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

June 14, 2002

Air Date: June 14, 2002


(stream/download) as an MP3 file


Activists vs. Law Enforcement / Cheryl Colopy

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A jury recently turned in a verdict in the trial of Earth First! members Darryl Cherney and the late Judi Bari against the FBI and the Oakland police, finding that the actions of the police and the FBI had violated the activists’ civil rights. Cheryl Colopy reports from San Francisco. (05:10)

Earth Summit Prep

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The last preparatory meeting to set the agenda for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg recently wrapped up in Bali. Host Steve Curwood talks with John Vidal of the Guardian newspaper about what was, and what was not, accomplished in Bali and what to expect in South Africa. (05:40)

Health Note/Eat Your Greens / Jessica Penney

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on how broccoli might help prevent stomach ulcers. (01:15)

Almanac/Seahorse Dads

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This week, we have facts about seahorses. Father's Day takes on special significance when it's the dad who gets pregnant and gives birth, as does this unusual fish species. (01:30)

Diesel Regulations / Anna Solomon-Greenbaum

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The Bush administration wants to cut pollution from off-road diesel engines found in farm and construction equipment. Environment and public health groups support the idea, but they’re wary of the administration’s motives. From Washington, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum briefs host Steve Curwood. (04:40)

More Roads, Less Trains / Drew Leifheit

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In Hungary, there’s a push to develop road systems to accommodate the rise in car ownership and prepare for a projected increase in commerce if the country is to join the European Union. Some say the move toward road-building means more pollution and comes at the expense of the public transportation system. Drew Leifheit reports. (08:00)

News Follow-up

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Developments in stories we’ve been tracking. (03:00)

Business Note/Consumption Barometer / Jennifer Chu

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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on efforts to green the upcoming Johannesburg World Summit. (01:20)

LOE Today

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Host Steve Curwood talks with Living on Earth’s Susan Shepherd about the launch of LOE Today, Living on Earth’s new web page. (02:20)

The Endangered Sage Grouse

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The Sage Grouse is a bird, about the size of a chicken, which lives in the arid, sage steppe ecosystem of the West. The sagebrush habitat is vanishing and so are the birds. As Clay Scott reports from Montana, there’s disagreement over how to restore the sagebrush grasslands, and how to save the endangered Sage Grouse. (09:15)

Sagebrush Territory / Guy Hand

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Commentator Guy Hand grew up in the vast, arid sage land of Idaho. It wasn’t until he moved away from sagebrush country that he realized how much he missed it. (03:15)

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Show Credits and Funders

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Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodREPORTERS: Cheryl Colopy, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Drew Leifheit, Susan Shepherd, Clay ScottGUEST: John VidalCOMENTATOR: Guy HandUPDATES: Jessica Penney, Jennifer Chu


CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, it’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. Dry country prairie grouse used to number in the millions. Now, as sagebrush country disappears west of the Rockies, these birds are vanishing, too.

SCOTT: For whatever reason, they’re almost-- they’re like the canary in the coal mines from the standpoint that they’re one of the first species that disappears as these sage steppe ecosystems become unraveled.

CURWOOD: And one man recalls growing up in sagebrush country and giving it no respect.

HAND: We saw sage land as good for nothing but relieving the frustrations of living in it with guns, dirt bikes and cheap beer. Or, as a convenient place to dump junk like old couches, broken stoves, and dead dogs. We saw sage land as wasteland. And we weren’t alone.

CURWOOD: Those stories and the dust-up over rules for off-road diesel emissions this week on Living on Earth, coming up right after this.

(NPR Newscast)

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Activists vs. Law Enforcement

CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. When a pipe bomb ripped through the Subaru station wagon of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney back in 1990, the local police and FBI leapt into action by accusing the Earth First! activists of carrying the bomb themselves. The charges were quickly dropped but no one else was arrested. Now, a jury in Oakland, California has awarded almost four-and-a-half million dollars in damages to Bari’s estate and Mr. Cherney on the grounds that the FBI and Oakland police had violated the activists’ civil rights and defamed them. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Cheryl Colopy has our story.

COLOPY: On the day of the bombing, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were in the thick of planning Redwood Summer, a series of rallies throughout northern California aimed at saving old growth redwoods. At the time, timber companies were harvesting redwoods at record rates, and the famous Headwaters Grove, later purchased by government agencies for conservation, was still at risk. Judi Bari described what happened that May morning 12 years ago in a videotaped deposition played a few weeks ago in an Oakland courtroom. The testimony was taken shortly before Bari died of cancer in 1997.

BARI: I felt a huge force that came from directly below me. It was the hugest thing I’d ever felt in my life. It was the most violent force I’d ever felt. I felt it rip through my body. My legs both were immobile at the time. I knew that my body was ruined. I knew that I was paralyzed. I felt that I was dying.

COLOPY: The bomb, which shattered Bari’s pelvis, exploded as she and Cherney were passing through Oakland on their way to a rally. Bari says she begged doctors to let her die because of the intense pain. When she awoke after surgery she learned she was being blamed for the bombing.

BARI: I remember that there were two uniformed police standing next to me as soon as I opened my eyes. They told me that I was under arrest for transporting explosives, I guess-- I don’t remember their exact words.

COLOPY: Oakland police also arrested Cherney, whose face and eyes were cut by shattered glass. FBI agents were already on the scene advising local police and telling them Bari and Cherney were affiliated with Earth First!, a group that was suspected of terrorist activities. Charges were never brought against Bari and Cherney but over the next few weeks, law enforcement officials held press conferences saying they were the only suspects in the case even though a local reporter had received an anonymous letter claiming responsibility for the bombing. In addition to arresting the pair, FBI and police conducted multiple searches and failed to follow up on any other leads in the case.

A year later in 1991, Bari and Cherney sued. They said their rights had been violated and their environmental work undermined. After countless delays, the trial finally began this past April. When federal jurors deliberated for three-and-a-half weeks, attorneys on both sides feared they were deadlocked. But finally, last Tuesday, the jury found that police and FBI had violated the activists’ civil rights. Outside the courthouse Earth First! supporters howled in victory.

The jury awarded the activists two million four hundred thousand dollars from the FBI and two million dollars from Oakland police. Darryl Cherney says he’ll use any money he finally receives to continue his environmental activism. After living under a cloud of suspicion for 12 years, he says the verdict is a vindication.

CHERNEY: This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do since we watched Judi Bari pass away. This has been an unbelievably difficult process.

COLOPY: The jury rejected claims that there was a conspiracy to violate the activists’ rights, but the hefty damages for First Amendment violations showed jurors felt law enforcement had squelched Bari and Cherney’s work on behalf of the environment. Lead attorney Dennis Cunningham said the verdict should send a strong message to law enforcement.

CUNNINGHAM: People can see when activists are attacked for their activism by the government, by the police.

COLOPY: Attorneys for the defense had little to say after the verdict. FBI lawyers have repeatedly declined to be interviewed. The Department of Justice says only that it’s reviewing the verdict and will decide soon whether to appeal. Maria Bee, who defended the three Oakland officers, says she was particularly surprised by the damages assessed against one of her clients, a former lieutenant who supervised the other offices.

BEE: Punitive damages requires malicious intentional conduct and there was no evidence of that whatsoever as to Lieutenant Sims.

COLOPY: Bee says she doesn’t think any of the jury’s findings make sense and she still believes all the Oakland officers acted reasonably given what they knew at the time of the arrest and searches. Meanwhile, activists say much of what they predicted in the 1980’s would happen on the north coast has happened. Most of the available timber has already been cut and mills have shut down. Still, Karen Picket says there’s plenty of work to be done and the verdict has renewed her energy for environmental activism.

PICKET: This makes me feel like there is hope (laughs) in this world where it’s so easy to get very cynical. I feel like there’s hope and I feel like, you know, there is a constitution standing up there. And I’m proud of that; I’m proud of this jury.

COLOPY: For Living On Earth, I’m Cheryl Colopy in Oakland.

Related link:
The Judi Bari website">

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Earth Summit Prep

CURWOOD: In late August, officials from world’s governments will gather in South Africa for the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. At least that’s the plan. The last preparatory meeting for the Summit recently wrapped up in Bali, Indonesia. It was meant to put the finishing touches on the Summit’s agenda, hammering out how to address such issues as water quality, sanitation, and clean energy. But little was resolved. John Vidal joins me now from London. He’s the environment editor at the Guardian newspaper, and is covering the World Summit. So John, what happened in Bali?

VIDAL: Well, the thing is, what we’re trying to do is to get this broad agreement before they go to Johannesburg on the need for certain things. They wanted to put down on paper government commitments over the next five or ten years. But the point is, they couldn’t do it. They started off with a 60 page text and they ended up with a hundred page text. In other words, it got more complicated. Instead of resolving the issues and finding agreement between countries, it actually got worse and worse.

CURWOOD: A number of environmental groups blame the U.S. for what they’ve called, quote, "hijacking" the meeting in Bali. What were the sticking points?

VIDAL: Well now, in global real politic today the U.S. is the only big player. So when things go wrong, people automatically blame the United States for good or for bad. I don’t know necessarily the answers. But certainly at Bali they took teams of, I mean, two, three hundred people, and the environment groups accused them of trying to wreck it or trying to actually start to renegotiate the treaties which were made in Rio 10 years ago. And they would say "We’re going backwards."

Now, it didn’t end up quite like that, but certainly the United States, backed by OECD countries-- especially Canada, Australia, to a lesser extent Europe-- refused really to negotiate on these key points. They were finance and trade. And so, no agreement could be made on how to finance any of these great plans which they might have, and absolutely nothing was given away at all on the trade issue.

CURWOOD: Now, out of the Rio Conference there were a number of treaties and agreements. The Framework Convention on Climate Change which led to the Kyoto Process is one; there was a biodiversity treaty; there was deforestation-- a number of agreements. As I understand it, there’s no intention this time to have major international treaties, but what could mean something, coming out of this? I mean, for instance, what would it mean if this conference somehow dealt with the water issue question?

VIDAL: You see, I think we have to put all these big questions into the context of what’s happening in global politics at the moment. Now with water, everybody admits there is a massive problem, and it’s growing, and it’s going to get much, much worse. Now, already you see the United Nations and the World Bank and the individual governments going straight down the road for the privatization of water supplies and distribution around the world.

And so I think that just since Rio there’s been more than 300 agreements which the World Bank has lined up with water companies. These things are going to be accelerated. You’re going to see more privatization. The sub-text of the rich countries, certainly, at Johannesburg will be privatization, will be the liberalization of economies, will be the opening up of markets. And we’re going to see this pressed over and over again, and they will be supported massively by business.

CURWOOD: And the developing countries?

VIDAL: Developing countries are in a fix. They can’t talk as one grouping at all, and they’re split, they’re disorganized, and so on and so forth. So some countries, they realize- -the reality of world politics today is if you do not sign up to the big time agendas of liberalization and whatever, then you are not going to get the aid money, because aid, as Secretary O’Neil and others have made very, very clear, and made clear at Bali, was that aid is going to be conditional on basically good governance, and good governance means signing up to the principles of opening your markets and liberalizing your economies.

CURWOOD: What would you think would be the best possible outcome from Johannesburg? What kind of resolutions or outcomes could make it successful?

VIDAL: The point is the Johannesburg meeting is historic in the sense that I think the United Nations and governments have realized they cannot do it on their own. So, what you’re going to see for the first time is big business really brought into the equation of how to solve the world problems and how to focus on serious poverty in Africa or wherever it is. And so I think what you are going to see is bilateral agreements between industries and governments to, for instance, provide enormous electricity or water agreements which will help communities in different places. So, it will be individual initiatives. It won’t be the great sort of global sweep which we had before. It’s going to be very much "Let’s bring business as a partner into the whole development issue."

CURWOOD: Who do you think among the world leaders is going to be there?

VIDAL: Ah ha, big question. Well, it’s a big story if President Bush goes. It’s an even bigger story, in a way, if he doesn’t go. If he doesn’t go, that will be read by the rest of the world, frankly, that America doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter whether he sends Secretary O’Neil and dozens of other cabinet ranking ministers. If Bush himself doesn’t go, then it will be interpreted that he doesn’t care. His father did go to Rio to give them his due.

I think there will be a celebration, as well. I think there’s going to be a very large element of the celebration of alternatives. I think the non-governmental groups and all this myriad of grassroots organizations and whatever will say "Look, we don’t need governments. We’re just going to get on with it ourselves." And I think that we will see a sort of revivalist spirit, which happened actually after Rio, as well, with people just saying, "Look, we can do this. We have the knowledge. We may not have the money, but we can certainly do an awful lot." And I think that that would be one spirit where civil society may come of age and really start celebrating its own power as another force in the world today.

CURWOOD: John Vidal is the environment editor for the Guardian newspaper, based in London. Thanks for filling us in, John.

VIDAL: Good bye, and thank you.

[MUSIC: The Lonesome Organist "The Storm Past By" CALVALCADE (Thrill Jockey—1999)]

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Health Note/Eat Your Greens

CURWOOD: Coming up, rewriting the way government writes rules about pollution. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.


PENNEY: Picky eaters out there may not want to hear this, but there’s now more evidence that broccoli is good for you. A new study shows that a chemical in the vegetable can kill the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. Despite the popular belief that stress causes ulcers, most stomach ulcers can be traced to an infection of a specific bacterium. This infection also greatly increases chances for stomach cancer. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School knew that a chemical in broccoli called sulforaphane could boost the body’s production of carcinogen-fighting proteins. So in a laboratory they put the chemical on human cells contaminated with the ulcer causing bacteria and found that the sulfurophane killed the bacteria, even bacteria that were living inside the human cells. That’s important because infections are hard to treat when the bacteria hide out in stomach cells.

The chemical also killed bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. The researchers now need to find out if the chemical will kill the stomach pests when broccoli is eaten and digested. If it works a broccoli a day could be an easy way to treat bacterial infections for people that have little access to antibiotics. That would be a real help in poor, densely populated areas where the bacteria can be present in up to 70 percent of the population. That’s this week’s Health Update. I’m Jessica Penney.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living On Earth.


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Almanac/Seahorse Dads

CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: It’s a boy. That’s the word when it comes to birthing seahorses. It’s not because of the sex of the newborns. No, it’s because it’s the father who gives birth in the seahorse family. You see, mom lays her eggs in Dad’s brood pouch. It’s called a marsupium. He fertilizes the eggs there, and tissue from his body surrounds the developing embryos, and capillaries provide them with oxygen. After a few weeks, dad goes into labor. The ordeal
Involves a few hours of dad pumping and jackknifing his torso and squeezing the fully formed babies out of his body. The kids have the same horse-like head and spiraling tail as their parents, but are only one centimeter long.

Their size puts them at risk of becoming dinner for other fish, though they do have some defenses. To camouflage themselves, seahorses can change color to match the place they live-- usually, sensitive coastal ecosystems such as corals and estuaries. Seahorses often wind up as by-catch in fishing nets meant to capture shrimp, and they’re also at risk from practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, who use them as remedies for ailments ranging from asthma to impotence. With so many dangers lurking, no wonder seahorses like to stick close to home and mate for life. One thing they won’t have to worry about this week: where to send those Father’s Day cards. And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.


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Diesel Regulations

CURWOOD: The Bush administration is planning new rules to curb emissions from off-road diesel engines. Off-road means everything from small tractors and back-hoes to forklifts and bulldozers. A recent study by state and local air quality officials blames emissions from this equipment for more than 8,500 deaths and 67 billion dollars in health costs each year. The administration says cutting that pollution is one of its top priorities. But critics are questioning the motivation behind the new rules. Living on Earth’s Anna Solomon-Greenbaum joins me now from Washington.

Anna, one thing struck me right away when I saw this announcement. It was issued not only by the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency you would expect to be involved, but by the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, as well. I don’t ever remember seeing this type of collaboration before.

SOLOMON-BREENBAUM: You’re right. It’s very unusual. And they actually said that themselves in their press release. The OMB, of course, is an office of the White House, and one of its key roles is to review regulations that are written by the various agencies. In the Bush administration we’ve seen a sort of policy shift, where the OMB is not simply reviewing, but helping to create those regulations. And this non-road diesel rule is probably the most extreme example of that so far. This sort of official collaboration is really unprecedented. The administration says it’s doing it this way to expedite the rule making process. They say they want to get OMB involved from the start so it can resolve any differences it has with the EPA early on in the process.

But critics say bringing in the OMB is simply a way to reign in the EPA and shift the balance of power to the White House. They say OMB not only lacks the technical and scientific expertise to write rules on air quality, but that it lacks the authority to do so. Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, wrote a letter to EPA administrator Christie Whitman in which he reminded her that the Clean Air Act was her jurisdiction, not that of the OMB. And he raised the possibility that their collaboration isn’t actually legal. One thing state and local air quality officials are saying they’re concerned about, too, is that they won’t be able to tell what in the rule is being driven by the EPA and what’s being driven by the White House. That it will be very hard to distinguish between the science here and the politics.

CURWOOD: Anna, tell us about the rule itself. What would it do?

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Well, the basic approach they’ve laid out is first of all they’d install better emissions control devices on the non-road engines. Second, they’d take a look at reducing the sulfur levels in the fuel these engines use. The fuel they currently use has about six times more sulfur than the diesel fuel that’s used in trucks and buses.

CURWOOD: Environmental groups have been pushing for a long time to regulate these off-road engines, and yet it doesn’t seem like they’re very happy with what the administration is talking about doing.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Well, they’re very skeptical, Steve, and I think the biggest reason for that is one sentence that’s buried late in the administration’s press release. It says that one strategy they’re going to consider for cutting non-road emissions is to create a type of market-based trading system with the on-road diesel engines in trucks and buses. So the idea is those who pollute less can sell their credits to those who pollute more. This type of trading scheme, as we’ve seen, is something the Bush administration’s quite fond of. Last week, they came out with a proposal for trading water pollution credits. There’s also, of course, their Clear Skies Initiative, which is a voluntary trading scheme for power plant emissions.

And industry groups usually stand behind these trading ideas. In this case of non-road diesel, the administration says it would provide incentives for engine manufacturers to make their engines cleaner faster because they could gain credits from doing that. But for a lot of environment and public health groups, this trading idea raises a big red flag. There’s already, you might remember, a stringent new diesel rule in place for trucks and buses, and it’s supposed to go into effect this October. So, the fear is what happens to that rule now if they introduce a new trading scheme with the non-road vehicles? So, if trucks and buses are allowed to go below the new standards as long as they purchase pollution credits from an off-road vehicle, then those standards are, in effect, being weakened. So, these groups say yes, the non-road vehicles should definitely be regulated, but not in such a way that it takes away from the on-road regulations.

CURWOOD: So what happens next now?

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: Well, OMB and EPA are just starting now to sit down and start talking about the details of this rule, and there’s probably going to continue to be a lot of opposition to the two offices working together. But whether that will lead to any legal action, I think it’s too soon to tell now. The big question is whether we’re going to see those October rules for trucks and buses delayed because of this. Just last month it looked like they were finally sealed and done with; there was a court ruling. But this might open that up again. And if that happens, I’d say it’s guaranteed to end up back in court.

CURWOOD: Anna Solomon-Greenbaum is Living on Earth’s Washington correspondent. Thanks, Anna.

SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: You’re welcome, Steve.

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More Roads, Less Trains

CURWOOD: In today’s post-Communist Eastern Europe, many nations have a new-found love affair with the automobile. That, combined with their zeal to join the European Union has led some of these countries to expand and modernize their road systems in the hope of fostering economic growth. But in Hungary, this effort comes at the expense of rail and bus networks. Drew Leifheit reports from Budapest.


LEIFHEIT: It’s just after 5:00 p.m. on a chilly weeknight. Executive Alpar Bodis stands on a dark Budapest street waiting for an electric bus. The red bus arrives, he gets on, and it rambles along about five stops on its way to the end of the route, a train station. There Mr. Bodis hops on a train for a 30 minute ride back to his village located on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital.

BODIS: I hate driving into town, and it’s much more time. It will take about two hours just to get downtown by car on a weekday during the rush hours. So, the train is much better for me.


LEIFHEIT: Hungary’s public transportation system connects virtually every town and village in the country. The extensive rail lines are a legacy of the country’s economic growth in the late 19th century and received heavy state subsidies throughout much of Hungary’s 40 years of Communism. But after Hungary broke its ties with the Soviet Union in 1989 to become a market economy, Budapest residents, as well as those across the country, are increasingly seeking the freedom associated with the automobile, if they can afford it.


OVERLOCK: I used to live in the city’s center before I had the car. No. Zero. I had no need to have a car day or night. There are buses, there’s metros, there’s everything. It’s excellent.

LEIFHEIT: Janice Overlock is an American who’s lived in Hungary for seven years. She says she only started driving after she moved out of downtown Budapest to start a family.

OVERLOCK: I live in one of the outlying areas. So I bring my car in to the Metro, and then I go from the Metro here to work. So I do that. On weekends we drive around in the car. I almost never go on buses. So usually I rely on the Metro and car.

LEIFHEIT: As people become more mobile, many cities like Budapest are beginning to sprawl. From 1989 until 1997 an estimated 100,000 Budapest residents fled the city’s center and moved to outlying areas. Vilmos Tolgyesi is chief engineer at the Budapest Transportation Company. He’s seen the dramatic decrease in train and bus ridership in the years just after the political changes.


VOICEOVER: We had a low point four to five years ago, because people no longer had to wait years for cars and the number of car owners increased. Motorization exploded in Budapest and Hungary.

LEIFHEIT: Mr. Tolgyesi has also watched the public transportation system fall into disrepair due to a lack of funding. Over the last decades, spending on roads has increased 400 percent while public transportation money, says Mr. Tolgyesi, has been just enough to keep the extensive transit fleet running. Increased car ownership is just a part of the government’s push to build roads. Hungary’s desire to join the European Union in two to three years’ time requires greater accessibility to underdeveloped domestic and international regions. For that, the country must increase the roadways’ capacity to accommodate an estimated 50 percent increase in traffic.

Zoltan Kazatsay is Deputy State Secretary at Hungary’s Transport Ministry. He says the road system has some distance to go from its sad state of the early 1990’s.

KAZATSAY: We didn’t have motorway network at all. We had some motorway sections in operation, and their standards are comparable with the relevant European Union standards. But they didn’t represent that network. And it was shown by different investigations that those areas where the motorway was operating showed a much faster development trend than those areas where the motorway was not available within about one hour time or so.

LEIFHEIT: Some environmentalists say the increase in road building is already leading to more pollution, its associated public health problems, and a lack of sustainable transportation policy in the region.

KAZATSAY: I don’t believe that we have a national development plan that reflects very much sustainability ideas or, you know, environmental management approaches.

LEIFHEIT: Robert Nemeskeri is a director with the Regional Environmental Center, a non-governmental organization based in Hungary. He points out that while pollution in the region has decreased during the past decade since the closing of socialist era heavy industry, the steady increase in road traffic means automobiles are now the main contributors to air pollution in the country. Mr. Nemeskeri says that East Central European countries like Hungary should not look to Western countries for progressive transportation policy.

NEMESKERI: I believe that there is, or there must be still, opportunity for us not to commit all the mistakes what have been done in the Western European countries. For instance, not to excessively develop freeway and road transport systems over railways. But unfortunately, at present, I don’t see this to happen.

LEIFHEIT: One vital element of sustainable transportation policy, according to Nemeskeri, would be the development of a high speed rail link between Budapest and other major European capitals. Andras Lukacs of Budapest’s Clean Air Action Group would also like to see money put aside to improve public transportation. He notes that the rate of respiratory disease here has doubled in the last decade.

LUKACS: If the present trend continues, the situation will get worse because the number of cars will increase, the length of motorways will increase, the number of trucks crossing the border will also increase, and the technical innovations and the technical improvements of motor vehicles will not be so quick to reverse this trend.

LEIFHEIT: Lukacs says that EU regulations such as those that call for modernizing public transportation systems and extending subway lines can result in a cleaner environment in Hungary…though he believes they will be very difficult to enforce. Zoltan Kazatsay of the Transport Ministry says that Hungary can find ways to slow the increase in the number of cars by encouraging public transportation use. He points out that its rail service is nearly double that of the average of the European Union, and that Hungary does have plans to upgrade the current railway network.

KAZATSAY: We would like to keep this level, and we would like to increase this level up to about 15 percent within about 10 years time. For that, several new regulations should be introduced, partly due to the European Union accession procedure and requirements, partly due to the present status of the railway sector.

LEIFHEIT: Kazatsay says that, in addition to increasing subsidies for bus and rail, the state must provide a higher level of service for its passengers by improving its transportation system and its roads. Only then can Hungary move into the future. For Living on Earth, I’m Drew Leifheit in Budapest.

[MUSIC: L’Alta "Black Arrow" IN THE AFTERNOON (Aesthetic—2002)]

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to NPR’s Living n Earth.


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News Follow-up

CURWOOD: Time now to follow up on some of the news stories we’ve been tracking lately. A few months ago, we reported on illegal toxic recycling sites for old computers in China. Recently, China has said it will increase efforts to enforce its ban on importing electronic waste and cut down on this pollution. Jim Puckett, head of the Basel Action Network, visited some of these sites in China. He said China’s new statement is the first of many steps that need to be taken.

PUCKETT: China is somewhat successful. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem because it’ll just go to another country-- Vietnam, for example, or India or Pakistan. The real answer lies in banning the export from the exporting countries.

CURWOOD: Mr. Puckett says the European Union has already banned exporting electronic waste to China, but the U.S. has yet to act.


CURWOOD: It looks like Keiko, star of the movie "Free Willy," is one step closer to living life as a free whale. When researchers have allowed the Orca to venture beyond its pen into the North Atlantic over the past two summers they’ve noticed that he’s starting to interact with the groups of whales that are from his genetic family group. Charles Vinnick is with the Ocean Futures Society which is helping Keiko adapt to the wild.

VINNICK: These whales are born into a family group and they stay in those families for life. So, certainly among the things scientists have postulated is that Keiko is far more likely to be accepted by a group that he’s related to than by a group that he is not.

CURWOOD: Scientists hope Keiko will spend more time with these family groups and eventually join one as a full-fledged member.


CURWOOD: Last year during the energy crisis in California and the rolling black-outs, many predicted that the summer would bring hundreds of additional hours without energy. That never occurred. Charles Goldman, researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says that a new study explains why these blackouts were avoided.

GOLDMAN: Some folks have said that the reductions in usage were due to mild weather or the slumping economy. And we found that the weather was comparable between 2001 and 2000 and that the economy had modest economic growth in California, and that the reductions were driven by customer actions.

CURWOOD: Mr. Goldman says these consumer-driven conservation measures added up to an eight to 10 percent reduction in energy use in California last summer.


CURWOOD: Last week, we aired a commentary showing the parallel between the World Cup and global warming. Well, it turns out there might be a more direct correlation between the World Cup and water. During the recent match between Japan and Russia, water use in Japan was well below average during the scoreless first half of the game. But when halftime came, the demand for water spiked, as fans apparently all rushed to the bathroom at the same time. And that’s this week’s follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.

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Business Note/Consumption Barometer

CURWOOD: Just ahead: the vanishing sage grouse and the efforts to protect its habitat. First, this Environmental Business Note from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: To prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg this August, the South African government is working to green the summit it will host. To achieve that goal, the international meeting will feature a consumption barometer. During the Summit, delegates and the public will be able to monitor their consumption of food, paper and other natural resources and the amount of waste they produce daily. The barometer will measure factors like atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and water usage. Each day an index will be published based on the measurements taken on a scale of zero to seven, zero being a normal day without the 65,000 expected participants.

The barometer will appear in Johannesburg TV and newspaper ads and electronic billboards. On particularly high consumption days, a public service announcement will appear next to the barometer, urging conference attendees to recycle your plastic today or make sure your tap isn’t dripping. To help in the greening of the Summit, food caterers will be encouraged to use biodegradable packaging and florists will be arranging sustainably harvested flowers. The government will use the barometer’s results before, during, and after the meeting to try and gauge the Environmental Summit’s environmental impact. That’s this week’s Business Note. I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.


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LOE Today

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. And coming up, a longing for the lone prairie. But first, Susan Shepherd joins me now. She’s the producer of Living on Earth Today. That’s the new Web Radio Service, a new website for Living on Earth that debuts this weekend. Hi, Susan.

SHEPHERD: Hi, Steve.

CURWOOD: So, along with finding us on a local public radio station, folks can find us any time on their computer now, huh?

SHEPHERD: That’s right. Every weekday on Living on Earth Today we’ll be putting up new stories and new photographs of the kind of quality material people are used to hearing on the show and finding on our website already. So if you go to the website and click on that little sound icon you’ll hear all sorts of new features, as well as the best of the past stories we’ve aired on the show. And we’re also really excited about some specials we’re producing.

CURWOOD: Yeah, you’ve got one on, what, women discoverers?

SHEPHERD: That’s right. We’ve got some great stories about Victorian women discoverers who have gone all over the world. You can imagine them in their long skirts, tramping around the Congo or climbing the Matterhorn.

CURWOOD: In a long skirt?

SHEPHERD: That’s right. And a really good example is this woman named Mary Henrietta Kingsley who was an English explorer. She actually went alone to Africa in the 1890’s, which the Europeans thought was very dangerous. And they were afraid she would come upon a fate worse than death. So, she brought a small dagger to kill herself in case she had to.

CURWOOD: Ooh. Well, why haven’t we heard about these women before?

SHEPHERD: Well, Steve, all of these women broke the rules and stepped out of the norms of their societies. So I think one of the reasons we haven’t heard about them is because a lot of them, when they came home, really faced bad ends. They died lonely and unknown. So if you go to LOE Today though, and listen, you’ll find out everything you need to know about them.

CURWOOD: And along with the new material and these specials, the site also serves as the official library of Living on Earth. Right?

SHEPHERD: That’s right, Steve. If you go to www.loe.org you’ll find all kinds of background information on the stories listeners hear on our broadcast show, and links and extended interviews and all kinds of exciting things. That’s, one more time, www.loe.org for something new every weekday.

CURWOOD: Something new every weekday, huh?

SHEPHERD: That’s right.

CURWOOD: Thanks, Susan.

SHEPHERD: Thanks a lot, Steve.

CURWOOD: Susan Shepherd is producer of Living On Earth Today on our new Web Radio Service, a new website that you can find at www.loe.org. What’s that site? Yeah, it’s www.loe.org.


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The Endangered Sage Grouse

CURWOOD: Efforts to protect the spotted owl once created conflict with the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest. These days the Sage Grouse has been ruffling feathers among cattle ranchers and energy developers in the high desert of the west. That’s why the Sage Grouse is called "the spotted owl of the prairie." The numbers of the bird have plummeted from an estimated two million in the 1800’s to about 140,000 today. Sage Grouse live on a landscape that at first seems completely barren, but it’s crucial habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Clay Scott reports from Montana on the fight over the sage grouse and its habitat.

SCOTT: On a cold spring morning in southwest Montana, Ben Deeble of the National Wildlife Federation is out looking for Sage Grouse. The sun is just coming up, but at 6,000 feet elevation the temperature is below freezing. Deeble walks briskly through the sagebrush. There are no obvious landmarks in this vast sea of grayish-green, but he knows exactly where he’s going. He stops and points.

Ben Deeble of the National Wildlife Federation tracks the number of grouse in southwest Montana during the mating season. (Photo: Clay Scott)

DEEBLE: See where the light is hitting the high cut bank. Go to the right to the dark cut bank and there’s two cocks right below that.

SCOTT: Through my binoculars I make out two distant patches of white, the neck feathers of male sage grouse. This is their communal mating ground, called a "lek." For a two week period in the spring the mottled brown and black males congregate at the lek before dawn. They strut, spread their fan-like tails, and rub their wings across inflated air sacs on their necks, hoping to attract females. I ask Deeble why the birds have chosen this place for their lek.

DEEBLE: This is a good spot because the sagebrush isn’t very tall, but they need to go to tall sagebrush with a lot of grass and forbes for safe nesting. So probably the hens are nesting a mile or more from here.


SCOTT: The wary birds flush before we get close enough to observe their mating display. They’re as big as large chickens, but surprisingly fast flyers. Deeble takes out a GPS unit, notes our position and records the number of grouse we saw. Next spring researchers will be able to return to this same spot to count the number of mating birds. Sage Grouse can have home ranges of hundreds of square miles, yet each year, like spawning steelheads, they return to the exact same spot to mate. But that extraordinary fidelity to place also makes them vulnerable to changes in their habitat, and almost everywhere the birds live that habitat is being altered, sometimes radically.

DEEBLE: What we find is everywhere in these habitats we’re disturbing them in ever-increasing tempos. For whatever reason, they’re like the canary in the coal mine, from the standpoint that they’re one of the first species that disappears as these sage steppe ecosystems become unraveled.

SCOTT: The sage steppe ecosystem is a vast, arid area of mostly public land stretching from eastern California to the western edge of the Dakotas. Healthy sage steppe includes a variety of sagebrush species, along with bunchgrasses and other plants. But much of the ecosystem is in decline along with many of the species that live in it. Sage Grouse, in particular, are dependent on old growth sagebrush. Their mating and nesting grounds have been disturbed by oil and gas drilling, coal bed methane development, the conversion of sagebrush to agriculture, and especially by the grazing of livestock.

Historic over-grazing in the sage steppe has reduced native grasses that many species depend on and led to the spread of invasive weeds that thrive in degraded soil. One recent study estimates that exotic weeds in sage country are spreading at more than 4,000 acres per day. Throughout the west the majority of grazing has been on leased federal land. Now, some environmental groups say it’s time for that practice to stop for the sake of the sage grouse and for the health of the entire ecosystem. But ranchers here say banning grazing on public land would deal a death blow to entire communities. Roger Peters is the owner of the Dragging Y Ranch. Like many ranchers, he’s suspicious of what he calls the environmental agenda.

PETERS: In Beaverhead County, Montana, we’re dependent on grazing on federal lands because that’s so much of what there is. You know, we live here. You have to use federal lands because there’s not enough deeded land to go around. So now it appears to us that Sage Grouse, they say, "Ah, Sage Grouse, we’ve got them on Sage Grouse. We’ll get them on something eventually to get their cows off the public lands."

SCOTT: Peters’ ranch is on 60,000 acres of his own land, along with several times that amount of leased federal land, much of it sage grouse habitat. He says he manages the land in an ecologically sound way and he has no patience for those who want to tell him when and where to graze his cattle. He’s especially angry at those environmental groups who think the sage grouse should be put on the endangered species list. If the bird is listed, Peters says, many western cattle operations would effectively be brought to a halt.

PETERS: Why penalize the guy that’s got the last one? He’s obviously the best caretaker of this endangered species, whatever it is. But whoever the poor guy is, the endangered species are found on his place, he’s the one whose management is penalized.

SCOTT: The advocacy group American Lands Alliance is leading the efforts to list the Sage Grouse. Mark Salvo works on sagebrush issues for the organization. He denies that his position is anti-rancher.

SALVO: We’re not suggesting that public lands ought not be used. But we are suggesting that they have been used or abused in the past, and that changes need to be made. That’s what the plight of the Sage Grouse is showing us.

SCOTT: But not all environmental groups feel an endangered species listing is the answer, at least at this point. Groups like the National Wildlife Federation are working with state and federal agencies, as well as landowners and others, to develop management plans for Sage Grouse habitat. Ranchers are encouraged to keep their livestock away from nesting areas and to rotate their grazing to allow grass and other plants a chance to recover. Mark Salvo supports those efforts but says much more is needed. The looming threat of the Endangered Species Act, he says, is necessary to keep both ranchers and government agencies focused on the Sage Grouse issue.

SALVO: Unless that threat is there, unless we continue to push to list the species, they may back off on some of their current efforts to restore and conserve them. What my challenge is to resource users and agencies and others who don’t want to list the species on the Endangered Species Act is you probably have six to eight to ten years to reverse the declining trends for Sage Grouse and their habitat on your own.

SCOTT: Six to eight to ten years, because it will take at least that long for a final ruling on the status of the sage grouse. But some experts say that’s not nearly enough time, that much of the sage steppe is so degraded that decades will be needed to really turn things around. One federal biologist just sighed when I asked him how sage habitat might be restored. "The truth is," he said, "that we just don’t know. We can’t put it back the way it was because we don’t understand everything about how it used to be."


SCOTT: Someone who does remember how things used to be is Bernard Harkness. In a high basin below the Continental Divide, where a snow-fed creek flows through low sagebrush, I found the retired sheep rancher standing in front of the rough log cabin he’s lived in for 77 years. He told me of a time when the birds and their habitat were in better shape.

Bernard Harkness remembers when hundreds of thousands of sage grouse lingered in the grasslands near his cabin. (Photo: Clay Scott)

HARKNESS: They would come in here right around the first of July, just thousands and thousands of them. I’ve seen them flying-- I don’t know how many you’d see, hundreds of thousands. It’s a big, open grassland, and wide; oh, five, six, seven miles. You can see in any direction that’s open there. As far as you could see, there would be sage grouse walking, eight to ten feet apart.

SCOTT: Harkness dug out a yellowed copy of The Lima Ledger from 1935 and pointed to an article titled "Hunters Bag Ton of Sage Hens." The headline was meant literally. In this basin alone, hunters killed 10,000 birds in a three day season.

HARKNESS: If you wanted a Sage Grouse dinner then you’d just walk out with a .22; get three or four. You fried them, fried the breast. And then the others, the backs and the legs and the giblets, you’d make a gravy just like turkey gravy or something, and on the potatoes, and that was a pretty good meal.

SCOTT: As I was leaving, Bernard Harkness reminisced about the spring mating display of the sage grouse. "Before I die," he told me, "I’d sure like to see the birds do that dance again." In the waning days of the mating season I finally managed to do just that. I didn’t see the flocks of thousands that the old timers tell of; only five males at their dawn lek. They were spread out a few yards apart on the low rise, yellow air sacks bulging through the white neck feathers, spiky black tails fanned out aggressively behind them. As the sun came up, they strutted and puffed their feathers, waiting for reluctant hens, alert for eagles and coyotes, the only thing moving in a sea of sagebrush. For Living On Earth I’m Clay Scott in Beaverhead County, Montana.

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Sagebrush Territory

CURWOOD: The West’s vast sage lands have long been overlooked and abused, even by those born onto it. But producer Guy Hand shares with us his feelings about how the land has come to grow on him.

HAND: To tell you the truth, I hated growing up in sagebrush country. Southern Idaho, through my adolescent eyes looked all gray, green, and hopeless. I saw no future on that sagebrush sea, no way to build a life that didn’t include work boots and low wages. Hard winter winds and hot summer fires. My friends agreed. We saw sage land as good for nothing but relieving the frustrations of living in it, with guns, dirt bikes, and cheap beer. Or as a convenient place to dump junk like old couches, broken stoves, and dead dogs. We saw sage land as wasteland and we weren’t alone.

Those hapless pioneers who stumbled through the high desert on the Oregon Trail weren’t exactly charmed by what they saw either. One called it "hideous world marked by the graves and the bones of dead men." By the twentieth century America’s attitude towards sagebrush hadn’t much improved. We burned it, we bombed it, we buried our nuclear waste in it. And even though we’ve since learned to love certain kinds of desert, like the photogenic red rock of southern Utah, as a nation we don’t exactly ache for a Sagebrush National Park.

(Photo: Guy Hand)

But that doesn’t mean all this rasping aridity is lost on everyone. My dad, for one, loved it. When I was a kid, he’d pull me to the top of some jagged lava outcrop and peer down on dust and sun-drilled sage with a look of pure pride. He’d shield his eyes with a calloused hand like a salute and see something I couldn’t. Maybe it was the soaring emptiness, the bottomless quiet. Maybe it was the way the sky met the ground so far away, it looked like the world was made of nothing but sage. I’m not sure. Dad wasn’t much for talking about the things he loved. He thought I’d see it.

Only after I escaped sagebrush, only after decades living in places like New York and L.A. did I actually begin to miss it. I’d be walking along Fifth Avenue feeling utterly urbane when suddenly I’d catch a whiff of sage and go weak in the knees. I’d be cruising along the 101 Freeway just north of Hollywood and find myself tangled in the memory of a childhood thunderstorm, one that bloomed over the Snake River like a huge white rose. I could taste the rain.

As time passed, a kind of desert dementia set in. I couldn’t shake it. It pulled at me like gravity. It pulled at me until I lost the strength to resist it. Finally I gave in, deserted my big life and moved back here to Idaho, to sagebrush. Maybe you really never can take the country out of the boy. Or maybe this boy in his rush to be somewhere else forgot to look closely at where he was. I can’t explain it any better than my dad could. But here I am, surrounded by sage and happy.

CURWOOOD: Guy Hand writes and produces radio amidst the sagebrush near Boise, Idaho.


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CURWOOD: And for this week, that’s Living on Earth. Next week, compared to their male counterparts, 19th century women explorers went largely unnoticed in their field, despite some hair-raising feats in search of lost art and treasure. But sometimes women had the advantage.

POLK: She credits her thick skirts with saving her life. As she fell into a pit that had sharpened stakes in it for capturing animals, she landed on her skirts, and the stakes couldn’t penetrate her skirts. So, she wrote about the blessings of a good, thick skirt.

CURWOOD: It’s Indiana Jane and the Women of Discovery, next time on Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: Before we go, one last stop on the lone prairie, and a visit with the sharp tailed grouse. At the Clark Salier National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, Lang Elliot captured the creature’s hollow wallop, liquid sputtering, and harsh chew as a gang of birds faced off across territorial boundaries.


CURWOOD: Living On Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. You can find us at www.loe.org. Our staff includes Cynthia Graber, Maggie Villager and Al Avery, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Milisa Muniz. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. Our interns are Jamie McEvoy and Max Morange. Allison Dean composed our theme. Environmental sound art courtesy of EarthEar.

Our technical director is Dennis Foley, Ingrid Lobet heads our Western Bureau, Diane Toomey is our science editor, Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER 1: Funding for Living On Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Educational Foundation of America for reporting on energy and climate change, the Ford Foundation for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, supporting efforts to better understand environmental change.

ANNOUNCER 2: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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