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

Listener Letters

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth dips into the mailbag to hear from listeners.



GELLERMAN: We recently reported on efforts by scientists to take cellulose-digesting microbes from the guts of termites genetically modify them and then use them to help make the biofuel ethanol. Scientists see it as part of the solution to our energy challenges.

But Rebecca Chamberlain, who listens on KUOW in Seattle, wondered whether it might not just create more problems. She writes, “Once you unleash a genetically engineered microbe you can’t take it back. What side effects are these modified microbes and termites going to have on the planet?”

Our interview with Dr. Marsden Wagner, the obstetrician and former director of Women and Children's Health at the World Health Organization raised the ire of several listeners. Dr. Wagner claims in his new book “Born in the USA” that the modern American maternity system is broken, and that obstetricians are largely to blame and midwifery is the answer.

But a listener from Lee, New Hampshire, writes that Dr. Marsden is a Johnny-come-lately to the midwife movement. He writes that there has been a healthy awareness about the dangers of hospital births for at least 20 years, and families have long tried to correct the problem by turning to midwives.

Dr. Lisa Moore, an Associate Professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of New Mexico, took issue with the interview for the opposite reason. Dr. Moore writes, “The truth of the matter, is that early in the last century the maternal death rate was one in 100 live births. And the reason that that’s no longer true is because of the intervention of doctors.” The fact that the U.S. has the second highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, she says, is solely due to poverty.

Finally, we reported a few weeks ago that British billionaire Richard Branson is offering 25 million dollars to anyone who can develop a technology to remove a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year out of the atmosphere. In that report we mistakenly said that one of Branson’s companies is Virgin Records. A listener wrote in to remind us that Branson sold Virgin Records fifteen years ago. Given the current state of the record industry, the listener adds that Branson was a visionary even then.

If you have a vision about anything you hear on the show, let us know about it. We’re all ears. Send us a note at comments@loe.org. That’s comments@loe.org. Or call our listener line at 800-218-9-9-8-8. That’s 800-2-1-8…99-88.



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