Air Date: February 2, 1996
New Hampshire No-Shows/ Peter Thomson
Living on Earth producer Peter Thomson recently spent some time in New Hampshire at a presidential candidate's forum on environmental issues: but very few candidates showed up to speak. Thomson met some disappointed Republicans, a cheerful Vice President, and a couple of presidential hopefuls. (09:20)
Polling the Environment
Steve Curwood discusses Americans' partisan viewpoints on environmental issues with Jan Van Lohowzen, a pollster with former President George Bush's election campaigns. (05:58)
Third Party/ Michael Silverstein
Commentator Michael Silverstein talks about the potential invigoration of the election process in the event of a third party. (03:06)
A smattering of recent observations from the Living on Earth audience. (02:30)
The Living on Earth Almanac
Facts about the National Weather Service. (01:00)
Feeling Sad: Beyond the Winter Blahs
The winter blahs are a serious problem for some people in northern climates, and the condition even has a medical name — Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Clinical psychologist Gila Lindsley discusses possible therapies, including light and medications, with host Steve Curwood. Dr. Lindsley specializes in sleep disorders and has a practice in Lexington, Massachusetts. (07:30)
Seeking Essence/ Tatiana Schreiber
Reporter Tatiana Schreiber visits with some people in a Vermont Jewish community celebrating the annual mid-winter holiday of Tu B'Shvat. The holiday reminds people of their inner connections to nature through songs, symbols and a tradition of tree plantings. (07:47)
Living on Earth's Environmental Pioneers Series #22/ Carol Kauder
Amory Lovins' work is based out of Colorado where he heads up the non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute. Lovins is among the first and foremost innovators to come up with practical cost-saving and energy-reducing solutions for business. Carol Kauder of Colorado Public Radio reports. (05:54)
What's Wrong with Wild Kids?/ Sy Montgomery
Commentator Sy Montgomery ponders why the living and mysterious world of nature is so frightening to so many people today. (02:50)
Copyright c 1996 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or transmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.
HOST: Steve Curwood
NEWSCASTER: Jan Nunley
REPORTERS: Mary Losure, Peter Thomson, Tatiana Schreiber, Carol Kauder
GUESTS: Jan Van Lohowzen, Gila Lindsley
COMMENTATORS: Michael Silverstein, Sy Montgomery
(Theme music intro)
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. It's primary time in New Hampshire, and the environment is heating up as an issue, but leading Republican candidates don't seem to want to talk about it.
GORE: Where are the Republican candidates? Isn't New Hampshire an important state? Isn't the environment an issue of concern to the people of New Hampshire? Are they fearful that they might have to answer some questions about this extremist, anti-environment platform that they're trying to run on?
WOMAN: Where in the world have they gotten the notion that Republicans and Americans in general don't want protection of our air and our water and our endangered species and our wild lands? I would just like to know.
CURWOOD: On Living on Earth, first news.
NUNLEY: From Living on Earth, I'm Jan Nunley. GOP Presidential frontrunner Steve Forbes says he has serious doubts about the causes of acid rain. The multimillionaire publisher told the Boston Globe that acid rain is created by nature, not by smokestacks. Forbes thinks a little humility is in order on the debate on global warming and acid rain, and he adds that he'd examine the evidence and take what he calls a Missouri attitude of "show me." Director Paul Godfrey of the University of Massachusetts Water Resources Center says 10 years of research have proven that acid rain is overwhelmingly caused by human industrial activities.
Democrat Ron Wyden's victory in the Oregon senate race means more advertising on environmental issues during the coming year. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters say their ad campaigns helped give Wyden his 1% margin of victory over Republican Gordon Smith. Betsy Loyless is the League's political director. She says the media strategy will be repeated in this fall's elections.
LOYLESS: My organization, the League of Conservation Voters, will dedicate the majority of our resources in to doing independent campaigns. Campaigns that we manage. Campaigns that we do the advertising on, and the polling on to tell which candidates are more susceptible to an environmental message.
NUNLEY: The 2 groups spent nearly $300,000 on ads attacking the Republican candidate. Exit polls showed that of the 132,000 voters who said the environment was an important issue to them, nearly 3/4 voted Democratic.
Doctors fear a deadly infection that killed 40 people in the US Southwest 3 years ago could break out among US troops in Bosnia. The Hanta virus can kill half its victims if not treated. Symptoms include muscle aches, kidney failure, fever, nausea, and coughing. It is spread by rodent dropping which infect humans who inhale dust containing the contaminants. A Belgian medical team says soldiers in the former Yugoslavia may be in particular danger because camping out in the open encourages mice and rats. Doctors at the Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels say 16 cases of the disease occurred among US soldiers in a 1990 exercise in southwest Germany. All 16 recovered after treatment.
Some 3,000 lions who died in a mysterious epidemic that swept through Tanzania's Serengeti National Park 3 years ago were likely infected by domestic dogs or hyenas. University of Tennessee scientists say the lions were infected with the Morbilli virus, a relative of human measles and canine distemper. A report in the journal Nature says the lions were probably infected by wild hyenas which caught the disease from pet dogs. Some 30,000 domestic dogs live near the Serengeti. Most have not been vaccinated. There is some hope for protecting wildlife from these diseases. Foxes in several European countries have been made immune to rabies by leaving out vaccinated bait for the animals to eat.
A Minnesota power company is offering the Prairie Island Dakota tribe millions of dollars in return for their support of state legislation extending the life of a nuclear power plant. Northern States Power offered the deal to the tribe whose reservation abuts the site. Minnesota Public Radio's Mary Losure reports.
LOSURE: Northern States Power will give the Prairie Island Dakota more than 1,700 acres of land, an up-front payment of $2 million, and more than a million dollars a year for the operating life of the plant. In return the tribe has agreed to support legislation that would allow the power company to store more high-level nuclear waste at the plant. Prairie Island Dakota Tribal Council President Curtis Campbell says since the company is already storing waste in steel casks at Prairie Island, the tribe might as well get some benefits from their presence.
CAMPBELL: This is a chance for the tribe to have something rather than nothing, and the casks are going to be there anyway.
LOSURE: Company officials say the added storage will allow the plant to keep operating till its license expires in the year 2,014. The deal with the Prairie Island Dakota is contingent upon the bill passing in this session of the Minnesota legislature. For Living on Earth, I'm Mary Losure.
NUNLEY: China is offering new jobs in a chemical plant to people forced to relocate from the massive Three Gorges Dam. The official Xinhua News Agency reports China will spend $108 million to build the factory on the shores of the 400-mile-long reservoir created by the dam. The Three Gorges project will submerge more than 1,000 factories as well as part of a scenic Yangtze River canyon and acres of rich farmland. Environmentalists have condemned the dam project. They say it will further threaten endangered species downstream, and that water pollution from industrial sites will concentrate in the reservoir. More than 1 million people will have to be resettled before the dam is completed in 2009.
That's this week's Living on Earth news. I'm Jan Nunley.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. In these times, issues like the budget and taxes typically dominate presidential campaigns. But as the first caucuses and primaries of the 1996 elections approach, another issue has been gathering strength: the environment. Republican-led efforts in Congress to roll back environmental protection have brought a howl of protest from many citizens, and put care for the environment back in the center of American political debate. For example, in the recent special and close election for Oregon's open seat in the Senate, exit polls showed that voters who listed the environment as their top concern provided a key margin of victory for Democratic Congressman Ron Wyden, who had campaigned as an environmental advocate. President Clinton has made natural resource protection a pillar of his reelection campaign as well. But there are some in the Presidential race who don't seem eager to talk about it: the major Republican candidates. And that's not sitting well with a lot of Republican voters. Living on Earth's Peter Thomson attended a recent candidates' forum in New Hampshire and prepared this report.
THOMSON: There's less than a month to go before New Hampshire's first in the nation primary, and it's hard to avoid running into a presidential candidate here. Every group of more than a couple of people is likely to have a guy in a conservative suit or a plaid shirt pressing the flesh. So it was more than a little surprising recently when a coalition of state organizations threw a campaign forum and none of the major Republican candidates showed up.
(Sounds of people milling; glasses clinking)
COWLES: I'm Esther Cowles and I'm the forum director. I work for New Hampshire Wildlife Federation. We're extremely disappointed that the major Republican candidates didn't make it, and that includes Dole and Gramm and Alexander, Buchanan, Forbes, and Luger. In each of those cases they told us that they had scheduling conflicts.
THOMSON: Maybe it was the schedule, but there were few at the forum who didn't think it was actually the subject which kept the candidates away. The subject was environmental policy. The assembled included some Democrats and professional environmentalists. But many of those who were angry at being snubbed were business people, local office holders, and loyal Republican activists hoping to find a candidate that they could support.
PETERSON: I'm Roland Peterson. I'm a Nashua resident and a Commissioner of Public Works in Nashua. I am a Republican, but I've been concerned for a long time that the candidates that I've been interested in for other reasons don't take a more active interest in the environment.
RUSSMAN: My name is Rick Russman and I am in the New Hampshire State Senate, and I chair the Senate Committee on the Environment. I'm extraordinarily concerned about the rollbacks that Congress is attempting to do on our environmental regulation and protection. I think that they are simply going too far, and I was hoping to perhaps hear some of the Republican candidates tell us what their vision was for, or is for the environment in their presidency. And as you can see, by their lack of being here, the silence is deafening.
MARKS: My name is Martha Marks. I'm a county commissioner in Lake County, Illinois. My organization is called Republicans for Environmental Protection, and I would like to be able to support a Republican candidate. And by their not showing up it makes it pretty clear that the presidential candidates in my party are basically willing to write off a significant number of Republican voters.
THOMSON: Roland Peterson, Rick Russman, and Martha Marks are some of the voters who recent polls suggest could be a growing force in this year's election. They're moderate and even conservative Republicans who support strong environmental regulations and who are dismayed by what they see as their party's abandonment of a sensible environmental philosophy. They've watched Republicans in Congress try to eviscerate environmental protections, and have seen most of the Republican Presidential candidates toe the same line. Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm both blast the EPA and promise to wipe out environmental rules that infringe on private property. Bob Dole and Steve Forbes both assail what they see as burdensome environmental legislation. Richard Luger and Lamar Alexander say they support strong environmental protections, but they've barely mentioned the issue on the stump. And none of the six came to the forum, leaving potential voters here with a lot of unanswered questions and an unchallenged invitation to jump ship.
MARKS: Where in the world have they gotten the notion that Republicans and Americans in general don't want protection of our air and our water and our endangered species and our wild lands? I would just like to know.
GORE: There are real differences between the political parties, especially on the environment. For example, at environmental forums, Democratic candidates show up.
(Applause from the crowd)
THOMSON: Vice President Al Gore took full advantage of the opportunity to snap up some disgruntled Republicans.
GORE: Where are the Republican candidates? Isn't New Hampshire an important state? Isn't the environment an issue of concern to the people of New Hampshire? Are they fearful that they might have to answer some questions about this extremist, anti-environment platform that they're trying to run on? Of course that's the reason they're not here. They ought to wise up. Their own pollsters are taking soundings among the American people. Some of their pollsters are now publicly pleading with them to change course before they lead the entire party off a cliff.
BOEHLERT: I think any candidate who runs for public office in 1996 who doesn't identify the environment as a major issue of primary concern is running at risk, whether that candidate be Republican or Democrat.
THOMSON: New York Republican Congressman Sheri Boehlert acknowledges the dilemma his party leaders have created by ceding environmental turf to the Democrats. In the last year he's fought tenaciously against his own Congressional leadership on environmental policy. He came to the forum to try to do some damage control.
BOEHLERT: There are a great number of Republicans, and fortunately that number is growing, that are sensitized to environmental concerns.
THOMSON: Have you come out in support of any particular Republican candidate?
BOEHLERT: Yeah, I have. The New York Republican delegation is committed to the candidacy of Bob Dole. He's got a decent record, somewhat mixed I suppose if you were a purist looking at it, but I've always found Bob Dole to be receptive to good ideas. He'll listen. I think he's much more of a centrist than he's given credit for being.
MARKS: The lip service that he's given to the environment is pretty poor. There seems to be a new Bob Dole who has emerged which is anything but moderate right now. I don't see a single one right now that interests me as an environmentalist.
THOMSON: These divergent sentiments cut straight to the heart of the GOP candidates' environmental gamble. With so many other powerful issues at stake, will the candidates' environmental agenda really make a difference? Even though they're frustrated, many Republicans here say the issue won't send them into the arms of the opposition. Yet.
(Ambient voices and tinkling glasses in the background)
MAN: I'm not at the point where I would vote for Democratic candidates.
MAN: I haven't got to that decision yet at this point.
MAN: I will stick with the party through the nominating process and through the election until I walk into that voting box, because I believe that I need to be a voice within my party. Because I don't think it's right to let our party being taken over by a radical fringe.
THOMSON: Ironically, the 2 Republican candidates who did show up were among those considered to be on the party's radical fringe: California Congressman Bob Dornan.
DORNAN: My 5 kids remind me regularly that this is part of me and my political life that I should talk about more because they said Dad, do you realize that somehow you have raised all 5 of us so that we absolutely are unable to throw anything out the window of a car?
THOMSON: And former State Department official Alan Keyes.
KEYES: Are we going to be folks who are willing to make proper and balanced use of that which is there and in the process of making use of it create a stake in its existence that leads to its preservation? Or are we going to go down the path of worship and find that we end up creating a lot of natural sacred cows? Some of whom, by the way, will as a result of that become more and more endangered? Thank you very much.
(Applause from the audience)
THOMSON: Mr. Keyes and Congressman Dornan probably won few votes here, but many at the environmental issues forum were at least appreciative that they showed up. And for some Republican voters their presence only seemed to illustrate the opportunity that the other candidates had lost by deciding not to come and even talk about environmental policy in the run-up to the crucial first primary. For Living on Earth, I'm Peter Thomson in Nashua, New Hampshire.
CURWOOD: There are some cold hard numbers to back up the sentiments of Republicans who feel that their party is ignoring the environment. For example, in a recent report to the Superfund Reform Coalition, pollster Linda DiVall wrote that 55% of all Republicans do not trust their own party when it comes to protecting the environment. The finding is significant given its source: a Republican pollster working for industry lobbyists who favor weakening Superfund liability laws. The report was leaked to the press, and both Ms. DiVall and the Reform Coalition have declined to talk about it, saying it's for internal use only. So we turned to another Republican pollster. Jan Van Lohowzen analyzed voting trends for George Bush. I asked Mr. Van Lohowzen if he was surprised to hear that more than half of all Republicans don't trust their party on the environment.
VAN LOHOWZEN: Yes it does. But I'm not sure that when people walk into the polling booth this fall, that this is something they're going to be thinking about, rather than the flat tax or Medicare or their jobs or crime or -- you know, you pick the issue. So I think if you ask are the Republicans doing a good job with the environment, then no is probably a fair answer. But if you ask what is important to you right now, or what will it be next November, environment is very low on the totem pole.
CURWOOD: So what you're saying is Republicans aren't doing a good job on the environment, but that most voters don't care.
VAN LOHOWZEN: Most Republican voters. I think there is a constituency for environmental issues out there, probably 10% to 15% of all votes cast. But I think that that constituency is solidly Democratic and that the odds that any of that constituency will vote Republican this fall are so close to zero that Republicans don't have to worry about it. What Republicans need to worry about when it comes to environmental issues is that that will be the issue rather than some other issue like the balanced budget or taxes or something like that.
CURWOOD: Now, in the 1992 election, the GOP won campaigning against government regulation, and those are themes that presidential hopefuls are continuing to use this year. But again, to go back to Deval's poll, only 30% of Republican voters think that environmental laws have gone too far. As Deval notes in her memo to the Superfund Coalition, quote, "The GOP is out of synch with mainstream public opinion." Do you agree?
VAN LOHOWZEN: Yes and no. I think there are huge differences by region in the attitudes toward environmental regulations. I think that in the heartland and in the mountain states there is a tremendous amount of opposition to existing environmental law and a distinct perception that those have gone too far. On the coast you have a generic sense that Federal rules are going too far. When it comes to environment, the environmental rules specifically, I don't think that perception exists. So if I were a Republican and I were looking at environmental issues and I were representing a district in Montana or Colorado or even rural Oregon or Washington, I would tend to ignore those poll results. But if I were a Republican representing a district in New York or Massachusetts or urban California, I'd pay a great deal of attention to those results.
CURWOOD: How about if you were a Republican running for President of the United States?
VAN LOHOWZEN: I think that I would look at results that suggest that the environmental vote is so solidly Democratic that I'm simply not going to worry about it.
CURWOOD: There are 30 Republican House members that recently wrote to Speaker Newt Gingrich saying that they were worried, in fact, about the party's image on environmental issues, and let me quote from the letter here: "We cannot be seen using the budget crisis as an excuse to emasculate environmental protection." These are Republicans now in the House, elected.
VAN LOHOWZEN: Yeah. And I personally agree with their point of view. I feel that the premise that if the Republicans are seen as the party that rolled back existing rules and the party that's responsible for increases in pollution and rolling back some of the successes we've had on clean air and clean water, I think that would be a disaster. That's not my point. My point is what are the odds that that will actually happen, that that is what we'll talk about? And I think those odds are pretty low.
CURWOOD: Now it's clear of course that the Democrats will use the environment as a major campaign issue. President Clinton spent a good portion of his State of the Union address talking about the environment to some pretty sustained applause. How do you think Republicans should respond?
VAN LOHOWZEN: I think Republicans need to focus on environmental policies that continue clean up of the environment, but try to do so at a lower cost. And that they can satisfy their commitment to lower or reduced Federal regulations by refocusing the way we enforce environmental laws. In today's environmental laws, we tend to stress both the goal of the policy, this is how clean we want the air, and how to achieve that goal. And Republicans might argue that there are much cheaper ways of doing it. That we could say let's establish a goal for a particular industry to meet, let's say a particular auto emissions level. But let's let the car and oil companies figure out how to achieve that goal, and that might be a much cheaper way of achieving the same goal. So I think there is a very sound Republican approach to environmental issues.
CURWOOD: And do you think that the Republican candidates are articulating that right now?
VAN LOHOWZEN: No.
CURWOOD: Republican pollster Jan Van Lohowzen worked on George Bush's presidential campaigns, and now runs Voter Consumer Research in Washington, DC.
CURWOOD: And if neither the Republicans nor the Democrats sing your song, we'll have some comments that consider some alternatives. Just ahead on Living on Earth; stick around.
(Music up and under: Tammy Wynette sings, "Stand by Your Man.")
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. This November, American voters could be favored with more than the usual pair of Presidential choices. Voter fascination with Ross Perot, Colin Powell, and distant rumblings from so-called radical center politicians, Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas, and Lowell Weicker, suggest a third party candidate could still emerge. And how should this candidate consider the environment? Commentator Michael Silverstein has some advice.
SILVERSTEIN: Should a serious third party presidential candidate actually emerge in months to come, what might this person's environmental politics be like? What might a true centrist contender choose to salvage from present Democratic and Republican environmental approaches on the way to creating a genuine, middle of the road political environmentalism? The obvious element worth saving with respect to a liberal Clinton/Gore Administration's environmental efforts, of course, is wonkery, the realm of creative program development. This administration has taken important steps to move the EPA toward a pollution prevention, rather than an end of pipe orientation. After a slow start, it has given the export of American green technologies a solid boost. It has also made serious efforts to simplify decades worth of stultifying environmental regulations.
Alas, these genuinely sensible and worthwhile environmental initiatives have been matched by an equal number of silly and distracting old liberal agenda spasms. Things like efforts to create a green Gross Domestic Product and an endless prattle about something touchy-feely called environmental social justice.
The environmental approaches a centrist third party would salvage from a current Democratic administration, then, are sensible, down to earth initiatives that appeal to sensible down to earth Americans. Not to just a few deconstructionists, academics, and some precious New Age campaign contributors. The thing a New Centrist party might salvage from a conservative Republican Congress, when it comes to the environment, is passion, enthusiasm, a genuine righteous indignation. Many of the Republican voices calling for dismemberment of the present regulatory system are real people crying out for redress from real threats to their economic future. These voices, strident though they be, have proven more than a match for the screechy professional pleaders who over the years have become spokesmen for so many environmental causes.
A new centrist political party must bring a conservative Republican-like fire back to the environmental platform. Must create a green populist rhetoric. It must make environmentalism seem like the job and profit future of the many, not a head game or a charitable good work of the few.
The American political system bears within itself the makings of one great environmental policy. Unfortunately, these makings are equally divided between two hostile and ossified political blocks. A third party that can extract the best green elements from each of these blocks and cast aside the encrusted ideological baggage carried by both might just create a very potent vote-getting mechanism indeed.
CURWOOD: Writer Michael Silverstein comes to us from member station WHYY in Philadelphia.
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CURWOOD: And now, it's time to hear from you, our listeners. First up this week, a west coast listener e-mailed us about our visit to Jane Brox's family farm in Dracut, Massachusetts. "I live in the flatlands of Oakland, California, a place known for its urban problems," Richard Walker writes. "After listening to the segment about the woman who was holding on to her family farm, I found myself thinking how lucky she is. Here is a person who has been able to maintain her connection with the land, and avoid the often soul-diminishing life of urbanization. This was never a choice for me. The farm of my grandparents in Iowa was sold decades ago when my father chose to leave the land. "
We received a complaint about our coverage of the race to replace Oregon Senator Bob Packwood. We reported that Republican Gordon Smith's food factory paid what was then the largest water pollution fine in Oregon's history for a spill that killed all aquatic life along a 20-mile stretch of creek. Tom Hargraves, who listens to KPBX in Spokane, Washington, says we left out some other important details.
HARGRAVES: Among other things, when you state that his company had been accused of x-number of environmental violations, there was no measure of how many other companies were cited for similar kinds of environmental violations or indeed, except for one, how serious those environmental violations are. I don't know, based on your report.
CURWOOD: Bob Carty's story about the clean-up of Sudbury, Ontario, touched a Canadian who now lives in Connecticut. He says after his first trip to Sudbury he told his wife the sun never shines in Sudbury due to the mining problems there. He continues, "Your program was very inspiring, and it was great to see that the city has come back."
CURWOOD: If you have a comment you can call our listener comment line at 1-800-218-9988. That's 1-800-218-9988. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. That's LOE@NPR.ORG. Our postal address is Living on Earth, PO Box 639, Harvard Square Station, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02238. Once again, Post Office Box 639, Harvard Square Station, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02238.
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CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation, in cooperation with WBUR, Boston, and Harvard University. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.
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ANNOUNCER: Living on Earth is made possible with major support from the Ford Foundation for reporting on environmental and development issues; the W. Alton Jones Foundation; Jennifer and Ted Stanley; and the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment.
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
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CURWOOD: Coming up in the second half hour of Living on Earth: Those winter blahs come from the natural rhythms of nature, and there are some ways to beat them. Find out after this break.
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Back in the 1970s a young Harvard graduate started telling big electric utilities that saving electricity would make them money. Some tried to dismiss Amory Lovins as crazy, but today he's credited with helping to create a market for conservation. We meet Amory Lovins in this half hour of NPR's Living on Earth, but first, this week's almanac.
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CURWOOD: Groundhog day, and a young person's fancy turns to thoughts of ... the weather. The Punxatawney rodent's place in the weather business is part of an ancient and honorable American fascination. The first recorded weather observations in North America were taken in 1644, near what is now Wilmington, Delaware. Many of the founding fathers were weather buffs as well. Benjamin Franklin discovered that winds circulate around storms and began to track and predict them. Thomas Jefferson unsuccessfully pushed for the establishment of a national corps of weather observers. Although various government entities did keep weather records following Jefferson's efforts, it wasn't until 1870, 126 years ago this week, that President Grant ordered the Army to create a weather service. The National Weather Service has since migrated from the Army to the Agriculture Department to its current home at the Commerce Department. And, despite technological advances that include satellites and computers, the Weather Service still relies on more than 10,000 volunteers around the nation to measure rainfall, temperature, wind, and river levels. It seems Jefferson had the right idea all along.
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CURWOOD: And speaking of the weather, it's late in the afternoon on a gray winter day. You're alone in your living room. And as you stare past the drizzle on the window to a dim landscape of leafless trees silhouetted against a steel gray sky, you're overcome by a sinking feeling. A feeling of hopelessness, hopelessness bordering on despair. You're feeling sad. You may call it the blues. Medical experts call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it's our body's natural reaction to days with less and less natural sunlight. Our internal biological clocks are out of synch with the natural rhythms established by the rising and setting of the sun. For some reason we may crave carbohydrates: sweets for some, alcohol for others. Whatever gets you through the twilight. Gila Lindsley knows about SAD. She's a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders, and has been treating people with SAD for years. Dr. Lindsley says SAD can affect almost all of us, and it can range from a mild case of the winter blahs to clinical depression with severe consequences.
LINDSLEY: When I had my sleep center in a psychiatric hospital, we saw some patients who came in suicidally depressed. There was one woman who actually had made a suicide attempt. She came to me because they couldn't get her out of bed; she was sleeping all the time, they wanted to see what was wrong. When I took her history I found out that she'd had this every year since she was about 17, and this was a woman with several school-aged kids at this point. And I said, "Have you ever been hospitalized before?" and she said, "No." I said, "But this happens every year?" and she said, "Yeah?" and I said, "This severely?" and she said, "Yeah." And I said, "Well, why the suicide attempt this year?" She said well, she could always hang on until February vacation, and then they'd go down to the Bahamas and it would all go away, because by the time they got back it was spring. And she said this year, February vacation came in March, and she just couldn't hang on any longer.
CURWOOD: How common is SAD?
LINDSLEY: Severe SAD of the kind we are talking about probably isn't terribly prevalent, but you just throw out a number, I'd bet it was as high as 15% of the population in the Northeast.
CURWOOD: Can't function at some times because of the Seasonal Affective Disorder.
LINDSLEY: Yeah. And in fact there have been some real interesting studies coming out of Alaska, and the prevalence rate there of severe depressions in the winter time, I don't know numbers but it's extraordinarily high. And there are some who believe it accounts for some of the high alcohol rates in that part of the world, to try to deal with a day with no sunlight.
CURWOOD: It does seem, though, that even in the North, even here in Boston or in Alaska or in Minnesota there are people that are apparently unaffected by SAD. Why do you suppose that is?
LINDSLEY: I believe the difference is probably genetic. People with blue eyes tend to get it more than people with brown eyes. It may affect how much light they're actually able to take in. And people with SAD tend to have family members with SAD as well.
CURWOOD: I'm wondering if SAD is related to the fact that we used to follow the natural rhythms, you know, being, getting up when it's light and going to bed when it was dark. And in the winter time that would mean we would sleep longer. But in today's world, you know, there's a clock. We get up, we go to work, we're there at 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock every day, whether it's the summer when it's bright or it's the winter and it's barely getting light. Do you think that has anything to do with it?
LINDSLEY: Yeah, I do. Because of course, in the winter in the old days, when we didn't have all that pressure and pushing and electrical lights so we could extend our days, it was a time when farms were fallow, and it was probably a time where people just rested. And I think what probably happens now with SAD, I think, is really is just excessive sleepiness from the shortening of the days. But if we're trying to push against that, then we're not functioning very well and our self esteem can drop and we can feel dysfunctional, and for those who are vulnerable that may be the key to why it becomes a depression rather than just sleepiness.
CURWOOD: Now in health food stores these days, you'll see displays of what's being touted as the natural wonder drug. It's called Melatonin. It's a pill. I guess you take it once a day and it's being taken by many people to treat SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and a number of disorders as well. So can you tell us just what is Melatonin, and what role it might play in SAD?
LINDSLEY: It comes from a gland that's in the brain, and the gland is called the pineal gland. There's a lot of evidence now that Melatonin is probably the key hormone in our entire body that organizes all of our different biological clocks.
CURWOOD: Really. Now if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, if you're SAD, can you take Melatonin to somehow make you feel better?
LINDSLEY: I think that's a terrible idea. If you think about it, Seasonal Affective Disorder, one of the most important symptoms of it are people who want to squirrel up in bed and not get out until spring. If you think of Melatonin as a sleep inducer, it's about the last thing that you want to do. In fact, what you really want to do is to suppress Melatonin and kind of fool the body into thinking there's more daylight. Now it may be that if you take Melatonin exactly timed right, that you can up the amount of Melatonin at night, maybe, but I've not seen it work and really the treatment seems to be anything that can make Melatonin be out of the body for about the same length of time you'd normally expect in the spring. That's the normal strategy for treating SAD.
CURWOOD: The best treatment for SAD?
LINDSLEY: Bright light therapy.
CURWOOD: Uh huh.
LINDSLEY: Basically what you're trying to do is to convince your body that it's really spring. You just think you see darkness outside. Now, the bright lights that are used, that are called broad spectrum bright lights, and what that means is that as opposed to these little 60- or 100-watt dealies that we have, that they're simulating broad sunlight midday during the spring time. Now these tricky lights were eventually the ones that began to be used for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and those are still the treatment of choice.
CURWOOD: Now, besides bright light therapy, are there simpler remedies to ward off SAD? I mean, should I get out of the office every day at noon if there's sun to go around the block for a walk? Or is the only solution to pack my bags for the Pond, the Caribbean or something?
LINDSLEY: I think the best solution is to pack your bags for the Caribbean, frankly. But before you start packing your bags and uprooting your life, the common sense things to do are number one, be aware it's a seasonal pattern. Number two, anticipate it in advance of the winter so that part of the depression, part of it is feeling alone and isolated, so build your life so that you're going to have a lot of contact with people during the winter months. Of course it's absolutely critical to get a lot of light, and before it even really starts, resist the impulse to stay in bed a little longer because it's not going to help you.
CURWOOD: Gila Lindsley is a clinical psychologist and sleep disorder specialist who practices in Lexington, Massachusetts. Thanks for joining us.
LINDSLEY: Thanks for having me.
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CURWOOD: Winter might seem interminable right about now, but nature's gears are turning relentlessly toward spring. Already the days are noticeably longer and the sap is starting to flow. There's a date on the Jewish calendar to mark the first stirrings of renewal in the middle of the bleakest season. It's called Tu B'Shvat, The New Year of the Trees, and it's celebrated this year on February 5th. It's been a minor event for years, but many Jewish people concerned about the environment are embracing it as a way to integrate their religious heritage with their work to heal the earth. Tatiana Schreiber explains.
GIRL: Climb them?
GOULD: You can climb trees, they're great to climb. What else? Ely?
ELY: You get paper from them.
GOULD: That's true, I forgot that. We do get paper from wood.
SCHREIBER: Jackie Gould teaches here at the Brattleboro area Jewish Community Center in southeastern Vermont. She's always loved trees and the outdoors. That's one of the reasons she moved to the Green Mountain State from San Francisco in the late 70s. It was then that she was able to join her respect for the natural world with her strong Jewish identity.
GOULD: (Sings in Hebrew)
SCHREIBER: Lo Yisa Goy is one of many songs about trees and the earth sung on Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish holiday which commemorates the moment in the Middle East when sap starts to flow in the trees and a new cycle of growth begins. Once a relatively minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, American Jews in the last 20 years have revitalized the event with special meals, songs, tree planting ceremonies, and discussions about what Gould calls the deeper meaning of the human relationship to nature.
GOULD: The Torah itself is called Ats Hiim, or Tree of Life. And there is a phrase that says it is a tree of life to those who cling to it. And there are Midrash -- Midrash are the stories between the stories -- it's not interpreting what's there, it's kind of interpreting what's missing. And there's a Midrash that there's a tree growing down from Heaven and a tree growing from Earth, and in the middle they meet. And we have to figure that out, how to figure out that mingling place where the trees meet. So Tu B'Shvat has become really special for me. It's also fun because the foods are so yummy.
KITTY: ...You don't eat the outside. You do eat the outside and you don't eat the inside. Then you have something like nuts where you don't eat the outside and you do eat the inside. Then you have something...
SCHREIBER: In Brattleboro, Vermont, Rabbi Noah Kitty is meeting with members of the congregation to plan the upcoming Tu B'Schvat seder.
KITTY: Then there's carob, which is a traditional fruit where you eat the outside and the inside but you don't eat the seeds.
SCHREIBER: The meal revolves around all kinds of fruits and nuts, and the drinking of wine ranging from white to white with a drop of red to red with a drop of white, and then finally all red. The foods and wine correspond to Jewish mystical tradition concerning how the world was created, relationships among people, and four levels of holiness: action, feeling, understanding, and essence, or spirit.
GOULD: The fun is debating them, of course.
SCHREIBER: Jackie Gould is gearing up for this year's Tu B'Shvat.
GOULD: And then the final level is essence, which some people say there is no fruit or food that goes with essence. And some people say it's music, and other people say it's perfume scented things. Essence. And in Vermont, we say it's maple syrup, and it smells so good, and it's the essence of the tree, it's from the sap, the rising sap. So I always love that on this table is a bowl of maple syrup in Vermont. Tu B'Shvat seders, I don't know if they do that anywhere else.
SCHREIBER: Part of all Jewish tradition is this process of questioning, debate, and interpretation. And Tu B'Shvat, according to Arthur Wascow, is one of the best arenas to debate what it means to be a good shepherd or a good steward of the land.
WASCOW: One of the real pieces of wisdom, I think, of Jewish tradition in fact is really a wisdom of the Hebrew language, is the relationship between 2 words: adam, which means human being, and adamah, which means the earth.
SCHREIBER: Arthur Wascow is a leader in the Jewish renewal movement, which aims to apply religious tradition in meaningful ways in daily life.
WASCOW: Even the word environment is really a kind of false indicator, because environment means what's out there. Right? What's around me. But adam and adamah says listen, it ain't around me, it's inside me, and I am inside it. We are intertwined. We're not identical, but we're intertwined in a very profound way.
SCHREIBER: This idea is catching on in many Jewish communities. The group Shomrai Adamah, or Protectors of the Earth, is a Jewish environmental group that's been developing nature-based Jewish educational resources for both adults and kids, and the Shalom Center, which Arthur Wascow directs, is working on what it calls the Eco-Kosher Project. The center has begun urging Jews to make conscious decisions about their use of paper, energy, and food.
WASCOW: What happens when you live in a generation when human beings don't just eat food any more? Nowadays human beings also eat coal and oil and electric power and paper and the chemicals that we combine to make plastics. So you can say we're eating many more things than food. So is there a kosher way to eat coal and oil and electric power? Is electric power that comes from a nuclear power plant, is that kosher electric power?
SCHREIBER: But for Wascow and others who are observing Tu B'Shvat this winter, the holiday has more than environmental and political meanings. It's also a celebration of warmth, renewal, and hope that in a time of darkness and cold, spring will in fact arrive. Jackie Gould is gearing up for this year's Tu B'Shvat, practicing a song she says is perfect for Jews in Vermont: the Green Mountain State.
GOULD: It's called Esa Ey-Niah, or I Lift Up My Eyes. "I lift up my eyes unto the mountains from whence, from whence will my help come? I lift up my eyes unto the mountains from whence, from whence will my help come?" (Sings in Hebrew)
SCHREIBER: For Living on Earth, I'm Tatiana Schreiber in Brattleboro, Vermont.
(Gould sings in Hebrew, followed by music up and under)
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CURWOOD: Coming up on Living on Earth, Sy Montgomery and some thoughts about why children may be missing out on nature.
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CURWOOD: Imagine a world where banana trees can grow in frigid mountains, inside homes without a furnace. Where cars get hundreds of miles to the gallon, and where office buildings are heated at a fraction of today's costs. Energy efficiency expert Amory Lovins has been making that world more real every day in his work over the past 20 years along with his wife and colleague Hunter Lovins. As part of our ongoing series on environmental pioneers, Colorado Public Radio's Carol Kauder offers this glimpse into the creative and energy saving genius of Amory Lovins.
(Airline announcer: "...11:37, boarding our customers, mark V-42...")
KAUDER: Amory Lovins is easy to pick out at a crowded gate at Denver International Airport because of his directionless jet black hair, his think round eyeglasses, and his 7th grade science teacher demeanor. But most noticeably, the man overflows with energy, an ironic characteristic from one who has devoted his life to conserving it. Lovins works closely with his wife Hunter and their staff at the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute. For 2 decades he has pioneered new ways to save energy in every aspect that people use it: at home, at work and everywhere in between. He says he's driven by a simple desire to make the world a better place.
LOVINS: There are a lot of things that need fixing in the world, and the most pervasive common denominator we could find where there was a profitable way to get it working right was in energy efficiency.
KAUDER: Profit for both energy producers and consumers is Lovins' primary focal point. When he first started looking at energy use in the early 1970s, he saw enormous natural resource waste, which also meant money down the drain. He set out to find ways to save energy and benefit the bottom line for everyone.
LOVINS: I guess there's something I like aesthetically about elegant frugality, in which you do much more with much less and you do it better. This is not about freezing in the dark or wimpy showers or warm beer. This is getting good, vigorous hot showers and cold beer in a way that works better and costs less than present arrangements.
KAUDER: Over the years, Lovins developed both energy saving technologies and the economic model showing energy providers that profit lay in efficiency. He showed power companies that rather than building expensive new power plants, they can actually save money by helping consumers use less electricity through things like double-paned, gas-filled windows, compact fluorescent light bulbs, better water heaters, more efficient building insulation, and so on. At first, his ideas were met with vigorous opposition by some, and were ignored by others. But business writer Art Kliner says time and time again Lovins was able to use a corporation's own numbers to show they could make more money by conserving power. Kliner says Lovins was an oddity at the time, an environmentalist offering a solution rather than criticism of big corporations.
KLINER: Amory became a kind of emissary. He was in fact one of the very few people at that time who was coming out of the counter culture, and yet people from corporate culture were listening to him. These two cultures were growing further and further apart, and there weren't very many people trying to bridge the gap. And he was one of the very few that was credible from a corporate side who actually was thinking about things in a way that an environmentalist or a counter culture person would.
KAUDER: That credibility has been established in homes, factories, and office buildings around the world. For example, an energy efficient retrofit for a Lockheed facility in California saved almost $500,000 on utility bills and also had a 15% increase in productivity with a 15% decrease in absenteeism.
(Airport announcer: ... "11.37 for San Francisco...")
KAUDER: But there are skeptics still, and Lovins tirelessly travels around the country and the world persuading the nonbelievers. This afternoon Lovins is on his way to a meeting with Pacific Gas and Electric in San Francisco. PG&E budgeted $15.5 million to test the benefits of integrating an array of energy efficient technologies for homes, businesses, and agriculture. Carl Wineberg is the former Research Director for PG&E.
WINEBERG: I guess I call it sometimes the Amory Lovins Put Up or Shut Up Project. Being a research practical guy I sort of said well, if this is a hypothesis we ought to be able to devise a number of experiments to prove whether this is true or not.
KAUDER: For Lovins, it's just another project that will once again prove that he's right. But his certainty should not be mistaken for arrogance. He's very tuned in to the needs and perspectives of the companies he deals with. Lovins credits eastern philosophy for enabling him to connect and communicate his ideas to large corporations. He practices what he calls akido politics.
LOVINS: You honor others' beliefs as you would your own, even if you disagree with them. You're committed to process, not outcome, thinking that from a good process will emerge a better outcome than anyone thought of in the first place. And you're not fixed in a position but centered in your values. So you're very flexible, you can see things from a lot of different points of view, and end up with a solution that is fair and beneficial to everybody.
KAUDER: Lovins says ultimately, energy conservation will improve global security by reducing conflicts over natural resources. Rather than rest on the laurels of redefining energy consumption, Lovins is moving on to one of the biggest consumers of energy, transportation. He's working on a super efficient hyper car, a visionary project that combines advanced technology with the basics of nature: sun and gravity, in a car that can get over 100 miles per gallon. The man said to hold the top 5 spots in the world's top 10 list of energy experts may some day be best remembered for reinventing the wheels. For Living on Earth, I'm Carol Kauder reporting.
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CURWOOD: Where would our collective imaginations be without the old fishing hole? From Huck Finn to Pen Rod to O Pioneers, American literature is filled with depictions of our children at play in and around ponds, lakes, and rivers. But that all seems long ago. And now, as commentator Sy Montgomery tells us, our fears may be ruining our kids' experience of the world.
MONTGOMERY: My husband's friends came to visit with their 2 little boys, then 4 and 6. The kids drawn by the tall stalks and weird pods and strange galls and singing crickets immediately ran off into our field.
"No!" their mother cried out. Were they running with scissors? Racing into rushing city traffic? Came another motherly shriek, "Get them out of the tall weeds!" What is going on here? Nothing can be more natural than kids playing in a field. Sticks and stones and woods and puddles, it's the stuff childhood is made of, right? If not, something's wrong.
Well, something is wrong. Somewhere along the line, many parents have become afraid of the natural world. When my friend, a librarian and author Ed Dunsing, told friends at work he would take his kids for a swim in the lake that afternoon, people were horrified. What's wrong with swimming in the lake? As one person put it, "There are living things in there!"
The problem with nature, as far as some people are concerned, is that it is alive. Unpredictable. Messy. Possibly life-changing. Which perhaps is why we've allowed safe, predictable suburbs to sprawl where shadowy woods and muddy ponds and sticky swamps, tall grass fields once spread, and drew kids like magnets. A hundred years ago every kid had a secret spot in the woods. Every kid knew how to make a daisy chain and where to find bullfrogs and minnows. When kids all had at least a patch of wild land to play in, they knew. This is the real world, where life itself acts and interacts with you. Where you can shake a patch of blooming jewelweed with a stick and watch the plant explode hundreds of pods in response. Where just wiping your finger in front of an ant's path changes its course. Where owls hoot back to you and fireflies come light on your hand in response to your flashlight.
Our kids are safe and sound in front of the computer or TV. But no matter how interactive new computer programs say they are, they aren't life. Nature is. As a young mother once remarked to the poet Patty Ann Rogers, "I brought this child into the world. The least I can do is let him show it to me." And that's what we lose when our kids lose the outdoors: our clearest windows on the real world.
CURWOOD: Sy Montgomery's book The Spell of the Tiger is due out in paperback this spring. She comes to us from New Hampshire Public Radio.
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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our senior producer is Chris Bauman. Our editor is Peter Thomson and our director is Deborah Stavro. Our production team includes George Homsy, Kim Motylewski, Constantine Von Hoffman, Jan Nunley, and Julia Madeson. We also had help from Christopher Knorr, Mark Borelli, Susan Shepherd, Liz Lempert, and Michael Argue. And a fond farewell to Marny Kimmell and best wishes for him down under. Special thanks to Vermont Public Radio. Our engineers in the WBUR Studio are Karen Given and Laurie Forest. Our Harvard University engineers are Larry Bouthelliere and Jeff Martini. Michael Aharon composed our theme. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.
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