April 18, 1997
Air Date: April 18, 1997
GOLDMAN PRIZE: AN ORGANIZER IS REWARDED
Since 1990, the Goldman Foundation of San Francisco has recognized local organizers with its annual Environmental Prize which includes a cash award. A winner is selected from each inhabited continent for work in a wide range of evironmental areas and the 1997 North American Goldman went to Terri Swearingen, a nurse and mother jailed repeatedly for leading demonstrations against a toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio where she persuaded the U-S Environmental Protection Agency to rethink its regulations for siting and operating hazardous waste facilities. Her efforts have also made the Waste Technologies Industries (WTI) plant one of the most closely monitored incinerators in the country and while it has stayed within the law, Swearengin tells Steve Curwood that she thinks the law has too many loopholes. (07:20)
Paper Oaths/ James Jones
In 1993, the Clinton Administration ambitiously declared it would make the federal government a major purchaser of environmentally-friendly products, including recycled paper. Considering that the federal government is the nation's largest user of paper, the move was expected to boost the recycled products market. But as James Jones reports, although President Clinton signed an executive order two years ago requiring the Adminstration to use recycled paper, the President's own stationery still comes from 100 percent virgin stock. (04:05)
Up in the Treetops/ Bob Carty
One of the least explored environments on earth is the canopy of rainforests high above the forest floor among the branches of tall trees is a living web of thousands of plants and animals. It is home for hundreds of birds and reptile, tens of thousands of insects and countless numbers of microbes. Recently, scientists have begun a systematic study of the rainforest canopy, and one of their favorite sites is in Panama where the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institutes operates a crane that gives scientists unprecedented access to this natural world. Living on Earth contributor Bob Carty went up and along for the ride, and sent us this profile of the people who work at the top of the trees. (08:05)
The Living On Earth Almanac
Facts about... the Earth flag. (01:15)
EARTH DAY AT 27: A LOOK BACK -- AND AHEAD/ Terry FitzPatrick
Twenty-seven years ago the world celebrated the environment in what became known as Earth Day. The first Earth Day took place in 1970, and spawned a broad social movement along with it. Environmental awareness has since moved from the margins to the mainstream of US society where Green thinking has become popular in schools and welcome in the work place. Many of us now link the environment to our food and water, our homes, and even the cars we drive. And just how did environmental activism gain this success? Living on Earth's Terry FitzPatrick has the story which was first broadcast Earth Day 1995. (13:36)
ARE THERE ANY ANTHEMS OUT THERE?: MUSIC OF THE MODERN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
Steve Curwood engages singer/songwriter Fred Small in a musical conversation with guitar in the studio reviewing the peaks and valleys of recent environmental folk music-making (10:55)
FIRST HALF HOUR
HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Lisa Mullins
REPORTERS: Jane Fritz, James Jones, Bob Carty, Terry FitzPatrick
GUESTS: Terri Swearingen, Fred Small
(Theme music intro)
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.
This week marks the celebration of Earth Day. Among the festivities are the announcements of the Goldman Prizes in the Environment. This year's winners include Terri Swearingen, a nurse and a mother who has battled a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.
SWEARINGEN: I trusted the government. I just thought that if there was a threat, that they would be there to protect us. And then when they actually started building this facility, I realized that you know, that may not be the case.
CURWOOD: Also, 4 years ago President Clinton ordered the government to use recycled paper. But today his own stationary doesn't make the grade.
CULVER: If the President was fully committed to this issue, the paper that he uses every day, that he puts his pen to, should comply.
CURWOOD: This week on Living on Earth, but first this news.
MULLINS: From Living on Earth, I'm Lisa Mullins. Opponents of consolidating the nation's nuclear waste in Nevada are claiming victory. A recent Senate vote to temporarily store the waste at the Nevada test site fell 2 votes short of the amount needed to override a promised Presidential veto. Last summer a Federal court ruled the government has until 1998 to take charge of the 33,000 tons of nuclear waste now stored at 80 reactor sites across the country. The Clinton Administration wants the waste to remain in place until a decision is made about a plan to permanently store the material at Yucca Mountain, which is also in Nevada.
The price of livestock futures on the Chicago Exchange fell sharply following news that an Indiana man died of Kreutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare neurological disorder related to mad cow disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is unlikely the man's death was caused by mad cow disease, since none of the 250 cases of Kreutzfeldt-Jakob that occur in the US each year have been linked to mad cow. Scientists have yet to prove the disease can be transmitted from one species to another.
Government officials and citizens' groups from across North America recently gathered in Yellowstone National Park to assess the gray wolf recovery program. Jane Fritz brings us this report.
FRITZ: The success of wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains prompted wildlife managers to discuss removing the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List. In Yellowstone Park alone, wolf recovery is well under budget and ahead of schedule, which is a victory both for wildlife management and for a species nearly eradicated from the west. National Park Service project manager Mike Phillips says there are already 43 free-ranging wolves living in 8 packs in Yellowstone, with several litters expected this spring.
PHILLIPS: We've been able to, in 2 years, create the basis for what I believe will be a persistent population of wolves in the greater Yellowstone area, which is what we set out to do.
FRITZ: But despite this early success, under the recovery plan the species can't be delisted until 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs are sustained for 3 consecutive years. For Living on Earth, I'm Jane Fritz.
MULLINS: A National Marine Fisheries Service proposal to protect the endangered northern right whale is drawing sharp criticism from lobstermen in Maine. The measure would require lobstermen to switch to equipment that is less likely to ensnare whales, but opponents say existing gear doesn't pose a serious threat to whales, and meeting the proposed standards would put Maine lobstermen out of business.
A West Virginia mother who fought a toxic waste incinerator in her neighborhood was one of 7 activists awarded this year's Goldman Environmental Prize. Other winners include a Samoan tribal chief who stopped loggers from destroying ancestral rainforests, and a Russian naval officer accused of treason for exposing a fleet of contaminated nuclear submarines. The Goldman Environmental Foundation recognized one project in each populated continent and granted winners a prize of $75,000.
In commemoration of Earth Day, Living on Earth's Colin Studds traveled to Washington to ask our nation's legislators if the planet really needs its own holiday. The first lawmaker he caught up with was Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California.
(Background echoes, ambient voices)
BOXER: The American people have so many things on their minds every day of the week, just surviving, just paying the bills, sending their kids to school, making sure their kids are healthy, making sure they're healthy, that clearly, it really helps to have a day that's set aside to focus on the environment. And that's why I think Earth Day is so important.
CHENOWITH: I am Helen Chenoweth from the First District in Idaho. I grew up celebrating Earth Day every single day. I remember riding my horse into the woods and swimming in the river. So I would almost not recommend having a specific holiday for Earth Day. But I would do all I could to make sure that people can celebrate Earth Day every day.
MILLER: This is Congressman George Miller. Well, I think it's an annual opportunity to take stock of where we are in terms of the preservation and protection of the Earth's environment, certainly of the environment within the United States. And at the same time recognizing how much more we have yet to do. And it also provides a tremendous opportunity to do education.
GILCHRIST: I think it's becoming increasingly important to have some understanding of what gives and sustains and perpetuates life on Planet Earth. And so to understand the mechanics of creation is vital for future generations to survive.
MULLINS: That's Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrist from Maryland.
The House Commerce Committee has distributed an Earth Day reminder to members with suggestions for possible photo-ops, but legislators may be planting trees and saying cheese on the wrong day. The memo says Earth Day falls on April 21st. That's one day early of this year's 27th anniversary.
And that's this week's Living on Earth news. I'm Lisa Mullins.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. This week we mark the anniversary of the 27th Earth Day. It was April 22nd, 1970, when tens of millions of people gathered in cities and towns across the nation. They came together to celebrate the gift of the planet's living systems and to warn against their destruction. This year, far fewer people are marching in the streets, but demonstrations continue, led by grassroots activists who face imminent ecological threats in their communities. Since 1990, the Goldman Foundation of San Francisco has recognized outstanding organizers with its annual Environmental Prize. A winner is selected from each inhabited continent. People fighting for forest protection were named winners from South America, the South Pacific, and Asia. An activist against poaching won from Africa. And an engineer who warned of nuclear hazards in Russia won from Europe. The North American Goldman went to Terri Swearingen, who has been jailed repeatedly for leading demonstrations against a toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, that was built close to an elementary school. In 1993, Ms. Swearingen persuaded the US Environmental Protection Agency to rethink its regulations for siting and operating hazardous waste facilities. Her efforts have made the Waste Technologies Industries plant one of the most closely monitored incinerators in the country. It has stayed within the law, but as Terri Swearingen recently told me, she still thinks the law has too many loopholes.
SWEARINGEN: When I first found out about plans to build one of the world's largest toxic waste incinerators, I was working in a local doctor's office in East Liverpool, Ohio, where the incinerator was planned to be built. And at that time I was pregnant. And here I was about to bring a child into the world, when I first learned about this proposal. And it scared me. I mean, I -- somebody came into the office and said that the government would allow this facility to emit 4.7 tons of lead annually.
SWEARINGEN: To be raining down. Lead. Lead to be emitted from the stacks of this incinerator, to rain down on the children in this valley. And I thought that was preposterous. I thought that they had been mistaken in some way. But when I, you know, started to do research, I found out that they were absolutely correct. And the second thing is, this multinational Swiss corporation elected to build this facility just 1,100 feet from a 400-student elementary school. You just don't do that. You just don't burn and store toxic waste next door to where children attend school every day.
CURWOOD: So what did you do?
SWEARINGEN: I kind of worked behind the scenes until about 1990, when they actually started building. But the reason that I didn't get real involved is, for one thing, I trusted the government. I just thought that if there was a threat, that they would be there to protect us. And then when they actually started building this facility in about 1990, I realized that you know, that may not be the case.
CURWOOD: What was the first active step you took to oppose? What did you do?
SWEARINGEN: Oh gosh, what didn't we do? We'd done just about everything. I think one of the first things we did was to look at the track record of the industry. There are only 18 other commercial hazardous waste incinerators in the country. But we looked at the track record and we found out that there is a history of fires, explosions, accidents, and that made us even more fearful because of the proximity of this particular incinerator to these homes and to the elementary school. They have an evacuation plan for the school, and do you know what it consists of? Plastic and duct tape! When there's an accident at this facility, there will be no time to evacuate those children, and so what they've done -- what it consists of is taking aluminum foil and wax paper and shoving it into all the cracks, putting plastic over the windows and the doors and taping it with duct tape and turning off the ventilation system. And, you know, it may just be more of a tomb to seal these children in.
CURWOOD: So you got really concerned and involved with the permitting process, and eventually this became a national story. In fact, during the 1992 Presidential race, didn't Bill Clinton and Al Gore speak up against this incinerator?
SWEARINGEN: Absolutely. They were in the Ohio Valley, and they called the siting of the WTI hazardous waste incinerator an unbelievable idea. And they said you know, you ought to have control over where these things are sited. And they even went so far as after the election, they put out a press release saying that they'd stop it. But guess what? They didn't do it. And so I think what has been revealed in all of this is that there are forces running this country that are far more powerful than the President and the Vice President of the United States. I mean, it's amazing that the likes of the Union Bank of Switzerland, you know, Vonrol, this multinational Swiss Corporation, and people like Jackson Stevens, a powerful investment banker from Arkansas, are more relevant to East Liverpool, Ohio, than the President of the United States.
CURWOOD: Now, the company says it has a clean record. It has not been cited for any kind of improper emissions. Is that true?
SWEARINGEN: Well, I can tell you that several years ago Governor Voynevich appropriated funds through the Ohio Department of Health to test the children to see how much lead they had in their blood before the incinerator started operating. And mercury, they did mercury, too. And then, you know, they were going to continue testing. And after the incinerator started, to kind of use the kids as monitors. And what they found is that, like, 69% of the kids showed no mercury in their urine. And then, following the WTI trial burn, during which time WTI dumped 29 pounds of mercury into the air, the numbers flipped, they reversed themselves. They found out that 66% of the children now had mercury in their urine.
CURWOOD: You're not finished yet, are you?
SWEARINGEN: Absolutely not! You know, I want President Clinton, for one thing, to come to East Liverpool, Ohio, and see with his own eyes where this is. And either tell us that it's okay or stop it. There is no power without responsibility. And he can say well, this is not a political issue. You know, I'm going to leave this to my agency, the EPA or whatever. But it was a political decision to allow it to be built there. It was a political decision to allow it to operate. And the buck stops with President Clinton.
CURWOOD: Terri Swearingen is this year's North American winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Living on Earth asked the White House to respond to Ms. Swearingen's request that President Clinton visit the East Liverpool, Ohio, incinerator. The White House declined to comment on the matter, deferring to the Environmental Protection Agency. An EPA spokeswoman told us that the Agency is in the process of addressing Ms. Swearingen's concerns. She also told us that while the EPA would prefer that incinerators not be located near schools, the WTI facility is operating within the parameters of the law.
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CURWOOD: In 1993 the Clinton Administration ambitiously declared it would make the Federal Government a major purchaser of environmentally friendly products, including recycled paper. Considering that the Federal Government is the nation's largest user of paper, the move was expected to boost the recycled products market. But as James Jones reports, old habits die hard, even for those at the top.
GORE: With this executive order, Federal purchase of printing and writing paper -- all Federal purchase of printing and writing paper -- must contain at least 20% recycled material by the end of next year.
JONES: That's Vice President Al Gore unveiling the Administration's recycling order in 1993. Executive Order 12873 requires that all paper products bought by the government, from stationery and copy paper to paper towels, even toilet paper, contain at least 20% post-consumer recycled fiber.
(Paper being pulled through a copier)
JONES: The paper in this copying machine at the President's Council on Environmental Quality complies with the order. It turns out sheets that contain 25% recycled fiber. But most other government agencies aren't doing nearly as well, as Lisa Culver of the watchdog group Government Purchasing Project recently discovered.
CULVER: The reaction of our group when we found out that more than 80% of the copy paper that the Federal Government purchases, for example, does not comply with its own Executive Order, was one of I guess amazement. And a number of us had thought that this was just being followed.
JONES: So Culver and 200 other groups took their newfound concern to President Clinton. They asked him to instruct government supply agencies to sell only paper that complies with his own recycling order. The response they received on the President's personal stationery promised full compliance. But on closer examination, Culver says it also added insult to injury.
CULVER: I noticed, by shining the paper in the light, that it said 100% cotton. And there was no recycling logo on it, there was nothing printed at the bottom saying "printed on recycled paper." And I thought that if the President was fully committed to this issue, that the paper that he uses every day, that he puts his pen to, should comply.
JONES: White House staff admit that the President's stationery contains no post-consumer recycled paper. But they pleaded mercy, saying no one makes recycled content paper that meets the archive's quality standards required by the Oval Office. After all, we're talking about paper history is being recorded on. The President, staff say, was technically in compliance with the order. Kathleen McGinty, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, admits to the oversight.
McGINTY: We realize that there was a glitch in the market.
JONES: So McGinty says the White House went in search of someone who could supply the stationery it needed.
McGINTY: We now have a major paper manufacturer in the United States who will supply to us this tree-free paper that in fact will have 20% post-consumer content. And we are hopeful that even in the next few weeks or a month, we will be able to begin procuring that paper.
JONES: McGinty adds that over 65% of all the paper products used by the government now comply with the order. That's up from 40% in 1992. Also, at the urging of the White House, the Defense Department, which accounts for half of all the paper the government uses, recently directed the General Services Administration to only supply it with 20% post-consumer paper. These measures to comply with the President's recycling order may seem like small steps, but they are strongly supported by environmental groups and industry. They hope the Federal Government's vast purchasing power will breathe new life into what today is a sluggish paper recycling market. Emily Wiggins with the environmental publishing group Earth Island Press.
WIGGINS: I believe that the Federal Government, if it sets its own mandates and it practices what it preaches, is going to be able to do this and really, really jump start a revolution. A forest saving revolution.
JONES: For Living on Earth, I'm James Jones in Washington.
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CURWOOD: Science heads for the top of the rainforest canopy. That story is ahead on Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. One of the least explored environments on Earth is the canopy of rainforests. High above the forest floor the branches of tall trees create a living web of thousands of other plants and animals. It is home for hundreds of birds and reptiles, tens of thousands of insects, and countless microbes. Recently, scientists have begun a systematic study of the rainforest canopy. One of their favorite sites is in Panama. Here the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a crane that gives scientists unprecedented access to this natural world. Living on Earth contributor Bob Carty went up and along for the ride, and sent us this profile of the people who work at the top of the trees.
(Music up and under: Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring." Fade to and blend with rainforest sounds: bird calls and other animal calls)
CARTY: Six o'clock in the morning on the edge of Panama City. The sun has been up for half an hour, but here in the Metropolitan Park rainforest, a roof of branches and leaves 10 stories above makes the trail below seem like a darkened tunnel.
CARTY: At the end of the trail, the square metal leg of a construction crane sits on a cement base and disappears up into the trees. A few yards away, a cable hangs back down through the branches and a young woman works to clamp it to a steel cage.
(Metal clamping sounds)
LOVELOW: My name's Catherine Lovelow, and I'm a postdoctoral fellow from Australia. This little cage that we're in is called a gondola -- well, that's what we call it. Fits about 3 or 4 people. We've just hooked it up and we're heading up to the canopy.
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WRIGHT: My name is Joe Wright. I'm a research biologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Opening the canopy with these cranes has been a tremendous breakthrough. The canopy is one of the final frontiers for biologists on the planet; just the force of gravity has kept us out of there. It would be like a marine biologist who was stuck at the surface and could just look down at the coral reef. We were in the same situation. We were stuck on the ground and we could only look up. And something like 90% of the leaves in the forests are up there in the canopy.
(Metal sounds continue)
LOVELOW: So you'll notice as we're coming up here, the light change. It was very dark down at the bottom and now, as we're coming to the top we're getting into low humidity, a bit more breeze, and lots of light.
LOVELOW: So we've got this amazing view of the Bay of Panama and Panama City. But if you look back across the isthmus we've got lots of forest.
LOVELOW: We're about -- oh, 40 meters above the ground, just hanging here, swaying a little bit. And now I'm going to get Jose, the crane driver, to take us for a little bit of a tour.
LOVELOW: So now he's taking us out to the very end of the -- the crane's arm. Actually, I'm not that comfortable with heights but up here -- I mean, I've just been up here enough that it doesn't bother me any more. I'm happy.
LOVELOW: You feel that nice breeze as we're going along? Nothing better than when the sun's out and you're baking up here, like you're in a little oven. And then he whisks you somewhere and you get a nice breeze.
CARTY: The canopy crane gives researchers access to 8,000 square yards of jungle top. But the roof of the rainforest is not flat. It is a rolling topography of peaks and valleys. It is so densely matted that in places only 1% of the sunlight reaches the ground. A large tree supports up to 20 tons of other life. Vines, mosses, ferns, epiphytes, animals, and insects. One acre of canopy supports a population of 2 million insects.
WRIGHT: We've had a Norwegian graduate student studying just 2 families of beetles, the weevils and the leaf beetles. And after about 600 cumulative hours of work on the crane, he'd identified a total of about 1,100 totally new species. One big question in biology today is how many species are there out there? Fifteen years ago they might have said 5 million species total on the planet. But there's now good reason to believe that there are actually tens of millions of species of insects in the canopies of tropical forests.
LOVELOW: Ah -- let's go down. (Shouts in Spanish.) Oh, there are the ti-ti monkeys; they're beautiful. They look like they've got little Mohawk haircuts to me. The animals that we see most here are ti-ti monkeys, which are these little tiny monkeys with strange little hair cuts; sloths; and iguanas. They're the most obvious animals. And then there are lots of birds.
(Music up and under; fade to and overlap with bird calls)
WRIGHT: Traditionally, biologists have gotten into the canopy by climbing ropes. Once up there they've connected walkways between trees, like the movie Medicine Man. Our canopy crane represents a qualitative breakthrough in that we aren't supported by the trees. It allows us to get to them without disturbing them.
LOVELOW: Jose --
I'm telling him now to go down to one of my experimental trees. I'm working on the influence of elevated carbon dioxide levels. The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has been slowly increasing because of burning fossil fuel. We have to find out whether the trees will soak up the extra CO2. I mean, because plants need and use carbon to grow. We're coming up to the side of a tree where I have CO2 enrichment chambers around branches.
CARTY: And what have you found?
LOVELOW: You think when you add more carbon that they're going to grow more, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The forests may not act as a big sponge for the extra CO2. That means high CO2 levels, warmer planet.
LOVELOW: All right. I've just asked the crane driver to take us up and over this big anacardium tree and back down to the ground.
CARTY: The rainforest canopy may not be a sink for the world's greenhouse problem. Still, it may become the top shelf of the drugstore, a warehouse of new pharmaceutical compounds. Canopy cranes are now exploring forests in Washington State and Venezuela. Another crane is coming to Panama. Scientists are just getting to know the canopy. At the same time, each year human activity destroys at least 23,000 square miles of rainforest: an area the size of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
(Metal clanking sounds)
CARTY: For Living on Earth, I'm Bob Carty in Panama.
(Clanking, bird calls, and Copland's "Appalachian Spring")
CURWOOD: We're always interested in what you have to say about our program. Call our listener line any time 1-800-218-9988. That's 1-800-218-9988. Or write us at 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138. That's 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. Once again, that's LOE@NPR.ORG. And check out our web page at www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. It's NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
("Appalachian Spring" up and under)
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Great Lakes Protection Fund and the George Gund Foundation for Great Lakes Reporting; and the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues.
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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
CURWOOD: We mark Earth Day Week with a look at its history and music. That's coming up on Living on Earth.
(Music up and under: Weather Report)
SECOND HALF HOUR
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood
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CURWOOD: It's been given to presidents, heads of state, and dignitaries across the globe. The anthropologist Margaret Mead carried one around with her for 8 years until her death. It's the Earth flag. The Earth flag was created in 1970 by John McConnell, an early leader in the international peace movement. It's now the universal symbol of Earth Day. Mr. McConnell had a simple design. Inspired by photos of Earth taken from space during NASA's Apollo 10 mission, he placed a picture of the planet against a dark blue background. That basic design remains unchanged today. But the Earth flag isn't the only environmental flag. In 1969, cartoonist Ron Cobb created an environmental symbol by combining the letters "E" for environment and "O" for organisms. Similar to the Greek letter theta. In 1970, Look Magazine fashioned an ecology flag. The gold colored symbol stood for Thanatos, Greek for death, to indicate a warning to the Earth's environment. The flag's stripes were green for the unspoiled land, and white for the pure air. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: The first Earth Day took place in 1970, and spawned a broad social movement along with it. Environmental activism has since moved from the margins to the mainstream of US society. Green thinking has become popular in schools and welcome in the work place. Many of us now link the environment to our food and water, our homes, and even the cars we drive. Just how did environmental awareness gain momentum? Here's an encore presentation of the story from Living on Earth's Terry FitzPatrick.
FITZPATRICK: If you look at the headlines of 1960, you'd never think America was on the verge of an environmental revolution.
(John F. Kennedy: "If I'm elected president, or whoever may be, I think we should develop the resources ...")
FITZPATRICK: As John F. Kennedy was promising a new generation of leadership, he was also stressing the need for economic development, not conservation.
(Kennedy: "The development of the resources of this country to prepare the way for the 300 million people who are going to live here in 40 years, I think, is an essential requirement...")
FITZPATRICK: But shortly after Kennedy took office, the environment edged into the popular culture. The book Silent Spring revealed the dangers of pesticides. Another book, The Population Bomb, became a bestseller. Musicians like Tom Lehrer were singing about pollution.
(Lehrer: "If you visit American city, you will find it very pretty. Just two things of which you must beware: don't drink the water and don't breathe the air. Pollution, pollution, they got smog and sewage and mud. Turn on your tap, and get hot and cold running crud...")
FITZPATRICK: Still, the environmental movement had yet to coalesce. The issues of clean air and water were viewed as intellectual concerns. Banning atomic bomb tests and creating wilderness areas weren't seen as related issues. Activists like Denis Hayes felt limited.
HAYES: All of this was coming together but they were separate strands. Nobody sort of put them together in a concerted effort that got them a higher priority in people's minds or linked them all together as being emblematic of a -- of a shared set of values.
FITZPATRICK: Ironically, one of the crowning technological achievements of the 60s, President Kennedy's space program, would inadvertently provide America with a shared experience that helped inspire the environmental movement.
(Astronaut: "This transmission is coming to you approximately halfway between the moon and the earth." Ground Control: "Roger.")
FITZPATRICK: It was Christmas, and for the first time ever, people could see pictures of the Earth as one planet: a fragile home in a forbidding blackness.
(Borman: "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.")
FITZPATRICK: The image of one Earth helped to unify the country, and on April 22, 1970, concern for the health of the planet exploded in an unprecedented display of support.
("This is a CBS News special. Earth Day: A question of survival. With CBS News correspondent Walter Cronkite." Cronkite: "Good evening. A unique day in American history is ending: a day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival...")
FITZPATRICK: Earth Day was part teach-in, part mass mobilization. Its organizer, Denis Hayes, spoke at a rally in Washington.
(Hayes: "We are systematically destroying our land, our streams, and our seas. We foul our air, deaden our senses, and pollute our bodies. That's what America's become. That's what we have to challenge...")
FITZPATRICK: It was a challenge not everyone was willing to accept.
(News broadcast: "Some quarters saw more than coincidence in the fact that Earth Day occurred on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lenin, the father of Soviet communism. And the Comptroller General of Georgia, James Bentley, sent out $1,600 worth of telegrams warning that Earth Day might be a Communist plot.")
FITZPATRICK: But Earth Day events attracted 20 million participants: more than enough to dispel the critics and create the political momentum that Denis Hayes was seeking.
HAYES: What we wanted to have was people at the end of it who understood these issues, cared about them passionately, were prepared to vote on the basis of such issues, were prepared to make changes in their own lives -- in everything from the number of children that they had to the kind of automobile that they drove, on the basis of what they learned.
FITZPATRICK: It worked. It grabbed the attention of Congress. Leon Billings, then Chief of Staff for the Senate Air and Water Committees, says Earth Day turned environmentalism into an unstoppable political force.
BILLINGS: There was a tremendous wellspring of -- of goodwill among young people who were looking for something to be for, after the bloodletting of the Vietnam War demonstrations and so on. And the environmental issue was a perfect -- I mean, it was a perfect opportunity.
FITZPATRICK: Politicians had to support the environmental cause simply to survive, even president Nixon.
(Nixon: "Because there are no local or state boundaries to the problems of our environment, the Federal Government must play an active, positive role. We can and will set standards. We can and will exercise leadership.")
FITZPATRICK: The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Agency; all these environmental landmarks were approved in just 3 years. The early 70s had become an environmental renaissance. The environment was even the province of musical superstars.
(Marvin Gaye: "Whoa, oh, mercy, mercy me. Oh, things ain't what they used to be, no, no. Where did all the blue skies go? Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and sea...")
HAYES: Suddenly, here was a movement in which a -- a middle-class housewife who had never done anything activist before in her life but cared passionately about the kind of world she was passing on to her kids -- there was a role in this one for her.
FITZPATRICK: Denis Hayes and other activists won praise from all directions. Even Republicans, like William Ruckleshaus, head of the newly-formed EPA.
RUCKLESHAUS: As a society, we owe a debt to those who have made the environment a call to action. They are for the most part sincere, dedicated, and fair-minded advocates of environmental responsibility.
FITZPATRICK: But it wasn't an unbroken string of environmental victories; there were major defeats. The first big fight under the Endangered Species Act was lost when Congress approved a dam that wiped out a fish called the snail darter. In the wake of the OPEC oil embargo, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was approved. As the 70s drew to a close, environmentalism had lost some of its magic. But then came Love Canal.
(Broadcaster: "An unusual hostage incident is underway in Niagara Falls, New York tonight. No weapons are involved, as 2 officials of the Environmental Protection Agency are being held against their will by members of the Love Canal Homeowners Association at the group's headquarters. The two hostages are...")
FITZPATRICK: Residents of Niagara Falls, America's honeymoon capital, were getting sick because of chemical leaks from the Love Canal dump site. Angry homeowners were fighting back. This was a blue collar town. People like Lois Gibbs hadn't been part of the environmental consciousness that swept the country.
GIBBS: When I lived in Niagara Falls, and we smelled chemicals, and we had black clouds, we had brown clouds, we had white clouds, I mean it was terrible. We smelled that and we thought: good economy. We didn't think air pollution poison because we didn't understand. Because nobody was talking about it at our level.
FITZPATRICK: But soon the entire nation was talking about toxic waste. This was just the first of many communities to learn that chemical dumping could threaten human health. Love Canal was evaluated; so was Times Beach, Missouri. Then, the Superfund list was developed, detailing America's worst hazardous waste sites.
GIBBS: The release of the list woke up America in a way that they had never been woken up before, because every local paper took the list and talked about the sites in their community. Everybody said, "I've got a Love Canal," and so people really became concerned. They saw their self-interest and they wanted something done immediately.
FITZPATRICK: Lois Gibbs founded a clearinghouse to help others who were fighting toxic dump sites. It was the beginning of a second wave of environmental awareness among working class people.
GIBBS: None of us were trained organizers. None of us had any experience in even being an environmentalist. If you were to ask my neighbors today if they were an environmentalist they would say no. What we're about is fighting for justice.
FITZPATRICK: Other events continued to strengthen support for the environment, most notably the nuclear power accident at Three Mile Island. But suddenly, in 1981, the movement was on the defensive. Ronald Reagan took over the White House. To Reagan, environmental groups were special interests that hurt the economy. It was time for business to have a stronger voice. Leading the charge was Secretary of the Interior James Watt.
(Watt: "Businessmen pay taxes. Businesspeople have rights. All Americans won in November, and those liberals from the special interest groups are furious that the positions of power have been opened up to America for Americans. And that's our objective...")
FITZPATRICK: Watt wanted to roll back environmental programs and open more public lands to things like mining and grazing. But the Reagan revolution foundered when it came to the environment. Congress was unwilling to water down the landmark legislation that Leon Billings had helped to craft a decade before.
BILLINGS: We survived the Reagan-Watt era, these policies survived, because of their militancy. People, the American public, saw what they were proposing as too radical.
FITZPATRICK: Even Vice President George Bush distanced himself from the Reagan record. In his run for the White House in 1988, Bush said he'd be the environmental president. Later, events like the Exxon Valdez oil spill hardened public resolve to protect the environment. But as the movement approached its 20th anniversary, activists were worried by the lesson they'd learned during the Reagan years: that legislative gains are vulnerable to changing political tides. Denis Hayes was steering the emphasis of Earth Day 1990 toward a broader societal goal and away from a focus on government.
HAYES: There was a widespread correct perception that some of those laws had not worked terribly well, and that we probably had to do some things that affected the culture, affected the society in ways other than by placing legal restrictions and regulatory restrictions upon something that reached into people's behavior.
(Woman: "We have 3 types of trash bins around; they're not hard to miss. We have one for aluminum only, one for bottles and one for just trash. So help us trash your trash. Thanks.")
FITZPATRICK: Earth Day 1990 focused on individual environmental responsibility: things like recycling, waste reduction, energy conservation. The event revitalized the movement, but it felt more like a festival than political rally. It was a place to take the kids.
(Girl: "We are a student group showing adults that kids care about the environment, too." Woman: "Your exhibit's called The Next Generation. Why?" Girl: "Because we're the next generation; it's going to be our world in about 30 years. So we better make sure it has a future.")
FITZPATRICK: What does the future hold? One of the nation's premiere environmentalists is now Vice President, but advocates for property rights and economic growth seem to control the political agenda. Activists like Lois Gibbs say to meet this challenge, the movement needs to build its grass roots support among minorities, working people, and others directly affected by environmental problems.
GIBBS: Historically, we talked about rivers and air and endangered species and trees and so forth. This next 25 years is going to be really looking at people. And people are going to become the endangered species, and people are going to be the ones who define the laws that affect our environment and affect the way we do things.
FITZPATRICK: Long-time organizers like Denis Hayes think the movement should also rekindle the ideals of 1970. He feels Earth Day's big message -- building an environmentally-sustainable economy -- has largely been lost.
HAYES: This has been much more a reformist movement. Its achievements start from a presumption that, that the fundamentals are good. What we need to do is scrub up around the edges and make things a little bit cleaner. And partly as a consequence of that, most of our heroic victories and expensive victories over the last 25 years have stopped the nation from getting very much worse during that period. But we haven't really profoundly improved in very many areas.
FITZPATRICK: Profound improvement, says Hayes, includes a lowering of the birth rate and a dramatic drop in the use of natural resources. He says we must change the way we think about the Earth: a spiritual transformation. Although the environmental revolution has come a long way in this fundamental regard, the revolution has just begun. For Living on Earth, I'm Terry Fitzpatrick reporting.
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CURWOOD: Singer/songwriter Fred Small takes us on a musical tour of the environmental movement. It's next on Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Most movements for social change have anthems, songs that are synonymous with the passions of people struggling to improve their lives and perhaps change the world in the process. Go to a union rally, for example, and you will surely hear "Solidarity Forever." Join a march for integration and "We Shall Overcome" will mark your time. But what about the environmental movement? What is its anthem? My next guest was hard-pressed to come up with one, but he offers the following.
SMALL: (strumming guitar) Out of the fire and the molten stone came the water mother ocean home. Till we walked, masters of the land, brought the fire under our command. Thought the river would never go slack. Thought the spring would always come back. Blew our life savings for a handful of change. Steal the future from our children, call it capital gains. Not for the great green Earth. For the ancient seas of our birth. For the patient trees that give us breath. For the people of every land. From the Ganges to the Rio Grande, we shall defend the great green Earth.
CURWOOD: That's Fred Small and the first verse of "The Great Green Earth," a song that Fred wrote to mark the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. Fred is a former environmental lawyer who is now studying to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. But as a longtime singer/songwriter, his guitar is never too far from his side. Fred, thanks for coming by today.
SMALL: Always a pleasure, Steve.
CURWOOD: Fred, you have a theory about why an anthem for the environmental movement has failed to emerge. I mean, the movement has certainly been around for a long enough time.
SMALL: I'd say there are a couple of reasons, Steve. One is that I think we've changed as a society since the heyday of the labor and civil rights movements. Those were more participatory times. The culture that we had was what we created. Now we tend to consume it through CDs or on the radio or MTV, and we're not as creative as we used to be. The other thing is, I think that the environmental movement itself tends to be, not exclusively but tends to be, a middle class movement. So middle class folks are better at writing their members of Congress than in being in the streets demonstrating. They're less in your face, more polite, and they don't -- they don't sing as much.
CURWOOD: There is a sort of progenitor for today's environmental movement in the anti-nuclear movement and those folks got out and marched and sang, right?
SMALL: Absolutely. I think because people felt threatened in their homes, in the places that they lived. They felt a connection to the land, and here was a very immediate and concrete threat. A lot of tremendous singing in that movement, especially the Seabrook nuclear power plant and the Clamshell Alliance. A lot of songs sung there, and also in and on the way to jail as people were carted off after doing civil disobedience.
CURWOOD: You got a song for us?
SMALL: Yeah. This is an adaptation of a traditional song that was put together by Charlie King, called "Acres of Clams. " I'll just sing the first verse and chorus. (Strums guitar, sings) I've lived all my life in this country. I love every flower and tree. I expect to live here till I'm 90, it's the nukes that must go and not me. It's the nukes that must go and not me. It's the nukes that must go and not me. I expect to live here till I'm 90, it's the nukes that must go and not me.
CURWOOD: Whoa. Well, I'm going to get out there and march right now.
CURWOOD: I guess with something like that. I think, though, more songs associated with the environmental movement or with environmental themes as being very reflective about taking note of what's happening to the planet. I'm wondering if there's one of these that comes to mind for you, too.
SMALL: Well, the very first environmental song that I learned, I learned as a boy at the time when nuclear testing, weapons testing, was still taking place in the atmosphere before the treaties that prohibited that. And Malvina Reynolds wrote an extraordinary song that some folks may remember from Joan Baez singing and many others, called "What Have They Done To The Rain?" (Strums guitar, sings) Just a little rain falling all around. The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound. Just a little rain. Just a little rain. What have they done to the rain? Just a little boy standing in the rain. The gentle rain that falls for years. But the grass is gone, the boy disappears. And the rain keeps falling like helpless tears. What have they done to the rain? What have they done to the rain?
CURWOOD: Mm, such a pretty song. What about something that speaks to today's problem with pollution?
SMALL: Well, we have to talk of course about the Hudson River Slew Clearwater and all the wonderful music that's come out of that. That's a full-scale working replica of a Hudson River sloop that Pete Seeger and a lot of other good folks helped get started in the late 60s. It does environmental education and a lot of music. This is a song that Pete wrote for the Hudson River, where he lives. I'll just sing you the chorus. (Strums guitar, sings) Sailing down my dirty stream. Still I love it, and I'll keep the dream. That one day, oh maybe not this year, my Hudson River will once again run clear.
CURWOOD: That's quite a stride to it. It kind of reminds you of Woody Guthrie. I guess Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie spent a lot of time together.
SMALL: They go back a long way, and of course in folk music we all borrow from one another. You can hear Woody in Pete. You can hear Pete in me. It's kind of like ecology.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) I guess so. And speaking of Woody Guthrie, he penned "This Land Is Your Land," which I think is perhaps the movement's most recognizable song.
SMALL: Absolutely. Great song and used by many movements.
CURWOOD: Can we hear it?
SMALL: Here we go. (Sings; strums guitar) As I went walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me that endless skyway. I saw below me the golden valley. This land was made for you and me. (Speaks) Sing it with me, Steve.
CURWOOD and SMALL together (in harmony): This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island. >From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land was made for you and me.
SMALL: Sing along with Steve Curwood on Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) And Fred Small. Fred, I can't help but notice when you brought your guitar over this morning, you have backpack straps on it. And you have your bike helmet.
SMALL: That's true. I bicycled over. I don't have a car; I gave it up years ago. Because I find it simplifies my life, it keeps me happier. I get less frustrated. I'm more punctual, actually, because I plan ahead. It's actually an improvement in my lifestyle.
CURWOOD: Well, Fred, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing these songs with us.
SMALL: You bet. Thanks for asking me.
CURWOOD: Fred Small is a singer/songwriter, a former environmental lawyer, and now a Divinity School student who lives in the Boston area. But before we go, Fred, I'd like you to take us out with your song about simple living.
SMALL: All right, here goes. (Strums guitar, sings) Too many words. Too many sounds. Too many attractions turn me around. Too many miles in a chrome cocoon. I never get anywhere. I can't see the moon. Too many commercials. Too many lies. Too many celebrities I don't recognize. Too many brand names. Too many magazines. I got so much sensation I can't feel a thing. Too much work with nothing to do. Too many dreams never come true. Too much hurting without a second glance. Too much desperation they call romance. Simple. Living. Got to get to simple -- living. Simple living. Simple -- simply living.
CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Our production team includes Kim Motylewski, Julia Madeson, Susan Shepherd, Liz Lempert, George Homsy, and Peter Shaw. Our senior producer is Chris Ballman. Peter Thomson heads our western bureau. We also had help from Colin Studds and Jesse Wegman. Our program is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with WBUR Boston, and Harvard University. Our engineers are Walter Dickson at WBUR and Jeff Martini at Harvard. Michael Aharon composed our theme. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
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ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include Stonyfield Farm, makers of pure all-natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 1-800-PRO-COWS for Stonyfield's Moosletter; the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the W. Alton Jones Foundation; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; and the W. Alton Jones Foundation for reporting on environmental economics.
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