Air Date: October 17, 1997
Cape Cod Cranberries: A Bitter Harvest/ Liz Lempert
The Pilgrims settled near Cape Cod in Massachusetts more than three and a half centuries ago, and at the first Thanksgiving feast, they ate cranberries plucked from local bogs. The cranberry harvest remains a New England tradition. Each Fall, tourists flock to watch the vibrant red berries bob atop fields of bright blue water. But, last month, Massachusetts health officials found traces of a suspected carcinogen in more than a dozen Cape cranberry bogs. The chemical, ethylene di-bromide, was found in aviation fuel dumped decades ago at a military base on the Cape. The contamination is ruining some cranberry harvests and renewing worries about the region's water supply. Living On Earth's Liz Lempert reports. (08:55)
Common Ground: Oregon Water Trust/ Patrick Cox
For many environmental groups, "compromise" is a dirty word. Why agree to allow more logging, more ranching, more mining they argue when so little remains to conserve? Many loggers, ranchers and miners also stake out extreme positions on resource issues, so solutions that could benefit both sides often go begging. But, in the past few years a handful of conservationists and landowners have emerged from their respective bunkers to negotiate disagreements. Such alliances are controversial. While some call them progress, others worry about giving the store away. Patrick Cox of member station WBUR in Boston profiles one green group embracing compromise in its quest to improve fish runs in Oregon. (09:10)
Know Thy Neighbor/ Robert Leo Heilman
Commentator Robert Leo Heilman lives in two worlds. His home is in rural Oregon, but through his books and essays, he has a hand in urban life. Once he was called on to help bridge the gap. Commentator Robert Leo Heilman's latest book is "Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country." (02:07)
The Living on Earth Almanac
This week, facts about... 6000 years of earth history. (01:15)
Interview from Bonn
Guest host Laura Knoy talks with Steve Curwood on assignment in Bonn, Germany about the currrent climate negotiations going on there. And the mood is... (04:48)
The Future of Aquaria/ John Rudolph
Responding to increased pressure on the world's oceans, a number of aquariums are moving beyond their traditional role of educating while entertaining the public. Some now try to inspire their visitors to become active advocates for environmental protection. There's even talk of a world-wide network of aquariums that would help shape public opinion on overfishing, climate change and other issues. Change is rippling through the world of aquariums, but as Living On Earth's John Rudolph reports, not everyone is convinced that this newfound activisim is the best way to go. (10:05)
Porch Sales/ Bob Carty
What comes around, goes around on the porches of Ottowa, Canada. There's a tradition in recycling in some parts of the continent where the garage sale has become a community ritual in hundreds of front yards, attracting thousands of visitors. An autumnal mix of commerce and community and recycling is the scene these weekends in the city of Ottawa, Canada. Living On Earth contributor Bob Carty sent us this sound portrait. (10:05)
HOST: Laura Knoy
REPORTERS: Liz Lempert, Patrick Cox, John Rudolph, Bob Carty
GUEST: Laura Knoy
COMMENTATOR: Robert Leo Heilman
(Theme music intro)
KNOY: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: I'm Laura Knoy
On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, cranberries tainted by toxic chemicals from a military base are the latest casualty of decades-old contamination to the region's fragile water supply.
BEATON: I just think it's a shame. You know, we work here very hard to have clean fruit and keep the environment as clean as it should be, and somehow we've got to get that [inaudible] water cleaned up. Sooner the better, before it gets way out of control, if it isn't already.
KNOY: Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, water management is bringing together old enemies who are finding that compromise beats confrontation.
PURKEY: We knew from the very beginning that the Oregon Water Trust, the only way it would work is if the landowners saw us as an opportunity and not as a threat.
KNOY: Those stories this week on Living on Earth. First news.
(NPR News follows)
(Music up and under)
KNOY: This is Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy.
The Pilgrims settled near Cape Cod in Massachusetts more than 3 and a half centuries ago. And at the first Thanksgiving feast they ate cranberries plucked from local bogs. The cranberry harvest remains a New England tradition. Each fall tourists flock to watch the vibrant red berries bob atop fields of bright blue water. But last month Massachusetts health officials found traces of a suspected carcinogen in more than a dozen Cape cranberry bogs. The chemical, ethylene dibromide, was found in aviation fuel dumped decades ago at a military base on the Cape. The contamination is ruining some cranberry harvests and renewing worries about the region's water supply. Living on Earth's Liz Lempert reports.
(Water splashing; voices in background)
LEMPERT: At Palmer Mill Bog, workers gather cranberries inside a floating corral of wooden planks. Doug Beaton is a fifth generation cranberry grower. This land of his is untouched by the ethylene dibromide streaming down from the Massachusetts military reservation. But he's still upset.
(Loud machinery in the background)
BEATON: I just think it's a shame. You know, we work here very hard to have clean fruit and keep the environment as clean as it should be, and somehow we've got to get that groundwater cleaned up. Sooner the better, before it gets way out of control, if it isn't already.
LEMPERT: The Department of Public Health has found ethylene dibromide, a suspected carcinogen, on cranberry crops worth $750,000. Eighty-five contaminated acres in all, less than 1% of the cranberry acreage on the Cape. Grower Doug Beaton says the real impact of the pollution has been obscured.
(Machinery in background)
BEATON: It's the smokescreen kind of transporting it onto the cranberries, and we're not going to use the cranberries until they are safe to use. But the real issue is the quality of the groundwater on the Cape.
LEMPERT: And groundwater is drinking water here. In the past 11 years, close to 600 households had to abandon their private wells and switch to town water because their wells were contaminated or threatened by pollution from the base.
(A motor revs up, struggles)
LEMPERT: Two streams of EDB contamination flow south from the military base. One oozes into the Coonemesset River in Falmouth. The other flows east of that into the town of Mashpee. Paul Zanous is a citizen member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Base Review Team. He's also head mechanic at Cape Cod Flying Service. He cranks up his creaky 3-seater to give me a bird's eye view of the contaminated sites.
ZANOUS: Cape Cod traffic Cessna's departing 2-7. (Motor gets louder) Here we go!
LEMPERT: Below, crystal lakes dot the wooded landscape. Cape Cod, the jagged arm of southeastern Massachusetts, sits on top of 300 feet of sand and gravel. The poor soil soaks up rain water like a giant sponge. It also absorbs contaminants. Chemicals quickly seep into this aquifer, and like smoke billowing out of a smokestack, they slowly dissipate, forming underground plumes that can stretch miles long. A dozen of these chemical plumes spread south from the military base.
ZANOUS: We're heading directly towards the end of the runway.
LEMPERT: We fly over the base and circle an old runway. This is where the Mashpee plume begins. From the 1950s to the 1970s, military personnel dumped as much as 6 million gallons of fuel containing the additive ethylene dibromide.
ZANIS: Now there's a road that goes down to the runways. They dumped fuel all in there. You can see it, it goes right down into here, gets Moody Pond there, the cranberry bogs, the new high school here, the elementary school here. These schools are surrounded with plumes.
LEMPERT: Mr. Zanous turns the plane west, and we fly over the Falmouth plume. Here, ethylene dibromide has surfaced in the Coonemesset River.
ZANOUS: This is a beautiful little village, little quaint, little back country area, all these homes, you know, scattered. It couldn't be a worse situation.
(Loud motors fade to tumbling, then spilling sounds on metal)
LEMPERT: Gail MacRay lives in one of these Falmouth homes. She fills a teakettle with water delivered to her door by the US Air Force. Since last year the military has been bringing Ms. McCrae jugs of bottled water for drinking and cooking. The Air Force has also paid to connect Ms. MacRay and her neighbors to the uncontaminated town water, but she's still waiting to be hooked up. In the meantime she's had to use her well water to wash clothes and to shower. The fuel additive was found in her well last July, but since then it's tested clean.
MacRAY: Well, I think about, Jeez, I wonder if that's a different smell, or I wonder if, you know, it could be coming through now and I could be bathing. So I do, I try to take really quick showers. You know, my brother's children are there, they used to spend a lot of time in my home and they're, like, 3 years old. I don't want them here now, because I don't want to be responsible for something to happen to them.
LEMPERT: Ms. MacRay clutches a blanket around her shoulders and sits at her kitchen table with her neighbor, Jackie Chatterton-Wyatt.
CHATTERTON-WYATT: I don't feel safe here.
LEMPERT: Breast cancer rates in Cape Cod are 23% higher than the national average. Ms. Chatterton-Wyatt was treated for the disease 7 years ago. She worries about her family's health, and she wants to move away from the house she and her husband built. But that prospect is devastating.
CHATTERTON-WYATT: When I look (begins to cry; MacRay says soothing words in the background) when I look at the French doors in my living room I can see that's where my husband and I stood when we got married. When I go upstairs into the bedroom, that's the room where my babies were born. And I just don't feel it's a safe place any more.
(A door shuts)
CARSON The groundwater pool of EDB on the other side of the road is about 120 feet below ground surface. As we walk down this way toward the extraction well, it gets to about 100 feet below ground surface.
LEMPERT: Up the street from the MacRay and Chatterton-Wyatt homes, Doug Carson from the Air Force Environmental Cleanup Office shows me a new treatment well. This rig pumps up 600 gallons of contaminated water a minute. The water will be filtered through carbon, then discharged into the Coonemesset River.
CARSON: Our computer modeling shows that this will effectively capture 80% of the plume and, you know, the question is what about the other 20%? What we need to do is operate this one for a period of time so we can monitor how effective the system is, so we can situate additional extraction wells out here.
LEMPERT: The solution is not perfect. Twenty percent of the plume won't be captured with this technology. Plus, part of the plume has already traveled south of the treatment well. That pollution will flow down the Coonemesset River, then empty into Vineyard Sound. At a travel rate of 1 to 2 feet per day, Mr. Carson predicts it will be decades before the entire plume passes through the treatment point. Some Cape residents think this isn't good enough, but Dennis LeBlanc, a water specialist with the US Geological Survey, says it's difficult to do much better.
LeBLANC: It's sort of like trying to squeeze ink out of a sponge. You know, every time you squeeze it there's still an awful lot of ink coming out, and it just never seems to end. And there's a little bit of that problem in groundwater.
LEMPERT: There is plenty of water under the Cape, and if the 2 EDB plumes were the only sources of pollution, wells could be moved to more pristine areas. But there's a dozen plumes spreading south from the base, carrying solvents, fuel, and sewage. Ironically, one of the largest available areas for sinking new wells is on the north side of the base. Town officials had hoped to find an untapped source of clean water there. But recent tests show that water is tainted with explosives. In a landmark action last spring, the EPA ordered the military to close down its firing range on the north side because of suspected water pollution. Homeowner Gail MacRay thinks even more should be done.
(Crows in the background)
MacRAY: You know, I think that the Cape is just so fragile, and it's very unfortunate. And that's why I don't think the base should be there, you know, because I don't think that they're trustworthy.
LEMPERT: Ms. MacRay and other citizens are mounting an effort to close down the base entirely. But others fear that if the military goes, there will be no one left to finish the cleanup. Falmouth residents will vote on a non-binding ballot measure in November. For Living on Earth, this is Liz Lempert.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: Like politics, conservation can make for strange bedfellows. A bellwether compromise over water use in the Pacific Northwest is next on Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy. For many environmental groups, especially in the American West, compromise is a dirty word. Why agree to allow more logging, more ranching, more mining, they argue, when so little remains to conserve? Many loggers, ranchers, and miners also stake out extreme positions on resource issues, so solutions that could benefit both sides often go begging. But in the last few years, a handful of conservationists and landowners have emerged from their respective bunkers to negotiate agreements. Such alliances are controversial. While some call them progress, others worry about giving the store away. Patrick Cox of member station WBUR in Boston profiles one green group embracing compromise in its quest to improve fish runs in Oregon.
COX: On the eastern slopes of Oregon's Cascade Mountains, craggy volcanic peaks tower over pine forests, spilling abundant streams down the mountainsides. But as soon as the streams hit the flat land below, the water seems to vanish. These valley streams used to be deep and cool, ideal habitat for fish.
REELEY: Now what we have is a very shallow channel, very little water. No water depth for fish to use for cover.
COX: US Forest Service Biologist Mike Reeley is standing by the banks of Squaw Creek, near Sisters, Oregon. There are none of the once abundant steelhead here any more, and Mr. Reely estimates the trout population has halved in the past 20 years. Downstream, hydroelectric dams have blocked the steelheads' migration. But perhaps even more lethal are the huge irrigation projects in this valley. Kyle Gorman is the local water master.
GORMAN: There is actually more water rights than there is stream flow. So, where we're standing here now, in a typical summer this steam would be completely dry because there's just not enough water to go around.
COX: A few miles down the Squaw Creek Valley, farmer Ted Eadie is irrigating his 140 acres of hay and barley fields.
EADIE: My favorite's barley.
MAN: Tastes good, we've been nibbling on it.
COX: Mr. Eadie's wheel-line sprinklers spit out more than 500 gallons of water every minute, 24 hours a day, 5 months a year. That's more than 100 million gallons of water a year for just this one farm. Mr. Eadie owns the rights to even more water, but he doesn't want to farm all his property. So when a group called the Oregon Water Trust offered to buy his excess water allotments, he jumped at the chance.
EADIE: My wife would like her house completed. So, you know, some of the money would go toward that, as well as regular living-type expenses and stuff. It's difficult to try to farm in this area, and expect it to be economically viable just because of the limited growing season and the fact that land costs are so high.
(A motor revs up)
COX: The Oregon Water Trust paid Mr. Eadie $43,000 for the rights to 158 million gallons of water a year. Mr. Eadie will use the money to improve his farm, and the trust will use the water to improve conditions for fish by letting it flow freely through an otherwise parched stream bed. The deal is one of 27 such agreements the quickly-growing trust has brokered this year. Altogether in its 3 years in existence, the trust has returned water to 26 damaged streams in Oregon. Those who run the trust lace dedication to their ideals with a heavy dose of pragmatism.
PURKEY: We knew from the very beginning that the Oregon Water Trust, the only way it would work is if the landowners saw us as an opportunity and not as a threat.
COX: Trust Director Andrew Purkey is the quintessential Pacific Northwest environmentalists. He sports a beard and sandals and recycles religiously at his home in Portland. But a stint at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government also taught Mr. Purkey the value that can come from working with farmers and ranchers rather than against them.
PURKEY: I mean, ideally we'd like them to be interested in improving the habitat, and in fact, you know, a lot of them are interested in that if you give them the ideas and the tools. But we don't need to have that in order to reach an agreement. And we've learned to just try to understand what they need to make it work for them. And if what they need to make it work is okay for us in terms of what we're trying to accomplish, then we have a deal.
COX: But the trust's opportunism has opened it up to criticism from more traditional environmental groups. Bill Marlett, Director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, is particularly galled by the water trust's boast that they don't have a staff attorney.
MARLETT: For their public relations it's great. But I think it's naive to think that you can accomplish all the things that need to be done without having those support people working with you.
COX: And with tens of thousands of miles of degraded streams in Oregon alone, Mr. Marlett believes the trust's work, limited to dealing only with willing water users, is marginal at best.
MARLETT: You have a government that's not accountable. You have people that are not accountable and really don't care about what they do to the environment. All they care about is making a buck. Those people aren't going to come to the table. So, for that small percentage that's willing to work at the table, that's great. But the sad reality is that most of the people are not in that camp.
COX: But Trust staffers say there are enough farmers and ranchers willing to deal with them to make their approach worthwhile. After all, buying water rights is one of the few ways, short of an Endangered Species listing, to ensure that there's at least some water for fish and wildlife. Under western water law established in the 1800s, there was no guarantee that any water would be left in a river or stream. Settlers had the only legitimate claims, and the right to water became like any other property right, which could be sold or handed down through the generations. But in the past decade some states, including Oregon, have changed their laws to allow people to buy water rights for the sole purpose of keeping the water in-stream.
(Footfalls and flowing water)
COX: Today, the trust's Andrew Purkey and staff scientist Leslie Bach are visiting the site of the group's first ever deal, negotiated with a rancher 3 years ago.
(Flowing water, louder)
The stream here, Buck Hallow Creek, is flowing as swiftly as it did before it was nearly sucked dry to irrigate nearby fields. Now young alder trees, which provide much needed shade for spawning fish, are flourishing along the banks.
BACH: The vegetation seems to be in pretty good shape. So the habitat's pretty good in here.
COX: At first the Oregon Water Trust mostly leased water rights to streams like this. But that meant the water could eventually revert to an agricultural use. Now, with the banking of environmental foundations, the water trust is signing more and more permanent water deals. That's making some farmers and ranchers wary that they could ultimately go under if they can't get the water they need. Bill Howell is a farmer from Imbler, Oregon.
HOWELL: Theoretically, given enough money and time, they could dry up irrigated agriculture in Oregon. It's most likely a worthwhile, a good concept. I just have a caution sign up making sure that we don't have some negative impacts on it.
COX: But the water trust has recruited several farmers and ranchers to its board, and that's helped secure its credibility in many rural areas. Ted Eadie is one farmer who's convinced. He admits he wasn't the likeliest partner for an environmental group.
EADIE: I consider myself a conservative Republican, and I'm really not in favor of the government being in charge of taking things from people, which the environmental movement is really focused on. You know, just don't let them do anything. And I think that if there's anything that's happening in the environmental movement that's got some private industry involved, which I see Oregon Water Trust being involved with, I see that as a benefit to the conservative side as well as the liberal side.
COX: This spirit of cooperation is slowly spreading in the west. A group modeled on the Oregon Water Trust is now forming in Washington State. And other, smaller efforts are underway in several other states. No one believes that buying back water rights alone will restore the great salmon and steelhead runs of the last century, not while dams block the fish's passage and decades of overfishing stunt its return. But a growing number of conservationists now firmly believe the incremental middle ground actions of groups such as the Oregon Water Trust can achieve as much, and sometimes more, than the epic legal battles for which the environmental movement is known. For Living on Earth, I'm Patrick Cox in Sisters, Oregon.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: Commentator Robert Leo Heilman lives in two worlds. His home is in rural Oregon. But through his books and essays, he has a hand in urban life. Once he was called on to help bridge the gap.
HEILMAN: The caller turned out to be a Forest Service scientist at the Department of Agriculture's Pacific Northwest Research Station, who had a problem and hoped I might be able to help. He said, "We're conducting a botanical survey on private lands in southwestern Oregon this summer. I was hoping that you could talk to my crew about the local culture and how to avoid conflicts with landowners.
I told him I'd do it, and ever since I've felt torn. Glad that somebody cares enough about my neighbors to try to understand them, but disappointed, since they care because they're afraid of them. On one level it makes sense. These are college-educated professionals, people who've spent years accumulating a set of suburban fears and prejudices. It's no wonder they're uneasy. Rednecks with pickups and shotguns, oh my!
My neighbors have their own fears. They are members of an oppressed minority, rural Americans, and they believe that the Federal Government promotes that oppression. Within the last 10 years, environmental activism and regulation have become synonymous with oppression in many people's minds. It started with the spotted owl controversy, hooked onto private property rights, and became part of a volatile mix of paranoid politics, fundamentalist religion, and white separatist racism. There are certain doorsteps around here that I'd avoid standing on if I was representing the Federal Government.
So, what can I tell them? That to be respected you must be respectful? There's no secret to getting a long. A little common sense, a measure of humility, and a bit of decency is about all it takes. You don't need to be a scientist to figure that one out.
KNOY: Commentator Robert Leo Heilman's latest book is Overstory Zero: Real Life in Timber Country.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy.
(Music up and under)
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Stonyfield Farm, makers of pure all- natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 1-800-PROCOWS for Stonyfield's Moosletter; and Jennifer and Ted Stanley.
(Music up and under)
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
KNOY: Beyond trained seals and dolphin tricks. In the new age of aquariums, protection of marine ecosystems is high on the agenda. The story is coming up on Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
SECOND HALF HOUR
(Theme music up and under)
KNOY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy
(Music up and under)
KNOY: “The poor world is almost six thousand years old,” quoth Rosalind to Orlando in Shakespeare's “As You Like It.” But James Ussher wanted to be a bit more precise. Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, determined the Earth was born just before noon, October 23rd, 4004 BC. He published his chronology in 1650. Within decades it was included in most copies of the King James Bible. Usher wasn't the only one to try his hand at this early form of geochronology. A century ago, Lord Kelvin calculated that the world was somewhere between 24 and 40 million years old. Today, using radioactive dating, scientists now agree that the Earth is between 4 and 5 billion years old. But given the information available to him at the time, Archbishop Ussher did his best. No less a respected scientist than Sir Isaac Newton praised his results. So, to celebrate the spirit of scientific inquiry, stop what you're doing around midday on the 23rd, and wish the world a happy 6,000th birthday.
(Music up and under: Beatles (Birthday song)
KNOY: And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: In December the nations of the world are scheduled to come together in Kyoto, Japan, to agree on mandatory limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases, which are believed to be warming the Earth. But before the Kyoto meeting, there's one final round of preliminary negotiations. Delegations are gathering in Bonn, Germany, from October 20th to the 31st. Our host, Steve Curwood, is covering the event, and he joins me now from Bonn. Hi, Steve.
CURWOOD: Hi, Laura. Hey, thanks for holding down the fort while I'm out here on assignment.
KNOY: No problem. What is going on at the climate negotiations there in Bonn?
CURWOOD: Well, the mood here is fairly pessimistic and nervous, Laura, primarily because the US, which after all is the world's biggest gorilla when it comes to emitting greenhouse gases, has yet to officially put its proposal for limits on the table. And you know, unofficially, just about everything that the Clinton Administration has floated as trial balloons has gotten both the Europeans and the developing world upset. You've got to remember that after Rio 5 years ago, the world agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least their levels of 1990. It was a voluntary program, and many nations tried to comply with it, though. Even though most of them didn't make it, in fact only Germany and the UK actually made it. But the point here is the US didn't even try. I mean, our emissions are up by some 13% from 1990. So the Europeans and the island nations want some substantial cuts to show that the US is serious about this issue. The island nations that are threatened with flooding if global warming takes off want a 20% cut below the 1990 levels. The Europeans would like to see a 15% cut. And the Japanese have recently proposed a 5% cut. The sharpest cut that the US has floated informally has been to just go back to the 1990 levels, not below them, with a lot of years to do it. And also, the US is pushing something hard here that the rest of the world doesn't really seem to like very much. It's something called joint implementation.
KNOY: Joint implementation. That definitely sounds like something that would come out of a diplomatic conference.
CURWOOD: (Laughs) Yeah. Well, you're right. They're long words, but it reflects a really interesting concept. I mean, essentially the idea is that, say, in Eastern Europe or China where there are a lot of dirty and inefficient power plants, it's more cost effective for a US company to build, say, the Bulgarians or the Chinese a new power plant that emits a lot less CO2 than it is for that US company to replace, say, a moderately efficient plant. And since the world only has one atmosphere, CO2 molecules saved in Beijing is just the same as one saved in Cleveland.
KNOY: So how does the rest of the world feel about it? The other countries involved?
CURWOOD: Well, they're not completely opposed but they really don't like it very much, because they don't want the US to use joint implementation as a way of avoiding dealing with our own emissions. Because buying an overseas power plant or sequestering carbon in a saved rainforest doesn't change the way we do business, we do industry, the way we do research here in the United States. The Europeans say that so far the US just hasn't taken enough concrete steps to show that we're really serious about dealing with the threat of global warming. We keep debating it. In Europe, the debate over the science seems to be over. Business officials I've talked to, government officials, private citizens all pretty much agree that global warming is a real enough threat to do something about it now. So, the joint implementation idea may be a good one, but the US plans come across as a stalling tactic.
KNOY: Is there anything in it for the developing countries?
CURWOOD: Yeah, there is. There would be the exchange of technology, but and the developing nations like that idea but they don't like the way the US is casting joint implementation. And they fear that if US companies come in to do joint implementation, they would snap up the lowest hanging fruit. The easiest sorts of emissions to limit or reduce. So that in the future, if the developing countries do get drawn into an agreement to reduce emissions, it will cost them more. The easy things will already have been done. As one minister of the environment for an African country told me, he said, "Look, Zimbabwe doesn't have any CO2 emissions, and in fact to grow, we're going to have to have some. And we're not going to take a plan that keeps us poor. In fact, we think joint implementation will make us poorer." Laura, there's an irony here. I think if the US weren't pushing so hard for joint implementation and trying to drag the developing nations into the Kyoto deal, probably at this point, probably some form of it would actually get into the agreement. But because the US has dragged its feet for so long, suspicions are really high. Indeed, the parties here in Bonn seem so far apart, you know, there may not be any deal in Kyoto at all.
KNOY: Steve, thanks for talking with us. And have a safe trip back.
CURWOOD: I'll try. Thanks, Laura.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: Responding to increased pressure on the world's oceans, a number of aquariums are moving beyond their traditional role of educating while entertaining the public. Some now try to inspire their visitors to become active advocates for environmental protection. There's even talk of a worldwide network of aquariums that would help shape public opinion on overfishing and climate change, and other issues. Change is rippling through the world of aquariums, but as Living on Earth's John Rudolph reports, not everyone is convinced that this newfound activism is the best way to go.
RUDOLPH: The New England Aquarium occupies a large, angular, concrete structure overlooking Boston Harbor. For decades visitors have come here to see displays of tropical fish along with sharks, penguins, and sea lions. But there are almost no fish in the aquarium's newest exhibit. It's an issue- oriented display about the fishing area off the New England coast called George's Bank. Once George's Bank was teeming with cod, haddock and other marine life. Today, after decades of overfishing, and despite tight government restrictions on local fishermen, George's Bank and the industry it supports are in crisis. Ari Epstein is a scientist who helped design the George's Bank display.
(Voices in the background)
EPSTEIN: Throughout the exhibit there are these statues of people. There's a fisherman. Ahead of us you'll see there's a consumer. There's a scientist, there are a variety of other fishermen and regulators, each of them personalizing what's happening on George's Bank, and how they view it and what they're hoping to do about it or what effect it's having on them. So the next thing we see as we walk down the hallway...
RUDOLPH: The George's Bank display is the first in a series of issue-oriented exhibits planned by the aquarium's president Jerry Schubel. He spoke at a recent ceremony marking the exhibit's opening.
SCHUBEL: There's a lot at stake right now, I think, in terms of our relationships to our environment. And this aquarium is going to do everything we can to help resolve some of these issues. Some of you may be saying, well, what can an aquarium do? That's a place you take your kids on a rainy Saturday or the day after Thanksgiving when you've got company, you want to get them out of the house. You say let's go to the Aquarium. Well, that's, those are reasons to come to the Aquarium. But those of us who work here believe we can do a lot.
RUDOLPH: In addition to its traditional role of helping to conserve marine habitats, Schubel wants the aquarium to inspire people to change their lifestyles. To recycle more and drive less. Or, as he puts it, to live more lightly on the Earth. He also dreams of organizing the world's aquariums to push for laws and government policies that favor the environment.
SCHUBEL: One of the things, the strategies that we're trying is to use the community of aquariums throughout the world, both in the developed and the developing world, in the aggregate more than 125 million visitors per year, and there is one in every major marine ecosystem, for example. We've got to use these aquariums to change attitudes throughout the world. Politicians tend to have a lot more courage if they believe their constituents are behind them.
RUDOLPH: Boston isn't the only place where aquarium activism has taken hold. At California's Monterey Bay Aquarium, there's an area where visitors can send postcards on environmental issues to their government representatives.
WOMAN: Sea otters spend their entire lives at sea, yet they don't have the thick layer of blubber that seals, sea lions, and whales have to keep warm.
(Visitors' voices in the background)
RUDOLPH: One of the most popular attractions here is a show where California sea otters are fed and trained to respond to human commands. In addition to learning about the otters, visitors are also told about the need to conserve the coastal habitat of this threatened species. Steven Webster is a marine biologist and one of the people who founded the aquarium in 1984. He says the aquarium's main goal is to inspire conservation of the ocean. But Webster admits it's hard to know which forms of inspiration actually work.
WEBSTER: These days we're looking more and more specifically for how to move folks to really active participation. And that's one we're all struggling with. How from a single or even several aquarium visits can you really hope to change someone's behavior and have them dedicate time and energy toward marine conservation sorts of issues.
RUDOLPH: Increasingly, this question is being asked by aquariums throughout the world. All kinds of approaches are being tried. The New England Aquarium recently produced a short film on marine conservation issues. It's being offered to airlines for inclusion in their in-flight entertainment. In a separate effort the New England Aquarium has developed a partnership with a local chain of seafood restaurants. Now, instead of decorating their tables with cards advertising beer, the restaurant uses the space to tell patrons that there is real concern over the rapidly declining fish stock on George's Bank. Despite these efforts and the increased dollars spent on them, aquariums may be destined to fail as environmental educators. That's the view of Dale Jameson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Twelve years ago, Professor Jameson wrote a controversial essay titled, "Against Zoos." In it he argued that there is a moral presumption against keeping wild animals in captivity. He went on to ask if zoos would actually do a better job of meeting their educational objectives by exhibiting empty cages with explanations as to why they are empty. Mr. Jameson says many of his arguments against zoos apply to aquariums as well.
JAMESON: People who are optimistic about the kind of environmental education that can take place with captive animals suggest that when we experience animals under artificial conditions like zoos and aquaria, this will lead us to want to see animals and to respect them under natural conditions. Well, I suggest that it's just as plausible to think that a great deal of experience with animals under artificial conditions only whets our appetite to experience animals under artificial conditions. And which of these hypotheses is true seems to me to be one that's not yet decided.
RUDOLPH: Despite his skepticism, Dale Jameson says he wishes aquariums well in their efforts to raise the public's environmental consciousness. Other critics are less kind.
(Chimes ringing, air vents)
RUDOLPH: In Vancouver, British Columbia, Annalise Sorg heads a group that's attempting to force the local aquarium to get rid of its live whales. She argues that aquariums can't teach respect for the environment because they don't treat animals humanely. And she says the public is also to blame.
SORG: Unfortunately, zoos and aquariums -- and circuses are thrown in that category have a role of entertainment. People don't go to these institutions to be educated as such. They go to be entertained.
RUDOLPH: At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, marine biologist Steven Webster acknowledges that pressure from animal rights advocates has had an impact, forcing some aquariums to downplay their role as entertainers and to put more emphasis on conservation education. But Webster says, at his aquarium at least, criticism from the outside is not the principal motivator.
WEBSTER: I think it falls to almost to what you might call missionary zeal. If you really feel that the world has some serious problems and that they're going to get more serious if we don't, one, make ourselves fully aware of them and then try and ameliorate them and avoid similar problems in the future, you have to get somewhat passionate about it. Because a lot of these changes will involve things that in the short term aren't very pleasant for people. And hoping to get the citizenry thinking about such things, you just have to keep putting these issues in front of people so that they can continue to address them in a variety of ways and eventually some people catch fire.
(Many voices gathered)
RUDOLPH: Apparently, the conservation message is getting through to some aquarium visitors. Gene Elliott brought his 6-year-old granddaughter Brianna to the Monterey Bay Aquarium because he wanted to increase her environmental awareness.
ELLIOTT: We went up to the top and seen how the world's population of fishes is disappearing. She's aware of that. And I think it's made her a little bit more conservation minded. She's gone around and touched all the ones she could touch, and she realizes they have feelings, and I think it's a good experience.
BRIANNA: Manta rays are very nice and you can pet them on the head or either on the little fins. But not on the tail, it's not a good idea to touch them on the tail.
(Ambient voices, fading to gulls calling)
RUDOLPH: As fisheries teeter on the brink of collapse and pollution continues to destroy marine ecosystems, public concern appears to be growing. But can aquariums take that sense of concern and turn it into action to improve the environment? Even the people who run aquariums can't answer that question yet. For Living on Earth, this is John Rudolph in Boston.
(Gulls fade to music up and under)
KNOY: What goes around comes around on the porches of Ottawa, Canada. A tradition in recycling is just ahead on Living on Earth.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy.
It's that time of year. The raking of leaves, a walk in the woods. The cleaning of storm windows and gutters. There's another rite of fall in many places: the garage sale, a weekend quest for a new set of Legos for Johnny. A chance to pawn off those scissor sharpeners from Aunt Mabel. In some parts of the continent the garage sale has become a community ritual, involving hundreds of front yards, attracting thousands of visitors. An autumnal mix of commerce and community. And recycling. That's the scene these weekends in the city of Ottawa, Canada. Living on Earth contributor Bob Carty sent us this sound portrait.
(Music up and under: Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons")
WOMAN: Porch sales are really about saying goodbye to summer with your neighbors.
(Vivaldi continues up and under)
WOMAN (backdropped by crickets): Because you don't see people from October first till till May, it's true! And it's kind of, you know, it's a great summer, goodbye, have a great fall, call if you need anything.
(Vivaldi continues; fade to a hose shooting water)
WOMAN: Washing, washing, wash. This is a plastic easel that we got for our little girl so that she could draw outside. I don't think she ever, ever used it, so after 5 years we've decided that maybe we can finally part with it tomorrow for the porch sale.
(A dog barks. Hosing down continues)
WOMAN: Certain certain partners do manage to hide things that they don't want sold. Three hundred years worth of National Geographics magazines (laughs), now you think that would be hard to hide, wouldn't you? But no, no, he could be down there hiding all the things he doesn't want to sell, so I won't haul them out when he's gone to sleep and put them out front with price tags on them.
MAN: No oops! (Crashing sounds) They used to have a blanket over them so nobody could see, but yeah, those are Geographics that have been there for for quite a while. They are going out. (Clanking sounds) This basement is me. And I'm trying to make me a better person (laughs). There's the present that I'll never use. That's a wonderful footstool that turns into a a tool kit, and I love it. But I have absolutely no use for it. (Voices in the background) This goes out, unfortunately.
WOMAN: You are not getting rid of this, are you? (Laughs) My mother gave this to you!
MAN: Well, I'm sorry!
WOMAN: It's a present, it hasn't even been it still hasn't been --
(Music up and under: "Taking it to the Streets." Fade to crinkling sounds and voices in the background)
WOMAN: You have to have a sharp eye. You have to be fast. You can't waste time, but you also have to be careful.
MAN: And we've got to sell this amazing game. See, it's amazing. (Laughs) I have no idea!
WOMAN: You put your jewelry in it and you count it every day (laughs).
MAN: One little diamond, two little diamonds!
WOMAN: That's it! (Laughs)
My favorite pastime on a Saturday morning is going out to garage sales. I go hunting and gathering. It's my way of beating the system, if you will. Fighting the dictatorship of consumerism.
How much for the brush set?
GIRL: Oh that's 2 or 3 dollars.
MAN: Oh Mattel!
CHILD: Okay, one dollar.
MAN: How about 75 cents?
CHILD: No, one dollar. One dollar.
MAN: One dollar?
CHILD: One dollar, that's not a lot.
GARETH, shouting: These are our friends! These are our friends.
MAN: Exactly, Gareth. What happened to your sister? She's becoming a
WOMAN: It amazes me what people think their garbage is worth. I sell my garbage very cheaply, 25 cents, a dime, a nickel. In fact, I would almost say I feel so passionately that I could be opposed to porch sales unless they're conducted properly (laughs).
(Several voices and laughter)
CHILD: No, not just one dollar --
MAN: That's the whole point.
WOMAN: Our junk is wonderful. Everybody wants it, can't you see? The hordes are clamoring (laughs).
MAN (shouting): How much for the junk? How much for your junk?
WOMAN: The hordes are clamoring for our junk. I have flowers on my porch. People are trying to buy my flowers.
MAN: How much for the flowers?
WOMAN: Not for sale.
MAN: Well, I've been looking for a floor lamp, and I found one around the corner this morning. Two dollars, I bought it for 2 dollars. Didn't even bargain.
WOMAN: I bought a lamp that I don't need and I don't really want, but it's only a dollar so I couldn't walk away. He's going to kill me. Where is he?
WOMAN 2: People know my place is a good place to buy good clothes, and every year the same woman comes by and just goes on and on about how excited she is to see the clothes and buy something every year. And then I see her out and about in the neighborhood with my clothes on all the time, and it's a very strange experience seeing your old clothes walking around the neighborhood. And it also, you know, makes you have a few regrets. Like oh my gosh, that shirt, it really looks great on her and I probably shouldn't have sold that. But it's okay.
WOMAN 3: I have a friend who has nothing for a garage sale because she lives, her children are gone and she has a very Spartan life, so she buys things. She had 2 boxes of things that she picked up, and stores them just so when this came up today, she could get out on her front porch with the neighbors and sell things that she bought. They're not even her own things, you know?
(Music up and under: disco)
WOMAN 4: My best buy was an Easy Glider. You know, you do 15 or 20 minutes of aerobic exercise on them. We paid $10 dollars for it and used it. I used it up. So you should have seen the thigh muscles there for a while.
(Disco music continues up and under)
WOMAN 5: Bad mistake, roller blades, $70, and I was so excited. Then I went and spent another $50 on all the pads and everything like that and then skated on them once, because they hurt my ankles.
WOMAN 6: That gray Greek vase over there in someone's driveway, it looks very attractive. The minute it entered the front door it took on a whole different impression (laughs).
MAN: (Laughs) I forget what the object was, when I got back home the lady said, "Well I just sold that, where did you get that?" And I said, "Down the street." She said, "Well, I just sold it," and I said, "Oh, Lordy." (Laughs)
GIRL: At least for 25 cents.
MAN: I can't let it go for less than a dollar, I'm sorry. Those are really good sunglasses. Okay, 50 cents. Okay, you've got me down to 35 cents, you're such a crazy bargainer! Thirty-five cents. Thirty five.
MAN: Okay, 25.
MAN 2: Oh, man!
GIRL: Twenty-five cents, that's great. (Laughter in the background)
MAN: You want to know the real [sounds like "five"] of why we're selling everything today? Got evicted last night --
GIRL (shouting): No money!
MAN: Manically running through the house trying to find all this stuff and trying to figure out a way to profit from our eviction, turn the tables.
(Music up and under: Janis Joplin: "You're out on the streets lookin' good, and feeling deep down in your heart, I guess you know that it ain't
WOMAN: I sold a Cuisinart today, which is a parable for my marriage. I got it when I got married. Actually I got it in order to get married. My marriage has just busted up after 23 years, I just sold the Cuisinart for $10 dollars. That's the saddest thing that ever happened to me at a garage sale.
(Joplin continues: "Come on, come on, come on, come on, yeah take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby. Break it! Break another little piece of my heart, na na, yeah...")
(Ambient voices and barking dog)
MAN: We're going to have to start marking down, though. But that's all right.
CHILD: Daddy! Daddy!
MAN: I mean the kids are having fun, I think we're getting rid of some stuff. At least I got it out of the basement and it's not going back.
WOMAN: In the end, the tool kit, I relented and he in fact sold the gift from my mother. In exchange, Ross promised me dinner.
WOMAN 2: I would say this is a very important social event. It's nothing to do with money. People are laughing and making deals. Neighbors are talking, having coffee. It's a wonderful feeling, almost like a dance...
(Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" up and under)
WOMAN: When I go to big department stores it's just, you shut yourself off and become very impersonal. And everyone is trained with that forced behavior to say have a nice day, and they smile and if you follow the end of the smile it's gone. It's part of what you're paying for. Here they don't say have a good day or have a nice day. They say have a cookie. Or sit down on the porch and take a load off. And they smile and they mean it and they keep smiling, you know?
(Vivaldi continues, up and under)
KNOY: The porch sale was produced by Bob Carty with the gracious help of his neighbors in old Ottawa South.
(Music up and under)
KNOY: And for this week that's Living on Earth. Our program is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation Harvard University. Our production team includes Daniel Grossman, George Homsy, and Jesse Wegman, Julia Madeson, Peter Christianson, Roberta DeAvila, and Peter Shaw. Kim Motylewski is the associate editor. Peter Thomson heads our western bureau. The senior producer is Chris Ballman. We had help from Dana Campbell and Carolyn Martin. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director and Jeff Martini engineers the program. Thanks this week to New Hampshire Public Radio. Michael Aharon composed the theme. I'm Laura Knoy. Thanks for listening.
(Music up an under)
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Stonyfield Farm, makers of pure all- natural organic yogurts and ice cream. 1-800-PROCOWS for Stonyfield's Moosletter; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture.
(Music up and under)
NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth