Air Date: April 23, 1993
Clinton Lays Out Environmental Program/ Peter Thomson
Living on Earth's Peter Thomson reports on President Clinton's speech marking Earth Day. The President announced that the US would sign the UN's biodiversity treaty, cut greenhouse gases to 1990 levels within seven years, and stimulate the market for environmentally-friendly products. (05:53)
Deland Evaluates the New President/ Michael Deland
Reaction to Clinton's speech and first 100 days from Living on Earth analyst Michael Deland. Deland was Chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality under President Bush. (04:38)
Last call for entries to the Living on Earth "Making a Difference" Contest. ()
Environmental Hero...And Not Even Old Enough to Vote/ Steve Curwood
Steve visits with high school senior Andrew Holleman. Five years ago, when he was 12 years old, Holleman successfully campaigned to save a wetland near his house from development. This is the last in our 2nd anniversary "Making a Difference" series. (08:28)
HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Jan Nunley
REPORTERS: Steve Inskeep, Henry Sessions, Pye Chamberlayne, Peter Thomson
GUESTS: Michael Deland, Andrew Holleman
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CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.
Three months into his term, President Clinton marked Earth Day by articulating his environmental agenda. Some criticize it for not going far enough, others for going too far, but some key environmentalists are giving the President high marks.
BROWN: This is what the world has needed, a government that was environmentally visionary, could see where the world needed to go and to begin to move the United States in that direction.
CURWOOD: Also, we meet a youth who at age 12 saved his favorite wetland from the bulldozer. His strategy? Never give up.
HOLLEMAN: Many people felt that they really couldn't do anything, they were powerless to fight a large developer. I really didn't care at the time. I had nothing to lose by fighting the development I fought and so I did it.
CURWOOD: That and more this week on Living on Earth, coming up right after the news.
NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley with this week's environmental news.
A major study in New York has found a significant link between the banned pesticide DDT and breast cancer. From member station WBGO, Steve Inskeep has the details.
INSKEEP: Though it was banned over 20 years ago, the pesticide DDT hasn't gone away. It's deeply embedded in the food chain, stored in the fat of humans and animals. Nearly all Americans have at least some DDT in their bodies, and study has now found that women with high levels of the chemical are four times more likely to develop breast cancer. But researcher Mary Wolf of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, says she's still far from saying DDT causes breast cancer.
WOLF: I hope that this will be a clue that will let us find other factors in the diet or in the environment that can help us prevent the disease.
INSKEEP: The National Agricultural Chemical Association, which lobbies for pesticide makers, calls the study 'of great concern', but not conclusive. For Living on Earth, I'm Steve Inskeep.
NUNLEY: Old chemical weapons and other explosives still remain at perhaps 250 former defense sites across the country, and some of the dumps may be in areas open to the public, including housing developments and wildlife refuges. The materiel ranges from unexploded hand grenades to still-lethal mustard gas shells from World War One. The Pentagon says most of it has been buried, fenced-in or otherwise isolated, and that it may take 15 years to find all the weapons .
The US Bureau of Land Management has dropped a request to exempt timberland in Oregon from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The decision means that questions about possibly-improper contact between the Bush White House and the "Endangered Species Committee" which originally granted the exemption may go unanswered. Henry Sessions of KOPB reports.
SESSIONS: The Cabinet-level committee, nicknamed the 'God Squad', has the power to put economic concerns before protection of an endangered species, in this case the Northern spotted owl. Environmentalists charged the Bush Administration with secretly pushing God Squad members to vote to allow logging in spotted owl habitat. The BLM decision to withdraw the logging request heads off a court-ordered investigation into whether secret communications took place. A BLM spokesman says President Clinton is interested in forging a comprehensive forest policy, not in digging up dirt on the Bush Administration. The BLM said the reversal will have no economic impact on the region because logging in the disputed areas is held up by a Federal court injunction. For Living on Earth, this is Henry Sessions in Portland, Oregon.
NUNLEY: America's Green movement is still mostly white, according to a study by the Environmental Careers Organization. The group says environmental racism isn't a priority for most major environmental groups, though minority neighborhoods are more likely to suffer the effects of pollution than white communities. The study found that up to a third of the organizations had no people of color on staff, and that most civil rights groups paid scant attention to environmental issues.
This is Living on Earth.
Atmospheric ozone levels hit record lows during 1992, according to new data from NASA published in the journal Science . Last year's average ozone concentrations dipped two to three percent below previous lows. It's the first time NASA has found a significant decrease in ozone over large parts of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time. Scientists speculate the drop may be aggravated by the interaction between human-made chemicals and lingering particles from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
Congress and the Interior Department are investigating the actions of a former top Federal mining official. The case may test the Clinton Administration's vow to get tough on environmental crime. Pye Chamberlayne reports.
CHAMBERLAYNE: The case involves the Bush Administration's top coal-mining regulator, Harry Snyder. He's accused of giving coal companies improper help. The House Appropriations Committee cites 25 instances of Snyder interceding to block coal mine inspections and corporate prosecutions, and to reduce fines. Interior Department investigators are also looking into the matter. They plan soon to send the Justice Department their findings on these and other charges. Interior officials say the case will set the tone for environmental prosecutions. They say the Snyder case is not only the first of its type pursued by the Clinton Administration, but also a case where Snyder was just following Bush White House policy to go easy for economic reasons on companies that exploit the environment. One highly placed official said this will probably be an indication of how many things were handled in the Bush Administration. For Living on Earth, I'm Pye Chamberlayne in Washington.
NUNLEY: Asian "megacities" will house more than half of the world's people by the year 2020, and will face severe environmental degradation. The Asian Development Bank says rapid urban growth has left most large cities with contaminated water, air pollution, congested roads, and high crime rates. The bank will require countries to emphasize city planning, especially the delivery of clean drinking water, to qualify for new loans.
That's this week's environmental news. I'm Jan Nunley.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood.
After months of letting his aides do the talking on environmental issues, for the first time as President, Bill Clinton has laid out his own agenda for the Federal Government. There were some surprises in his speech, timed to commemorate Earth Day, but not many. The President largely stuck to the broad generalities he voiced in the campaign, rather than the hard specifics of implementation. Living on Earth's Peter Thomson has our report.
THOMSON: The speech was Bill Clinton's first major statement on the environment since last Earth Day, when he was still just one of several challengers to then-President Bush. Since then, the signals on the environment have been mixed. Clinton chose leading environmentalist Al Gore as his Vice-President, but Gore has been nearly invisible since taking office in January. Meanwhile, the President included such bold environmental initiatives as an energy tax and reform of Federal land policies in his budget plan, only to back off from or modify the plans almost right away. But on this day, the President seemed to be saying to people on all sides of the environmental debate, don't sweat the details -- we're committed to making big changes.
CLINTON: To protect the environment at home and abroad, I'm committed to a government that leads by example, brings people together, and brings out the best in everyone. For too long, our government did more to inflame environmental issues than to solve them.
THOMSON: With that implicit criticism of his Republican predecessors as a starting point, Clinton announced the reversal of two major Bush Administration environmental policies. He pledged to sign the United Nations biodiversity convention, and to commit the US to reduce its output of atmospheric greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The US's major trading partners had already agreed to these commitments, but President Bush had said they would hurt the competitiveness of American industry. President Clinton, however, without giving many specifics, said the US can find ways to meet those goals and protect the interests of business.
CLINTON: We cannot walk away from challenges like those presented by the biodiversity treaty. We must step up to them. Our administration has worked with business and environmental groups toward an agreement that protects both American interests and the world environment.
THOMSON: The President also announced that the Administration would produce a plan by August to help American businesses cut their greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective way. Commitments like these go a long way toward pleasing the mainstream environmental community, much of which has recently been troubled by the President's seeming indecision on key issues. Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, has been among those leading the call for tougher action on greenhouse gases. He says Clinton's pledges at least put the US on par with most of the rest of the industrial world.
OPPENHEIMER: On both biodiversity and climate, again, what's happened is that the US has been put back in step with other industrial nations. It's not clear we're really assuming a leadership role. So what the President seems to have done is sort of done a 180-degree turnaround in US policy, but he hasn't really started walking in the right direction too far yet.
THOMSON: Walking in the right direction, and ultimately leading on greenhouse emissions, Oppenheimer says, would mean pledging never to exceed the 1990 emissions levels once the country has met them.
President Clinton did pledge to make the government itself a more responsible environmental player.
CLINTON: Today, I am signing an executive order which commits the Federal Government to buy thousands more American-made vehicles using clean, domestic fuels, such as natural gas, ethanol, methanol, and electric power. This will reduce our demand for foreign oil, reduce air pollution . . (Fade into) I plan to sign an executive order, committing every agency of the national government to do more than ever to buy and use recycled products. This will provide a market for new technologies . . . (Fade into) That's why I am also signing an executive order to require the Federal Government to purchase energy-efficient computers.
BROWN: We're talking about levels of purchases that are really on a massive scale, and when the US government decides to buy high-energy efficiency computers, it not only sends a signal to the market, it really begins to dominate the market.
THOMSON: That's Lester Brown, head of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington. Brown says Clinton's pledges to purchase more environmentally-friendly products, and to help companies develop and market those types of products, will have a profound impact on the entire marketplace. But more importantly, Brown says, the President seems to be moving toward making good on a campaign pledge by Vice President Gore to bring environmental considerations into every facet of government, from foreign policy to procurement.
BROWN: This is what the world has needed, a government that was environmentally visionary, could see where the world needed to go and to begin to move the United States in that direction.
THOMSON: But others aren't so sure this vision isn't misguided. Ike Sugg is an environmental analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He says Clinton's initiatives to influence the market for supposedly environmentally-friendly technologies -- whether through purchasing power, R&D or caps on greenhouse emissions --- are just more unnecessary interference in the marketplace.
SUGG: Some companies, some industries in fact will do very, very well under this. I don't think that's right, I don't think government should be picking winners and losers. But other people will hurt, will become hurt as a result of this, because we're socializing the cost of Federal policies.
THOMSON: And even supporters of the President's plans seem reluctant to endorse them completely. Despite the President's efforts to get us all to look at the big picture, they say the devil is in the details -- and they'll be watching closely to see how Mr. Clinton's words translate into action, especially if the President doesn't make any more major speeches on the environment for another year. For Living on Earth, I'm Peter Thomson.
CURWOOD: With us now to talk about President Clinton's Earth Day address is Michael Deland. Deland was the chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality or the CEQ, under President Bush. He's now a businessman and an analyst for Living on Earth. Mike, welcome to the show.
DELAND: Thank you, Steve. Pleasure to be with you.
CURWOOD: I want to ask you first, did President Clinton's speech signal major shifts in policy in the US Government?
DELAND: I really don't think it does. I felt it to be a good solid speech but one that expressed more by way of continuity than any change. The changes, minor that I found them to be, were stylistic rather than substantive.
CURWOOD: How about in the area of foreign policy, though, Mike --on global warming, the President is making a commitment to roll back greenhouse gases to the 1990 levels, and that's a commitment that President Bush wasn't willing to make.
DELAND: Well, I think there's been a change again in style, but we need to recall that the debate pre-Rio on greenhouse emissions was on carbon dioxide only, and whether or not there would be stabilization of that one greenhouse gas. President Bush felt strongly that with a global problem involving many greenhouse gases, that they all ought to be considered, and as I read this President Clinton has concurred with that by saying greenhouse gases, plural.
CURWOOD: Now, what about the biodiversity treaty? President Bush took a lot of heat when he went to Rio and refused to sign it; Clinton says that he's gonna sign it. Now that sounds like a substantive change.
DELAND: Well, again, I don't really think so. President Bush declined to sign it for reasons of his concern over the intellectual property rights and the funding component of the treaty. President Clinton has said that he plans to sign once the details are resolved, and the details that they've been discussing are just those that concerned President Bush. In fact at the meeting in Rio, I was there with the President, that many of the other world leaders came up to him and depending on their relationship, it was either 'George' or 'Mr. President,' we agree with you wholeheartedly, share your concerns about intellectual property rights and funding but you realize we have to sign because we have political problems with our Green Party or our whatever party back home, and so they all signed. But they all told him privately that they would work to ensure that the treaty was not ratified until their mutual concerns were resolved, and I see something of that same vein occurring here.
CURWOOD: So you're saying style, not substance, because it surely was very costly to President Bush to have the one-liner said, he won't sign the biodiversity treaty.
DELAND: Well, there's no question about it, from a political standpoint it was costly.
CURWOOD: Let's imagine for a moment you were working for Bill Clinton and he called you in and he said, hey, I've been in office now almost 100 days -- how'm I doing? What would you tell him?
DELAND: I think it's really too early to tell. People tend to focus on the hundred days, or so many days, but you need to look at progress over the course of an entire Administration. There've been some disappointments to the environmental community, the whole issue of mining fees, grazing fees on Western lands. I was personally disappointed as were many that the President has proposed the abolition of CEQ, but I, looking to the positive side, I think the meeting in Oregon with the timber interests and environmentalists interested in protecting the owl was something that was a good thing to do, but again, we're going to have to wait and see what's the outcome of that meeting, is a compromise able to be struck, and I'm optimistic that indeed it will be.
CURWOOD: I want to thank you, Michael Deland, former chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, now an analyst for Living on Earth. Thanks for joining us, Mike.
DELAND: Thank you, Steve. Pleasure to be with you.
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CURWOOD: It's last call for entries to the Living on Earth "Making a Difference" contest! It's your last chance to let us know what you'd do to make a difference for the environment if you were President, by entering the Living on Earth "Making a Difference" contest, in cooperation with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt. Tell us in 500 words or less what you'd do to improve the environment of your community, the country or the planet. Write or record a poem, a rap, an essay or a story. But, hurry! Entries must be postmarked by May 1st. The first 300 entrants receive a Living on Earth/Stonyfield Farm Yogurt "Making a Difference" totebag. First prize for adults is a 10-day trip for two to the rainforest and national parks of Costa Rica, courtesy of Overseas Adventure Travel, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, specializing in ecotourism treks, safaris and rainforest expeditions around the world. Some travel restrictions apply. First prize for kids under 18 is a thousand-dollar savings bond and a gift certificate for a bicycle! For details and entry forms on the Living on Earth "Making a Difference" contest, call Living on Earth at 617-868-7454. That's 617-868-7454. Or write to us at Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138. That's Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
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HOLLEMAN: There's some deer tracks right here, you can see by the cloven hoof, three different parts.
CURWOOD: Just one, huh?
HOLLEMAN: There's one there, and there, and there. They're going across, probably to drink at the stream. You see everything from coon to fox to deer. (Sound of footsteps in snow)
CURWOOD: Meet Andrew Holleman.
HOLLEMAN: Even if the animals are carnivores, they might not be there for the grapes, they're looking for animals that are eating the grapes -- another part of the web of life.
CURWOOD: High school senior and amateur naturalist Andrew Holleman is leading me on a tour of his favorite part of the world. It's next to his backyard in Chelmsford, Massachusetts -- 16 acres of wetland that he saved from development five years ago. Then, it was about to be sold to a developer who intended to build 180 condominium units on it. In a town of over 30,000 inhabitants, it took one twelve-year-old boy to make a difference.
On this April day in New England, the lingering snow crunches underfoot as Andrew leads me to a stand of ancient pine trees reaching up to the sky.
(Sound of snow underfoot)
CURWOOD: Now, I understand that when you found out that a developer intended to build condos on this land, you fought it and you won, and all this at the tender age of twelve. Now what made you think you could stop a real estate developer?
HOLLEMAN: Well, I didn't really know. I knew that this land had a lot of wetlands on it. I knew that it had endangered species on it, and I knew that the stream that runs through it feeds right into the town wells. I knew that if there was development, of course, the whole area would be polluted, including the animals' habitats and the wells. And I didn't know what I could do, but I knew I had to do something, so the first thing I did was I had my mother take me up to the town library where I researched the information about the site in the Annotated Laws of Massachusetts, and also in the town master plan, and I created the petition and fired it around to over 180 registered voters in the area, and then I used this information to go to that meeting that the developer had scheduled and speak about the land and how I felt about it. And I sent the petition to all of the town boards, and I also used the information in a form letter that I sent to the State Senators and Representatives, and also local TV anchorpeople and people in environmental associations.
CURWOOD: That's quite a lot of work for a 12 year old guy. If you got this knowledge from your parents, why didn't they move when they got the letter, they got the registered letter -- why didn't they organize and try to stop this development? Why did all hinge on a 12-year-old kid?
HOLLEMAN: Well, I don't really know, they'd have to speak for themselves, but I think many people felt that they couldn't really do anything, they were powerless to fight a large developer, and I just, I really didn't care at the time, I had nothing to lose by fighting the development, I felt, and so I did it. I knew what the land was like, I knew that it shouldn't be built on, and that's what I did, I fought the development.
CURWOOD: It's now five years later. What's happened to this land?
HOLLEMAN: Well, where the developer's application for the permit was denied, nothing of the same magnitude, no developments like condominiums or anything like that can be built on this land. There is a possibility of single-family homes being built on the land, but there have been no offers as of yet, even though the land is unprotected, so to speak. The owner still is willing to sell it to anybody that will develop it.
CURWOOD: Is there a lesson you could draw from your experiences?
HOLLEMAN: Basically, if you see something worth fighting for, fight for it. You see me, you hear about me doing a project like this, and a lot of people think, oh, I could never do that but you can. I was just a 12-year-old kid from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, typical kid. But I realized something had to be done, and it doesn't just have to be the environment you protect, it can be anything. You can do something about drugs, you can do something about racism -- it's all up to you. Something that's important to you, just fight for it. That's something that we all have to do, if we all fought for what we believed in the world would be a better place.
(Sound of snow fades into stream sound)
CURWOOD: We seem to have left our pine forest and this is a stand of -- ?
HOLLEMAN: Actually this is a wetland area, very large wetland area. You can see the streams running through it. And many, many cattails grow here in the summertime, and it's full of all sorts of critters that typically inhabit wetlands. And this area would have been destroyed if the development had come through. Pollution would have run off the driveways and right into this stream, and polluted the whole area, ruined the whole ecosystem. There are turtles and salamanders, and field mice and all sorts of different rodents and hawks come by to hunt. This is where the blue heron, the great blue heron like to roost when they're in this area. I've brought so many animals back from this place, I've always let 'em go, of course, but I just brought them back and studied them for a little while, watch their habits. I brought a skunk home, unfortunately one of my neighbors has a garden in their back yard over on the other side of the site, and he had a steel-jaw trap caught, that caught a skunk by its leg in his garden, because he was sick of animals coming in and eating his food. But anyways, I released the skunk and I brought it home by its tail, 'cause that's the only way you can bring home, only way you can carry a skunk is by its tail without the risk of its spraying you. And . . .
CURWOOD: I never knew that. You pick up a skunk by its tail and you can stay (sniff, sniff, sniff ) -- safe?
HOLLEMAN: Yeah, I smelled pretty bad afterwards, 'cause he had been spraying ever since he got caught in the trap. But yeah, I carried him, because skunk spray can also be blinding if it gets in your eyes. It was rather interesting, I walk all the way home and my friend's mother saw me walking home, called my parents and told them to get out of the house, close the windows and the doors and wait for me to come home. She couldn't explain, and she hung up. And I had this whole parade of kids from the neighborhood behind me, about 20 kids followed me home as I carried this skunk all the way home.
CURWOOD: What advice would you give other young people?
HOLLEMAN: Okay, one, you have to have a purpose. You have to know what you're going to do and why you're going to do it. Second of all you have to get your information about what you're going to do and get it straight, so you can tell other people so they can help you. You have to stay local in the area that's your consideration, because people in high places can't help you if you've just got a small area in a town. Fourth, you have to get a lot of publicity, because if people don't know what you're doing they can't help you. And fifth, you can never give up the fight, if you believe in something you have to stand up for it, and that's just the way it is.
(Sound of footsteps crunching snow)
CURWOOD: Andy Holleman, you've stopped this big development. What are your goals for the future?
HOLLEMAN: Well, for my future as, in the real world, quote unquote, I'd like to become a professor of possibly environmental science, so I can teach other people what they can do to help our environment. And for the near future, I'd like to get this land purchased, of course, there's not very much money in this recession, these times, but hopefully somehow a miracle will occur and we'll be able to get the money and they can have the town purchase the land so that everybody can enjoy it, it won't become condominiums.
CURWOOD: But stay forever wild?
HOLLEMAN: That's right.
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CURWOOD: Let us know what you think about our program. Give us a call on our listener comment line, at 617-868-7454. That's 617-868-7454. Or you can write to us, at Living on Earth. . . box 639, Cambridge, Mass., 02238. That's Living on Earth. . . box 639, Cambridge, Mass., 02238. Transcripts and tapes are ten dollars.
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CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced and edited by Peter Thomson. The coordinating producer is George Homsy. Deborah Stavro directs the program. She also produced our interview with Andrew Holleman. Our production team includes Kim Motylewski, Lucia Small, Chris Page, and Colleen Singer Coxe. Our engineer is Laurie Azaria, with help from Chris Engle. Our theme music was composed by Michael Aharon.
Living on Earth is a project of the World Media Foundation, in cooperation with the Public Media Foundation and WBUR, Boston. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.
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