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

September 17, 1993

Air Date: September 17, 1993


The Trials and Tribulations of Clayoquot Sound / Steve Curwood

Host Steve Curwood talks with Lisa Cordasco, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter, about the arrests of hundreds of protesters at Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Since the provincial government decided this spring to allow logging of the old growth temperate rainforest around Clayoquot Sound, six hundred protesters have been arrested for attempting to block the timber plan. (07:22)

Sun-Powered Ovens / Louise Tunbridge

Louise Tunbridge reports from Nairobi, Kenya on the slow but successful spread of solar ovens. In a country where deforestation and wood smoke are serious problems, solar cookers offer a low-tech, environmentally sustainable alternative to cooking over wood fires. (07:34)

An Environmentalist Builds his Dream House / Jyl Hoyt

Jyl Hoyt of member station KBSU visits an earth-friendly house in Montana and the man who built it. Author Richard Manning used to decry development at the edge of wilderness, but he was motivated to build his house by the belief that attachment to a place will inspire the human desire to protect it. (06:50)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

Copyright (c) 1993 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or retransmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Pye Chamberlayne, Dick Hinchliffe, Stephanie O'Neil, Lisa Cordasco, Louise Tunbridge, Jyl Hoyt

(Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

(Theme music up and under)

PROTESTORS: Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound! Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound! Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound!

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. Perhaps the largest civil disobedience movement in Canada's history has erupted with protests against the cutting of the ancient temperate rainforest on Clayoquot Sound, in British Columbia. More than 600 protestors are now facing criminal charges. Also, a low-tech product with a high potential for saving fuel wood catches on in East Africa - it's the solar oven.

KAMAU: We have this technology of the solar cooker, something you can use, something that is safe for the environment, something that cannot harm you in terms of the usage at home and the people started writing in, how can we get that solar cooker.

CURWOOD: And an eco-friendly house in the woods of Montana, this week on Living on Earth,coming up right after the news.

Environmental News

NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley with this week's environmental news.

President Clinton's uphill fight for the North American Free Trade Agreement has received some crucial support from the environmental community. Six major environmental groups have endorsed the pact, following the President's signing of a set of environmental side agreements. The head of one group calls NAFTA the "greenest trade agreement ever signed." From Washington, Pye Chamberlayne has more.

CHAMBERLAYNE: The supporters, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society, say NAFTA side agreements would fight some of the worst pollution on the Mexican border. These supporters provide political cover for Democrats who want to support their President but need an excuse to buck organized labor or other NAFTA opponents. Environmental groups still fighting NAFTA include Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. They say it will hurt the environment in Mexico and weaken health standards in the United States on matters including pesticide residues in imported food. For Living on Earth, I'm Pye Chamberlayne in Washington.

NUNLEY: The Senate has voted to delay for a year a Clinton Adminstration plan to more than double Federal grazing fees. The administration says artificially low fees have led to overgrazing of cattle and sheep on public pastureland. But powerful Western Senators say the proposed fee hikes would fundamentally alter the social and economic fabric of the West. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says he'll fight the Senate action in a House-Senate conference committee.

New York City will pay upstate landowners not to build in key watershed and reservoir areas. It's part of a ten-year plan to protect the city's water supply. New York is one of the last big US cities without a water filtration system, and it hopes the plan will keep it that way. Dick Hinchliffe of member station WNYC reports.

HINCHLIFFE: New York City plans to spend $750 million dollars in hopes of avoiding the estimated $5 billion dollar expense of building a water filtration facility. Filtration is mandated by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, but New York City was granted a one-year exemption last January. The city now hopes to extend the exemption for the next ten years. New York City officials maintain that filtration is unnecessary, because high-quality reservoir water can be kept clean without additional treatment. Mayor David Dinkins has proposed strict adherence to new pollution rules that would upgrade upstate sewage treatment plants and set up local zoning standards, causing some local business leaders to complain it would hamstring economic development. In some cases, where development would be restricted, the city plans to compensate landowners. For Living on Earth, I'm Dick Hinchliffe in New York.

NUNLEY: Residents of Louisiana's industrial corridor are hoping a new study will give them hard facts about the health effects of the state's chemical industry. The area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has one of the nation's highest concentrations of petrochemical plants, and one of its highest cancer rates. But so far, no link between the two has been proven. Louisiana Senator Bennett Johnston wants to spend $2 million dollars to research the problem. Johnston says industry could save billions of dollars in pollution controls if the cancer link is finally disproved.

This is Living on Earth.

Community organizers in California are claiming victory, after plans to build a hazardous waste incinerator near the town of Kettleman City were dropped. Local activists fought the plan by Chemical Waste Management for six years. They charged in a lawsuit that the company deliberately sites waste facilities in minority communities. A company spokesman says the project failed because of slack incinerator demand and an EPA ban on new permits, not because of the opponents' suit. But the opponents' attorney says without community action, the facility would have been built years ago.

Beaches in San Diego County are being inundated with untreated sewage from Mexico, leading California Governor Pete Wilson to declare a state of emergency in the region. Stephanie O'Neil reports.

O'NEIL: An overtaxed sewage treatment plant in Tijuana, Mexico is to blame for the millions of gallons of raw sewage that's contaminated San Diego County beaches since August. The affected area has long suffered from so-called renegade sewage flows that come during heavy rains from Mexican neighborhoods that aren't part of the Tijuana system. But this spill is considered far more serious, because it involves concentrated sewage from the Tijuana plant, undiluted by rainwater, that carries up to 30 times the amount of fecal material as the renegade flows. Especially hard-hit is the city of Imperial Beach, which relies on tourism, but attracted few vacationers this summer because of the spill. As a temporary measure San Diego is now treating as much sewage as possible from the Tijuana plant. The state emergency asks for Federal assistance and for Federal cost-sharing in dealing with the ongoing sewage spill. For Living on Earth, I'm Stephanie O'Neil.

NUNLEY: Well, it had to happen. Now that US domestic flights are smoke-free, there's a new air service for smokers only. "Freedom Air" is offering smoke-filled charter flights from Chicago to Los Angeles. Passengers must join the "Freedom Air Smoking Club" and sign a waiver stating that they accept the dangers of second-hand smoke. The charter's founder, a veteran airline pilot and chain smoker, says interest is high, but sales remain low because of its limited schedule.

That's this week's environmental news. I'm Jan Nunley.

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(Theme music up and under)

The Trials and Tribulations of Clayoquot Sound

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

PROTESTORS: Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound! Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound! Clayoquot Sound, not Clearcut Sound!

CURWOOD: The sound of protesters, in Victoria, British Columbia. There has been a series of demonstrations in the provincial capital, as the B.C. government is putting about six hundred people on trial for taking part in perhaps the largest civil disobedience movement in Canadian history. The protests have been against a recent decision by the B.C. government to cut about a third of the largest pristine tract of old-growth temperate rain forest left in North America, on Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island. The government billed it as a compromise between logging and conservation. The licenses for the cutting went to MacMillan Bloedel, Limited, a company that is partially owned by the BC government. The Clayoquot Sound Rainforest is right next to the highly popular Pacific Rim National Park. It's covered with giant cedars more than 600 years old, and its drinking-water-pure lakes and streams are an important spawning ground for Chinook and Coho salmon. I recently went to Clayoquot Sound, and Living on Earth will devote an entire upcoming program to the issue . But right now we turn our attention to the trials of the 600 or so non-violent protestors who, since the Spring decision, have been arrested a few at a time for blocking logging trucks on their way into the rainforest. The sheer number of arrests is threatening to overwhelm BC's courts. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Lisa Cordasco has been closely following the Clayoquot story, and she joins us now from Victoria. Hello, Lisa.


CURWOOD: First, I was impressed by the large number of demonstrators and their determination during my visit. What do you think motivates so many people to try to halt these logging trucks and allow themselves to get arrested?

CORDASCO: Well, the majority of the protestors are very young, idealistic people who are quite concerned about the environment and the dwindling number of forests in British Columbia. But I think that this issue has also captured the interest of many other British Columbians, because Clayoquot Sound is in an area where there's a large national park, there's excellent fishing and hiking and boating and it's not very remote - you can get there within half a day from Vancouver. So most people have seen the area. They've also seen the surrounding area which contains some of the worst clearcuts in all of British Columbia. So when the government made this decision, people were familiar with it, it wasn't some remote place that they had never seen, and so many have decided to act.

CURWOOD: Okay, so there are now 600 people who are going on trial. So far, how many have been convicted and what kind of time are they getting?

CORDASCO: Nobody has been convicted yet in the mass trial, and those are still ongoing. However, there was an earlier trial at the very beginning of the summer involving four environmentalists who had been at blockades, not only this year but in years gone by, and one woman received a sentence of six months in prison. There was a lot of public outrage over that sentence, and in the B.C. Court of Appeals the judge overturned that six-month jail sentence and turned it into a four-month at home sentence, so to speak. She's being monitored by an electronic bracelet, and that's been the only sentence that's come down so far. But I wondered if it would worry other protestors or stop them from going to blockades, because that's a very stiff sentence, six months. But hundreds more people were arrested after that so it didn't seem to have an impression on them.

CURWOOD: It doesn't seem that the protest has been any good at stopping the logging so far, does it?

CORDASCO: No, in fact, they've only stopped logging for five days out of the two months that this blockade has been in place. However, the idea is more long-term, I think, for the protest organizers. There's two goals - one is to either stop the Provincial Government from allowing this type of logging and, you know, it's true they're getting a lot of flak and there are many, many phone calls - the premier himself admits his mail is running two to one against logging in Clayoquot Sound. However, the premier has been very entrenched in his responses so far. He says that he is committed to this compromise solution, a way of managing the forests in a sustainable way and at the same time making sure that there are still jobs in the forest. Now, this premier is a leader of a party known as the New Democrats, a socialist party in Canada, and they have very strong ties to labor. Now the IWA, the International Woodworkers Union is one of the largest unions in this province, they've given a lot of money to that party and they have a lot of say in what that party does. So he's holding firm on that. However, there has been some talk that the government is perhaps looking for a face-saving way out of this whole dilemma. It's going to be reviewing the types of logging processes that go on in Clayoquot Sound, so when the government goes in there to inspect what's been done so far, they may find that salmon streams are damaged or that logging roads have caused major slides, and if they find that kind of thing there's an excuse to say, gee, I'm sorry you're not following the rules, we're going to have to stop you from logging or cut you back drastically.

CURWOOD: In the US, many environmentalists have resorted to the courts to block logging efforts. Their favorite tool is the Endangered Species Act. Is there anything like that in Canada, Lisa?

CORDASCO: Well, nothing with quite the power of the Endangered Species Act. The environmental laws in Canada, I believe, are just starting to catch up to those that you have in the United States, and that maybe in a few years from now there could be a legal challenge under that. But so far there's been very little in that area.

CURWOOD: What about the international campaign against logging there - what prospect is there of a boycott of British Columbia forest products?

CORDASCO: That is a second phase of the approach by environmental groups on this. Right now there are environmentalists in the United States, in California, traveling to places like the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, who buy a lot of their paper from McMillan Bloedel, and that paper is milled by products out of Clayoquot Sound, so they're gonna try and influence those large buyers to put some economic pressure on the company and to make it ultimately not worthwhile for the company to log in that area because they can't sell their products.

CURWOOD: Lisa Cordasco is a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in British Columbia. The largest bloc of protesters in the Clayoquot Sound logging blockades goes to trial early next month.

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(Music up and out)

Sun-Powered Ovens

CURWOOD: Halfway around the world from Vancouver Island there is a far different movement afoot to save trees. In East Africa, where rapid population growth is straining many resources, whole areas have been stripped bare of vegetation, as more and more families struggle for firewood to cook their meals. While East Africa is extremely short on trees, it is rich with sunshine, and that's led to a growing movement to use the sun to cook. Louise Tunbridge reports from Kenya.

(Sound of village women)

TUNBRIDGE: As the sun loses its afternoon heat, women from a rural village in southeastern Kenya begin their daily task of chopping and collecting firewood. In Kenya, some 60 percent of energy consumed comes from wood - and most of that is used for cooking.

(Sound of cooking and stirring)

TUNBRIDGE: Inside a smoke-filled hut, so smoky it makes your eyes tear, a woman stirs a pot of beans on a three-stoned wood fire, cooking in the centuries-old African tradition. Environmentally, the consequences of this reliance on wood in the developing world are enormous - at least one-third of all greenhouse gases emitted comes from wood burning; forests are being destroyed faster than they can be replenished; and once-fertile land is being reduced to near-desert. But is there an alternative?

(Sound of hammering )

TUNBRIDGE: Daniel Kammen thinks there is. He's heading a project in Kenya for the American organization Earthwatch. Here, project volunteers construct a solar oven in a workshop at Nairobi University. Daniel Kammen describes how this simple box cooker works.

KAMMEN: Everything is available in Kenya, produced locally. We would never use materials that come from outside. There is glass, two sheets of glass for the top of the oven. All the wood that goes into building this outer box, and basically the oven is a wooden box, surrounded by a cardboard or another wooden box, with insulation between, is a sheet of plywood. We then use cardboard to make the inner walls, we use glue, we use paint, we use nails, and we use a metal sheet on the floor of the oven, and we find that it takes people who have really never seen the oven before like this group here, about three days to put one together, and after that three days they know all the tricks. So this technology really does transfer in a hurry.

(Sound of arrival in village)

TUNBRIDGE: The Earthwatch team has come to the village of Mangelete, in a hot and dusty part of the country, 150 miles southeast of the capital. The purpose of the visit is to hold a seminar in which the volunteers will impart their newfound skills of solar oven construction to a group of local people from the Kamba tribe.

KAMMEN: It is first most important, we will start with building the ovens, but we want to also teach how to cook, because this is different than with the gikob, yeah? . . . (fade under)

TUNBRIDGE: Kammen explains that while the oven won't burn food, it is slow - it can take up to eight hours to cook the local staple dish, ugali - a mixture of maize-meal and water. But on a very hot day, it'll boil water for tea in under an hour. His audience, a group of some 40 villagers gathered round a model oven, listens intently. Inevitably they're curious - can the oven work at night? What type of foods does it cook? Will it taste the same? Kammen is careful to dispel their illusions, while retaining their interest.

KAMMEN: It's not magic, yeah? It will work slow, but you will conserve wood, and there'll be no smoke to hurt the eyes of the children, yes? and no fire.

(Sound of sawing)

TUNBRIDGE: The group is eager to learn. Agatha Kukuvi, the headmistress of the local primary school, has never done carpentry before, but already she's a willing solar student.

KUKUVI: It is, certainly, at home I use firewood, and this one is all right for cooking, you see it does not smoke.

TUNBRIDGE: The eight solar ovens built by the Mangelete villagers are theirs to keep at the end of the seminar. The Earthwatch team also leaves behind tools and spare materials. If the solar oven idea is to catch on, then the village must take over the project and make it their own. This has begun to happen in Zombe, another Kamba village, first visited by Kammen's team a year ago. Christine Mwende is a member of the Zombe group, which has so far built around 20 solar ovens for sale. She uses hers most days and has cut her fuel wood consumption by half.

MWENDE (translated): So many people have been influenced by the cooking, first of all that many want to come, they want to buy them and have them for themselves.

(Sound of Transworld radio jingle and program; fade under)

TUNBRIDGE: Another solar oven project is being run in Kenya by Transworld Radio, a Christian station whose Africa Challenge program is listened to by some six million people across Africa. They've gone one step further - and have set up a mass production unit in Nairobi which has made and sold nearly 200 ovens. Program director Joe Kamau says only the pressure of constant information can break down people's natural resistance to change.

KAMAU: We started off by giving information. There is this technology, even before we constructed the solar cooker we started giving information over our radio programs that we have this technology of the solar cooker, something you can use, something that is safe for the environment, something that cannot harm you in terms of the usage at home. And the people started writing in - how can we get that solar cooker? How can we get in touch with that box you're talking about?

TUNBRIDGE: These aren't the only technologies available. Another, more sophisticated solar cooker has been developed in Germany - using a system of pebbles and cooking oil, it enables heat to be stored overnight so that meals can be cooked after sunset. But the beauty of the simple box cooker, which sells at 2,000 Kenya Shillings or $25, is that it's affordable for many Kenyans. It's already been tried with some success by Kammen's team in Central America. He sees Kenya as a proving ground for its introduction elsewhere in Africa. With patience, he says, this simple technology could pay off.

KAMMEN: When solar ovens were first started in the '50's in a large way in India, there was a big drawback that was identified by the National Physical Institute. That was that if these people don't want to change cooking habits, and there was this chorus over and over again about how cooking is something very basic and you can't change it. Well, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me because people were able to adopt microwaves as quickly as they found they were useful. They were able to adopt kerosene stoves here, as quickly as they could afford them and they were useful. But it also has to be recognized that there's a time issue involved, and maybe one problem that's gone on in some projects has been that there's been a rush - you want to see results in twelve months, you want to get in, your funding lasts so long, your energy level lasts so long, and then go out again. But if we get the people here to both be instructors and the individuals that are using them, I'm less worried about the time-scale issue. So, I mean, the good and the bad are very much mingled together.

TUNBRIDGE: So the first small steps have been taken. But can solar ovens be a way forward in a country like Kenya? Well, that remains to be seen. For Living on Earth, I'm Louise Tunbridge in Nairobi.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

An Environmentalist Builds his Dream House

CURWOOD: Few, if any things define a culture better than its dwellings. Language perhaps, but people are how they live. It was that notion that sent author Richard Manning off to the woods. Once a reporter for the Montana Missoulian, Manning found himself alienated and out of work after he wrote a series of exposés on clearcutting in the Northern Rockies. So with his hammer and pen, Manning headed back to nature and set about designing , building and writing about what he calls an earth-friendly abode outside of Lolo, Montana. The result was a home and a book, entitled A Good House: Building a Life on the Land. Reporter Jyl Hoyt recently stopped by for a visit.

(Sound of crickets outside, walking)

HOYT: Richard Manning's frizzy curls blow in the afternoon breeze as he throws the last bit of straw mulch on his garden, closes the gate and heads uphill to his home. Manning, compact and muscular, squints through the summer glare searching for signs of elk and deer that live on the steep, tree-covered mountain behind his new house. He doesn't see the animals, but knows they're there and has made sure they'll be able to stay there.

MANNING: It's open space, it always will be open space, and it will be preserved completely for the wildlife that live up there - and we're gonna take care of that land.

HOYT: Caring for the land has been a concern of Manning and many others who live in this remote part of the country. In recent years, he'd seen more and more land cut up for homes and concluded that residential development was as big a threat to the environment as industrial or resource development. But in recent years, Manning has had a change of heart. If done properly, he now says, building in rural areas can be beneficial - because people tend to protect land once they have an attachment to it. This idea is the focus of his book A Good House: Building a Life on the Land. His new philosophy began to take shape when he realized that during his life he had spent too much time moving from one town to the next following job opportunities. Moving on was one option, after he left his job at a Missoula daily newspaper. Montana loggers had complained about a series of articles he wrote on clear-cutting. Manning says his editors pulled him off the environment beat and he felt he had no choice but to quit.

MANNING: I didn't want to move on. I decided that this time I needed to stay in a place. I needed to settle down and come to understand the land and what I needed to say about the land in a given place in the Northern Rockies - I needed to make a stand, in effect, so I stayed.

HOYT: By staying in Montana, Manning's life became a quest for understanding the relationship between nature and humans. He decided that in order to preserve a place, people must value it, make a commitment to it - even spend a lifetime on the land. Manning also concluded that because of the amount of resources we use, Americans are as responsible for environmental destruction as the companies they like to blame. He decided to build a house that would commit him to the land and that would use natural resources as frugally as possible.

MANNING: I mean, this is really about limits in the end. The limits of our use, the limits of the damage that our lives create.

(Sound of walking into house)

HOYT: Manning's house has two stories; a wood stove sits in the center of a sunken living room. At 1000 square feet, the house is small, about half the size of the standard American house. Floor-to-ceiling windows that face south allow for solar heat. The open design allows heat to circulate without electric fans. Manning's design also includes an ancient construction technique called "timber framing."

MANNING: If we walk into the kitchen here you can see the massive beams that are in the ceiling. People look at this and they say, my God, you must have killed some enormous trees. Well, they're not, they're quite small trees.

HOYT: But they seem large because timber framing uses whole trees, squared off. Timber framing creates less waste and requires less wood than contemporary construction techniques. The back of Manning's house, where the kitchen is, is earth-sheltered - dug into a mountain. This "berming" technique saves energy and keeps the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter - but there's a tradeoff: no window by the kitchen sink.

MANNING: You learn as you go along that you can't have everything in a house, and after a while you have to understand that there are limits. It's a constant process of compromise in the building of a house. Let's go upstairs and see how it lays out up there.

(Sound of footsteps on stairs)

HOYT: The bedroom and an office are on the second floor along with the bathroom.

MANNING: That's the composting toilet. About a third of the water used in most houses is the toilet. We live in the arid West, and would just as soon not use water that we didn't have to use. In addition, because our wastes aren't going into the septic tank, all the other water that comes into the house, such as the shower, and the sink, goes into a holding tank but is also available for irrigation.

HOYT: The used water from the house irrigates a small fruit orchard the Mannings planted.

(Sound of walking outside)

HOYT: Not far from the orchard are neat stacks of firewood.

MANNING: The trees I've been cutting here are what you would call excess - they've been putting out forest fires for so long in this area that there are too many trees. So I've cut a lot of diseased trees that normally would be killed by fire. That's what I mean by living within the context and limits of the land, is that I heat the house with a wood supply that becomes available to me by understanding the needs of the forest around me.

HOYT: Manning is also working to reintroduce native grasses that were destroyed in years past by overgrazing, logging, and fire suppression. Now, deer and elk browse on the rejuvenated land.

MANNING: What we tried to do is bring the sensitivity that's necessary here to keep the elk coming here. In other words, people can live in rural areas if they do it with some sensitivity.

HOYT: Manning recognizes his profession allows him the flexibility to make this kind of choice - he also recognizes that some of his neighbors in this rural subdivision don't share his sensitivity. He's working on getting them to build houses and live their lives with a better understanding of the ecosystem.

MANNING: It boils down to taking responsibility for your own life - personal responsibility for the solutions. And building a house taught me that.

HOYT: Richard Manning lives in Lolo, Montana. His new book, A Good House: Building a Life on the Land is published by Grove Press. For Living on Earth, I'm Jyl Hoyt.

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(Theme music up and under)

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The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not yet been proofread against tape.


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