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

November 14, 1997

Air Date: November 14, 1997


Fast Track Derailed

President Clinton took a hard hit this past week. 80 percent of his own party refused to support his request for broader authority on trade deals. A number of factors led to defeat of the measure knows as fast track. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, tells Steve that concern for the environment was high on the list. (04:25)

Timber Roads at Issue / Thomas Lalley

Logging roads have become a lightening rod for controversy nationwide. In recent weeks forest advocates in Congress tried but failed to end federal subsidies for road building in the national forests. Thomas Lalley reports from Colorado on one proposed timber sale where road building is a bigger issue than cutting trees. (05:48)

Towering Debate / Keith Schnieder

Cell phones, fax modems, and the internet are supposed to give people a sense of personal freedom and control over their lives. But in the rush to get these technologies on-line just the opposite is happening. Commentator Keith Schnieder says industry and government efforts to squash public debate are mistaken. (02:47)

Stanley Basin Blues / Jane Fritz

Producer Jane Fritz revisits a wild river she knew in her youth - central Idaho's Stanley Basin. In the old days the river was filled with thousands of salmon and steelhead trout. From her home in Clark Fork, Idaho, Jane Fritz sent us this reporters' notebook. ()

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about the US Population Clock. (01:15)

Artic Warming / Daniel Grossman

In this week's issue of the journal Science, a team of federal and university researchers report a dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures since the middle of the last century. They say the record only makes sense when the effects of industrial society are factored in. Living On Earth's Daniel Grossman reports. (03:10)

Tahoe Test for MTBE / Willie Albright

The fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, is a suspected carcinogen that is showing up in many of California's lakes and reservoirs. Two major studies are under way at Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, to determine how two-stroke engines may be contributing to the problem. Willie Albright has reports. (05:10)

Planetary Quiz / PLANETARY QUIZ

Steve talks with Kevin Coyle, president of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. The group sponsoring a poll which found that most Americans lacked a basic knowledge of what causes pollution and what we do with our waste. (06:07)

Livestock for Livelihoods / Evelyn Tully Costa

For the last 50 years, Arkansas- based, Heifer Project International has taken the small and local path to international development. Heifer Project donates farm animals to women, families and villages in poor areas around the world. Their aim is to eradicate poverty, jump start traditional farming, restore self-sufficiency and protect land and water. Evelyn Tully Costa reports on two Heifer Project sites in the Dominican Republic. (07:07)

Leave the Leaves

Host Steve Curwood decides to dispatch with the task of leaf raking this year... and enjoy the ecological benefits. (02:25)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Thomas Lalley, Jane Fritz, Daniel Grossman,
Willie Albright, Evelyn Tully Costa
GUESTS: Carl Pope, Kevin Coyle
COMMENTATORS: Keith Schneider, Steve Curwood

(Theme music intro)

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

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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

All are not on board in Congress as the Fast Track trade law sought by President Clinton is derailed by an alliance of organized labor and a re-energized environmental lobby.

POPE: This is the first time we've been able to convince enough members of Congress that the threat to the environment was real and serious, so that they would defeat a trade proposal, in significant degree, based on its environmental impact.

CURWOOD: Also, some Coloradans take up the fight against building more logging roads on Federal lands.

JORDAN: So many roads have been built up here already, that the impact of the humans to this environment is has just been major already, without all of the new roads they're going to put in here.

CURWOOD: And a trip down the river of no return. Those stories and more on Living on Earth, but first this news.

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[NPR news follows]

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Fast Track Derailed

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
These days, international trade agreements are often used to skirt national environmental laws. So increasingly, the green lobby on Capitol Hill has looked askance at these trade deals. Four years ago the North American Free Trade Agreement incorporated side letters to protect the environment. But this year, when President Clinton proposed so-called Fast Track authority to negotiate trade pacts subject only to a limited Congressional veto, he declined to include environmental and labor safeguards. As a result, organized labor and environmental lobbyists worked together to hand the President one of the most stunning setbacks of his administration. Eighty percent of House Democrats abandoned him. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, tells me that high on the list of those who opposed Fast Track was concern for the environment.

POPE: There were obviously a series of factors which came together. Some of the votes against Fast Track were from people who just don't believe in trade agreements. Some of them were from people in Congress who were concerned about the impact on living standards and workers' rights. But the critical block of votes that defeated the President this time came from members of Congress who believed that in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement the Administration had promised it would negotiate an agreement which protected America's environment, and the NAFTA hasn't protected the environment and therefore that Congress wanted to have the right to review any future trade agreements to make sure that they really do protect our environment.

CURWOOD: Okay, Carl Pope. Now, when you looked around Capitol Hill, how may votes do you think you had because people had these environmental concerns?

POPE: Well, I think there were about 25 members of Congress who voted in favor of NAFTA and voted or would have voted against this Fast Track proposal. There are a lot of people who have both the concerns for workers' rights and the concern for the environment. And I don't know that you can separate the two. But I think of the votes that changed since we voted on NAFTA. More than half of them probably changed on environmental grounds.

CURWOOD: How big a deal is this victory for you environmental advocates in the Congress? How do you rate this on the scale of victories you've had over the last few legislative years?

POPE: Well, this is certainly one of our biggest victories over the past 4 or 5 years. We have been trying for a long time to bring home to the Congress the fact that these free trade agreements are not just about tariffs. Hidden in these agreements are all kinds of provisions which effectively subordinate American law to decisions of the international trade bureaucracies, including American environmental law. And this is the first time we've been able to convince enough members of Congress that the threat to the environment was real and serious so that they would defeat a trade proposal, in significant degree based on its environmental impact.

CURWOOD: Now tell me, why is this such a big deal, the Fast Track question? I mean, presidents used to have the authority to do this. I mean, a trade deal is essentially a treaty, and historically Congress and particularly the Senate has voted a treaty up or down.

POPE: Well, one of the differences between trade agreements and treaties is trade agreements only require a majority vote. One of the reasons that treaties get the up or down treatment is it takes a two-thirds vote. And I think if the Fast Track agreement had said that you got fast-tracked if you got two-thirds of the vote in the Congress, it probably wouldn't have been very controversial. But remember, NAFTA was approved by a very narrow margin in the House of Representatives. And we believe that when almost half of the members of the House of Representatives have serious problems with a trade agreement, they ought to have the right to debate the individual provisions so their constituents can tell where they stand on issues like: are we going to clean up the border with Mexico? Are we going to require that food which is imported into the United States actually be safe?

CURWOOD: How would you design Fast Track to get it to work if you were suddenly in the White House perhaps after this defeat maybe there's an opening, Mr. Pope. What would it say? What would it do?

POPE: It would say that the President has the power to negotiate changes in tariff levels using Fast Track. But if the Administration wants to embody in a treaty changes in American law, those have to be voted up or down on a case by case basis. I think the President should have the right to get rid of tariffs. I don't think the President should have the right in trade negotiations to make changes in substantive American law about workers' protections or environmental protections.

CURWOOD: Carl Pope is executive director of the Sierra Club. Thank you, sir.

POPE: Thank you, Steve.

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CURWOOD: One road to ruin in our national forests is the construction of logging roads, say some Colorado citizens. We'll hear their story in just a moment, right here on Living on Earth.

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Timber Roads at Issue

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
The US Forest Service plans to log more than 14,000 acres of timber in Colorado over the next 10 years. That's a decline in logging from just a decade ago, but conservationists contend it's still too many trees. And what's worse, they say, are the 82 miles of new roads planned for now pristine areas so the logs can be hauled out. The public pays for logging roads that private loggers use to make a profit, and this subsidy has generated a lot of controversy. Despite efforts to nix their construction, money for new logging roads remains in the latest Federal budget plan. Thomas Lalley of Colorado Public Radio visited one proposed logging site where road building is an issue.

(Thunder and bird song)

LALLEY: The trees on Sheep Flats in the Grand Mesa National Forest are getting old. The Forest Service believes that if the trees are not cut soon, they could die, considerably reducing their timber value. So, local Forest Service officials recommend cutting more than 4,300 acres: a relatively large cut for Colorado. Carol McKenzie is one of the foresters who devised the Agency's position. She says logging will preserve the health of the forest in Sheep Flats.

McKENZIE: The majority of the stands up there are mature to over-mature. When you get stands in that condition, you get an increase in the insect activity and in disease activity up there. We want to leave some of the landscape in old growth and over-mature and decadent; it is valuable to us and to the critters that use that. But we also want part of that landscape in young trees.

LALLEY: And to make room for the young trees, the old ones will have to be logged, ensuring a steady supply of trees for future cuts. After all, the Forest Service is mandated by Congress to provide timber to the nation's industries. But to get to the trees in Sheep Flats, the Forest Service also recommends constructing nearly 24 miles of new roads and improving 10 miles of existing roads. Conservationists find this the most disturbing element of the proposed Sheep Flats deal.


JORDAN: We're walking along right now on a really rugged 4-wheel-drive road that's going to be improved for about 10 miles.

LALLEY: Sharon Jordan is a librarian in nearby Collbran, a town more reliant on hunting and recreation than logging. She says if the Forest Service gets its way, roads like this one, now barely passable, will invite cars, trucks, and other vehicles into this nearly pristine area.

JORDAN: So many roads have been built up here already, that the impact of the humans to this environment is has just been major already, without all of the new roads they're going to put in here.

LALLEY: The Forest Services promises to destroy many of the roads after the loggers are finished, but conservationists doubt that pledge. They say the Forest Service has a terrible track record of keeping motorcycles, 4-wheel- drive trucks, and all-terrain vehicles off closed roads in the National Forest. Rocky Smith is with the Colorado Environmental Coalition. He says roads lead to erosion, mud slides, water pollution, and fragmented wildlife habitat.

SMITH: And the Forest Services does not have the enforcement personnel to come up here, warn people first and write tickets for flagrant violators. They just don't do much of that. Congress will not appropriate the money for that.

LALLEY: And in this roads debate, Rocky Smith has the Forest Service leader on his side. The chief of the agency, Mike Dombeck, told a Senate committee in February that avoiding timber cuts in roadless areas is, quote, "simple common sense." Yet while officials could have called for fewer roads or less logging at Sheep Flats, they opted for a relatively large amount of road building. Local officials explain the contradiction between their recommendations and Mike Dombeck's wishes by pointing to their management plan. They say this 7-year-old document requires them to manage certain areas for timber production, and that means cutting old trees, even if it takes building roads. Pam Bodey represents the office in charge of the Sheep Flats timber sale. She says her office has not
heard any complaints from Washington.

BODEY: As soon as we get a word through the official channels to stop harvesting in roadless areas, the Forest Service will stop harvesting in roadless areas.

LALLEY: That order may be on the way. Alan Polk is a spokesman for the Forest Service in Washington. He says the Clinton Administration wants to cut the road building budget, even though Congress continues to fund it. But Mr. Polk says the Forest Service may end road building on its own.

POLK: We're currently reviewing whether or not a timber moratorium on roads would be feasible or not, and if it would be anything that we would want to consider at this time.

LALLEY: But logging companies say they and their home communities are suffering from the public's changing tastes. Eric Sorenson is the general manager of the Delta Timber Company. He says logging and road building has already been severely cut in Colorado and today stands at only a third of what it was a decade ago. That, he says, has put many mills in the state out of business.

SORENSON: It used to be common to see timber sales in the neighborhood of 5 to 10 million board feet, which would offer some security of resource for 2 or 3 years for a small mill. Now it's more common to see sales in the neighborhood of half a million to a million board feet, and it poses some problems with securing enough timber for an operation to run.

LALLEY: But today Mr. Sorenson's voice competes with many others. So as the Forest Service weighs public comment on the proposed Sheep Flats timber sale and a dozen or so others in Colorado, they will find it harder to justify the kind of logging they say is best for the forest. For Living on Earth, I'm Thomas Lalley.

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Towering Debate

CURWOOD: In many ways, the story of the environment over the past 3 decades is a saga of well-intentioned technologies gone awry. In almost every case where new inventions produced harmful legacies, the missing link was an open public debate, says commentator Keith Schneider. And he adds that we have yet to learn our lesson.

SCHNEIDER: Of all the modern emblems now invading rural America, none seems so benign as the electronic cottage. Professionals who migrated to the country thought they could phone, fax, and roam the Internet without fear that the new communications gear would disturb the solitude. How naive. Here in heavily forested northern Michigan, the environmental cost of the communications revolution is quickly becoming apparent. A wireless phone company has proposed building a 250-foot tower on one of Benzie County's most prominent timber cloak summits. It is designed to carry an array of antennas and receivers for the next generation of cellular phone technology.

The tower also is becoming a monument to an even more powerful force: a political backlash generated by the folly of a new industry trying to block public debate. In 1996, the White House and Congress teamed up with the wireless industry to pass the Telecommunications Act. On the way to passage, industry lobbyists quietly worked to squelch the grassroots opposition they know would develop over unsightly communications towers. They convinced Congress to write new rules that drastically limit the traditional authority of local governments and citizens to oversee uses of land.

Lawmakers thought they were doing the industry a favor by kicking democratic discourse in the teeth. They were wrong. Here, and in other regions, hundreds of local governments have rebelled. They are enacting moratoriums on construction, filing lawsuits, holding public meetings, conducting environmental reviews, and taking other measures to halt new towers.

To be sure, local review of major projects has never been easy, but as history shows it's essential. More than 40 years ago, nuclear reactor technology was developed in secret. By blocking public comment, the government ignored well-founded concerns about safety and cost. Such behavior sowed rampant citizen distrust. It took just one major accident at Three Mile Island to kill the industry in the United States.

There are manifest reasons for local governments to want to review applications for communications towers. Thousands could be built in rural America. With them come miles of new access roads and openings in the forest. In an era when leaders of both parties have declared the end to big government, the Telecommunications Act is an old-fashioned abrogation of power. And just as in the case of nuclear power, the real victim is turning out to be the industry itself. This past summer, several of the largest companies notified the government they were in danger of defaulting on billions of dollars in loans for communications licenses. Among the reasons they cited: fierce local opposition to building new towers.

CURWOOD: Commentator Keith Schneider is the executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute in Bezonia. He comes to us from member station WLAA in Interlochen, Michigan.

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Stanley Basin Blues

CURWOOD: As a teenager, producer Jane Fritz visited a wild river in central Idaho's Stanley Basin for the first time. It ran through a sparsely-populated valley rimmed by miles-high jagged mountains. And it was filled with thousands of salmon and steelhead trout. The fish would journey 900 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean back to their birth waters to spawn and die. This river became her favorite wild place. But her visits there now have become melancholy. From her home in Clark Fork, Idaho, Jane Fritz sent us this reporter's notebook.

(A car engine runs)

FRITZ: I first saw this wild river as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school. My best friend, her sister, and I drove cross-country looking for adventure. The sign in our car window read Idaho Or Bust, puzzling most folks along the way. But I knew better. I grew up with my father's amazing stories about fishing Idaho's spectacular Salmon River.

(Rushing water)

FRITZ: It's known as the River of No Return.

(Rushing water continues)

FRITZ: The headwaters of the Salmon River are here in this valley, surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Sawtooths. From a tiny, shallow stream grows a wild river, flowing fast and flamboyant over colorful rocks, curving around mountains, and dancing past boulders.

(Mozart plays)

FRITZ: Mozart, I think, must have written his piano concertos for this place.

(Mozart and rushing water continue)

FRITZ: Downstream, the Salmon River deepens and widens, its unbridled wildness challenging river rafters and boaters. But here in the Stanley Basin, it's still a youthful river, and its tributaries are narrow and shallow. That June long ago, my friends and I saw chinook salmon swimming up a feeder stream to spawn in the gravel bed where it was born. We'd never seen such big fish. We didn't comprehend at the time their long journey from the ocean, nor the danger they faced in survival. But we returned home with our own fish stories to tell. A decade later I moved to Idaho, the memory of mountains and rivers with big fish luring me west.

(Mozart and rushing water continue)

FRITZ: There's this great picture of you here. What is this?

COLE: That's the first fish I ever caught (laughs).

FRITZ: That's no little fish. That's about 4 feet long.

COLE: Twenty-six and three quarter pounds (laughs).

FRITZ: My friend Kathy Cole owns the Sawtooth Hotel in Stanley, Idaho. The many photos on the hotel wall show dozens of huge salmon half as long as the fishermen straining to hold them up. I marvel at the number and size of the fish. Kathy says before 1960, the fishing was even better.

(Splashing water)

FRITZ: Kathy's husband Steve grew up in the valley. He recalls as a young boy some spawning streams being so thickly crammed with frenzied fish, their tails splashing, their bodies lurching half out of the water, that he could imagine walking across the stream on the backs of the big fish.

(Splashing continues, intensifies, decreases)

FRITZ: But the salmon and steelhead populations began to dwindle in the 60s and 70s. Four hydroelectric dams built on the lower Snake River downstream blocked their way. The last fishing season for wild salmon in the Stanley Basin was in 1976.

COLE: This year, they actually had what they considered a considerable number of salmon return, and that was in the range of 200 fish. Two hundred fish is as good as extinct in my mind, because it just is nothing in comparison to what was here in the past.

FRITZ: These spring and fall chinook, sockeye salmon, steelhead trout, were the strongest, most powerful swimmers in the Columbia River system. Kathy Cole believes that their loss is a wound that might never heal, despite heroic attempts to finally begin recovering the fish, through hatchery breeding and small release programs. The losses to the ecological integrity of the area and the genetic diversity of wild salmon are bad enough, Kathy says. But it's the cultural losses that really bother her. Lemhi-Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock Indians have traditionally fished these waters for millennia. She imagines for them, losing the salmon would be like losing a member of the family. And then there's the others who now live in the valley.

COLE: It means that my children, who were born in the Stanley Basin, will never be able to fish for a native fish here. And I feel that that's their heritage. To lose something that magnificent to our culture and to our native waters here is a loss that I just can't put words to.

FRITZ: Kathy Cole doesn't want the photographs on the wall to be the only evidence of the abundant fishery once found here. She's encouraged by discussions underway to breach the four Snake River dams, to help the salmon in the Stanley Basin survive and perhaps even thrive again.

(Rushing water)

FRITZ: I still come here to the Salmon River, 400 miles from my home, when I need time alone. It's where I come to make decisions. To mull over the cycles of life and death. To connect with the memory of my father, who first told me about it. It's still the most beautiful and peaceful place I know. But every visit is a bittersweet one. The river's name has become almost a mockery of what it once was.

(Mozart plays; water rushes)

FRITZ: Years ago, my father told me that the Salmon got its nickname, "The River of No Return," because it was one incredibly wild river. I only hope that someday I don't have to tell my daughter that it was because the fish for which it was named never made it back. For Living on Earth, I'm Jane Fritz along the Salmon River near Stanley, Idaho.

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(Mozart and rushing water continue; fade to Mozart up and under)

CURWOOD: How about you? Do you have a favorite wild place? Let us know. Call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. The e- mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG.

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

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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 Jennifer and Ted Stanley.

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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

CURWOOD: Some startling numbers from a national survey and quiz about the environment are coming right up. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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

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The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: Forget Dow Jones. If you're looking for an index that never seems to go down, try the US Population Clock. Thirty years ago this week the clock passed the 200 million mark. Since 1960 it's charted a population increase of more than 50%. Now, the clock isn't an exact measure of the nation's population. It's an estimate based on the frequency of births and deaths and the number of people coming and going from the country. This week the clock is hovering around 268,500,000, give or take a few souls. As the country grows it's also moving west. You can tell by looking at the center of population. That's the theoretical point on which the US would balance if it were a flat plain and everyone weighed the same. Two hundred years ago the center was 23 miles east of Baltimore. Since then it's moved to more than 800 miles west and sits today just northwest of Steelville, Missouri. According to the population clock, the nation's population will grow by 5 people during this Almanac. That's almost 6,000 people a day, or the entire population of Indiana at the start of the 19th century. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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Artic Warming

CURWOOD: Climatologists agree that the Earth's average temperature has gone up about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last 150 years. But it's hard to determine exactly how much of this increase has been caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide. In this week's issue of the journal Science, a team of Federal and university researchers from the US and Canada reported a dramatic rise in Arctic temperatures since the 1850s, and they say the increase only makes sense when the effects of industrial society are factored in. Living on Earth's Daniel Grossman reports.

GROSSMAN: According to the researchers, this is the most comprehensive study of the ups and downs of temperature in the Arctic. The region holds special interest because there are few human settlements in this vast and sparsely- populated land to prevent accurate measurements of its climate, and because its ecosystem is believed to be especially fragile. There are few thermometer readings of the region before 1900. So scientists must infer earlier temperatures from natural records. The research team collected data from tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediments at 29 Arctic sites. They report that between 1840 and 1950 the pole warmed one and a half degrees Celsius, or about 3 degrees Fahrenheit, to the highest temperature in the last 400 years. And there's more. Ray Bradley heads the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He says for centuries, Arctic temperatures varied widely across the territory with some areas experiencing warm spells while others were cold. But --

BRADLEY: As we get into the middle of the 19th Century, all of the Arctic start to fall into step, and all of the Arctic starts to get warmer. So it's as though some factor began to force the Arctic into a common response.

GROSSMAN: That raises the question: could humans be that factor? Industrial society began ramping up just as the Arctic warming began. Jonathan Overpeck is a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the study's lead author. He says natural phenomena like variations in the sun's output and volcanic activity, which produces sun- blocking gases, can cause changes on this scale. Such natural effects explain the Arctic warming until about 1920, but not later.

OVERPECK: That led us to conclude that there is something else, and the most logical and perhaps the only real contender is increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused by human activity.

GROSSMAN: The researchers report that the warming coincided with retreating glaciers, melting permafrost, and changes to aquatic ecosystems. They say such transformations are worrisome as even greater temperature increases are forecast.

BRADLEY: This is just sorry to use this phrase but it's the tip of the iceberg in the context of what may take place in the future.

GROSSMAN: University of Massachusetts professor Ray Bradley. For Living on Earth, this is Daniel Grossman.

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Tahoe Test for MTBE

CURWOOD: There's growing concern that pollution from 2-stroke marine engines is polluting the nation's drinking water. Take California, for example, where the fuel additive and suspected carcinogen methyl-tertiary butyl-ether, or MTBE, is showing up in many lakes and reservoirs. At Lake Tahoe, scientists are studying how 2-stroke engines may be contributing to the problem. Willie Albright has the details.

(A jet ski motor runs)

ALBRIGHT: Like elsewhere in the country, jet ski use is on the rise here at Lake Tahoe. Enthusiasts say the tiny vessels skim over the surface of the water like snowmobiles and are an exhilarating ride. But there's a growing call to ban their use on the lake. Critics say they are obnoxious and dangerous. Now there's concern that jet skis may also be contaminating Lake Tahoe.

(Waves crashing on the shoreline)

In June, scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno began a 3-year study of the levels of the fuel constituents MTBE and benzene in the lake. Standing on the shore of Lake Tahoe, environmental sciences professor Dr. Glenn Miller says the early results are disturbing.

MILLER: That first set of data we've gathered this summer I think clearly indicates that in general, these constituents tend to increase over the summer and that before and after major weekends like Fourth of July and Labor Day, there's dramatic increases in concentrations of these chemicals in the surface layer.

ALBRIGHT: Dr. Miller says the 2-stroke engines used in most jet skis and outboard motors are the primary contributors of these chemicals because 25% of the fuel is emitted as exhaust, which goes into the water. Critics say this is becoming a national problem.

LONG: The problem is this: In US waterways there are 15 Exxon Valdez spills per year coming from outboard power boats and jet skis.

ALBRIGHT: Russell Long is an experienced yachtsman and the director of the Blue Water Network, a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to getting all 2-stroke engines out of the water.

LONG: We have 31 lawsuits pending right now. One of those suits is against the EPA's new marine motor regulations. Those regulations are meant to decrease the amount of pollution that's hitting America's waterways by a substantial factor, and in fact they turn out to be very lenient. That's why we're suing.

ALBRIGHT: The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a 16% reduction in 2-stroke emissions by 1999, and a 75% reduction by 2006. But Mr. Long says this isn't good enough. He wants the EPA to ban 2-strokes altogether in favor of much cleaner 4-stroke engines, such as those used in automobiles. Earlier this year, the Bi-State Tahoe Regional Planning Agency decided to ban 2-stroke engines on the lake beginning in June 1999. The industry has filed suit in Federal court to block the ban.

FAGAN: There is really no objective scientific basis for the proposed ban, which we believe is a fundamental flaw in the proposed ban.

ALBRIGHT: John Fagan is a Tahoe city attorney representing the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

FAGAN: It's a tremendous leap and I think really one that's not justified to assume that simply because there are traces of the compounds from gasoline that would be found in any lake around the country that it's automatically related to motorized water craft. There are potentially many other sources.

ALBRIGHT: Sources he says, such as automobile exhaust and leaking fuel storage tanks. Mr. Fagan says there is also some question that the testing equipment Dr. Miller used at Lake Tahoe may have been contaminated. The industry has funded its own studies, which conclude that these emissions evaporate from surface water within a matter of hours, and pose no threat to either water quality or aquatic ecosystems.

(Waves against the shore line)

ALBRIGHT: Though Lake Tahoe's colder waters may also slow that evaporation, and Dr. Miller says he has detected benzene and MTBE in deep water, where it is likely to persist for decades. He says protecting Lake Tahoe is an important goal in itself, but the research will also be useful elsewhere.

MILLER: Lake Tahoe is probably the place we want to protect more. It is a place where it's probably going to be a more difficult problem to solve. And so, that if we work on Lake Tahoe and understand Lake Tahoe, I think those data and that information is going to be relevant to a lot of lakes throughout the nation.

ALBRIGHT: In light of Dr. Miller's research, the California Senate has allocated $500,000 to conduct its own study of the effects of MTBE at Lake Tahoe and elsewhere.

(Jet ski motors)

ALBRIGHT: The Marine Manufacturers Association is developing new 2-stroke technology to meet the EPA guidelines, and has vowed to fight any effort to ban 2-stroke engines altogether. For Living on Earth, I'm Willie Albright at Lake Tahoe.

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(Jet ski motors, fade to music up and under)

Planetary Quiz

CURWOOD: Here's a question for you. What's the major cause of pollution in streams, rivers, and oceans? If you say factories, you're not alone. Nearly half the people in a recent Roper-Start survey blamed factories as the major source of water contamination. But they're wrong. The answer, says Kevin Coyle, is tainted surface water running off lawns, streets, and farm fields. Mr. Coyle is president of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, the group sponsoring the study. He says this year's national report card on environmental attitudes and knowledge found that most Americans lacked a basic understanding of what causes pollution and what we do with our waste.

COYLE: We asked 12, what we thought were very simple questions about the environment. And what we found out was that only 1 in 3 actually passed the test and got 9 out of the 12 of those questions correct.

CURWOOD: You're saying 2 out of 3 Americans flunked the environmental test?

COYLE: Two out of 3 Americans flunked. It was quite a disappointment for an organization that's dedicated to environmental education.

CURWOOD: If people don't have a very good understanding of the environment, what are the implications of that?

COYLE: Well, I think there are tremendous implications. Certainly, if we're going to have a public debate, a meaningful public debate over the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act, and 3 out of 4 Americans don't know what the main source of water pollution is, that's going to be very difficult, and it's going to be quite confusing, I think, to policy makers and to the public on how to handle that kind of issue. Another finding of the study was that, you know, we have all this discussion going on about global warming, and here we have a finding that only about a third of American know that the main way we produce electricity in this country is by burning coal and oil and gas. Fully half of the people think our electricity is produced by hydropower, water power from dams.

CURWOOD: That's pretty amazing. What's the real number of hydropower?

COYLE: The real number is about 12%, but I think that for some reason Americans have the wrong information. It's not just a question of having an information gap. It's actually having misinformation standing in the way of real learning and real knowledge.

CURWOOD: Where do you think they're getting all this misinformation? For example, where would they get the idea that half of electricity comes from hydropower?

COYLE: I think that misinformation about the environment starts at an early age. For example, in the 1960s rivers were catching on fire and industrial pollution was indeed a major problem. And it's been addressed significantly over the last 30 years. And now we're seeing that those early impressions are lasting. I think the energy issue is a little more complex. We have over the years made dams a very heroic part of our culture, and I think that that's stuck with a lot of people. So when we look at hydroelectric dams, we're looking at a big part of our history, and people tend to think that it's the main form of electricity production today. So there are different answers for different issues, I think.

CURWOOD: Are there any differences in your survey, in your quiz, between men and women?

COYLE: There are very significant differences. When we asked the 12 questions, what we found is that 43% of all men in the country were able to answer 9 or more of those questions correctly, but only 20% of women answered those questions correctly. We're not exactly sure what that is, because the education levels between men and women in the survey are roughly the same. We think what it has to do is science education, and that men, according to the National Science Teachers Association, on about a 2 to 1 basis have more science education than women. And so, we think that's probably what this tracks to.

CURWOOD: In addition to quizzing people, you also ask for their opinions. What issue did they care most about?

COYLE: Well, 60% of all Americans said their number one concern as an environmental issue is pollution.

CURWOOD: And yet your survey shows that less than 1 in 3 average Americans knows, really, where that pollution comes from.

COYLE: That's right. There's a huge disconnect between what people know and what they care about. When we asked questions about do Americans support regulation, protecting wetlands and protecting endangered species, what we find is about 1 in 5 think regulation's gone too far. About 2 in 5 think that regulation's not gone far enough, and the rest think that it's reached the right balance. But when we get to air and water pollution, the 2 issues that people seem to know the least about, what we find is overwhelmingly they support more regulation.

CURWOOD: Why do you suppose that is? I mean, the less they know, the more government control they want?

COYLE: I think that is. I think that people assume that someone's got to take care of them. And when they're really worried about what's going to happen to their health, their family's health, I think they make a judgment that the government really has to step in and help take care of them. And the problem with that is that government regulation alone is not the full answer. Really, if you look at water pollution, what you immediately find is it's not factories, it's not municipalities, that are the major source of water pollution. It's the individual out there. It's the person dumping oil down their storm drain in their neighborhood. It's the use of pesticides on the lawns. It's throwing trash in the streets. It's, you know, the leaking car, the farm field that has sediment running off it. There's a variety of individual causes to our environmental problems today. And knowledge is really one of the ways to get at that issue.

CURWOOD: Kevin Coyle is president of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation. Thanks for taking the time with us today.

COYLE: It's been a real pleasure.

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CURWOOD: Now, what's your environmental IQ? Visit our web site and see how you fare on this year's National Environmental Report Card Quiz. Now, the first person to get a perfect score will win a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Faith in a Seed, published by Island Press. And we'll also be sending out small prizes to the next 100 people to write in with all the correct responses. Okay, are you an enviro-savant? Visit our web site right now at www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. Or dial us up any time.

(Music up and under: Jeopardy Theme)

CURWOOD: A walk down the small and local path to self-sufficiency in the developing world is just ahead right here on Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

Livestock for Livelihoods

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
Eradicating poverty is a key goal of international development assistance, but it's not an easy one to reach. Too often, aid money winds up in the hands of those who don't need it. But for the last 50 years, the Arkansas-based Heifer Project International has built up an enviable record by avoiding cash hand-outs. Instead, the Heifer Project donates farm animals to poor communities. This way they say they can fight poverty, encourage small-scale farming, restore self-sufficiency, and protect land and water. Evelyn Tully Costa visited the Dominican Republic and has this report on the group's work there.

(Bleating kids; voices in the background with clucking and moos)

TULLY COSTA: On the outskirts of the small coastal city of Monte Christe, mesquite trees, cacti, dusty roads, and farms stretch as far as the eye can see. The region's nickname, We Die of Thirst, rings with parched truth as residents line up to buy high-priced drinking water from tanker trucks, which drive through town every day. But in a wooden corral, near palm- thatched houses, about 120 goats are kept by Emeliana Altagracia Veras and other members of her village.

(Bleating continues)

TULLY COSTA: Ten years ago Veras began this herd with 2 goats she received from Heifer Project International. For 50 years Heifer Project has been donating cows, chickens, pigs, oxen, water buffalo, honeybees, llamas, frogs, and rabbits to millions of rural people in over 100 countries. For Altagracia and her community, 2 goats made the difference between barely surviving and thriving.

VERAS: [Speaks in Spanish]
TRANSLATOR: Now I have something. Things are changed. I'm proud to say that I now actually possess something. I have milk and meat available. Before the project, no one here milked the goats. Now these goats are milk producers. I can get 5 quarts a day for the family and for sale, and enough for the baby goats. I've also generated income. Now I have hope, and I see the same thing happening around my community.

TULLY COSTA: In the past most people in this region scraped out an existence by illegally cutting trees from the nearly barren countryside to sell as charcoal, encouraging erosion and degrading the soil. This forced more people to move to cities seeking work as opportunities for this livelihood burned away. Carlos Zometa is an international program director for Heifer Project. On a site visit to Monte Christe, he says Heifer Project's mission is to stabilize lives and the environment.

ZOMETA: We stop the deterioration of the environment, and then we go back to the basics introducing what it used to be. And they are realizing that we're going back in time and space and things. That's the beauty of it.

TULLY COSTA: And in this tough climate, goats prove to be the best choice for producing food and income without further harming the forest. They eat pods off the plentiful mesquite trees. But Carols Zometa, who is also a breeding specialist, explains animals are just the beginning.

ZOMETA: We are not the animal project. We are the human development project, through animals. Because the animals are considered cash crops, readily available money.

TULLY COSTA: Altagracia Veras now has 15 mother goats. And, according to Heifer Project's requirement, has given away many of their offspring to her family and neighbors. It's called passing on the gift. And Heifer Project always builds in this unique sharing mechanism that strengthens community bonds and encourages accountability. Now, Altagracia Veras and her neighbors can feed themselves and send their children to school with earnings from goat milk and meat sales. Since 1984, almost 600 impoverished families or 5,000 people in this region have achieved greater economic independence with assistance from Heifer Project.

MAHN: I think Heifer Project International has learned, you know, what development is, why certain big projects don't work.

TULLY COSTA: Peter Mahn is the international coordinator for world hunger here. He says Heifer Project has earned a great deal of respect from the giants of international aid, such as the World Bank, US AID, and the United Nations agencies. According to Mr. Mahn, these institutions have used a one size fits all approach to development. They have ignored the local environmental, economic, and cultural conditions with disastrous results. These institutions are now looking to Heifer Project and other smaller, decentralized organizations, for guidance.

MAHN: One of the real lessons we've learned is that you have to begin with where communities are, with what their real needs are. And you've got to develop their own skills and work with their own skills and their own resources and especially, for example, the problems that women have in that community. Heifer is beginning to learn or has learned to work with the local communities, find out what their needs are and meet their needs. And then get out of the way.

(Bleating goats)

TULLY COSTA: In the village of La Horca, about 50 miles from Monte Christe, the women knew their children needed a more varied diet. La Horca has more water than Monte Christe, an active women's association, and the potential for fruit and vegetable production. So, Heifer Project tailored a program to fit these conditions. About 5 years ago the village drilled a well. Then Heifer Project brought in tropically adapted Katahtin sheep that can live off the local pasture land. With men herding sheep and women growing tomatoes, beets, carrots, okra, and citrus fruits, the villagers soon realized the manure piling up in the corral would be a great fertilizer for the community garden. So now, they gather and spread it together. Standing in the garden, bordered by mango and papaya trees with a herd of sheep grazing in the next field, 15 members of the La Horca Women's Association proudly show us what they've produced. Luz de la Santos is one of the group's leaders.

DE LOS SANTO: [Speaks in Spanish]
TRANSLATOR: Here we're working each day to improve the nutrition levels of the children, who are missing a lot from their diet. Now we have green vegetables, including lettuce. We use no chemicals. It's totally natural. We use the cow manure. We stay away from chemicals. There is no need for it because it's natural, healthier, and cheaper.

TULLY COSTA: The villagers in La Horca are especially proud that last year they grew almost all the food needed for the Christmas festivities. Chatting with the women, Carlos Zometa is pleased these communities are discovering their own solutions to perennial problems. He says these families can taste the difference that Heifer Project International has made in their lives.

(Bleating goats)

TULLY COSTA: For Living on Earth, I'm Evelyn Tully Costa in Dajabon Province in the Dominican Republic.

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(Bleating continues, fade to music up and under)

Leave the Leaves

CURWOOD: Recently, I've noticed a more pronounced desire to stay in bed just a little later in the mornings, to get to bed a bit earlier in the evenings and crave that second helping at meal times. As winter approaches, I confess, I'm getting lazier.

Now, that wouldn't be so bad if I were a bear or other such hibernator. But as a 20th Century hominid, I'm expected to continue with my various chores, despite the dipping temperatures and longer hours of darkness each day.

So, you can imagine my delight when my sister-in-law Mikki suggested a way I could quickly and ecologically dispatch with the task of leaf raking this year. Now usually, I love to rake leaves. When I lived in a house with a small yard, I'd take a few minutes with a bamboo rake to pile up the leaves, and then feel deliciously paternal as my kids and their friends jumped in the big mounds and collapsed in laughter. And we'd all swoosh the leaves over to a composting corner by the back fence.

But last year I moved to a house bordered by a wonderful stand of huge old maple trees and a yard about the size of a soccer field of two. Raking by hand claimed too many weekends. So this year I was tempted to rent one of those noisy and polluting leaf-blowing machines, to make quick work of my chore and the mother of all compost piles.

But Mickie, who is a professional plant person, said, "Don't. Since you're talking about polluting anyway, just run the leaves over with your mulching lawnmower. You'll feed your lawn. You won't have to drag the leaves or compost anywhere, and it will take a lot less time."

"You're kidding," I said. "I'm not," said Mikki. "And, uh, this is okay for my lawn?" I asked skeptically. Mikki just gave me one of her looks. So, I tried it. I got some funny stares from a couple of passers-by, but more than one neighbor nodded knowingly. I got the feeling that a lot of you figured this one out a long time ago. And when I was done, the lawn looked just fine. The tiny bits of chopped-up leaves blended right into the green carpet with gold flecks that mirrored the fall colors. I did have to rake an especially heavy section to spread out the shreds. It's not perfect, but no bags, no piles, and no lost weekends.

I guess it's like so many things in life. What's best is what's simple, and what flows with the season. Hominid or not, when the days get shorter, the right flow is nice and lazy.

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(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our technical director is Eileen Bolinsky. Jeff Martini engineers the program and Michael Aharon composed the theme. Our production team includes George Homsy, Liz Lempert, and Jesse Wegman, Julia Madeson, Peter Christianson, Roberta de Avila, and Peter Shaw. We had help from Dana Campbell and Carolyn Martin. Our associate editor is Kim Motylewski. Peter Thomson heads our Western Bureau, and the senior producer is Chris Ballman. Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

(Music up and under)

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; and the W. Alton Jones Foundation.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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