation of a top environmental official.

CURWOOD: So Jeff, how did all this play in his home state?

YOUNG: Air quality is a big concern in North Carolina. The state government there has been aggressive on emissions within the state’s borders and people see a need for more federal action to stop the pollution drifting in from other states. This is Brownie Newman with the Conservation Council of North Carolina, one of the state’s oldest environmental groups.

NEWMAN: We have a lot of days where the air quality is so poor due to pollution from older power plants it’s not safe for kids to recreate outside. We’re hopeful Congress will pass a national clean air bill to clean up older power plants, and Senator Edwards has been very supportive of that approach at the national level.

CURWOOD: Jeff, I know North Carolina is also dealing with the waste from some huge animal farms, especially hog farms. Where does Senator Edwards stand on that?

YOUNG: His record is mixed. He’s proposed stricter regulation on these so-called factory farms and how they deal with the animal waste. But when it came to a vote to end the federal subsidies to those large farms—what you might call the hog pork—Edwards balked at that. He voted to keep that money coming to North Carolina; Kerry voted to cut those subsidies for factory farms.

CURWOOD: Hmm, so they split their vote on that. Are there other environmental issues where Edwards and Kerry took different positions?

YOUNG: A few. The sharpest difference in the records here was over Yucca Mountain in Nevada. This is the proposed repository to hold all of the nation’s nuclear waste. Kerry strongly opposes Yucca Mountain; Edwards voted for it. And this was one of the few votes Edwards cast that really seemed to disappoint the environmental lobby. This is Betsy Loyless with the League of Conservation voters here in Washington.

LOYLESS: We don’t think the science is there, that this is a safe facility. And in times of security threat, as we are in now, we believe it’s a doubly bad idea. So we simply disagree with Senator Edwards on his position on Yucca Mountain.

YOUNG: Now Edwards has changed his position on Yucca Mountain since joining the Kerry campaign. And I should mention that the League of Conservation voters scores Edwards very high overall, about 65% what they call pro-environment voting over his career. And the group has a long political relationship with Edwards. They campaigned against his opponent back in 1998, Lauch Faircloth, who was among what the league called the “dirty dozen” in the Senate. They campaigned against Faircloth and for Edwards and helped put him in office.

CURWOOD: Jeff Young reporting from Washington on the environmental record of Vice Presidential contender John Edwards. Jeff will stay with us as we examine the Kerry platform on energy. Our West Coast bureau chief will join us and we’ll hear from a group called the Energy Future Coalition. It’s energy policy and politics coming up next. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Stan Getz “All the Things You Are” STAN GETZ: ESSENTIAL STAN GETZ – THE GETZ SONGBOOK (Verve – 1992)]

Back to top


Energy and the Election

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Democrats are heading to Boston for their national convention. An ambitious part of the campaign platform delegates will hear about focuses on energy issues. Now, voters have traditionally viewed energy issues as economic or environmental concerns: how much gas will cost, will power plants pollute the air, and so forth. But this election year, energy issues have also become part of our national security debate – a theme that John Kerry hits in nearly every stump speech on the campaign trail.

KERRY (ON TAPE): And when we’re president and vice president, no young American will be held hostage to America’s dependence on oil. We’re gonna declare energy independence in America!


CURWOOD: Here now to talk about the Kerry energy plan and energy policy – as well as the politics – are Living on Earth reporters Ingrid Lobet, from our West Coast bureau, and Jeff Young from Washington.


LOBET: Hey Steve.

CURWOOD: And also joining us in Washington is Reid Detchon. Mr. Detchon is executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a nonpartisan initiative bringing business and labor environmental groups together on energy policy.

DETCHON: Hi there.

CURWOOD: Mr. Detchon, let’s start with you. Now, you previously worked for the first Bush Administration in the Department of Energy. Energy independence is among the goals for the Energy Future Coalition. Tell me, what does that phrase mean, really? And how realistic a goal is it for a country like the United States that imports so much energy?

DETCHON: Well you know, every president since Nixon has talked about energy independence, and the truth of the matter is that we’ve gotten further and further away from it. At the time of the Arab oil embargo in 1973 the U.S. imported roughly a third of its oil. And now it’s creeping closer to two-thirds. So the deterioration has been pretty dramatic just over the last 30 years. But the good news is that technology’s evolving in such a way that, whereas the problem seemed hopeless in the past, it now seems very possible to substantially reduce our use of oil and become much more energy independent, to use the phrase.

CURWOOD: Okay, now John Kerry’s making this pitch that he can get the United States out of the potential vise-grip of imported oil. In what ways do you think his energy plan as advertised would move us toward that goal? And where does it fall short?

DETCHON: Well I think when you think about reducing our use of oil, you have to think about whether we can produce more oil in the U.S. You have to think about if we can use less oil through energy efficiency and conservation. And you have to think about whether we can find substitutes for oil.

Now, John Kerry’s plan focuses principally on the latter two points. And there’s a reason for that, which is that the U.S. has only two percent of the world’s oil reserves while it consumes 25 percent of the oil used in the world every year. And two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves are in the Middle East. So if you want to think about where to find oil, the U.S. has been well explored and the potential for additional supply is rather limited.

CURWOOD: Ingrid Lobet, from your vantage point there in California and the work that you’ve done on renewables, what do you see that’s in the Kerry plan that would seem to make sense, that has some traction?

LOBET: Well, first let me just say something about the Administration’s plan. There were tax benefits for companies that make electricity from wind, and from landfill gases, and there were tax benefits for people who buy hybrid cars and who put up solar panels. And solar and wind producers like those ideas, it’s what they’ve been asking for. But the bill also included lots and lots of help for oil and gas companies and protection for some polluters, and it hasn’t passed.

CURWOOD: So, what would Kerry change then in that renewables picture?

LOBET: Well, Kerry would double the investment in hydrogen and fuel cell research to $2.4 billion, and his is a more aggressive push, away from traditional gas and oil. The idea is to get 20 percent of the nation’s energy from wind and fuel cells and crop fuels and other renewable energy by 2020, and that’s quite a bit more than we get now from renewables. And if we did do that, if you do send the message that you’re going to be spending 20 percent of your energy dollars on renewables, that creates a market. And the idea is that when you have a market like that the costs come down.

CURWOOD: Jeff Young, I’d like to turn to you now. You’ve been looking at the Kerry proposal, and you’ve covered the Bush energy policy as it’s been playing out for a while. How do these two compare?

YOUNG: Well, you know, as aggressively as the two campaigns have gone after each other on energy issues, it’s kind of surprising, when you look at specifics, that you see a lot of very similar proposals there. We’ve mentioned hydrogen research here, both Bush and Kerry propose more hydrogen research money. They’re both in favor of building a new pipeline from Alaska to enhance natural gas supply. They’re both in favor of clean coal technology.

But when you talk about the underlying philosophies the Bush energy plan largely has been a push to enhance supply. Burning more coal, drilling more public land for oil and gas, things of that nature. Whereas Kerry places a lot more emphasis on the technological development, and this is another theme that you hear him hammering out on the campaign trail.

KERRY (ON TAPE): There is no way possible for our nation to drill its way out of this predicament. We have to invent our way out of this predicament.


CURWOOD: Well that sounds all very nice. But Jeff, what are the specifics here?

YOUNG: Well we could look at one instance, and that is fuel efficiency. You know these ethanol-promising technologies that are off in the future, hydrogen probably a little farther off in the future. But in the meantime, Kerry has a proposal for $10 billion over ten years to help convert plants over to building more efficient vehicles. And he also -- a little carrot for people who would buy those more efficient vehicles – he proposes some tax credits.

And he also wants to pretty dramatically increase fuel efficiency requirements in the short term, and this probably would happen through what are called CAFÉ standards – that’s how much vehicles overall have to get in terms of miles per gallon. He’s shooting for a 50 percent increase over the next decade, going up from the current 24 miles per gallon to 36 miles per gallon by the year 2015.

CURWOOD: So Reid Detchon tell me, this is something that your group worked on. First of all, what would be the impact of such a CAFÉ standard? And then what can happen here, in terms of getting automakers and unions to agree to this? And what would that tell us about the success that Kerry would have in trying to steer the industry towards greater fuel efficiency? They’ve been pretty resistant so far.

DETCHON: We had a working group on transportation and advanced vehicles where we brought together General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, the United Auto Workers and some leading environmental groups to see what could be done in this area. And we all know very well the opposition of the auto industry to increases in fuel economy standards, because they see it as a government mandate that forces them to build and sell cars that people don’t want. And so we decided to set that discussion aside and say, What can we agree on?

And point of fact, all the auto companies are working very hard on hybrid vehicles, on fuel cells and advanced technology generally. They want to be able to sell those cars to American consumers. And the UAW, the labor union, in fact, was the leading proponent of an argument to give tax credits to manufacturers to retool their assembly lines and build the best vehicles in the world right here in the United States. That’s good because we want to get the advanced vehicles on the road. It’s also good because it keeps the jobs in this country.

CURWOOD: Now, gasoline prices, of course, they’ve become a campaign issue now. Prices shot up this spring, they’ve been up and down, they seem to be inching up as we speak. And the Bush campaign had this ad:

VOICEOVER WITH OLD-TIME CIRCUS MUSIC: Some people have wacky ideas, like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That’s John Kerry. He’s supported a $.50-cent a gallon gas tax.

CURWOOD: Now the Kerry campaign says that the gas tax idea was ten years ago and that he no longer supports that, and Mr. Kerry shot back with accusations that the president should do more to lower gas prices. Reid Detchon, is it just me or is there a disconnect here between the promise to wean the country from oil on the one hand, and the promise to keep gas prices low on the other?

DETCHON: Well I think that the old gas tax idea has often been suggested as a way to reduce demand for oil, and eventually reduced demand for oil does reduce prices. But as you mentioned, I don’t think that that’s part of the campaign now.

And speaking personally, transportation is not like discretionary purchases – deciding what kind of coffee you’re going to buy in the morning. People need to drive to work, and to a certain extent gasoline demand is what they call inelastic – people don’t change much when prices go up. So I think using gas prices to change behavior is probably not a good idea, and is certainly not a popular one in the U.S. John Kerry, as I understand it, has had certain ideas, like pressuring OPEC or not continuing to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while prices are high, etc.. I don’t think those will have an enormous impact on gas prices, but I don’ t think there’s much that a president can do in the near term.

CURWOOD: Ingrid, out there in California gas prices have stayed pretty high. And I’m wondering what effect you think that high gas prices might have on voters if, when November comes, it’s still what, over two bucks a gallon at the pump?

LOBET: Well, you know, you’re hearing different opinions on that, and I’m not persuaded that anybody really knows for sure. It’s true that gas prices are still high here. They’ve come down in the last eight weeks, but regular gas is still somewhere between $2.15 and $2.40 or so a gallon. But then translating that into who are you going to blame for the price of gasoline, and who do you believe is going to make it better for you, I think for most of us that’s pretty amorphous. Are you going to blame oil companies, refineries, station owners? The president is associated with the oil business, but whether voters are going to blame him when they’re feeling steamed at the pump – I don’t think anyone knows. And in any case California, where these prices are high, is not really regarded as being in play.

CURWOOD: Now Jeff, what energy issues do you see out there that could make a difference at the ballot box, do you think?

YOUNG: Well, you know some of these can seem fairly marginal when you look at the whole country overall compared to, say, the war in Iraq, terrorism, security issues like that which are clearly driving most voter concerns. But when you get down to the state level – and let’s not forget, the presidential election is really a bunch of different elections at the state level – these things can loom really large. It’s pretty much Tip O’Neill’s old maxim -- all politics is local -- playing out here. And there are several energy issues in battleground states that I think could make a difference when you look at how little the margin of difference was in those states in the last election.

CURWOOD: All right, let’s take a look at some of those battleground states. How about out West? I guess among the states that are in play there must be some that are concerned about the Bush Administration’s plan to drill more in public lands out West. I hear grumbling from everyone from environmental activists to sportsmen and anglers about this drilling. Ingrid, where do you think this might have an effect?

LOBET: It’s definitely true that natural gas has been a critical part of the Bush Administration’s energy strategy, and natural gas is a really important part of Kerry’s energy proposal also. And that could be a place where environmentalists may not be entirely satisfied with Kerry’s ideas. But traditional gas interests have certainly been reassured that he won’t rock the boat too much.

He’s treading a really thin line here because a lot of the places where we get natural gas out of the ground, as you say, are the seafloor or whether on land, are pretty controversial. And it is part of Kerry’s plan to expand a partnership with Canada and Mexico to expand the supply of gas. But Mexican residents haven’t been very happy about having gas facilities located there that are mainly for the benefit of people up here in the North.

And more directly to your question, in oil and gas country in the West, in New Mexico and Colorado and Wyoming, there’s significant opposition to the growing stretch of gas activity – thousands of new wells. And what you see out in the Rocky Mountain West is that local governments are trying to wrest some degree of control away from the federal government. People are really upset about it. They say it’s noisy, they say it brings up salty water, that it’s bad for their feed grass, it’s bad for livestock. And they’re using some new legal strategies, trying to use zoning – anything they can do to keep out thousands of proposed gas wells. And some of this is happening, as Jeff mentioned, in swing states – Colorado and New Mexico.

YOUNG: Yeah, I’d keep an eye on New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management has a plan out there to expand the leases in a sensitive area known as the Otero Mesa, and it’s not very popular in New Mexico. And you might say, well, how many people are really going to be motivated by that issue? Well, let’s say 500, 1,000. The margin of difference in 2000 was 366 votes in New Mexico. So if 500 people get upset enough about that thing to go out and vote one way or another – that could swing that state.

LOBET: And to give the Bush Administration’s view on that, of course, and the view of some ranchers who do favor the drilling, it’s, hey, you know, we need this gas. The country needs this gas. It’s cleaner than coal, and we need to get this stuff out of the ground where we can burn it for electricity and for home heating.

CURWOOD: Let’s look ahead now. Should Mr. Kerry be elected, what part of this platform, what part of this position, is he most likely to reverse himself on? We saw George Bush pledging that he was going to include carbon dioxide as a pollutant -- something to be regulated -- during the campaign. But once he was in office he was rejecting the Kyoto climate change agreement and taking carbon dioxide off the table for regulation as a pollutant. What might Mr. Kerry have to revise if he should actually gain office? Mr. Detchon, why don’t we start with you.

DETCHON: Well I think probably the question is more likely not what will he have to revise, but what would Congress force him to revise? And I think you’re right in pointing to the climate issue as the most difficult one politically.

YOUNG: Yeah, in all likelihood he’s still going to be facing a Republican Congress, and this is a Congress that has already said no to increasing fuel efficiency standards, already said no to the 20 percent target for Renewable Portfolio Standard. So I don’t see any reason why changing one vote at the White House, if you will, is really going to change that many votes on the Hill.

DETCHON: You know, there’s an interesting political twist to this though. I think we’re to a certain extent describing the situation as it is, and it may change. And I’ll say why. When the president describes his energy bill, when Senator Domenici describes the Republican energy bill, they describe it almost exclusively in terms of its benefits to efficiency, to renewables, to the advanced technologies. You can hardly get a word out of them about oil, gas and coal. Or nuclear, even less so. That tells me that they understand where the political winds have shifted and that the way to try to sell a package is with these advanced technologies. I think if Kerry were elected he would do the flip – he would talk about those and actually have a very strong program in those areas, but he would also have pieces of the package to appeal to the conventional constituencies in order to bring them along.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time. Reid Detchon is executive director of the Energy Future Coalition. Thanks so much.

DETCHON: Thank you, Steve.

CURWOOD: Jeff Young is our Washington correspondent. Thanks, Jeff.

YOUNG: You’re welcome.

CURWOOD: And Ingrid Lobet is our West Coast correspondent in Los Angeles. Thank you so much, Ingrid.

LOBET: Thank you.

[MUSIC: “Haffi Settle” THE UPLIFTERS: LOOK OUT NOW (Rub-a-Dub – 2000)]

Related links:
- John Kerry for President: Energy Plan
- GeorgeWBush.com: The Kerry Line: Kerry's Energy Policy Obstruction

Back to top


Faithful Voles

CURWOOD: Just ahead: More industry or new homes on the waterfront? The fate of one inner-city neighborhood in New Jersey hangs in the balance. First, this note on emerging science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: Forget marriage vows and promise rings; a new study suggests monogamy may be just an injection away. Scientists researching the sexual and social behavior of a mouse-like rodent called a vole believe monogamy could hinge on one specific genetic trait located in the pleasure center of the brain. Researchers at Emory University studied prairie voles and meadow voles, which are more than 99% alike genetically. Except that prairie voles opt for one partner, while meadow voles prefer to play the field.

Through previous experiments scientists knew that the monogamous prairie vole had receptors for a hormone called vasopressin. When voles mate vasopressin is released, and males associate their partner’s identity – typically her smell – with the pleasure of sex. No such receptors exist in the brain of the meadow vole, which means no connection is made to a specific partner. By isolating the receptor gene that causes prairie voles to pair up, researchers were able to inject that gene into the promiscuous meadow vole. The result: the usually wayward rodent commits to a volemate.

For those hoping vole research will eventually lead to gene therapy to tame bachelors and bed hoppers, scientists say no such luck. But they believe the results could help them better understand Asperger’s Syndrome and autism – both of which impair social behavior. That’s because the study provides evidence that changes in the activity of a single gene can profoundly alter social behavior. That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Jennifer Chu.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving Math and Science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12; Ford, presenting the Escape Hybrid, whose full hybrid technology allows it to run on gas or electric power. Full hybrid technology details at fordvehicles.com; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and The Kellogg Foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families, and their communities. On the web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: “(Cross the) Heartland” PAT METHENY GROUP: AMERICAN GARAGE (ECM – 1979)]

Back to top


Listener Letters

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Time now for comments from you, our listeners.


Roger Masters, who hears Living on Earth on WBPR in Norwich, Vermont, wrote in about our report on the government’s toxic release inventory. The biggest problem, he says, is that social scientists don’t consider the effects of pollution measured in the TRI with neurotoxins as a factor in human behavior. Since millions of Americans take Prozac or Ritalin, it’s time we considered brain chemistry when analyzing the effects of environmental pollution and in so doing, the TRI is a valuable tool

Dell Hood in Wimberley, Texas, who hears us on KSTX in San Antonio, got in touch about our interview with Stephen Meyer on his article, “The End of the Wild.” I have been living in and visiting Africa since 1962, he writes. And I have watched the wild areas disappear under ceaseless human pressures. Meyer’s comment should be presented to every member of congress and the UN so that policy changes may at least be considered by those with the power to prevent “pest species like cockroaches, fleas, English sparrows and coy from becoming the wildest species most of the world will see.”

And finally, Sy Montgomery’s commentary about her friendship with her aging dog Tess resonated with Carol Svenconis, who hears us on New Hampshire Public Radio. I have an old Sheltie named Stormy and the depth of the bond with her dog that Sy conveyed so well is something I know and understand. I’m wishing many more years of happy life for both Tess and Stormy.

Your comments are always welcome. Call our listener line anytime at 800-218-9988. That’s 800-218-9988. Or write us at 20 Holland Street, Somerville, Massachusetts, 02144. Our email address is comments@loe.org. Once again, comments@loe.org. And you can hear our program anytime on our website: livingonearth.org. That’s livingonearth.org.


Back to top


Waterfront South

CURWOOD: Our final story this week is about whether a neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey will live or die out. You’ve probably never heard of Waterfront South -- but there’s a clash of values going on there that echoes throughout working class pockets in nearly every American city.

Waterfront South is a patchwork of row houses and heavy industry that straddles the Jersey-side of the Delaware River - just across from Philadelphia. If you came to this port 50 years ago, you’d find a vibrant community, anchored by a huge ship building industry. Its streets lined with shops, restaurants and theatres.

Blighted buildings in Camden’s Waterfront South (Photo: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

Today, drug dealers and prostitutes work streets marked by abandoned buildings and vacant lots strewn with trash. But crime and poverty aren’t the only problems. Like many places where poor people live, Waterfront South has become a dumping ground for polluting industries.

Still, many of its many residents cherish their neighborhood and want to see it thrive again. But their loyalty raises a question: At what point is a place no longer worth saving? Living on Earth’s Chris Ballman has our story.

POMAR: You can smell the sewage treatment plant now. That’s the headquarters right there, that big brown building.

BALLMAN: Olga Pomar knows Waterfront South well enough to take me down back alleys and dirt roads - through the industrial no man’s land that walls off the neighborhood from the river. Pomar is an attorney who works with an environmental group here called South Camden Citizens for Action. She drives me past the long line of shipping terminals, the giant cement factory and what seems like the endless string of scrap metal yards that ring this one community.

POMAR: You can also see the amount of diesel truck traffic. And diesel fumes are among the most dangerous sources of air pollution.

BALLMAN: We drive by the neighborhood’s two Superfund sites and the other 13 fenced off lots with signs warning residents to keep out because of environmental hazards.

POMAR: I hope you noticed how close these houses are to all this stuff. That’s what I mean about there being inadequate buffers.

BALLMAN: Buffers from the sewage treatment plant and the incinerator and the trash to steam facility and an electrical power plant - - all of them built here with the approval of the county -- because, Pomar says, land was cheap and the largely black and Latino community lacked the political muscle to keep the facilities out.

POMAR: It’s definitely I think one of the most classic examples of the results of environmental racism that you’re gonna find.

BALLMAN: The last stop on our tour: the Terraces, a blighted five block neighborhood that’s been slowly cut off from the rest of Waterfront South by encroaching port facilities, factories and an interstate highway. There were once 112 homes here. Today only 45 remain. On one vacant lot the city’s posted a For Sale sign offering the land to anyone willing to buy out and relocate the residents. When she looks at the Terraces, Olga Pomar sees the future of Waterfront South - and it scares her.

POMAR: My fear is…my fear is that the terraces represent the fate of every little enclave in waterfront south, that all the little residential areas that we saw eventually the things around them are gonna die and be moved and changed into industrial uses. And all of waterfront south is gonna look like little clumps of houses like this.

PRIMAS: I don’t have a grand plan to eliminate people from Waterfront South. People were moving out of Waterfront South long before I got here. (Laughs)

BALLMAN: From his 13th story office at City Hall, Melvin Primas – everyone here calls him Randy -- has a pretty good view of most of Camden. And well he should. Primas is the state appointed chief operating officer for Camden – and his mandate is to attract jobs and commerce to this city now under state control due to its mounting fiscal problems. Primas says that beyond the Terraces he has no immediate plans to abandon Waterfront South. But he’s quick to warn its residents that they need to face reality.

PRIMAS: The reality is that it has been the industrial corridor for Camden. And it is true that one of Camden’s other challenges are jobs. We’ve got far too many people unemployed. And we also don’t have a lot of available land. And so, in what is our industrial corridor, we need to be able, in my mind, to take advantage of some of the land opportunities that are there to bring in the type of industry that provide living wages, and that does not harm the environment.

BALLMAN: Primas has a redevelopment plan for Waterfront South. He wants to bring in low impact industries such as food processing plants and warehouses. He says they would mean jobs for the neighborhood and tax revenue for the city. But citizen opposition to any further industry led the Camden City Council to reject that plan and now Primas is asking the courts to enforce his vision.

PRIMAS: The vision for Waterfront South is a neighborhood coexisting with an industrial neighbor.

BALLMAN: Sitting on the steps of his office in Waterfront South, Chris Auth has his own vision for the neighborhood.

AUTH: We have enough industry. We want to build the residential core of the neighborhood. So we’re saying no more industry.

BALLMAN: Chris Auth says Waterfront South needs an influx of new housing to be a viable community again. New homes and new parks and schools and a community center. He runs a housing corporation here called The Heart of Camden, which has already renovated 120 homes over the past couple of decades. Now Auth says the city needs to step in and finance the construction of new homes. And at the same time, he adds, government agencies need to clean up the environment - starting with the odor from the sewage treatment plant.

AUTH: Because that’s really killing us in terms of attracting people to move in here and just make it a livable neighborhood. And we know the technology exists, the county just hasn’t been willing to spend the money. But something has to be done about the sewage treatment plant to reduce the odor. If they can eliminate the odor, get the trucks out of the neighborhood and make all the existing industry comply with all the rules and regulations for clean air standards, and no more heavy polluting industry, then it’ll be okay.

BALLMAN: Okay enough, says Auth, so that people will at least stop fleeing the neighborhood.

AUTH: Well, it’s still about 1,700 people here, there’s about 500 families. There’s a lot of hardworking people – some people work 2-3 jobs. About 55 percent of families in the neighborhood own their own home. These little row homes, as you can see. And so they’ve made an investment, they want to stay here, they don’t want to be moved out. But they want things to be improved, especially the environmental issues.

BALLMAN: Carmen Alvarado wants to see improvements in Waterfront South. She’s lived here for 20 years. Her latest home is a neat brick row house on Emerald Street with a garden in the front yard. She stands at the kitchen stove cooking rice and beans with - she wants me to know - fresh chicken.

One of her seven grandkids watches TV nearby and her dog Precious scurries about. Carmen doesn't want to leave Waterfront South. She just wants the city to pave her street, knock down the abandoned houses, clean up the vacant lots - along with the air and water. And she doesn't think that's asking too much.

ALVARADO: That’s what we want because we had enough, you know. They're abusing us, you know. The reason that we complain is because of the smell and everything else so now they say that, you know, we don't got the right to live here in this neighborhood because we complain.

BALLMAN: Carmen Alvarado and many of her neighbors say the city is using their complaints about the environment as an excuse to declare Waterfront South unfit to live in, then slowly take homes by eminent domain and move people out and industry in. But, she says, let them come.

ALVARADO: What they going to do, run over me with the machines? Are they gonna do it? My daughter she live right here next to me. You think I'm going to have another opportunity to live with my family all together? My daughter next door. My grandkids. Never. This is a one life opportunity that I got to keep my family together.

BALLMAN: For Waterfront South residents who don’t want to leave their homes, Camden Chief Operating Officer Randy Primas says the city and state are taking steps to make the neighborhood as livable as possible. He says the city will reroute truck traffic to cut down on diesel fumes, and make air filters available to homeowners to mitigate pollutants available to homeowners.

The state is studying the neighborhood’s hazard waste sites with an eye towards clean up, and the city, he says, will establish a Waterfront South Environmental Wellness Center. Its purpose is to let residents know about the threats to their health and advise them of health care options. Primas says the city will help people fix up their existing properties, but he draws the line at new housing because he thinks it's wrong to bring more people into the neighborhood.

PRIMAS: I kind of use as a barometer: would I live there? Or would I put a member of my family there? And I’m not sure, that given the current circumstances that the residents have to deal with. It is not an environment that I would find conducive for a good quality of life. I’m told by the residents that they can’t go out in the backyard and barbecue during the summer because the odors are so bad.

Industrial smokestacks are a common site near Waterfront South housing. (Photo: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

And so why would we build new houses in that kind of environment and invite people in? It doesn’t make sense to me. And I am all for supporting the residents who are there, and providing resources to help improve their quality of life. But I think that there is an inevitable reality that it is the industrial corridor, and there are challenges that come for those who choose to live in a neighborhood that is surrounded by industry.

BALLMAN: And in growing numbers residents of Waterfront South are heeding that message.

STEWART: We have a neighborhood that’s on the mat, and the refs counted it out.

BALLMAN: The Reverend Al Stewart heads the Camden Rescue Mission, a shelter he runs in Waterfront South that offers emergency services to the poorest of the city’s poor. For the past 15 years Reverend Stewart has watched industry move on to parcel after parcel of land in Waterfront South. He’s also watched some of the neighborhood’s best citizens leave to escape the adverse health effects - like the nation’s second highest rate of infant mortality; and rates of lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses that are much higher than in other parts of the city.

Reverend Stewart says there’s been a psychological toll on the neighborhood, too.

STEWART: The industrialization broke the will of the people. They kept dumping and dumping and dumping and as they dumped on the people you got less and less and less city services. And people saw that, they saw the dumping, they saw the trash to steam plant, they saw the electrification plant. That’s dumping on people.

See, the people know that, and the people know that the people downtown don’t care. No, we’re not gonna stay in this neighborhood. I see the train on the track. I don’t foresee a good ending to this situation. I like this neighborhood. I’ve lived here for ten years. My family’s here. But the resources are not available, the priorities are not here. It’s the city and it’s the state and it’s the federal policy makers who have decided to kill this neighborhood.

It sounds harsh but it’s the truth. And we can’t stop those trains. We can fight with them. We can prolong the inevitable. But we can’t stop them. And my brothers who want to stop it, my heart goes out to them. I support them in their endeavors. I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have the energy to keep fighting this.

BALLMAN: A few blocks away children play while waiting for their parents to pick them up at Sacred Heart School. The school and the church that supports it have been an anchor in Waterfront South since the turn of the last century. Its Pastor Michael Doyle says it would be an enormous racial and environmental injustice to allow this neighborhood to die. He says society has a responsibility to clean up and restore Waterfront South. Not just for the residents here, he says, but as an example to the rest of the nation.

DOYLE: The easy political solution is to get rid of the people, and then you get rid of the problem. But I say no. So I say we strive to renovate that which is trampled.

BALLMAN: Chiseled into stone on the side of Camden’s City Hall are these words from one of the Proverbs of Solomon: “If there is no vision, the people will perish.” Whether Waterfront South will ultimately perish depends largely on which vision for the neighborhood prevails in this land-use struggle between residential and industrial interests.

A court will soon decide if the state’s redevelopment plan to site more industry in the neighborhood can move ahead. If it does, even the most optimistic residents of Waterfront South – those who want to save their neighborhood even if it’s scarred by industry and pollution – say it won’t survive for long. For Living on Earth, I’m Chris Ballman in Camden, New Jersey.

[MUSIC: Miles Davis “Shhh-Peaceful” MILES DAVIS: IN A SILENT WAY (Columbia – 1969)]

Related link:
Environmental Justice Program

Back to top


CURWOOD: And for this week - that's Living on Earth. Next week – Democratic presidential contender John Kerry is taking his energy and environment message on the campaign trail. And he’s facing some tough crowds in several swing states that depend on coal. Some coal miners fear Kerry’s strong stand on climate change and air quality could cost them their jobs.

MALE: I believe he’d allow it to be over-regulated just to the point that we couldn’t mine it economically and we’d just gradually fade away. I just couldn’t vote for a person that’s against the way I make my living and feed my family. That’s just what it boils down to.

CURWOOD: It’s King Coal and presidential politics next time on Living on Earth. And remember you can hear us anytime and get the stories behind the news by going to Living on Earth dot org. That’s Living on Earth dot O-R-G.


CURWOOD: We leave you this week on the coast of northern California where ocean waves mix with the cries of the seabirds and marine mammals that inhabit the rocky shoreline.

[EARTH EAR: “Coastline – Rocky Intertidal” QUIET PLACES: A SOUND WALK ACROSS NATURAL CALIFORNIA (The Oakland Museum of California – 1992, 2001)]

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced for the World Media Foundation by Chris Ballman, Christopher Bolick, Eileen Bolinsky, Jennifer Chu, Ingrid Lobet, Susan Shepherd and Jeff Young with help from Carl Lindemann and Kelley Cronin. Our story on Camden’s Waterfront South was produced with help from Lee Fouco. Our interns are Jennie Cecil Moore, Diana Schoberg, and Monica Wright. Our technical director is Paul Wabrek. Al Avery runs our Web site. You can find us at Living on Earth dot org. Alison Dean composed our themes. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. Environmental Sound Art courtesy of Earthear. 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 and more. Women of inspiration speak at the Stonyfield Strong Women programs taking place in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Details at Stonyfield.com. Support also comes from NPR member stations, the Ford Foundation, for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the Oak Foundation, for coverage of marine issues.

ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth