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

July 1, 1994

Air Date: July 1, 1994


Share Tactics / Michael Lawton

Michael Lawton reports from Germany on the emergence of car-sharing clubs. The clubs give city residents the advantages of a car when they need one without the hassle and cost of individual ownership. Twelve club members share a single car, helping to cut down on congestion, noise and pollution. (06:30)

Ecology and Commerce

Host Steve Curwood talks with author and businessman Paul Hawken about his vision of an integrated approach to economic development and environmental protection, as laid out in his book The Ecology of Commerce. Hawken says our economic and tax systems should encourage the sustainable resource use, rather than waste. (04:37)

Backyard Marvels / Alan Durning

Commentator Alan Durning takes us on a tour of the “seven sustainable wonders” of the world. (03:59)

The Eagles Advance / Catherine Winter

Catherine Winter of Minnesota Public Radio reports on the successful recovery of bald eagle in Minnesota. The Federal government has proposed upgrading the eagle's status from endangered to threatened. (05:19)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

Copyright (c) 1994 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or transmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Doug Fabrizio, Patrick Cox, Michael Lawton, Catherine Winter
GUEST: Paul Hawken

(Theme music intro)

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

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

You've heard of food co-ops, housing co-ops, and cooperative banks. How about car co-ops to save money, parking hassles, and reduce pollution? It's an idea that's catching on in Germany.

FERBER: In Cologne we have one million people and 500,000 cars, and with our system, 12 people use one car.

CURWOOD: Also, visiting the 7 sustainable wonders of the world.

DURNING: Not all of the 7 sustainable wonders are inside the home. Shh. Sorry. Public libraries are a sustainable wonder because they're waste reduction at its best. I mean, do we really need a personal copy of everything we want to read?

CURWOOD: Plus the return of the bald eagle, this week on Living on Earth, right after the news.

Environmental News

NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley with this summary of environmental news. One of the most toxic pesticides now used in the US is coming off the market. Under pressure from Federal and state regulators, the maker of the controversial pesticide Phosdrin has agreed to halt production immediately. The EPA has called Phosdrin one of the 5 most dangerous pesticides to farm workers, and has linked it to at least 5 deaths. The Farm Worker Justice Fund blames the pesticide for thousands of worker poisonings. The manufacturer, AmVac Chemical Corporation, maintains that Phosdrin can be used safely, but decided against waging a costly battle to keep it on the market. Applications of the pesticide, which is widely used on fruits and vegetables, don't have to end until February.

States' rights has been the historic rallying cry against strong Federal regulation, most recently invoked to protest Federal civil rights laws a generation ago. Now the flag is being raised again in response to Federal environmental laws. A number of governors are bristling against what they call unfounded environmental mandates from Washington. Among the leaders of the movement is Utah's Republican governor Mike Leavitt, who heads the Western Governors Association. From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, Doug Fabrizio reports.

FABRIZIO: Governor Leavitt is passionate about states' rights. In his election campaign he promised Utah voters he would lead a states' rights revolution. Leavitt recites a long list of regulations imposed by the Federal government: regulations to protect wetlands, pristine rivers, endangered species, clean air and range land. Leavitt believes the Federal government is passing regulation and then passing on the bill, and he says local entities can't afford it.

FABRIZIO: We have small communities, under the current Clean Water regulations that are being required, to do systems that - are of the sophistication of a city of 100,000. Local governments are just being ravaged by many of these circumstances. It's a very, very expensive process.

FABRIZIO: It's difficult to determine just how much states are paying for these regulations. Some estimates put the mandates for wastewater alone at $200 billion during the 1990s. And the governor believes the Federal system is cumbersome and inflexible. Leavitt says the current system's keeping local governments from resolving their own environmental problems in their own way.

FABRIZIO: This is a symbol of a Federal government that has broadly stepped over its intended role. Rather than establishing broad policy, they are prescribing what goes on in local government.

FABRIZIO: But conservationists say that local governments have not been solving environmental problems, and that more, not less, Federal intervention is needed to protect the environment. Still, Leavitt's crusade seems to be catching on. The Associations of Western Governors and Republican Governors have moved Federal mandates to the top of their priority lists. And the Clinton Administration is trying to work some measure of financial relief into reauthorizations of Federal environmental laws. For Living on Earth, I'm Doug Fabrizio in Salt Lake City.

NUNLEY: This is Living on Earth. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is fighting illegal drugs. Not crack or marijuana, but the hundreds of Asian medicines made from endangered animals and plants. A recent study found more than 430 Asian medicines in the US contain ingredients from endangered, threatened, or protected species, including rhino horns and leopard bones. The US market for these medicines is the largest outside of Asia. Fish and Wildlife officials plan to educate consumers and shopkeepers about the impact of the drug trade on endangered wildlife.

Three of the nation's largest timber companies have gone over to the enemy, sort of. Weyerhauser, Boise Cascade, and Georgia Pacific have begun selling home construction studs made not from wood, but from steel. Patrick Cox of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

COX: It was just a few months ago that the timber industry was waging a publicity campaign against steel as a building material of homes. Steel manufacturers offer their product as an alternative to logging the Northwest's dwindling forest lands. And the timber industry had retorted that steel is not as recyclable, nor as renewable, as wood. But about 2% of new homes are built with steel studs now, and that's enough for timber companies to want to sell it. Doug Bartel is with Boise Cascade.

BARTEL: There are more people interested in it, and they, their interest increases as the price of wood is driven up by these timber supply problems.

COX: The timber companies say they'd rather not promote steel, but they have no choice if they're to keep their share of the construction market. For Living on Earth, I'm Patrick Cox in Portland, Oregon.

NUNLEY: Canada has become the first country to prohibit smoking on all international and domestic flights by Canadian carriers. The move was supported by members of the Flight Attendants Union, who want to work in a smoke-free environment. Some complain the ban will cost Canadian carriers millions of dollars in lost revenue. For instance, Canadian Airlines says more than half of all passengers on its flights to Japan are smokers who may now fly foreign airlines

That's this round-up of environmental news. I'm Jan Nunley.

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(Theme music up and under)

Share Tactics

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Imagine living without a car. For some city dwellers, the medically impaired, and some low-income people, of course, it's a fact of life. But for most of us it's an alien notion that threatens our sense of freedom. Our jobs, our communities, our friends and families, are so spread out, life wouldn't seem normal without an automobile. But there are down sides: traffic, smog, insurance, monthly payments, repairs. Is there a better way? Well, a growing number of people in Germany think they have the answer: car sharing. Car sharing clubs give members wheels when they need them, but help them avoid the hassle and cost when they don't. Reporter Michael Lawton is a member of a car share club in Cologne, Germany. He says it's helping to cut costs, pollution, and congestion.

(Phone rings. Conversation in German ensues.)

LAWTON: That's me, phoning the 24-hour booking service to reserve my car. I usually use public transport to get around, but I needed a car this time to get to a store which was on the edge of town. Now I've booked it. All I have to do is to go to the car's reserved parking space, which is about 10 minutes walk from home.

(Car keys jingle.)

LAWTON: Well I've just arrived at the car parking space and I've picked up the keys to the car. They're in this little safe, which is beside the car, and I have the master key to the safe, as do all the other members of the scheme. Now all I have to do is simply get in the car and drive away.

(Car door shuts; engine revs up. Drive is initiated.)

LAWTON: Straight into the kind of stop-start traffic which is typical of big city driving: no fun at all. And that's one of the reasons why the Cologne car-sharing scheme, Stadt-Auto, which means "instead of a car," has been such a success. The scheme is just 2 years old, but it already has 140 members who share 8 cars. Uli Ferber is its founder and manager.

FERBER: In Cologne we have one million people and 500,000 cars, and with our system, 12 people use one car. And it's one possibility to reduce the cars, and to reduce the kilometers.

LAUGHTON: And reduce the cost as well. Janet Berridge is one of the active members who attends the regular Stattauto meetings. She told me that she breathed a sign of relief when she got rid of her own car and joined the scheme instead.

BERRIDGE: I added up what the car had cost me, and I realized I was paying out a great deal of money per month in order to just have those 4 wheels sitting in the garage. And sometimes I didn't use the car for several days. And that seemed a very expensive luxury.

LAWTON: How often do you use the Stattauto now?

BERRIDGE: About once a month.

LAWTON: Have you got an idea of how much you save?

BERRIDGE: Oh, I would say 3- or 400 marks a month.

LAWTON: That's between $180 and $240 and that's after she's paid for all her public transport. Of course, car sharing can only work in a city like Cologne, which is fairly densely populated and with a good public transport system. Cologne's car sharing is nevertheless fairly small, but if I want to find out what the car sharing future could look like, I've got to go to Berlin.

(Sounds of heavy traffic, horns blaring.)

LAWTON: This Berlin traffic makes Cologne look like a quiet country village, and so it's no surprise that car sharing started here. Carsten Petersen founded Stattauto with his 2 brothers in 1988. Like many students, they shared a car; but because they didn't live together, they used an answering machine to keep track of its movements.

PETERSEN: And this was very successful and friends, and friends of friends, wanted to join in, and after a short period we had not only 2 very old cars but 3 and 4.

LAWTON: Now Berlin's Stattauto has 90 cars, which are shared by 1,300 people. On average, for every 15 users, 5 have given up their car to join. And the longer they are members, the less they drive. They soon realize that it's cheaper to travel by public transport, and so they only use the car when they have to. And Stattauto tries to help them make sensible decisions about the kind of transport they use.

PETERSEN: We are enemies not of cars but of private car owning. Because private car owners use their cars for any reason, and even it's completely illogical and unreasonable to use a car, but private car owners do so because they have emotional and psychological and economical relation to their cars. We want to make the decision as easy as possible.

LAWTON: Stattauto has therefore introduced its Mobile-card, which acts as a passport to integrated transportation. The Mobile-card opens the safes which contain the car keys, it's a pass for the Berlin public transport system and a charge card for taxi bookings. You can use it to get railroad tickets and book a car from a car sharing scheme in the city you're going to. You can even hire a kayak on one of Berlin's lakes. These ideas are catching on elsewhere. There are now over 45 car-sharing schemes in Europe, and there's interest in the US, too. Back in Cologne, Uli Ferber is also trying to extend Stattauto's range with a discounted rail ticket service, but he's found that for some people, Stattauto is merely a transitional step.

FERBER: Some people who had a lot of problems before they come to Stattauto, and then after one year and a half, we have some people who go out from Stattauto and now they don't need a car. And they don't need Stattauto.

LAWTON: So, as well as cutting down on pollution, Stattauto can also be seen as the nicotine tablets that help get you off automobile dependency. For Living on Earth, I'm Michael Lawton in Cologne.

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(Music up and under)

Ecology and Commerce

CURWOOD: Going without a car may be good for the environment, but what about the economy? In the traditional view of economics, fewer automobiles means fewer people making, selling, and servicing automobiles. And that means less opportunity for economic growth. Or does it? Is there a conflict between the economy and the environment? Some say no, that the health of the economy and of the environment can't be separated. Among them is Paul Hawken, a highly-successful entrepreneur, and author of the book The Ecology of Commerce. Mr. Hawken says we have to recognize that the environment is a key part of our economy, but he says right now we aren't given any financial incentives to make that link.

HAWKEN: Right now you and I unintentionally destroy the world. We get up, go to work, we shop, we go home, take care of our families, and the world is worse for it. What I'm suggesting is, wouldn't it be interesting to have an industrial system where we do the same thing and the world actually gets better? Right now conservation, restoration, are basically for upper middle class white people. That's who can afford to conserve; unless the cheapest alternative is the conservative, restorative one, it's not going to happen. So what I propose is to scrap the tax system altogether.

CURWOOD: Get rid of the tax system altogether.

HAWKEN: Well, yes. Taxes on employment, payroll, salaries, profits, business. All the things we supposedly encourage, in economic terms.


HAWKEN: And phase in green fees on fossil fuels, coal, pesticides, herbicide, virgin materials, water mined from the Oglala aquifer, and other activities that are basically going to cost us more in the future if we don't pay for them now in real terms. Full-cost accounting. Then, the cheaper products become the ones that are renewable, that are sustainable, that have a conservation ethic to them, so that your incentive to save is going to lead us to a more sustainable world.

CURWOOD: Well this sounds like a revolution. How do you take the first steps here? What do you do? And what are some examples that you can give us of everyday business decisions that are working in this positive feedback loop that you feel that we should have?

HAWKEN: Well, Germany, basically, is instituting what I describe in the book as the intelligent product system, where basically there's only 2 types of products: either products you literally throw away - I know this sounds heretical, when we talk about the environment - but you throw them away. They completely degrade back into dirt, and there's no toxins or metals or persistent or bioaccumulative chemicals inside them. The other types of products are called products of service, which we know as durables: TVs, radios, cars, refrigerators. And what the Germans are instituting and mandating right now is that if you make a durable product, it's yours. You can let a consumer use it indefinitely, like a license. But when he or she is done with it, it has to go back to you. You must take it back. And you can throw away nothing. So the Germans are designing their automobiles to have value when they come back. BMW, for example, has reduced the number of plastics from 400 to 13, and it's creating a revolution in chemistry, in materials composition, in assembly techniques, which are actually making them more economic, more efficient, increasing the amount of employment per car, and so you have essentially a win-win situation. Less stuff, more employment.

CURWOOD: In your book you talk about a number of examples of true cost not being respected. I'm wondering how your concept deals with the global inequity of the distribution of wealth that has been built up primarily by paying a very low price for Third World materials, let's say, raw timber, and then collecting a very high price when these goods are sold back to these countries, gradually impoverishing them.

HAWKEN: That's an excellent question. In Rio, Agenda 21, all the nations agreed that in principle they would move toward sustainable development with no means whatsoever to accomplish that. One of the means we have at our disposal is the tariff system. And what we should have is a most sustainable nation tariff system as opposed to a most favored nation tariff system. Those countries that destroy native cultures, that exploit child labor, that are clear-cutting the Amazon or what have you, would have such prohibitive tariffs on their products that there would be no incentive to continue those practices.

CURWOOD: I want to thank you for taking this time with us. Paul Hawken is the author of The Ecology of Commerce. Thank you.

HAWKEN: Thank you.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

Backyard Marvels

CURWOOD: Sustainability is the buzzword for those who want to integrate an environmental ethic with economic development. But the word has become such a catch-all that it's left many people wondering what it really means. Well, commentator Alan Durning has been doing some sustainable wondering of his own.

(Bicycle on gravel; bell rings.)

DURNING: I've been thinking about simple implements that solve everyday problems without Mother Nature's being any worse for the wear. And so, I've come up with my nominees for the 7 sustainable wonders of the world.

(Bicycle bell rings.)

DURNING: Item one: the bicycle. It's the most efficient transportation device ever created, and the most widely-used vehicle on Earth. A bike will get you 3 times farther on a plate full of calories than walking, and it's 53 times more efficient than the typical car. Bikes top my list because they don't pollute the air or lead to oil spills or oil wars or change the climate or block up half our urban space with roads and parking lots. Plus, it keeps me from having to join a fitness club.

(Door shuts; fan turns on.)

DURNING: Item two: a ceiling fan. They're great after a spin on the bike. During episodes of digestive turmoil in tropical hotels, I've learned that a fan over your bed spells relief even in sweltering climates. Ceiling fans cool tens of millions of people in Asia and Africa. They're much more efficient than air conditioners, those juice hogs found in two thirds of US homes.

(Dial tone.)

DURNING: Sustainable wonder number three: the telephone. (Dials. His voice continues on a recorded message.) Telephones are the greatest invention in human communication since the printing press, and they take a small amount of resources to manufacture and operate. The Earth can afford for everyone in the world to have a telephone. (Dial tone.) But there is one drawback: I'm not sure the Earth can afford for everyone to have a global phone book. (Recorded voice: "If you know the extension of the person that you would like to reach, enter that now. For directory assistance....") Well, maybe there are 2 drawbacks to telephones. (Hangs up.)

(Echoing steps climbing stairs.)

DURNING: Not all of the 7 sustainable wonders are inside the home. (Voice: "Shh!") Sorry. (Whispering:) Public libraries are a sustainable wonder because they're waste reduction at its best. I mean, do we really need a personal copy of everything we want to read? I hear that some towns have tool libraries where you can check out a lawn mower or a sledgehammer. The concept could be used with cameras and cleaning equipment. Even extra dining chairs. (Chair scrapes on the floor.)

(Paper shuffling.)

DURNING: Here's another sustainable wonder that's disappearing as quickly as the manual typewriter: the old-fashioned manila envelope with the string on the back that we used to use for interdepartmental mail. People reused these things dozens of times before they wore out. They put modern recycling to shame.

(Sound of airplane overhead.)

DURNING: Item six: the clothesline. Solar-powered technology at its best. It takes no fuel to operate, few materials to make, it's generally safe for kids and it even gets people outdoors - where they might just talk to their neighbors.

(Ravel's "Bolero.")

DURNING: And last on my list: the condom. That's right, the condom. Simple, low-tech birth control. Of course, they are disposable, and they come with all of this excess packaging. But these are trivial objections, when you consider that condoms can stabilize the human population at a level the Earth can support.

That's my list of the 7 sustainable wonders of the world. Used in combination, they might just change the world. And, if they don't, at least they'll save you money.

CURWOOD: Alan Durning is Director of Northwest Environment Watch in Seattle. His commentaries are produced for Living on Earth by Terry FitzPatrick.

Back to top

What are some of your candidates for sustainable wonders? Give us a call on our listener line toll-free at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or you can write to us at Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02238. That's Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02238. Transcripts and tapes are $10.

("Bolero" up and under.)

The Eagles Advance

CURWOOD: Just in time for Independence Day, the Federal Government has announced that it plans to remove our national emblem, the bald eagle, from the Endangered Species List in most of the country. Officially, the great raptor will be upgraded from endangered to threatened throughout all the continental US, except for parts of the desert southwest. A quarter century ago, the bald eagle was nearly extinct, but today it's one of the success stories of the embattled Endangered Species Act. Minnesota has the largest population of eagles in the lower 48 states. As Catherine Winter of Minnesota Public Radio reports, some biologists say the comeback of the eagle there and elsewhere is proof that the Endangered Species Act can work.

WINTER: In northern Minnesota's Chippewa National Forest, it's not unusual to see the haunched shape of an eagle roosting in a tree, or eagles circling over lakes and rivers looking for fish. On a foggy morning, wildlife biologist John Mathisen walks through the forest to a creek to visit an eagle nest. He points out a mass of sticks about 5 feet across high up in a pine tree.

(Footfalls in the forest.)

MATHISEN: There's an eagle next right there, in that white pine. You can see it about two-thirds of the way up.

WINTER: It's huge.

MATHISEN: Yep. They're, um - usually they're big enough so that you can go up there and lay down in them if you want to.

WINTER: Will it hold you?

MATHISEN: Sure. That's when we band them. That's what we do; we go up there and sit in it and band young ones.

WINTER: Mathisen has been collecting information about eagles in the Chippewa National Forest for 30 years. In his office, stored on his computer, he has information about every one of the 186 eagle nests in the forest.

(Keyboard typing; a chair squeaks.)

MATHISEN: So, that nest was found in 1986; in that year it had zero young.

WINTER: When Mathisen first started collecting data, there were fewer than 500 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. Today there are close to 4,000. Minnesota has more bald eagles than any other state besides Alaska, and Mathisen says there are so many eagles in the Chippewa National Forest that they're running out of good nest sites.

MATHISEN: So we see them at least attempting to build nests in places where we never would have thought to look for them before, like around buildings and along highways and so on.

WINTER: Bald eagles were listed as endangered in 1967 in most of the United States. Eagle habitat had been destroyed by logging and development. People killed eagles, mistakenly believing they harmed livestock. And the insecticide DDT accumulated in eagles' food, making the birds' eggs too fragile to hatch. Biologists say the main reason eagles are doing better now is that DDT was banned in the US in 1972. But they say human efforts to help eagles have been crucial, too.

(Woman: "You can go ahead and give him his fluids." Sound of utensils, clucking.)

WINTER: At the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, an injured eagle opens its curved beak and clucks in protest as a veterinarian looks at its bandaged leg. The Raptor Center treats injured birds and returns them to the wild. Such projects are expensive. Public and private organizations have spent millions of dollars on bald eagle recovery. Whether they are listed as threatened or endangered, eagles would still be protected by Federal law. But Raptor Center biologist Mark Martell says if the eagle's status is upgraded, money could be steered to species that need more help. And, he says, changing the listing makes a statement.

MARTELL: It's important to recognize that even though it was a lot of work and expensive, that we can turn around the plight of endangered species. That, when we set our minds to it, and protect animals, protect their habitat, that we can reverse what seems to be a pretty drastic trend, and that's towards extinction. And I think we have pulled the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction, and that needs to be recognized.

WINTER: Some conservationists support the proposal to change the eagle's status. But attorney Brian O'Neill, who represents the Defenders of Wildlife and other environmentalist groups, says he doesn't want to see money steered away from bald eagles. He says when eagle habitat is protected, other animals also benefit.

O'NEILL: When you eliminate a threat to eagles- by way of example, strychnine - you're eliminating a threat to kit foxes, grizzly bears, every kind of migratory bird that exists. So, I'm not so sure I want all of the money moved from eagles to obscure mussels.

WINTER: Supporters of the proposal say changing the eagle's status shouldn't be an excuse for ignoring it. Mark Martell from the Raptor Center says biologists must continue monitoring eagles and watching for future threats.

MARTELL That's very important. Habitat protection, a clean environment without a lot of toxic chemicals in it, people not shooting birds - all of those things have to continue to happen. We have to still be aware of the bird and be looking out for it. We can't just revert to old habits. Because all of our efforts will be for naught, then.

WINTER: The public will be invited to comment before the Agency makes a final decision. For Living on Earth, I'm Catherine Winter in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced and edited by Peter Thomson. The coordinating producer is George Homsy, the associate producer is Kim Motylewski, and our director is Debra Stavro. Our production team includes Jan Nunley, Colleen Singer Coxe, Jessika Bella Mura, Julia Madeson, J.P. Anderson, and Nora Alogna. Our engineer is Rita Sand, with help this week from Bob Connolly and Karen Given. 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.

ANNOUNCER: Living on Earth is made possible with major funding provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation, supporting efforts to protect the global environment; the Pew Charitable Trusts; the National Science Foundation; and all-natural Stonyfield Farm Yogurt - whether supporting worthwhile causes or producing healthy foods, Stonyfield's goal is to make you feel good inside. Additional contributors include Jennifer and Ted Stanley and the NPR News and Information Fund.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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