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

December 9, 2011

Air Date: December 9, 2011



Durban Climate Conference

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Negotiations went down to the wire and past it with overtime, but in the end the US, China and India agreed to join a legal regime that will require all countries to limit greenhouse gases by 2020, with details to be further negotiated. The Kyoto Protocol will also continue for Europe. During the final hours Host Bruce Gellerman talked with Jennifer Morgan, the director of the Climate and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute. (06:00)

Young Activist Speaks Out in Durban

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Middlebury College student Abigail Borah interrupted a talk by Todd Stern, the chief U.S. negotiator at the climate summit, with a impassioned plea for a fair and legally binding treaty. She received a standing ovation and was then thrown out of the conference hall. Host Bruce Gellerman speaks with Borah about the urgency for action. (04:15)

Urban Farming in Africa

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Persistent drought and desertification are driving 15 million Africans a year out of rural areas and into cities. OnEarth magazine writer Jocelyn Zuckerman tells host Bruce Gellerman that many people in cities are taking up agriculture as a way to feed their families. (06:30)

Oregon’s First Marine Reserve / Jason Albert

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The waters off Port Orford, Oregon, have seen a steady decline in the numbers of rockfish because of over-fishing. But soon the area will be protected and fishing will be banned. Producer Jason Albert reports that scientists are working with fishermen to ensure the health of fish and their habitats. (08:15)

Snow Geese – Up and Away / Mark Seth Lender

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It’s migration time for many birds and Snow Geese are no exception. Writer Mark Seth Lender watched thousands of them take flight at their stopover in New Mexico. (02:00)

Coal Byproduct, Hazardous Waste?

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The EPA is deciding if coal fly ash—the byproduct of combustion—should be considered hazardous waste. Host Bruce Gellerman speaks to reporter Chase Purdy from the Ledger newspaper in Florida about how this new designation would impact how municipalities store fly ash waste. (05:15)

The Next Industrial Revolution

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As the Internet helps home-owners regulate home-grown energy, Jeremy Rifkin says we are stepping into another industrial revolution. (07:15)

Selling Asian Carp

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Schafer Fisheries in Illinois pulls tons of Asian carp out of the Illinois river, but so far they haven’t found much luck landing the invasive fish on American plates. So we asked listeners to help sing the benefits of eating this plentiful protein. Steve McNitt of Schafer’s Fisheries tells host Bruce Gellerman which jingles were keepers and which he’d throw back. (02:50)

Earth Ear

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Once the sun sets on the vast African plains, water-holes in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve come alive with a chorus of frogs, toads and insects. (01:00)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Bruce Gellerman
GUESTS: Alden Meyer, Jennifer Morgan, Abigail Borah, Jocelyn Zuckerman, Francis Wachira, Chase Purdy, Jeremy Rifkin, Steve McNitt
REPORTERS: Jason Albert, Mark Seth Lender, Steve Curwood


GELLERMAN: From Public Radio International - it's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Deal or no deal in Durban - negotiations at the Climate Summit go down to the wire - disrupted by a young American activist urging immediate action:

BORAH: I’m scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to fair emissions in a legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now!

GELLERMAN: Action was promised, but will nations deliver? Also - the Redfish Rocks off the coast of Oregon teem with fish, but soon they'll be off limits to fishermen.

MILES: It’s really difficult, the thought of a marine reserve...to have your fishing grounds taken away. You know and my first instinct was just to run and hide from it.

GELLERMAN: Overcoming reservations about establishing a new marine reserve; these stories and more this week, on Living on Earth. Stick around!


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

Durban Climate Conference

The UN climate conference is in Durban South Africa this year. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, brunosan)

GELLERMAN: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, it's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman.


GELLERMAN: Climate talks in Durban, South Africa got off on an energetic, positive foot as UN climate officials and politicians took to the stage and got down. Then, when the music was over, they got down to 12 days of tough talks. Typically UN climate summits are annual cliffhangers – with negotiators huddled in hallways and making last minute deals behind closed doors, and this year’s meeting in Durban was no exception. As the drama unfolded inside the convention hall, outside on the streets of Durban environmentalists protested the slow pace of the talks.


GELLERMAN: The Durban talks came down to the wire with a lot on the line. Hanging in the balance: the fate of a climate changing world and the future of the UN climate process itself.

Joining me from the climate talks is Alden Meyer.

Hi, Alden.

MEYER: Hi Bruce

GELLERMAN: You must be exhausted. The last few hours, minutes, seconds were very tense at the climate meeting this year.
MEYER: Yeah they were. And of course most of us had been up the last two or three nights. It went all night for a number of the ministers Thursday and then Friday. And then of course around the clock on Saturday. This was the longest conference of the parties so it was a record breaker.

GELLERMAN: So when all was said and done, what was done?

MEYER: Well there are a number of parts to the so-called Durban package. First of all, the European Union, Norway and few other countries decided they would stay in the Kyoto Protocol after the first commitments expire at the end of next year. No change from Japan, Canada and Russia, which have indicated they want to drop out. And of course the deal for that, for Europe agreeing to stay in, was that the U.S., China, India and other countries that don’t currently have any binding commitments under Kyoto need to engage in the negotiation that will start this year, go for three more years and not take effect until 2020.

GELLERMAN: So Kyoto is the only legal binding treaty that we’ve got. That applies to thirty-seven industrial countries, not the developing countries like India or China. And then they want to keep that going for what–another five years? That would take us to 2017, and then start negotiating a new pact that would take effect in 2020.

MEYER: That’s right. They actually punted on the issue of whether the next commitments for Kyoto would be five years or eight years because uh, most of those in Europe, they’ve already legislated their commitments out to 2020, and if you’re not going to have the new negotiating period take effect until 2020, you might as well make it eight years, many of them think. So that will be decided at the next meeting in Bonn this coming May.

But the big deal here is that we were really at a fork in the road. If you hadn’t extended Kyoto and you hadn’t launched the new round of negotiations we would have been going back to the purely voluntary days of the early 1990’s under the Rio Treaty, when countries put on pledges or made promises, but of course–with the exception of the former Soviet Union countries which had deep emissions reductions as a result of the collapse of the economies–none of the rest of the industrialized countries met their promises, so that’s why we had Kyoto. So we really were at a choice point here. And it was good to see them maintain the rules-based multilateral regime, but of course it’s got some holes in it: the coverage will drop from about 28 percent of global emissions down to about 15 or 16 because of Japan, Russia and Canada jumping out. And of course the rest of the world won’t be brought in until nine years down the road. So it’s not ideal, but it’s the best we could have gotten and there was a sigh of relief I think from the small island states, the most vulnerable countries, the European Union and others who want to see climate action when this deal was finally done in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

GELLERMAN: So Japan, Russia, Canada, they’re not going to stay in Kyoto. Is this meaningful in terms of preventing catastrophic climate change?

MEYER: Well I think the other part of this was - it’s not as aggressive as it needed to be in terms of near term reductions. There are a few handles in the part of the Durban package that came out that called for countries to start talking next year about how they could up their game and how maybe we could bring in some sectors that were not covered such as international shipping and aviation. But the reality is we are not on a path to meet the goal that was set in Copenhagen two years ago of holding global temperature increases to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We are a little under one degree now, so double that, and you will double the impacts that we are seeing now, which are already starting to mount, particularly on the most vulnerable countries So I don’t think there is anyone who came out of Durban who thinks we are doing enough to really come to grips with the catastrophic problem.

GELLERMAN: So Alden is this process, the UN process, any way to save a planet?

MEYER: Well it can’t be, by itself. The reality is there is no international process, no UN body that can force big countries like China, India the U.S., others, to do things that they don’t believe are in their interest. So the bottom line is the action has to start at home. You have to build the political will to do things. But then you have to bring what you are doing into the international regime and collectively decide how you are going to get the world on a path that avoids the worst impacts of climate change. So it is not the ideal, but as Don Rumsfeld said, you fight climate change with regime you have, not the regime you want. I think that is sort of where we are going now.

GELLERMAN: Well Alden, get some sleep.

MEYER: I will indeed. Thanks a lot Bruce.

GELLERMAN: Alden Meyer is Director of Policy and Strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
During those last tense hours of negotiations, we reached Jennifer Morgan at the Durban Climate Summit.
She's director of energy and climate programs at the World Resources Institute - and she was feeling a bit bleary-eyed when we called.
MORGAN: Yah, long nights, long days. That’s for sure.

GELLERMAN: And why does it take so long? Why do they always seem to go right down to the wire?

MORGAN: Well, I think there’s a lot at stake here and the decisions that they’re making are not small. So I think it’s a mixture of intense technical details that have to be sorted out; I mean just imagine the forests and how you use your energy and how you count things and how you create funds are all very technical, but then clearly the politics here is incredibly complex as well. And you get into the field of the U.S. versus China’s relationship and how Europe is moving forward despite the Euro crisis and Africa coming in. So if you mix that complexity of politics and policy, it just takes time.

GELLERMAN: Is there the sense that time is running out in terms of climate change - that while they’re kind of fiddling, the world is burning?

MORGAN: Absolutely. I think if you look at the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports on extreme weather or if you look at what the National Academies of Sciences has said about the risks of climate change and irreversible damage, and then you look at that kind of the level of ambition coming out of countries, there’s just a huge gap and that is particularly distressing to Africa and the small island nations.

GELLERMAN: What about the mood of this meeting? Each one has a different sense to it. What’s your sense of the mood?

MORGAN: Well, I think the mood is a mixture of things. I think on the one hand, everyone here is aware of the fact that what this process and what countries are currently committing to do is deeply inadequate in comparison to what the science is telling governments that they need to do. On the other hand though, I think that there is a sense of slight movement or optimism to try and finally resolve this question of the legally binding thing and get the fund up and running and get incremental steps moving.

GELLERMAN: There was some frustration by a young American student, Abigail Borah, who is attending Middlebury College and was in Durban. And she interrupted Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy for climate, during his speech. I want you to listen to that.

BORAH: I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now.

GELLERMAN: How did that play there in Durban?

MORGAN: Well, I think that she was very inspirational and spoke the words that many people feel here but that sometimes diplomatic speak doesn’t allow to be said.

GELLERMAN: Talking to us from the UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa is Jennifer Morgan; she’s director Energy and Climate Programs at the World Resources Institute. Jennifer, thank you so very much.

MORGAN: Thank you.

Related links:
- World Resources Institute

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Young Activist Speaks Out in Durban

(Photo: Abigail Borah)

GELLERMAN: How did that play there in Durban?

MORGAN: Well, I think that she was very inspirational and spoke the words that many people feel here but that sometimes diplomatic speak doesn’t allow to be said.

GELLERMAN: Talking to us from the UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa is Jennifer Morgan; she’s director Energy and Climate Programs at the World Resources Institute. Jennifer, thank you so very much.

MORGAN: Thank you.

GELLERMAN: Well, Abigail Borah - the 21-year-old student who disrupted the speech by U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern - says she doesn't regret what she did. I reached her in Durban by Skype.

BORAH: I was a bit terrified. It was one of those things where I knew that I had to rally all the forces and be courageous and stand for what I believed in. It was a high level plenary event. The COP president takes statements from distinguished dignitaries from every country at the UN. And when he called the United States representative, Todd Stern, to come up I started speaking, because I didn’t think he could speak on behalf of the United States. So, I wanted to issue a statement calling for more ambition and calling for more urgency in the U.S. position.

GELLERMAN: Where you arrested?

BORAH: I was not arrested. The UN has a code of conduct and speaking like that is against the code of conduct and so they took away my accreditation for the rest of the conference.

GELLERMAN: When you were led out of the session you got many a cheer.

BORAH: I did receive an ovation from both civil society sitting in the back as well as negotiators from a lot of different countries.

GELLERMAN: So, your position is that the United States and other countries that the process is just failing.

BORAH: I definitely think there’s a lack of progress and I think the United States in particular is deliberately postponing any type of ambition. We’ve decided that because of the obstructionist congress we can’t make a stance. We have nothing to bring to the table when we come to these conferences, and so it’s stillborn right from the start. So, what my statement was trying to say is that we cannot perpetuate this international gridlock in the negotiations. As the United States, we need to lead in the fight against climate change and we can’t deliberately postpone progress.

Watch Abigail Borah at COP 17

GELLERMAN: It’s your generation that’s going to have to deal with this mess.

BORAH: That’s true and a lot of adults - parents of friends, teachers - will say, you know it’s up to your generation to fix the problems. And frankly, I'm really not willing to take that. I think, because of the science, and the necessity to act now, yes, my generation is willing to step up to the plate, but the generation before us must set the scene.

If we need to have peak emissions before 2020, and the United States doesn’t want to have a binding agreement to have emissions reductions until 2020, it will be too late to wait. And that’s part of the statement that I had is as a youth, I have the right to have a livable planet.

GELLERMAN: So, are you now encouraged by what’s happened at the COP 17 in Durban?

BORAH: I’m still pretty disappointed. I think we need to really rev up the action. One thing that I am encouraged by is that after my statement Todd Stern pushed his press conference earlier, and spent a significant amount of time trying to justify the U.S. stance. And in fact, saying things that he had not been saying before.

And so, I think what I did really opened the door and was a game changer in terms of the U.S. stance, and how other countries, as well as NGOs, were able to relate and really push the U.S., and drawing attention domestically as well as internationally to our government’s lack of action.

GELLERMAN: Have you seen the video of you giving your protest?

BORAH: I have. (laughs)

GELLERMAN: What do you think?

BORAH: I think that the youth have a really strong message. And, we have an enthusiasm and urgency about us that is so unique in the negotiations. You can sit in the plenary halls for hours on end and the negotiators themselves will fall asleep. And, they’re full of empty rhetoric and empty promises. And I think it really was time for someone to stand up and say we are shackling justice and perpetuating international gridlock.

GELLERMAN: Well, Abigail Borah, it has been a real pleasure. I want to thank you so very much.

BORAH: Thank you for having me.

GELLERMAN: Abigail Borah is a student at Middlebury College and a member of the youth delegation to the UN Climate talks in Durban.

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[MUSIC: Hugh Masakela “Up Township” from Live At The Market Theater (4 Quarters Entertainment 2007)]

GELLERMAN: Just ahead: vertical farms go up in a Nairobi slum. Keep listening to Living on Earth!

[CUTAWAY MUSIC: Hubert Sumlin “Happy With My French Friends” from My Guitar And Me (Evidence Records 1994)]

Urban Farming in Africa

Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya and ground zero for urban farming. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is a bustling business city, but it’s also on the bleeding edge of climate change. Rainfall disruptions and drought have led to a mass migration from rural areas of the country to the city. And today 60 percent of the population of Nairobi live in slums. “Hell on Earth” is how Jocelyn Zuckerman describes these impoverished places.

But in the latest edition of OnEarth magazine, she writes that the slums of Nairobi are also on the leading edge of urban agriculture and what is called “vertical farming.” For her article, "The Constant Gardeners," Jocelyn Zuckerman traveled to the city’s vast shantytown called: Kibera.

ZUCKERMAN: Most of the buildings are made of just sort of scraps of cardboard or mud - corrugated tin roofs on top of each other, really, with just little dirt alleys running between them, and laundry hanging all over open sewage that you have to step over and around. But there’s also lots of little stores and barbershops and butchers and bakeries, so there’s a lot of industry happening there - a lot more than people realize, I think.

GELLERMAN: And a lot of people. And a lot of people without food.

ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, people are really hungry there. There was a study that was recently done, and I think it was something like 20 percent said that they had gone a day and a night without food in the last couple of months. Poor people around the world - especially in cities where they don’t have access to land to grow their own food - generally spend from 75 to 80 percent of their incomes just on food.

GELLERMAN: So, this is an area that’s already feeling the effects of climate change, it’s sub-Saharan, there’s… the desert is moving further south, and it’s pushing people into cities, mass exodus.

ZUCKERMAN: Right, the desert is moving further south, and also the cycles of the weather are shifting. So the dry periods are longer, and the rains are coming at times when they’re not expecting them. They’re also tending to be more extreme - a lot of rain - and when a lot of rain falls on the land that’s been dry for so long, it can’t absorb it. So, they’re finding it much more difficult to farm. In that part of the world, something like 15 million people are moving to the cities every year.

GELLERMAN: And, you write that by 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities.

ZUCKERMAN: Right, that’s according to the UN.

Farmers use any open available open space to grow their crops. (Photo: BBC World Service)

GELLERMAN: And, they’re turning what little land they have into farms.

ZUCKERMAN: They are. They’re doing some of it in what they call vertical gardens, which are just recycled grain sacks. It’s about three feet tall and a diameter of probably a foot and a half. And they fill them up with some rocks to give it some structure, and then dirt, and they poke some holes in the side and plant… it’s kale, they call it sukuma wiki there, which is Swahili for “to push through the week” because it grows pretty quickly and, you can buy it cheap. So it’s pretty much the staple that Kenyans rely on. And so they’re growing that and scallions and cabbage in these vertical gardens. At first I saw one or two in front of various shacks, and then at one point, I turned a corner and there were something like 35 of them. And as I walked around the settlement, I just saw more and more of them.

GELLERMAN: Where do they get the water for their sacks?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, a lot of them are reusing wastewater. There are some public taps, but I think something like 100 people share a single tap, and that’s water for cooking, bathing. So, in terms of gardening, they’re often reusing wastewater - water that’s been used for maybe washing dishes or washing laundry. It’s that or nothing. These people are living in real desperation, and they’re finding ways around it.

GELLERMAN: In your article, you mentioned prominently a farmer, his name is Francis Wachira, have I pronounced that correctly?

ZUCKERMAN: Yes, Francis Wachira.

GELLERMAN: He’s quite a guy.

ZUCKERMAN: He’s a fantastic guy, he really is. He struggled for a long time living in the city. He wanted to farm. He started trying to do it and people made fun of him because there’s a lot of stigma attached to what people do in cities and what people are meant to do in the countryside. And, he stuck with it. And now he’s got a pretty good-sized farm. He’s growing all sorts of vegetables and fruits.

GELLERMAN: How big is his plot?

ZUCKERMAN: It’s about a quarter of an acre. It’s amazing. In addition to all the fruits and vegetables, he’s got 500 rabbits there. He’s got wooden hutches - cages that he built himself - three stories high, each of which can have 2-5 rabbits, I would say, in there. And, he feeds them kitchen scraps and grass from his farm, and then he composts everything to use the nutrients to put back into his farm.

GELLERMAN: Well, we spoke with Francis Wachira - we called him up. I want you to hear what he said to us.

WACHIRA: Actually when I started this urban farming it was like a miracle - I’m feeding my family, a family of five. Everybody here is growing some vegetables. So, actually, the future of the world depends on urban farming. If we don’t encourage people to grow food in the urban areas, we are going to have a shortage of food.
GELLERMAN: Well, Francis Wachira, who you just heard from, actually traveled to the United States and he had things to teach Americans about farming.

ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. He was a really inspirational figure. He was in the states for six weeks in Denver talking with farmers. And, at one point, he gave this speech and he was talking about his rabbits - his 500 rabbits that he's raising in downtown Nairobi - and at the end of the speech, the whole crowd was on their feet shouting ‘Rabbit King, Rabbit King.’ And, he understood that he really had something to teach these people.

GELLERMAN: So Jocelyn, is urban agriculture the face of farming in the future?

ZUCKERMAN: I think it absolutely is. I mean, I don’t think we’re going to have a choice, especially with the populations moving to the cities the way they are, and also our land being degraded. The soils in Africa in particular are so tired, they’re just not growing crops well. So people are needing to figure out other ways to do it, and these low tech methods that they’re using in Africa are really impressive and they’re sustainable.

GELLERMAN: Jocelyn, thanks so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

ZUCKERMAN: Thanks for having me.

GELLERMAN: Jocelyn Zuckerman’s article “The Constant Gardeners” appears in the latest edition of OnEarth Magazine. It’s published by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Related link:
Read the OnEarth Article

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[MUSIC: Various Artists/The Don Issac Ezekiel Combination “Amalinja” from Nigerian Highlife, Afro Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970 – 76 (Soundway International 2011)]

Oregon’s First Marine Reserve

A research assistant grips a Red Irish Lord (not a rockfish) before collecting size and sex information. (Photo: Jason Albert)

GELLERMAN: Oregon is going to ring in the New Year with its very first marine reserve. It’ll be just a few miles south of the rural coastal community of Port Orford. Often protecting part of the ocean can create a conflict between fishermen and conservationists, but as Jason Albert reports - at Port Orford, they’re both on board with the project.

ALBERT: You’d think Tom Calvanese is an artist - he sports tortoise shell glasses and a soul patch. But he's a biologist - a graduate student at Oregon State. And he studies rockfish, which belong to the genus Sebastes.

CALVANESE: Which is Greek for magnificent. And, to me, they are pretty magnificent.

ALBERT: Take the China rockfish. It’s jet black, mottled with yellow and topped with menacing spines. And they’re one of nearly 40 rockfish species along the Oregon coast. Besides being stunning to look at, rockfish are big money. They’re a delicacy in markets reaching from Seattle to San Francisco. Finding these fish is essential for the fishery, so it’s important to know where these fish spend their time and how healthy their habitats are, and that’s where Calvanese comes in.


ALBERT: On a rare, clear day in Port Orford, Oregon, a team of researchers motor out on the Fishing Vessel Top Gun. Today’s objective: Catch, catalog and tag rockfish. Tom Calvanese organizes his field notes and points to what’s beneath the surface.

CALVANESE: There’s actually an acoustic array set up to look at fish movement patterns in relationship to reserve boundaries.

ALBERT: Calvanese’s array tracks fish that he’s tagged. Each tagged fish transmits a unique ID. The acoustic array then detects and records the location of the tagged fish.

Time is critical when implanting radio tags in fish, so Tom Calvanese works quickly to minimize the time they're out of the water. (Photo: Jason Albert)

CALVANESE: We need to understand more about how fish use space, where they go, how much time they spend there, what type of habitats they’re likely to be found in. So we’re starting to do more place-based management, and that means we’ve got to collect spatial data. So that’s where movement studies come in.

ALBERT: Calvanese wants to understand how much space a thriving rockfish population needs. And a marine reserve - where fishing is not allowed - is a good place to answer this question. It’s where we’re headed today - to the site of a future reserve called Redfish Rocks, a two and a half square mile reserve off the southern coast of Oregon. The waters here are teeming with fish, but once the reserve’s established, fishing will be off limits. Jeff Miles is a commercial fisherman and he captains the Top Gun for Calvanese:

MILES: You know, it’s a very unique area in here because you get all the species: the Chinas, coppers, quills, lingcod, canaries, yellow eye, halibut. God, you name it, we’ve caught it all here.

ALBERT: Miles stations the vessel near a towering rock. And it sounds like you were one of the folks first involved with figuring out where they would possibly put a marine reserve, is that true?

MILES: Yeah, I was there at the beginning.

ALBERT: What was that like?

MILES: Scary.

ALBERT: Why’s that?

MILES: Uh, it’s really difficult - the thought of a marine reserve - to have your fishing grounds taken away. You know, and my first instinct was just to run and hide from it. The biggest thing is, people don’t want to lose their ability to make money.

ALBERT: Many commercial fishermen rely on these fishing grounds. And for those that do, Miles says the eventual ban on fishing - once the reserve is established - will amount to a 10 to 15 percent loss of income.

MILES: How many people are going to voluntarily take 10 percent out of their paycheck? Not very many.

ALBERT: In his 35 years on the water, Miles has seen overfishing deplete rockfish populations near Port Orford. Rockfish don’t reproduce every year, so once their numbers drop, they have a hard time coming back. So, Miles and others in the fishing community, turn to scientists like Calvanese for help.

Jeff Miles and his crew know where to find and catch fish. (Photo: Jason Albert)

The Top Gun's crew sets an anchor and baits fishing lines. Their goal is to catch and tag fish. The boat dips and rolls from the Pacific swell.

CREW: Oh, oh, I got one! I got one!

MILES: That’s a Cabazon. Hey we got another China! Brianna, got a China, woohoo!

ALBERT: Calvanese writes down the catch by species, sex and length in his notebook.

CALVANESE: That’s a male kelp greenling, 27 centimeters.

ALBERT: He creates a makeshift operating room in the boat’s stern. It’s stocked with scalpels, suturing tools, and a homemade cradle for fish surgery.

Can you grab me that wash bottle right there?
Um start time.
Ok, we ready?
You’ve got a good hold on him, right?
Yeah, I got ‘em.

ALBERT: A China rockfish is on its back. It's tense and taught. A damp cloth covers its bulging eyes. Water streams over the China's gills and flows over the back of its throat. All of this is intended to hypnotize the fish, and sure enough, the fish is limp within seconds.

ASSISTANT: I think its getting there. Its anal fin went down a little bit.

CALVANESE: It’s starting to relax.

ALBERT: Gently pressuring the belly, Calvanese makes an incision.

CALVANESE: Off the centerline of the fish’s body, between its vent and its pelvic fins.

ALBERT: The incision is just big enough for the acoustic tag. The tag is slightly smaller than a double A battery.

CALVANESE: Ok, I’m going to put a few stitches in the fish, close up the wound.

ALBERT: Calvanese weathers splashing water and sloshing fishing gear. He’s pure focus. He flips the China right side up and presto – it’s dehypnotized. From there, the fish is placed in a recovery cage and eventually released. Jeff Miles, the Top Gun’s captain, watches the surgery from the sidelines.

MILES: I like the tagging part here. I’ve always wanted to know what fish do and where they live and how they move and I think it’s cool. That’s why I’m trying to donate the time and get this done. And, I realize that you just can’t keep hammering on them. They’ve gotta have some places where they can live to survive. And, that’s what really pushed me over the edge, I guess.

After surgery, a fish is placed in a recovery cage and gently lowered overboard. The fish is monitored via a live video feed to ensure it can swim before being released. (Photo: Jason Albert)

ALBERT: Now, Miles and his crew support Calvanese’s project. Calvanese says Miles' knowledge is priceless.

CALVANESE: Jeff Miles is making my research possible. We have species we’re targeting for this research, and they’re not the most commonly encountered species. So in order to capture enough of them to do the research, I need to find them. And I don’t know where to find them - I don't know where to go to catch China rockfish or copper rockfish or quillback rockfish. I’m in awe of someone who’s got that kind of knowledge just from having lived it.

ALBERT: The next day, I sit down with Calvanese in his apartment. Outside his bay window, I can make out the Redfish Rocks Reserve in the distance. But Calvanese is focused on his data.

CALVANESE: So, what we’re looking at here is sort of the other side of the story. So, yesterday we put the transmitter tags in the fish. And, at the other end of this story is this receiver that receives those signals. Actually, this is all the data for one tag - it’s a Canary rockfish. What we know about them is they actually do move around quite a bit. And, that’s what we’re seeing here.

ALBERT: Calvanese says traditionally scientists have a starting point - where the fish was tagged, and an end point - where the fish was caught.

CALVANESE: And so, we have these two points, and we make inferences about - a fish moved from there to there - but we don't know anything about what they did in the interim. So, here we get an opportunity to get that long time series that combines THE space and time in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.

(Photo: Jason Albert)

ALBERT: Calvanese plans to make his tracking data available to everyone. Scientists, of course, but also fishermen like Jeff Miles - fishermen willing to sacrifice immediate gains for the knowledge that their way of life will be sustained, even if traditional fishing grounds, like Redfish Rocks, are permanently set aside for conservation. For Living on Earth in Port Orford, Oregon, I'm Jason Albert.

GELLERMAN: Our story about the Redfish Rocks Reserve comes to us courtesy of the Ocean Gazing podcast. It’s produced by the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, with support from the National Science Foundation. For more information, go to our website: loe.org.

Related link:
The Ocean Gazing podcast is produced by COSEE-NOW, the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence.

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[MUSIC: Albert: Steven Bernstein’ MTO “Sly Notions” from MTO Plays Sly (Royal Potato Family 2011)]

Snow Geese – Up and Away

(Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

GELLERMAN: The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Reserve is in south central New Mexico. The Wetlands of the Rio Grande floodplain are a perfect place for wintering snow geese. Tens of thousands of the birds flock together for several months feasting on corn that’s specially planted, since the snow geese now have to share their habitat with farmers. Writer Mark Seth Lender spent many days watching the birds, from their sunrise fly-out to sunset return.


(Photo:© Mark Seth Lender)

LENDER: A thousand snow geese take off all at once. The black flag flight feathers of the tips of their wings shirr like the blades of powerful engines. They crawl and scrawl their way onto the sky, white and black on cold clear blue, clinging there, slow motion before they truly free themselves from gravity, and rise.

To collide, full thrust, would be disastrous to fragile hollow bones. Somehow they avoid - the tree line, its nagging branches reaching; the interloping weight of a sandhill crane amongst them by mistake; the competition of their own with each other’s wings, coordinate: all up - all out - all down. Into this chaotic space they speed. Safe. Their voices, their limbs and bodies crushing the air into that sound endless ice age snows might have made - white noise over white, frozen ground.


(Photo:© Mark Seth Lender)

GELLERMAN: Mark Seth Lender is the author of “Salt Marsh Diary – A Year on the Connecticut Coast.” Mark has more to tell about the snow geese of the Bosque del Apache Reserve, for that and some of his photos, take a gander at our website LOE dot org. And there, you'll also find our new survey about Living on Earth - please take a few moments to fill it out, and let us know which of our stories soar and which lay an egg.

Related link:
Listen to an Extended Interview with Mark Seth Lender

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[MUSIC: Snow Geese: Camel “Snow Goose” from Snow Goose (Dekka UK 2009)]

GELLERMAN: Coming up – re-branding the Asian carp. We have the winner of our silverfin slogan contest. Stay tuned to Living on Earth!

ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Gilman Ordway - for coverage of conservation and environmental change, and the Sierra Club, helping city bound kids explore and enjoy wild places they'll later strive to protect. Online at sierraclub.org/livingonearth. This is Living on Earth on PRI, Public Radio International.

[CUTAWAY MUSIC: Hubert Sumlin: “My Guitar And Me” from My Guitar And Me (Evidence Records 1994)]

Coal Byproduct, Hazardous Waste?

A large coal-fired power plant. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Thewritingzone)

GELLERMAN: It's Living On Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. It was the largest release of toxic fly ash in U.S. history. Three years ago, just three days before Christmas in the middle of the night, a giant holding pond ruptured in Kingston, Tennessee.

A billion gallons of water mixed with fly ash surged into nearby rivers, submerging 300 acres six feet deep. The fly ash came from the Tennessee Valley Authority's nearby coal-fired power plant. Fly ash is one of the most heavily produced and unregulated energy wastes. In the United States there are 347 fly ash pits and federal investigators say nearly 1 in 3 is in poor condition.

The EPA has proposed tough new rules for fly ash and has received almost half a million responses from the public, but House Republicans want to prevent the rules from taking effect. If fly ash was regulated, it would have a big impact on places like Lakeland, Florida where a giant mountain of the stuff has been growing for years. Reporter Chase Purdy has written about it for The Ledger newspaper.

PURDY: You know, going out there is very what I would imagine to be moon-like. It’s mostly just sort of gray ash that’s been mixed with another material - it kind of gives it a sort of plastic-y sort of feel. It is a sizeable mound. It’s probably not unlike the moon.

GELLERMAN: How much fly ash is there?

PURDY: It’s tough to be exact. There are definitely more than 100 thousand tons of fly ash in that pile alone.

GELLERMAN: How many piles are there?

PURDY: This is the second one. The first one is not quite as big. And then a third one would be just a few years down the road once they cap this second pile.

GELLERMAN: So, all this fly ash is coming from the local electric plant there.

PURDY: Right. Basically the byproduct of coal combustion is this fly ash. You can do a few things with fly ash. One is you can sell it for beneficial use, which was great for the housing market down here because it can be used for concrete. A lot of construction companies will use fly ash for building houses and other projects. What you don’t sell, they store it, and that’s what the mound is.

GELLERMAN: Well the housing boom has gone bust. Do you still have a market for fly ash?

PURDY: You know they make a small amount of money off it now, of course that number has dropped tremendously. Basically, in 2010 they made 60 thousand dollars selling fly ash, but back in fiscal year 2008, they did make more than a million.

GELLERMAN: It does have lead in it. It’s got mercury. It's got some other heavy metals in there…

PURDY: Right, there are all types of different metals that are in coal ash, and that is sort of the major concern by activist groups like Earthjustice and even the EPA… if that were to get into drinking water, and people were to consume it, there is the possibility that it could lead to certain medical issues including cancer, brain damage, heart problems, all sorts of things.

GELLERMAN: So, no fears that it might spill into your Lakeland Lake?

Reporter Chase Purdy. (Photo: Chase Purdy)

PURDY: No, no one is really concerned about that, and the electric company down here, they do keep pretty close tabs on where the runoff is going and how much runoff there is. There are standards that they have to meet before, essentially, constructing these giant mountains.

GELLERMAN: Well, the EPA wants to rename this stuff. The want to call it hazardous waste.

PURDY: Exactly. Basically fly is one of the largest - I think it’s the second largest industrial waste stream in the country today - and to ensure that it’s safely disposed of, they want to sort of tackle fly ash using this piece of legislation called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

And, there are two options: One would be to allow the states to oversee how they dispose of fly ash, and the other option - which is the more contentious one - would be that states would have to adopt the EPA standards for handling hazardous wastes. You store hazardous waste in hazardous waste landfills.

For Florida, that’s a problem, because our state statute says very specifically because of our water table and our elevation, that we cannot have hazardous waste landfills, which would mean, shipping out these tons and tons of ash that we accumulate.

GELLERMAN: So, where would you send it?

PURDY: Well, the closest hazardous waste landfill is up in this tiny little town in Alabama called Emile. And, they have actually up there, the country’s largest hazardous waste landfill. Talking to city officials here, that’s a 1,200 mile round trip. It would have to go by truck everyday.

GELLERMAN: Boy, that would be costly too!

PURDY: Basically, it would cost about five million dollars extra a year to ship this stuff out.

GELLERMAN: And who would pay?

PURDY: Taxpayers.


PURDY: Serious.

GELLERMAN: So, what do the residents of Lakeland think about having this giant mound of fly ash in their backyard, basically?

PURDY: You know, it’s a big mountain that’s viewable if you drive by Lake Parker. And, I think people have been kind of curious about what it is, but it hasn’t really sparked any serious concerns that would have citizens up in arms, at least not at this point.

GELLERMAN: Do you think they’d be up in arms if they had to pay another five million dollars?

PURDY: (Laughs). I think we have yet to see that.

GELLERMAN: So, what happens now?

PURDY: Well, basically the next is just sort of a waiting game. There are a few things that are happening. One is waiting for the EPA to finish going through the many, many public comments that they have received. And then also the discussion has already started in Washington.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives have already put forward some legislation that would essentially pull some of the teeth from the EPA’s ability to regulate the disposal of coal ash, and that passed the House and has moved on to the Senate where it is currently in committee.

The Obama administration has already become involved - they sent along a statement essentially to the Senate asking senators to quash the measure. So, still being discussed up in Washington.

GELLERMAN: Well, Chase it was good talking with you. Thank you so very much.

PURDY: Thanks so much for having me.

GELLERMAN: Chase Purdy is a reporter with The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.

Related link:
Read Purdy’s article, “Lakeland Officials Nervous About Financial Fallout From Fly Ash Pile”

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[MUSIC: Banco Da gaia “Kara Kum (Bombay Dub Orch Spaghetti Eastern Dub remix)” from Eden (Six Degrees Records 2007)]

The Next Industrial Revolution

Jeremy Rifkin speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo: Office of Jeremy Rifkin)

GELLERMAN: The first industrial revolution was fueled by coal and steam. The second revolution, by oil and the automobile. And, according to social philosopher Jeremy Rifkin, we’re on the cusp of another industrial revolution, this one powered by renewable energy and communication technology.

Writing in his new book, "The Third Industrial Revolution," Jeremy Rifkin argues the shift will be socially disruptive, but ultimately rewarding. Jeremy Rifkin recently spoke with Living on Earth’s Steve Curwood.

CURWOOD: So your concept of the third industrial revolution hinges on the convergence of what, two things - new energy and communications systems. And if you could explain for us how a new energy and communications paradigm worked out during the first industrial revolution, that would be helpful.

RIFKIN: In the first industrial revolution, in the 19th century, print technology became very cheap. That combined with public schools. We introduced public schools in Europe and America in the 19th century and created a print literate workforce with those communication skills to manage the complexities of a coal-powered, top down, steam-driven first industrial revolution.

CURWOOD: In your book, you say, in many ways, the idea of a centralized, top down, power began with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in the late 1800s.

RIFKIN: Yeah, that was the model, really, because remember railroads had to rely on storage of coal across the country and ceding public lands, and huge logistics issues in maintaining where the rail cars were and where they were going. It was very complicated. And they created the first centralized, top down business model.

CURWOOD: So now lets go to the second industrial revolution - what changes in communication? What changes in energy? And what happens to mobility?

RIFKIN: The second industrial revolution brought a new convergence of communication energy. The telephone was essential. The centralized electricity and the telephone allowed us to connect across dispersed space, across the continent, in very, very quick time. And then later, radio and television became the communication media to manage and market a more dispersed auto era, based on oil-powered fuels and a suburban rollout, which was more dispersed, and a mass consumer society - they went hand in hand.

A handful of oil companies emerged, we had a handful of public utilities and we began to see the outlines of what would be the most centralized, top down economic model in history. And that system right now is really on life support and dying, and I think it's probably precipitated why a lot of young people are pretty upset on the streets.

CURWOOD: So, we had a first industrial revolution with coal, you say we’re at the end of the next industrial revolution that we had with oil and gas, and now we’re moving into a third industrial revolution, which you say is based on ‘lateral power.’ What is this third industrial revolution?

Jeremy Rifkin. (Photo: Office of Jeremy Rifkin)

RIFKIN: The third industrial revolution sees the merging of our new communication revolution - the internet - with our new energies - renewable, distributed energies. And, when the internet communication technology begins to manage these distributed renewable energies, we have a very powerful third industrial revolution.

What’s really interesting about renewable energies is they are distributed. Meaning: They’re found in every square inch of the world, in some frequency - the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground. So unlike fossil fuels, which are elite energies and found only in a few places and require top-down organization, renewable energies are distributed and found in everyone’s backyard.

CURWOOD: What you’re saying the third industrial revolution is all about is renewable energy and making it possible for us to use this in a collaborative, rather than a top down way. And then the other factor for this, you say, is that this will also get us out of the boom and bust cycle - that is the sun, the wind - these are continual.

RIFKIN: Better said than I could have. I think the key here is that it’s a sea change in thinking between an older and younger generation. Let me use the music companies as an analogy. They did not understand file sharing and music.

When millions of young kids started figuring out ways to create software to share their music around the world, the music companies thought it was a joke. Then they were terrified, then they went out of business. The newspapers similarly did not understand the lateral power of blogosphere. Millions of people coming together on things like Wikipedia or in social spaces to create their own information and news, and now newspapers are either going out of business or creating blogs.

CURWOOD: You know, you’re talking about lateral power taking over, but you spend much of your book describing how the third industrial revolution is being imposed really in a top down way in Europe - important ministers, high government officials - it seems like a contradiction.

RIFKIN: What’s happening is that top down is actually being pushed by the bottom up. What’s happening across Europe, especially beginning with the discussions on climate change, is millions of people said ‘we’ve gotta do something.’ And they started pushing for feed-in tariffs, so they could get premium for converting their buildings, sending power back to the grid. People began talking about how local communities can begin organizing for energy efficiencies, and begin to share energy with surrounding communities.

So, there’s been a tremendous push from the bottom to make this happen, and yes, then the politicians responded. So, I think, yeah, it’s bottom up. It’s top down. It’s everybody.

CURWOOD: So, how is America responding to your vision?

RIFKIN: Well, a lot of the old industries, especially energy industries, have a huge sway in Washington. They’re an obstacle, but I think history is on the side of moving into this new model, the question is can American move fast enough? During this upcoming political year, what everyone has to ask themselves is: How the hell do we grow an American economy based on old energies that have peaked, prices going up, climate change impacting us now, and old infrastructure? There’s just no way to do it.

CURWOOD: You’re vision here is, what, a 50 or 100 year plan. How do you implement that with a political system that can’t see past the next election?

RIFKIN: Very tough. If we don’t change consciousnesses, we’re not going to get there. What we need is to shift from geopolitics to biosphere consciousness. Before the industrial age, every community whether they were forge and hunting or agriculture - had to rely on the rhythms of nature.

When we went to the first and second industrial revolution, we saw this stored chunk of sun - coal, oil, gas - and we thought we could hermetically seal ourselves off from nature and create an unlimited cornucopia of wealth. It was an illusion. When we go to a third industrial revolution, for example where this is moving in Germany and Europe, people in their homes, offices and buildings - they’re totally attuned on the software to what’s going on moment-to-moment with the solar radiance outside the buildings.

What’s happening to the heat under the ground when they change seasons for their geothermal heat pump. What’s happening to garbage that's decomposing in the basement in their bio converter. So, we become intimately aware that each day we are attuned and re-imbedded in the rhythms of the planet we live in. That’s biosphere consciousness, and the question is, if we don’t do this, what’s Plan B?

CURWOOD: Well, Jeremy Rifkin, I want to thank you for taking this time with me today.

RIFKIN: Thank you, Steve. It’s been a pleasure being with you.

CURWOOD: Jeremey Rifkin’s new book is called “The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy and the World.” I’m Steve Curwood.

Related links:
- Jeremy Rifkin's website
- "The Third Industrial Revolution" by Jeremy Rifkin

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[MUSIC: Bombay Dub Orchestra “Blueish Green” from 3 Cities (Six Degrees Music 2008)]

Selling Asian Carp

Silver Carp in hand (Photo by Dan O'Keefe of Michigan Sea Grant)

GELLERMAN: In our recent story about the invasive Asian carp there were suggestions the fish needed a new name. Marketers came up with silverfin and we asked listeners to come up with a jingle - and a few of you took the bait. Steve McNitt, a sales manager at Schafer Fisheries, sells silverfin, and he joins us to weigh the entries. Hi Steve.


GELLERMAN: So, we had a bunch of jingles entered into our contest and it came down to the final four. So, let’s go down through these: Bonnie Green from Atlanta sent us one - it’s to the tune of “Swim Little Fish.”

GREEN: (Singing): Boop, boop, ditum, dotum, watom, chu, and they swam and they swam right over the dam. Silverfin: white plate, boiler baked, butter, lemon, sprig-of parsley winner.

GELLERMAN: What did you think?

MCNITT: Ok, well, it was… the song itself wasn’t too bad, it was fairly short. I kind of enjoyed it.

GELLERMAN: Well there was another one from Seth Tuper (phonetic) from Albany, New York. He listens on WAMC, he had one called the “Holiday Carp Song.”

TUPER: (Singing) Eat seven fish, sweet silverfin, all seem to say, try carp today. Silver fin’s here, everyone cheer, sing young and old, where it is sold …

MCNITT: Yeah, now, that’s the one I cared the least for.

TUPER: (Singing): …Try it with rice, boy it tastes nice, one seems to cheer, try fish this year, silverfin’s here…

Asian Carp jump out of the water at the mouth of the Wabash River. (Flickr CC/ LouisvilleUSACE)

GELLEMAN: So what didn’t you like about the “Holiday Carp Song”?

MCNITT: I guess the rhythm of it - duh, duh, dada, - there’s a lot of repetition there…

TUPER: (Singing): Very, very, very, very tasty…

GELERMAN: Well, it’s done to the tune of “Carol of the Bells.” You don't like that tune, huh?

TUPER: (Singing) Share fish and chips…best fish and chips…

MCNITT: Right, I must not like that song either.

GELLERMAN: Bah humbug, huh?


TUPER: (Singing) …Very, very, very, very tasty.

GELLERMAN: Then there was the one just called “Silverfin” and it’s by Michael Robinson.

MUSIC BY MICHAEL ROBINSON: …silverfin, what a fine taste, that silverfin. You’re going to like it too my friend… give me another bite of that silverfin. Give me ‘nother bite of that silverfin.

MCNITT: Right, and that was alright. That was alright. I did enjoy that.

GELLERMAN: So, then we had a tune by Scott Gatzke, and he had a tune called “Please Pass the Carp.”

GATZKE: (Singing with guitar): Carp, C-A-R-P: It’s a plentiful fish that’s good to eat. You know, I didn’t think I’d like it but I really do like it - please pass the carp. Carp, once you give it a try, carp, I think you’ll be surprised. It’s got a pork-like taste that'll make you say: Please pass the carp. Please pass the carp.

MCNITT: That’s the one I liked the best.

GELLERMAN: Oh really? Why?

MCNITT: The guy could sing and it had a nice rhythm to it. I liked it the best of the four.

GELLERMAN: (laughing) Alright, well Steve, thank you very much.

MCNITT: Alright, thank you so much. Bye bye.

GELLERMAN: Steve McNitt is with Schafer Fisheries - he’ll soon be sending Scott Gatzke in Wisconsin a couple of pounds of Asian carp or silverfin for his catchy jingle. You can drop us a line or hear the final entries on the inter-NET: loe.org.

[MUSIC: Scott Gatzke, "Please Pass the Carp."]

[MUSIC: All songs submitted by the following listeners: Scott Gatzke: Please Pass the Carp, Seth Tuper: Holiday Carp Song, Michael Robinson: Silverfin, Bonnie Green: Swim Little Fish]

Related links:
- Schafer Fisheries offers smoked carp by mail order
- Listen to Bonnie Green “Swim Little Fish”
- Listen to Seth Tuper “Holiday Carp Song”
- Listen to Michael Robinson “Silverfin”
- Listen to Scott Gatzke "Please Pass the Carp"

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Earth Ear


GELLERMAN: We leave you this week in the South African veldt.


GELLERMAN: Veldt is a Dutch word. It refers to wide open spaces in Southern Africa covered with grass or low scrub. In Australia you’d call it the outback, in South America: the Pampas. Here, at the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, the sun sets over a watering hole and the sounds of frogs and insects fill the air. John Bullitt captured the chorus for his CD “Night of a Thousand Songs.”


Related link:

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GELLERMAN: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Bobby Bascomb, Eileen Bolinsky, Jessica Ilyse Kurn, Ingrid Lobet, Helen Palmer, and Ike Sriskandarajah, with help from Sarah Calkins, Gabriela Romanow and Sammy Sousa. Our interns are Raphaella Bennin and Jack Rodolico. Jeff Turton is our technical director. Alison Lirish Dean composed our themes. You can find us anytime at LOE dot org – and while you're online, check out our sister program, Planet Harmony. Planet Harmony welcomes all and pays special attention to stories affecting communities of color. Log on and join the discussion at my planet harmony dot com. And don’t forget to check out the Living on Earth facebook page. It’s PRI’s Living on Earth. And you can follow us on Twitter - @livingonearth, that's one word. Steve Curwood is our executive producer. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Thanks for listening!

ANNOUNCER 1: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science. And Stonyfield Farm, organic yogurt and smoothies. Stonyfield invites you to just eat organic for a day. Details at justeatorganic.com. Support also comes from you, our listeners; the Go Forward Fund; and Pax World Mutual and Exchange-Traded Funds, integrating environmental, social, and governance factors into investment analysis and decision making. On the web at paxworld.com. Pax World, for tomorrow.

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