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

Beyond the Headlines

Air Date: Week of

Following a devastating 2007 tornado that flattened their town, the citizens of Greensburg, Kansas rebuilt their city as “the greenest city in America”. (Photo: Greensburg Kansas Tourism, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

In their last trip beyond the headlines of 2021, Environmental Health News editor Peter Dykstra and Host Steve Curwood remember environmentally influential people who passed away during 2021. They also talk about an opportunity for Maysfield, Kentucky when the town rebuilds following horrific tornado damage. And the two wonder why the Biden Administration does not make more of the fact their plans for electric vehicle investments are designed in part to protect consumers from volatile gas prices.


CURWOOD: It's time now in the broadcast to talk with Peter Dykstra. Peter's an editor with Environmental Health News. That's EHN.org and DailyClimate.org, and Peter helps us look beyond the headlines. He's on the line now, I think, I hope, from Atlanta, Georgia. Hi there, Peter, how you doing? What's going on?

DYKSTRA: Hi Steve, you know, thinking about all the headlines from this past week with the tornado going through so many states and hitting Mayfield, Kentucky particularly hard where the downtown area is, it's just gone. Back in 2007, that was the case with Greensburg, Kansas. And what the people of Greensburg did in the wake of this tragedy is turn it into an opportunity, rebuilding the town without any net carbon emissions after a tornado completely wiped it out. Their wind farm now generates more than they need, they sell it back to the grid and turn a profit on clean energy generation. Once we get through the necessary grief of places like Mayfield, maybe there's a hope to turn this tragedy into an opportunity like Greensburg did so successfully.

CURWOOD: All right, what else do you have for us today, Peter?

DYKSTRA: Well, an opportunity taken is what Mayfield could have, but an opportunity missed, you know all of the headlines over the past month, about rising gasoline prices across the country. But wait a minute, didn't we just see a trillion dollar infrastructure bill pass with a huge component going to jumpstarting electric vehicle growth? I can't think of anything better to ease the burden of rising oil and gasoline prices.

CURWOOD: Well, indeed, in fact, it's a little hard for industry to suddenly put a 50% premium on the price of the fuels called sunlight. And it's really interesting that the Biden White House hasn't pointed to that opportunity to deal with this huge bubble of inflation that jacking up the price of oil has brought us. You have to wonder what's going on in terms of messaging at the present White House.

The infrastructure bill allots $7.5 billion for EV charging stations. (Photo: Sophie Jonas on Unsplash)

DYKSTRA: There are a lot of distractions out there for the Biden White House for us all. But this is an opportunity that should be stressed more and more. It's a missed political opportunity. And with the next bill that's currently being swatted back and forth, there are electric vehicle tax credits that could more and more enhance the growth of EVs across the country, and make us less dependent on gasoline.

CURWOOD: So Peter, this is the last time that we're getting together before the new year because we have a couple of specials of holiday storytelling coming up. So rather than have you just give us some nuggets from history, why don't we talk about some of the people that we lost over this last year who played such a major role in the environment? A bit of auld lang syne?

DYKSTRA: Yeah, here are several people that had an impact. They're unlikely ones to cite on the environmental beat. But you can start with George Shultz. Yes, the George Shultz, who was Secretary of State for President Reagan. After he was out of office, he became a late in life convert to clean energy and energy efficiency and action on climate change. George Shultz died in February at age 100.

CURWOOD: Yeah, we lost George Shultz, who else do you have in mind?

DYKSTRA: John Warner, the courtly five term senator from Virginia, died in May at age 93. By one measure, he was a really lousy environmentalist. His 22% lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters doesn't exactly distinguish him. But he co-sponsored the first Senate climate change bill with then-Democrat Joe Lieberman. And after leaving the Senate, Warner devoted much of his energy to talking about climate as a global security issue and a military issue. He was after all, Secretary of the Navy and he also served as Liz Taylor's husband.

CURWOOD: Alright, Peter, we're just about out of time here, but anyone else to say goodbye to this year, Peter?

DYKSTRA: Yeah, unfortunately, a lot of people, we don't even have the count yet. The final numbers won't be in for a while. But it's expected to be another brutal year for environmental activists in the developing world. The group Global Witness keeps track of such things. They counted 227 deaths in the year 2020. The total for this year now ending is fear to be around that same number. It's a real dangerous and very brave thing to be an environmental activist in the developing world.

CURWOOD: Boy, it is a challenge to take on the environment and the industries and governments that don't want to deal. Thanks, Peter. Peter Dykstra is an editor with Environmental Health News, that's EHN.org and DailyClimate.org. And I'll be talking to you in the new year, so have a great holiday season.

DYKSTRA: Alright, thanks a lot Steve, you too.

CURWOOD: And there's more on these stories on the Living on Earth website, that's LOE.org.



The Washington Post | “The Town That Built Back Green”

Read more on George Schultz

Read more on John Warner

Read more on land and environmental activist deaths


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth