“Nukes are Necessary”
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Nuclear power is one of the most controversial issues of our time. The energy source fell out of public favor during the past few decades amidst concerns about its safety, waste disposal and security risks. But now, with the recent findings that our planet is warming at an increasingly rapid rate, a number of scientists, government officials, and even environmentalists are calling for renewed support for the emissions-free nuclear power to slow the effects of climate change. Bishop Hugh Montefiore is a longtime environmentalist who was forced to resign from Friends of the Earth in Britain when he decided to go public with his views. He joins host Steve Curwood to discuss why he changed his mind about nuclear power. ()
No Go Nukes
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Britain’s Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper tells host Steve Curwood why Hugh Montefiore’s views on nuclear power are incompatible with his organization’s mission. Juniper believes that a program of conservation and alternative energies are key for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. ()
Denizen of the Sea
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The humble horseshoe crab has been around for 350 millions years. Over time, humans have found multiple uses for this denizen of the sea, and its most lucrative attribute turns out to be its blood. Host Steve Curwood visits with scientist Bill Sargent on the shores of Cape Cod, where these prehistoric creatures abound. ()
Preserving an Ancient Treasure
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Producer David Chanatry takes us to Butrint in Albania. This ancient city was declared a World Heritage Site because it represents thousands of years of the history of the country. Lack of money and infrastructure are the challenges that preservationists and tourism officials face as they try to develop the area for tourism and preserve the archeological riches of the area. ()
Environmental Health Note/Chronic Pain, Shrinking Brain
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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that links chronic back pain with brain shrinkage. ()
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When sound artist Jonathan Mitchell returned to his midwestern hometown for the holidays, he’d often end up at the mall with family. This holiday, an audio portrait of today’s American commons. ()
This week's EarthEar selection
HOST: Steve CurwoodGUESTS: Hugh Montefiore, Tony Juniper, Bill SargentREPORTER: David ChanatryPRODUCER: Jonathan MitchellNOTE: Jennifer Chu
CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: I’m Steve Curwood. For years, doctors had to use live rabbits to test for certain kinds of infections. Then it was discovered that blood from the horseshoe crab, one of the oldest creatures in the planet, could get much faster and perhaps more humane results.
SARGENT: Basically what you do, there’s this little hinge right here, and you put these crabs in a rack, and then they put a needle through this hinge, and then there’s a free-flow of blood.
CURWOOD: The horseshoe crab as a cash cow of the sea, this week on Living on Earth. Also, from the frontlines of America, the shopping mall, and its role as the new town green.
FEMALE: You know what we have here is what we have, and if you want things, that’s where you have to go to get them
MALE: Anything you ever wanted is inside of a mall.
MALE: Well, I met my wife at the mall.
CURWOOD: It’s anytown mall, and more coming up on Living on Earth. Stick around.
ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.
CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
When British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced this summer that Britain must consider building a new generation of nuclear power plants to help slow down climate change, he received a lot of criticism from many environmental activists. Many environmental groups have long argued that problems with radioactive waste, the potential of nuclear bomb making and dangers of accidents, such as the one at Chernobyl, make nuclear power a bad bargain for society.
But increasingly, politicians including Mr. Blair, as well as the energy commissioner of the European Union, and others, say that new safety techniques and the lack of global warming gases emitted by nuclear plants make them an appropriate solution to the potentially catastrophic problem of climate disruption. And some environmental activists are coming around to support this view.
Among them is Hugh Montefiore the former Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, England, and a longtime trustee of Friends of the Earth in Britain. But after he went public about the need for nuclear power in an newspaper article, Bishop Montefiore was asked to resign from the leadership of Friends of the Earth, and he joins me now from London. Welcome to Living on Earth, Bishop.
MONTEFIORE: Yes, thank you. Hello.
CURWOOD: Tell me, what prompted you to change your thinking and come to the conclusion that nuclear power is the way to respond to the dangers of global warming?
MONTEFIORE: I think that what prompted me to change my thinking on this was trying to work out in practice how we can reduce global warming gases by 60 percent by 2050. And when I worked that out, I realized we couldn’t do it unless we changed human nature, deciding not to use cars so much, and so on and so forth—that we couldn’t do it without nuclear energy. And the more I looked into it, the stronger this conviction came.
CURWOOD: Is this a case of the lesser of two evils from your perspective, or do you really believe that nuclear power is the best energy alternative there is?
MONTEFIORE: Oh, I think it’s the best energy alternative. There are risks involved in anything, but I think the risks involved with nuclear power are far, far less than the risks if we don’t have it.
CURWOOD: Explain to me, please.
MONTEFIORE: Well, the International Panel on Climate Change supported by our environmental bodies here in England appointed by the government, tell us that we have to reduce the emissions of global warming gases by 60 percent by the year 2050 in order to keep the planet comfortable for life. That is an enormous amount, especially if a country like yours is making no effort to do anything about it. After all, you produce one-quarter of all these gases. And how we’re going to reduce sufficiently in this country, I cannot think...when I look at the alternatives, I cannot see them, this happening.
CURWOOD: Now, what about nuclear power’s problems, though? There are a number of things ranging from what do you do with the waste, to the notion that the material produced can be used to make bombs which might fall into the hands of the wrong people.
MONTEFIORE: Well, in the first case, there are 442 nuclear reactors in the world today, producing nuclear energy for electricity, and I cannot believe that producing more is going to include the risk of nuclear bombs. You have to have special material to make uranium used in the bombs from what is used from nuclear power. It is a second operation of considerable difficulty. So, so far as that’s concerned, I can’t take that very seriously.
CURWOOD: And the waste?
MONTEFIORE: Well, there are various forms of waste. Short-lived wastes are no problem. Intermediate wastes are buried in trenches of glacial clay which are compacted, containerized and capped with water-resistant clay. That’s not much problem. As for the long-lived wastes out of the old reactors, they have to cool down. It takes about 50 years or so. And then they have to be vitrified into a solid glass, sealed in a metallic container, placed in stable rock formations some 300 meters deep in the earth with a back fill to minimize any water movement. So I can’t see any difficulty there.
But the new… the new reactors such as are being constructed in Asia now make kind of pebbles, which are coated in carbon and only melt under 2,500 degrees. So I don’t think nuclear waste is the problem people say it is.
CURWOOD: Let me ask you about the money involved here. Nuclear power plants are very expensive. Why then should we be investing money in nuclear power over the long-term instead improving other technologies such as…
MONTEFIORE: Well, of course… such as what?
CURWOOD: Well, wind, geothermal, using hydrogen and fuel cells, or…
MONTEFIORE: Good heavens, you know about these. I mean in order to make hydrogen, you have to have electricity. And you either have electricity from renewable sources, in which case you’re using it, which could be more usefully used elsewhere. Or you are getting it from burning gas and coal. And as for wind power--do you really think we can reduce to 60 percent by turbines everywhere? We’re having an extra 8,000 turbines in England shortly. It’s ridiculous to think we can have it all over the place. And anyhow, they’re very expensive. I have looked at all the alternatives. I mean the most interesting one I think is removing the carbon from coal, carbon sequestration from coal. But it’s not commercial. There’s a conference being held by the Royal Society called the “potentiality” of this system. Well, we want something more than potentiality. The matter is becoming urgent.
CURWOOD: Now, how surprised were you that the Friends of the Earth, a group that you were part of for over two decades, could not accept your views, really your divergence of opinion from their majority, and that you were forced to resign from the board of directors?
MONTEFIORE: Well, I was sorry about it. I hoped they would allow an open debate in the matter. But it always has been the policy of these non-governmental environmental organizations, not only Friends of the Earth but Greenpeace and World Wide Fund for Nature, and all the rest of them, to campaign against nuclear energy. And I don’t think they like changing their ways. I mean, I used to believe in it. I thought we could get by without it. I didn’t particularly want it. I’m only saying we have to have it now because it’s necessary for the health of the planet. Well, it’s sad that they didn’t agree with me and let me go on, but I suppose they are a campaigning organization and campaigners like to speak with no uncertain voice.
CURWOOD: Hugh Montefiore is the former bishop of Birmingham. His article “Why the Planet Needs Nuclear Energy” appeared in the Oct. 23rd issue of The Tablet, a Catholic weekly out of England, and a copy of that appears on our website at www dot l- o-e dot o-r-g. Thanks for taking this time with me today, Bishop.
MONTEFIORE: Thank you very much. Goodbye.
CURWOOD: Joining me now is Tony Juniper. He is the executive director of Friends of the Earth in Great Britain. Hello, sir. Welcome to Living on Earth.
JUNIPER: Hello there.
CURWOOD: Let me ask you about this. We’ve just heard from Hugh Montefiore, who says he was forced to resign from Friends of the Earth because he changed his opinion on nuclear power, that is, he favors it now. Tell me, how accurate is his account and from your view, why was he made to resign?
JUNIPER: We had a long debate inside Friends of the Earth. And we again, we’ve reviewed our policies as we go forward, most recently in lobbying to influence the British government’s Energy White Paper, and at that point, we did further analysis. We took a further view about the pros and cons of nuclear power and we decided that our position should remain unchanged and that we would continue to argue that nuclear power was not necessarily desirable. Hugh disagreed with that, but he remained on our board of trustees, which was fine. And we have debates inside the organization, and that’s all part of how we evolve our policies.
But Hugh decided he wanted to speak outside, and for a campaigning organization, having representatives or people speaking apparently for the organization with two completely different policies wouldn’t work. It would be a waste of our supporters’ money, and make us ineffectual as an organization giving clear messages to the public and policy makers. And so we said to Hugh that if he wished to go outside and make these points in the media, and in public forum and to propose policies that were pro-nuclear, then he couldn’t do it while still being on the board of Friends of the Earth, and so Hugh chose to resign.
CURWOOD: Why does Friends of the Earth disagree with the opinion that nuclear power is perhaps not preferable but, nonetheless, necessary at this time?
JUNIPER: I think the first thing to say that even if in this country we managed to double our nuclear power output, and we have quite a few nuclear stations here contributing about 20 percent of our electricity. Even if we doubled the number of nuclear stations which would cost many, many billions of pounds, it would take at least 15 years and it would a hugely controversial and logistically very difficult. Even if we did that, we would reduce our carbon dioxide emissions from this country by about eight percent, so it would be a relatively small figure. Now, that multi-billion pound sum, if that was spent on simple energy efficiency programs on a basic public awareness campaign to get people to switch to more energy efficient devices in their homes, and to use their energy more sensibly, we think that you could get much more than eight percent and still have plenty of money leftover to begin the proper investment in the renewable energies which, in the future, cannot only fight climate change but avoid some of the other risks and costs that come with nuclear power.
CURWOOD: Measures such as conservation to deal with greenhouse gases have been around for a long time. It’s not happening.
JUNIPER: No, it’s not.
CURWOOD: So folks say that look, the infrastructure, the financial infrastructure is there to get nuclear power bumped up, and that this may not be the best response, but given the global warming emergency, it is at least a response, or perhaps it’s all hands on deck, it’s conservation and nuclear power make sense.
JUNIPER: Yes, well, conservation is going to be an essential part of whatever we do. And we have to look forward to new technologies coming quickly on stream which make the most of the energy that we do produce. But we don’t believe that nuclear power is necessary as one of the generating sources that we can rely on in the future. There’s a great deal of research and development going on in this country and in other parts of the world on a whole range of renewable energy technologies from wind power, which is now coming on stream here, and it’s producing an increasing contribution of electricity to our national grid. We have bio-mass energy which is being installed. We have an embryonic, but fast-moving wave and tidal power industry coming along. And for some time we’ve had, and it’s growing fast, an industry based on the provision of solar power, both for heating water and for providing electricity.
CURWOOD: All right, let me ask you right there, what is the potential for wind, solar and tidal power…
JUNIPER: Well, it’s awesome.
CURWOOD: But of the total energy budget there in England, what proportion of greenhouse gases could you reduce with those?
JUNIPER: Yes, well, the Department of Trade and Industry in this country has calculated that we can meet all of our energy needs in this country from wind alone. We wouldn’t want to do that because we’d like to have a diverse supply of energy so that when the wind isn’t blowing as hard as it might be at other times, then we can rely on tidal, wave, and solar and bio-mass energy to top it off, and, of course, hydropower. And this is not to say there wouldn’t be any fossil fuels. What we’re talking here is about a scenario with the phase-out of fossil fuels and the bringing in of renewables, and that may take several decades. And building up a diverse platform of renewable energy can in this country meet all of our energy needs. That point has been made, and it’s been endorsed by government, and that’s where we need to be heading.
CURWOOD: Is it happening now, though?
JUNIPER: Well, sadly not. We need to be doing more in this country across all of these new renewable energy technologies, but the opportunity won’t just happen on its own. It’s not going to happen simply through the market picking up renewable energy. It does need to have active assistance from governments. That’s what they’ve been doing for the nuclear industry for the last 50 years. They now need to shift that assistance towards the energy supply of the future because our children, I think, demand that we do take this choice rather than bequeathing them a nuclear legacy.
CURWOOD: Tony Juniper is executive director of Friends of the Earth in Great Britain. Thanks for taking this time with me today.
JUNIPER: My pleasure.
CURWOOD: Coming up: why the primitive horseshoe crab may be worth as much as a state-of-the-art laptop computer. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.
[MUSIC: John Hall “Plutonium is Forever” NO NUKES—THE MUSE CONCERT FOR A NON-NUCLEAR FUTURE (Elektra – 1979)]
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. With its spiked tail that resembles a weapon, and its dark, mud-colored shell shaped like prehistoric armor, the horseshoe crab looks like its been around for 350 million years. And it has. Various creatures have found it handy. For perhaps thousands of years the red knot, a modest sized shore bird, has found horseshoe crab eggs to be key to its survival during its lengthy migration from the Antarctic to the Arctic each spring.
Now humans have found that blood from the horseshoe crab makes a handy and almost instantaneous test for diseases that doctors used to have to diagnose by injecting a rabbit and waiting a day or more. With birds and humans alike on the hunt for horseshoe crabs, the population has been under some pressure. I spent an afternoon with a man who’s made the horseshoe crab part of his life’s work, and who argues that the critters are much more valuable than people who cut them up for fish bait might think. Bill Sargent wrote a book called “Crab Wars: Horseshoe Crabs, Bioterrorism, and Human Health,” and took me wading in the waters of Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod.
[SOUND OF WND AND SPLASHING WATER]
SARGENT: Okay, we can enter the water here, and we’re going out on a very shallow sand bar.
[SOUND OF WALKING THROUGH WATER]
SARGENT: And you should be able to… Here’s one right here. You can see… Here’s a nice fellow right here. And you can tell right away that this is a female. The way you tell that is that the males have this forward claw that becomes a little bit like a fist.
CURWOOD: Now, give me the big biological picture of horseshoe crabs: what are they, where they come from, and where they fit in the ecology.
SARGENT: Basically, they are one of the oldest animals that we have. They’re arthropods.
CURWOOD: Arthropods? That means they’re spiders?
SARGENT: Yes, their closest living relative is a spider. They’re sort of an integral part of the ecology of the bay. Actually, a lot of people think by turning over the sediment, it’s almost like a plow. So they’re oxygenating the sediments, and you’ll find more shellfish because of that.
CURWOOD: What are the biggest threats to these crabs? They’ve been here for 350 million years but, as I understand it, there’s a lot of pressure on them now.
SARGENT: Basically, you’re looking at ‘em. We’re the biggest threat, humans. Basically, these animals have been used as research animals for hundreds of years—pretty much every aspect of the crab, the behavior of the crab, vision of the crab, and the horseshoe crab blood. What’s happened is that the horseshoe crab test is probably the most common medical procedure used in medicine today that is all based on a single species of wild animal. So if we get a wound, we have a whole series of antibodies that go to the area and fight the infection.
What horseshoe crabs have are very large, what are called, amoebocyte cells, and the amoebocyte cell simply goes to the area and coagulates and keeps the infection out. So, what scientists have been able to do is they catch the crabs, they extract its blue, copper-based blood, separate out these amoebocyte cells and make what’s called lymulus amoebocyte lysate, which is used as a test for gram-negative bacteria. And whenever you got into the hospital, anything that’s going to come into contact with the human blood system has to be checked for gram-negative bacteria.
CURWOOD: Remind me, what are some of the typical diseases of gram-negative infections.
SARGENT: Well, when you go into septic shock that’s one of the things. A lot of e-coli are gram-negative bacteria.
CURWOOD: I’ve got to ask you this: how do you get the blood out of a horseshoe crab without killing it?
SARGENT: Basically, what you do, there’s this little hinge right here, and you put these crabs in a rack. And then they put a needle right through that hinge and then there’s a free flow of blood; and when the blood stops flowing, then they stop the bleeding and then release it. And if you do that right, you get less than ten percent mortality which is not perfect but it’s okay.
Each one of these crabs that we’re looking at is worth about as much as a laptop computer. Because they get $250 worth of lysate each time they bleed them, and they can bleed them every summer for all their lives. So they have about ten years that they can bleed them.
CURWOOD: I imagine when people discovered that you could use it for this medical test that it was quite popular and they probably started to disappear.
SARGENT: Yeah, we started noticing that there were very, very few immature crabs, almost none. The whole population seems to have crashed. And then we realized what was happening is the crabs were being caught in the shallow waters when they were laying their eggs. They have about a four-day window of opportunity to lay their eggs, right around the full-moon and the new-moon high tides. They were being caught and then bled in Falmouth and then returned back to the deeper waters of the bay, and it would take them about 30 days to get from the deep water to the shallow water. So, essentially, what you’d done is taken them out of the breeding population. Then what happened about three years ago, the Cape Cod National Seashore established a reserve for horseshoe crabs on the eastern part of the bay. And it used to be that you would walk a hundred meters along this beach and not see any immature crabs, and now you’re seeing lots of them.
CURWOOD: Okay, so now we’re going to take this fellow back to the water.
CURWOOD: Let’s see how he responds
SARGENT: Usually, they have two responses when you put them back. Either you put them in and they turn right over and they’ll disappear quickly, or sometimes they sit on the bottom for a while, so we’ll see what this one does.
[Sound of splashing water]
CURWOOD: He’s sitting.
SARGENT: He’s sitting. Oh, now he’s flipping over.
CURWOOD: There he goes.
SARGENT: There he goes. He made it. So he’s fine, and now he’ll just shoot right off into the deeper water.
CURWOOD: Bill Sargent’s book is called “Crab Wars: Horseshoe Crabs, Bioterrorism and Human Health.” Thanks for taking this time with me today, Bill.
SARGENT: Thank you.
[MUSIC: Ry Cooder/U.M Bhatt “Isa Lei” A MEETING BY THE RIVER (Water Lily Acoustics – 1993)]
- “Crab Wars: A Tale of Horseshoe Crabs, Bioterrorism, and Human Health” by William Sargent
- The Horseshoe Crab: Natural History, Anatomy, Conservation, and Research
- Horseshoe Crabs “A Living Fossil” – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- NOAA Spotlight Feature Article
CURWOOD: For centuries, the nation of Albania has been isolated from other European countries by geography and culture. And it’s still trying to recover from the poor economy it had when it was part of the Soviet Empire. Now, as Albania seeks to emerge as part of modern Europe, it’s looking to tourism as a way to bring in much needed revenue. But as David Chanatry reports, in one ancient site, the desire for tourists is colliding with the realities of a place not yet equipped to handle them.
[SOUND OF DIGGING AND SCRAPING]
CHANATRY: On a gently sloping hillside in southern Albania, two dozen archeologists are digging back in time. Hired hands swing pickaxes, then haul away the dirt. The professionals do the detail work, unearthing the remnants of ancient civilizations, brushing away mud and grit from the bones of a body buried nearby. All toil under a relentless Mediterranean sun. This is Riley Thorne’s fourth season digging.
THORNE: This part here we’ve got five different phases, starting from the Hellenistic, which is the larger wall down the bottom, going right up through to about sixth, seventh century sort of material.
CHANATRY: The site is called Diaporit—it’s mostly a major Roman villa, and it’s part of the ancient city of Butrint—one of the least spoiled and most vulnerable cultural and natural heritage sites in the Mediterranean. In 1992, the United Nations declared Butrint a World Heritage Site because of its unique cultural history. Five years ago, that designation was extended to the surrounding floodplains and lakes.
Located on the coast just across from the present-day Greek island of Corfu, the city was a crossroads of the ancient world. Will Bowden directs this dig for the Butrint Foundation, a nonprofit group started by British philanthropists to preserve the ancient city:
BOWDEN: Everyone who’s done anything in the Mediterranean has passed by Butrint at some stage or another and left their mark. So what you have in Butrint is really 3,000 years of continuous occupation, layer upon layer upon layer.
TARE [GIVING GUIDED TOUR]: Here you can see, where we’re sitting here, it’s a matter of ten meters from each other, the history of Butrint, why Butrint is so important.
CHANATRY: Ani Tare is the director of Butrint National Park. Today he leads a group of American college students on a guided tour. They first walk through a Greek theater with 23 rows of limestone seats flanked by the remains of Roman temples. Then onto a footpath which winds past a lineup of Roman baths. Nearby is a sixth century baptistery with a stunning tile mosaic floor, next to a basilica laid out like a cross. A tower stands across from a triangular fort, both built by Venetians in the Middle Ages to protect the city from invaders. An Ottoman fortress guards the entrance to the channel linking the city to the sea. One of the American students, Veronica Donohue, says Butrint feels alive. .
DONOHUE: The whole site is awe inspiring. It’s almost like the place has a soul. You can imagine like the Roman soldiers marching through the walls of the city, or the Romans in the baths, or just the normal farm people walking around. The place radiates with energy, I think.
CHANATRY: Much of the excavation so far was done in the 1920s and ‘30s by Italians sent by Mussolini. War stopped that work. Then came more than 40 years of communist tyranny. Only in the last decade have outsiders been allowed back in, and full scale archeology resumed. So Butrint is an unpolished jewel of the classical world, set in the middle of a roadless wilderness.
[SOUND OF MOTORBOAT]
TARE: The declaration of the national park of Butrint, 29 kilometers square, is a very good start to preserve what we call the Homeric landscape, to preserve the archaeology, but also the landscape and also other archeological satellites which are connected to the main city.
CHANATRY: Ani Tare leans against the cabin of an old boat that motors him from the main city to a floodplain settled by Caesar’s soldiers. Butrint was set aside as a National Park four years ago. Tare says even as the park was being created by the Albanian government, other officials were granting concessions to build resort hotels and a golf course on the same land.
TARE: It has taken a long time, and long lobbying, and a long explanation and many other things to convince people the value of long term future of this area is going to be to preserve it and not develop it and ruin it completely.
CHANATRY: But the tension between developing the area along the mass tourism model of the island of Corfu, or choosing a more sustainable path, has not completely faded.
[CITY SOUNDS, ALONG BOARDWALK]
CHANATRY: Just a few miles up the only road out of Butrint lies the port of Saranda. People young and old stroll arm in arm on a fashionable boardwalk. Along the coast and up into the hills, new construction is everywhere. Dozens of hotels are going up within feet of each other, the city now a landscape of concrete pillars with protruding rods of reinforced steel. Foundations have been blasted into the bedrock, the debris dumped wherever there was room, often marring the very views that might attract tourists.
Kayla Qendro grew up here, and enjoys walking that boardwalk. But today’s town saddens her, and she’s concerned about the development pressures creeping down the coast.
QENDRO: You can see from Saranda to Butrint is going like a disaster with all the buildings. And they are all going to be hotels. They have no parking, they have nothing. Sometimes I think they are building all the hotels but in the end no one will come over there. So it seems like they are just build and build and build, but nothing for the future.
CHANATRY: This building boom has been fueled by money from abroad and an intense desire to bring in tourist dollars. The prize? The thousands of Europeans who vacation in Corfu, just 45 minutes away by ferry. In this post-Communist era the spigots of capitalism have opened up, but Saranda’s director of tourism, Matilda Andoni, says enough is enough.
ANDONI: It’s about time to say, you know, that these are the limits of development, or try to find way to better integrate these, the developments, and nature. So, in a way, it’s about time to be speaking more seriously about sustainability.
CHANATRY: Even so, she acknowledges the problem is not establishing some kind of zoning. It’s enforcing it.
ANDONI: There are certainly regulations everywhere. The issue is everywhere the same. It’s to trying to make these regulations work.
CHANATRY: The problem is made worse by a newfound freedom of movement. During the Communist period few people were allowed to live near Butrint for fear they might escape to Greece. Since then, says Ani Tare, Albanians have headed south by the thousands.
TARE: A vast number of people have arrived and they’re building with no plans, with no permissions, with no clear vision what is going to happen in this area.
CHANATRY: But Butrint is protected. By law, no one can build within the park boundaries. But the tourists are coming, and the park is not protected from them. People, not buildings, may be the greatest threat –54,000 visitors, mostly Albanian, came last year, up from just 3,000 five years ago.
[CROWD SOUNDS IN THEATER]
CHANATRY: On weekends, the crowds overwhelm the park’s staff of six rangers. School groups storm the site like an invading army, treating the priceless ruins like monkey bars at the playground. A favorite spot for pictures is the fragile arch at the temple of Asclepious, perilous for both the model and the monument.
-[TEENS TALKING ON ROCKS]
CHANATRY: On this day, a group of teens climb on what’s known as the Venetian House for their photo sessions, just 24 hours after that same structure was repaired by British masonry experts funded by the Getty foundation. John Ashurst teaches building conservation at West Dean College in England. He says tourism brings in money and it encourages people to cherish their past, but he warns that Butrint may soon reach a tipping point.
ASHURST: I would just say that in some parts of the world, the management of tourism has become more important than the care of the fabric. And, of course, at that stage it’s got out of balance. We must care for the fabric, otherwise there will be nothing to visit.
TARE: We are very vulnerable. I mean, anything can go wrong any time if we’re not careful.
CHANATRY: Ani Tare feels a deep affinity for Butrint and the undeveloped land surrounding it.
[TARE SPEAKING TO KIDS IN PARK]
CHANATRY: He takes an active role teaching Albanians about the significance of the park. He knows the tourists, especially the younger ones, are touching too much, not treating the ancient sites with the same care and respect that he does. He’s running the risk they’ll damage Butrint. But for now, with only about $15,000 in funding from the Albanian government, he needs these tourists to pursue his dream.
TARE: That’s the goal, Butrint to become a major tool for economical development of the region. There’s no point of having a dead museum here where just you buy a ticket, go walk in and walk out. This should be a living place where people can live and they can profit from the heritage without destroying it.
CHANATRY: More tourists bring more money; and for Ani Tare, that’s what’s needed to develop the infrastructure for sustainable tourism, to serve this ancient site and the present day inhabitants of the region. For Living on Earth, I’m David Chanatry in Butrint, Albania.
CURWOOD: As always, we welcome your comments on our program. But today we want to encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to step in front of an open microphone, right here on Living on Earth. Maybe you’ve always wanted to tell a special story about experiences, concerns and feelings about the natural world we all share. Well, we’re all ears.
We invite you to send to us a brief recording. Making one can be as simple as picking up the telephone, or using some of that sound gear you have lying around the house. Our website, Living on Earth dot org, has the instructions and some suggestions to help you. Works may be chosen for production, posted online, and, perhaps, broadcast.
Now, this is not a contest. There are no winners or losers. This is simply an invitation to you to get involved. What do we want to hear? Your opinions count, of course, but even better are stories, tales from your life on this planet. So, it’s Living on Earth dot org for complete directions and some sample stories. And if you’re not online, send us a card, and we’ll send you some instructions. The address is Stories, Living on Earth, 20 Holland Street, Somerville Massachusetts, 02144.
[MUSIC: Pat Matheny Group “The Search” AMERICAN GARAGE (ECM – 1979)]
See a slideshow of Butrint
CURWOOD: Just ahead: why the mall is where it’s at in America. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jennifer Chu.
[ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NOTE THEME]
CHU: Back pain is a common affliction for many, but its effects appear to go beyond simply crimping the ability to bend down. It can also cause the brain to shrink.
That’s according to a team of researchers at Northwestern University. They found that chronic back pain reduced the amount of gray matter in the brains of 26 test subjects by as much as 11 percent. That’s roughly the same amount lost during ten to 20 years of normal aging. Gray matter is the part of the brain that processes information and controls memory.
In an article in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers discovered the shrinkage after reviewing the brain scans of people who suffered constant back pain for a year or longer. Scientists think the stress of prolonged suffering might overwork neurons in certain parts of the brain and cause them to atrophy.
They are now looking into the question of whether these reductions in gray matter are reversible. That’s this week’s Health Note, I’m Jennifer Chu.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
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[MUSIC: Galactic “Something’s Wrong with this Picture” AIN’T NO FUNK LIKE N.O. FUNK (Bullseye Blues & Jazz – 1998)]
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. As the season of shopping angst and pleasure arrives, producer Jonathan Mitchell returns to his hometown in the Midwest to bring us a sound portrait of the place that was, and still is, the community’s social center, if not its very identity: the mall.
[UPBEAT ORGAN LOUNGE MUSIC]
MALE: Edge City development.
MALE: That was the sign of the future.
MALE: The very future of who we want to be.
FEMALE: Younger, fresher, cleaner.
FEMALE: You know, what we have here is what we have, and –
FEMALE: BAM! It’s all there. It’s all there.
FEMALE: People were so ready for a mall to come here and it –
MALE: It was just an untapped market.
FEMALE: You have to change with the times, and you have to figure out what people want.
FEMALE: Who wants to walk around downtown in the middle of winter? Nobody.
MALE: The mall offered a whole new range of national companies that weren’t present in the community at that point in time.
FEMALE: Everybody will want to come to our mall now.
FEMALE: It was American, it was –
FEMALE: Why are we the only town that doesn’t have a mall in the United States? So, when it came –
FEMALE: We were hip and happening! We were a real town. (LAUGHS) We weren’t just some little spot in the middle of a cornfield!
[HARP STRINGS STRUMMING]
FEMALE: We’ve made it!
FEMALE: And it left, it left such an enormous hole in the downtown.
[MUSIC TEMPO SLOWED, DRUMBEAT]
MALE: I kind of liked downtown like as it was when I was a kid, you know? All of the businesses were downtown.
MALE: For many years, the downtown had been the epicenter of retailing.
MALE: Older people don’t like change that much. They like to have it just like it was.
MALE: Downtown was magical. People came down here on Friday night and it was the hangout. It was the place where you came, where you had something to eat, where you shopped. And we felt with a great deal of pride that we were the leading department store in town. Started in 1886 on Fifth Street. My grandfather and his two brothers built this ten-story building at the corner of Fifth and Washington in 1925 and 1926.
FEMALE: I think that changed –
MALE: With the coming of the automobile.
[AIRY SYNTHESIZER MUSIC]
MALE: Edge city development –
MALE: Suburbanization, automobile culture, the moving outward.
FEMALE: It was the ‘60s, and the trend of the day was these new malls that were popping up everywhere.
[HARP STRINGS STRUMMING UP, XYLOPHONE FOLLOWS]
MALES: Malls were being built, and we wanted to be involved.
[ORGAN LOUNGE MUSIC, SLOWER TEMPO BACKBEAT]
FEMALE: The large department stores made a pretty quick exodus from the downtown to the new mall.
MALE: Because it was part of being in business and trying to grow your business.
MALE: The usual newspaper stories appeared decrying, you know, the loss of our downtown, our sense of community. And I think with some real basis.
MALE: We had heard these horror stories in certain towns where a mall had been built and the downtown stores had dropped its volume as much as 40 percent. Well, that’ll put you out of business in a hurry. And we knew we were going to drop volume because some of the volume of the people that came downtown to the store were going to go to the new shopping center, obviously. So we calculated that it would be about 25 percent. Well, when it was all said and done it was 100 percent, because the store was eventually closed.
FEMALE: When I was five years old I remember driving by the mall just to see its progress, and seeing this huge…
MALE: And it was so huge!
FEMALE: This huge building.
MALE: This mall was just massive!
FEMALE: These huge forms. I don’t remember seeing anybody actually working on it, but I remember watching it and wondering what was going on in there. Because at that time I didn’t understand the concept of the mall.
FEMALE: Okay, we are now driving around the mall. There’s a Sears…
MALE: It looks like any other mall.
FEMALE: We’re looking for…we’re going to go around the mall to the second level, and it’s where the theater, we have a movie theater, where the entrance is. But that’s also the main drag into the food court.
MALE: People tend to have their favorite entrance. Even if the store that you’re going to is far away you always park up in the, you know, upper level by Bergner’s, because that’s where you’ve always parked. (LAUGHS). And it’s easier to get out, or, you know, they all have their motivations.
FEMALE: This is my favorite place to park because it takes you – BAM! – right into the food court.
MALE: My favorite place to park is actually the lower level near Bergner’s, yeah. Because it’s overlooked ‘cause it’s actually sort of cutting into the hillside.
FEMALE: If I cannot find a good parking space, which it’s not looking good…
MALE: There’s hardly any parking places out here.
FEMALE: Then I go down to the lower level of Sears that will take me into the automotive section…
FEMALE: Just park anywhere.
MALE: Should I just park in my normal spot?
FEMALE: Yeah. I don’t think it’ll be open, but –
FEMALE: We are now in G9, upper G9, and – wait, is this a parking space? Because if it is, I’m taking it. DNGG! I hate when that happens!
MALE: That’s handicapped…
FEMALE: That’s handicapped…
FEMALE: It’s not looking good, dude. Let’s go down to Sears.
MALE: We could park right here!
FEMALE: What, you want me to park here?
MALE: Oh look, here’s a parking place. Amazing. Well, there’s always the possibility of a better one.
MALE: We’re still only half a block away from –
FEMALE: I suppose so, but you know what? I walk nowhere.
FEMALE: I don’t! I don’t walk anywhere. I drive everywhere I go.
FEMALE: So, for me…
MALE: But, even when you’re far away you’re still, like, if you were downtown you’d have to walk blocks, probably.
FEMALE: That’s true. But you know what? I don’t go downtown. Most people don’t go downtown. You know why? Because the mall brought everybody here.
[CAR DOOR CLOSED, VIOLIN MALL MUSIC STARTS UP, HUM OF CROWD]
MALE: All right, here we are.
FEMALE: Whoo-hoo! We are at the mall. What are we going to do?
FEMALE: We just walk around, and we look at the clothes…
[MELANGE OF VOICES, AS IF IN A DREAM SEQUENCE]
MALE: Time disappears…
FEMALE: Oh, that’s nice…
MALE: And everything was shiny and new…
FEMALE: Restaurants and drug stores and movie theaters, and--
MALE: Smiling clerks greet you…
FEMALE: Oh, that’s nice…
FEMALE: And it smelled new…
MALE: It’s clean, there’s no crime…
MALE: There’s a place in the center of the mall that they call Center Court…
FEMALE: Can you meet me at Center Court?
MALE: But, you know, it had skylights, and it had trees growing inside, which was really bizarre…
[BIRD CALL, HARP STRINGS]
FEMALE: It was a good place to go look and just, look around. And I was kind of like wishing, you know, you go there, I wish I had this, or when I get some money maybe I’ll come back and get this, and…we did a lot of wishing. I did a lot of wishing.
[HARP STRINGS PUNCTUATED BY TRIANGLE]
FEMALE: That’s cool…
FEMALE: Isn’t that cool! I love that, isn’t that cool?
MALE: What are you looking at?
FEMALE: This right here. I always want to stop here and look in. I’m like drawn into the store…
MALE: It’s got shiny objects.
FEMALE: That’s exactly (LAUGHS) it is, it’s got shiny objects. Look at that, isn’t that cool? How much is that?
[MUZAK VERSION OF THE DOORS’ “LIGHT MY FIRE”; HUM OF SHOPPING CROWD]
MALE: I guess it became the place to go. For shopping, for entertainment, for just that sort of teenage adolescent lingering around kind of thing.
MALE: There’s a lot of young people in here.
MALE: I’m standing here looking around, I could be the oldest one here.
FEMALE: Look, right over there.
MALE: A lot of kids.
FEMALE: Look at the way they’re kind of walking. They kind of got the little twitch in their hip, and they’re hair is kind of bouncing a certain way, and they’re eyes are darting back and forth.
MALE: The eyes…
FEMALE: And they’re lookin’.
FEMALE: You would walk around in search of boys.
MALE: When you’re of a certain age, the mall is place where you find your freedom.
MALE: That was where everybody went.
FEMALE: Looking for boys and clothes and whatever else you could find!
MALE: Traveled in little tribes around different locations in the mall…
MALE: And look for girls. That’s it.
MALE: Like this group of guys here. They all have stocking caps all pulled down like over their eyebrows.
FEMALE: Some guys following us around…
MALE: Yeah, I stalk ‘em. So, all you girls out there, watch out now! (LAUGHS). I’m just playin’.
FEMALE: We’d all act like we were cool and we really didn’t want them to follow us, but…
FEMALE: Do you look for guys here?
FEMALE: Yeah. (LAUGHS)
FEMALE: You know, that was the whole reason why we were there was for them to follow us.
FEMALE: Have you ever found a girl here?
MALE: Ahh, yeah, yeah. A few times.
FEMALE: I don’t know, like you’d be in line and they’ll ask you something and then they’ll just start talking to you.
MALE: Be myself, that’s all you can be.
MALE: I met people by working there.
FEMALE: Thank you very much.
FEMALE: Thank you.
MALE: Everybody that I knew, all my friends, worked at the mall.
FEMALE: Oh, I became the assistant manager and acting manager, thank you very much.
MALE: I think what there was, was there was a food chain related to where you worked. And, you know, you started working at McDonald’s or one of those god awful kiosks in the center that sold like, you know, barbecue paste, and then you’d work your way up. And I got to the point where I was the guitar salesman in the music store, and I worked in the CD shop as well. So, that was probably the coolest I’ve ever been.
MALE: Oh, you know where we should go?
MALE: The perfume department.
[ROMANTIC STRING MUSIC]
FEMALE: The perfume department (SING-SONGY)
FEMALE: I’m a beauty advisor, is my actual title, so, like, when people come up I tell them about like, color, and that kind of thing. And then sell makeup, basically.
FEMALE: Do you do makeovers?
FEMALE: Mm-hmm. I don’t really like working at the mall. I would come to shop and that used to be fun, but now I just feel like I don’t even want to come here anymore, because I have to come here all the time to work. Most people are rude. I used to think most people were nice, but most people are rude.
FEMALE: There was a part of working at the mall that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the idea that I could look outside the windows and see what was going on outside. I was stuck inside this cave.
FEMALE: The mall is, I don’t know, it’s pasty. It’s just, it’s sunless and windowless and…
MALE: That sort of hermetically-sealed mall type of environment, that corporate street.
MALE: A really safe environment where there’s security all the time.
MALE: Very orderly, very modern…
MALE: It gives you a place to be inside.
FEMALE: You don’t have to get out in the cold or the heat.
MALE: What is a mall but a large cocoon keeping the world out?
[ROMANTIC STRINGS CONTINUE]
FEMALE: They’re too…
FEMALE: And there’s nothing unique about them anymore.
MALE: It’s sort of a homogenous experience, where if you go to almost any mall in the country…
FEMALE: Any mall in any town in any state…
MALE: Every mall and every place and every town there’s –
FEMALE: Gap Gap Gap Gap Gap.
MALE: It’s very similar, by design. Maybe there’s comfort in that.
FEMALE: Our city, I think, has a lot to offer people. But basically people talk about the mall. People go to the mall, people are talking about what they got at the mall.
FEMALE: You know, what we have here is what we have.
FEMALE: And if you want things, that’s where you have to go to get them.
MALE: Anything you every wanted is inside of a mall.
MALE: Well, I met my wife at the mall (LAUGHS). When I was cool. We would get off work at 9 o’clock, because that’s when the mall closed, and we would hang out in the parking lot at the mall.
[CRICKET SOUNDS, CAR SOUNDS]
MALE: And we would make jokes about how the full moon was beautiful, shining off of the windshields of you know the ’88 Buick. And sometimes we would ride in my convertible around the mall parking lot. And you know, despite all of the problems and cultural homogenization, it’s still a pretty fond memory.
FEMALE: My husband bought his tux there right before we got married. And then when I was pregnant I went into labor there.
[BABY MAKING BABY-TALK]
FEMALE (TO CHILD): Honey, Mommy is recording right now, all right? Do you like the mall, Hannah? What’s your favorite thing about the mall?
FEMALE: The Disney Store.
[CHIMES. TENSION-TEMPO STRING MUSIC]
MALE: Now it’s interesting, in the history of retailing in the 19th century actually, before the development of the great department stores, most shopping was done in small regional areas, neighborhood grocers and so on. And as it became centralized, a group of merchants in Chicago brought suit against the stores like Marshall Fields and others as an unfair competition.
MALE: Well, some people get left out and there’s nothing that anybody can do about it. It’s just the way it is.
MALE: Obviously that didn’t keep Marshall Fields and other large department stores from prospering. And we began to think of our downtowns traditionally as the center of our community.
FEMALE: Cities are a living, breathing, changing entity. Right now malls are going through a very difficult time.
MALE: Now, these many years later the mall has spawned so many other “big box” stores.
FEMALE: And perhaps the bigger threat are the big box stores. So, it’s nothing new. This is a way that cities live or die.
FEMALE: And maybe, maybe, you know maybe if we never got the mall, maybe our city would just be this small little town that had nothing – not even a mall.
MALE: And I think what’s significant here is we not only look at history as something that’s 100 years old or ten years old or even one year old; we look at history as happening today and in the future.
FEMALE: Where are we going, what are we going to do, what are we reaching for?
MALE: Well, the world is moving pretty fast, and as you get older it even seems to move faster.
FEMALE: Trends come and go.
MALE: We decide as a society the things that are good for us.
FEMALE: If you can see that things can change and that you can survive and that they can be better.
MALE: Is it better? I’m not sure it is. But that’s the way it is.
[BIRD SONG, DISTANT HIGHWAY SOUNDS]
FEMALE: Our city, I think, has a lot to offer people.
MALE: It’s a really nice place to live.
MALE: It’s easy to buy a house.
FEMALE: It’s a nice size city.
MALE: Fairly easy to make a living.
FEMALE: I think it’s a safe place.
MALE: And the cost of living is very reasonable.
FEMALE: It’s really a great place to raise a family.
FEMALE: It’s the middle of America. I think that’s a good thing.
MALE: Fits my taste perfectly.
FEMALE: You’re probably going to find its beauty in the people.
[HUM OF CROWD]
MALE: Be myself, that’s all you can be.
MALE: It’s the people. And I think by and large, we have a community full of wonderful, wonderful people.
FEMALE: But while I think the people shape the town, the town shapes the people.
FEMALE: The question is, do these people look happy that they’re here?
MALE: Do you think they do?
FEMALE: I don’t know.
MALE: They don’t look too unhappy.
FEMALE: No, I think they look pretty happy.
MALE: It’s just fun to see our country be our country, and our people be our people. And what better place to do it at the mall?
[MUZAK VERSION OF THE WHO’S “I CAN SEE FOR MILES,” WITH HORNS AND SITAR]
CURWOOD: Our piece on the mall was produced by sound artist Jonathan Mitchell of the Hearing Voices radio project supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
You can hear our program any time on our website. The address is Living on Earth dot org. That’s Living on Earth dot o-r-g. You can reach us at comments at l-o-e dot org. Once again, comments at l-o-e dot o-r-g. Our postal address is 20 Holland Street, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144. And you can call our listener line at 800-218-9988. That’s 800-218-99-88. CDs, tapes and transcripts are $15.
CURWOOD: We leave you this week with sounds that may soon vanish from the British countryside.
CURWOOD: Unless an appeal is successful, fox hunting with dogs – like these giving chase near Hound Tor, England - is to cease in three months according to an act of the House of Commons.
[EARTHEAR: “Fox Hunt in Progress” SOUNDING DARTMOOR (I-DAT – 2002)]
CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced for the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Christopher Bolick, Eileen Bolinsky, Ingrid Lobet, and Jennifer Chu - with help from Carl Lindemann. Our interns are Jennie Cecil Moore, Jenn Goodman and Steve Gregory. Our technical director is Paul Wabrek. Alison Dean composed our themes. You can find is at Living on Earth dot org. Environmental sound art courtesy of Earthear. I’m Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.
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