Air Date: Week of December 31, 1993
Advocates and journalists from around the country go out on a limb with their environmental predictions for the new year.
CURWOOD: The big stories of 1994, of course, have yet to be told. And they'll probably be things that we can't predict sitting here in our studio. But that hasn't stopped us from trying anyway. So we called around the country in the waning days of the old year, asking people for their predictions about what environmental issues will make news in the new year. Here are some of their comments.
EGAN: This is Timothy Egan, I'm the New York Times national correspondent based in Seattle. I cover the resource issues of the American West. You have in the Columbia River what used to be the largest salmon runs in the world; there were something like ten million king salmon came up the Columbia. Now these runs are all endangered and in real trouble. Water users, irrigators, cities have been using that water at a subsidized rate and the salmon are dying because they're not getting enough flow. So you have a whole bunch of forces like fishermen and environmentalists, et cetera, who want to restore these salmon runs. The big test this year is will they use the Endangered Species Act to save these salmon? It's sort of an issue that goes to the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest, and it's an issue that goes to how this region defines itself.
ENGLEMAN: I'm Robert Engleman, and I direct a program on population and the environment for Population Action International in Washington, D.C. Well, 1994 is going to be an interesting year in terms of water. Every year there are 90 million more people and exactly zero gallons more fresh water. More and more of the lending institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations are recognizing the need to develop water infrastructures, especially in the developing world. So expect to see a lot more discussion of international water rights, transboundary water shipments, and potential high-tech solutions for problems of water scarcity. Another prediction: in a word, compost. Compost is going to be hot. You're going to see little piles crop up all over the world, and big piles, as cities explore the potential for composting paper and other organic wastes, and even sewage. The nations of the world will be negotiating an international treaty next year on desertification. The need to get humus - carbon-rich humus - into sterile and eroded soils is staring the negotiators right in the face. Compost puts humus into soil and it keeps it there better than any other method people have devised.
FERRIS: My name is Deeohn Ferris, I'm program director of the Environmental Justice Project for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. In 1994, the Clinton Administration will find an Executive Order on Environmental Justice. It will be a good tool in the hands of those who are adversely affected by disproportionate impact, which occurs in communities of color and low-income communities.
COPELAND: I'm Mike Copeland, and I represent the Political Economy Research Center, a market-oriented think-tank dealing in environmental issues. We see an increased emphasis on scientific credibility in the media. In the past we've seen several examples where original articles such as articles on Alar and the spotted owl turned out to be highly inflammatory and scientifically incorrect. And I think the media is going to be very carefully monitoring future claims. I believe the people who now profit by scaring us about upcoming environmental disasters are going to have a little bit more trouble making a living.
MAKOWER: This is Joel Makower, editor of the Green Business Letter. I think in 1994 we're going to have to take another look at the BTU tax. The economics of it makes too much sense, at least in terms of our budget deficit. The question is how to make it politically palatable. I think we are going to be seeing a lot of this talk if not actual action on this in 1994.
BROWN: This is Les Brown at the Worldwatch Institute. One of the things to watch in 1994 is the price of rice, which is now an environmental indicator as well as an economic indicator. The world rice price doubled in 1993. The real question in 1994 is whether the world's rice farmers will be able to produce enough rice to rebuild stocks, or whether, for various environmental reasons, they're pushing against some of the limits in countries like China and Japan in particular.
RYAN: My name is Teya Ryan, I am the executive producer of the CNN Environment Unit. I think the whole move in 1994 is towards influence of regional groups, be they from the wise-use side, be they from the environmentalist side, I think that this idea of large groups being able to speak for the entire country is going to diminish. I think Superfund in 1994 will look very different from what it looked like in 1993 and in the past ten years; I think the EPA's going to be more reluctant to clean up toxic waste, I think more of the money for that clean-up will be put more on industry and the polluting industries. And of all that I've said, I think at least one will be featured in a 1995 Living on Earth story titled, "The Really Bad Predictions for 1994."
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