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

November 18, 2005

Air Date: November 18, 2005



Lies, Secrets & Big Oil / Jeff Young

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Just this summer Congress was lavishing tax breaks and subsidies on the oil industry. Now lawmakers are talking about taking some of those goodies back and slapping a new tax on oil companies. Some propose seriously reducing the country's oil consumption. Living on Earth’s Jeff Young reports. (05:00)

German Politics

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In Germany, the Grand Coalition is in, and the Red-Green Coalition is out. Mark Hertsgaard of The Nation magazine talks to Living on Earth host Steve Curwood about the political and economic climate that led to the uneasy new coalition between the conservative Christian Democrats and the liberal Social Democrats, and what may lie ahead for the ousted Green Party. (07:00)

Home on the Range

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Sixteen genetically pure American Bison were released on a new wildlife preserve in northeastern Montana. The World Wildlife Fund and the American Prairie Foundation teamed up to purchase and prepare 32,000 acres of land for the buffalo. Host Steve Curwood talks with WWF program director, Curt Freese (Fray-zee), about what the reintroduction of bison will mean for the ecosystem. (05:15)

Living Native / Sean Cole

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Justin "Red Bear" Mudgett is planning to build an authentic Lakota village on his 40 acre bison farm in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He says he wants to create a place where Native Americans can live as their ancestors once did. Member station WBUR’s Sean Cole reports. (12:30)

Talkin’ Turkey

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This year you might want to think about going organic for Turkey day. Host Steve Curwood talks with Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, about what it means when the same antibiotics consumers rely on are being used in the meat they eat. (05:00)

Emerging Science Note/Men Take Bullying to Heart

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Researchers conducted a four year study on Nova Scotian men and women which found that men who are anti-social are more likely to get heart disease than anti-social women. (01:30)

Weird Science

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It turns out that when your toast falls on the floor butter side down it’s not just bad luck. There’s a simple scientific explanation. Host Steve Curwood talks with Jay Ingram author of “The Velocity of Honey and More Science of Everyday Life,” about toast, honey and what science is behind the weirdly inexplicable things in our lives. (08:30)

This week's EarthEar selection
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LOE defers to the lemurs of Madagascar.

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
GUESTS: Mark Hertsgaard, Curt Freese, Margaret Mellon, Jay Ingram
REPORTERS: Jeff Young, Sean Cole
NOTE: Emily Torgrimson


CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. The nation's new energy policy is just three months old. But some lawmakers say it doesn't go far enough to wean us off foreign oil and they worry that the U.S. will be in trouble if we don't put in place some tough measures to spur conservation.

LIEBERMAN: We will become like Gulliver in Lilliput, tied down and subject to the whims of smaller nations who have oil, unless we act.

CURWOOD: Also, one man's quest to spread the ways of the Lakota Indians to the rest of America.

RED BEAR: Survival, survival. If the whole system were to fall right now, there's not many young people that would survive. They've been taught how to live, you know, with groceries and paying bills and taxes, instead of how to live if all else fails.

CURWOOD: Red Bear's vision and more this week on Living on Earth. Stick around.

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ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.

Lies, Secrets & Big Oil

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

The price of gasoline may have dropped a bit recently, but the politics of oil is still center stage in Washington. In fact, there's a bit of a backlash against the major oil companies in Congress. This past week brought proposals to conserve oil, strip industry subsidies and impose a new tax on oil companies. And some lawmakers are even saying industry executives may have lied to Congress during this exchange in a Senate committee hearing.

LAUTENBERG: Did your company, or any representatives in your companies, participate in Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force in 2001, the meetings?

EXECS: No. No. We did not, no.

CURWOOD: Living on Earth's Washington correspondent Jeff Young joins us from Capitol Hill to talk about this. Hi, Jeff.

YOUNG: Hi, Steve.

CURWOOD: Well, Jeff, it seems that this controversy over Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force simply just won't go away.

YOUNG: Yeah, you know the administration probably thought this was settled last year. I mean the Supreme Court turned down efforts to open the Task Force's records. You'd think that was that. But, with that question from New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, well, the issue is back. The Washington Post reported on a White House document indicating that those oil companies did meet with the Energy Task Force. The oil companies defend the CEOs' answers. But Senator Lautenberg wants the Attorney General to investigate.

LAUTENBERG: It's bad enough to hide the truth from the American people, but it's illegal to make false statements to the Congress whether you've raised your right hand or you haven't.

YOUNG: Now, if the Justice Department takes this up it could make public some information about just who had the Vice President's ear while he was writing energy policy.

CURWOOD: Now Jeff, just this summer it looked like oil companies were getting a pretty good ride in Washington. What, they got lots of tax breaks and subsidies from the energy bill that Congress just passed. What happened?

YOUNG: Well, in short, three dollar a gallon gas happened right after Hurricane Katrina. And when the oil industry reported quarterly profits of somewhere around 30 billion dollars, well, that just added fuel to that fire. So there is a strong desire in Congress now to show some further action on energy prices.

CURWOOD: So, just exactly what kind of action are we seeing?

YOUNG: A Senate tax panel approved something very similar to a windfall profits tax on oil companies. There's serious talk about repealing about a billion dollars worth of those tax breaks the oil companies got in the energy bill. And the action I think might prove most meaningful is a new bill aimed at cutting oil imports through conservation.

CURWOOD: Uh, conservation? Pardon me for being a bit skeptical but, I think going back to the Nixon administration, politicians have been calling for oil conservation while consumption and imports have just kept rising. What's different this time?

YOUNG: Well, it true we have a pretty spotty track record when it comes to conservation. But this bill seems serious. It aims to cut the country's oil consumption so that 25 years from now we'd be using 10 million barrels a day less than what current projections show us to be using. And it has impressive bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, including the very conservative Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback says those high gas prices make this politically feasible.

BROWNBACK: I think we're at a moment now where we can do this. That there was a mental sea change we saw in America when gas hit three dollars a gallon and people said "we've got to do something different."

CURWOOD: So, Jeff, what do they want to do to conserve oil?

YOUNG: Well, the bill calls for more hybrid vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles and it offers major incentives to the industry to make them and consumers to buy them. And it places a lot of emphasis on agriculture-based fuels-sort of spurring the next wave of ethanol-type fuels-and that, of course, wins a lot of support from the farm states.

CURWOOD: Now, Jeff, consumers have already begun to change their buying habits due to high gas prices by buying hybrids and smaller, and foreign cars. But what about an increase in CAFÉ standards, the corporate average fuel economy numbers? Uh, that issue has been stalled for years on Capitol Hill.

YOUNG: It is a very tough, very divisive political issue. So this bill just leaves CAFÉ out in the name of reaching some consensus. Now, a lot of energy policy experts that I've talked to say that's okay but somewhere down the road if you want to reduce oil consumption you're going to have to raise CAFÉ. And what this bill does, essentially, is just passes the buck on that.

CURWOOD: Jeff, if high gas prices spurred all this, what's going to happen to the political momentum if gas prices drop a bit more? I mean , just today I was able to buy gas for less than two dollars a gallon, only a little bit less but less than two dollars a gallon.

YOUNG: Well, clearly the high prices are what's giving this a sense of urgency. But the bill's sponsors are also linking this very explicitly to national security, making the argument that oil imports are making us vulnerable to a few energy supplying countries and some of those countries frankly just don't like us very much. And if you look at polls of what voters care about, national security and fuel prices rank both pretty high up there. So, I think it's a combination that could give this bill some legs.

CURWOOD: Well, keep us posted on these developments, please.

YOUNG: Indeed.

CURWOOD: Jeff Young is Living on Earth's Washington correspondent. Thanks, Jeff.

YOUNG: You're welcome, Steve.

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German Politics

Joschka Fischer, with U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice in June 2005, will lose his post as Germany’s Foreign Minister and also step down as head of the Green Party. (Photo: Michael Gross, State Department)

CURWOOD: A new coalition government has formed in Germany, with the liberal Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats sharing power. The Christian Democrats' Angela Merkel is the new chancellor, and gone is the Green Party, which for the past seven years was part of the so-called Red-Green Coalition government led by the Social Democrats.

With me now to talk about this turn of events in Germany is Mark Hertsgaard. He's the environment correspondent for The Nation magazine, and he just got back from Germany. Mark, welcome back to Living on Earth.

Joschka Fischer, with U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice in June 2005, will lose his post as Germany’s Foreign Minister and also step down as head of the Green Party. (Photo: Michael Gross, State Department)

HERTSGAARD: Thanks for having me, Steve.

CURWOOD: First, give us a look back at what happened in the September election. What were the main issues during the campaign leading up to the elections? And how did the Greens go wrong?

HERTSGAARD: The Greens, I suppose, went wrong by being the junior partner to the SPD, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, led by Gerhard Schroeder who had campaigned on a promise to dramatically cut unemployment in Germany. And Germany has remained mired in deep, widespread, chronic unemployment. And that was by far the biggest issue of this campaign, and it's why the Red-Green coalition fell.

Although it should be noted, Steve, that everyone in Germany expected the conservative coalition to dramatically beat the SPD, and that didn't happen. It was pretty much of a draw. And so that's why we now have in Germany this so-called Grand Coalition government between the conservatives and the Social Democrats that, frankly, neither side is very happy about.

CURWOOD: The Greens themselves did okay in the election, right? In fact, they had a little larger margin than they had seven years ago, right? There was like, about eight percent?

HERTSGAARD: Yeah, they went up from six point seven percent to eight percent.

CURWOOD: But some say that maybe the Greens hurt the Social Democrats because some of the measures they're calling for may have been seen as actually aggravating the unemployment problem. You know, putting pressure on shutting down coal mining, talking about getting rid of the nuclear power plants, that sort of thing.

HERTSGAARD: I really don't see that. I think that vote was very strongly against the SPD government above all. Gerhard Schroeder, the SPD chancellor, had promised very visibly that he was going to reduce unemployment. When he came into office it was three million, he promised to bring it down. And, in fact, here at the end of his seven years as chancellor, it was up to five million, nearly, and I think given that, it was very hard for him to get return to power.

And the Greens, for that matter, actually make a very strong argument that their environmental policies have actually added jobs in Germany, especially through their landmark legislation, the so-called Renewable Energy Sources Act. And this commits Germany to a massive increase - using market mechanisms, largely - a massive increase in solar, wind, biomass and other renewable energies that have already got 150,000 workers in those industries. And the promise of many more through future exports because that Renewable Energy Sources Law has been copied, at least in part, by 41 other countries, including China, which, of course, is going to be buying many billions of dollars of energy technology in the years to come.

So I don't thing the Greens really hurt the SPD reelection chances there. It was really Gerhard Schroeder's own doing, I'm afraid.

CURWOOD: The Greens' popularity has ebbed and flowed during the seven years that they were in that Red-Green government. I'm thinking at one point the Green foreign minister sent troops into Kosovo - Greens are pretty pacifist - and yet, of course, he opposed the U.S. in Iraq. In this process, to what extent did the Greens loose their political voice, the sense of who they are? Who are the Greens these days?

HERTSGAARD: The Greens are evolving. They were founded 25 years ago as a pacifist, feminist, ecological party. Of course, coming into government seven years ago, they have had to do some compromising. And no compromise has been more difficult for the party itself than over the transformation of Germany's foreign policy.

The Greens did control the foreign ministry. They had Joschka Fischer, the foreign minister, longtime co-founder of the Greens, and he actually got pelted by a paint bomb at a Green Party Congress after pushing through the use of German troops in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Many of the more left elements of the party did not like that.

However, then a few months later, it was Fischer who really led the European opposition to the Bush administration's drive to war. And Fischer, indeed, became the single most popular politician in all of Germany. And that's going to be a challenge for the Greens now as they go forward, because Fischer has taken himself out now of the party leadership, saying it's time for a new generation to write the next chapter in the history of the Green Party.

CURWOOD: You know, Mark, for a while it looked like Angela Merkel, who's now the new chancellor, was going to try to reverse the Red-Green agreement to phase out nuclear power by, what, the year 2020? Now, she wasn't able to succeed with that plan. What happened?

HERTSGAARD: Yes, Angela Merkel campaigned on the idea of slowing down the nuclear phase-out. She wanted to continue a German nuclear industry. She said there's going to be nuclear exports to China, and India, and elsewhere, and "as a patriot," she said, "I want those to be German exports."

But, when there were the negotiations in November around the new coalition government-- between the SPD and the CDU, the conservatives--her position did not prevail. The SPD, the Social Democrats, had already been given the environment ministry, and they were not going to retreat on the atomic phase-out, and therefore the phase-out of nuclear power in Germany will proceed. It's expected to be completed by the year 2020.

CURWOOD: What do you see as the big environmental challenges facing this new coalition government?

HERTSGAARD: I think the big environmental challenge facing the new coalition government in Germany is going to be to maintain environmental quality and standards and vision at the same time that they are digging their way out of a major economic crisis. You've got five million, almost five million, Germans unemployed - especially high unemployment in the former East Germany - you've simply gotta do something about that. No government is going to stay in power if they don't tackle that problem. And, of course, the temptation is always to cut corners on environmental matters in the name of economic prosperity, and I think that will be the great, great challenge facing this new government in Germany.

CURWOOD: Mark Hertsgaard is the environment correspondent for The Nation magazine. Thanks, Mark.

HERTSGAARD: My pleasure, Steve.

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[MUSIC: Hans Aregger "Chilbizyt" from '23rd Swiss National Yodeling Festival' (SBC - 1996)]

CURWOOD: Coming up: Learning to live off the land, 21st century Indian-style. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Danny Gatton "Cherokee" from 'Unfinished Business' (NRG - 1994]

Home on the Range

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

The American West was once teeming with wildlife, including the great herds of buffalo. But these days, you're more likely to see cows. So the World Wildlife Fund, in partnership with the American Prairie Foundation, is working to get the prairies of northeast Montana back to the wild west they once were.

Bison Roundup (Photo: Diane Hargreaves)

They've set aside 32,000 acres as a refuge for the critters that belong to these glaciated plains. They've got prairie dogs, ferrets, elk , antelope - and now, finally, bison. The Project went to South Dakota where there are a few remaining genetically pure bison, rounded up a dozen and a half for a starter herd, and just released them onto the Montana wild grasslands.

Curt Freese directs the project and he joins us from Bozeman, Montana. Hello, sir!

FREESE: Hi, good to be here.

CURWOOD: To begin with, what is a genetically pure bison? And why is this a specification that needs to be made?

FREESE: It's important because there may be about 500,000 bison in North America, but about 96 percent of those are being bred for small humps and fat rumps and ease of handling. And the wild bison, the bison that are in conservation herds, may be only about 20,000. And of those, most of those have cattle genes mixed in so there's some genetic pollution that we don't know what the consequences may be, so, for conservationists, we feel as long as we can get a pure bison genome, we ought to save it.

(Photo: Diane Hargreaves)

CURWOOD: Okay, I need an ecology lesson here. I look out at the Great Plains and, you know, it looks like some grass. But the to trained eye it's quite a sophisticated ecosystem. Why are bison so important to this particular ecosystem, the Great Plains?

FREESE: Well, bison were, they were probably one of the two, what we call, keystone species out there. The other one was the prairie dog. We estimate when Europeans settled in this continent there were maybe 30 to 60 million bison. And, consequently, the bison is important for scavengers and predators as a big protein bundle. But also, as a major grazer out there, it created this mosaic of grazing intensities that moved over the landscape in large herds and, consequently, the wildlife of the Great Plains adapted to these bison grazing. An indication of maybe what's gone wrong with the loss of the bison is that grassland birds are undergoing steeper declines in their populations than any other group of birds in North America.

CURWOOD: So, if I were standing there in the Great Plains in this pretty much original grasslands part of the Great Plains, it sounds like, where you're going to have these bison out on the plains, what would I see? What would it look like? What would it sound like?

FREESE: Well, if you're out there in the spring, it's a cacophony of birdcalls. It wakes you up about 4:30 in the morning. You hear mating calls, courtship calls. And if the bison are nearby you'll hear them grunting to each other. They have this wonderful grunt sound that they communicate with. The bison calves are constantly grunting, looking for their mom, keeping up with their mom.

(Photo: Diane Hargreaves)

CURWOOD: And what does this bison grunt sound like?

FREESE: It goes more or less like Unh, Unh. Unh.. That's not very good, though, my bison friends are going to laugh at me.

CURWOOD: [LAUGHS] Unh, unh, unh, unh.

FREESE: [LAUGHS] Right. You're better than I am, that's good!


FREESE: So, it's really a rich sound. And the view of the bison grazing, prairie dogs - of course, prairie dogs barking is another aspect of the prey ecosystem out there. Prairie dogs are important food items for a lot of the raptors, golden eagles and hawks. And so there's this real mosaic, like you said.

If you just drive through quickly you don't notice it. But if you stop and look you say, "wow, there's an incredible abundance and diversity of life." The area we're working in, we just had some plant work done. We think there's about 600 species of plants out there. There's more than 200 species of birds. And so it's quite a remarkable place.

CURWOOD: What do you think a park like this is going to bring to the local community?

FREESE: It's got tremendous potential for drawing in tourists from outside. And the economy of the communities can no longer stand on the single leg of agriculture, and so we think this is a unique opportunity we have in this to bring back what was once there in the Great Plains. The spectacular wildlife, and kind of have this diversity of land uses of prairie reserves, but also ranching where it makes sense, too. We haven't lost anything. The bison are still around, we just need to put them back out there and they'll thrive. All they need is some space and time.

CURWOOD: This is going to be the home where the buffalo roam?

Curt Freese at Wind Cave. (Photo: Diane Hargreaves)

FREESE: That's right. As I look at it, putting bison back on the ground this week feels like we're turning the corner. And that's a very exciting feeling to have, that we can in fact bring back what was once there in the wild bison and other wildlife of the Great Plains. It's a very good feeling.

CURWOOD: Curt Freese is the director of the Northern Great Plains Program for the World Wildlife Fund. Thanks for taking this time.

FREESE: Thank you, Steve, it's been a pleasure.

Related links:
- American Prairie Foundation
- American Prairie Restoration Project, World Wildlife Fund

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Living Native

Justin “Red Bear” Mudgett (Photo: Sean Cole)

CURWOOD: While the World Wildlife Society is seeking to expand the range of the wild buffalo, a Passamaquoddy Indian man who has adopted the ways of the Lakota Sioux is bringing the culture of the buffalo to New England. The Lakota believe that they share the Earth as equal partners with their animal relatives, especially the buffalo, which at one time was the central provider for nearly all of life’s needs.

Justin "Red Bear" Mudgett owns 14 head of buffalo (bison) on his "Sacred Buffalo Farm" in New Hampshire. He hopes to release one of his herd one day and hunt it the way that the Lakota ancestors would have. (Photo: Sean Cole)

Today, with the wild herds of buffalo just about gone, many Lakota are building more domesticated herds, and among them is Justin “Red Bear” Mudgett. He’s planning what he says is an authentic Lakota tribal village on his 40 acre bison farm near Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He wants tourists to visit but his dream is to build a community where people can live in harmony with nature.

Sean Cole of member station WBUR in Boston recently drove to New Hampshire to learn more about Mr. Mudgett and his vision. But there was an unexpected stop along the way.


COLE: I’m on the side of the road in Hillborough, New Hampshire and I’m outta gas. And I’m waiting for Justin Mudgett [CAR DRIVES BY], also known as Red Bear, to come and pick me up, and we’re gonna go get some gas. This is really embarrassing.

COLE: It was a beautiful day to wait for an Indian. I say “Indian” because it’s what Red Bear calls himself, calls all Native Americans, though sometimes he uses the word “aboriginal.” He arrived the way an Indian should arrive… preceded by traditional music blaring from the stereo of his black pick up truck.


COLE: We had talked a lot on the phone – about why he’s starting a Lakota village when he’s descended from the Pasamaquoddy tribe, about how he’s trying to escape the cage of modern culture and literally go native on his buffalo farm. I pictured him tall and dark with a map of South Dakota on his face.

COLE: Great to meet you.

RED BEAR: Nice to meet you.

Justin “Red Bear” Mudgett (Photo: Sean Cole)

COLE: Red Bear is short and has a few important teeth missing and he’s as white as me. He’s half Indian, though he thinks of himself as full-blooded. He’s a lot of different things all at once: friendly, idealistic, with some pretty controversial anti-government survival-of-the-fittest opinions. He almost always wears his animal skins. And when I thanked him for taking me to get gas, he said, “I had to get cigarettes anyway (laughs). ” Lately he’s been trying to quit by smoking a wild plant called colt’s foot. He told me there are all kinds of wild foods and medicines growing around us – which is what they should be teaching kids in school, he says.

RED BEAR: Survival. Survival. If the whole system were to fall there’s not many young people that would survive that kind of a fall. Because they’ve been taught how to live with groceries and paying bills and taxes and things like that instead of how to live if all else fails. Which is what seems to be coming about nowadays. You see all this Louisiana crap.


COLE: Meantime I can’t even survive a drive to New Hampshire without help. I fill up Red Bear’s gas can…

[COLE: Ah, it didn’t give me my receipt.]

COLE: He finds himself in a conversation with a total stranger, a guy who says he’d seen Red Bear around and wanted to know more about the village he’s planning.

SHANE: It’s awesome.

RED BEAR: Yeah, cool. Nice meeting ya. Come up any time. The number on that card is different than…


COLE: It’s easy to say “come up any time,” but Red Bear’s farm – the Sacred Buffalo Farm, it’s called – is at the end of a circuitous dirt road miles from the main drag.


(Photo: Sean Cole)

COLE: He says he hopes the distance will add to the mystique. The entrance to the pasture where the village will be is marked by an American flag with a picture of an Indian on it. Deep in the clearing is the council lodge, a 22-foot high teepee Red Bear put up himself. At the time I visited him it was the only one standing.

RED BEAR: There’ll probably be five or six more teepees at least in this area, spread about in this area… lot of this will be tilled.

COLE: With the dirt?

RED BEAR: Right, the dirt. We’ll collect buffalo poops and pile ‘em so have a lot of fuel.

COLE: Fuel for the central village fire that will burn day and night. This is also where Red Bear’s 14-head buffalo herd used to be. But he moved them to another part of the farm.


COLE: He cuts open a hay bale and throws some of it over the electric fence to them to get the buffalo moving around.

RED BEAR: Wakan is the head guy. There he is. See him?

COLE: The one with the tall back?

RED BEAR: Yeah, he’s the breeder. He’s my sacred man.

COLE: He’s the stud.

RED BEAR: Yeah, he’s my best friend. Part and parcel to the culture was the buffalo. The reason the Lakota knew how to live is because they watched the buffalo.

COLE: The Lakota are mid-western Plains Indians. Red Bear says they’re closer to their roots than a lot of other tribes. He calls them “the last fighters” which is why he wants this to be a Lakota village. We sat together in the council lodge and talked about his plans for maybe three hours. He told me he was inviting five or six Indians up here from Pine Ridge Reservation, a Lakota reservation in South Dakota, to be his tribe.

RED BEAR: What you’re sitting in right here is a tourist attraction. Okay? This is where people are gonna come to learn to tan hides, survival techniques, picking roots, different plants, different trees. But the key essential thing we’re doing, what I have been trying to get to, has been tribalizing.

COLE: What does that mean, tribalize, though?

RED BEAR: It’s almost like your family except that they’re families by choice. We tried to create a democracy of people that vote to choose who they want as a leader. Well, I just don’t personally think that that many people should be voting on that one person to lead them. I think it should be smaller groups of people who choose their leaders.

COLE: Tribes.

RED BEAR: Tribes.

COLE: Pooling their resources. Working for a common goal. Letting the group fulfill the needs of the individual. And that might sound naïve, or quaint, or, worse yet, cute. And Red Bear says the people who think it’s cute are the ones who’ll actually come up to see the village and listen to him.


RED BEAR: This is Red Bear.


RED BEAR: A long time ago when I was really young I always vowed that I was gonna save my people. And then, as I got into like eight or nine or 10, I started thinking about being in villages, living with Indians, in the village. And being a great chief, you know? Being a war chief, you know?

COLE: He tried it before about twelve years ago, when he was 18. He and his now ex-wife set up teepees and tents in the woods behind a bed and breakfast in Connecticut.

RED BEAR: And that didn’t work because I was living across from a mall. They were getting ready to build a Circuit City there, you know.

COLE: From there Red Bear worked security at Foxwoods, the Mashantucket Pequot casino in Connecticut, and attended a Powwow there where he met the famous Indian activist and movie actor Russell Means. Means encouraged him to follow his vision, to join the American Indian cause. But “Mother Culture,” as Red Bear calls it, was pulling him in another direction.

He and his wife had started a lucrative bondage and domination sex club…lucrative enough to support four kids and a fairly significant crack habit. Soon their relationship bottomed out, and soon after that he was in a horrible car crash. He nearly died – he wanted to – but he merely lost part of his memory, some of the dexterity in one hand and several important teeth. He was all alone and all he could think to do was go out to Pine Ridge Reservation…to die, he says.

RED BEAR: And what they taught me was is that I wanted to live. I got out there and there was every atrocity, every despair, every sadness, pain, heartache, happiness, laughter, joy, you know? In the most dangerous, ugly, nasty situation, somebody will make a joke and make light hearted of the whole thing.

COLE: It was at Pine Ridge that he adopted the Lakota as his tribe, and that they, eventually, adopted him. It was there, too, that he first spent a lot of time around buffalo. Not too long after that he came up to New Hampshire to say goodbye to a dying friend and he just stayed there, developing a relationship with his friend’s widow. A couple years ago ,they found out that there were buffalo farms in New Hampshire, and they decided to start one. Now they’re selling the meat at farmer’s markets and eating it themselves. But buffalo aren’t just food, Red Bear says.

RED BEAR: They’re family. I don’t ever call them its or creatures or beasts or animals or anything. I call them people. They’re my people. Right now this is our tribe at the moment.

COLE: And you walk in there with them?


COLE: Isn’t that dangerous?

RED BEAR: Of course. But then I wouldn’t be – I couldn’t call them my people. I’m as much in a cage as they are. I can look in at them and say, I pity you, because you’re inside this fence. And they can look at me and say, I pity you, because you’re inside that fence. You know?

COLE: And Red Bear’s ultimate goal is to escape the fence, and to help everybody else escape the fence. He’s hoping that once he and the other members of the village start living the old way in earnest other people will get the message and start their own tribes.

The clearing where Red Bear's village will be is marked by an
American flag with a picture of an Indian super-imposed on it.
(Photo: Sean Cole)

RED BEAR: Even tourists themselves might then come and say, “Hey, we think what you’re doing is good. We don’t’ totally agree with doing Lakota so we’re gonna go over here and do our tribe and do it, uh, Celtic Druid.” And I go, boo-yah! We’ll help yah. Cool. I know a lot about Celtic Druidry.

COLE: But I was gonna say, so the tourists are really a means to an end?

RED BEAR: Yeah, a means to a beginning. What I call the “Taker Era” is over, and the aboriginal era is dawning.

[CLIP FROM “Instinct”:


CUBA GOODING, Jr.: Takers explain that.}

COLE: “Takers” are people who take more than they need from the earth and don’t give anything back. In other words, almost everybody. It’s not Red Bear’s word. It comes from the book “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, which inspired the movie “Instinct” with Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

GOODING, JR.: Session’s not over.

HOPKINS: Until you say so?


HOPKINS: The taker?

COLE: Instinct is about a man who lived peaceably among wild gorillas before being ripped from their tribe by poachers – Takers. In the forest he had regained his human animal instinct, like Red Bear says he has. Like Red Bear says we’ll all need to when the project of modern culture finally fails.

RED BEAR: We’re always talking about how kids know everything when they’re born. Everybody says that, oh they know so much when their born, and then they lose it. Well, that’s instinct, they lose. We condition it out of them.

[CHILD: ELI ECK]: I saw the buffalo.

RED BEAR: Where?

ELI: I saw the buffalo in the gate.

RED BEAR: In the gate?

ELI: Uh-huh.

COLE: Red Bear’s girlfriend Diane has two sons from her previous marriage. They just had a third together, a little girl. He says he plans to raise them according to the old ways, that Diane’s oldest boy, who’s four now, has already expressed interest in being an Indian.

RED BEAR: And no other Indian in the world, I don’t care – and if they did I’d kill ‘em – but no Indian in the world is going to say you can’t be an Indian because look at your hair and look at your skin. Nobody’s going to tell him that, because he’s a kid. Well, some kids happen to be 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years old that want to be Indian, too. You can’t tell those kids they can’t, just like you can’t tell him he can’t.


COLE: Since my day at the village-to-be, Red Bear’s put up two more teepee’s, a 16-footer and an 18-footer. His Lakota friends should be arriving by bus any day, if they haven’t already. At some point, in one of our phone conversations after my visit, Red Bear told me something that was strangely comforting. He said if, down the road, it looks like mother culture is really starting to crumble, and all the systems we’ve built are shutting down, he said he wanted me to do everything in my power to get to the village. “You’ll have a place here,” he said. And if that day ever comes, my number one priority will be to make sure I have enough gas.


COLE: For Living on Earth, I’m Sean Cole.

RED BEAR: Gave me stars in my eyes, that one.

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[MUSIC: Jorge Reyes "Body Song" from 'Solar: Music Travelogue, Volume 1' (Soleil Moon Records - 1998)]

CURWOOD: Just ahead: Talking healthy turkey for the holiday season. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, online at M-O-T-T dot org, supporting efforts to promote a just, equitable and sustainable society; The Kresge Foundation. Building the capacity of nonprofit organizations through challenge grants since 1924. On the web at K-R-E-S-G-E dot org; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The W-K Kellogg Foundation. 'From Vision to Innovative Impact: 75 Years of Philanthropy; This is NPR, National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Old Time Reunion "Turkey in the Straw (Dulcimer)" from 'Old Time Reunion' (Benson - 1997)]

Talkin’ Turkey

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

We're coming up on Turkey Day, and that means the bird is factoring pretty big on upcoming menus. One of the healthy choices you can make this year is antibiotic-free turkey.

Joining the trend is the Bon Appetit Management Company, a major California-based food supplier that will send three quarters of a million pounds of turkey to restaurants this year. The company has demanded its turkey farmers stop feeding their birds antibiotics.

To find out more about what antibiotic-fed livestock can do to consumers, we spoke with Margaret Mellon. She's the director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hi there.

MELLON: Hello there.

CURWOOD: Tell me, why is eating an antibiotic-fed turkey a bad thing for us?

MELLON: It's a good question. A lot of people don't really understand that the same antibiotics that are given us in doctors' offices are also fed in enormous quantities to animals that are being produced for food. I'm talking about the penicillins, the sulfa drugs, the eurithromycins, that we're all familiar with and we all get to treat our various diseases and infections, those very same drugs are used out on the farm. And, of course, today we're talking about turkeys so we'll emphasize the fact that they're used in turkey production; but they're also used to produce chickens, beef, and swine.

CURWOOD: Now, how much is a lot of antibiotics?

MELLON: Well, about eight times the amount of antibiotics used in humans are used in animals. So we're talking about something on the order of 13 million pounds of antibiotics a year that are from the same classes that are used in human medicine that are given to food animals just to promote growth or compensate for stress.

CURWOOD: So, what would happen to me if I eat a turkey that was fed a lot of antibiotics? Would it make me sick?

MELLON: Well, the turkey wouldn't make you sick, but the bacteria that are found in the guts of the turkey certainly could. And if those bacteria, which are often, you know, found on the carcass that you purchase in the store, if those were resistant to antibiotics as a result of the antibiotics they'd been fed back on the farm, those bacteria could give you food poisoning and, if they did, that poisoning might not be treatable when you went to the doctor's office.

CURWOOD: Now, could you give me some examples of how consumption of antibiotic-fed livestock, poultry, turkeys, has affected humans?

MELLON: Well, diseases are caused by microorganisms, some of which come from animals. A good example of the kinds of diseases are: food poisoning, urinary tract infections, and a lot of post-operative infections that you get in the hospital.

Just to give you an example, I have a friend who had a urinary tract infection that was resistant to the sulfa drug that she was first given. Because that drug didn't work, her urinary tract infection progressed to a kidney infection, and she was out of work for almost six months. It means a lot when a drug doesn't work.

CURWOOD: If we don't use antibiotics, wouldn't this make food more costly?

MELLON: Not necessarily. We know from experience in Europe that changes of the kind we'd like to see happen in the U.S. have been made, and that there haven't been any appreciable increase in food prices at all. And I think that our producers are as savvy as those in Europe, and they could make the changes without resulting in higher food costs here, as well.

CURWOOD: So, for turkeys, the Bon Appetit Company has asked that their producers not use antibiotics in their feed. Any other major food producers who've also taken a step?

MELLON: The McDonald's Corporation, Compass Incorporated, a big food service company. There are a number of fast food companies that have made some sort of a public statement that they're going to seek out or require that their producers not use antibiotics. There's a patchwork of activity in the private sector that is moving our food production in a direction of not relying on over-use of antibiotics. And it's all to the good.

CURWOOD: Okay. Now, between now and Thanksgiving, I want to go out and purchase a turkey for my family to have at the big banquet. How do I find a turkey that hasn't been grown using antibiotics in its feed?

MELLON: Well, it's a lot harder than I wish it was for you to do that. If you don't have access to one of the restaurants served by Bon Appetit, I think your best bet is to go out and buy an organic turkey. A federally-certified organic turkey has been grown without the use of any antibiotics for any purpose and that's the most reliable choice you have right now.

CURWOOD: Margaret Mellon is the director of the Food and Environment Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.

MELLON: Thank you.

Related link:
Keep Antibiotics Working

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[MUSIC: Mike Seeger "Turkey in the Straw (Mouth Harp)" from 'Animal Folk Songs For Children" (Rounder Select - 1992)]

CURWOOD:Just ahead: Why toast always lands on the floor butter-side down. First this Note on Emerging Science from Emily Torgrimson.


Emerging Science Note/Men Take Bullying to Heart

TORGRIMSON: Are you a type-A personality? Do you ever find yourself muttering psychotically while maneuvering your SUV in and out of traffic? Or cutting in line to see the newest Vin Diesel movie? Scientists have long believed that individuals with hostile personalities - bullies, to put it politely - are at higher risk of heart disease, but a new study has found that this danger may differ drastically between the sexes.

Researchers looking at health data from a group of Nova Scotians have concluded that hostility is a good predictor of recurrent heart problems in men, but not so in women. The study used a standard test for measuring hostility based on indicators such as "cynicism," "social avoidance," and "hostile affect."

Scientists tracked the health of the group for four years and then analyzed the data after adjusting it for other heart risks such as smoking and obesity. They discovered that highly hostile men suffered from recurrent coronary heart disease at twice the rate of their mellower counterparts. But highly hostile women were no more likely to have heart problems than those women who tested for low hostility.

It's unclear just why type A personalities would affect men and women so differently, but it may have something to do with the way members of each sex express their hostility. So, until researchers learn more, men who stiff waiters and kick puppies will continue to pay a higher physical price than equally bad-tempered women. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Emily Torgrimson.

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Weird Science

CURWOOD: You know the situation. You're sitting there in a crowded concert hall, and you feel like someone is staring at you. So you turn around, and, sure enough, someone three rows back is giving you the eye. Does that mean that you can actually sense when someone is checking you out?

Here to answer some of life's more puzzling questions - or, to put it another way, the weird physics of the extremely ordinary - is Jay Ingram. He's host of the Canadian Discovery Channel's Daily Planet and author of the new book, "The Velocity of Honey: And More Science of Everyday Life." Hi, Jay.

INGRAM: Hi, Steve.

CURWOOD: Okay, how fast is honey?

INGRAM: Well, it depends on the height you're dropping it onto your toes. The higher it is, the faster it's going to fall. It also coils up in a really interesting way on your toes, too. You know, honey dripping on toes is just one of the many everyday experiences that has really interesting science in it.

CURWOOD: Why is it that toast when it falls on the floor lands butter - and, for that matter, honey - side down?

INGRAM: Well, it's not Murphy's Law that something will go wrong. And it's not even the possibility that maybe 50 percent of the time it lands butter-side up but you don't think about that later. You always curse it when it lands butter-side down, and you remember those. It's actually a very simple answer and that is--it really has to do with the height of the table above the floor.

Most kitchen tables where you're eating you're eating your toast are about the same height. And here's the thing: if the toast tips off the edge of the table, then it starts to rotate, so when it's rotating, if you gave it enough time, it could rotate a full 360 and land butter-side up and you'd be okay.

Or, if the kitchen table were just inches above the floor, the toast could tilt but not quite fall over. It will rotate less than 90 degrees and settle back so that it was still butter-side up. And it turns out that toast falling off the edge of a table and rotating, if it's a typical table, doesn't have enough time to do a full 360 and will land butter-side down.

CURWOOD: Just about every time.

INGRAM: I'd be willing to say every time, unless you fling it so it Frisbees its way across the floor and lands butter-side up.

CURWOOD: (LAUGHS) But wait a second, you're saying scientists sit around studying which side toast is going to land on when it goes off the table?

INGRAM: Yeah, so there's two ways of reacting to this. One, I detect in your voice, a kind of arching of the eyebrows. "What? Scientists do this?" But you know, scientists have senses of humor too, and I'm quite sure that those scientists who've investigated this are doing it partly to collect the data because it's kind of interesting; partly just to amuse themselves and, hopefully, others.

CURWOOD: You know, what's so funny about this book, Jay, are the lengths that these scientists seem to want to go to describe these phenomenon. They set up these big, complicated, and sometimes they must be costly, experiments trying to unravel these things. You know, I guess the chapter that you wrote in your book, "The Velocity of Honey," that really attracted me about this extensive experimentation is this, "Are You Staring At Me?" this chapter.


CURWOOD: And this is what happens when you pull up at a stoplight; Jay, you should tell the story, you wrote the book.

INGRAM: Well, this is actually, I think, a fantastic experiment. Because what they wanted to know was if somebody's stares at you, do you generally interpret it as a threatening gesture? And what is your reaction? But the psychologists who did this thought the best way to do this was to do it at a traffic light. So what they did was they had somebody come up on a scooter, stop at a red light, and then wait for a car to pull up beside them, and then the scooter driver turned and just stared at the driver. And then, you can't just go and ask the driver what their reaction is, but you can do one really neat thing, which is time how fast it takes the driver of the car to get to the other side of the intersection when the light turns green.


INGRAM: And then you can, of course, set up a control where you actually have the scooter sitting next to the car but not staring at each other. So drivers that were stared at took considerably less time, I think it was 1.2 seconds less. Now, you know, maybe you just want to race the scooter, so they eliminated that by substituting a pedestrian that stared at the car instead of the scooter. This was a neat way of saying, "Look, something was happening in this situation that made people behave differently."

And they even tried the weirdest things because - other weird things, I should say - because, you know, maybe they were driving away because they just thought it was strange that someone would stare at them, not some sort of thing that could actually be connected with staring. So they had a guy actually sitting on the sidewalk with a hammer picking apart his sidewalk with his hammer when the car pulled up. Now that's incongruous, right?


INGRAM: But people didn't pull away as quickly. So, it actually had to do with the sort of dominance hierarchy aspect of being stared at.

CURWOOD: Jay Ingram, I want you to tell us the science of love at first sight. Is there such a thing?

INGRAM: Well, you know, I think the science of love at first sight is probably fairly skimpy. I can tell you one thing, though, and this is really my favorite example of this and it has to do with looking in people's eyes. There was a very neat experiment done a long time ago now, I think in the 1950s, showing that dilated - let me set this up.

Let's say that you, Steve, are walking into a party. You meet a woman, you look into her eyes, and you notice unconsciously that her pupils are dilated. Well, there's an automatic human reaction that when you look into somebody's eyes and see that their pupils are dilated, that says to you, again, unconsciously, that they are interested in you.

And you can show that pupils dilate when looking at objects of interest even when people are just hungry and you show them a beautiful chocolate cake; their pupils will dilate.


INGRAM: This is why women used to put drops of belladonna in their eyes - "beautiful women," of course, is the translation - centuries ago. Because they knew if they dilated their pupils then men who looked into their eyes would think the women were interested in them and then the men would be interested in the women and this would start something going.

CURWOOD: Now, this book is mostly fun, but there's a scary chapter in here, Jay. It's the one called "Time Passes Faster." Can you explain what that's all about?

INGRAM: Well, we all know, if we've been living long enough, as you get older time seems to move more quickly. And, you know, I think this is pretty common. You remember summer vacation when you were in grade 6 or grade 5? It seemed to take forever. Well, summer vacations now you barely catch your breath before you have start work again in the fall.

One of the questions is why does this happen? And it seems that one of our biological clocks in our brain slows down with age, just as many things slow down. And with a slower clock, more events seem to happen in a given time, so it feels like time is moving faster. The more interesting aspect, though, to me, is just how much faster is it?

And a guy named Robert Lemlich came up with an equation in the mid-70s or so, and he argued that…here's the really depressing part of this: Let's say that you're 40 right now, and you're going to live to 80. So you feel like, "hey, I've got half my life ahead of me." Lemlich says, well, you may have literally another 40 years, half your life, but it's not going to feel like that. And he did some calculations and showed that when you're 40 time is probably seeming to pass by, subjective time is going twice as fast as it did when you were ten. On that basis, you've really actually already lived more than 70 percent of your subjective life. So, you think you have half your life left; it's only going to feel like 30 percent of your life. And by the time you're 60, that 20 years is only going to feel like 13 percent of your life.

CURWOOD: Oh my God, so, at age 20 then, you feel like half your life is over?

INGRAM: That's right. And you know what's interesting? There was a passage written in 1837 by England's poet laureate Robert Southey. He says, "Live as long as you may, the first 20 years are the longest half of your life. They appear so while they're passing, they seem to have been when we look back on them, and they take up more room in our memory than all the years that succeed them."

CURWOOD: Jay Ingram's new book is called "The Velocity of Honey." Thanks for the sweet story, Jay.

INGRAM: Thank you.

Related link:
"The Velocity of Honey" by Jay Ingram

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[MUSIC: Fiona Apple "Slow Like Honey" from 'Tidal' (Sony - 1996)]

CURWOOD: On the next Living on Earth - the miracle of Madagascar.

JOLLY: Madagascar's a kind of science fiction world. You know: Every science fiction writer tries the tale of alternate worlds. What would happen if time broke its banks and came to the present down a different channel. Well, Madagascar is just like that.

CURWOOD: Join us as we explore this island off the east coast of Africa, home to the most unique collection of plants and animals in the world, and learn what scientists and farmers are doing to keep it that way. Maintaining Madagascar, next time on Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: We leave you this week with a sample of what you'll hear next week from Madagascar. Producer Dan Grossman recorded this pack of lemurs during his recent trip to the island.


CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Ashley Ahearn, Chris Ballman, Eileen Bolinsky, Ingrid Lobet, and Susan Shepherd - with help from Christopher Bolick, Kelley Cronin, James Curwood and Michelle Kweder. Our interns are Brianna Asbury, Kevin Friedl and Emily Torgrimson. Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Alison Dean composed our themes. You can find us at LOE dot org. I'm Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science; and Stonyfield Farm. Organic yogurt and smoothies. Ten percent of profits are donated to efforts that help protect and restore the Earth. Details at Stonyfield dot com. Support also comes from NPR member stations, the Ford Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Saunders Hotel Group of Boston's Lennox and Copley Square Hotels. Serving you and the environment while helping preserve the past and protect the future, 800-225-7676.

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