Air Date: March 3, 2000
Animal Law/ Kim Motylewski
The debate over animal law is moving from the streets to the nation’s courts and law schools. The law currently protects animals from cruelty and abuse, but otherwise treats them as property. But some scholars say intelligent animal species deserve the kind of constitutional rights taken for granted by most Americans. Kim Motylewski reports. (11:11)
Movement to Ban Circus Animals
In response to a growing movement criticizing performing animal acts, a number of cities in the U.S. and Canada have debated and even enacted bans on wild animal performances. Host Steve Curwood talks with Boston Globe reporter Vicki Croke (CROAK) about what this could mean for the circus industry. (05:02)
Wal-Mart: Green Claims, Red Face/ Julia King
Commentator Julia King took up her local Wal-Mart’s offer to ask them about their “Green Coordinator.” She ended up feeling like she’d been taken for a ride. (02:53)
The Living on Earth Almanac
This week, facts about Johnny Appleseed, who began his legendary apple planting mission on the American frontier 200 years ago. (01:20)
Too Fat, Too Thin
For this first time in human history, there are as many overweight individuals in the world as there are people who are going hungry. Gary Gardner, one of the authors of a study published by the Worldwatch Institute, speaks with host Steve Curwood about these findings and the extent of health problems worldwide caused by poor nutrition. (04:31)
Shipping Smog/ Anna Solomon-Greenbaum
Living On Earth’s Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports on efforts to force the EPA to create emissions standards for ocean-going vessels that call on U.S. ports. Global trade is bringing more and more cargo ships to American harbors, and with the cargo comes air pollution from ships burning cheap, dirty fuel. (04:55)
Science News: Black and White and Grey Allo Over
Janet Raloff of Science News magazine, and Ira Flatow of NPR’s Science Friday join host Steve Curwood to discuss recent findings that shed new light -- and new uncertainty -- on old issues, from the health effects of chocolate to disappearing frogs. When a science discovery makes the headlines, we often assume that researchers have found the truth about a subject. But Raloff and Flatow say that good science builds on, or even contradicts previous work. (10:14)
Sacred Ground: Rainbow bridge/ Jane Fritz
Reporter Jane Fritz brings us the voices of Navajo elders and high school students talking about Rainbow Bridge, in southern Utah. The National Monument is the world’s largest sandstone arch, rising 275 feet from a side canyon of Lake Powell at the foot of Navajo Mountain, and is a sacred place to many Navajos. (04:56)
HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Kim Motylewski, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Jane Fritz
GUESTS: Vicki Croke, Gary Gardner, Janet Raloff, Ira Flatow
COMMENTATOR: Julia King
(Theme music intro)
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.
Cruelty to animals has long been illegal, but as the debate to broaden animal rights grows, some law schools are making it a part of their studies.
WISE: The question is not what species are you, but what other sort of characteristic or quality do you have, then, that should or should not entitle you to legal rights? I argue that it's the quality of mind.
CURWOOD: Also, the growing movement against making wild animals perform could mean the end of the tiger jumping through the flaming hoop at the circus. And commentator Julia King's search for the true colors of Wal-Mart.
KING: Wal-Mart created a position called a green coordinator. It said so on one of their signs. But recently, I went looking for this green coordinator and ended up a little blue.
CURWOOD: That and more this week on Living on Earth, coming up right after this news.
(NPR News follows)
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The call for inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence propelled the American Revolution more than 200 years ago, and today another revolution is taking up these rights as a battle cry, both here in the U.S. and around the world. But this time, these rights are being sought on behalf of animals, and the debate over animal rights is now moving from the barricades of protest into the nation's courts and law schools. Kim Motylewski has our report.
(A door slams. Background suspense music)
BAILIFF: The animal court is now in session. The Honorable Joseph A. Wapner, judge, presiding.
MOTYLEWSKI: For most of us, animal law is the kind of thing we see on television programs like this one. Bad dog eats good dog, neighbor sues neighbor.
WAPNER: You claim that the defendant's dog injured your dog?
WAPNER: What kind of dog is this?
WOMAN: He's a Maltese, cut real short.
WAPNER: Did you take your dog to the vet?
WOMAN: Yes. He took 51 stitches across his neck, plus his ear was taken off and he lost a tooth. I have pictures.
WAPNER: Was the ear put back on, though?
WOMAN: Yes, he did a wonderful job.
MOTYLEWSKI: In fact, animal cases in real courtrooms aren't much different. The law regards critters as people's property. But some folks would like to change that.
WISE: They have no legal rights. They have no recourse against us. We can treat them as we will. They are in the same legal category as a car or a chair.
MOTYLEWSKI: That's attorney Steven Wise. In his 20 years as a lawyer, he's handled plenty of animal cases: disputes over property damage, veterinary malpractice, apartment rules forbidding pets. And he's rescued more than a few hounds from doggie death row. But his larger ambition is to knock a hole through the legal wall that divides people from the rest of the animal kingdom.
WISE: Once we've done that, the question is not what species are you, but what other sort of characteristic or quality do you have that, then, should or should not entitle you to legal rights? I argue that it's the quality of mind. Certain kinds of minds should automatically be entitled to legal rights.
MOTYLEWSKI: Minds which are self-aware. In his new book called Rattling the Cage, Mr. Wise argues that human rights are built on this foundation: an individual's ability to think for himself. He says science has shown that some primates, for example, can think for themselves, so they, too, should be given basic legal rights.
WISE: When you see that non-human animals like chimpanzees and bonobos actually understand their own beliefs, their own desires, their own intentions, and actually can divine what the beliefs or desires or intentions are of another chimpanzee or bonobo or of another human being, you realize you are working with incredibly sophisticated non-human animals. That has to cause you to sit back and take notice.
MOTYLEWSKI: There are laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, but the rights Steven Wise speaks of are the inalienable kind, which can't be legislated away -- the ones most Americans take for granted -- life and liberty.
WISE: Chimpanzees and bonobos should have two basic rights: the right to bodily integrity -- you can't experiment on them, you can't torture them -- and the right to bodily liberty -- you can't shut them up in cages in ways that harm them.
MOTYLEWSKI: These rights would provide a kind of protective wall for chimps and their cousins the bonobos, and later perhaps other animals as science dictates. Mr. Wise leaves open the possibility of other rights, which would actually entitle animals to something -- call it the pursuit of happiness -- perhaps habitat protection, or even education. The problem, he says, is getting from here to there.
(Footfalls; animal calls)
MOTYLEWSKI: An important part of that legal journey might be unfolding in this barnyard in Ware, Massachusetts. Turkeys, goats, and sheep gobble and graze here within sight of a modest house. The place used to be home to Snowball, Patchwork, Old Man, Nay Nay, and three other sheep. Anne Krasnecky says she treated them like family.
KRASNECKY: They'd go to Dunkin Donuts, we'd, you know, get Munchkins for them. I'd make cookies or muffins, you know. If we ever went away we used to come back from the restaurants with rolls from the tables. We'd always ask for extras. (Laughs)
MOTYLEWSKI: Several years ago, two local dogs killed the sheep, launching a lawsuit between the Krasneckys and their neighbors. A judge says the couple is entitled to economic damages for the market value of their livestock. But along with their lawyer, Steven Wise, the Krasneckys want something more.
KRASNECKY: Well, we're mostly just looking for some justice. These were members of our family to us, and you can't give a dollar amount of what that one animal meant to you. I mean, it's priceless. We watched a lamb grow up without a mother, and we had to try to attach her to another mom, but we lost that with our animals because they're, like, skittish. I mean, a dog came in our yard one day and they just, like, panicked. I mean, it's like they live with this fear.
MOTYLEWSKI: The Krasneckys are fighting for emotional damages and loss of companionship, just as if a child had been killed. If this reasoning comes before a jury, the case could set a powerful precedent, helping to transform animals from possessions into legal persons with rights.
(A sheep bleats)
MOTYLEWSKI: Of course, the case could unleash a pack of tough new questions. Are pet sheep more precious than sheep regarded as livestock? Is there a value difference between domesticated animals and wild ones? Should one receive more protection than the other? These kinds of issues cause plenty of people to reject the very idea of legal rights for animals.
NIEMI: Every living thing relies on other living things for its survival. Herbivores need to eat living plants to survive. Carnivores need to eat living animals.
MOTYLEWSKI: Steve Niemi is a lab animal veterinarian and a board member of the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research. He says science doesn't rely only on the law of the jungle, but also on a logic of the heart. He calls the legal rights idea excessive, and points to laws and regulations at every level of government which protect lab animals and minimize their suffering. He says experimentation has always been a hard question, and it should be. But in the end, human self-interest rules.
NIEMI: Immediate survival may not require biomedical research, but certainly prolonged survival and improved quality of life does. There are many cases where, even with the best of data that are generated by cell culture and computer models and many other non-animal systems, we still don't know enough.
MOTYLEWSKI: Even those sympathetic to the animal cause disagree over the notion of legal rights. Bonnie Steinbock teaches bioethics at the State University of New York at Albany. She agrees there are biological similarities between people and other animals, but sees an important moral difference.
STEINBOCK: For whatever reason, human beings do have a capacity for interactions with one another, for being motivated by moral reasons that no non-human animals, at least so far as we know, have. And I'm not recommending that if a chimpanzee, you know, takes a banana, that we indict him for a misdemeanor, or that we hold chimps morally responsible. I think that remains something that is unique to human beings.
MOTYLEWSKI: So legal personhood doesn't make sense to her. Even putting aside moral capacities, Professor Steinbock wonders how we'd decide which animals deserve rights. She rejects the idea of letting intelligence guide us. IQ tests for animals would be impractical, she says, and unfair.
STEINBOCK: In my view, what's much more important is the ability to suffer, or the ability to experience pain. That if a being feels pain, then there's no excuse for not taking that pain into consideration.
WISE: Thank you all for coming on this cold February night.
MOTYLEWSKI: The debate over animal rights has been simmering for years among activists and academics. But now it's catching on among the public.
WISE: My job tonight is to make you an offer that you can understand.
MOTYLEWSKI: Steven Wise's new book is drawing heavy media attention and lively audiences to public forums. In Boston's Faneuil Hall, Mr. Wise hashes over the issue with Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe. Mr. Tribe says it's unjust to treat animals as things, but he sharply criticizes Steve Wise's reasoning on rights. He says the idea of tying animal rights to self-awareness and smarts could backfire, endangering human rights.
TRIBE: We end up having to say it's okay to award basic legal rights as a kind of privilege or favor or gift to human beings who lack all of those qualifying traits, like infants, or the severely mentally retarded, or the profoundly comatose. But the line of reasoning he's following also says it would be okay not to award those basic legal protections to such beings.
MOTYLEWSKI: Larry Tribe warns this is a very slippery slope.
TRIBE: I needn't spell it all out. The possibilities are genocidal and horrific, and reminiscent of slavery and of the Holocaust.
MOTYLEWSKI: That, of course, is the worst-case scenario. A new generation of lawyers, though, is discussing if there's any practical middle-ground. The discourse over rights, wrongs, and responsibilities has arrived at law schools across the country.
BOCK: I'm just really excited that we have this class. I think it's going to be a great opportunity, and I'm so proud of Harvard to be one of the first schools to have it.
MOTYLEWSKI: Sashi Bock is a third-year student at Harvard Law School. Ms. Bock and her classmate Jody Alexander persuaded the administration to offer a course on animal law.
ALEXANDER: Quite a few students were interested. I mean, we sent petitions around. A tremendous number of students signed the petition, saying they'd be interested in having an animal law course offered at the law school.
BOCK: We had over 100 signatures.
(A cash register tape runs)
MOTYLEWSKI: Today the women buy their books for the course, taught by Steven Wise. Ten years ago, at Vermont Law School, his was the only animal law course in the country. Now Harvard joins more than a dozen law schools which offer one. The first animal law casebook has also just been published; there's now a scholarly journal; and several states have strengthened their laws to make animal cruelty a felony. Steven Wise points to all of this and claims the tide of public opinion is beginning to turn. For Living on Earth, I'm Kim Motylewski in Boston.
(Bird calls, an elephant trumpets)
CURWOOD: Just ahead: A movement to ban performing wild animals in circuses is gaining momentum around the country.
(A lion roars)
CURWOOD: Stay tuned to Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The Greatest Show on Earth will be welcome this year in Seattle, but it almost was shown the door. In February, an ordinance that would have banned exotic animal performances was defeated by the Seattle City Council by just one vote. If the law had passed, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus would have seen many of its acts prohibited. Seattle is the latest and biggest battleground in a movement that's seen a number of cities around the country ban animal performances. Rodeos are coming under attack as well. Vicki Croke writes the animal beat column for the Boston Globe. She says the growing criticism of circuses is part of the broader change in attitudes toward captive creatures.
CROKE: Currently, people are concerned about wild animals in very unnatural settings behaving in very unnatural ways, and certainly the people in the animal rights movement feel that it's not kind to animals, and that, in fact, it can be dangerous to people who attend.
CURWOOD: So it is fair to say that this concern about what animals do in circuses is part of a larger, really growing sentiment in the public.
CROKE: Absolutely. We are seeing a huge change in zoos today, to much more naturalistic enclosures, and in the circus community I think we've done away with the flaming hoops for the most part. You still see some of that. But their acts are changing, also.
CURWOOD: But the ban on performing animals didn't pass in Seattle. I'm wondering if the animal rights activists are reaching too far. Are they trying to do away with something that people -- well, you know, we all went to the circus when we were kids.
CROKE: That's right. The animal rights movement is the vanguard of a social movement. They're always ahead of the rest of us, though I think that the public's attitudes toward all of these issues are in fact changing. And some ordinances and laws have passed in various communities around the country, and I think that's a trend we're going to see continue, and it will continue to pass in certain places. I think that circuses need to address some very serious issues about moving animals around and the way they're treated.
CURWOOD: What are the specific problems with the circus acts and the way the animals are transported, briefly?
CROKE: The problem is that they're in very unnatural conditions. Now, people who support circuses make a legitimate claim that in the circus an animal is employed. It's active. It has things to do. It's not sitting around bored the way it would be in a very boring zoo exhibit. So they do have that going for them. The animals have something to do, and that's important for a wild animal. In the wild they're foraging for food, they're defending their territory, they're looking for mates. They're very active. However, one of the most important issues is, and I do think that elephants are a particular case with their own set of circumstances. They're very intelligent, obviously they're very powerful. In zoos, where you want to work with elephants in case a veterinarian has to check them out, but what zoos use is operant or classical conditioning, in which you get elephants to behave in a certain way and you reward them for that desired behavior. If an elephant chooses not to participate on a given day, it can ignore you and you can ignore the elephant. At the circus, the train leaves on time, and how do you get an elephant who decides it doesn't want to get on the train? And that happens from time to time on board. And I've talked to executives at Ringling about this, and in fact the vice president told me you have to spank a child sometimes.
CURWOOD: Vicki, what's the difference between an animal who performs in a circus and, say, one who performs at a zoo, or at a marine park?
CROKE: There isn't a whole lot of difference between the two. When I was doing the research for my book, The Modern Ark, I went to the Brookfield Zoo and saw a dolphin performance. And during that performance the dolphins were trained to shake their heads yes and no to answer questions. They wore costumes. And the crowd was really captivated by this performance. At the end of the show, as the kids came down the aisles, they dangled their fingers into the water, and the trainer got on the microphone, and was absolutely unhinged, yelling at them, "These are wild animals! They could bite you, get your fingers out of there!" And I thought: You just spent half an hour telling us that they're not wild animals, that they're just like humans in wetsuits, and they understand what we say and they're friendly. And I think that is a problem.
CURWOOD: Do you think that these questions about circuses will be extended to zoos and marine shows?
CROKE: The changes have already begun to occur. We are much more sensitive to the needs of the animals in all of those places, and I think that the public is becoming more and more sophisticated. And they want to see animals behaving like animals.
CURWOOD: Where is all of this leading? Do you think that the few bans or changes, do you think this is going to spread around the country? In another ten years will it be politically incorrect to have performing animals in your circus?
CROKE: Absolutely, I don't know what the time frame is, but I absolutely do think that that will change. You know, years ago we used to have exotic people in zoo exhibits and in circuses. We thought Laplanders were an interesting exhibit. And we certainly don't do that any more.
CURWOOD: So the tiger leaping through the flaming hoop is going the way of the strong man and the fat lady.
CROKE: I think so, Steve.
CURWOOD: Vicki Croke is a reporter with the Boston Globe. Vicki, thanks for taking the time with us today.
CROKE: Thank you, Steve.
(Circus music up and under)
CURWOOD: The retailing giant Wal-Mart, known for its cavernous stores with low prices and acres of parking, says it's committed to the environment of the communities in which it operates. But when commentator Julia King tried to find out about her local Wal-Mart's green policies, the company ended up, well, a bit red in the face.
KING: According to a sign in my local Wal-Mart, their mission is to leave each community a little greener than they found it. Another sign embraces every environmentalist's mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle; together we can make a difference. And to show that it's not just talk, Wal-Mart created a position called a green coordinator. It said so on one of their signs. But recently, when I couldn't find recycled paper products in the aisles of my town super Wal-Mart, I went looking for this green coordinator and ended up a little blue.
When I asked to speak to the resident green coordinator, the guy behind the customer service desk looked utterly confused. "The what?" he asked. "The green coordinator," I said again. I pointed to a sign above a check-out counter. "Hmm," he said, thoughtfully, "Just a minute. A green coordinator," he repeated into the phone. "This woman says we have a sign."
After a hushed conversation, he hung up the telephone and came back, "Uh, he says it's at the other store," the man explained, "because we're so close." But miles away, the other store's guy behind the counter was just as perplexed. "Do you want lawn and garden?" he offered.
I settled for the manager, who overcame his initial bewilderment and told me that Diane, he was pretty sure, was the green coordinator, but she worked the night shift. I could call her at 2 AM.
Instead, I decided to call Wal-Mart's national headquarters. I developed a case of carpal tunnel syndrome from pushing option buttons on my phone. I got transferred, disconnected, and did the whole thing over, then finally I got my chance. "A what?" the customer service woman asked. Again I explained about the signs. "Is that for, like, the environment?" "Yes," I answered, triumph welling in my bones.
She paused ever so slightly. Then she said, "Never heard of it."
I've since discovered that Wal-Mart did have a green coordinator program, at least on paper. But they discontinued it on a local level when the coordinators reported that it was interfering with other duties. Now there are three green coordinators in the whole country. The closest one to me is in Kansas.
So why didn't Wal-Mart live up to those feel-good signs? Because big business just means big lies? Perhaps. But consumers also have power, the power to ask questions, to make demands, and to spend our dollars where we choose. Maybe Wal-Mart didn't live up to those signs because their customers never asked them to.
CURWOOD: Julia King lives, writes, and shops in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to us through the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.
(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. Or write to 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Once again, email@example.com. And visit our Web page at www.loe.org. Tapes and transcripts are $15.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: You're listening to 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 National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the W. Alton Jones Foundation, promoting new ways to provide energy for the world economy without harm to the environment: www.wajones.org; and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues.
(Music up and under)
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
CURWOOD: Coming up: Underfed and overfed. A new study says the world is suffering from twin epidemics of hunger and overeating, and that together the conditions may be responsible for as much as half of medical problems worldwide. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
SECOND HALF HOUR
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: Roughly 200 years ago, around the year 1800, a man named John Chapman wandered out to the American frontier of the Ohio River Valley, and into the legend books as Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed got his apple seeds from the pulp left behind in cider presses, and he planted them as he traveled across the wilderness, creating orchards for local native residents and for the settlers to come. It's estimated that over the next few decades Johnny Appleseed traveled over 100,000 miles by foot, on horseback, and by canoe. In addition to apples, it's rumored that Johnny Appleseed also scattered the seeds of healing herbs, like pennyroyal, catnip, and horehound, and that some Indians regarded him as a medicine man. And he certainly was eccentric. He wouldn't chop down trees or kill animals, a rarity in his time, and he walked barefoot and made clothes out of potato sacks. Also, he wore his cooking pot for a hat. Part of the legacy of Johnny Appleseed may still be living. A tree said to be grown from one of his seeds in Novo, Ohio, is still producing fruit. Rambo apples, supposedly Johnny's favorite kind. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: As we enter the twenty-first century, a plague that many expected would be defeated in the twentieth century is still rampant: hunger. As much as a fifth of the world's people still go to bed hungry every night. But according to a new study by the Worldwatch Institute, there are now as many people eating too much as there are those suffering from too little. Gary Gardner is a senior researcher at Worldwatch. He says that poor nutrition accounts for at least half of the global disease burden.
GARDNER: Whether we're getting too little nutrients or too many, both of those can have severe health effects. People who suffer from hunger also often suffer from diseases of deficiency, infectious diseases in particular. People who eat too much suffer form chronic diseases, things like heart disease and cancer and diabetes.
CURWOOD: What's the societal cost of malnutrition, that is, overeating and undereating?
GARDNER: It's huge. The World Bank did a study last year of India that found that between 10 and 28 billion dollars was the cost in lost productivity, for example, of people who are hungry or malnourished in India. In the United States, the cost of obesity is measured for both direct and indirect costs at over $118 billion, which is about 12 percent of our health care costs.
CURWOOD: Let's talk about the situation between the industrial world and the developing world here. Is there really a split? In other words, the have-nots, the poor part of the world, is the one that's underfed; and we have overweight people in the industrial world?
GARDNER: It would be natural to think that that is the case, but that's really not what's going on. Increasingly, we're finding that overweight is increasing very rapidly in developing countries.
GARDNER: In part that's because, when we get a little bit of extra money and we want our meals not to be so monotonous, one of the first things we buy is livestock products. But they're also products that are high in fat. In part it's because of urbanization. As people move to cities, they have more access to bad foods. And it's also because, as they move to cities, they expend less energy than they did when they lived in the countryside. So for all of those reasons, we're seeing a rapid rise in overweight in developing countries. The rate of overweight in China, for example, jumped from nine percent to 15 percent in just three years in the early 1990s. In fact, the World Health Organization has called the increase in overweight and obesity the greatest neglected public health policy of our time.
CURWOOD: In your study, at the end, you propose some solutions and responses, and one of them, you go after the advertising industry and you say: Is Ronald McDonald really so different from Joe Camel?
GARDNER: There are a lot of interesting parallels between the use of tobacco in the United States and the pushing, the advertising, of nutritionally poor foods. Both industries target young people, and both industries have very severe health effects. And both have been largely unregulated in terms of their advertising.
CURWOOD: So are you saying that corporations shouldn't be allowed to advertise fast food to kids?
GARDNER: That's one possibility we might look at. In Europe, several European countries already restrict the kind of advertising that can be aimed at children.
CURWOOD: In your study, "Underfed and Overfed," you mention a food tax as a possible solution. How would this work?
GARDNER: This is basically the idea of a Yale psychologist named Kelly Brownell. And the idea is to look at the nutritional value per calorie; and if there's a low nutritional value per unit or per calorie, that food would be more heavily taxed. That would be, you know, sweets and foods that are high in sugar often have low nutrient value, but they're very high in calories. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are not high in calories and have a very high nutrient value. So it would be a way to try to dissuade people from eating nutritionally poor foods, and then to use the money that's collected from that tax to do nutrition education or to subsidize healthy foods.
CURWOOD: Gary Gardner, along with Brian Halweil wrote Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition, published by Worldwatch. Thanks for speaking with us, Gary.
GARDNER: Thank you, Steve.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: Smokestacks, trucks, cars, even lawn mowers. Over the last 30 years all these sources of urban air pollution have come under increasing regulation in the battle against smog. But a substantial source of deadly soot in some cities has gone largely unnoticed: the exhaust stacks of cargo ships. Now an environmental group is suing the government to crack down on dockside polluters. Living on Earth's Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports.
(Noise at the dock side)
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: With the explosive growth of international trade, America's ports are busier than ever. More than 200 ships drop anchor nationwide every day. Here in Boston, dock workers are offloading blue and orange containers filled with goods from overseas.
MAN: We have bottled water, clothing, footwear, canned goods, slates of granite, children's Lego building blocks move through the port. And this time of year, near St. Patrick's Day, we probably are going to be bringing in a lot of Guinness Stout.
(A boat horn sounds)
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: But with the cargo comes pollution. Smokestack emissions from ships contribute to elevated ozone levels and smog in busy port cities, like Los Angeles and New York. The Environmental Protection Agency has standards for small boats, like tugs and fishing vessels. But the agency hasn't set rules for big ships. Environmentalist Russell Long.
LONG: They've completely ignored the large category, really a very, very significant source of pollution, which is tankers, container ships, cargo carriers and vessels like that -- the biggest ships that are out there. And as a result, we're going to have tremendous amounts of pollution ongoing from these vessels many, many, many years into the future.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Mr. Long directs a San Francisco group called the Blue Water Network, which is suing the EPA to force them to create emissions standards for oceangoing vessels. He says these ships pump 273,000 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air in the U.S. every year. The EPA and the maritime industry say emissions standards are on the way, but there's a problem. They say the U.S. can't set those standards alone.
METCALF: We have an international business that's involved in international trade that requires international standards.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Kathy Metcalf is with the Chamber of Shipping of America, a trade group. An international treaty to reduce air emissions has already been written. Ms. Metcalf says American officials were instrumental in drafting this agreement, and the U.S. can't act before the rest of the world signs it.
METCALF: Rather than focus on what sometimes we in the United States do as a very nationalistic, focused tunnel vision, they have taken it a step higher to the appropriate international forum that will enable air emissions to be addressed on a global scale.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: This isn't just a regulatory challenge, though. It's a technical one as well. Most big ships are designed to burn something called bunker fuel. It's cheap, but dirty. Environmentalists have been pushing the industry to switch to cleaner fuel, at least when the ships are sailing in U.S. waters. But Jonathan Benner, an attorney representing vessel owners, says it's impractical to retool ships to burn different fuels in different countries. And, he says, a U.S. ban on bunker fuel would simply shift the pollution problem from America to other countries.
BENNER: If you regulate in one part of the globe, sometimes it just causes a reaction in another part of the globe. If you set fuel standards, for example, as a way of controlling emissions in one nation, then sometimes you just cause the fuel supplies that do not meet those standards to go to another part of the world.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Despite the emphasis on global cooperation, it could be years before the Maritime Emissions Treaty takes effect. Only two countries have ratified the pact so far. In the U.S., it's unlikely to come up for a vote in the Senate in the foreseeable future.
(Noise at the dock)
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: This is why environmentalists are suing the U.S. government for unilateral action now. Most port facilities, like Boston's, are located in poor neighborhoods, and Russell Long of the Blue Water Network says cleaning up the air around them is a matter of environmental justice.
LONG: The EPA has a responsibility. They need to step in and develop regulations to protect people in the United States, to protect low-income people and to protect people of color and to reduce smog levels for all of us.
SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Unless something's done, the EPA predicts the problem will grow worse. As maritime commerce continues to thrive, the agency estimates nitrogen oxide emissions will grow by 35 percent in the next 30 years. For Living on Earth, I'm Anna Solomon-Greenbaum in Boston.
CURWOOD: Coming up: Everything you know is wrong, or at least a lot less certain than you thought. Scientists and journalists confront scientific uncertainty. That's just ahead here on Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. You might remember that old Woody Allen movie "Sleeper," in which a twentieth-century health food store owner wakes up after being frozen 200 years, only to find that dietary guidelines have changed a bit.
WOMAN: And he's fully recovered, except for a few minor kinks.
MAN: Has he asked for anything special?
WOMAN: Yes. This morning for breakfast he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger's milk.
MAN: (Laughs) Oh yes, those are the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.
WOMAN: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?
MAN: Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
CURWOOD: Well, don't break out the cream pies just yet. But there is new research that brings into question a couple of long-held dietary assumptions. The findings were presented at the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other topics discussed at the gathering illustrate the difficulty of honing in on a scientific truth. We're joined now by two journalists who attended the meeting. Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Science Friday is with us from the studios of WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. Thanks for joining us today, Ira.
FLATOW: My pleasure, Steve.
CURWOOD: And Janet Raloff is senior editor at Science News, and she speaks to us from Washington. Hi, Janet.
RALOFF: Hi, Steve.
CURWOOD: Now, let's start with you, Janet Raloff. It seems that we might have to do some rethinking about what we include in our diets. And I'm especially thrilled to hear about this new research on chocolate as medicine.
RALOFF: Yeah, no more thrilled than I am, I'll tell you. Turns out that people have been using chocolate therapeutically in the Americas for at least 600 years, and it's been used for almost everything you can think of. It's sort of good for what ails you -- if it's bad digestion, diarrhea, TB, even sexual dysfunction. It turned out in more recent years, anyway, medicine looked at it and said there wasn't an awful lot of science to back that up, and so it ended up being just a really delightful snack. More recently, as in the last three to five years, a number of studies have started showing that there are constituents in chocolate that actually seem to be beneficial for a number of attributes of your cardiovascular system.
CURWOOD: So what does chocolate do for you? What's this stuff and how is it good for you?
RALOFF: Well, these are a family of antioxidants, flavonoids, and they seem to prevent your LDL from oxidizing. That's good, because oxidized LDL contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.
CURWOOD: This is low-density --
RALOFF: Lipoproteins, uh huh. Things that carry cholesterol into your blood vessels.
RALOFF: They also relax your blood vessels, which is the same kind of thing that nitroglycerine does for people, trying to help them lower blood pressure. It sort of works a little bit like a mild aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots.
CURWOOD: So this means we can indulge in our chocolate cravings now, right?
RALOFF: Well, not too much. It still should be kept in moderation. There is the fat; calories overall matter. But it turns out chocolate has very good fat in it for you, and if you eat dark chocolate you don't need to eat as much to get the same effect.
CURWOOD: Now, there's change in a dietary law that's been ingrained in the U.S. for the last couple of years. And this is the one that tells us, reduce salt intake to reduce high blood pressure. Janet, at the AAAS meeting, people are saying that's not true?
RALOFF: Those original recommendations came out 20 years ago. They were based on data that were two to four decades old at that time. And the more studies they've done since the new recommendations came out, the less support they find for this idea that salt is actually a problem for blood pressure. It is a problem for a small share of people, maybe 15 to 20 percent. But that means that for 80 to 85 percent, it's not a problem. And, in fact, a few studies have even suggested that for some people lowering salt can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, sexual dysfunction, and a number of other things.
CURWOOD: Now, this is an instance in which the initial work has been proven to be wrong. There are some other issues that were presented at the conference that ended up being, well, much more complex than we had first thought. And let's talk about the latest research on the frogs. Ira Flatow, I want to turn to you for this discussion. Frogs are in deep trouble. They seem to be dying. They have malformed or missing limbs. What's going on here?
FLATOW: Scientists have known for over the past 15 years that frogs and amphibians, the whole class of amphibians, have been dying off all over the world. And they would love to say there is one cause for all these frogs dying off. Possibly it's global warming, possibly it's the ozone hole. And they've been looking for one kind, something they can pin on it, but they haven't been able to find any. And in fact, they have found all different reasons for these frogs dying off. So it makes it a very complex situation. Sometimes they find there's a fungus where the frogs died. Sometimes there are parasites. Sometimes there is water pollution and runoff into a stream or a river from the nitrates that are in fertilizers. Things that would kill your aquarium fish, for example, might be killing the frogs also. And it's a very complex situation where there are lots of different reasons, instead of one big reason that everybody would love to have.
CURWOOD: Well, I see a huge problem here. What we've been saying, Janet and Ira, is that from salt intake to chocolate, things that we knew in the past aren't true any more. Or they're so complex it's hard to figure out the exact cause of something. So how do we as non-scientists put all this research and changing science into the proper context? I mean, how do you make a personal health decision? How do you make a public policy decision when things are uncertain or are going to change, or are so complex that it's unclear? Ira, maybe you go first on this one.
FLATOW: You know, we as journalists, we face the same problem that everybody else does trying to sift through all of this and figure out what we do in our own personal lives. And you know, it drives public officials crazy also, this uncertainty. I remember many years ago, on a hearing on Capitol Hill that I covered when the supersonic transport was first coming into the country and they were trying to decide whether it would create these giant holes in the ozone layer. And Senator Ed Muskie had a big hearing on Capitol Hill, and he called all these scientists together. And they had a blue ribbon panel that was presenting their findings, and they said, "Our findings show this, that the preponderance of data is that it won't cause any danger. On the other hand, our data shows just the opposite, also, that we need to do more research." And I remember Ed Muskie getting up and saying, "Will somebody please find me a one-handed scientist?" Because they didn't know how to deal with this ambiguity themselves.
CURWOOD: But who's responsible here? I mean, is it the public's fault that their expectations can get dashed when a health study comes out that contradicts a previous one? Of course, I don't want the study that comes out that says that chocolate's lousy for you.
(Laughs with Raloff) Is it the media's or even the scientist's fault?
RALOFF: Well, I think it's certainly human nature that we want things to be black and white. And as a journalist, when we see people asking for those black and white answers, we have to tell people no, really, the whole universe is gray. Now it's an uphill struggle to keep this message, because every time you find five studies that show one thing, people are ready to say, aha, that's the answer, that's the truth. So we have to keep harping on our audience and telling them that it's never black and white.
CURWOOD: Okay. Well, there's a new field of science that on the surface seems to be, well, the quintessential gray, uncertain, unclear discipline. And this is the one called ecological forecasting. Janet Raloff, help us understand what this is all about, ecological forecasting.
RALOFF: Well, this is taking the big picture view of how the environment works. It turns out that in the last several decades humans have really started to dominate the planet. They are changing everything in a big way. And for the most part, science has only been looking at little corners of the world to try and see what's happening. Eco-forecasting tries to take that global overview, and by nature it's going to be a real broad-brush view. But it helps people figure out where the big pressure points are, where you need to home in on your research to find out what's likely to happen. You may be off by, you know, 50 percent or even 100 percent, but at least you know that these are the areas that are likely to be changed or heavily impacted by mankind's footprint on the planet.
CURWOOD: Ira, I have to ask this question. It's a bit of a million dollar one. What kind of certainty can we expect from eco-forecasting?
FLATOW: I'm skeptical on this, because I have trouble believing the five-day forecast of the weather. I think that the further out we go, especially five, ten, 50 years, the more lucky we're going to be if it gets to be right. So I'm a little skeptical about this.
CURWOOD: We have just a moment before we have to go. But your predictions, both of you, on how the chocolate research will hold up over the years.
FLATOW: (Laughs) I hope that we can eat a lot of it. But food, nutrition is the hardest thing to predict, of all the sciences I've ever covered, that research goes. There are so many factors involved, it's very hard to predict. But I'm hoping we can get to eat a lot of chocolate.
RALOFF: Well, among other things, eating chocolate makes you feel good. And that's good for your health, too. So if it does nothing else, at least we can go out being happy.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) So we can just not worry about all that other uncertainty, huh?
FLATOW: I go for the dark chocolate, and you take the milk chocolate.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) There you go, Ira. Ira Flatow and Janet Raloff, thanks to both of you for joining us today.
FLATOW: Thank you, Steve.
RALOFF: Thanks, Steve.
CURWOOD: Janet Raloff is senior editor with Science News, and Ira Flatow is host of National Public Radio's Science Friday.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: In southeastern Utah, there's a massive arc of Navajo sandstone almost 300 feet high. It's called Rainbow Bridge, and it's a sacred place for native dwellers. Many Navajos also took refuge there from the U.S. cavalry's 1864 relocation campaign, known as the Long Walk. Recently producer Jane Fritz and a group of Navajo high school students from Cayente, Arizona, produced this reflection on Rainbow Bridge. It's part of our occasional series on special places.
(A woman sings: "Way ya, hay ya, hay yo...")
MAN 1: Almost 8,000 years ago, Rainbow Bridge was first seen by the ancestors of the Navajo. Navajo oral history says Rainbow Bridge is a gift from their deities, the Yay, or holy people. It is a place that Navajos pray for rain, food, and protection.
MAN 2: There's rainbows in the sand paintings, rainbows in a lot of the Navajo mythologies. It was cast in stone there.
MAN 3: Navajo Mountain, Notsesan, means The Head of Mother Earth. A man, he had a vision. He said one of the deities lived right near Navajo Mountain, taking care of the Mother Earth, right near Rainbow Bridge.
MAN 4: Navajo people and other tribes believe it is taboo to walk underneath the great stone arch.
MAN 5: There's not a lot us there because we fear deities. That's where deities live.
(Singing continues; fade to piano music and a running stream and bird song)
WOMAN 1: Words cannot express the feelings I had when I first saw the big sandstone arch known as Rainbow Bridge. It's like an oasis. The canyon walls streaked with desert varnish. Green plants surrounding the monument as though they could hide the rainbow arch. Birds sing and the water flows quietly. The sandstone, red and orange, symbolizes the power of this sacred place. I stand here wondering if anyone else sees this link, the connection we have with this almighty being. Over a century ago our ancestors were hidden by these canyon walls and this sacred arch. And here we are today, free, free to be a bridge to the Navajo past.
(Music, water, and bird song continue)
MAN 6: The coyote cries with a howl and fish swim silently. Rainbow Bridge stands strong, so tourists see a uniqueness. A pair of ravens soar together while hummingbirds laugh. Navajo Mountain touches the cloudy sky, and canyon walls loom tall around us.
(Music, water, and bird song continue)
WOMAN 2: Walking along the Navajo Mountain trail, the sound of canyon wrens echo throughout the canyon walls. I imagine our ancestors hiding among these caves and canyons from the cavalry soldiers. The winter was a hard time for them because they had little food. Some of my ancestors died of starvation. Some died from disease. They hid away for years. To this day we say prayers and leave offerings to show our respect for our ancestors, those who had the courage to escape here and to survive.
(Music, water, and bird song continue)
WOMAN 3: Just standing close to it, I feel like falling to my knees and crying. The thought of how terrible it was for our ancestors to hide from soldiers so they wouldn't have to be slaves of the white men. Just being there is a wonderful feeling you have in your heart and soul. Just being in the same place as our ancestors were long ago.
(Music, water, and bird song continue)
CURWOOD: Reflections on Rainbow Bridge from Navajo Sheldon Yellowhair, Russ Small Canyon, Jolene Biguet, Theon Interpreter, Brenda Boone, and Suzanne Tohani of the Monument Valley High School Class of '99.
(Music up and under)
CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Living on Earth is production of the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our show was produced this week by Peter Thomson, with help from Cynthia Graber, Stephanie Pindyck, and interns Hannah Day-Woodruff, Steven Belter, and Emily Sadigh. Our administrative staff includes Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Bree Horwitz, and Barbara Cone. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Liz Lempert heads up our Western Bureau. And our science editor is Diane Toomey. Terry FitzPatrick is the acting senior editor, Chris Ballman is the senior producer. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
(Music up an under)
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund; the Surdna Foundation; the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com.
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth