Air Date: September 10, 1999
Beyond the Spotted Owl/ Orlando DeGuzman
William Dwyer, the judge who years ago curtailed logging in order to protect the spotted owl, recently issued a ruling that blocks about 50 timber sales - enough wood to build about 15 thousand homes. This time the ruling is about protecting some less charismatic species: mosses, salamanders and even slugs. From member station KUOW in Seattle, Orlando DeGuzman (day-gooz-MON) reports. (08:10)
The Wilderness Act at Thirty-Five
This month marks the 35th anniversary of the landmark Wilderness Act. America's wilderness system has grown from 9 million acres of public lands in 1964 to more than 100 million today, and citizens groups in western states are identifying still more acreage they feel should be given protection. One group that's leading the movement is the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Its Executive Director, Mike Matz, talks to host Steve Curwood about wilderness politics and his favorite wild place. (05:40)
Rising Gas Prices/ Nathan Johnson
Gas prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are setting records and drivers are getting angry. But some environmentalists see an opportunity: higher gas prices may help keep some cars off the road and that could bring a reprieve for deteriorating air quality. Nathan Johnson has our story. (06:00)
The Living on Earth Almanac
This week, facts about... Dr. Alice Hamilton, the mother of American occupational and public health. She was also the first woman to be hired as a professor at Harvard, eighty years ago. (01:30)
Climate Change and the Drought
Living On Earth’s political observer Mark Hertsgaard (HURTS-guard) talks with Steve about the summer's biggest environmental story: the weather. When it comes to recognizing a link between global climate change and the hot temperatures and massive droughts, he says we've got our heads in the sand. (06:00)
New Carissa Tourist Trap/ Colin Fogarty
In February the cargo ship New Carissa ran aground near Coos Bay, Oregon, spilling thousands of gallons of oil onto sensitive beach. Salvage crews are working furiously to get the rusting hulk off the beach before winter sets in, but sightseers as well are flocking to the site. Colin Fogarty from Oregon Public Radio has our report. (04:20)
Town Without Fish/ Nancy Lord
Commentator Nancy Lord, an Alaska fisherperson, visits Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, once a thriving fishing community with 22 salmon and tuna canneries lining the waterfront. The only remnants of this way of life she finds today are in a museum. (02:40)
Promo Salmon Series
Host Steve Curwood forward promotes a special series - Point of No Return: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest - which premieres in next week's program. (01:00)
Meet Miss Buck/ John Gregory
Reporter John Gregory sends an audio postcard from southwestern Illinois, where he's visiting Emma Buck. The 95-year-old Miss Buck reminisces about her family's connection to a particular 70 acres of farmland, tended by Bucks since Civil War times. She also worries what will happen to the land when she is gone. (09:30)
HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Orlando DeGuzman, Nathan Johnson, Colin Fogarty, John Gregory
GUESTS: Mike Matz, Mark Hertsgaard
COMMENTATOR: Nancy Lord
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CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. The spotted owl is only one of many species in the Northwest that need protection, some say. A Federal judge agrees, and has blocked new timber sales until the government's forestry plan is reviewed.
THOMAS: Is the plan put forward for the owl adequate to take care of all those other species? And that was the question: how sure are we of the viability of this array of species, given this plan?
CURWOOD: Also, gas prices are up, but so far the hikes are not reducing much traffic.
BORNSTEIN: In the short run, people are not very sensitive at all to the price of gasoline. What seems to actually push people out of their cars is when it becomes too inconvenient to use them.
CURWOOD: And the U.S. already has 100 million acres of Federally-protected wilderness, but some say that's not enough. That and more on Living on Earth; first, this round-up of the news.
(NPR News follows)
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The timber war in the Pacific Northwest is on again. William Dwyer, the Federal judge who years ago ordered logging stopped to protect the spotted owl, ruled last month that the U.S. Forest Service broke the law in some recent deals with private timber companies. As a result, the judge has blocked about 50 timber sales, enough wood to build about 15,000 homes. And this time the ruling's about protecting some less than charismatic species, including mosses, salamanders, even slugs. From member station KUOW in Seattle, Orlando DeGuzman reports.
DeGUZMAN: One of the oldest and most diverse forests in the Pacific Northwest is near the cloud-covered summit of Mt. Pilchuck in the Cascade Mountain range. This is an area that Forest Service ecologist Robin Lesher has studied for years.
LESHER: It gets about 150 to 200 inches of rain here, which is about five times the rain that you get in the Seattle area. And that's part of the reason why the forests are so old here, is because of the climate.
DeGUZMAN: The drenching storms rolling in from the Pacific Ocean have shielded this forest from catastrophic fires, and have created a rich cover of moss, lichens, and fungi.
LESHER: That's what strikes you when you enter these forests, is that there is a lot of green, and a lot of the moss cover provides most of the species diversity in these forests. There might be 20 to 40 species of mosses and liverworts that occur in a stand this age.
DeGUZMAN: But for many years, these organisms were overshadowed by the
spotted owl. In the late 80s, environmentalists battled the timber
industry in the woods and in the courtroom over habitat for the elusive
(A crowd shouts)
MAN: I'll give you guys exactly five minutes. Anybody that does not want to go into custody, just step aside. Otherwise, we're just going to start handcuffing them. Five minutes.
DeGUZMAN: For three years logging on Federal land was banned. Then in 1993, President Clinton stepped in and brokered a compromise.
CLINTON: I'll probably make everybody mad, but I will try to be fair to the people whose livelihoods depend on this, and fair to the environment that we are all obligated to maintain.
DeGUZMAN: The President appointed a group of scientists who created the Northwest Forest Plan. Their mandate was to figure out a way to protect the owl while allowing some logging on old growth forests. But it became increasingly clear that it wasn't just the owl that needed protection. Dr. Jack Ward Thomas is one of the architects of the forest plan.
THOMAS: We went over nearly 1,000 species, and came down on the fact that there were probably about three or four hundred that had a very definite and close association with old growth. So, that kind of changed the game from a single focus on a single species to the array of species that might be associated with old growth.
DeGUZMAN: In the end nearly ten million acres of Federal land in northern California, Oregon, and Washington State were put permanently off limits to logging. But Dr. Jack Ward Thomas says scientists weren't sure if simply setting aside land for the owl was enough.
THOMAS: Is the plan put forward for the owl adequate to take care of all those other species? And that was the question: how sure are we of the viability of this array of species, given this plan?
DeGUZMAN: That's because if an area is disturbed, an owl can fly off. But mosses and slugs aren't that mobile. Dr. Jerry Franklin also helped craft the forest plan. He says the main intention wasn't to protect every single plant and animal, but to set aside large tractsof their habitat.
FRANKLIN: The Northwest Forest Plan was to preserve habitat for the spotted owls on a massive scale. You know, as far as we knew in developing the plan, it was adequate.
DeGUZMAN: But deciding how much protection is enough is as much a political question as it is a scientific one. While Dr. Franklin believes setting aside large chunks of land is enough to meet the legal requirements, the courts disagreed. Judge Dwyer has ruled that the Forest Service must conduct detailed wildlife surveys of 77 species. Some of these species are so obscure, they've been found at only two sites in the entire northwest.
DeGUZMAN: It's a painstaking and time-consuming search for many Forest Service biologists, like Sally Clagett. She's scouring the forest floor at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwestern Washington.
DeGUZMAN: Underneath a massive fallen log, Sally Claggett presses her eye against a ten-power magnifying glass. She's trying to identify a moss known as Boxbamia viridis, which botanists have nicknamed "bug on a stick."
CLAGGETT: You look right down the side of the tree, it'll stand out a little bit. That's the only way you can find it at all. It's quite small, and as you can see, it's obscure. It's the same color as the bark. Looks like one of these pine needles put right next to it.
DeGUZMAN: The Forest Service signed contracts with timber companies without checking for "but on a stick." Now, all the sales here are in limbo. Mt. Adams District Ranger Greg Cox says they don't have enough people to survey all the required species.
COX: Honestly, it would take an awful lot more people with proper training than what we've got right now. It's one of our biggest problems, is that our budgets have been declining, and we'd have to find new people, train them, and otherwise get them up to speed to come out here and do these kinds of surveys, if we really wanted to do it that quickly. That would be a tough order.
DeGUZMAN: The Forest Service has temporarily stopped approving all logging contracts. This time the shutdown is hitting a handful of small lumber mills that have managed to hang on after the spotted owl crisis.
DeGUZMAN: Unlike larger timber companies, Solid Wood Products, Incorporated, in Olympia, Washington, doesn't own large tracts of private forest land. Co- owner Tim Johnson instead buys logs sold on the open market. He expects Dwyer's decision to drive up the price of timber.
JOHNSON: You know, if you don't have your own timber base, you're in trouble. You're in real trouble. Especially if you're using the popular products, like Douglass fir, and hemlock. Because the big companies have their own timber base, which is they can put in their mills cheaper, so they're able to go out and pay more for the logs to keep their mills running at capacity.
DeGUZMAN: Jim Johnson says he's relying less and less on logs from national forests ever since the spotted owl shutdown. Over the years he's changed his saws and machinery to cut smaller logs from private land. But the future of other small mills is more uncertain. Timber industry spokesman Bob Dicks says Dwyer's ruling is unfair.
DICK: Realistically, what are we going to do? Stop the world? Stop living? Stop consuming? While we explore every possible species of plant or animal out there? I'm sure if you look at downtown Seattle, there is some fungi that perhaps lived there some time, and perhaps we ought to shut down the city of Seattle while we find out more about it? Does that make sense? Doesn't to me.
DeGUZMAN: Judge Dwyer has ordered the Forest Service, the timber companies, and the environmentalists to come up with an agreement outside his court. If they fail, he'll rule next month whether to make the temporary injunctions permanent. The impact of his decision could ultimately affect over half a million acres of Federal forest land. Meanwhile, law makers have come up with their own solution. The Senate has agreed to keep a rider in the Interior Appropriations Bill that would relax the wildlife survey requirements, effectively undoing Judge Dwyer's rulings. But the bill still needs to be approved by Congress and the President. For Living on Earth, I'm Orlando DeGuzman in Seattle.
CURWOOD: Today, we mark the 35th anniversary of a landmark law of the land, or to be more precise, wild and open space. In a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in September 1964.
JOHNSON: This is a very happy and historic occasion for all who love the great American outdoors. And that, needless to say, includes me. The Wilderness Bill preserves for posterity, for all time to come, nine million acres of this vast continent in their original and unchanging beauty and wonder.
CURWOOD: What began as a nine-million-acre conservation experiment has grown into a system of more than 100 million acres. The law defines wilderness as, quote, "An area where the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Wilderness designation means no roads, no buildings, no motorized vehicles, and no activities like logging or oil drilling. In the last decade, though, the pace of wilderness designation has slowed. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is one of several organizations now pushing for more Federal wild lands. Michael Matz is its Executive Director, and he says Congress has been unreceptive. He also gives poor marks to the Clinton Administration.
MATZ: I would say that the Clinton Administration probably gets a D in this arena. They in Utah designated the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a 1.7 million acre preserve in the southern part of the state, and did preclude a coal mine from being developed there. They also, early on in the Administration, signed into law the California Desert Protection Act, which did add about eight million acres to the national wilderness preservation system. But they certainly need to do more, and I think that they could focus more on the Forest Service lands and more on the BLM lands in the remaining time that they have.
CURWOOD: Today there is about 100 million acres of designated wilderness in this country. It's not enough, you say. How much would be enough?
MATZ: I think conservationists from The Wilderness Society on down to the regional groups are taking a look at perhaps as much as another 200 million acres.
CURWOOD: So to triple the size of our present wilderness area.
MATZ: That would certainly be the ideal. If we are able to do that, it would be the cat's meow.
CURWOOD: Now, some people say that if you give an area a wilderness designation, it can be like the kiss of death because it attracts more people to the area. Do these areas need to be protected from people as much as they need to be protected from economic activities, including mining, logging, ranching, that sort of thing?
MATZ: It is true that once you tap an area as a wilderness area, that draws lines around a map and people tend to have an interest in visiting those places. But really, in the larger scheme of things, the threat from increased use like that pales in comparison to oil development or coal mining or pummeling by off-road vehicle use.
CURWOOD: Groups like the Wilderness Act Reform Coalition in Idaho and the Blue Ribbon Coalition are contesting wilderness designation proposals. They don't want off-road motorized recreation prohibited in any more areas. Do you really want to limit so many people's access to the wilderness?
MATZ: It's a matter of balance, Steve. I think that if people take a look at the scales, they'll find that the areas that are open already to off-road vehicle use far exceed the areas that are protected from that kind of excessive use. For instance, in Utah, we're asking that about nine million acres of the 22 million acres, or less than half of it, be designated as wilderness. That means that the majority would still be open, and is still open, to off-road vehicle use, to coal mining, to oil and gas development, and all the kinds of activities that admittedly we need. So, it's not so much that we're trying to keep people out; it's that we're trying to make sure that there is enough opportunity for people who like solitude, who want more primitive type of recreational opportunities, to have those opportunities as well.
CURWOOD: Surveys do show that wilderness preservation is very popular. One survey we've seen found that almost 90 percent of U.S. citizens want to protect special lands right now. Who are these people who are joining your organization now?
MATZ: It's interesting. I think that more of the suburban types who have to commute long distances to their job and spend a lot of time along the roadways and see 7-11s or shopping malls or automobile dealerships pop up along the roadside and eat away at the fruit orchards or the horse pastures. I think it's largely been a lot of those people who have decided this is an important issue that we should save as a legacy for those who follow us some natural places. The places that are un-roaded, that don't have development.
CURWOOD: Could you briefly describe for us one of your favorite places in the wilderness?
MATZ: (Laughs) There is a place. I don't really want to name it because I don't want to highlight it (Curwood laughs). But there is a place down in southern Utah, along the border between Arizona and Utah. It's a wonderful plateau that you can hike a fairly grueling couple of hours to get up through a fairly narrow canyon. But once you're up on top, it's just this unbelievable mixture of red, slick rock, swirling patterns in the rock, and Ponderosa pines. And you just feel like you're in the top of the world, and it's a magical place. It really is. I visited it last March with some folks, and we actually endured a snowstorm that just added to the beauty, because you so rarely see the desert blanketed in snow and snow melting, running in rivulets down some of the sand washes. It was just a gorgeous, gorgeous setting, and I think that, you know, you come away from an experience like that being refreshed and renewed.
CURWOOD: And we won't get the name of it today, huh?
MATZ: Not today.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) Michael Matz is Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. He joined us from member station KUER in Salt Lake City. Thank you very much, sir.
MATZ: Steve, thank you very much.
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CURWOOD: Coming up: When gas prices go up, driving goes down, but just a little bit. Keep listening to Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. It's been a summer of
discontent for northern California drivers. While gas prices rose sharply nationwide, on the West Coast they set records, with some grades peaking at nearly $2.00 a gallon. Some accuse oil companies of price gouging, and the state Attorney General's office is investigating. But high demand and a series of refinery accidents have tightened supplies of the cleaner-burning fuel required for California. Meanwhile, some environmental activists sense an opportunity. Higher gas prices may help reduce pollution and highway congestion. Nathan Johnson has our story.
JOHNSON: Here in downtown San Francisco, the cost of gasoline is up sharply, and about the only people not complaining? Environmentalists. Clifford Cobb is a senior fellow with the nonprofit group Redefining Progress. He says when gas prices go up, there's a hope people will change their driving habits, like in Europe, where gas costs two or three times as much.
COBB: There's an expectation among some people that we will have cities that look like European cities, and that we will have mass transit systems that are like the ones they have there, and that people will drive less and take the train between cities, and the car will recede in importance, overall, in American life. That would be the hope.
JOHNSON: But in the end, if prices go up, do people really drive less?
BORNSTEIN: In the short run, people are not very sensitive at all to the price of gasoline.
JOHNSON: Severin Bornstein is Director of the University of California Energy Institute.
BORNSTEIN: The best estimates say that a 50 percent increase in the price of gasoline, which is a huge increase, leads to maybe a five percent decrease in the amount of gasoline used, so it's a very small response. What seems to actually push people out of their cars is when it becomes too inconvenient to use them.
JOHNSON: Traffic and parking can be unbearable in the Bay Area, but cars are still the easiest way to get around. Public transportation is not well developed. And because the area's economy is red hot, many people can easily afford to pay the $1.75 a gallon or more.
BORNSTEIN: The typical two-car family burns about 80 gallons a month, so a 50 cent increase is a $40 a month or a bit more than a dollar a day increase in the price of gasoline. Now, that's noticeable for many people, although it's less than some people spend on coffee every morning.
JOHNSON: Northern Californians aren't driving a lot less, that's clear. But experts say high gas prices can convince people to buy cars that get better mileage, like in the 1970s when many people switched to small, imported cars from Japan.
JOHNSON: Today, the equivalent to high-mileage imports may be new ultra- efficient hybrids and electric vehicles.
SLAVIN: And there you have the engine compartment of an electric car...
JOHNSON: Here at the Saturn dealership a few miles north of San Francisco, Pat Slavin sells the EV-1, an electric car made by General Motors. Showing off the car, she's like a proud parent.
SLAVIN: See how much cuter ours is? The car does not need a key to open it. Everybody has their own pin that can be used...
JOHNSON: Ms. Slavin says she's leased every electric car on the lot.
SLAVIN: I had a tremendous amount of phone calls, about three months ago when the prices really jumped up. We were all kind of taken unaware, I think. I don't have anyone that comes in here now to buy a car, that is not thinking about gas mileage.
JOHNSON: Even though interest in alternative vehicles is picking up, there's still a huge demand for gas guzzlers. A dealership next door can sell 80 sport utility vehicles for every EV-1 that leaves here. Plus, the electric cars go for around $40,000. That's a lot of money, especially for those with low incomes.
JOHNSON: North Richmond is across the bay from the Saturn dealership. It's a residential area boxed in by two major freeways and a heavy industrial zone, including a Chevron oil refinery. Small one-story homes are spaced tightly together. Clothing is strung up to die in yards. There's a broken down vehicle on almost every block.
(A door opens)
JOHNSON: Inside the Missionary Baptist Church on Filbert Street, there's a side room. It's been made into a job resource center.
(A phone rings)
WALLACE: So the employee can -- oh, okay. Tomorrow -- Wednesday?
(Several voices speak at once)
JOHNSON: Joe Wallace is a staff member here. He says high prices hit hardest in poor neighborhoods, because they're isolated and not well served by public transit.
WALLACE: We have no services here. That means for shopping, for laundry, for a doctor's appointment, anything that we need here in North Richmond, we have to go outside our area to get it. So that means that, first of all, the first thing that we have to think about is transportation costs.
WATKINS: I feel affected by it, and a lot of people are really affected by it. Because you need gas, you know, if you're not on public transportation you need gas.
JOHNSON: Richmond resident Kalisa Watkins.
WATKINS: I used to be able to fill up my car with, like, $15, and now it's like $20-something to fill up. I may have to fill up my tank maybe two times out of the week, two or three times. And that's, like, you know, $60-some dollars, for a single parent a week. That's like another bill for me.
JOHNSON: So what about all the extra money paid at the pump this summer? Environmentalists say higher prices could in theory be used to pay for the damage cars cost, things like air and water pollution. But for now, that's not happening. The money is being lost to the oil industry, with nothing much gained for the environment. For Living on Earth, this is Nathan Johnson in San Francisco.
MAN 1: It sucked in a $20 bill, and the pump won't work.
MAN 2: You lifted up the red handle over there, right?
MAN 1: I've lifted the red handle.
MAN 2: Try pushing it down and lift it back up...
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CURWOOD: It's NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues; and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for reporting on marine issues.
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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
CURWOOD: Coming up: Two small islands have disappeared under the Pacific Ocean. Some scientists say it's a sign of the rising tide of global climate change. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.
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SECOND HALF HOUR
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include Barrett Communications, delivering strategic marketing communications and design for business worldwide: www.barrett.com.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood
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CURWOOD: Eighty years ago, Harvard University hired its first woman faculty member. Her name was Alice Hamilton, and she was appointed assistant professor at the medical school, but she was not allowed to join the Harvard Club, march in the commencement procession, or even obtain tickets to football games. Those obstacles did not keep Dr. Hamilton from doing pioneering work to research and reform urban and industrial environmental conditions. And she is today considered America's mother of occupational and public health.
During her career, Dr. Hamilton argued against putting lead into gasoline when that idea was first proposed. Her investigations exposed the connections between sewage outflows in Chicago and a serious typhoid epidemic, and led to sanitation improvements that became a model for the nation. Dr. Hamilton's work drew praise from many quarters, including the White House. In a letter to a friend, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote this of Dr. Hamilton after attending an event in her honor: "So gentle and unassuming, and yet look what she has done. She has probably given the impetus to workman's compensation and research into industrial disease and saved countless lives and heartbreaks." And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
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CURWOOD: Joining us now to talk about the latest environmental news is Living on Earth's Mark Hertsgaard. Hi, Mark.
HERTSGAARD: Hi, Steve.
CURWOOD: Hey, thanks for giving up your camping trip and coming in and talking with us today. I know, trying to get in those last days of summer is something we'd all like to do.
HERTSGAARD: Yeah, it was great. I was out in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
CURWOOD: Uh huh. Up above the snow line there?
HERTSGAARD: Well, I was camping last Thursday, actually, at 7,500 feet and hiked up to 8,500 feet, and in full sunshine there were huge snowbanks. It was really wonderful.
CURWOOD: Isn't that great? You know, we could have used some of that
snow out east here all summer. I mean this was really hot. You've been talking to scientists about this summer. Can you give us the bad news?
HERTSGAARD: Well, it just confirms what everybody's own experience tells. Which is that this has been one of the worst summers in American history. In fact, the scientists are saying that the drought in particular was the second worst drought that struck the United States in the last 100 years. I think equally worrisome, though, is that there have been a lot of heat-related deaths. The numbers are still coming in, but in early August the official count was 271, and this is something we're going to see more and more of as the heat gets worse in summers to come.
CURWOOD: So, it's going to get worse, the scientists that you're talking to say.
HERTSGAARD: That's the other thing, that this is part of a trend toward more extreme summers, again, throughout the 20th century. Hotter and hotter temperatures ranges, longer and longer droughts. So this is what we've got to look forward to in a globally-warming world.
CURWOOD: And this is affecting the entire world, not just us in the United States, of course.
HERTSGAARD: No, of course. In fact, I think one of the biggest developments of this summer was that two tiny Pacific islands actually disappeared beneath the rising sea levels. This is something people have been talking about ever since global warming first got on the radar screen, that because of the melting glaciers and the expanding oceans, that we would begin to disappear underneath the ocean. Well, it's finally started to happen out there in the Pacific Ocean. Two small islands. And we're seeing this also up in the Arctic. The Arctic is now warming three to five times faster than the rest of the planet, and it is having a devastating effect on the ecosystems there. In particular, the walrus population has been decimated because their food is becoming scarce. And then finally, one other, I think, very important development: in Europe, butterflies are moving north. Twenty-two out of 35 species have shifted their ranges 20 to 150 miles to the north over the last decades, precisely because of warming temperatures. This is important because butterflies are very delicate creatures, as we all know, and they're a little bit like the canaries in the coal mine. They are warning us about what is coming down the pike because of global warming.
CURWOOD: Well, these examples you're giving us, Mark, are of relatively unpopulated areas involving wildlife. What kind of impact are scientists saying is going to happen in areas with large numbers of our species, people?
HERTSGAARD: Big report out of India recently says that the Himalayan glaciers are going to be melting over the next 40 years, and the scientists at Nehru University are predicting absolutely devastating floods along the Ganges and Indus river valleys. Of course, these river valleys are home to hundreds of millions of people. So, it could be an enormous loss of life there. And this ties in with a report that Red Cross came out with this summer, too, where the Red Cross has said that they are now expecting poverty and environmental degradation to begin to reinforce one another, to create what the Red Cross calls "super-disasters." Like Hurricane Mitch. Hurricane Mitch was a storm, but it was made much, much worse by the fact of deforestation down there in Central America, and that's what the Red Cross is predicting for the years to come: enormous super-disasters and hundreds of millions of what they call "environmental refugees."
CURWOOD: Well, Mark, tell us what's going on, then, in terms of the political response to these changes.
HERTSGAARD: Not much is the short answer, although I've been so gloomy here, let me at least throw in one piece of good news --
CURWOOD: Yes, please!
HERTSGAARD: -- which is that -- at least I think this is very encouraging. The economic data that came out of the United States government for last year shows that we do not need to be producing ever-increasing amounts of energy to keep our economy healthy. Last year economic growth was about 3.9 percent, but our energy growth was only 0.4. So clearly we do not have to keep going in this direction. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that most of our leading institutions have yet to get the message. Al Gore, for example, the Vice President, climate change is his signature issue and yet he's been virtually silent this entire summer. His own political advisors are telling him privately that it looks like he is running away from this issue. At the same time, we've got on the Op Ed page of the New York Times Mobil Oil running a four-part series of advertisements about climate change, and saying, at the very time that hundreds of people are dying from heat and drought, that climate change is still not proven, and it's not clear that we have to do anything about this. And then finally, I must take to task a bit my own colleagues here in the media. I've been very struck by how little attention has been paid to the causal relationship between this summer's heat and global warming. There have been a couple of stories but, you know, the weather was the biggest, probably the biggest news story of this summer, and yet no one pointed out the obvious connection between that and global warming. I think that's a major failing on the part of our colleagues.
CURWOOD: Mark Hertsgaard is Living on Earth's political observer. Thanks, Mark.
HERTSGAARD: Thank you, Steve.
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CURWOOD: More than six months after the cargo ship New Carissa ran aground near Coos Bay, Oregon, and dumped thousands of gallons of oil near shore, the stern section of the boat is still rusting on the beach. The bow section was hauled to sea and sunk, and much of the oil was burned off. But the stern has so far refused to budge, and salvage crews trying to remove it are racing against time. And as they work, they have plenty of spectators. The remains of the New Carissa, it seems, are one of Oregon's more popular tourist destinations. Colin Fogarty from Oregon Public Broadcasting has our report.
(A helicopter whirrs)
FOGARTY: A helicopter lands on board this charred and battered remnant of a ship. The back end of the vessel rises from ocean swells just a few hundred feet from the beach. Bill Millwee, who represents the ship's owners, steps onto a buckled deck.
MILLWEE: Welcome aboard the New Carissa. (Laughs)
FOGARTY: Millwee shows off a roll of thick fabric used to clean the oil still trapped in the engine room.
MILLWEE: You just throw this on the surface, and it picks up oil and throw them away.
FOGARTY: Kind of like a really good paper towel.
MILLWEE: That's just about it, yeah.
FOGARTY: But at this point, members of the salvage crew have cleaned up as much oil as they can get to. So the plan is to make the ship floatable by patching holes in its skin.
(Cutting, drilling sounds)
FOGARTY: Once that's done, a barge will haul it out to sea and sink it. Deep ocean temperatures should solidify any oil and hold it in place.
MILLWEE: Here comes our taxi.
FOGARTY: Back on shore, Bill Millwee worries about the oncoming winter. Already, winds and high swells have delayed the salvage effort.
MILLWEE: This is probably one of the most inhospitable coasts in the world. Our coast is just absolutely magnificent and beautiful, but it is certainly no place to hold a shipwreck.
FOGARTY: For some businesses in Coos Bay, the eight-month shipwreck ordeal has been an economic boon. These days, though, the flow of sightseers has slowed to a trickle. Tour operator Gene Grabe is running far fewer tourists out to get a look at the New Carissa. Earlier this summer, he had groups of 30 or 40.
GRABE: You know, the last couple of days has been, like, four. (Laughs) It's been pretty boring.
FOGARTY: But soon enough, six tourists show up for the 2 o'clock tour.
MAN: Yeah, we're heading to the redwoods, and we just saw a sign that said New Carissa. So we said, hey, we saw it in the news, let's go check it out.
WOMAN: Because it's here, I guess. We were just so close.
MAN 2: It is news.
WOMAN: We were so close to it, we didn't want to miss it.
FOGARTY: Gene Grabe starts the engine of his 1970 Chevy Suburban for the 40-minute round trip over rugged sand dunes. He drives only in government- regulated areas. Even so, environmentalists are concerned about vehicle and foot traffic on the beach. The endangered western snowy plover doesn't have much habitat left, and the New Carissa looms right near it. The oil spill was devastating enough for the tiny shore bird, and Ray Dolan, with the Cape Arago Audubon Society, worries sightseers could do even more damage.
DOLAN: We certainly like to have people go out on our beaches for recreational purposes. But I don't think we're inclined to want to have a major tourist attraction right adjacent to plover habitat.
FOGARTY: The state is not inclined to keep the shipwreck as a tourist magnet, either. Bob Applegate, the press secretary for Governor John Kitsauber, says an environmental disaster should not become the hallmark of Oregon's pristine coast.
KITSAUBER: Oregonians and people around the country come to the Oregon coast to see the Oregon coast. And that's what we want to recreate. And that's why we're going to get the stern out of there.
FOGARTY: Salvage crews have set an unofficial deadline of October first to complete their operation. If they can't haul it out to sea before winter sets in, harsh storms would break up the ship even further. That could mean more oil on the beach, and even more sightseers throughout the year. For Living on Earth, I'm Colin Fogarty.
CURWOOD: Commentator Nancy Lord fishes the waters off Homer, Alaska. Recently, she journeyed to the Pacific Northwest to visit what she thought was another fishing community, but what she found startled her.
LORD: Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, was once called "the future New York of the Pacific." In my mind I pictured the place where the ocean and great river met as a bustling waterfront. I envisioned it full of boats and birds and the lives of men and women who were fed in every way by what they gathered from the water.
Indeed, the Astoria waterfront was once lined with 22 salmon and tuna canneries. A fleet of 2,600 gill netters sailed the lower river, chasing salmon that numbered in the millions. But a lot has happened in the last hundred years. The salmon, once thought to be inexhaustible, proved not to be. I knew that the much-dammed Columbia was now a sad excuse for a salmon river. I knew that the offshore fisheries were also suffering from over- fishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. But I did not imagine how much had been lost. What I saw when I visited Astoria was an empty gray river and an emptying, down at the heels community. Only remnants remain of the town's seafaring and fishing industry. Stands of old wooden pilings along the shore. A high school basketball team called The Fighting Fishermen. Sagging Victorian homes turned to B&Bs. In the classified section of the local newspaper, I found a single ad in the commercial fishing category, for a used generator. Next to it was a half-page of listings for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
The centerpiece of Astoria today, down on the waterfront, is its Columbia River Maritime Museum. I spent a morning there, among the displays of wooden fishing boats, nets, and canning equipment. Mostly I studied the old photographs and the faces of people in them. Families with arms full of salmon. Men mending nets. The people in the photos looked vibrant, pleased with themselves and their work. They looked -- well, they looked like people I know, like myself and my friends who fish for a living in Alaska. It felt very strange, very unsettling, to be looking at my life and all its parts -- boats, nets, buoys, hip boots, fishing shirts cut off at the elbows -- all of it in a museum.
It was as though that way of life no longer existed in fact. What I saw of Astoria's past and present scared me. I hoped I wasn't seeing, in today's Astoria, the future of my own community.
CURWOOD: Commentator Nancy Lord's latest book is called Green Alaska: Dreams from the Far Coast. She comes to us from station KBBI in Homer, Alaska.
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CURWOOD: Next week, Living on Earth begins a special series on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are the region's signature creatures, but many populations have disappeared in the face of human development and others are on the brink of extinction. The fish are at the center of a fight that could transform life for millions of humans in the northwest.
WOMAN: These fish supported economies, supported cultures. Now what happened was, when we as a society fell into this pattern of delusion that we could have it all, and now we're in a predicament.
MAN: It wouldn't make any difference at all if the salmon were here. How many times a year do you eat salmon? There is no more dinosaurs; do you want them brought back? Times change.
CURWOOD: Starting next week on Living on Earth: Point of No Return: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest.
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CURWOOD: Coming up: Keeping a personal sense of place for almost a century. Meet Miss Emma Buck in just a moment, right here on Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. America is a mobile nation. For millions of us, homes are just commodities. Our dwelling's briefly rented, or bought and sold after just a few years of residence. It's not surprising, then, that many of us have lost a connection to a specific place, one that's rooted in the cycles of nature and spans generations. But not Emma Buck. From her front porch swing in southwestern Illinois, Miss Buck can look out on land that her family has tended since before the Civil War. Land not too far from the Mississippi that supported cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, and the odd mule. Land that's given her and her ancestors more than 150 harvests of corn, oats, and wheat. At age 95, Emma Buck is among the last of a generation that practiced living and farming in a manner that directly connected people to their land. Producer John Gregory recently spent an afternoon with Miss Buck, and sent us her story.
GREGORY: The first thing you should know about 95-year-old Emma Buck is that she loves nature, but she hates weeds. Crabgrass, jumping grass, carrotweed, thistle, you name it, Miss Buck simply won't abide it growing in her yard. That's why even on a steamy summer day, when the temperature is nearly equal her age, this tiny wisp of a woman is sharpening her hoe, preparing to do battle.
BUCK: I cleaned all around the buildings. Now it looks as if I haven't done anything. Those grass and weeds grow up so fast.
GREGORY: That's another thing you should know about Emma Buck. She's a bit hard to understand at first. Even though she's lived in Illinois all her life, her speech still rings with a touch of her German heritage. Her ancestors came to the United States in 1841. They filtered through New Orleans and up the Mississippi River to Monroe County in southern Illinois. Emma Buck's great grandfather purchased this farm for five dollars from another German immigrant. The property is 70 acres of rolling prairie with fertile fields that slope gently down to a thick stand of pecan, oak, and walnut trees.
GREGORY: The industrious family planted crops, raised livestock, tended a vegetable garden, and baked their bread in an outdoor oven. At harvest time, Emma Buck's grandfather worked by the light of the moon to avoid the heat of the day. He harvested and winnowed the wheat by hand.
BUCK: And then had baskets -- Dad called it winnowing baskets -- and they filled it out in the wind, and through the air the wind take the chaff out. It seemed impossible. It was such hard work in those days.
GREGORY: The farm was passed down through her mother's side of the family to Miss Buck's parents, Fred and Christina Buck. Her father was a self- sufficient man with little desire for modern conveniences. Fred Buck slaughtered and dressed his own animals, kept an orchard and vineyard, made his own tools, cultivated willow to weave baskets, and tilled the rich, dark soil.
BUCK: At first he had a team of mules [phrase?], but he didn't get along with them very well. They had their own ideas. And from then on he had horses, and they had about a half dozen cows and a couple of hawks and a hundred chickens there. They didn't go to Wal-Mart. (Laughs) We had it all here.
GREGORY: Emma Buck and her father farmed the acreage until Fred Buck's death in 1963. After that the crop land was leased to a neighbor. Today the farm looks much as it did earlier this century.
RIEKEN: Ah, this is Dad's workshop.
GREGORY: Annie Rieken is a preservationist with the Monroe County, Illinois, Heritage Foundation. A few years ago Emma Buck called Ms. Rieken to ask for help in maintaining the Buck family legacy. Now, the Illinois Landmarks Preservation Council lists the farm as one of the state's most endangered sites.
RIEKEN: And these are the tools of her life. And Grandpas's life. All these rasps and hasps and gorgeous little axes and everything that's so sharp.
GREGORY: Ms. Rieken is one of the people helping to document the Bucks' life on the farm. Along the way, Annie Rieken and Emma Buck have become friends. Ms. Rieken visits Miss Buck nearly every day to help with the weeding and other chores.
RIEKEN: We're just about a fourth of an inch off of our goal here, Emma.
GREGORY: As the two struggle to open a barn door that's swollen with humidity, MissBuck bends down, grabs a metal bar, and shoves it under the door, hoping to pry it loose. Even at 95 years old and weighing only about 60 pounds, Emma Buck is determined to let nothing stop her, especially an old barn door.
BUCK: Now, give me a chance.
BUCK: The other day I did the corn.
RIEKEN: Did you?
BUCK: And I had to crawl through the -- (The door opens) There, now. Now wait until I get this out of there.
GREGORY: Successful at last, the women swing open the large wooden door, revealing what Ms. Rieken calls the new part of the barn, built around 1880. The older section was built around 1838. Even after more than a century the barn is in marvelous shape. Its main beams are solid, hand-hewn timbers a foot square and perhaps 30 feet long. The space contains a horse-drawn side binder, a machine once used for harvesting grain, as well as a horse-drawn carriage and buggy.
(Metal and water)
GREGORY: But her life wasn't all farm labor. She attended Sunday services and picnics at the nearby church. And when she was a teenager, after the chores were done, Emma Buck loved to draw copies of pictures featured in advertisements she clipped from the newspaper.
BUCK: This was in the Chicago Tribune, and I thought it was cute so I copied it.
GREGORY: Miss Buck's gnarled, leathery hands turn the fragile pages of colorful pencil, ink, and crayon sketches. Although her mind is still sharp, age and arthritis have slowed Emma Buck. With a cane in each hand she struggles to move her small, fragile body across the room and out the front door.
GREGORY: On the front porch of the weathered frame house her grandfather
built, Miss Buck lowers herself onto a swing. She's dressed in a blue and white dress. Her hair is creamy white with curls that perch over each temple. Her eyes usually are cast shyly downward, but will flash upward to catch sight of a favorite song bird.
GREGORY: From her porch, Emma Buck can look at her flowers, including a hollyhock her grandmother tended and a rose bush she believes her great grandmother planted. By choice, her lifestyle continues to be a simple one. The house has no indoor plumbing, and an old television is turned on only one hour a week, for a favorite religious program. She does read newspapers and magazines to stay up on current events. For example, she wonders why government policies allow farmers to go bankrupt, while so many people go hungry. She also deplores how disrespectful humans have been to nature.
BUCK: Years ago they didn't care what they did. I remember one time they even killedblackbirds to use the red feathers for their hats and things like that. To me, that would be a shame to use them for things like that. It's annoying to me to read that people are so careless.
GREGORY: Emma Buck has been alone on the farm since her sister Anna died in 1992. She worries about the fate of the property once she and her brother, who lives in a Chicago nursing home, are gone. There are no heirs, and Miss Buck fears that urban development spreading eastward from St. Louis, including a golf course that recently opened just down the road, could overtake her homestead. Emma Buck doesn't want her land sold to another farmer, either.
BUCK: Because he'd just sell the antiques for a lot of money and tear some of the old buildings down. They wouldn't be interested in history. I'm just interested in history.
GREGORY: With the help of the local preservation group, Emma Buck hopes her land can become a living history center, where people can come, experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a working farm. A place where curators will teach younger generations about the old ways of driving a team of horses, winnowing wheat, butchering hogs, and baking bread in an outdoor oven. Until that time, Miss Buck says she's happy to be surrounded by her family's nearly 160-year tradition of living on this land. For Living on Earth, I'm John Gregory in Monroe County, Illinois.
(Tree frog sings)
BUCK: Tree frog. They like that when it is stormy, when you can feel it. They feel that and then they squawk.
(Tree frog, fade to music up and under)
CURWOOD: Your comments on our program are always welcome. Call our
listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Once again, email@example.com. And visit our Web page at www.loe.org.
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CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. We're produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our staff includes Jesse Wegman, Miriam Landman, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Cynthia Graber, and Stephanie Pindyck, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Bree Horwitz, and Barbara Cone. We had help this week from Brent Runyan and Russel Wiedeman. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Liz Lempert is our western editor. And Peter Thomson heads our special projects unit. Terry FitzPatrick is the acting senior editor, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
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ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com; the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the Surdna Foundation; and the W. Alton Jones Foundation, promoting new economic approaches to advance environmental protection and human prosperity; www.wajones.org.
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