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

June 25, 1993

Air Date: June 25, 1993


Dam Relicensing / Tom Verde

Tom Verde reports on the fight over the relicensing of many of the country's hydroelectric dams. Two hundred and thirty dams are up for Federal relicensing this year. Environmentalists have seized on recent legislation in asking Federal regulators to look more closely at the ecological impact of dams. (06:13)

Chimpanzees and Us

Steve talks with primatologist Jane Goodall and author Dale Peterson about their recent book Visions of Caliban, on the treatment and behavior of chimpanzees in captivity and the wild. (08:12)

Native American Activist Conference / Dick Brooks

Dick Brooks brings us the voices and stories of Native American environmentalists attending a meeting of the Indigenous Environmental Network, held on the Sac and Fox Reservation in Northeastern Oklahoma. (07:00)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

Copyright (c) 1993 by World Media Foundation. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold, or retransmitted without the written authority of World Media Foundation.

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Dan Ferguson, Lynn Terry, George Hardeen, Tom Verde, Dick Brooks
GUESTS: Jane Goodall, Dale Peterson

(Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

(Theme music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

How do we relate to the endangered chimpanzees, perhaps the closest relatives to humans? They have culture, family groups and a sophisticated use of medicinal plants. Most striking is their similarity of emotions.

PETERSON: Chimps laugh. Just like humans. It's unbelievable. No other animal, with the possible exception of the other great apes - gorillas, orangutans and bonnevilles - laugh.

CURWOOD: Also, Native Americans on their fight to protect their environments.

JOHNSON: If you went back, like 200 years ago, we were the warriors. But today, we're fighting a different kind of battle. It's like, you know, we're fighting chemical companies, landfills and so on.

CURWOOD: That and more this week on Living on Earth, coming up right after this news.

Environmental News

NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley with this week's environmental news.

A newly-declared wilderness area in northwest Canada will help create the world's largest protected trans-national wilderness. It stretches across British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon. The land in British Columbia had been eyed by mining and logging interests, in what some termed an "environmental nightmare waiting to happen." Dan Ferguson reports from Vancouver.

FERGUSON: The Tatshenshini Wilderness region lies a few miles south of the Alaskan border in the province of British Columbia. The 2.3 million acre area, twice the size of the Grand Canyon, combines spectacular scenery and substantial mineral resources. The declaration of the Tatshenshini as a wilderness park kills the controversial Windy Craggy mine project, which would have been one of the largest open-pit copper and gold mines in the world. Mining companies complain the government has sacrificed nearly 2,000 jobs and millions of dollars in revenue simply to keep its green supporters happy. The last time the government faced this kind of choice was in Clayoquot Sound, when it approved logging an old-growth forest, much to the outrage of the environmental groups responsible for its victory in the last provincial election. For Living on Earth, this is Dan Ferguson in Vancouver.

NUNLEY: Meanwhile, Canada's Federal government has approved the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite opposition from environmental and labor groups. The action may make it harder for Canada to push its positions in related negotiations with the US and Mexico over protection for workers and the environment. But the ruling conservatives pushed the pact through to create momentum for the new Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, as she heads into fall elections.

A confidential report on energy options for the former Soviet Union says it would be cheaper to replace the region's most dangerous nuclear reactors with gas turbine plants than to upgrade the old reactors' safety systems. Lynn Terry reports from Paris.

TERRY: A copy of the report, which was leaked by Greenpeace International, says it would be technically feasible to replace dangerous nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union by the mid-1990's, at a cost of about $18 billion dollars. The report says the other option, of upgrading nuclear plants in the region, would cost about $24 billion dollars. But the report, which was conducted by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency in Paris, says there's a lot of resistance to switching to gas in the former Soviet Union. It says Russia wants to reserve its gas supplies for export. Other countries are concerned about the cost of importing gas, and the report suggests there is less concern in the region about safety issues. The report will be discussed by the G-7 summit in Tokyo in July. For Living on Earth, this is Lynn Terry in Paris.

NUNLEY: Los Angeles has become the largest city in the US to ban smoking in most public places. Outgoing Mayor Tom Bradley signed the bill just two days after the tobacco industry went on the offensive against smoking bans, by suing the EPA over the agency's finding that second-hand smoke is a carcinogen. The industry claims the finding is flawed. The California Legislature, meanwhile, is considering a statewide ban on public smoking.

This is Living on Earth.

Governors of 18 western states say they could support higher grazing fees on Federal lands, as long as the hike doesn't hurt the cattle industry. At their regional meeting in Arizona, the governors said their primary concern is improving protection of public lands. George Hardeen reports.

HARDEEN: Like the cattlemen who now pay $1.86 per cow per month to graze on public lands, Western Governors are resigned to the fact that grazing fees are going to go up. The only question that remains is by how much. Jo Clark is program director for the Western Governors Association.

CLARK: The governors want to find a fee that will let ranchers stay in business, keep the appropriate number of cattle on the range, but at the same time provide some incentives for better management.

HARDEEN: Ranchers say upping the fee to $8, a proposal under consideration by Congress, would drive them out of business, and the governors agree. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says he'll issue a draft policy to raise grazing fees by the first of August. For Living on Earth, I'm George Hardeen.

NUNLEY: Reacting to studies that show a higher impact of pollution in minority communities, Montana Senator Max Baucus has introduced a bill to end environmental discrimination. Baucus, who heads the Senate Environment Committee, says the Environmental Justice Act of 1993 would target the most polluted counties in the nation. A similar bill failed last year.

There's a new report out on the nation's "most endangered historic places", and atop the list is - the entire state of Vermont. The list, compiled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, highlights unique places threatened by development. The listing has irked some Vermonters, but Governor Howard Dean says he agrees with the need to control development in his state.

DEAN: What we would like to do is make sure that our downtown areas remain the center of commerce and social activity, because that's so important to our values, about who we are.

NUNLEY: Despite having one of the country's most restrictive land-use planning laws, Vermont has seen a recent influx of sprawling retail developments.

That's this week's environmental news. I'm Jan Nunley.

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(Theme music up and under)

Dam Relicensing

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

It's long been regarded as one of the safest, cleanest and most renewable source of energy. But today, hydroelectric power is under the gun. Critics claim it can cause considerable environmental damage, from blocked fish migrations to habitat erosion. More than 200 hydroelectric plants are in line for renewal of their Federal licenses this year, and environmentalists are challenging some of those applications. Few actually want the dams removed. What they do want is more compensation for ecological costs. Reporter Tom Verde traveled to Maine for our story.

(Sound of mountain stream, rushing water)

VERDE: Maine's mighty river systems typically start out like this, as tiny streams gurgling through mountain forests. But as this water gains momentum on its way to the sea, it becomes a valuable commodity.

FLAGG: All this water that's spilling over this dam right now represents energy that could be kilowatts. That water represents, right there, a lot of money.

VERDE: Louis Flagg works for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. While he recognizes that hydroelectric dams provide necessary energy, he says they've had a disastrous effect on several of Maine's migratory fish populations.

FLAGG: They prohibit them from being able to ascend above the dam to their historical spawning areas. Dams also alter the river environment, for some of the more valuable migratory species, such as salmon, shad and rainbow smelt, as well as striped bass.

(Sound of lapping water)

VERDE: And they also create fluctuating water levels downstream which destroy wildlife habitat, cause water quality problems and inhibit recreational activities such as boating and fishing.

( Sound of dam )

VERDE: A lot has changed since the last time these dams were relicensed some 30 to 50 years ago. Companies must now balance their power needs with a host of new environmental laws. Most important is a 1986 act which requires the government to give quote "equal consideration" to power development and the preservation of ecological and recreational river uses.

SOSLAND: The significant legal point here is that these rivers are public resources. They're not owned by these private companies.

VERDE: Dan Sosland is an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, one of several interest groups intervening in the relicensing of hydroelectric dams.

SOSLAND: The dams generate, in New England alone, billions of dollars worth of electricity. But if you look at the enormous resource that's at stake, you realize there's an incredible opportunity here for long-term environmental protection, and a responsibility by the dam owners to provide compensation to the public that's somewhat commensurate with the value they're extracting from the water.

(Sound of dam)

VERDE: It's not an unprecedented idea. Private companies pay the Federal Government timber and grazing fees. Environmental groups aren't asking dam owners to pay per se, they just want companies to invest more in improving rivers. Some dam owners, like Central Maine Power, with eleven dams up for relicensing, have been willing to alter their facilities as long as it's cost-effective. But when Federal regulators asked for a wetlands study and other work at one dam, company spokesperson Tim Vrable said CMP had to make a decision.

VRABLE: And when we looked at the cost of completing those requests, we said, well, the cost that we're being asked to pick up is more than what the dam is worth, in fact it's about a million dollars more.

VERDE: Environmental interest groups make it clear that putting hydro dams out of commission isn't one of their objectives. Protecting land around dams, however, is. This is an issue at Maine's Ripogenus Dam. Ripogenus is one of several dams owned and operated by Bowater, parent company of Great Northern Paper, which has been using the West Branch of the Penobscot River to power its mills and paper processing plants for decades. Environmentalists have asked Bowater to promise that huge tracts of its shorefront holdings in northern Maine will never be sold for development. Bowater has rejected the request, saying such an agreement would compromise their rights as land owners. Bowater argues it's already compensated the public by building roads and providing access to this part of Maine. Company spokesperson Gordon Manual adds that dams have actually enhanced recreation by releasing water when the river might otherwise be dry.

MANUAL: You couldn't serve the flows for the rafters. You couldn't serve the flows for the fisheries that the state wants. You would impact the water levels for recreational people around those lakes. So, yeah, there probably is some environmental impact that is different than if you kept the levels at a constant level at the upper part of the hydro system, but it isn't possible to run the lower part of the hydro system unless you do that.

SOSLAND: That seems to be the traditional position of a lot of these dam owners: be happy we're here.

VERDE: Again, the Conservation Law Foundation's Dan Sosland.

SOSLAND: We wouldn't argue that dams provide some benefits. What we're saying is that these dam owners have an obligation and the Federal Government has an obligation on those dam owners to insure that these resources are optimized and protected.

VERDE: This responsibility belongs to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. Some environmentalists have accused the commission of being overly sympathetic to dam owners, but FERC's director of hydropower licensing, Fred Springer, says his agency has always made it clear to dam operators that licenses must be balanced.

SPRINGER: They've always been told by the commission that the water is a public resource, and in preparing their relicense application it was made very clear to them that they are going to have to consider power generation along with being a good neighbor for the environment.

VERDE: According to Springer, the 1986 legislation requiring equal consideration has made dam relicensing more challenging for FERC, because there are so many more vested parties entering the discussion. The commission welcomes the challenge, and recently invited dam operators, environmentalists and state agencies to exchange ideas and opinions at a relicensing roundtable. Springer says those attempting to preserve rivers cannot expect to have all their demands met. But the four new Clinton appointees on the five-member commission, plus a new chairperson with a strong track record on environmental issues, sources at FERC indicate that hydro-electric dam operators will have to make more concessions to the environment than they have in the past. For Living on Earth, I'm Tom Verde.

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(Music up and fade under)

Chimpanzees and Us

CURWOOD: Chimpanzees and humans share more than 99 percent of their genes, and more than 99 percent of their emotions, including family bonds, humor, and an affinity for culture. For instance, chimps not only make tools and use plants for medicine, each regional tribe is likely to have its own distinct pharmacopia and characteristic way of using tools. How we as humans relate - and don't relate - to our closest relatives is the subject of an absorbing new book called Visions of Caliban. It's written by author and primate researcher Dale Peterson, and world-famous chimpanzee scientist Jane Goodall. I asked Dale Peterson and Jane Goodall what they've found in their years of work to be the most startling similarities between humans and chimps.

GOODALL: The most striking similarities are in social behavior, the long-term bonds between mothers and youngsters, the cooperation, and also in the emotions and intellectual abilities. In all those ways they're incredibly similar to us.

CURWOOD: Dale Peterson?

PETERSON: To me the most striking and surprising thing, something I never even imagined, is that chimps laugh. Just like humans. And it's unbelievable. No other animal, with the possible exception of the other great apes - gorillas, orangutans, and bonnevilles - laugh.

GOODALL: Very often they laugh ( demonstrates) ahahahahhahahhhahahahh.

CURWOOD: ( Laughs )

PETERSON: Jane's doing a wonderful job of imitating it, but what you may not get in the sound of this is it's absolutely similar to human laughter. They have the same expression, they do the same kinds of things - they don't quite vocalize in quite the same way, but it's absolutely laughter.

CURWOOD: And the big difference?

GOODALL: Well, for me the big difference is that chimpanzees haven't developed a spoken language, and because of that they're unable to discuss the past, they're unable to make plans for the distant future, they're unable to sort of bounce ideas back and forth the way that we do.

CURWOOD: So they may have abstract reasoning abilities but they can't communicate.

GOODALL: Yeah, we, we know they have abstract reasoning capabilities because of a lot of the work that's being done in captivity, the fact that chimpanzees can learn 300 or more signs of ASL, that's the American Sign Language, and so these higher cognitive abilities have been very, very well demonstrated.

CURWOOD: Your book is about conservation of chimps in the wild and the ethical treatment of chimps in captivity. Why did you pick this title, Visions of Caliban ?

PETERSON: Caliban is a character in a Shakespearean play called The Tempest . The play is about the, partially about Europeans coming to a tropical island and discovering one original inhabitant, that's Caliban. And they treat Caliban very poorly, in fact, they treat him like an animal even though he can talk and even though he looks like a human and in many ways acts like a human. And as I examined this play, I began to realize that this is very much the story about chimps and humans. And it's my opinion, in fact I consider this a discovery, that the earliest reports of chimpanzees and gorillas coming out of Africa into Europe, inspired Shakespeare's creation of this character. And so Jane and I have used the play, the picture of the play, as a template for the book.

CURWOOD: I want to ask you, Jane Goodall, where do chimps live nowadays?

GOODALL: Well, in Africa they live still in 21 countries, although they've gone from four, and they're disappearing frighteningly fast. There's only 4 places where there's a real significant number of chimps, and that's Congo, Zaire, Cameroon and Gabon, and even there the lumber companies are penetrating deeper and deeper into the forests, opening them up for settlement and hunting. Chimps are being hunted, as well as their habitat being destroyed, in response to increasing human population pressure. And so the situation in Africa for the chimps in most countries is really very grim.

CURWOOD: What should be done about chimpanzees in Africa, their home?

GOODALL: By and large what we should be trying to do with the African governments is to set aside sufficient areas of forest that at least some communities can live out their lives in peace and free from the fear of losing their habitat and being hunted. That can only be accomplished in different ways in different countries. One of the things that we're working very hard on is trying to convince governments and the local people living in these areas that by saving the chimpanzees they get some kind of benefit from it, because, as I say, they are so economically poor, it's just very hard for people to understand until they've been there, what this poverty is like for so much of Africa. So we have to develop things like controlled tourism, bring in some foreign exchange, so that there appears to be a point in saving the chimps.

CURWOOD: What are lives like for chimpanzees in captivity?

PETERSON: Well, of course it depends on the situation. I think probably the worst life, as people say, is in labs. You get total deprivation. Among other things you get a complete breakup of the family, so in many ways it's like breaking up a human family, and just kind of aesthetically, you know, they're in this steel place with all of these artificial noises rather than in the beautiful forest.

CURWOOD: What about chimps who are used otherwise in captivity - on the stage, in shows, in movies?

PETERSON: Chimpanzees that you see in the movies tend to be child actors. Chimps are so physically strong that by the time they're about 5 or 6 or 7 years old they're dangerous. By the time they've graduated from being a child, they're put in a cage and left there. In order to get chimps to do some of these behaviors, sometimes various things go on behind the scenes. For example, some chimps are fitted with remote control electric shock devices.

GOODALL: Yeah, like a shock collar on a dog.

PETERSON: Yeah, and I don't think either Jane and I are going to say that abuse, if this is abuse, happens in all cases, with chimps in entertainment, but it happens a lot.

GOODALL: Happens a lot.

CURWOOD: So what sort of special considerations are you seeking for chimps in captivity? Are there laws, do you think we should change the rules about who can keep chimps and how they should be kept?

GOODALL: Yeah, I think that it should be absolutely not legal for private individuals to buy and sell chimpanzees. It's rather like the days of the slave trade where humans were actually bought and sold, and families broken up. Now we do the same to chimpanzees and I believe the day will come when we realize that they share sufficient human attributes that we should treat them in a very different way from that that exists today.

CURWOOD: So where does this leave us regarding the treatment of other animals who aren't as smart as chimps or gorillas or people?

GOODALL: Well, see, for me the chimpanzee always acts like a kind of bridge. Once you realize that we humans aren't as different from the rest of the animal kingdom as we used to think, and it's the chimp that really demonstrates this best, then you reach a new awareness, a new understanding, a new respect for the other amazing non-human beings and once you accept that not only humans have emotions, then you can pay more attention to the emotions, to the feelings of other sentient beings.

CURWOOD: Thank you. Jane Goodall and Dale Peterson are authors of Visions of Caliban: On Chimpanzees and People. Thanks for joining us.

GOODALL /PETERSON: Thanks - thank you.

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Native American Activist Conference

CURWOOD: The Native American knows how to live in harmony with nature, or at least that's the popular view, and more and more non-Indians are looking to Native peoples for guidance on environmental problems. At the same time, some Indians are themselves combining traditional and contemporary means to meet ecological threats to their ways of life. Producer Dick Brooks traveled this month to the Sac and Fox reservation in Oklahoma, where he was a guest at a meeting of the Indigenous Environmental Network. He sent us this report.

(Sound of birds in campground)

BROOKS: The big oak trees of the Sac and Fox reservation shade more than 200 tents, vans, and teepees. Across the prairie grass dance ground, a sacred fire lodge maintains a vigil over the proceedings, as Native peoples from the Arctic, Florida, Canada, and the Great Southwest join in circles large and small. They are recounting battles and sharing strategies in their fight to protect their lands and way of life. Their words reflect many accents and dialects, yet they are all speaking with one voice.

WHITEHAWK: There is a war going on, a conflict of two different types of value systems. One is the profit motive, and one is a reciprocal relationship with the environment. It's a spiritual battle and the results are environmental damage, cultural degradation, the loss of spiritual values. Because these spiritual values are the underpinnings that hold us together and to the earth that we stand upon.

GOLDTOOTH: Welcome to this, our workshop session on environmental regulations and laws. What we've done . . . (fade under)

DANNY BILLY: In the circle of life, wherever it may be, it may be a piece of grass or it may be a little insect that's in that circle, and if you destroy that one thing, it can create the destruction of the whole circle, and so like with we go into courts, and cases where we're fighting for our rights, it may be a land claim or it may be self-determination, it's all involved because it's in that circle. And so if we lose a case, the Red People, the Indian people lose a case in court, it's a loss for everyone.

WALT BRESETTE: Well, it's obvious, it's an ultimate truth and it resonates, this larger reality of destruction. And it's really a message to the rest of us. And it's not just to those white people. It's to the Lake Superior Chippewa and everyone else who is taking that path which will ultimately lead to the extinction of the traditional Seminole or the Purple Warrior Band Clan [sic] or the spotted owl. We're next, once we allow that to happen.

ANNA FRAZIER: You become protective of these things, that's your environment and the land you live on and your family and your people. Your people, you know, you're just kind of like the eyes and ears of your elders who are uneducated, don't know how to speak the white man's language. So you begin to talk for them, see for them, read, you know, the different types of material that come about that has to do with all these contaminating stuff, you know, toxic waste and asbestos plants.

AMOS JOHNSON: If you went back, like, 200 years ago, we were the warriors. But today we're fighting a different kind of battle. It's like, you know, we're fighting chemicals companies, landfills and so on. And although as today's warriors, which has always been the role of the warrior in the old days, is to protect the young, the old, the land, the tradition, the culture.

SCOTT MORRISON: And we're winning victories. Look at all the hazardous waste either incinerators or landfill proposals have gone on, very few have actually come about and it's because of the grass-roots people. You know, you look at the statistics: we are the poorest, uneducated or undereducated, the most disenfranchised of the United States, yet these people take on multinational corporations and win.

BROOKS: What are their strengths? We know the weaknesses.

MORRISON: With my tribe, or with myself and my family, I was always taught that the land is not something you own, that you just borrow it from the future generations. Choctaws have lived and died and fought and died for that land. We have to honor their contribution to me. If they had not done that, I would not be the person I am.

(Sound of drum song)

MARVIN STEVENS: It kind of bothers me that, that in the Holy Bible it tells the people to go and take dominion over the Earth. I can't help but think that in the translation from the original language that the wrong word was used. If it had said, go and take care of the Earth, I could believe that. But when it said, go and take dominion of the Earth, I don't go along with that.

ARNE CALF BOSS RIB: I ask you in closing that we stop and think about what was said here, so that hopefully in the future those little ones that are coming up can see what we see. Hopefully, these little few words will carry from this crowd here out into the whole world, and that those ones that are coming here, the ones that want to mine our land, the ones that don't care right now, will start caring that we'll always have our Mother Earth to walk on.

(Sound of drum song and bird chirping)

CURWOOD: Voices, in words and song, from the meeting of the Indigenous Environmental Network on the Sac and Fox reservation in Oklahoma, included Tim Whitehawk, Seneca; Tom Goldtooth, Navajo/Dakota; Danny Billy, Seminole; Walt Bresette, Lake Superior Chippewa; Anna Frazier and Amos Johnson, of the Dine; Scott Morrison, Choctaw; Martin Stevens, Elder of the Sac & Fox and Kickapoo; and Arne Calf Boss Rib, Blackfeet. These voices were produced for Living on Earth by Dick Brooks.

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(Theme music up and under)

CURWOOD: If you have any comments about the show, call our listener comment line, at 617-868-7454. Or write to us, at Living on Earth, Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02238. Transcripts and tapes are ten dollars.

Living on Earth is produced and edited by Peter Thomson and directed by Deborah Stavro. The coordinating producer is George Homsy. Our production team includes Kim Motylewski, Lucia Small, Chris Page, Colleen Singer Coxe, Reyna Lounsbury, Jessica Bellameera and engineer Laurie Azaria. Our theme music was composed by Michael Aharon.

Living on Earth is a project of the World Media Foundation, in cooperation with the Public Media Foundation and WBUR, Boston. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.

(Theme music up and under)

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The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not yet been proofread against tape.


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