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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

March 16, 2001

Air Date: March 16, 2001


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President Bush and CO2

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Clean Coal

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Health Update

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The Ape and the Sushi Master

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The Living on Earth Almanac

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Business Update

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Stafford Slide

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Luna Mending

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Naked Protest

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Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

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President Bush and CO2

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Fallout over President Bush's decision to renege on the campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide continues with major repercussions at home and abroad. Now, you'd expect environmental advocates to call the move a capitulation to the coal industry and climate change skeptics. But it's also straining fault lines in the Republican party. Several moderate Republicans have joined Democrats in filing a bill to regulate CO2. They're also privately calling the president's action a betrayal of EPA chief and moderate Republican Christine Todd Whitman who'd been instructed by the White House to pledge CO2 caps at a meeting of G8 environmentalists in Trieste, Italy just a few weeks ago. It's no surprise then that some allies are saying the U.S. can't be trusted at the bargaining table. With me now is Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. Hello, sir.

CLAPP: Hi Steve.

CURWOOD: What happens next? Let's look at the domestic side of this. What happens to carbon dioxide?

CLAPP: There's no question there's going to be a major debate on cleaning up dirty coal-fired power plants in this Congress. And I think there are many members of Congress who would like to pass that kind of legislation by the end of 2002, before the 2002 elections, where the environment, many of them anticipate, will be an issue.

CURWOOD: Are the Republicans going to be able to work out a compromise here or is the split just simply going to stay there?

CLAPP: I think there's going to have to be a compromise and I think it's likely to happen, you know, over the next 18 months as the legislation is completed because I think that the Bush administration itself will want to pass power plant legislation that does clean up conventional air pollutants, the things that cause urban air pollution. And that focuses debate squarely on what are we going to do about the additional air pollution that causes global warming. And the Bush administration is going to have come to some compromises on that.

CURWOOD: Internationally, the Japanese are saying that Mr. Bush's decision is regrettable. The European Union has officially expressed concern. What does this mean for the climate change negotiations?

CLAPP: The talks that will go on in Bonn in July, which are the next resumption of the climate change negotiations, are likely to be much more difficult for the Bush administration because of this. The Europeans very clearly feel that they were lied to. And the administration has to come forward with something that will give them some reason to believe that they can be trusted as negotiating partners. And remember that the Bush administration has many other agendas with the Europeans, among them getting agreement to a U.S. missile defense shield, getting Europeans to assume more responsibilities for their own defense, and climate change is such a huge issue in Europe that there are political reasons for those own governments why they have to have the Bush administration moving on this. And the timing, another interesting point is that the timing puts a particular spotlight on it. The negotiations in Bonn take place in the middle two weeks of July. In the weekend that comes in the middle of those negotiations, the G8 Summit, President Bush's first meeting with European heads of state, occurs in Genoa. So, the entire focus of, not only the climate change negotiations, but the G8 summit will be on the U.S. position on climate change.

CURWOOD: Just before this meeting in Trieste, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair met privately with George Bush up at Camp David. What information do you have about how the British government, in particular, is responding to this move?

CLAPP: At Camp David apparently Prime Minister Blair raised the issue and received assurances from the president that the United States intended to be constructively engaged in Kyoto Protocol negotiations, despite his, the president's, concerns about the structure of the treaty and other issues. But, that the attempt would be to create a structure that the United States, too, could ratify. And the president, now casting aspersions on the science, caving in and saying that carbon dioxide is not an air pollutant, all of these things are completely at odds with that, and the British are quite shocked.

CURWOOD: And furious?

CLAPP: I think so. It came at a very bad time for the Prime Minister because they have an election campaign going on in Britain and a bipartisan committee of the Parliament recently criticized the prime minister for inaction on climate change and other environmental issues which led him to do such things as cancel a major economic speech, which is usually the most important thing to talk about in the middle of an election, and reschedule it to be an environmental speech which heavily focused on global warming. So, here's Tony Blair on the hot seat in Britain, politically on environmental issues and he got seriously undercut by the Bush administration.

CURWOOD: What do you think will happen in the future in a similar case like this? How responsive do you think the president is going to be when industry calls in?

CLAPP: Well, that's the most disturbing thing about this, is that industry was able to push the panic button very fast and very hard on this administration. Even when the president was very publicly out on a limb and very clearly committed to something.

CURWOOD: What's next?

CLAPP: That's not quite clear yet. The Bush administration clearly is in complete disarray on its carbon policy and on its climate change policy. There's been a great deal of press about how smooth the transition has been and how much control and command the president already has of the government and so forth. And frankly, this is a very big sign that a lot of that really isn't true.

CURWOOD: Phillip Clapp is president of the National Environmental Trust in Washington D.C. Thank you sir for taking this time.

CLAPP: Thank you, Steve.

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Clean Coal

CURWOOD: By backing away from carbon dioxide limits, President Bush has given a big boost to the nation's coal industry. Coal generates up to three times as much CO2 as other fossil fuels, so coal has a lot to lose. It could cost the industry millions to meet tough carbon dioxide restrictions, but the technology is being developed. The president's budget calls for large investments in, so called, clean coal. The proposal has broad support, but critics say clean coal is an oxymoron and a waste of money. West Virginia Public Radio's Jeff Young reports.


YOUNG: The National Energy Technology Laboratory is the largest fossil energy research organization in the country. Most of the Department of Energy's money for fossil fuel research flows through here and there may soon be a multi-billion dollar boost for projects at the Lab's Morgantown West Virginia facility. In this experiment, technicians listen for the point when coal combustion will cause problems.

MAN: We don't want to hear this because this could be potentially very harmful to the equipment that's worth millions and millions of dollars.

YOUNG: The clean coal technology program here aims to increase the efficiency of coal-burning power plants and to reduce coal's notorious pollutants. Carl Bauer is the lab's associate director. Bower says the program has helped dramatically cut acid rain and smog-causing sulfur and nitrogen emissions. While coal consumption doubled, he says soot from power plants shrank to microns in size while power plant efficiency increased. And Bauer sees big advances on the horizon.

BAUER: We have the goal of increasing efficiencies from today's state-of-the-art being around 40 percent for coal-fired power to around 60 percent efficiencies. And also towards the 2015 and later timeframe having the ability to have an almost zero emissions plant.

YOUNG: Call it the holy grail of coal research. A coal-fired power plant with virtually no pollutants, no contributions to the greenhouse gases implicated in global climate change. Again, Carl Bauer.

BAUER: We are also working, over the last two years at a very laboratory scale right now, looking at using the natural process by which CO2 is absorbed by olivine and serpentine and minerals of their type to form a natural carbonate that is nature's way of dealing with CO2 by making a different form of stone. That brings the timeframe down from thousands of years to less than half an hour.

YOUNG: Clean coal was the brainchild of West Virginia's powerful senior senator Robert Byrd. In the early 80s, acid rain concerns threatened his state's coal industry. As then head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd set aside some two billion dollars for the development of cleaner burning coal. That was matched by state government and private industry spending for a total of more than 5 billion dollars. But in the 90s, electric utilities weren't building coal-fired plants. They were investing instead in turbines powered by cleaner burning natural gas. The search for clean coal seemed on the decline. Then, two things changed. Natural gas prices skyrocketed and a friend of the coal industry found his way to the White House.

BUSH: Coal is going to help energize America. And that requires clean coal technologies to make sure the good folks of this state can find work. (applause fades)

YOUNG: On the campaign trail in West Virginia, George W. Bush pledged two billion dollars for clean coal investment over ten years. This month, Bush's energy secretary Spencer Abraham visited the National Laboratory to say the president will keep his promise.

ABRAHAM: So today I am here to announce a down payment on that commitment with next year's budget providing one hundred fifty million new dollars for clean coal technology. (applause fades)


YOUNG: In Congress, Senators Byrd and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Frank Murkowski of Alaska also proposed spending a billion dollars on clean coal research and tax incentives to power plants adopting the new coal technology. Opponents call it an environmentally harmful waste of money.

SHULTZ: The idea that coal can ever be made clean is a myth.

YOUNG: That's Lexi Shultz, an attorney with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Shultz says after 17 years of the program, coal is still our dirtiest fuel while research into cleaner fuels is lagging.

SHULTZ: Every dollar that we spend on the clean coal technology program, that's a dollar that can't be spent on technologies that are truly clean and will provide a long term, sustainable energy program. And I'm talking about things like solar power, wind power, both of which are emerging technologies which could really use an infusion of tax payer dollars to support their research.

YOUNG: And no matter how cleanly coal might be made to burn, it still must be mined. Coal mining scars thousands of acres and pollutes hundreds of miles of streams in West Virginia, Montana, and other coal producing states. Environmentalists aren't clean coal's only critics. Some budget-minded members of Congress and watchdog groups regularly target the program for elimination. Cena Swisher of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense says reports from the government's General Accounting Office show why.

SWISHER: The clean coal technology program is probably one of the most wasteful programs that both the GAO and we have come across in recent years. But we're still throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into this program year after year and it hasn't gotten us anywhere.

YOUNG: Renewed interest has rekindled the clean coal debate just as the country nears some big decisions about energy. A working group led by Vice President Cheney will make recommendations soon for a comprehensive national energy policy, and clean coal technology is expected to be included. For Living on Earth, I'm Jeff Young in Morgantown, West Virginia.

(Music: Nils Petter Molvaer "Dead Indeed" SOLID ETHER)

CURWOOD: Coming up, cultured animals. Stay tuned to Living on Earth. Now, this health update with Diane Toomey.

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Health Update

TOOMEY: Think of the household allergens that trigger asthma and you probably think of cat dander. But several studies show that children who live with a cat have a much smaller than expected chance of developing the condition. New research may show why. The study looked at a group of more than 200 children. Researchers measured the amount of cat allergen in their household dust and then they tested the children's blood for antibodies produced in response to allergens. One of these antibodies, immunoglobulin E, can trigger asthma. Researchers found that children who were exposed to a lot of cat dander - and it did have to be a lot - did not produce immunoglobulin E in their blood as a result. But living with a cat won't protect you from developing asthma since there are many triggers for the condition. And the authors say that asthmatic children with confirmed cat allergies should continue to avoid Fluffy. And that's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

(Music: King Cobb Steelie "Mayday" MAYDAY)

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The Ape and the Sushi Master

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood. Now, the Ape and the Sushi Master may sound like the latest Japanimation superhero Saturday morning cartoon adventure. Or, perhaps an animal rendition of zen philosophy. But it's the title of a new book which explores how animals develop their own distinct cultures and even political hierarchies, not all that different from how we humans create ours. Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University, is the author of the book and he joins me now. Dr. de Waal, welcome to Living on Earth.

DE WAAL: Yeah, I'm glad to be here.

CURWOOD: Now you write in your book that animals such as apes develop their own traditions and cultures in much the same way that an apprentice learns from a sushi master. How's that?

DE WAAL: The apprentice hangs around the master, cleans the dishes, bows to clients and does all sorts of tedious work but is not allowed to touch the sushi and only can watch what the sushi master is doing for a couple of years. And after a three year period, they are supposed to make the sushi based on their observations and to do it correctly. And so, it's a transmission of knowledge by observation. And that's what the whole book is really about. The whole book is really about animals and cultures and humans and how that's based on seeing others do something and copying the behavior. And so, for example, in chimpanzees we don't only have sort of single traditions but we also have entire sets of traditions. And as soon as you get an entire set of 39 different patterns that varies across chimpanzee groups, we can start to talk about chimpanzee cultures.

CURWOOD: There must have been some point in your life or in your work with animals that your own perception of what is culture changed. Can you tell me what brought about this change in your thinking?

DE WAAL: I think the first time that I heard people talk about animal culture was in the 60s and it was, at that time, was a very obscure concept. I think in the west we had a hang-up about culture in the sense that culture was introduced to us as something that sets us apart from animals. Whereas, the eastern primatologists introduced it to us as something that connects us to animals, actually. And so, I think for that was a major change in my thinking about it. Once you have the idea that animals can have culture and that you should be looking for the transmission of knowledge and habits, you're going to see it everywhere.

CURWOOD: How would you define culture?

DE WAAL: Well, I define culture as a set of characteristics of a group of animals of a particular species that is different from the characteristics of other groups and they have come about not because you are genetically different but because you have different learning histories. And so, animals copy behavior from each other or learn it otherwise, and so there's social transmission of behavior which means sometimes you find one group of chimpanzees which cracks nuts with stones and another group of chimpanzees which has nuts and has stones in the forest but is not doing anything with them. And so they have not developed a nut-cracking culture, for example.

CURWOOD: Some animals might even be too good at what they do. How's that?

DE WAAL: This relates to the issue of the old tea parties that they use with chimpanzees and other apes in the zoo. They would teach them to sit around a table and to drink tea and to use cutlery and stuff like that. And this impressed people very much. On the other hand, they were also supposed to fail. We were not very happy if they did it perfectly. And there's some good documentation that if you had a group of chimps that were too good at drinking from tea cups, they would teach them very soon to drop the cup or to spill the tea or because we did not allow them to be the perfect imitators of us. We wanted them to be the imperfect ones. Because these tea parties were partly designed to confirm to us the human observer that they could not do really the cultural things that we do. The most amusing case was Congo, the painting ape. In the 1950s, he was a chimpanzee who belonged to Desmond Morris. Desmond Morris sent some of the paintings of Congo to a Parisian gallery who specialized in abstract art, under a different name, not saying that it came from a chimpanzee. And it got rave reviews. It was actually, if you look at these paintings, they are actually quite beautiful . There's a lot of good composition and color composition in the paintings of Congo. And it's only after it came out that it was a chimpanzee that the critics all had reasons why they had believed. And so they sort of justified their mistaken belief that this was a grand master of painting instead of a chimpanzee.

CURWOOD: OK let's turn to politics. You say in your book that politics come into play in the animal world. How's that?

DEWAAL: I have worked on politics in chimpanzees and these studies I started in the 70s where I worked on alliances and coalitions. And a coalition is basically that two individuals defeat a third party. And so, for example, let's say you are the highest ranking male in my group of chimpanzees and I cannot defeat you on my own but I can make a contract so to speak, not a written contract, but I can have a buddy and the two of us can defeat you. And when that happens, then afterwards I have to give my buddy a lot of benefits. Let's say I become the new alpha male, the highest ranking male. I can only do that if my buddy is also happy with the position that he has. And so I have to give certain sexual privileges that I have obtained or other privileges to that partner. So, it's a very complex sort of transactional deal-making that's going on amongst chimpanzees. And when I wrote "Chimpanzee Politics," which is quite a long time ago, ten years later Newt Gingrich recommended it to the Congress. So, at least here we had a politician who sees the connections between their own behavior and chimpanzee behavior. And I've heard from many people that in corporations and in politics you see many of these same patterns of coalition formation, divide and rule strategies, grooming up the hierarchy, grooming the ones who you hope to get benefits from and so on. You see that sort of same mechanism I see in the chimpanzees.

CURWOOD: I'm wondering if you see a danger in not recognizing animal culture and if you do, how this would affect us?

DE WAAL: I think there would be a great risk to that, in the sense that there is a tendency for people to look at animals as a sort of little machine. And I think the culture issue it opens up a new way of looking at animals that brings animals closer to us, but also confuses the picture in the sense that you cannot anymore say that chimpanzees act like such and such because now you have to say the chimpanzees in Thai forest act like such and such but the chimpanzees in Gomba act like such and such. So, if you show, for example, to field workers videos of chimpanzees they can see from the video where this video was taken. In the same way that you can show me videos of, let's say, Europeans at work and I can tell you whether this was taken in France or in Germany on the basis of the way they dress, the way the talk, the way they act in many ways. And so, that same sort of variability we see in human cultures we see in animal cultures.

CURWOOD: Then what do you think humans might not share with animals? What could separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom?

DE WAAL: You could mention our symbolic languages, which I think is a unique feature of us. But even if you take language, you could probably break it down to a number of characteristics, some of which are not beyond other animals. For example, language involves syntax and use of symbols and classification of objects and concepts involved in that and some of these elements can be found in other animals. But, you know as soon as you start looking closer at everything that you think sets us apart, there's big holes in there. And so we are basically animals. We are cultural creatures by our very nature. We have evolved to be cultural creatures. And all we do with culture is adding some layer of variation to our behavior which is a very interesting layer but is only one of the many that we have.

CURWOOD: Frans de Waal is a professor of primate behavior at Emory University and author of the book "The Ape and the Sushi Master." Professor de Waal, thanks so much for joining me today.

DE WAAL: You're welcome.


ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the National Science Foundation supporting environmental education, the Educational Foundation of America for reporting on energy and climate change, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for reporting on marine issues and the environment, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Town Creek Foundation.

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood, it's Living on Earth, and this is NPR, National Public Radio. When we return, the thirst for fresh water touches many, including source Perrier. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

(music: Chuck E. Weiss "Sweetie-O" HEAVEN RIGHT HERE)


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

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The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: On the 16th day of every March, folks in Hood River County, Oregon don green and purple colors, throw a parade and yell Finnish chants about grasshoppers, all in honor of St. Urho. According to legends, St. Urho saved the vineyards of Finland from a plague of giant grasshoppers. He banished the bugs with a pitchfork and a few choice words and so became forever endeared to the Finnish people. Now, if the story sounds a little too reminiscent of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, there's a reason. St. Urho is actually a fabrication of a Finnish store manager in Minnesota. It seems, back in 1956, while taunting his Irish buddies at a party, he invented Urho, the Finnish banisher of poisonous frogs. A co-worker wrote an ode describing how the saint got his strength from fish soup and sour milk. Other locals got in on the action, and soon the frogs became grasshoppers and the joke became an unofficial holiday. Despite his humble beginnings, St. Urho's fame has spread far and wide. A 12 foot statue of the saint stands along the highway in Menahga, Minnesota. There's even a St. Urho's pub in Helsinki. And taking after the St. Paddy's tradition of green beer, purple beer is often imbibed in honor of the fictitious Finnish saint. But if purple beer is unappealing, you can always try the holiday's high test version: mix equal parts green crème de mint, white crème de cacao and light cream to get, what else--a grasshopper! And for this week, that's the Living on Earth almanac.

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CURWOOD: Millions of gallons of pure spring water are at the center of a dispute in the town of New Haven, Wisconsin. The international bottler, Perrier, wants to build a plant in the town. But local residents wonder if the water Perrier would tap would damage the local aquifer. So some folks want the company to drop its plans. But Perrier says it won't leave unless scientific studies prove its operations would cause environmental damage. Gil Halsted reports.

(Running water)

HALSTED : Picture this: By an old mill pond, down a rural road, a tiny well sits under a red-pitched roof. Clear, cold water pours out of a pipe into a metal can. Local residents are fighting a plan to pump 500 gallons a minute from the aquifer that feeds the spring this rustic well depends on. Perrier already has a conditional permit to drill 200 feet into the aquifer and install a high-capacity pump. The pump would run year round, filling plastic bottles bearing the Ice Mountain Spring Water label.

(Sucking sound)

HALSTED : That's the sound of a high-powered diesel pump sucking a thousand gallons a minute from the aquifer beneath New Haven. In November, the company ran a test using a rate twice what the bottling plant would need for normal operations so they could learn more about the hydrogeology of the region. Hydrogeologist Bob Nauta conducted that test for the company.

NAUTA: You're stressing the aquifer to make it have some impacts. We use those impacts to calculate aquifer properties, things like its permeability, its ability to transmit water, but also its ability to store water. And then that information will be used for the groundwater modeling that will continue after this is done.

HALSTED : Results of the modeling are due later this month and should predict whether extracting the water will pose a significant environmental threat. The flow of one local stream dropped by 45 percent during the test, making it dangerously shallow in an area crucial for trout spawning. But the company says the test was meant to stress the aquifer and didn't damage it permanently. Bob Nauta says there are 150 billions gallons of water in the local aquifer. Perrier spokesperson Jane Lazgin says the scientific studies Perrier has carried out should convince opponents the bottling plant won't harm the aquifer.

LAZGIN: We've done our level best and we've gone to every length to satisfy people's questions about the environment and we continue to do that.

HALSTED : Sales of bottled water have tripled nationwide in the past decade. And Lazgin says Perrier needs to plants in the Midwest to fuel that growing demand.

LAZGIN: People are rediscovering water again. It basically quenches one's thirst in the most simple and basic and best of ways.

HALSTED: Bottled spring water is a 5 billion dollar a year industry in the United States and Perrier controls a little less than a third of the U.S. market. The company sells water under the labels Deer Park, Poland Spring, and Calistoga, in addition to Ice Mountain, and operates bottling plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Maine. But Perrier's plans for a Midwest expansion have met with strong opposition. Last spring, local citizens and fishing groups blocked a plan to build a plant near the headwaters of one of the state's most popular trout streams, near Mecan Springs, about 30 miles southwest of New Haven. And when the company began drilling test wells near the spring in New Haven, local residents held a series of protest rallies.

PROTESTER: And let's join hands and let's chase Perrier out with "Keep the water in the country." Come on! (sings) "Keep the water in the country." (singing fades under)

HALSTED: In a meeting last June, Perrier went to great lengths to assure residents that the company's high capacity wells would not dry up their wells or damage streams or wetlands. But local residents, like Mike Flannery, weren't convinced.

FLANNERY: When they start sucking water out of that hole, it's going to pull water from other areas towards that area. I mean, we got enough water coming out of the ground right now. They're spraying it on the potato fields all over the place but it's getting back in the system. This water they're taking out of here is going to go in a truck. There ain't no way it's ever going to get back into our ground. I'll never drink it.

HALSTED: Flannery fears Perrier's pumping could cause permanent damage to the aquifer and eventually lead to water rationing. Other local residents oppose the plant because of the round-the-clock truck traffic it will bring to, what is now, a quiet farming community. One study predicts there will be two hundred trucks going to and from the bottling plant once it begins operating. In a local referendum, voters rejected Perrier's plans in New Haven by an overwhelming majority. A citizen's group has filed a lawsuit calling for an injunction against Perrier for violating local zoning laws. Another citizen's group has filed a suit calling for more comprehensive environmental studies before the plant is built. But there are some in the area who would welcome the new industry. Perrier has offered to buy Terri Anderson's hog farms as a site for the bottling plant. As a result, Anderson says he's had threatening phone calls from neighbors and some minor vandalism on his property. Still, he insists the bottling plant would be good for the entire community.

ANDERSON: It's a clean industry and we need progress here. We're one of the poorest counties in the state. There's so much water there, and the quality that, even if Perrier backed out, whoever's number two will be there in the blink of an eye.

HALSTED: There's a bill now in the state legislature that would require an environmental impact statement for future high-capacity wells used by water bottling plants. The bill has strong bipartisan support and may come up for a vote by the end of March, just about the same time Perrier is expected to release results of the computer modeling on its pump tests. Meanwhile, Perrier is fighting a similar battle with citizens' groups in Michigan over proposed bottling plants there. For Living on Earth, I'm Gil Halsted in New Haven, Wisconsin.

CURWOOD: Just ahead, crime but no punishment, so far. The attackers of the giant redwood Luna are still at large. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

Now this environmental business update with Anna Solomon-Greenbaum.

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Business Update

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: The high-tech industry is often thought of as white glove clean. But making the chips to run computers produces millions of tons of chemicals call perfluorocompounds, or PFCs. The Environmental Protection Agency calls PFCs the most potent and persistent of all global warming gases. And now, leading computer chip makers are volunteering to reduce their emissions of the chemicals. The Semi-Conductor Industry Association pledged to cut PFCs by ten percent below 1995 levels before the end of the decade. The EPA says this would be similar in effect to taking 12 million cars off the road. U.S. companies produce more than half the world's computer chips. Manufacturers in Asia and Europe have also committed to reduce their output of the chemicals. That's this week's business update. I'm Anna Solomon-Greenbaum.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

You can hear our program any time on our Web site. The address is www.loe.org. That's www.loe.org. And while you're online, send your comments to us at letters@loe.org. Once again, letters@loe.org. Our postal address is 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. And you can reach our listener line at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. CDs, tapes, and transcripts are $15.

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Stafford Slide

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The Pacific Lumber Company in northern California and people from the town of Stafford have reached a settlement in a long-standing dispute. Residents say the company overlogged the mountain above their homes and caused a landslide which buried much of their town in debris. Mike O'Neal was at home New Year's Eve morning in 1996 when the disaster struck.

O'NEAL: This thing was like a tidal wave, a tsunami of stumps and trees, and a redwood stump is as big as a peterbuild or a Mac tractor. And they were floating on top of this flow just like marshmallows.

CURWOOD: No one was hurt in the slide, but eight homes were destroyed. Mike O'Neal and his neighbors sued Pacific Lumber but he says the company claimed the damage wasn't its fault.

O'NEAL: Their position was, well, it was an act of God. And we just kind of found that to be very profound. And then, you know, they say, well, it was the rain. And I says, well, you know, Humboldt County has always had rain. This is nothing new. And it got worse. They turned around after we pressured them about resolution to the problem. They turned around and said it was our fault. In total shock, we said, well, how can it possibly be our fault? Well, it's your fault for living there.

CURWOOD: So, what did you want?

O'NEAL: I tried for nine months to deal with the company. Just so we can get a simple buyout. We truly tried to work with the company, but, you know, this turns out where we had to sue them and we had to bring them to this point of where they decided to fold. And really, it's all sad, because we didn't want this. This was not our intention when we started this.

CURWOOD: You reached a settlement with the company last week. What was the outcome?

O'NEAL: Well, the outcome was we won our case. We brought enough information to the table that, in our opinion, it frightened Pacific Lumber to the point where they were willing to settle out of court rather than bring our evidence to the table.

CURWOOD: And how did they fold their cards?

O'NEAL: Well, by giving us a settlement of 3.3 million dollars.

CURWOOD: Pacific Lumber says that they admit no wrongdoing in this settlement, and that they sincerely, and I'm quoting from them, they sincerely look forward to renewing good, neighborly relations with everyone involved in this unfortunate incident.

O'NEAL: Here's my response to that: If they were so pure at heart, why didn't they go through the trial? Why did they give us 3.3 million dollars? And quite frankly, we don't trust them anymore. None of us believe them anymore.

CURWOOD: Before you go, just tell me briefly, what does it look like there now?

O'NEAL: Well, it's kind of like losing an arm. You know, if you knew that there were kids playing out, and you've got friends and houses and stuff and all of a sudden, one day it's completely gone. It's like part of our town died. And they've done a lot of cleanup and stuff, but the homes are missing. And you know, I mean, there's still kids' toys stuck in the mud. It's 17 feet deep of stumps and muck and rocks and stumps, and it's just a little bit like having lived, or still living, in a war zone, because the amount itself is not stable above us. And they've admitted it, we know it for a fact - there's more material yet to come.

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Luna Mending

CURWOOD: On a ridge about a quarter mile up the mountain from Mike O'Neal's home is a thousand year-old redwood tree called Luna. The tree got its name from Julia Butterfly Hill, a woman who lived on a tiny platform near the top of the giant tree for 738 days. She was protesting the logging of ancient redwoods in the Pacific Northwest. In a deal with Pacific Lumber, Ms. Hill ended her tree sit and paid the company $50,000 to protect Luna and a swath of land around it. But it appears that was not enough. Late last year, someone with a chainsaw slashed a 32 inch deep gash halfway around the tree's trunk. Living on Earth's Mark Hertsgaard visited northern California to investigate the crime and the future of old-growth logging.

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SPIRAL: We're 3000 feet up, about ten miles from the coast. The winds coming in are really, really strong. They rip tarps right off....

HERTSGAARD: His code name is Spiral. His fellow activists have names like Dragonfly and Guano. Music pours from the speakers of an old van as they pack warm clothes and food before an all-night hike into the "Mattole Free State"-- a blockade on Pacific Lumber land near California's rugged Lost Coast.

SPIRAL: I mean, there's usually between 20 and 30 kids in the woods. Feeding 30 people is a lot of food. Especially when you have to hike it in 14 miles.

HERTSGAARD: Spiral's colleague, Josh Brown, of Earth First!, claims the blockade has prevented Pacific Lumber from logging 3,000 acres of ancient Douglas Fir trees since last November.

BROWN: Well, if there was one good thing about being cut, it woke people up to the fact that the problems with the old-growth forests up here on the north coast are not over and that we needed to wake up and get re-involved.

(Engine sound)

HERTSGAARD: At Pacific Lumber's factory in Scotia, a worker outside the gate won't give his name, only his opinions. He says environmentalists will seize on any excuse to stop logging.

WORKER: First it was the bird, and then if that wouldn't have worked, they would have found some lizard or something. Then if that wouldn't have worked, they would have found a bug of some kind they had to protect. Just a bunch of radicals, that's what I think.

HERTSGAARD: Humboldt County has been ground zero in California's timber wars for over a decade. There has been violence before. A car bombing in Oakland, of activists Judy Bari and Daryl Chaney. Police swabbing pepper spray into the eyes of nonviolent protesters. Activist David Chain killed by a felled tree. Julia Butterfly Hill has her own suspicions about the kind of person who was behind the Luna attack.

HILL: Whoever did this is someone who is frustrated and angry and, most of all, afraid. And you apply enough pressure to anything and it explodes.

HERTSGAARD: Hill is sitting in her Circle of Life Foundation office, sipping unfiltered juice from a Mason jar. Reggae posters cover the walls. A dog named Mango relaxes at her feet.

HILL: The whole entire West Coast is filled with ghost towns of timber companies and other extractive industries that have come in, promised wealth and gold, and raped the beauty, raped the community, and leave it with nothing. Environmental activists are the easy scapegoat.

(Electric sawing)

HERTSGAARD: Back at Pacific Lumber, the factory worker says he's sure a timber man didn't cut Luna. Otherwise, that tree would be down right now, not hanging there half cut.

WORKER: The environmentalists probably cut it just to make this place look bad. It should have been cut years ago and made into lumber.

(Footsteps, rustling)

HERTSGAARD: Just down the road from Pacific Lumber, if you look carefully, you can see Luna from Highway 101. But hiking up there unaided is nearly impossible. Even with guidance the climb takes over an hour, through clear cut zones where wisps of smoke rise from soil burnt black and bare for replanting. Over a last hill looms Luna, near the top of a sharply sloped canyon. Stepping close, you can trace the cut across its trunk. Large metal buckles now straddle the gash like stitches and cables stretch from upper branches to the ground. Arborists hope, but can't promise, that these measures will keep the tree from tipping over in 80 mile an hour winter winds. The criminal left behind neither foot nor fingerprints. But there were woodshavings, says detective Juan Freeman of the Humboldt County Sheriff's office.

FREEMAN: What my goal would be potentially to compare the shavings to some shavings in a particular chainsaw that may have been involved in the actual cutting of the tree.

HERTSGAARD: Freeman says he hasn't asked Pacific Lumber for anything besides a single visit to the crime scene. Yet, he praises the company for its cooperation. But he hasn't questioned the tree's owner, Julia Butterfly Hill. And why not?

FREEMAN: For one thing, I don't know where she is or anything. And I don't really have time to hunt her down and try to get an interview from her. If she were to contact me here, I'd be happy to talk to her.

HILL: Thousands of people from all over the world contact me on a daily basis. So, if a detective can't find me, I'm a bit concerned about his ability to find who attacked Luna.

HERTSGAARD: Hill and her supporters expect little from the official investigation. So little, they've opened their own inquiry, headed by environmental attorney Mark Harris. Harris says there's a ten year history of collusion between the sheriff's department and Pacific Lumber, with employees going back and forth between the two outfits.

HARRIS: If we have Pacific Lumber employees who are deputized on the spot by our public sheriff officials, who then climb up in trees and wrestle and apply pain compliance to peaceful activists in a very, very hazardous and dangerous setting.

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HERTSGAARD: Harris, a part-time pilot, believes the activists have lost the battle for northern California's redwoods. He says you can see why from the air.

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HARRIS: We're coming up on the edge of Headwaters Forest and you can see there's some pretty widespread clearcuts just below us. There's a beautiful symmetry that only old-growth redwood possess and it's dead ahead of us. You can see it through this mist and fog. If you stood a pencil up next to a toothpick, that's essentially the kind of contrast that you have here.

HERTSGAARD: That contrast, between the protected Humboldt Grove, and the clear-cut acres around it, is indeed stark. And it's a direct result of the Headwaters deal that Julia Butterfly had climbed the Luna tree to protest. Signed in 1999, by Maxxam and the governments of California and the United States, the Headwaters deal banned logging on only 7,500 of 60,000 contested acres. And it let the company log those remaining acres more aggressively than before. In effect, excusing it from the Endangered Species Act.


HERTSGAARD: After half an hour of viewing dozens of clearcuts, we're back on the ground in front of the Selective Cutting hair salon in Scotia. Population 1,200, Scotia is one of the last company towns in America. A typical bumper sticker reads, "Earth First. We'll Log the Other Planets Later." Pacific Lumber still owns every building here and whistles its employees to work three times a day.


(Ringing phone, receptionist)

HERTSGAARD: John Campbell, company CEO, says he has only a vague idea about who might have cut the Luna tree.

CAMPBELL: I think it was sort of a very, you know, vulgar thing to do. I think it was some deranged person who perhaps didn't even have a part of the debate.

HERTSGAARD: Local activists think the most likely suspects are Pacific Lumber workers, acting with or without management approval. They reason that the attacker almost certainly arrived by vehicle and would have to pass through locked gates to access Pacific Lumber's land. The accusation angers John Campbell.

CAMPBELL: It's outrageous. I mean, we worked very hard to set the tree aside. And we worked very hard to try to save the tree, you know, after it was cut. And I've heard it that perhaps someone within the environmental community had done it to continue the fundraising and keep the issue before the public.

HERTSGAARD: Campbell admits his company has dramatically increased clear-cutting since Maxxam's takeover. But he says this was an industry-wide switch.

CAMPBELL: If you're managing your land for maximum sustained yield, which you're required to do under the Timber Productivity Act, you want your trees out in bright sunlight when they're young so that they grow vigorously and overcome the competition.

HERTSGAARD: Julie Butterfly Hill is the first to admit that logging in Humboldt County has only accelerated since she ended her tree-sit. So what exactly has she accomplished? Hill is proud of having inspired countless people around the world to get environmentally active in their own communities. And she makes no apologies for fighting to save the scraps of Humboldt's ancient forest.

HILL: When I got here in November of 1997, we were already fighting for the scraps. 97 percent of what used to be here is gone. It's a sad magnifying glass of the state of affairs of our world that there's even an issue over 3 percent.

HERTSGAARD: It's ironic that the battle that made Hill famous ended in defeat, but the Headwaters deal is hardly her fault. And Hill rejects accusations that no matter how many concessions timber companies and politicians offer her, enough is never enough.

HILL: They've taken 97 percent. When is enough enough for them?

HERTSGAARD: Pacific Lumber's John Campbell sees it differently.

CAMPBELL: If you go out here, you can see young redwoods growing everywhere, so 90 percent of the redwoods have not disappeared. 97 percent of the old-growth perhaps has disappeared, but these are working forests. These have been legislated and put in place for the growing and harvesting of trees.

HERTSGAARD: Paul Mason is the executive director of the Environmental Protection and Information Center. He says the real issue is not the fate of a single celebrity tree, but rather the need to change the entire approach to logging in California. Selective logging can work, says Mason, but clear-cutting destroys not only trees but the rivers and wildlife they nourish.

MASON: Salmon continue to be in the death spiral in northern California and throughout the Pacific Northwest. And saving individual old growth trees is not going to change that. We need a fundamentally different way of logging in these watersheds where we leave a functional forest after we've done our logging. That's the next battle.


HERTSGAARD: The search for the Luna tree's attacker is unlikely to end any time soon, and neither are California's timber wars. Spiral, Guano, Dragonfly and other activists will keep fighting for the Douglas Fir trees in Mattole Valley, but future debate will probably not focus on ancient trees like Luna for a simple reason. By now, almost all of them are either protected or horizontal. For Living on Earth, I'm Mark Hertsgaard.

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Naked Protest

CURWOOD: Some women sit in trees to protest clear-cuts, and then there are others who take their clothes off. In today's media maelstrom, it's harder than ever to get noticed. But commentator Julia King wonders how far someone should go to be heard above the din.

KING: Around the time my mother taught me how to tie my shoes, she also taught me how to protest. Her rules were simple: Look respectable, act respectable, and don't give the opposition any ammunition. Together we buttoned those top buttons and combed our hair for peace, civil rights, the ERA. You name it, we marched for it. In sensible shoes. Recently, a Canadian environmentalist, along with a handful of others, took a much different approach to gain media attention for her cause. She appeared topless and on horseback to stop Texada Land Corporation from old-growth logging on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Now a group of Salt Spring women have posed for a nudie calendar to raise money for the cause. It's activism without inhibition. Disrobe for deforestation, pants down for preservation. Then comes my mother's advice: Look respectable, act respectable, don't the opposition any ammunition. Yet, she said that decades ago before cable TV, before the Internet, before there was so much stuff to compete with. The topless Canadian protester told reporters she has PhD and no one was listening. I take my clothes off, she said, and here you all are. And maybe she thinks people tune in to the Playboy channel to hear what the bunnies have to say. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but being looked at is not the same thing as being listened to. So, the reporters came. And they even took notes. And they even printed the story about the threatened ecosystem from the old-growth logging. But like it or not, the real story, the one that will get repeated, is that an environmentalist went topless. "I just don't get those crazy tree-huggers, " Joe Public will say over his newspaper. Because sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the breasts. Taking off your top, or your bottoms, might get you looked at, but will it get you listened to for the long haul? Ultimately, the battle is not for Joe and Jane Public's attention, but for their trust. And they don't trust people who go topless on Main Street. Take your umbrella, get a good night's sleep, keep your clothes on.

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CURWOOD: Commentator Julia King lives in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to use from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

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CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Our story on the Luna tree was produced by Nathan Johnson. Next week, at the time of Columbus, millions of parrots lived on the island of Puerto Rico. Today, just 13 remain in the wild.

MAN: I'm a Puerto-Rican and I've never seen a Puerto-Rican parrot, and that's pretty sad.

CURWOOD: But there's hope a new project can reintroduce captive parrots into the wild. And we'll find out how it's working, next time on Living on Earth. We're produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production staff includes Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Cynthia Graber, Stephanie Pindyck, Maggie Villiger, Nathan Johnson, Jennifer Chu, and James Curwood, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson, and Milisa Muniz. We had help this week from Stephen Belter. Our interns are Merav Bushlin, Dawn Robinson, and Evie Stone. Alison Dean composed our themes. Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Liz Lempert is our western editor. Diane Toomey is our science editor. Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor. And Chris Ballman is the senior producer. 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 Educational Foundation of America, for reporting on energy and climate change; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, supporting efforts to better understand environmental change; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Turner Foundation.

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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