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

June 27, 1997

Air Date: June 27, 1997



Steve Curwood reports from the United Nations and the second world environmental summit. The conference ended with no agreement about specific goals and time tables to prevent global warming. Looking toward the final round of negotiations in December, Europeans are asking the United States to come up with some concrete figures. (08:50)


Ice sculptures were mounted in the summer heat to make a point about global climate change by an activist group, and children came to cool themselves, becoming part of the action. (04:40)

E.S. 2 ESSAY / Steve Curwood

Steve Curwood reflects on the summit, global warming, the lack of media attention, and what the public wants. (01:50)


President Clinton ended months of speculation by backing the Environmental Protection Agency's new stringent air pollution reduction rules. Now Congress gets a chance to review the regulations, and many in industry have vowed to fight the clean air rules. James Jones reports from Washington. (03:23)


Facts about... the new Preserve the Environment U.S. postage stamps. (01:15)

SHOW US THE MONEY / John Rudolph

Money remains the stumbling block to international cooperation on the environment. Billions of dollars are needed to pay for environmental programs around the world. But, as Living On Earth's John Rudolph explains, there are deep divisions over where that money should come from. (08:49)

Out Of Africa

One of the activists who came to the Earth Summit 2 conference was Wangari Maathai, the founder of Kenya's Greenbelt Movement. She has both received awards and prizes for her work, as well as being jailed and beaten in her own country. In New York, she addressed the general assembly, chaired special sessions, and led a daily round of singing and dancing. (06:01)


Some little cities are doing what many big nations cannot: striving for sustainability. Daniel Hinerfeld from member station KCRW reports on Santa Monica, California and its mixed progress on achieving sustainability. (09:13)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Sharon Brody
REPORTERS: Maria Titze, Peter Hadfield, Steve Curwood, James Jones,
JohnRudolph, David Hinerfeld
GUEST: Wangari Maathai
COMMENTATOR: Steve Curwood

(Theme music intro)

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

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. The Second World Environmental Summit, this time in New York, has ended with no agreement about specific goals and timetables to halt global warming. Looking toward the final round of negotiations in December, Europeans are asking the US to come up with some numbers.

BLAIR: The biggest responsibility falls on those countries with the biggest emissions. We in Europe have now put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit.

CURWOOD: Also, the White House moves ahead with tough new air pollution rules.

CLINTON: In America the incidence of childhood asthma has been increasing rapidly.
It is now the single biggest reason our children are hospitalized.

CURWOOD: We'll have those stories on Living on Earth, but first this news.

Environmental News

BRODY: From Living on Earth, I'm Sharon Brody.
President Clinton is taking some heat for his latest efforts to combat global warming. The criticism comes following a speech by Mr. Clinton at the Earth Summit II meeting in New York. John Rudolph reports from the United Nations.

RUDOLPH: Environmental activists call Mr. Clinton's speech a lost opportunity. People attending the UN conference had hoped the President would offer a specific timetable for cutting emissions of the gases that cause global warming. The US is the world's single largest producer of greenhouse gases. In his speech the President acknowledged this, but he stopped short of saying how much the US is willing to cut these emissions in the future. Mr. Clinton did make a point of responding to critics who say global warming has not been scientifically proven.

CLINTON: The science is clear and compelling. We humans are changing the global climate. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at their highest levels in more than 200,000 years and climbing sharply.

RUDOLPH: But many remain skeptical. Mr. Clinton said his first order of business is to convince the American people and Congress that the climate change problem is real and immanent. For Living on Earth, this is John Rudolph at the United Nations.

BRODY: Global warming may be leading to the depletion of krill, a staple food for whales, penguins, and other sea animals. That's according to scientists from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, who published their findings in the journal Nature. The problem is that krill compete for food with small creatures called saups. Saups thrive in warm years and devour the krill's food. The krill population has already declined since the 1940s and the animals that depend on krill as a food source could already by suffering, the scientists say.

All of Utah's 29 counties have filed suit against the Clinton Administration over its decision last summer to create the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. From KUER in Salt Lake City, Maria Titze has this report.

TITZE: The counties say President Clinton exceeded the powers granted to him by the 1906 Antiquities Act when he established the 1.7 million acre monument. In their suit they allege the action amounts to wilderness preservation, and only Congress has the authority to declare wilderness. The designation stopped plans for the development of a huge underground coal mine. The suit has the support of Utah's Republican Congressional delegation, but not Utah's Republican governor, Mike Levitt. Levitt says he's chosen to negotiate with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to determine what if any development will be allowed within monument boundaries. Approximately 6 million acres of Utah's Red Rock landscape is still under dispute. Congress is considering how much land deserves wilderness protection. For Living on Earth, I'm Maria Titze.

BRODY: The Pacific salmon fishing season begins soon without a long-term conservation agreement between Canada and the US. Talks between the 2 countries broke down under catch limits for coho salmon and Fraser sockeye salmon. US and Canadian officials had been negotiating management of fishing since early May. The US says it will place its own conservative catch limits on Pacific salmon even though no formal agreement has been reached. Observers are waiting for Canada's response to the failed talks. After negotiations failed in 1994, Canada aggressively over-fished sockeye salmon.

Residents of a town in central Japan have voted to reject a planned industrial waste disposal plant in their area. The referendum has attracted nationwide attention in Japan, where people usually have little say in projects that affect their environment. Peter Hadfield reports from Tokyo.

HADFIELD: The result was overwhelming: 81% voted against the facility near the town of Mitake, 100 miles west of Tokyo. The facility would have burned and buried industrial waste. The referendum results were carried live on Japanese television, partly because this is only the second time a referendum has been used in Japan to decide an environmental issue. The first referendum overturned the planned construction of a nuclear powerplant. The Mitake referendum also drew national attention because the town's mayor was badly beaten up earlier this year, possibly because he ran on a platform opposing the waste facility. The trend toward holding referenda is worrying some government officials who say local people are overturning important development projects. For Living on Earth, this is Peter Hadfield in Tokyo.

BRODY: Hundreds of volunteers in California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas will dive into marine sanctuaries during the first 2 weeks of July to count fish. Participants in the Great American Fish Count will record the species they find and their relative abundance. Scientists will use the data to study long- term trends in fish populations and to help make management decisions for the sanctuaries. Marine conservation groups and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration say the annual event also helps raise public awareness of underwater wildlife.

That's this week's Living on Earth news. I'm Sharon Brody.

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(Music up and under)


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

CLINTON: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen. Five years ago in Rio, the nations of the world joined together around a simple but revolutionary proposition: that today's progress must not come at tomorrow's expense.

CURWOOD: Like President Bush before that first Earth Summit, President Clinton had to be persuaded to come to the second one, this time in New York. And when Mr. Clinton did come, he came late Thursday, just before the close of the conference.

CLINTON: As Vice President Gore said Monday, sustainable development requires sustained commitment.

CURWOOD: If Mr. Clinton had come for the opening sessions of this assessment of the world's environment since 1992, he would have heard in speech after speech from dozens of other Prime Ministers and presidents that little progress has been made in reaching the goals set in Rio for environmental protection. The Prime Minister of Denmark is Paul Neurup Rasmussen.

RASMUSSEN: Let us be honest today. We have not lived up to those solemn commitments. We did not do what we were supposed to do.

CURWOOD: From fisheries to forest to water, the news was mostly bad. And there was one overriding concern.

BLAIR: Perhaps the most worrying problem is climate change.

CURWOOD: Since the Rio Earth Summit, an overwhelming scientific consensus has developed, which holds that unchecked climate change could disrupt food production, cause catastrophic droughts, floods, and promote the spread of diseases. It was Britain's fledgling Prime Minister Tony Blair who continued the theme started at the economic summit of the big industrialized nations in Denver the week before: that the US must make binding commitments to timetables and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

BLAIR: The biggest responsibility falls on those countries with the biggest emissions. We in Europe have now put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit.

CURWOOD: In a follow-up press conference to bolster the criticism, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook took the American bashing one step further, and challenged the American public.

COOK: I think that the American public have yet to come to terms with the consequences of the consumption of energy that they have at present.

CURWOOD: The rest of the world is upset with America because of the huge amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we are dumping into the atmosphere from vehicles, power plants, and industry. We use twice as much carbon per person as the British, 3 times as much as the French. And with only about 5% of the world's population, we emit almost a quarter of the world's CO2. The US State Department says that only the British and the Germans are expected to meet the voluntary targets for greenhouse gas reductions under the accord negotiated at Rio. But many nations have been making progress. In the meantime, US emissions have been getting worse, thanks in part to cheap energy and the booming economy. By 2010 the Europeans want greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized nations cut by 15% of 1990 levels. In its counter-proposals, the US has said it wants tradeable emissions credits, requirements for developing as well as developed nations, and a plan that spans decades as well as the short-term. But the US says it's still too early to talk numbers. I asked Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Tim Wirth why.

(To Wirth) What's the obstacle? Why is the Clinton Administration at this point unwilling to commit to a firm timetable and goals for the binding agreement of climate change control?

WIRTH: Well, as we have stated over and over and over again, Steve, we're going to make that commitment. But we're not ready to do it yet. We've said for months that we're going to do it in late summer, early fall. This has to be done as part of the Kyoto negotiations, which occur in December, and that negotiation is not going on here in New York.

CURWOOD: Are the prospects good in Kyoto? Given the response from the Europeans, or many of the Europeans, and the stridency of some of the remarks, some public, not so public, one might get the impression that these talks are in danger of collapse. There may not be an agreement in Kyoto.

WIRTH: We always have, at any difficult negotiation, there's always a lot of brinksmanship that occurs, and always a lot of fear that occurs, and you probably, halfway through the Kyoto negotiations we're going to say to each other in the middle of the night we're never going to get there. And we probably at the end of the day, it gets done.

CURWOOD: But even as the President was preparing to speak, demonstrators called for firm targets.

PROTESTER: President Clinton...

CROWD: What will you do?

PROTESTER: One more time.

CROWD: What will you do?

CURWOOD: Privately, the Europeans say for the US to meet meaningful targets, taxes on carbon consumption will be unavoidable. But in his speech, while President Clinton conceded that the US has a poor record on greenhouse gases, he made no mention of any new taxes. Instead, he outlined a plan to begin an immediate response to the challenge of global warming by educating Congress and the American people.

CLINTON: I will convene a White House conference on climate change later this year, to lay the scientific facts before our people. To understand that we must act. And to lay the economic facts there so that they will understand the benefits and the costs.

CURWOOD: The President also promised to begin technological innovations right away.

CLINTON: We are working with our auto industry to produce cars by early in the next century that are 3 times as fuel efficient as today's vehicles. Now we will work with businesses and communities to use the sun's energy to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, by installing solar panels on 1 million more roofs around our nation by 2010.

CURWOOD: Environmental activists were disappointed by the president's remarks.

HARE: Well, it's a very complex negotiation. And by waiting until the very last minute, the US risks creating a rather major train wreck internationally.

CURWOOD: Bill Hare is an economic policy analyst for Greenpeace.

HARE: You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that it will take more than 6 months to bring the American public around to realize that commitments have to be made in Kyoto. And I think the Administration has not actually taken the lead in going out and telling people what's actually at stake. And instead, the fossil fuel industry, the oil industry and so on have taken the lead in telling people that there's no problem, and that even if there is a problem it's too costly to solve. And I think the Administration is wrong not to have confronted that issue earlier, head-on. And I think the challenge that remains in the period to Kyoto is for the Administration to actually tell the American public what is at stake. The international scientific community says there'll be significant loss of human life from the health effects. There'll be major changes to mountain ecosystems. There'll be more droughts and floods. All these things will impact on lifestyles in the USA.

CURWOOD: Michael Oppenheimer is chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. He supports the Administration's plants for emissions trading but wants concrete goals.

OPPENHEIMER: What they have done is put out a flexible framework, which might be a good approach, we think it is a good approach, to reducing emissions. But it's kind of a headless horseman. Without the head of the specific targets, the framework is rather meaningless. And in fact, at this point in terms of the negotiation dynamics, by not putting out the specific targets they're undermining any credibility that their flexible framework might otherwise have. They need both parts. The target, and the framework.

CURWOOD: President Clinton says he has a workable negotiating plan for Kyoto.

CLINTON: We will work with our people, and we will bring to the Kyoto conference a strong American commitment to realistic and binding limits that will significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases.

CURWOOD: Michael Oppenheimer says it is essential that these negotiations prove fruitful. And that carbon emission reductions by the US begin promptly.

OPPENHEIMER: This is a problem that by and large, for at least a short period of time, remains in our hands. We have the opportunity today, and for the next few years, to grapple with it, and probably avoid very disruptive changes. That opportunity, though, is slipping away very fast.

CURWOOD: There are 2 more preparatory conferences in Bonn, Germany, before the final meeting of the climate change convention in Kyoto in December. Observers say that if these negotiations fail, it could be years before the world's nations make another attempt to try to stop global warming.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: When we return, putting global warming on ice, and the Clean Air debate moves to Congress, on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

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

(Ambient voices)


CURWOOD: Just across First Avenue from the UN General Assembly Building is a small park. At noon one day during the summit, it was filled with an exhibit of perhaps a dozen tall and gracefully ornate ice sculptures. These had been placed on oil barrels by the group Friends of the Earth. Painted on one, the words: "Melt: A Temporary Monument to Climate Change and Human Folly." It was 93 degrees, the hottest day of the New York City summer so far, and as the sculptures melted and fell to the pavement, a group of preschool children cheerily played with the chunks, rubbing and patting and smashing the coolness.

(Addressing child) What's this here on the ground?


CURWOOD: What's happening to it?

CHILDREN: It's melting!

ANOTHER CHILD: It's breaking.

CURWOOD: How come?

CHILDREN: Because it's hot!

CHILD: It's soon gonna be no more.

WOMAN: Yeah.

CHILD: Feel this one! Ooh!

CURWOOD: Oh, this one's very cold!

CHILD (Singing) It's United Nations Day!

WOMAN: You want to sing United Nation there today? You sing it. The two of you know it very sell. Sing it, Ben, come on.

BEN, WITH OTHER CHILDREN (singing): It's United Nations Day, today. We're celebrating all the way. Peace is made. Let's sing and dance, hooray!

WOMAN: Very good! (Applause) That's too big, Andy, please. Take a small one, yeah, honey. Take this.

ANDY: Thank you.

WOMAN: You're welcome.

(Many voices)

JUNIPER: Would you like some commentary from Friends of the Earth?

CURWOOD: What would you say?

JUNIPER: The ice sculptures we put up here today are trying to make the connection between global climate change and the negotiations going on in the United Nations there to get a treaty to cut the pollution which is causing the problem.

CURWOOD: And your name, sir?

JUNIPER: Is Tony Juniper, from Friends of the Earth.

CURWOOD: The children came by here from a preschool. How do you feel about seeing them here at your demonstration?

JUNIPER: Well, I think it reminds us all of why we're all here, and what these negotiations are for. I think the politicians inside, they get very deep into the political problems they face in agreeing how to deal with these issues. But at the end of the day it's the kids walking around here that remind us exactly what this is all about. This is about the future, it's about the future of life on Earth.

CURWOOD: So these sculptures, what do you have inside these pieces of ice?

JUNIPER: We've got items of the living world embedded in ice.

CURWOOD: So you have in here a huge bouquet of roses, frozen.

JUNIPER: We have a bouquet of roses, one of the most beautiful items we have in our house often is flowers. We take them very much for granted. But I think it's worth remembering at times that these things didn't just appear. They've evolved over millions of years, within a very predictable climate. And by interfering with the global climate, we're putting all these great wonders and these great treasures at risk.

CURWOOD: How long has it taken for these to melt out here?

JUNIPER: Well, we brought them in all wrapped up this morning, with insulation blankets on them to stop the melting. And we took them off at about 10 o'clock, and it's now getting on for 12. And they're starting to fall to pieces. But this is exactly, of course, the point, that you can see inside the wonders of nature being exposed, and falling to pieces. Quite literally. As we speak the sculptures are cracking apart and collapsing onto the floor and melting.

(Sluicing water)

MAN: And then just let them go over to the side. Let 'em go boom.

(Splashing water, oohs from the crowd)

WOMAN: Oh, no!

CURWOOD: So you knocked it over.

MAN: Everything over here.

WOMAN: Why you knock it over because?

MAN: Well, it's time for us to leave. And we were told that when we left that they should be dismantled.

WOMAN: So you're going to knock every one over? Everybody won't get to see it.

CURWOOD: What do you think of the display?

WOMAN: That it's beautiful. It is beautiful. But I don't know why they're breaking it up.

CURWOOD: Do you know why they put it here?

WOMAN: No. Why?

CURWOOD: This is a commentary about the threat of global warming.

WOMAN: Oh. Okay. I came from Barbados, and we don't have this kind of heat, here, it is too hot. If we have global warming the rest of the Caribbean will sink. It be too hot for the rest of the Caribbean places.

WOMAN 2: The tropical and sub-tropical areas, you know.

WOMAN 1: It will be too much. You understand?

WOMAN 2: America's contributing more to the global warming than any other nation on the civilized Earth. And you have people in South America destroying rainforests and stuff like that, you know. You have to call these things, you know?

WOMAN 1: You have to stop it now, right?


CURWOOD: What did you think of this?

WOMAN 3: I thought it was great. People need to know and they need to be able to touch things and see things, and read things. And this is a good way to do it. Because people don't pick up brochures and read them. What do you think?

CURWOOD: Think it made its point?

WOMAN 3: I think so. I think so. I hope so. Hope those people across the street realize.

CURWOOD: It's air-conditioned inside over there.

WOMAN 3: (Laughs) I know, they could care. I know, it must say something about air conditioning on one of these barrels. I don't know if it does. It should.

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CURWOOD: I walked away from the ice sculptures with her question echoing in my mind. What did I think about this exhibition? Indeed, the whole Earth Summit itself? For one thing, I found being outside intolerably hot. The thought of escaping back into the centrally-cooled United Nations complex was deeply appealing, even though I knew that the air conditioners were probably being run on electricity from power plants that contribute to global warming.

I also thought it odd that there were few members of the press corps at the ice sculpture demonstration. Indeed, there was a general lack of notice being paid by the media to the entire Earth Summit and its theme of global warming. Usually a big gathering's press rooms are jammed. Not at this time. Did you want a prime viewing spot for the speeches of Presidents Clinton and Chirac, Prime Minister Blair or Chancellor Kohl? Just walk right in; the gallery would be mostly empty.

Most of the New York media barely mentioned it, it seemed, except in traffic advisories that roads on the East Side of Manhattan would be snarled by security barriers and motorcades for the dozens of heads of state. And I didn't hear any TV weather forecasters who are usually quick with a joke make any kind of connection between the high-level negotiations over global warming and the unusually early heat wave that was sizzling the city.

Of course, in many respects, the media are a reflection of ourselves. Global climate change is not yet a major concern for most people. Some of us have heard the science about global warming, but still choose to believe the skeptics, though they've been pretty well discredited. And others of us do feel that there is a problem, but don't know what to do about it. I for one don't want to shut off the air conditioning when it's over 90 degrees. We need direction. Perhaps more interest from the press and public in the environmental summit meetings of leaders will come when there's more leadership.

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(Music up and under)


CURWOOD: The day before President Clinton came to the Earth Summit, he ended months of speculation by backing a stringent set of rules to reduce smog levels and restrict, for the first time, fine soot particles. The measures had been formally proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency under Carol Browner in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Lung Association. Children's health, said the President, was a major reason he was approving the new Clean Air rules.

CLINTON: In America the incidence of childhood asthma has been increasing rapidly. It is now the single biggest reason our children are hospitalized. These measures will help to change that, to improve health of people of all ages and to prevent as many as 15,000 premature deaths a year.

CURWOOD: In the past such rules would have simply gone in to effect, subject to court challenge. But under a new law passed last year, Congress has the right to review regulations. And many industry groups have vowed to fight the Clean Air rules there. James Jones has our report.

JONES: After a protracted and contentious campaign to convince the White House to back her Clean Air proposals, EPA Administrator Carol Browner now can expect a barrage of Congressional opposition to her efforts to tighten pollution limits on smog and soot. Several bills that would delay implementation of the Clean Air standards have already been introduced in Congress. Ohio Representative Bob Ney offered one of them. He says he won't rest until he finds a way to make the Administration reconsider Browner's proposal.

NEY: I'm going to do every single thing every single day as long as I'm breathing in this Congress to get her appropriations, to find out the flaws in the Agency. To do any single thing and combine with any person of any political philosophy to stop this, what I call government hallucination about these rules.

JONES: One hundred and eighty House members of both parties have registered concerns about the rules. Mayors, many governors, and the entire business community have also voiced their opposition. But Gene Karpinsky, head of the US Public Interest Research Group, argues that so far critics of the rule haven't been very effective in swaying the one group that matters most: the public.

KARPINSKY: Industry has already spent tens of millions of dollars in their disinformation campaign with all their scares, all their lies, all their half- truths. So we don't expect them to go away and take this lightly. However, what we do know is that despite that multi-million-dollar scare campaign, the public has not been fooled.

JONES: Karpinsky says environmental groups will begin a nationwide media campaign to spur the public to convince Congress to support the rules. California Congressman Henry Waxman believes some opposition to the rules will fade, once critics realize the Administration is committed to reducing fiscal burdens the standards might impose on industry and local government.

WAXMAN: A lot of the steam will be taken out of the opposition that has been whipped up by some of the industry groups that are trying to pre-empt this decision on the standards.

JONES: Waxman also thinks the Republican leadership is in no position to wage an all-out war against the rules. He says they're still smarting from criticisms for their attack on environmental regulations during the last Congress. One moderate Republican who doesn't want to see a fight on Clean Air come down to a vote is Representative Sherry Boehlert of New York. He supports the rules and says in the end, cooler heads will prevail.

BOEHLERT: I think everyone should sort of calm down for the moment. I think most people are giving a knee-jerk reaction to these proposed standards, but when all is said and done I am convinced that the heaviest weight comes down on the side of the standards.

JONES: Debate on the EPA's Clean Air standards will begin after Congress returns from the July 4th recess. For Living on Earth, this is James Jones in Washington.

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CURWOOD: We're always interested in what you have to say about our program. Call our listener line any time at 1-800-218-9988. That's 1-800-218-9988. Or write to us at 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. Once again, LOE@NPR.ORG. And check out our web page at www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. Transcripts and tapes are $12.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: It's NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

(Music up and under)

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Great Lakes Protection Fund and the George Gund Foundation for Great Lakes reporting; Jennifer and Ted Stanley; the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; and the W. Alton Jones Foundation for reporting on environmental ethics.

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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

CURWOOD: Five years after the first Earth Summit in Brazil, money remains the major stumbling block to international cooperation on the environment. That story is coming up on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)


(Theme music up and under)

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Music up and under)


CURWOOD: Want to lick pollution and global warming? Now you can. To mark the fifth anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit and call attention to this year's gathering in New York, the United Nations is issuing a set of stamps with an environmental theme. The stamps are the work of American artist Peter Max. In 1974, Mr. Max designed "Preserve the Environment," a series of stamps for the US Postal Service. Like that series, this work for the UN uses a linear style and bright colors to depict a harmonious balance between humans and nature. While the message is global, the stamps differ in content throughout the UN's world offices. In New York, for example, the stamps show sailboats gliding on an ocean. Geneva's edition depicts the sun rising over snow- capped mountains. And in Vienna, they feature a river meandering through a meadow of cherry blossoms. The stamps can be postmarked only from the United Nations offices. They're being sold to raise funds for UN programs. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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CURWOOD: To understand what happened at the recent United Nations Earth Summit in New York, it's helpful to think in musical terms. The melody had an environmental theme: protecting the Earth's ecosystem and encouraging people to lead more sustainable lives. But the constant beat in the background was all about money. Billions of dollars are needed to pay for environmental programs around the world. But as Living on Earth's John Rudolph explains, there are deep divisions over where that money should come from.

RUDOLPH: A cloud of frustration hung over the UN complex in New York as government officials and representatives of private groups from around the world gathered to take stock of the environment 5 years after the historic Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Some of the deepest disappointment at the meeting was over the decline in funds for environmental programs and sustainable development. The President of the UN General Assembly, Rosali Ishmael, set the tone. In a speech on the conference's first day, he pointed out that wealthy nations like the US promised in Rio to increase foreign aid. But the amount of aid has actually declined, from about $55 billion in 1992 to less than $50 billion today.

ISHMAEL: There are no signs the decline will be reversed, and it remains a blow to international cooperation. This figure is less than a third of the $150 billion spent on average each year by industrialized countries to procure, research, and develop weapons of war.

(Mulling in the crowd; ambient conversations)

RUDOLPH: In many ways money has become the central issue. This is a dramatic shift from 5 years ago, when debates raged over whether scientists could prove the existence of the greenhouse effect. Today the debate is no longer scientific or ecological. It's strictly economic. Safoudin Saws is India's Minister of the Environment and Forests During a break in the negotiations in New York, he laid out the one condition that India insists on before it will reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The United States and other industrialized countries have to live up to financial promises they made in Rio.

SAWS: Unless the US commits itself afresh on funding, on the question of funding, it cannot ask India and other countries to reduce emissions. Because we basically need funding for that. What is possible within our resources we are reducing emissions. The US is not appreciating that. So making a statement that you reduce is neither here nor there. Let them help us. Then we help in US and other industrialized world.

RUDOLPH: As India and other developing countries see it, industrialized nations create most of the world's pollution, so they should pay more to clean it up. On the other hand, the US and a few other nations argue that developing countries need to start reducing their own emissions independent of what the industrialized world does. Despite this standoff, some industrialized countries have pledged to halt the decline in foreign assistance to the developing world. Britain, for example, says it will raise by 50% its support for health, education, and water projects in Africa. The Clinton Administration, however, takes a different approach. Administration officials argue that Washington can never provide assistance at the levels that everyone agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. But according to State Department official Ray Pomerantz, there's lots of private money around to do the job instead.

POMERANTZ: What we've noticed is that the dominant financial flows are now in the private sector. So the issue is now how much aid, but it is the proper utilization, and having the proper framework for the flow of private funds. That's where the big money is, and that's what has to be used sustainably.

(Milling in the crowd)

RUDOLPH: All during the week, the hallways and conference rooms at the UN were a-buzz with talk about the growing role of multinational corporations and banks in funding sustainable developing projects. In recent years there's been a huge explosion in private investment in the developing countries of Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser degree Africa. The money comes mainly from the US, Canada, Western Europe, and Japan. At more than $230 billion a year, private investment is now nearly 5 times greater than government foreign aid. But this trend worries some people.

KORTEN: I just came from the roundtable titled, "Cooperation Between Governments, Private Sector, and the UN on Sustainable Development Objectives." That was organized originally at the behest...

RUDOLPH: David Korten is a former advisor to the US Agency for International Development. During the Earth Summit II conference in New York, he was invited to a private meeting of multinational corporations, UN officials, and government representatives. Korten was troubled by what he observed.

KORTEN: You know, you see the government and UN people lining up to get into the discussion with the corporations.

RUDOLPH: What's wrong with that?

KORTEN: Well, since foreign aid is declining, this translates into well, we need more foreign investment. Now, nobody is addressing the question that if you're bringing in foreign investment, particularly, you know, from firms that are driven by this global financial system, they expect very high rates of return.

RUDOLPH: Korten believes that the pressure to maximize profits is incompatible with the need to protect the environment. Companies, he argues, will strip clean forests, mineral deposits, and fisheries to maintain their bottom line. Despite these reservations, billions of dollars are riding on the free market approach to sustainable development and environmental protection.

ISHMAEL?: It's my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. James Wolfenson, President of the World Bank.

WOLFENSON: Thank you very much. I have distributed or there is being distributed...

RUDOLPH: At a news conference at the UN, James Wolfenson unveiled the World Bank's new green portfolio of investments. For years the bank has been criticized for funding projects that harm the environment. Coal-burning power plants that contribute to global warming, or huge hydroelectric dams that destroy rivers and flood valuable farmland. Now the bank wants to use its financial clout to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to encourage sustainable forestry and fishing practices around the world. The World Bank hopes private corporations can be enticed to join these efforts. But Mr. Wolfenson admits there's no way to force the private sector to accept an environmental code of conduct.

WOLFENSON: You can justify it on the basis of ethical and moral standards. But I think if you bring in the reality that it's just quite obvious that unless you have sustainability, you're not going to have long-term economic framework in which you can operate. I think it's starting to work. And I tell you, my own personal experience thus far is that I'm getting a lot more response from corporations in terms of their willingness to adopt it than I am in the case of some governments.

RUDOLPH: It's clear that corporations and other private interests are filling a void that's been created by cuts in government funding. In the meantime the stalemate over the shrinking pot of official aid continues. This impasse could jeopardize negotiations later this year in Kyoto, Japan, on strengthening the global climate change treaty. Barbara Bramble is with the National Wildlife Federation.

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BRAMBLE: And the United States has really only one card in its deck when it goes to Kyoto in December. They are proposing to trade carbon emissions with developing countries, which many people in the south feel is essentially forcing them to give away or sell their development future to those of us who have taken up so much of the carbon space in the atmosphere. And if the US delegates go there with this one fairly unacceptable idea, and haven't made any progress whatsoever in honoring very modest commitments to help the developing countries with aid that they recognize, then the US is going to get no support for its ideas. It's going to be completely isolated. And the Kyoto negotiations have a big danger of falling apart.

RUDOLPH: If the talks were to fail, getting them back on track could take years. Meanwhile, many people believe that if global warming is not halted, harmful changes in the Earth's environment will accelerate. The price of environmental clean-up in the future could make today's costs look like a bargain. For Living on Earth, this is John Rudolph at the United Nations.

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Out Of Africa

CURWOOD: One of the many activists who came to New York to press world leaders to step up environmental protection was Wangari Maathai. The founder of Kenya's Greenbelt Movement 20 years ago, Professor Maathai can claim credit for millions of trees planted by tens of thousands of farmers in her country. She's received many honors, including Sweden's Right Livelihood Award, and Africa's Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger. Yet for her efforts, she has also been jailed and beaten in her own country. In New York, she chaired sessions of the Women's Forum, addressed the General Assembly, and led a daily round of singing and dance.

(Singing and dancing)

MAATHAI: Harambe is a Ki-Swahili word for "let us pull together," and it is used in Kenya as a slogan to appeal to members of the public to join together in communities to help each other and to promote development by themselves, without waiting too much for the government or for outside help.

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MAATHAI: Delegates, governments, lets work together. Let's stick together. Let's create genuine partnerships. Because that's what is at stake here at the earth summit. The poor do a lot of damage and they over-mine the environment to try to sustain their lives. And the rich and those who live a lifestyle where they over-consume the world's resources are also doing a lot of damage. So both ends of the spectrum need to come together and develop a partnership.

CURWOOD: Now, you were at Rio in 1992.


CURWOOD: How do you feel about being here at this meeting, in comparison to going to Rio? Do you feel hope, or do you feel a lot of concern?

MAATHAI: I always go to conferences with hope, and I know that it is very, very important to sustain hope. Even though governments disappoint us because they refuse to cooperate. And I do understand that this world is always divided between the rich and the poor, between the weak and the powerful. Now my concern, at my age, and at the rate at which the environment is being degenerated, is whether this is a destiny that humankind has to live with. Is it so, that we as human beings cannot truly cooperate to save the planet? Are we always going to have this polarized politics, which try to ensure that certain communities, certain regions continue to benefit from the resources of the world at the expense of the others? That it is okay for some people to overuse the resources of the world at the expense of others? Because when I listen to the negotiations between governments, this seems to be the case in every conference of the United Nations.

CURWOOD: Who are these people? The rich nations? The rich corporations? Who are you talking about?

MAATHAI: I'm talking about, yes, the rich nations, the transnational corporations. The powerful, the militarily powerful. Who of course can twist the arms of the weaker nations at every opportunity. And I guess I'm more concerned because I come from an economically weak region, a politically weak region, a technologically weak region, and a region, therefore, that continues to be exploited and marginalized. Not because people don't understand, but because they find themselves at a position where they can take advantage. As if, by taking advantage of that part of the Earth, their part of the Earth is safe.

CURWOOD: The United States Senate has circulated a resolution saying that in terms of combating global warming, that there has to be an agreement that developing nations are signed onto before they'll ratify a treaty that would bind the United States and the developed nations. How do you feel when you hear that?

MAATHAI: Well, I think here I would agree with the developing countries. What the developing countries are saying is that they cannot be held equally responsible with the developed countries. And I think that developed countries have to agree with that. Because a lot of the damage to the climate is being done by the developed countries, and certainly the United States is in the lead because of its gigantic economic power and the consumption and the production that goes on in this country. So I think that in a way, what the developed countries are saying is that we want to help you, but only so far as to keep you at a certain level of development. And the developing countries are saying, well, you owe it not only to us because of history, but also to the level at which you consume and the level at which you produce, to bear the greater responsibility. And that's where the bone of contention is.

CURWOOD: Do you think that the world governments and people have the will to stop the slide toward environmental destruction?

MAATHAI: There are always governments who believe in being able to be ahead of everybody else. In being able to be ahead not only economically but also militarily. And only feeling secure and considering the world secure when they themselves are militarily and economically prepared to defend themselves. I don't know whether it's a dichotomy that is the creation of humankind, or a dichotomy that is part of the nature of humankind. If it is part of the nature of humankind, well maybe we cannot get rid of it. If it is a creation of our mind, then we can get rid of it. But those of us who believe that this dichotomy can end, then we need to do much more than we are doing at the moment.

CURWOOD: Thank you very much, Wangari Maathai.

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CURWOOD: Some little cities are doing what many big nations cannot: implementing comprehensive plans for sustainability. A progress report from Santa Monica, California, is just ahead on Living on Earth.

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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Agenda 21 was a call to action that issued from the Rio Earth Summit 5 years ago. It was an exhortation to the world to recognize that every decision affects the environment. That every policy has global consequences. That all programs should be sustainable. It's a message most nations have ignored, but many cities have taken it to heart, including Santa Monica, a small affluent community in southern California. Santa Monica is famous for its progressive politics and penchants for the latest trends. From member station KCRW, Daniel Hinerfeld reports on the city's mixed progress on achieving sustainability.

(Crashing surf)

HINERFELD: An illustrated magazine ad from the 1930s shows the sweeping, sun-drenched coastline of Santa Monica Bay. "Summer Playground of the Travel-Wise," reads the headline. Sixty years later Santa Monica still looks like Paradise. Bordered by Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it's a thriving metropolis in the midst of natural beauty. The city's economic vitality has meant an ongoing struggle to balance growth with conservation. Inspired by the Rio Summit, Santa Monica adopted in 1994 what it calls a sustainable city program: a comprehensive set of goals and strategies to reduce energy and water use, produce less solid waste, and create an urban structure that can grow without damaging the environment.

PERKINS: We should be doing things now which will allow future generations to have a viable life.

CURWOOD: Craig Perkins, Santa Monica's Director of Environmental and Public Works Management, says the basic idea is very simple.

PERKINS: We can't expect to use up all of the potable water, to foul all the air, to fill up our canyons and deserts with waste and pollute all of our underground aquifers with toxic chemicals, and leave nothing for future generations.

HINERFELD: Though simple in concept, the sustainable cities program is complex in practice. Dozens of polities affect everything from purchasing and recycling to community gardens, transit, storm water treatment, and affordable housing. It combines mundane incentives with high-tech hardware. Again, Craig Perkins.

(Faint generator sounds)

PERKINS: We're standing underneath our electric vehicle charging station, which is powered by solar photovoltaic cells, which transform sunshine into electricity, which feeds into our City Hall building. Members of the public can drive up and plug in, and also city vehicles, electric city vehicles, can park here and charge overnight.

HINERFELD: Perkins says the solar charging station, which cost $90,000 to install, would take years to pay for itself. It's really about visibility, he says. But to some critics, that's exactly the problem. They say many of Santa Monica's programs are merely boutique. Others they fault for ignoring economic realities. Lynn Scarlet oversees public policy research at the Reason Foundation, a think tank that advances free-market solutions.

SCARLET: On the one hand, yeah, environmental improvement is lots of little steps. Tiny little steps, often invisible steps. But the real challenge you face is whether some of what they're doing is just faddishness as opposed to real change that makes a real difference.

HINERFELD: Santa Monica's goal is laudable, says Scarlet. But in many areas it favors micro-management over broad incentives that have elsewhere proved more successful. One example is the city's effort to reduce water consumption. Over several years, Santa Monica has spent roughly $5 million installing low-flow shower heads and toilets. The program has reduced consumption by 15%, and that has lowered costs. The city now spends less on procurement and also less treating wastewater. But Scarlet says her city, Santa Barbara, had a better idea. It drastically increased the price of water and overnight cut consumption by 40%.

SCARLET: So I would be very cautious about a city using taxpayers' monies to kind of subsidize the private sector to do these things. I would instead look at incentive mechanisms that kind of on their own drove them to make some of those decisions where they made sense for them.

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HINERFELD: Scarlet says the same thing applies to Santa Monica's handling of solid waste. John Root is the city's waste reduction coordinator.

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ROOT: Well, right now we're at the Santa Monica Community Recycling Center.

HINERFELD: Santa Monica began recycling long before the Rio Summit. Its curbside program, begun in 1982, serves 7,500 single-family homes. For multiple-family dwellings, the city designed drop-off zones that keep the recycling commute to less than 3 blocks.

ROOT: And I think that's one of the things that's fairly unique about Santa Monica's program, is that we have this pretty vast network of these drop-off sites. We do really make recycling as convenient as possible for the residents of this city.

HINERFELD: Under California law, using 1990 as a baseline, all cities and counties must divert at least 50% of their solid waste from landfills by the year 2000. So far, Santa Monica has achieved a 25% diversion. That puts it slightly behind schedule. According to Lynn Scarlet of the Reason Foundation, it's another area where the city could rely more on economic signals. Although Santa Monica uses a pay as you throw pricing structure, it hasn't achieved results like those of Seattle, where consumption is discouraged by steeply progressive waste fees.

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HINERFELD: Santa Monica is famous for liberal politics. It's the heart of Tom Hayden's State Senate district and it acquired its nickname, The People's Republic of Santa Monica, from landlords frustrated over strict rent control. The city showed its true colors again last year when it elected to the city council a founder of California's Green Party. Michael Feinstein says Santa Monica should be proud of its environmental consciousness.

FEINSTEIN: But at the same time, the commercial pressures, the priceyness of the land here, and the corruption on politics that that kind of money inevitably has, has I think led us to a mixed result. I think we've done some very good things, but I think we've made some very terrible land use choices here, because of the pressure to over-develop. And now we're trying to catch up. And sustainability says you can't just catch up. You have to do everything hand in hand.

HINERFELD: Feinstein says Santa Monica needs to create a more direct connection between short-term projects and long-range goals.

FEINSTEIN: Clearly, the Rio Summit talked about the need, ultimately, to bring down greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 80 percent by the middle of next century, stabilize global climate. What I want to see us do is actually take those goals to reduce emissions 20, 30, 40 percent, and then tie those to individual development projects so the new projects actually have to lead to a reduction rather than an increase. That's the only way we're going to turn this planet around.

HINERFELD: Getting that idea past the so-called "developer Democrats" on the council won't be easy, Feinstein concedes. In the meantime there are important goals more readily attainable. One of them is planning for the effects of global warming. Looking up the coast, Feinstein points out the Santa Monica pier, 2 oceanfront hotels, and the heavily trafficked bike path. They're assets that attract legions of visitors and generate millions in tax revenue.

FEINSTEIN: Our location at the ocean also, however, puts us at a very dangerous place in terms of global warming, with the predictions that ocean levels will rise. That means not only on a day to day basis could we lose part of our beaches, but when we get the severe storms, like we had in '82 and '83, their effects will be so much more pronounced with a higher ocean that we could lose a lot of our beaches, lose a lot of our coastal property. As a coastal city, what do we have to do in terms of rising tides? Should we be spending the kind of money we are to building the beachfront until we know what's going to happen? Ventura County just had a study done by USC, which suggested that up to 4,100 homes there are in danger of going underwater.

HINERFELD: Feinstein has introduced a global warming measure in the city council. It calls on the city to find a university that will study the effects of climate change on Santa Monica to help guide capital investment. So far, according to Santa Monica's own evaluation, its sustainable city program has had mixed results. An internal report last year cited progress on water usage, solid waste reduction, and alternative fuel vehicles. But it said little or nothing had been done to hit many other targets. Overall, the city was criticized for its piecemeal approach. But according to Craig Perkins, Santa Monica's Director of Environmental and Public Works Management, it's the process that really counts.

PERKINS: We're trying to be as aggressive as possible, in terms of meeting these goals, and it's much better to have a target and not need it than never have a target at all. That's the sort of motto we live by.

HINERFELD: For Living on Earth, this is Daniel Hinerfeld in Santa Monica.

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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our production team includes Dan Grossman, George Homsy, Liz Lempert, Kim Motylewski, Julia Madeson, Peter Christenson, Jesse Wegman, Susan Shepherd, and Peter Shaw. We had help from Jill Hecht and Tom Kuo. Peter Thomson heads our western bureau. Chris Ballman is our senior producer. Our program is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with WBUR, Boston, and Harvard University. Our engineers are Keith Shields at WBUR and Jeff Martini at Harvard. Special thanks this week to National Public Radio's New York bureau and Monitor Radio. 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 the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Stonyfield Farm, makers of pure all- natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 1-800-PROCOWS for Stonyfield's Moosletter; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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