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

January 6, 2017

Air Date: January 6, 2017



Saving Bears Ears

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1.3 million acres of wilderness that include a pair of buttes in Southeastern Utah that look like Bears Ears have joined the list of National Monument designated by President Barack Obama as he ends his term. Host Steve Curwood and Jonathan Thompson of High Country News discuss the ecological and cultural importance of the designation, including the Native American role in the monument’s creation and administrative structure. (11:30)

Beyond The Headlines / Peter Dykstra

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Peter Dykstra and host Steve Curwood cast an eye back over 8 years during the Obama Administration and assess some of the environmental highs and lows. Highs include the rise of renewable power and electric vehicles, as well as the Paris climate Agreement, while on the low end they note attacks on climate scientists and the continuing denial of the science that supports global warming. (06:05)

Decoding Influenza / Helen Palmer

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Winter brings short days and the seasonal flu, and in Europe there’s already an epidemic of the H5N8 bird flu. Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer decodes what H5N8 means, why we use these terms and how flu that infects animals can affect humans and the annual flu vaccination. (02:50)

Hog Farms and the Flu

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Pigs are among animals that easily catch human influenza. New research suggests that factory farms with huge numbers of hogs close to where people live may affect the timing of the flu season. Duke University physician and infectious disease expert Paul Lantos joins host Steve Curwood to discuss his research on industrial hog farms, and how it could inform public health guidelines on annual flu inoculations. (07:15)

Let Sleeping Seals Lie! / Mark Seth Lender

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On an island off the coast of Antarctica, an enormous Weddell Seal with impressive battle scars appears to slumber – but half of his brain remains alert while the other half dozes. Living on Earth’s Resident Explorer Mark Seth Lender got as close as he dared, but finds the formidable seal disinclined to make friends. (02:30)

Pioneering Women in Science

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Women have historically been underrepresented in science and engineering, but that didn’t stop Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, and Rachel Carson, and there are many more women in these fields who are not as famous. Artist and author Rachel Ignotofsky joins host Steve Curwood to share the contributions of some of the remarkable female scientists she profiles in her new book, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. (16:30)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood

GUESTS: Jonathan Thompson, Paul Lantos, Rachel Ignotofsky

REPORTERS: Helen Palmer, Peter Dykstra, Mark Seth Lender


CURWOOD: From Public Radio International, this is Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. On his way out the door of the Oval Office, President Obama creates more National Monuments to protect some of the ancient rock art at risk in the American west.

THOMPSON: What you were seeing is a great deal of vandalism. Really recently, one of these petroglyphs...somebody went in with a rock saw and tried to chop it off in order to take it away. One of the main things that people are trying to achieve with this monument is to bring in more enforcement.

CURWOOD: Also, the seasonal flu is a fact of life in winter, and now science says the factory farming of hogs seems to speed up the timing of local outbreaks.

LANTOS: Starting in 2009, this novel influenza virus began to infect a large population of susceptible pigs. This very large population effectively amplified the virus, and the epidemic therefore peaked faster in these communities.

CURWOOD: We’ll have those stories and more this week, on Living on Earth. Stick around.

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[NEWSBREAK MUSIC: Boards Of Canada “Zoetrope” from “In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country” (Warp Records 2000)]


Saving Bears Ears

The new Bears Ears National Monument, named for two buttes that rise above the southern Utah landscape, covers 1.35 million acres. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management)

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston and PRI, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

US presidents can create the virtual equivalent of a national park with the stroke of pen, thanks to the 1906 Antiquities Act, signed by Teddy Roosevelt. And in the final months and weeks of Mr. Obama’s term that pen has been busy. He has declared national monuments covering vast marine areas as well as in wild and scenic places such as the North Maine Woods. And during the holiday season he added to the list. Expanding the area already protected by the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, President Obama added some 300,000 acres of the Gold Butte region right across the border in Nevada. And in a deal put together with unprecedented cooperation of Native Americans he designated one point three million acres of southeastern Utah in the Bears Ears region. Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor for High Country News who closely followed the special process for Bears Ears, and he join us now.
Welcome to Living on Earth.

THOMPSON: Glad to be here, Steve.

CURWOOD: Talk to me about the value of Bears Ears, both in terms of its natural geography and its historical sacred value to Native Americans.

Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling within the new national monument boundaries. (Photo: Jonathan Thompson)

THOMPSON: Well, you know, as far as the environment goes it covers a pretty diverse piece of land that goes from high mesas and sort of mountain areas down to barren desert. It's part of Utah's canyon country and so you've got these deep beautiful canyons that have creeks running through them. Some of these creeks, in fact, have fish in them that are only found in those canyons. But, really, when it comes to the significance of the Bears Ears Monument, really it's the prehistorical elements that are really important, and there's tens of thousands of archaeological sites there, and they range from about 12,000 years ago to - Clovis sites - to about, I mean really to present time because the archaic Indians were there and then the Puebloans came in and actually started settling the area. They were the first ones to really actually live on the area. They came around a little bit before the birth of Christ.

CURWOOD: Talk to me about the Clovis civilization, what was found at Clovis. Some of the people listening to us may not have studied archaeology that much.

THOMPSON: Yeah these were a nomadic people. The main thing that we found from them is spear heads and sort of the remnants of camps. There is a Clovis camp actually located on the Bears Ears monument, so that's probably the oldest human remains there.

CURWOOD: And did they draw at all?

THOMPSON: No, not that we know of. I don't think there's much evidence of that.

CURWOOD: I understand there's lots of rock art in the Bears Ears area. Where did that come from?

THOMPSON: That came from the Puebloans. They came later. There's a great deal of amazing petroglyph panels. Petroglyph is when you -- They carved it into the rock itself as opposed to painting on the rock, so the petroglyphs naturally last longer and some of the ones in the Bears Ears I would say are some of the best anywhere.

CURWOOD: So how was all this rock art in the Bears Ears area being taken care of before?

THOMPSON: Well, all the rock art theoretically is protected by the Archaeological Resource Protection Act which was passed in the 1970s, but in reality, you know, it's pretty hard to protect these resources because they're scattered over such a huge area, and I believe that there's one law enforcement officer for the Bureau of Land Management for this entire corner of the state. I mean, it's really crazy. And so, what you're seeing is a great deal of vandalism, not just of the petroglyphs, but in some cases, really recently, just maybe in the last year I believe, one of these petroglyphs…Somebody went in with a rock saw and tried to chop it off in order to take away. And so, one of the main things that people are trying to achieve with this monument is to bring in more enforcement. You know, the laws exist to protect these things already, but the enforcement is not there.

Looking into the new national monument. The butte on the horizon is one of the Bears Ears, and the second ear barely hovers above the horizon line. (Photo: Jonathan Thompson)

CURWOOD: The people have been fighting to make these areas monuments for some time. Talk to me about the other efforts that took place to protect Bears Ears.

THOMPSON: Well, yeah. Bears Ears has been going on since...I believe it was in 1936 that then Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes proposed a four million acre National Monument for that entire corner of the state, and it would've included Bears Ears but also several other places. It didn't go through, but over the years you got Canyonlands National Monument, which was a piece of that four million acres got designated, and then you got Natural Bridges National Monument as well as Capitol Reef, but the Bears Ears, which was kind of the heart of this four million acre monument proposal, never got much in the way of protections. But at the same time, there's been efforts since the '30s to protect that area somehow, and they've never made it. There's never been anything big. It's always sort of incremental things. Getting cattle shut out of one canyon or getting one road shut down to motorized vehicles or that sort of thing. And so, this is really a culmination of many, many decades of work.

CURWOOD: I understand that tribes with historic ties to this region were involved in this Monument designation process in a way that they really haven't been involved before. Who are these Native American groups, and what role did they actually play in the creation of this Monument?

THOMPSON: Well, the Native American groups are two different tribes of the Ute People and the Zuni Tribe, and Hopi Nation and the Navajo Nation. So, there are five tribes that were the main players in this spearheaded by a group of local Navajos who formed a nonprofit called Utah Dine Bikeyah which means Utah Navajo homeland basically. After they got the ball rolling then they went to these other tribes and they said, “We need your help”, and so they came together as a tribal coalition, and it was that coalition of these five tribes that went to Washington and presented this proposal to Obama.

CURWOOD: And will be the roles of these tribes moving forward now that it is a Monument?

THOMPSON: Now that it is a Monument, this is really the kind of the most remarkable thing I think about this Monument is that it will be managed by the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture, but there will be a commission made up of one elected official from each of these tribes, of each of these five tribes, and they will have a very strong advisory role. So, in a sense, they will be jointly managing this monument with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.

CURWOOD: Now, Indian Country is not monolithic. I understand that some native groups were not pleased by this.

THOMPSON: Well, so the people who were opposed to this were mostly local Navajos and Utes, and both of these tribes, the tribal governments were behind the Monument and they were part of the tribal coalition, so these are individuals within those tribes who oppose it, and they opposed it for various reasons. Some of that was ideological concerns that are the same as the local white people who opposed it. Others are worried that they will lose access to the land for stuff like firewood gathering, herb gathering, and maybe ceremonial uses. The proclamation for the Monument actually addresses that and says that those uses will be preserved. So I think some of those concerns will be allayed. The ideological ones will not, but elected officials of theirs will be on this tribal committee, and so they will presumably have a voice in how the Monument is managed through them.

CURWOOD: Now what areas were included in the initial proposal that are absent from this final Monument designation, and why didn't they make the cut?

Petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock, an important archaeological site that’s now part of the new Bears Ears National Monument. (Photo: akademy, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

THOMPSON: Yeah, that's a good question. The Obama administration didn't really play this up at all, and in fact, they didn't even mention it. What the tribes proposed was a 1.9 million acre Monument. What ended up being actually designated was 600,000 acres less than that, and, really, nobody's actually come out and said this, but really it looks like it was in order to appease the local opposition. One area that was cut out was the Abajo mountains which are right next to the county seat of Monticello and it's a big area for recreation for locals as well as a place that they get firewood and that they actually get their municipal water. That was clearly a concession to locals.

There's another area that could be a uranium mining area if uranium mining never comes back, and that was cut out of the ultimate Monument. So, basically the administration I think was trying to compromise a little bit in this designation, although the locals so far have not seen it that way, and they're also very, so far very ardently hoping to get this overthrown.

CURWOOD: Talk to me about the opposition to the creation of this new Monument. What efforts are they are making, or might make, to try to get this overturned?

THOMPSON: Yeah, so the opposition really includes a lot of locals, but not all the locals in San Juan County and that's something really that should be pointed out is that it's not monolithic there either. But it includes a lot of locals there, and it includes a lot of Utah politicians, and really it comes down to a state's rights kind of thing, in part. I think it also comes down in part to a dislike of Obama. They are trying various channels to get Trump to overturn this, and theoretically because it was a presidential act through the Antiquities Act, theoretically the president can overturn it. But no one knows yet. That's never been tried before, so no one knows yet what that really would entail or how hard that would be. And also no one knows if Trump actually would actually go for it.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor for High Country News. (Photo: Lydia Thompson)

CURWOOD: Jonathan, tell me of a spot that you've been to in Bears Ears that, well, takes your breath away.

THOMPSON: Wow, you know, there's so many spots in that area. I grew up in Durango, Colorado, which is not far, a couple hours drive from the Bears Ears, and I spent a great deal of time in the Bears Ears area as a kid and as a teenager and as a young man. And the Bear Ears themselves, they're just two buttes and they are not anything super spectacular to look at. They are two buttes that kind of look the same and they are next to each other and they look like a pair of Bears Ears. But when you're up on top of them you can see really the whole region and you look down kind of into Dark Canyon which is this deep crevasse that goes down to the Colorado River. You look down into Arch Canyon, this incredible canyon with natural arches, a creek at the bottom and it's got these.. some archaeological sites, some cliff dwellings and some granaries way up on the cliffs way up there that are just...I mean it's kind of befuddling to wonder how people even got there in the first place to build these things.

CURWOOD: Now, Jonathan, of course, you're a journalist, you're fair and balanced and objective, but how do you feel about these designations of Monuments?

THOMPSON: I hope that what it does do is that it brings more resources for enforcement of existing laws as well as more resources for education. I also, I really do think that the tribal involvement is critical here because aside from giving them sort of some say and power over how this land is managed, it also gives them more of a voice in telling the story, their story of their connection to that land, and so I'm really excited about that, you know, more than anything.

CURWOOD: Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor for High Country News. Thanks so much for taking the time with us today, Jonathan.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Steve.

Related links:
- Bears Ears Tribal Coalition
- White House press release about the monument
- The Wilderness Society analysis and description of Bear’s Ears
- The Wilderness Society analysis and description of Gold Butte
- High Country News: A parcel of the then-proposed Bears Ears monument was sold in October 2016
- About Jonathan Thompson

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[MUSIC: Layne Redmond, “Seven Heaven,” on Invoking the Muse, self-published by Layne Redmond]

CURWOOD: Coming up...why the factory farming of pigs appears to affect certain flu epidemics. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and from a friend of Sailors for the Sea, working with boaters to restore ocean health.

[CUTAWAY MUSIC: Darol Anger featuring The Nashville Lumberyard, “John Henry” on Diary Of a Fiddler, traditional African-American/arr. Anger, Compass Records]

Beyond The Headlines

The financial woes of solar company Solyndra became fuel for the right wing campaign against all renewable energy development in 2011. (Photo: Naoto Sato, Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Off to Conyers, Georgia, now to find Peter Dykstra of DailyClimate.org and Environmental Health News, that’s EHN.org. He’s been contemplating the Obama years as they draw to a close with a look beyond the headlines. Peter, how are you doing at the beginning of 2017?

DYKSTRA: Hi Steve, Happy New Year.

I thought we’d use our time to look back at how the issues we cover in this show played out during the eight years of Barack Obama’s Presidency. So for now, here are some of the developments, triumphs, conflicts and face-palms on energy and climate change.

CURWOOD: Well that would be quite a bit to talk about since 2009. Tell me some of the high notes and the low notes?

DYKSTRA: Well let’s start on the upside. After decades of predictions that wind and solar energy were right around the corner, we finally got to that corner. Industrial solar arrays from utilities, and on the roofs of businesses like Wal-Mart, and residential solar is taking off, too, despite efforts in some states to side-track it. The price for both industrial and rooftop solar has dropped through the floor.

CURWOOD: All good for the solar boosters. What about wind?

DYKSTRA: Wind power’s really taken off too, particularly in some traditional oil & gas states like Texas and Oklahoma. The US and China, of course, been competing for biggest greenhouse gas emitter, but they’re also the leaders in wind power generation. When the numbers are in for 2016, it’s expected that over five percent of American electric generation will have come from the wind, and in a state like Iowa, it’s up over 30 percent of the power. And even some staunch allies of fossil fuels, like Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry, have caught the whirlwind. But Mr. Perry’s incoming boss, Donald Trump, spent much of the Obama Era railing unsuccessfully against an offshore windfarm near his Scottish golf resort.

And it’s not just renewable energy that’s thriving, electric vehicle sales are also rising steeply as the cars’ price goes down and their range goes up.

CURWOOD: So that’s the bright side. What about the dimmer side?

DYKSTRA: Well there’s always a dimmer side. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reign in greenhouse gas emissions has faced fierce opposition from Republican-controlled states, and it will potentially be on the chopping block as Republicans take the White House. But if wind and solar soared, Solyndra fell.

CURWOOD: Ah, yes, the failed solar company that took half a billion dollars in government loans down with it.

DYKSTRA: Yeah, Solyndra became a political albatross for the administration, a big loss for taxpayers, with allegations of cronyism in how the money was doled out. But Obama’s opponents tried to turn it into a blunt instrument to discredit all renewable energy and derail any financial support for that sector. The lost half-billion dollars in Solyndra is less than ten percent of the subsidies and tax breaks doled out to the oil and gas industry every year.

CURWOOD: Yeah, Peter, and consider that also on the climate front, the Paris agreement was a big step forward.

Former US Vice President Al Gore at the closing ceremony of the Paris Climate Conference that took place in December of 2015. (Photo: United Nations Photo, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

DYKSTRA: It was indeed, an international agreement that sets CO2 reduction targets for all its nearly 200 signers. According to the International Energy Agency, we’ve also had three straight years where the world’s CO2 output has flat-lined -- a big change from years and years of emissions growth. And even as climate science grew more irrefutable, and on-the-ground evidence of climate distress stared us right in the face, climate scientists continued to be attacked. And now to the surprise of many who thought climate denial would wither away, it’s come back with a vengeance.

CURWOOD: Yes, it looks like climate denial will soon have a home at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

DYKSTRA: You’re right. Those attacks ranged from House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith, who’s run a virtual inquisition on government climate science, to personal attacks on the likes of Mike Mann, the prominent scientist you interviewed here recently. Professor Mann is pursuing a defamation suit after being likened to a “child molester” for merely doing his job as a climate scientist.

And since climate denial keeps rising up like the corpse in the bathtub at the end of a horror movie, let’s stroll through a few more of the absolute lowest high points.

CURWOOD: Okay, fire away.

DYKSTRA: Well there’s Senator Jim Inhofe, who threw a snowball at the Senate President’s podium to “prove” that climate science is a big hoax and the Heartland Institute’s infamous billboards that likened climate action advocates not to a child molester, but to Hitler and Bin Laden, and Ted Kazcynski, the Unabomber.

CURWOOD: That was special.

DYKSTRA: Oh yes it was, and there was an early manifestation of what we now call “Fake News”, the thousands of stolen climate scientists’ emails, taken out of context and blown into a fake controversy that makes Solyndra look like a belch in a tornado. And, of course, Fake News’s evil twin, fake science. Some cherry-picked data that was spun into an argument that there’s been no global warming since the 1990’s, despite a parade of record-setting high temperatures that say otherwise. All of which presumably inspired Obama to become the first President to come right out and make fun of climate deniers.

CURWOOD: And it wasn’t just the White House taking steps to act on climate, right?

DYKSTRA: Correct, and hopefully they’re not too late in the game, but places like Miami Beach and Norfolk, Virginia, literally on the front lines for sea level rise, began to prepare for the worst and practice climate resilience. Even a few sea-level Republican members of Congress, like Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both from South Florida, have defied their party’s stampede toward climate denial.

CURWOOD: Even as some party leaders, like John McCain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, they’ve all backed away from advocating action on climate change. Hey, Peter, we time left for one more.

DYKSTRA: Well, how about oil? President Obama had a huge change of heart about offshore drilling. In early April 2010, he said this:

OBAMA: It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout cleanup crew used a technique known as "top kill," to stem the flow of oil and gas by injecting drilling fluids down into the well. (Photo: Deepwater Horizon Response, Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

DYKSTRA: Three weeks later, the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout disaster happened. Then as his term drew to a close, President Obama locked in long-term bans on oil drilling along the Alaskan Arctic and most of the Atlantic coastlines.

CURWOOD: Yeah, and I understand that he used a law that will make it hard, if not impossible, for the new administration to reverse. Not to mention that it now costs too much to drill in those areas anyway.

Hey Peter, you covered eight years in less than eight minutes.

DYKSTRA: Well if I went over eight minutes I’d be in trouble with your producers.

CURWOOD: Peter Dykstra is with Environmental Health News, that’s EHN.org and the DailyClimate.org. Thanks Peter, we’ll talk next time.

DYKSTRA: Thanks a lot Steve, talk to you soon.

CURWOOD: And there’s more on these stories at our website, LOE.org.

Related links:
- Washington Post: “Solyndra: Politics Infused Obama Energy Programs”
- Huffington Post: Trump and Windmills
- New York Times: East Anglia Email Hack
- C-SPAN: Senator Jim Inhofe tosses snowball at the Senate President’s podium -- 2015
- New York Times: Heartland Institute Billboards
- CNN: Just 18 days before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama says “Oil rigs generally don’t cause spills.”

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[MUSIC: Jason Marsalis, “The Whistler” on Music in Motion, Basin Street Records]

Decoding Influenza

A CDC scientist uses a pipette to transfer H7N9 virus into vials for research (Photo: James Gathany / CDC, Wikimedia Commons public domain)

CURWOOD: January in much of the US is prime time for some of the coldest and driest days of the year, and those conditions seem to boost the spread of seasonal influenza among humans. But for birds in Europe and Asia flu season is already in full swing. There’s an epidemic of the H5N8 flu among poultry in Europe, and in Asia the H5N6 strain has been widespread, and another called H7N9 has not only infected birds, but it has also sickened and even killed some farm workers in China. All this set us to wondering what exactly these Hs and Ns are, and how they relate to our seasonal flu shots. So we asked Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer to do some digging.

PALMER: Well, Steve, there are many different kinds of influenza, and they typically mutate easily and frequently. And the reason flu researchers use those enigmatic Hs and Ns is so most of us don’t have to learn how to pronounce the words Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase, which is what they stand for. Those are proteins on the surface of the Type A influenza virus that allow it to grab on to and infect cells.

Hemagluttinin comes in 18 flavors and Neuraminidase in 11 and that’s what the numbers refer to.

On top of that, flu can be Type A, B, C or D. Type C is usually very mild, and type D mostly infects cattle, so it’s Types A and B that cause the seasonal human illness. Medical authorities base the annual US flu vaccine on strains that circulated the previous year in Asia. This year’s vaccine is designed to protect against Type A strains H1N1 and H3N2 as well as a B strain.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross tend to people sickened by the 1918 influenza pandemic in Oakland, CA (Photo: Edward A. “Doc” Rogers, Wikimedia Commons public domain)

B strains aren’t split up into sub-groups, but divided by origin. This year it’s Brisbane. B strains are often not as common, but are thought to be more dangerous for children.

So far this year, the CDC says US flu activity is “elevated” but there’s no kind of epidemic.

Now, numerous animals can catch the flu, but aside from people, the main reservoirs of infection that matter for humans are birds and pigs. Avian flu spreads all over the globe because it’s carried by migrating birds. Often they don’t become sick, but they can easily infect domestic flocks of chickens or ducks. That’s how come there’s a major epidemic of the H5N8 flu strain in most countries of Europe, where hundreds of thousands of chickens, ducks, and turkeys have already been slaughtered.

Typically bird flus don’t infect humans, but when they do, it can be deadly. Experts think the 1918 flu pandemic was a mutated bird flu, and the current H7N9 has killed three people and sickened dozens in China, though it’s mild for ducks and chickens. Meanwhile, in Korea, some 30 million domestic fowl have been culled to prevent the spread of the H5N6 flu. And, Steve, this isn’t just academic, public health folks are always on the alert, because there’s always the danger of that this usually mild disease could mutate to spawn another pandemic.

CURWOOD: Thanks, Helen. That’s Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer.

Related links:
- The A, B, C, H, and N of Bird Flu Viruses
- Centers for Disease Control: Weekly FluView Report
- Centers for Disease Control: Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
- Centers for Disease Control: About the 2016-2017 flu season: vaccine strains, risk factors, and more

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Hog Farms and the Flu

The influenza virus is amplified in hog CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations) according to new research from Duke University. (Photo: James Hill, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Now some varieties of influenza can infect both pigs and humans, and that got scientists in North Carolina to wondering if the huge hog farms in that state known as CAFOs, that is Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, might affect flu epidemics. North Carolina is second only to Iowa in hog production with nearly nine million animals confined at any given time. So the scientists set out to investigate, led by infectious disease specialist Dr. Paul Lantos of Duke University. He is the lead author on the paper published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Paul, welcome to Living on Earth.

LANTOS: Thank you very much for having me.

CURWOOD: So, what exactly did your research find?

LANTOS: So, we were interested in the question of whether proximity to a swine CAFO, a CAFO in which they are raising pigs, alters the dynamics of the flu epidemic each year. In order to study this, we had to get two sources of data. One was a map of where there were swine feeding operations in North Carolina. North Carolina has the second-largest swine industry in United States with around 10 million pigs. We also needed a map of the influenza epidemic. We were able to get the map of the influenza epidemic from the state public health department. They have information on the number of cases of influenza-like illnesses recorded each week, and we got these for all 120 North Carolina counties over a four year period.

Map of hog farms in North Carolina (Photo: courtesy of Paul Lantos)

CURWOOD: And once you did that, what was the next step?

LANTOS: So, the next step was to do a statistical analysis, to see whether the timing of the flu epidemic varied as a function of proximity to the swine operations. So, we looked at the week in which the flu epidemic peaked in each county for four consecutive years and analyzed statistically whether this had anything to do with how many swine CAFOs were in each of those counties. What we found was that during 2009 - 2010 and 2010 - 2011, were for the first two years in which the H1N1 swine influenza virus was circulating, the epidemic seemed to peak earliest in counties that had the greatest number of swine CAFOs. We did not find this in 2008 - 2009 or in 2011 - 2012 which were years in which the H1N1 virus was not so predominent.

CURWOOD: So, briefly describe for me what's going on in these CAFOs that would speed up the spread of flu when it's a swine flu.

LANTOS: So, our hypothesis was that starting in 2009 this novel influenza virus, one that was never before seen in our swine industry, began to infect a large population of susceptible pigs. These pigs had no previous exposure or immunity to this virus. When the virus was brought to North Carolina, and the pigs were exposed, this very large population of susceptible animals effectively amplified the virus. So, they produced more virus just because of their sheer abundance. This probably went back to the community surrounding the CAFOs through the swine workers, and the epidemic therefore peaked faster in these communities.

CURWOOD: So, what's important about your findings in terms of decisions that people could make, in terms of public health?

LANTOS: Well, I think the most important message is that we need close cooperation between public health and the swine and for that matter the agricultural industry. We clearly have shared interest in the health of the agricultural workers and their communities, and there's importance to public health in general as well.

CURWOOD: So, if you were working with a CAFO, a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation with pigs, what would you have your workers do to protect themselves?

LANTOS: I would certainly encourage my workers and their families to get influenza vaccinations as soon as they become available each fall, as well as getting their families and children vaccinated. That is the best tool we currently have to protect workers and citizens in general against the annual influenza virus.

We typically emphasize the importance of flu vaccination for susceptible populations, people who are likely to become very sick from the flu, so young children and people with medical problems, the elderly. We don't typically think of young, healthy, working age males being the most susceptible to severe influenza. They may not be as susceptible to severe disease, but, if they're important in the transmission of the disease, then vaccination may have an important public health effect by limiting it spread.

A key figure from the study paper showing that flu season peaked earlier in areas with more permitted swine CAFOs in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 (when a novel swine flu virus was most active). (Photo: courtesy of Paul Lantos)

CURWOOD: I gather that one of the characteristics of influenza is that it gets transmitted by a whole bunch of people who aren't apparently sick.

LANTOS: That's correct. People can be contagious for influenza for days before they ever develop a fever or respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing. That's what makes influeza such a daunting public health problem. People have modeled and created preparedness plans for what we do in the event of an epidemic or a pandemic, but it's very difficult to geographically contain influenza when people start traveling around.

CURWOOD: So, what do the findings of your study mean for how we need to operate these CAFOs, these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the future?

LANTOS: Well, it's unclear what our findings have to offer in terms of altered practices within CAFOs. I think the CAFOs are a function of modern food production, and that will not change. So long as of a small minority our population is responsible for feeding a very large proportion of our population, there will always be very large industrial agriculture.

What we can do is increase surveillance for viruses of potential public health important within these animal populations, protect workers as well as possible, and continue trying to fund public health and research efforts to mitigate the annual flu epidemic.

CURWOOD: And, by the way, I understand that these CAFOs use a lot of antibiotics, but of course the flu is a virus which antibiotics are not effective against.

LANTOS: That is correct. Antibiotics would be inappropriate for treating influenza although we do have some antivirals that can make influenza better in people who are sick with it. It is true that antibiotics are an important part of livestock operations in the United States and throughout the world, and this may not be related to the influenza study that we just performed, but it is important in the epidemiology of drug resistant bacteria.

CURWOOD: What about vaccinating the pigs against the flu?

LANTOS: That's an interesting question. One problem with that concept is, when we develop a vaccination, we do this after having done intensive surveillance, largely among livestock throughout the world. In East Asia is an important component of virologic surveillance, and we have to anticipate what among these circulating animal viruses is likely to make a jump to humans. And then the vaccine industry develops vaccines in response to the circulating viruses. Trying to anticipate what will become predominant in pigs, then vaccinate them, is likely to be both ineffective and extremely costly.

Paul Lantos, MD is a Medical Instructor in Duke University’s Department of Medicine (Photo: courtesy of Paul Lantos)

Now, the holy grail of influenza vaccine research is the so-called universal influenza vaccine, one that will cover all strains of influenza this year, next year, and forever more, so that we get one flu vaccination and never need one again. If we could develop something like that, then perhaps vaccinating the pigs will protect them forever as well, and we could cover the human population with that vaccine as well. But this still remains a very important area of research that has yet to come to clinical practice.

CURWOOD: Dr. Paul Lantos is a medical instructor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University in North Carolina. Thanks so much for taking the time.

LANTOS: Thanks very much for having me.

Related links:
- Dr. Lantos's study in the Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases
- Fern's Ag Insider: Swine CAFOS and influenza patterns
- About Paul Lantos MD

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[MUSIC: The Beatles, “Piggies,” on The Beatles (The White Album), George Harrison, Apple Records.]

Let Sleeping Seals Lie!

Slumbering Weddell Seal (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

CURWOOD: We take a trip now to the bottom of the world, to the seas around Antarctica. On a beach near the Antarctic Peninsula, our resident explorer Mark Seth Lender found a battle-hardened Weddell seal soothing his wounds on a patch of ice. Mark wanted to make friends. The seal? Not so much…

The threatening glance of the grumpy seal (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

LENDER: He is a veteran. He has scars. On the smooth belly fresh puncture marks scattered in the kelp-like pattern of his fur. And that long scrape across his face from the bridge of his cat-like nose all the way to the corner of his brow. He has been in single combat with his kind, more than once, and each a small war. He fights, not because he is on post, not because it is his patch, only for breeding rights. Among Weddell seals in this far southern part of the world, it is that time of year.

And there is all he has endured that does not show, and no scribbled History to inform you. He moves neither closer nor further away, and, for all you can tell, ignores you. Fast asleep. His breathing deep. Dead to the world.

But only…the half of him

There is the strange, the wakeful side of his brain, independent and complete. It seeks. It finds. And when he opens those eyes, so dark the pupil does not show, he does not need to turn his head.

An Antarctic blizzard approaches Astrolabe Island (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The strange has already found you. Knows you.

By the air you breathe, the swallowing of your anxious throat, your heft and what and where by the “slip-slip-crunch!” beneath your feet on hard, packed snow. His stare, unwavering, reddened to rose madder by the deep-diving blood in his veins. And though he lies, perfectly still, his gaze implies no invitation, conveys instead a warning, loud and unmistakable:

A Weddell Seal swims among icebergs (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

“Don’t! Don’t come any closer than you already are or I will give you a taste of what the FIRST guy already got. And trust me. You won’t like that.”

CURWOOD: That’s our resident explorer Mark Seth Lender – and you’ll find his photos of this seal and more at our website, LOE dot ORG.

Related links:
- Learn more about the Weddell Seal
- Mark Seth Lender’s website

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[MUSIC: Joshua Redman, “Interlude 1” on Timeless Tales For Changing Times, Warner Bros. Records]

CURWOOD: Coming up...some women in science who changed our lives. That’s just ahead here on Living on Earth. Stay tuned.

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This is PRI, Public Radio International.

[CUTAWAY MUSIC: Jason Marsalis, “The Whistler” on Music in Motion, Basin Street Records]

Pioneering Women in Science

Rosalind Franklin’s work on x-ray diffraction helped lead to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. (Photo: Reprinted with permission, Women in Science Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.)

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Women and girls make up half of humanity, yet they have been historically under-represented in many endeavors, including science and technology. But prejudice and the accusation of unladylike behavior didn’t stop the likes of Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and many others, famous and not so famous. Rachel Ignotofsky has gathered some worth celebrating in the book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World”. She joins us today to share the contributions of some of these remarkable women. Welcome to Living on Earth, Rachel.

IGNOTOFSKY: Hi, how are you doing?

CURWOOD: So, what inspired you to write this work?

IGNOTOFSKY: Well, for me, I have a lot of friends in education, and we were talking a lot about the gender gap in the STEM fields. Why is math and science still considered such a boys’ game? And I just kept saying over and over again, we maybe only talk about female scientists during women's history month. We're not taught about them in school. We're not taught about them in history class, and the only one that we do talk about is Marie Curie. So, what happens to young girls and boys when you're not introduced to these strong female role models, who all throughout history have made an immense impact on the sciences? I just kept talking about it and talking about it, and after a while, if you say something enough and you don't do something, you're just a schmuck.


IGNOTOFSKY: So, yeah, I started using my own skill set to try and be a part of the conversation a positive way. So I started making these posters that really celebrated some women in science that I thought were great and really talk about their accomplishments and hopefully get more people interested in talking about them.

CURWOOD: I have to say the illustrations in your book are, well, they're really pretty amazing. I mean, yes, you've written up all these women who did something in science or technology or engineering or mathematics, and you've drawn these exquisite pictures of them with all these images around them.

IGNOTOFSKY: Yeah, well, I really think that illustration is really one of the most powerful tools to get people excited about learning. When something is beautiful, when you take the time to take dense information and make it digestible and fun and whimsical, all of a sudden you get to engage with a whole new audience.

CURWOOD: I have to say your illustrations on all these women include lipstick.

IGNOTOFSKY: [LAUGHS] Well, I wanted to make all of the images really bright and really vibrant, so each page is kind of this monochromatic image. All the women are either bright green or bright purple on this dark charcoal background. It kind of makes them kind of just pop off the page and kind of gives you this sort of excitement and wonder that they're kind of feeling while making their discoveries. The field that they contributed to, whether it's vulcanology or marine biology or chemistry, I put those objects around them, kind of floating around them, and you can kind of just feel this wonderment of discovery and exploration.

Although she was known primarily as an actress in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr was also a revolutionary scientist. She invented technology for torpedoes that is still used in Wifi today. (Photo: MGM / Clarence Bull, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

CURWOOD: So, these women have incredible stories. Why haven't we heard most of them?

IGNOTOFSKY: I think it's two things. I think, one, there's institutional sexism where we just don't have a lot of accessible materials about these woman. I don't think a lot of people are taking the time to tell their stories when they're not a part of our culture to begin with, when people don't already know who they are. So, it's kind of this vicious cycle.

CURWOOD: Well, there's some women in your book that we know much about, but we don't know about this part of them. I'm thinking of Hedy Lamarr. I mean, tell us that story.

IGNOTOFSKY: Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914, Vienna, Austria. See, she's really known for being a movie star. She was called the most beautiful woman in the world, but what a lot of people don't know is that, in fact, she had this need to invent. She had a secret laboratory in her room where she would experiment. Actually she was married at one point to an arms dealer, back where she lived in Germany, and she escaped him and came to America. But when she was there she learned a lot about technology and torpedoes, and when she was in America and World War II started she started, she wanted to do what she could to help. She knew that torpedo signals often got jammed. So, together with the composer George Antheil, she created FHSS technology, which was a frequency that actually would change and switch much like a player piano. That's kind of where they got the idea for it.

George Antheil at the time was working a lot with player pianos and they created this technology and it worked really well. Torpedoes wouldn't get jammed, and they patented it, and they presented it to the US government, but they did not take her seriously, and they shelved her idea. And she helped the war movement the way that they would allow her to, which was in a kissing booth raising money for war bonds.

Later, much later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, they realized what a wealth of technology this was, and they started applying her patent, which was expired at the time, to missiles. And now we use it in Wi-Fi and our cell phones and Bluetooth every single day. So, it's one of those bittersweet stories where, yes, she got the recognition that she deserved at the end, and, yes, now her technology is readily available and used by everyone. But just think about all that wasted time in between World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis where she could have been developing even more technology and been taken seriously.

CURWOOD: Hedy Lemar, you know she was back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Talk to me about Mamie Phipps Clark.

IGNOTOFSKY: Mimi Phipps Clark was born in 1917 in Arkansas. She is a social scientist, and she's a psychologist, and she's best known for her participation in the Civil Rights Movement with the color doll test that she developed with her husband Kenneth Clark. That's the test that was used as the basis of the argument to win the court case during Brown versus Board of Education and end segregation.

But her work actually started much earlier than that. She always wanted to work with kids, and when she was getting her Masters she decided to focus on preschoolers. She wanted to know if preschoolers identified with their race. At the time people thought that kids that young didn't understand that they belong to a race, but she proved through a picture test that kids as young as three or four understood that they were white or black, and this was her big “Aha!” moment. She realized that she could do this work in race and objectively prove that segregation was damaging children.

A two-page spread featuring Marie Curie from Ignotofsky’s book Women in Science. (Photo: Reprinted with permission, Women in Science copyright © 2016 by Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.)

So, she wanted to know what happens to a child when they're separated. So, she did the doll test, and, for those of you who don't know, it was a test that was given to kids in segregated and desegregated schools. They had identical looking baby dolls. One was black, one was white, and they would ask questions. "Is this doll pretty? Is this doll good?" And, overwhelmingly, the black children in segregated schools would only choose the white dolls, and they would say that the black doll was ugly and bad. In turn, they thought they were ugly and bad because they were separated. I just really wanted to include her in this book to show that science can be used to change society, can be used for social good for the better.

CURWOOD: I have to say when I picked up your book I had never heard of Vera Rubin, and yet she’s instrumental in changing what we understand and know about the universe. Can you tell me her story, please?

IGNOTOFSKY: Yes. Vera Rubin was born in 1928 in Philadelphia, and she grew up in Washington DC. So, Vera Rubin gave us the ultimate proof that dark matter exists in this universe. That's huge. She was kind of looking at the movement of galaxies, and she was thinking that they would move the same way that solar systems did. When you're further away from the gravity point, and in the solar system the gravity point is the sun, you move slower. But, when she was looking at these galaxies, that was not the case. In fact, everything moved at the same speed and what was causing that?

It meant that there must be this invisible gravity source that was floating throughout the universe. And this invisible undetectable gravity source was dark matter. And this was affecting the way that the entire universe moved and it also, through her studies, she figured out that it made up most of our universe. And so scientists still don't know what that is, and there is still so much that we still need to learn about dark matter. But, by studying movement, she had the most undeniable proof that this was something that was real, that even though we can't see it, it's impacting our universe.

CURWOOD: Tell me about Jane Cooke Wright.

Jane Cooke Wright was a leader in oncology. (Photo: National Library of Medicine)

IGNOTOFSKY: Jane Cooke Wright was born in 1919 and grew up in New York. She was one of the leaders in oncology, and she grew up during a time where most women weren't doctors. There were few African-American doctors as well. So, she started working with her father, and her father was a very famous doctor, already in the field of oncology, and they started working together. And when he died she took over the department, and she became the youngest head of a department in cancer research, and she started looking at cancer in a new way.

At the time, people didn't really understand chemotherapy. You would take the chemotherapy and just nuke the whole body, but she thought there could be a different way. Instead, she started testing tumor samples outside the body, creating individual cocktails for patients that they would respond to the best, and she also developed a catheter system. So, instead of having to nuke the whole body she would just go in and treat just the organ that was being affected by the cancer.

She went on to be the founder of an oncology foundation, and she saved countless lives doing it.

CURWOOD: Rachel, what's the story of Sau Lan Wu?

IGNOTOFSKY: Sau Lan Wu was born in the early 1940s. We're not really sure of the date that she was born because it was during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, and her mom was illiterate. But her mom did everything she could to make sure that her and her brother got the best education that they possibly could. And she wasn't going to go to college unless she got a full ride, and the only place that gave it to her was Vassar University. They paid for everything, her food, her clothes, her books, her dorm room. And she came over on a boat with just a little pocket change and some cake. And she had three goals, to make three major discoveries in her life, and she did.

She had an interest in particle physics. She wanted to find out what all this stuff in the universe was made out of, and that meant what are the particles an atom is made out of. After discovering the charm quark, she went on to discover gluons, and gluons are kind of the stuff that holds all of the subatomic particles together.

Edith Clarke was the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the United States. (Photo: Reprinted with permission, Women in Science Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.)

After those two discoveries, she made a really big one. She led a research team that discovered the Higgs boson. And bosons kind of give mass to these subatomic particles, and they make the whole thing work. They make everything kind of just stick together and work, and they are the reason that, you know, we're not just falling apart and flying off into a million pieces. So, with the particle accelerator she got to work and she said it was going to be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack the size of a stadium, and, yes, she made her third discovery.

CURWOOD: You have a lot of other scientists in this book. Of course, there's Rachel Carson, there's Sylvia Earle, there's Barbara McClintock. Who were the notable scientists that there wasn't enough room to include?

IGNOTOFSKY: There were a lot. I mean, I could have filled this entire book with all chemists. It could have been Women in Chemistry, though the one that I really wish that I could have fit in is Janaki Ammal. And she was born in the late 1800s, grew up in the early 1900s in India. And at the time in India women weren't seen as part of the workforce. They were expected to be mothers. They were expected be wives, and that is it.

But Janaki Ammal, she was a botanist, and she developed sugarcane so that it could be grown in more places and more readily available to people. And she actually became one of the first women to work for the Indian government.

Vera Rubin discovered that most of our universe is made of dark matter (Photo: Emilio Segre Visual Archives, American Institute of Physics)

CURWOOD: Now, looking at your book, you report that there's still a 22 percent gender gap among science and engineering grads and a 52 percent gender gap among that whole workforce. Why is that?

IGNOTOFSKY: So, all that data is from the 2013 US Census, and I believe that the gap widens from the women graduating to women with jobs from a lack of opportunity, and I think, again, it's just institutionalized sexism. I think when people close their eyes and think of who a scientist is, they don't see a woman. And I think there's many ways that we need to fight this, I think, one, scholarships. Two, we need to get more women in positions of power in the STEM fields.

CURWOOD: How does the field deal with motherhood because if you're pursuing a doctorate, and you get to be age 26, 27, 28, you're really looking for that really key appointment to move forward and it's the same time in life of course that if women are going to choose to have children they need to get on with it. How sensitive to the realities of a female lifecycle is the STEM field, do you think?

Mamie Phipps Clark, pictured here with her husband Kenneth Clark, was a social scientist that developed the doll test, a study that was used in Brown vs. Board of Education to prove that segregation was damaging. (Photo: Public Domain)

IGNOTOFSKY: I think it's gotten a lot better than it used to. For Sau Lan Wu, it was a decision for her to not have children so she could continue her work. And I know for a lot the female scientists they make that choice, but there are a lot of female scientists who have kids, and I think it really depends on their place of work. I think we all need to fight for better childcare, for having a time, a leave of absence that's respectable to the women who have just had birth.

And also, we just have to ask ourselves, you know, these men who have children, they're fathers. We don't ever ask them, “How come you're not home with the kids? Or how come you're not taking more time off to spend time with them?” I think there's a big double standard there, not only in STEM, but in all fields that we, as a society, have to be conscious of and have to fight.

CURWOOD: Well, how do you think the gender gap has changed over time?

Rachel Ignotofsky is an illustrator and author based in Kansas City, MO (Photo: Thomas Mason IV)

IGNOTOFSKY: I think it's gotten much better. I mean, when you look at what it used to be like in the 70s versus now, we've come a long way but there's still so much work to be done. Women only have 13 percent representation within engineering. That's not good. That's not sustainable. I hope that young girls see this. I want them to be able to see that, no matter what your gender is, you can pursue your passions, that there's no such thing as a girl’s job and a boy’s job. They're just jobs. And if you could do a good piece of work and are given the opportunity to do that work, you're going to succeed and you're going to go far.

CURWOOD: Rachel Ignotofsky's new book is called "Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World". It was written by Rachel and illustrated by her as well. Thank you so much, Rachel, for taking the time with us today.

IGNOTOFSKY: Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure.

Related links:
- Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
- Rachel Ignotofsky’s website
- New York Times: “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?”

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[MUSIC: Marco Pereira, “Valsa Negra,” on Valsas Brasileiras, Leandro Braga, GSP Recordings]

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Naomi Arenberg, Bobby Bascomb, Savannah Christiansen, Jenni Doering, Jaime Kaiser, Don Lyman, Alexander Metzger, Helen Palmer, Adelaide Chen, and Jolanda Omari. Special thanks this week to One Ocean Expeditions. Tom Tiger engineered our show, with help from Jeff Wade, Jake Rego and Noel Flatt. Alison Lirish Dean composed our themes. You can hear us anytime at LOE.org - and like us, please, on our Facebook page - PRI’s Living on Earth. And we tweet from @LivingOnEarth. I'm Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

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