Arctic Climate Change
(stream / mp3)
In Barrow, Alaska, scientists are not only studying climate change, they're helping the local community do something to protect themselves from its effects. Host Steve Curwood speaks with Amanda Lynch, one of the scientists heading the project. (05:30)
Venison for the Hungry/ Karen Kelly
(stream / mp3)
A program in southern New York state is encouraging hunters to donate deer to be processed for area soup kitchens. Not only does this help with deer overpopulation, but it also provides nutritious food for the hungry. Karen Kelly reports. (05:45)
Health Note: Bacterial Cancer Treatment
(stream / mp3)
Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a new study that used soil bacteria to destroy cancerous tumors. (01:15)
Almanac: Lost Peking Man
(stream / mp3)
This week, facts about Peking Man. Sixty years ago this week, his fossil remains boarded a train in China, never to be seen again. (01:30)
(stream / mp3)
House Republicans want to give President Bush more power to negotiate international trade deals. Critics say the measure doesn't do enough to protect workers and the environment. From Washington, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum briefs host Steve Curwood on the upcoming lobby for votes. (03:55)
Fair Trade/ Bob Carty
(stream / mp3)
Bob Carty reports from southern Mexico on a coffee cooperative that conducts "fair trade" exchanges with European bean buyers. Proponents call "fair trade" an economically and environmentally sustainable way of doing business in the developing world. (08:30)
(stream / mp3)
Years of military fighting in Afghanistan have not been kind to animals at the Kabul Zoo. Host Steve Curwood talks with John Walsh of the World Society for the Protection of Animals about his experiences and plans there. (02:55)
Animal Note: Scrub Jay Thieves
(stream / mp3)
Living on Earth's Maggie Villiger reports that in the thieving world of scrub jays, it takes one to know one. (01:20)
New Hampshire Forests/ Doug MacPherson
(stream / mp3)
This year, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests celebrates its 100th anniversary. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Doug MacPherson reports, the Society manages to work effectively with both land use groups and forest conservation organizations. (06:50)
(stream / mp3)
Host Steve Curwood talks with Adam Bly, founder and editor-in-chief of the new glossy SEED, which aims to cover "science couture." (04:25)
Coral Spawning/ John Ryan
(stream / mp3)
John Ryan sent us a reporters' notebook entry after watching coral have sex in the reefs off the coast of Indonesia. (04:20)
[INTRO THEME MUSIC]
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, it's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The rising population of white tailed deer in some parts of rural America is prompting a new trend: venison for the poor.
DOUGHERTY: We have agreed, with our camp here, four members on this 500 acres, that everybody will donate the first deer that they harvest. That's 160 people that will be fed from one donation. That made me feel really good.
CURWOOD: But it makes animal rights advocates see red, and they question the motive.
MARKARIAN: Hunters are participating in their sport because they find it recreational, and they are simply trying to use these venison donation programs to make the public think that hunting is doing a public service.
CURWOOD: Also, a showdown on Capitol Hill over fast track for free trade and free trade's alter-ego: fair trade. We visit Mexican coffee growers who blend economic justice with environmental care. That and more on Living on Earth, right after this.
[NPR News follows]
CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. This past October was the warmest October since scientists began recording global temperatures, more than 100 years ago. In England, the records go back even further--400 years. And there, too, this past October was the warmest ever. But some communities don't need weather reports to tell them things are heating up, especially in the coldest parts of the planet where warming is most pronounced.
Residents of Barrow, Alaska are seeing the permafrost beneath their houses thaw, and storms have become more frequent and more intense. So, scientists who've been researching global warming near Barrow decided to do something new--they're helping the community get ready for climate change. Amanda Lynch is an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado at Boulder. She says Barrow was a shoe-in for the project.
LYNCH: You don't have to sell climate change to people who live in Barrow. They see it around them all the time and they're very aware of it. They're aware of how it's affecting their daily lives. And so, we can start from a position where this is already happening, now, what do we do about it? Rather than having to explain what's happening first.
CURWOOD: What types of changes have you already seen in Barrow?
LYNCH: We've certainly seen an increase in temperatures. The snow is melting earlier in the spring, which can cause a lot of problems if people are out in their hunting camps. One person said it's often a wet ride, coming back home, because the snow melts much sooner than they expect it to. The permafrost is starting to thaw, although the last couple of years have been colder and so it's starting to freeze up again. The sea ice is retreating further out and taking a longer time to come back in, in the winter. And the storms are getting stronger and more frequent, and that's the thing that most people are worried about.
CURWOOD: So, what are the projects that you're working on with the local community to help them cope with the changes brought on by climate change?
LYNCH: Well, what we've tried to do is, I guess, a different approach, we're really taking our research based on what people up there are telling us is important to them. And so, when we go up there and we say, "Well, what are the environmental changes that are really bothering you?" In our first round of meetings everybody said it's flooding and erosion. And so, what we're trying to do is to study how flooding and erosion occurs in that area, what it depends on, how it's occurred in the past, and then we'll take a look at what might be expected for the future and see how it might change in the future.
But the additional element is that we'll also try and run scenarios of ideas that they have for adapting to the changes. So, for instance, a simple idea that some local people had was, to prevent beach erosion, would be to dump some old barges that they have sitting out on Barrier Islands, up off the coast there, to take them and dump them on the beach and shore up the beach that way. They want to know if that kind of thing, which is very cheap, might work, and so we can run a scenario, using our models, to let them know whether that has a likelihood of working or not.
CURWOOD: What other examples can you share with us of possible solutions to their problems that you are coming up together, working with them?
LYNCH: Another solution is to deal with their buried infrastructure. They have, a new thing for the town is a whole series of buried infrastructure. That is, their water, their sewage, their electricity, their cable. All of that stuff is now underground, in a utility corridor, and that's a gravity feed system, so it requires a low point for pumping, and that low point is right on the beach.
The problem is, with the design of that particular utility corridor, that if that low point gets flooded, it shuts off the entire system. And so, we've been exploring with them possibilities of being able to shut off sections of it so that if certain parts get flooded, other parts are still functional, so that they can perhaps roll back the town more gradually, rather than having to do everything in one hit.
CURWOOD: For most of us Point Barrow, or Barrow, Alaska, is really just far north, there, on the map. Describe for me the town.
LYNCH: It's a small town, it's about 5,000 people. People up there engage in a lot of hunting and fishing activities, probably more so than other places, but apart from that, it's quite typical.
CURWOOD: And what's different about Barrow, Alaska, from most other towns one would think of in the United States?
LYNCH: It has a very large proportion of Inupiat Eskimos. Also, the demands of modern life tend to take a back seat to traditional activities. So, if there's a big whale hunt on, or if there's a community celebration, then that's considered to be much more important than the kinds of everyday, modern lifestyle things, like jobs.
CURWOOD: I'm just wondering how much the people in Barrow attribute what they're seeing to climate change caused by humans. And, if they attribute a lot of it to what we people all over the planet are doing, how do they feel about how human activity--the burning of fossil fuel and so on and so forth--is affecting their lives and their community?
LYNCH: I think a lot of them do attribute it to climate change caused by human beings because they have a very long history of traditional knowledge. The elders maintain knowledge that has been passed down from one generation to another, and a lot of the elders are saying, "We haven't seen this before." But, at the same time, it's a community that relies very strongly on oil revenues for its wellbeing, so they prefer not to make the link between for instance oil drilling in Prudhoe Bay and what's happening to their community. They would rather talk about adaptation, dealing with the problems, rather than thinking about dealing with the causes.
CURWOOD: Amanda Lynch is an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado. Thanks for speaking with me.
LYNCH: No problem.
CURWOOD: The southern tier of New York state is deer country. The woods just north of the Pennsylvania border are loaded with white tails. The region also struggles with poverty. Area hunters are allowed to kill as many as six deer each season, and, increasingly, the bounty is going to feed some of the area's hungry. Karen Kelly reports.
[SOUND OF BREAKING BRANCHES]
KELLY: Neil Dougherty bushwhacks through the thick brush near his cabin in the Allegheny foothills of southern New York. Wearing a camouflage outfit and carrying a two foot long bow stocked with arrows, he's set out to hunt for his first deer of the season. For Dougherty, it's an opportunity to get closer to nature.
DOUGHERTY: Going out when the leaves are in peak color, just to hear the wind coming through the trees, that's a wonderful experience in a tree stand.
KELLY: Dougherty has all sorts of apparatus to lure his prey. He has a plastic tube, to imitate the sound of a mating buck.
KELLY: And a pair of plastic antlers that he clanks together to mimic the sound of two bucks fighting.
KELLY: If Dougherty is successful today, he'll donate the animal to a processor, who will prepare it to be served in local soup kitchens.
DOUGHERTY: We agreed with our camp here, four members on this 500 acres, that everybody will donate the first deer that they harvest. That's 160 people that will be fed from one donation. That made me feel really good.
KELLY: But after two hours, no deer comes close enough to warrant a shot. Neil Dougherty packs up his gear and heads home.
Dougherty didn't get his deer today. But this fall, bow hunters alone will have contributed more than 4,000 pounds of venison to New York's Venison Donation Coalition. The group was started two years ago. This year it's expanded to 16 counties in southwestern New York. Coalition director Greg Fuerst says hunters are eager to participate.
FUERST: Their desire is to be outdoors and enjoyment of deer hunting. And I think, too, when they start to learn about the need amongst their own communities--and that was something that came out loud and clear. We're glad to participate and we really want to see the home town feeling of our processors, our deer, our success helping our citizens right here, close to home.
KELLY: Fuerst is a wildlife technician for New York's Department of Environmental Conservation. He's spent the past five years mainly dealing with deer complaints. The animals eat thousands of dollars worth of crops and gardens, and there are hundreds of car-deer collisions in the county each year. The DEC attributes these problems to an overpopulation of white tailed deer, and, in recent years, they've steadily increased the number of deer a hunter can take. But Fuerst says hunters and farmers were reluctant to kill deer they couldn't consume, so he designed a program that would make donation free and convenient.
FUERST: Simply, drop off properly field dressed and legally tagged deer at any of the participating processors, and when a processor has about 200 pounds in the freezer, he calls a food bank, they pick the meat up, and then it goes onto the menu at all the pantries.
KELLY: New York isn't the only place to have such a program; there are venison donation clinics in more than 30 states. That's a cause of concern for animal rights advocates like Michael Markarian. He's the vice-president of the Fund for Animals, a national group which opposes hunting. Markarian doesn't believe there are too many deer. He thinks people need to find better ways to deal with them. He suggests using roadside reflectors and repellant to avoid problems with animals, and he questions the motives of hunters who donate venison.
MARKARIAN: Hunters are participating in their sport because they find it recreational, and they are simply trying to use these venison donation programs to make the public think that hunting is doing a public service.
KELLY: Public service is exactly how Paul Hesler would describe the program. He runs the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, which collects the venison and distributes it to soup kitchens and food pantries around the region. Hesler says the donations help address their chronic shortage of meat products.
HESLER: Venison has one of the, if not the, lowest concentration of saturated fat, so it's an excellent protein source that is low in fat. And if the visibility and exposure it brings to our work and the issue of hunger in our community has been incredible.
KELLY: Here at the Catholic Charity Samaritan Center in Elmira, New York, clients come for the free grocery items that line the shelves. For some, like this man, the venison is a special treat.
MAN: The meat is so fantastic, what these people do here, it's really, really good.
CHARITY WORKER: Get your meat here and, you know, the other side. There's no limit.
KELLY: With the help of more publicity the number of deer donations grew by 500 percent last year. Greg Fuerst worries the program may not have the funding to keep up with such growth. He and his colleagues are spending much of their time applying for long-term state and federal grants. Fuerst says working on this program has been a welcome change from dealing with deer complaints from drivers, farmers and homeowners, and he's come to see his job as an advocate, not only for wildlife, but for the needy people in his community. For Living on Earth, I'm Karen Kelly, in Bath, New York.
CURWOOD: Coming up: fast track, fair trade, and free trade--a civics lesson in economics and the environment is just ahead. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.
TOOMEY: Advanced forms of cancer can grow so fast, parts of these tumors can't get enough blood and oxygen. This condition can make tumors resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. But researchers are taking advantage of the oxygen-starved environment. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University screened about two dozen bacteria for their ability to both live without oxygen and kill tumor cells. It appears that common soil bacteria, Clostridium novi, did both exceedingly well. So scientists injected this bacteria, as well as conventional chemotherapy drugs, into a small number of mice with tumors developed from human colon cancer. After a single treatment, more than half the tumors were completely destroyed within 24 hours. But the fast acting process actually killed some mice. That's because when large tumors are destroyed quickly, toxins such as uric acid are released and can build up in the body. So researchers say they must learn how to control the rate of destruction. Scientists also say they don't know why colon cancer cells die when they come in contact with Clostridium novi. They'll be researching that, as well as what other cancers the bacteria may be effective against. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.
CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
CURWOOD: Sixty years ago this week, the Peking Man boarded a train in China, never to be heard from again. Peking Man was actually the boxed-up, fossilized skulls, jawbones, and teeth of more than 40 men, women and children. They were discovered in an old quarry outside what's now Beijing in the 1920s. Scientists dated the fossils back more than 200,000 years, and dubbed the collection "Peking Man." Peking Man was classified as Homo erectus and bolstered the theory of evolution, but he would not be above ground for long. In July of 1939 Japan occupied Peking. So Peking Man researchers took the fossils from their safe, carefully wrapped them in tissue and gauze, packed them into wooden crates, and moved them to a U.S. military base. The U.S. Marines were all set to ship the crates to the states for safekeeping but, on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Chaos ensued, and the Marines and Peking Man waited in vain for a boat that never came. Researchers think the Peking Man fossils were likely thrown aside and trampled by Japanese troops, but some treasure hunters hope the bones will resurface some day, and there are large cash rewards for the finder. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
CURWOOD: The U.S. House of Representatives could soon give President Bush an early Christmas gift. Members are scheduled to vote shortly on what's called "fast track trade promotion authority." President Bush called fast track a top priority when he took office, but the measure faces some opposition in the house. Living on Earth's Anna Solomon-Greenbaum joins me now from Washington. Hi there, Anna.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Hey, Steve.
CURWOOD: Anna, first, can you explain for us, just what is fast track?
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Well, fast track is a pretty simple procedural mechanism. It's meant to streamline trade negotiations. Basically, it allows the president and his trade representatives to go off, broker deals with other countries, and then when they come back with an agreement, Congress has to vote either yes or no. No amendments are allowed at that point. So basically, it gives the U.S. a way to guarantee trading partners that whatever deals they come to aren't going to be undone back in the U.S., by Congress. Congress isn't entirely without say. They do get to provide the president with a set of negotiating objectives, and he also has to notify them before he enters into any negotiations.
CURWOOD: For years, we had fast track. I think it lapsed back in 1994, and since then Congress hasn't renewed it. Why not, Anna?
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: For a lot of the senators, it's really just a procedural problem. They feel Congress just shouldn't give up so much authority to the president when it comes to trade negotiations. In the House, the objections mostly center around labor and environmental issues. Lawmakers are concerned about human rights abuses or weak child labor laws in other parts of the world. They're also worried about losing manufacturing jobs overseas. In terms of the environment, lawmakers want to make sure that lowering barriers to trade doesn't also mean weakening environmental regulations or enforcement.
An example of this, just this last October, the Mexican government was ordered to pay a U.S. company nearly 17 million dollars. What had happened was Mexico had denied the company the right to open a hazardous waste treatment site in one of its central states. An international tribunal ruled that this denial was a violation of NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement. So, this is the kind of situation some lawmakers are worried we're going to see more of in different parts of the world if free trade isn't done right. And they want more of a hand in the process than fast track currently gives them.
CURWOOD: Well, Anna, is anyone talking about amending fast track so that it would give Congress more authority over how and what the president does negotiate?
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: That's what some senior Democrats have been pushing for. They came out with their own fast track bill. It would require trading partners to adopt the five core international labor standards, and it would also ensure that countries could enforce a multi-lateral environmental agreement without being in violation of trade agreements. At this point, though, you're probably not going to hear much more about that bill; the authors insist they were shut out of the fast track process. Instead, what's coming to the floor is a measure from Republican congressman Bill Thomas--he's the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. His bill leaves a lot more wiggle room, you could say, for the president. On labor it asks only that trading partners follow their own domestic labor laws, and, in terms of the environment the bill is fairly vague in its language. It talks about the president seeking to promote consideration of multi-lateral environmental agreements, but it doesn't set any kind of standard for what that means.
CURWOOD: Well, of course, Republicans have the majority in the House. Do they have the votes on this one?
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: As of a couple of weeks ago, it looked like they didn't. The GOP leaders are scrambling pretty hard right now, trying to rally more votes. But many people that I've spoken with on both sides of this issue tell me they think the final tally's really going to depend on President Bush. They think he's got to come forward and start working individual members on this, if he wants to see a fast track victory. And that kind of personal attention, as you might imagine, may not be in the cards right now, given that the White House is fairly busy with the war against terrorism.
CURWOOD: Living on Earth's Washington correspondent Anna Solomon-Greenbaum. Thanks so much, Anna.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: You're welcome.
CURWOOD: Most advocates of fast tack share a common notion of the unfettered movement of goods and services across borders: free trade is their motto. But there is an alternative. It's called fair trade, and, simply put, it's a way for rich and poor countries to relate to each other, not on the basis of supply and demand alone, but with consideration of economic justice and environmental sustainability, as well. Living on Earth contributor Bob Carty found a working model of fair trade in the coffee producing mountains of southern Mexico.
[SOUND OF TRUCK]
VANDERHOFF: We are in the southern part of Mexico, in the isthmus of Tehuantepec, over a dirt road, because it's the only one which exists here.
CARTY: Francisco Vanderhoff steers his truck up a cliffhanger of the road. The Pacific Ocean is behind us. The mountains of the state of Oaxaca ahead. Vanderhoff is a Catholic priest originally from Holland. His missionary work brought him to Mexico, and he's long been a Mexican citizen. For two decades he's been working with Indian peasants in these remote mountains.
VANDERHOFF: All the tropical wood, sixty years ago, got cut by an Italian company, which never reforested, and now it is a completely dry area. We are heading up into the mountains. There we have a rather wet climate, and there are the coffee fields, on the altitude of 700 to 1200 meters.
CARTY: It may be wetter up in the coffee fields, but that doesn't make life easier. The problem is the price of coffee. Consumers in Europe and North America may be paying $6 to $10 a pound for coffee, but peasants here get only 35 cents. And without coffee there is no livelihood, and people are leaving.
VANDERHOFF: Some tried to move across the border, legal or illegal. In one village, for example, at Cecila, 60 percent has left, but also in the same village, the first coffins came back, which were found dead in the Sonoran Desert. They tried to escape and they got lost and died.
CARTY: But not everyone is leaving. Despite the lowest coffee prices in decades, some villagers have found a way to survive the downturn in the coffee market, a way to deal with globalization on different terms.
[SOUND OF TRUCK DOOR CLOSING AND BIRDS]
VANDERHOFF: Like you see, this one will flower within a couple of days. This is the way we grow coffee here in Oaxaca, always under shade tree. This one is under banana trees, and because of the shade trees, the birds are happy to be there. And mulching, we use organic compost.
CARTY: Any chemicals?
VANDERHOFF: We don't use any chemicals. And we discovered that the yield during proper organic agriculture, your yield, in five, six years, doubles. At this moment, we are higher than the average yield of Mexico.
CARTY: But it wasn't always this way. When Vanderhoff came here, twenty years ago, farmers had to sell their coffee to middlemen, who often paid less than it cost to produce it. People lived with debt, misery, and malnutrition. And that's why they set up the Union of Indigenous Cooperatives, or UCIRI.
[MARTINEZ SPEAKING SPANISH]
VOICEOVER: The principle objective of UCIRI was improving the life of the campesinos in the mountains.
CARTY: Isaias Martinez is a Zapotec Indian and one of the founders of the USIRI coop.
[MARTINEZ SPEAKING SPANISH]
VOICEOVER: We know that coffee has ups and downs in prices, usually downs. The middlemen bought at low prices, and life was very heavy, very hard. What we wanted was that more of the income from coffee stays in the communities, with the small producers.
CARTY: This kind of tactic, getting rid of the middleman, is common in cooperatives everywhere. But this coop in Oaxaca, UCIRI, took cooperativism a few steps further. It started with a bit of good luck. Farmers here were too poor to afford pesticides. They were organic by default. And, with organic certification, they were able to ride the boom in organic food sales in Europe.
[SOUND OF COFFEE SORTING]
VANDERHOFF: Here is the main warehouse of all organic coffee. What you hear now, the noise, are the computerized selection machines, and they select, bean by bean, which has to be proper for export quality and which doesn't.
CARTY: You're computerized.
VANDERHOFF: We are completely computerized.
CARTY: The best beans are put in specially labeled sacks, for sale under what are called fair trade agreements. Francisco Vanderhoff explains that his buyers pay more than the market rate because this coffee is organic and shade grown. But they also pay an additional premium because the money really goes back to the peasant farmers, not to multi-national coffee companies, not to Mexican middlemen. So, while current world prices are hovering around 60 cents a pound, the UCIRI coop, through fair trade deals, gets a guaranteed one dollar and forty-one cents.
[SOUND OF DOOR OPENING]
VANDERHOFF: Here we enter our office space of UCIRI. Here we have the computer, linked, internet, etc., to see what the stock market, the commodity market in New York is doing.
CARTY: So you're checking the markets in New York from here, in the isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico.
VANDERHOFF: Yes, we do. We are in touch with the entire global economy. In the meantime, we don't obey the rules. We don't believe in the free market. They don't ask the consumer what kind of price you want to pay, unless they ask the producers what kind of price you need. But, with our clients, we make a different deal, and they are yelling to get our coffee.
CARTY: You can't sell enough.
VANDERHOFF: We can sell the double, if we could have it.
CARTY: The UCIRI coop now organizes 52 mountain villages, with a population of 80,000 people. Its annual sales of organic coffee are worth almost six million dollars. Now, what does this mean for the local Mexican peasant farmer? It means that annual incomes have doubled since the mid-eighties. Just as important, that income remains stable in bad times, like these times. And, because the coop has capital and credit, it has built other services for its communities: a hospital, a dental service, a school that teaches organic agriculture, a series of coop stores, a bus company. And it's all been done without foreign aid.
To diversify from coffee, the coop has just opened a jam factory to use the fruit from the banana and mango and guayaba trees that shade the coffee up in the mountains. And down below, in the lowlands, they set up a textile plant.
CARTY: A hundred young Indian men and women sit behind sewing machines, working on pants for the European market. They are made out of organic cotton, from a coop in Peru. The factory is clean and bright, and it's owned by the workers themselves. For Isaias Martinez, the most important thing is that the young men and women of his villages do not have to leave the land and their way of life.
[MARTINEZ SPEAKING SPANISH]
VOICEOVER: Globalization means we all have to be the same. People limit themselves to wanting money, to having jeans with a good trademark. That's the most fatal thing. It destroys cultures. We think that, to the degree we are creating work, work in the jam factory or the clothes factory, people don't leave the communities. It's true we are part of globalization and we have to live with it, but we have to think of new ways not to fall into the trap of the system.
CARTY: Up in the mountains of Southern Oaxaca, Francisco Vanderhoff knows that these cooperative projects--the textile plant, the jam factory, the organic coffee trees--are but a tiny anomaly in the bigger market driven system. But Vanderhoff believes there are lessons from the fair trade experience, lessons for the global economy.
VANDERHOFF: Until now it is a tiny thorn in the side of the system, but we are not on our own; it's not only UCIRI. We are rewriting the rules; bit by bit we are building an alternative system in between small producers, which we get into the market under different conditions. I think you can make the battle with the big enemy, knowing that you have to use their technology and you turn it around for your own benefit. And, already we can say, "there are alternatives."
CARTY: In the mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, I'm Bob Carty, for Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: And you're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. The story of Marjon, the one-eyed zoo lion of Kabul that's been in the news since the Taliban fled the city, is a sad reminder that people aren't the only victims of the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan. John Walsh is director of international projects for the World Society for the Protection of Animals. His first trip to the Kabul Zoo was back in 1995.
WALSH: The zoo, when I got there, had sustained--about 94 percent of it was totally damaged. There were about 30 animals still alive. Mortar rounds had gone right into the cages, destroyed them. There was a tank stationed at the zoo and as it rumbled around to fire from different positions it also destroyed many of the cages. The lion that's been shown in the press now, Marjon, had a mate at that time, and it was only few months earlier that its face had been destroyed and its jaw seriously damaged by a hand grenade that had been thrown in by a Taliban solider.
CURWOOD: Why was a grenade thrown at the lion?
WALSH: One of the soldiers, to show how brave he was, went into the cage. Now, the zoo lion keeper used to go in and stay with them and pat them. So the soldiers were amazed that this guy was always in with the two adult lions, and, for one reason or another, to show his bravery, he went in, and the lion promptly killed him. There's two stories. One says it was a member of his family that went in and rolled a hand grenade to the lion; others say it was a companion in the same military unit as the solider who was killed.
CURWOOD: Now, when do you think that the World Society for the Protection of Animals, WSPA, as you call it, your organization, will be able to send over your own relief team? And what are some of the first things you'll do when you first hit the ground?
WALSH: What we do as soon as we get in is assess: one, can we get good quality food to the animals and good quality water? There is no electricity in the zoo and there hasn't been--or running water-for, well, since '95, when I was there, but it's next to the river and we can put our floating pump out, with a generator. We'll try to contract also to get the best quality food from the marketplace. And one of the most important things, in a situation like Kabul, where there is likely to be civil unrest in the future, we fly in tons of what we call zoo chow, which is dried, prepared food for every kind of zoo animal. That way, the zoo animals will get a well-balanced diet and it isn't something that people would steal for human consumption.
CURWOOD: Depending on their level of desperation, of course.
WALSH: Of course, that's always a factor. But we've done this in other zoos and it's worked effectively.
CURWOOD: How important a role do you think the Kabul zoo could play in helping city life get back to some semblance of normalcy?
WALSH: Well, when I was there in '95, my original goal was to try to convince the municipality that because of the condition of the lion and they're not likely to maintain the animals properly, that we would take them out and move them either to India or Pakistan until conditions stabilized. They said this is the only place that people go for entertainment, especially during the Taliban era, when there was no television, no movie theatres, nothing that they could do. And, regardless if it's a primitive old-type zoo, with the iron bars and concrete, with the animals confined to small spaces, it's all they've got. And the zoo community around the world is trying to help build a new zoo.
CURWOOD: John Walsh is the International Projects Director of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Thanks for your time today, Mr. Walsh.
WALSH: Thank you
CURWOOD: Just ahead, sex and science, on magazine covers and in coral reefs. First, this page from the Animal Notebook, with Maggie Villiger.
VILLIGER: Thieves are said to be among the most paranoid people around. After all, they suspect others of just the sorts of nefarious deeds they themselves carry out. Now, new research on scrub jays shows that thieving birds are also more distrustful than their law-abiding neighbors. Like most animals, scrub jays must compete for limited resources such as food, and one way to deal with the competition is to quickly collect what's available and stash it away for a rainy day. But there's the risk a neighbor might raid your larder before you return to claim its contents. So most birds move their food stash from one location to another, to avoid it being stolen. Scientists designed an experiment to figure out why. They positioned the jays so other jays could watch while they hid their loot. When they took the watcher birds away, the hiders would re-stash their food in new places. It turns out that the birds most intent on re-hiding their caches were the ones that had themselves pilfered in the past. Robber birds seemed to assume others shared their own criminal tendencies. In the thieving world of jay birds, it takes one to know one. That's this week's Animal Note. I'm Maggie Villiger.
CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. One evening, one hundred years ago, a handful of New Hampshire citizens met to see what they could do to halt the destruction of the state's forests. At that time, 80 percent of the state had been clear-cut. That night, the group founded an organization with two objectives: improve forestry practices, and conserve forest land. Today, that balanced approach is credited with much of the success of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Doug MacPherson of New Hampshire Public Radio has our story.
[SOUND OF DOOR OPENING]
MacPHERSON: Jane Difley says one of her favorite jobs as head of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is welcoming visitors to the new addition to the Society's Concord headquarters, where the organization rents space to other conservation groups.
DIFLEY: All of which work together. We don't always agree on every little thing, but we talk over the coffee pot, we talk in the lunch room, and we share our views and we try to come to some resolution of issues before we go to the state legislature, before we go to the press. Or, at least, understand each other if we can't come to some agreement, so that we're all understanding each other's viewpoints and where we're coming from.
MacPHERSON: Difley's official title is "President-Forester." She is only the fourth person in the society's 100 years to hold the job. In a way, her dual title reflects the organization's dual mission. That mission hasn't changed much since it was first written down, in 1904, "to perpetuate the forest of New Hampshire, through their wise use and their complete reservation in places of special scenic beauty." Today, the Society advocates complete reservation for a host of reasons beyond scenery, and wise use has developed into the science of sustainable forestry. But what's remarkable, Difley says, is that although it wasn't unusual a century ago for an organization to advocate for both forestry and conservation, today it is.
DIFLEY: Over the years, the two notions have evolved and have sort of separated, and we're one of the very few organizations that has held onto both of those notions.
MacPHERSON: New Hampshire's need for a forest society at the turn of the last century seems obvious today. Clear cutting left behind debris that fueled fires across thousands of acres. With no trees to take up water, rivers overflowed and flooded communities. The Society's first accomplishment was to push for legislation resulting in the White Mountain National Forest. Over the decades, it helped conserve thousands of acres and push for tax policies that promoted better forestry. Around the country, a handful of other groups with similar missions did the same. But for most groups, things changed soon after the first Earth Day, in 1970. Al Sample is head of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, a Washington-based forestry think-tank. Sample cites the experience of the American Forestry Association.
SAMPLE: Members that tended to have a strong environmental tilt to their views, tended to gravitate, during the 1970s, toward national conservation groups like the Sierra Club or the National Wildlife Federation. Foresters tended to concentrate more on the professionally oriented organizations like the Society of American Foresters, and that left the American Forestry Association sort of high and dry, and their membership declined fairly precipitously during that period.
MacPHERSON: In contrast, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests not only survived the 70s, it grew. Sample believes that's because the Society functioned as a kind of bridge.
SAMPLE: They really had a foot in both camps--that is, the forestry camp and the environmentalist camp. They served almost as shuttle diplomats between the two. They helped educate the forestry community on legitimate concerns that citizens had about other values and forests. They also went the other way, hoping to educate people with environmental concerns over the ways that forestry could, in fact, be practiced in ways that were sustainable.
MacPHERSON: Today, while the forest products industry contributes billions of dollars to New Hampshire's economy, 84 percent of the state is covered with trees. Across the nation, only Maine is more forested. And, while New Hampshire has many conservation groups, the society is easily the most powerful. As both a landowner that practices forestry and as a conservator of land, the Society enjoys more access than any other environmental group to New Hampshire's governor, regardless of his or her party. And no other organization enjoys as great a reputation as a consensus builder, among just about everyone with a vested interest in New Hampshire's environment. New Hampshire U.S. Senator Judd Gregg says when it comes to getting competing interests to sit down at the table, it's the society that usually supplies the table.
GREGG: They have this unique capacity to take parties which in maybe other states would have been at each other's throats and trying to destroy each other, and bring those parties together and work a consensus towards agreement on what are, significantly, extremely difficult policy issues involving environment.
MacPHERSON: New Hampshire's Forest Society has its critics, although one measure of the group's power may be that none of them agreed to be interviewed for this story. Still, Jane Difley knows the criticism.
DIFLEY: There are those who think that we are a preservationist organization, that we only want to lock up the woods, that we don't believe in forestry, that we don't allow people to use land. That's one misconception that we battle. And, on the other side, there are people who think all we care about is cutting trees and that we aren't interested enough in protecting New Hampshire's forests.
MacPHERSON: In September, the Society used the occasion of its 100th annual meeting to launch a new goal: to permanently protect, by the year 2025, one million additional acres from future development. That would bring the total amount of conserved land in the state to 40 percent. The society's research director, Sarah Thorn, says that's what it will take to safeguard New Hampshire's working forests and farms, its drinking water, and its wildlife habitat.
THORNE: As each year goes by, our opportunities will be slimmer, and the cost will be more expensive. That's why it's all the more important that we initiate this effort now, and not wait until it's too late, as New Jersey has done for example, where they're having to pay very extreme values for conserving the open space that they're suddenly waking up to realize is going to be gone.
MacPHERSON: Through a referendum two years ago, New Jersey voters dedicated 100 million dollars, for each of the next ten years, to protect one million acres in the Garden State. By contrast, New Hampshire's state conservation program will spend four million dollars this year. Its long-term funding is uncertain. Forest Society officials say there's no way they can accomplish their goal alone, and they say it will take all of the state's environmental groups, its timber industry, state lawmakers, and individual citizens, working together to find consensus. For Living on Earth, I'm Doug MacPherson in Concord, New Hampshire.
CURWOOD: When the magazine called Seed showed up this month at corner newsstands, vendors weren't quite sure where on the shelves they should display the new glossy. With a feature article about the bush meat trade in Africa, it could go next to National Geographic. Then again, its artsy black and white cover photo of a nude couple, would find good company nestled between Esquire and Vanity Fair. Seed bills itself as science couture, and joining me now is its founder and editor, Adam Bly. Mr. Bly, the cover's a bit unusual for a science magazine, I'd say. What's the message?
BLY: The first thing that we want to convey with the cover of the first issue is people. The magazine is the first science magazine to really represent the people behind science, and that's of utmost importance to us editorially. We're also a lifestyle-oriented magazine and so we're competing with all forms of entertainment, including magazines like Vanity Fair, where we'll be up on the newsstands next to a topless Brad Pitt, and a sort of sexy- looking molecule isn't quite going to do it.
CURWOOD: You call Seed "science couture."
BLY: I do.
CURWOOD: What do you mean by that?
BLY: The science of couture is that we use the word "fashion" in so many different contexts today, not only to describe a dress or a pair of shoes, but we say that something is fashionable--a book can be fashionable, a play can be fashionable, a CD can be fashionable. And so the objective here is to make science fashionable, so to speak. And so, by putting science couture together, we're sort of elevating science to a level it's never been at before. We are presenting it in the context of an integrated lifestyle that appeals to our reader. And so, there's an element here that the designers in the fashion world, or scientists within a traditional science world, are very similar in nature. They're individuals who are clairvoyant and who have a unique appreciation for what it is that surrounds them. And they're able to transfer that information into their craft.
CURWOOD: Well, who's in your target audience?
BLY: Our target audience is comprised of two individuals. The first one is an individual who's working in a traditional science and engineering occupation. They have Nature and Science, which are exceptional academic journals, to provide them with rigorous science news. But what they're looking for is contemplative science. They're looking for in-depth reporting; they're looking for investigative reporting; they're looking for opinion essays; they're looking for a little bit of fun; they're looking for a little bit of fashion. And so it's a scientist who's looking for entertainment from their science magazine.
The other reader is an individual who has an appreciation for science, has a deep passion for science, but who would never pick up a copy of the three popular science magazines on the market because they don't see themselves in that magazine and they feel that it's too narrow; it's too focussed on the influenza virus, the one specific topic on the cover of that issue, as opposed to its implications and its relevance to their lives.
CURWOOD: How polite are you being here, Mr. Bly. You don't use the word "nerd" here, and yet I wonder if it's applicable, or not.
BLY: The magazine is not for nerds. The magazine is very much for the individual who doesn't fit that stereotype of frizzy-haired, pocket calculator adorned, lab-coat wearing geek. This is very much not for that reader. This is for a gregarious individual who cares about the way they look, cares about where they spend their vacation time, goes out for drinks, goes out for dinner, reads different books, goes out to the movies, has eclectic passions--and this is one of them.
CURWOOD: How will you judge Seed to be a success?
BLY: That's a big question. There are two answers to that. One, which is the first and foremost, is that Seed is a company. So, the first answer is, profit. The second answer is our ability to change the face of science and place of science in popular culture. We will be able to assess how we've had an impact, by speaking with the public, by getting a sense of where the public sees science over the course of the next five, ten years. I mean, this is a big project. This is not something we intend to see results, global results, over the course of a couple of months. I think that our first issue has had impact. We've brought people to pick up a science magazine who have never picked up a science magazine before. This is a big project, and I think we're just at the beginning.
CURWOOD: Adam Bly is Seed magazine's founder, president, and editor-in-chief. The premier issue is on the newsstands right now. Good luck with the magazine, Mr. Bly.
BLY: Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.
CURWOOD: John Ryan is a journalist who travels the world looking for a good story and a good time. Recently, he found both on a small island just off the coast of Indonesia.
RYAN: I admit it, I went to Gililawa Lawt Island for the sex, but I promise, I only wanted to watch. Let me explain. Gililawa Laut is a harsh and uninhabited speck of land in Indonesia's Komodo National Park. But just beyond its blistering shores are some of the world's richest coral reefs, home to some of the most spectacular, and bizarre sexual events in nature. The sex lives of corals were largely a mystery until a moonlit night in 1981 when scientists first observed a mass spawning of corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Corals are usually about as animated as rocks, but on that night they were spewing millions of eggs and sperm into the sea, turning the crystal clear waters into a sort of multi-color underwater snow storm. Australian scientists now know that on a few special nights a year, up to 40 coral species, most of them hermaphrodites, simultaneously blast pink, purple and green packets of spawn, in living blizzards of reproduction. The spawn form slicks on the surface so big and bright they're visible from outer space. To see corals spawning, you have to be brave enough to swim in the ocean at night, and exceedingly lucky.
Away from the Great Barrier Reef, scientists still know very little about the timing of coral spawning. But I dove above the reefs of Gililawa Lout to see another kind of sex spectacle. These reefs are known to scientists and fishermen as a spawning aggregation site: a place where fish gather to spawn in massive numbers, when the moon and tides are right. Above the colorful but motionless corals were dozens of groupers, some with neon blue polka-dots, others honeycombed with perfect hexagons from head to tail, shimmying alongside each other, fighting, and making sudden, mad dashes toward the surface to spawn. At one point, I wasn't sure what I was seeing. Up ahead, a small group of very large parrot fish, as big as me, hovering like blimps, occasionally lurching forward to take large, noisy bites out of the reef. Behind them, I noticed a cloud in the water that didn't look like the usual parrot fish poop, of freshly ground coral sand. Had the clumsy looking reef giants just spawned? I swam forward to find out. If I'm not mistaken, it was my first, and, I hope, last time, swimming through a cloud of sperm.
Most reef fish not only practice group sex, they actually change their gender. Groupers, wrasses and parrot fish all start out as females and a lucky, or unlucky few, depending on your point of view, become males. When a dominant male wrasse dies, the ranking female from his harem soon takes his place. During her metamorphosis her appearance can change so much that you'd have no reason to think he's the same species, let alone the same individual, as she was before. I can't even begin to fathom what human societies might be like if, say, we all changed our sex and skin color when we turned thirty.
Unfortunately for reef fish, there's no such thing as a free orgy. Groupers' sexual life style choice of gathering in rather distracted groups, at specific times and places, leaves them extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Once a spawning aggregation site is discovered, it can be wiped out permanently, in just a year or two.
Here in Komodo National Park, as in most of Southeast Asia, grouper spawning sites have been hammered by the trade in live fish for seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and for aquariums in the west. The usual technique for catching reef fish alive is for divers to stun them with squirts of cyanide, then crack the reefs apart with crowbars to extract the fish from their hiding places. There's big money in this dirty work. A single 90 pound Napoleon wrasse can sell for more than $5,000 in Hong Kong.
Indonesia has banned cyanide fishing and the export of endangered species, but the cash strapped and often corrupt authorities rarely enforce the law. In Komodo, the Nature Conservancy is funding park patrols against destructive fishing. But, given the outrageous prices that live fish fetch in Hong Kong, it's an uphill battle. In the end, the surest way to allow Indonesian fish to keep satisfying their unusual desires may be to get the gourmet consumers of Hong Kong to curb theirs.
CURWOOD: John Ryan is a Seattle-based journalist and author of "Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet."
CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Next week: it's been nearly three months since the destruction of the World Trade Center, and fires are still burning at the site, sending smoke and fumes into surrounding neighborhoods. Health officials don't predict any long-term problems, but others say there's danger in the air.
MAN: I think a little sulfur dioxide, a little PCBs, you have a lot of particulates that are quite high, you have dioxins that are several times cautionary levels.
CURWOOD: Downwind from Ground Zero, on the next Living on Earth.
[SOUND OF TREETOP NOISE]
CURWOOD: We leave you this week with pulsing cicadas, hooting pigeons, swooping rifle birds and gurgling friars, all recorded near a treetop by Steven Feld, one morning in the forest on Mount Bosavi, Papua, New Guinea.
CURWOOD: Living On Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production staff includes Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Cynthia Graber, Maggie Villiger, Jennifer Chu, and Gernot Wagner, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Milisa Mu–iz. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. We had help this week from Jessica Penney and Jonathan Waldman. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental sound art courtesy of Earth Ear. 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 of Living On Earth. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
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; The Town Creek Foundation; The W. Alton Jones Foundation, supporting efforts to sustain human well-being through biological diversity -- www.wajones.org; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for reporting on western issues; The James and Kathleen Stone Foundation; and The Oak Foundation.
ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio
This Week's Music
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
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.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
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.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
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