Air Date: September 11, 1998
Enviro Riders in an Unusual Season
Congress is back facing several spending bills that are loaded with unrelated or special interest provisions called "riders." This year, some Republicans have attached dozens of riders relating to the environment. These provisions could become law without debate. The Clinton Administration has attacked the riders as "backdoor" efforts to undermine environmental protection, and in an ordinary political year, would try to eliminate them with threatened vetoes. But this is not an ordinary year, and with the Presidency in deep crisis over Mr. Clinton's sexual affair with a young employee, the White House may be hampered in its fight over the environment. Host Steve Curwood asked Alan Freedman, who covers Congress for Congressional Quarterly, to describe the range of this year's environmental riders. (04:30)
Lebanon: Toxic Waste Dumping Ground
During the chaos of Lebanon's civil war, the middle eastern country became a dumping ground for toxic waste. Foreign companies paid off Lebanese militia leaders for permission to illegally dispose of many kinds of industrial chemicals from European nations, especially Italy and Germany. Some of these dangerous wastes have been returned to the nations that produced them. But as Reese Erlich reports from Beirut, far from all the of the imported toxins have been cleaned up. (07:00)
Antique Sheep/ Daniel Grossman
Humanity today is witnessing the greatest mass extinction of species since the dinosaurs demise. Most of the vanishing breeds are wild, and many are found in remote locales like tropical rainforests. But some threatened species live much closer to home, in farmyards. About 30 percent of the world's domestic animal breeds risk extinction, the United Nations estimates. And their figures suggest that each week, one domestic animal species is lost forever. Some efforts are being made to stem the tide. Living on Earth's Daniel Grossman visited a farm in Maine which is saving threatened livestock for future generations. The genetic diversity of farm animals is also rapidly shrinking, perhaps putting our food supply at risk. To fight this trend, some farmers are raising what they call heirloom livestock. (08:55)
Scientist Whistle Blowers
Picture a ransacked office with open files strewn across the floor, and boxes for computer discs overturned and empty. Imagine the interrogations and threatening phone calls that might have led up to the break-in. Now, envision that scientists are the victims of the incident, and federal bureaucrats are the alleged perpetrators. In "Science Under Siege: The Politicians' War on Nature and Truth", writer Todd Wilkinson uncovers eight stories of government scientists whose research was allegedly suppressed by their employers; including the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Steve Curwood spoke with author Wilkinson, who began by telling the story of grizzly bear biologist, Dave Mattson. (06:00)
Gloucester at the Crossroads #4: Harbor Zoning Suspense/ Sandy Tolan
In New England, fishing boat operators and scientists continue to debate just how many fish there are in the sea. Some observers say the cod and other groundfish stocks are dwindling to a dangerously low level in the once-bountiful Gulf of Maine. But last month a federal management council backed off from a plan to implement emergency restrictions on cod fishing in the gulf. In the meantime, hundreds of miles to the south, where fishing grounds have been closed for four years, there are signs that the cod may be coming back. This could mean good news for Gloucester, Massachusetts, the nation's oldest seaport, which has had a difficult time adjusting to the economic realities that come with closed fishing grounds. An old icon of the town's fishing legacy has become the focal point of a debate about its economic future. Living on Earth's Sandy Tolan has this chapter in our continuing series, "Gloucester at the Crossroads." (19:30)
HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Reese Erlich, Daniel Grossman, Sandy Tolan
GUESTS: Alan Freedman, Todd Wilkinson
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CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.
As Congress is passing the laws that control Federal spending, some Republicans are adding lots of unrelated special provisions: riders, that would reduce environmental protections. The White House says it doesn't want them, but some wonder if it has the clout to prevail.
FREEDMAN: These riders are going to be a great test of where the President's and the White House's political strength is, following the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
CURWOOD: Also, the genetic diversity of farm animals is rapidly shrinking, perhaps putting our food supply at risk. To fight this trend, some farmers are raising what they call heirloom livestock.
METCALF: You can look on the hillside here and see landscapes that many of the kings of England looked out their castle keep and saw with the sheep grazing away.
CURWOOD: And the Middle East as a toxic dumping ground for Europe. This week on Living on Earth; first news.
(NPR News follows)
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Congress is back, and it faces several spending bills that are loaded with unrelated or special interest provisions called riders. Now, this year, some Republicans have attached dozens of riders relating to the environment, and these provisions could become law without debate. The Clinton Administration has attacked the riders as back door efforts to undermine environmental protection, and, in an ordinary political year, would try to eliminate them with threatened vetoes. But this is not an ordinary political year, and with the Presidency in deep crisis over Mr. Clinton's sexual affair with a young employee, the White House may not be able to fight over the environment. I asked Alan Freedman, who covers Congress for Congressional Quarterly, to describe the range of this year's environmental riders.
FREEDMAN: You have everything from a prohibition of implementation of the Kyoto Accord, which was agreed to last year by the United States, to a moratorium, a delay in cleanups of PCBs, to a rider in the Interior Appropriations Bill that would prevent the reintroduction of the grizzly bear in Idaho and Montana. It's really quite an extraordinary number of riders and breathtaking in its diversity. This is really the greatest number of riders that I've seen in recent years.
CURWOOD: Now, is this an organized posse of riders, or are these sort of individual, little enterprise things by individual Republican politicians?
FREEDMAN: They're more individual in nature, and they tend to be what we call rifle shot attempts. You see the Kyoto Accord is a very broad policy issue; that really is one of the most high-profile ones. But a lot of these other riders are fairly narrow in scope, and in that sense they contrast to what happened a few years ago, which was attempts at broad reforms or a broad rollback of environmental legislation.
CURWOOD: Let's talk about that big, broad one: the Kyoto Accord. What is it that the House and Senate want to do, and what do you think the White House will do?
FREEDMAN: The rider itself is actually very simple. It basically says that the EPA can't go ahead and the White House can't go ahead and implement the Kyoto agreement. This has been a real priority for the Gore/Clinton Administration over the last year. They have had a number of public appearances pushing the agreement. And by all accounts they will likely fight very hard for this one and try to get this language out of the appropriation bill. I would think that this would be the one they would fight hardest for.
CURWOOD: Now, this works because these bills, these riders, are attached to money bills, and if the money bills don't pass the agencies and -- in this case, it's what? Interior and EPA?
FREEDMAN: That's right. There are two primary appropriation bills. One is the appropriation or funding bill that deals with the Environmental Protection Agency. The other is a separate funding bill that deals with the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and a few other land agencies.
CURWOOD: And so, if these riders aren't enacted along with the money for these departments, those departments stop functioning. Do you think the Republicans are willing to go to the... They did this in 1995. They shut down portions of the government. Do you think they'll do it over such things as, what, logging in the Tongass National Forest, or prohibiting funds for reintroducing grizzly bears?
FREEDMAN: I don't know if it's going to go to a shutdown. I think most people would say probably not. It's going to be, as one aide said to me today, it's going to be a test of manhood, essentially. It's going to be literally about 5 people sitting in a room across from each other and staring down each other, and whoever is tougher, whoever thinks that he -- this is primarily men negotiating this, after all -- whoever thinks he has the political will to prevail will really win. You have some very tough adversaries here. Ted Stevens will be in the room. He's the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He's known as one of the toughest negotiators on Capitol Hill. Slade Gorton is also a very tough negotiator. He's the chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. And the question it comes down to is: how strong will the White House be in 2 or 3 weeks? What you sense right now is that everybody knows that Bill Clinton is weak. When people sense weakness in a negotiation, that's an extraordinary advantage. And these riders are going to be a great test of where the President's and the White House's political strength is following the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
CURWOOD: I want to thank you for taking this time with us today. Alan Freedman reports for Congressional Quarterly in Washington. Thank you.
FREEDMAN: Thank you.
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CURWOOD: During the chaos of Lebanon's civil war, the Middle Eastern country became a dumping ground for toxic waste. Foreign companies paid off Lebanese militia leaders for, quote, "permission," unquote, to dispose illegally of many kinds of industrial chemicals from European nations, especially from Italy and Germany. Some of these dangerous wastes have been returned to the nations that produced them. But as Reese Erlich reports from Beirut, not all of the imported toxins have been cleaned up.
(Engine and machinery sounds)
HAMDAN: What we're seeing here is big Caterpillars working in a quarry.
ERLICH: Lebanese environmentalist Fuad Hamdan looks on as a bulldozer slowly moves dirt and rock, inching closer to a spot riddled with toxic chemicals. He's a Greenpeace campaigner in Beirut.
HAMDAN: That was in the late 80s the main storage site of about 16,000 barrels of toxic waste from Italy, that were illegally imported from Italy to Lebanon at that time.
ERLICH: The quarry near Beirut once held 16,000 barrels and 20 containers of heavy metals, toxic pesticides, and other deadly chemicals. During Lebanon's civil war, Jelly Wax, an Italian company, paid a right-wing Christian militia group to store the toxics here. In 1996, companies from Germany, Canada, and Belgium, secretly delivered toxic chemicals to other parts of Lebanon. Today, Lebanon is paying the price. According to a World Bank study, toxic dumping, along with Lebanon's own sewage and toxic waste problems, has led to contamination of 70% of the country's drinking water. Wilson Rizk is a Lebanese professor of hydrology who studies water pollution.
RIZK: [Speaks in French] TRANSLATOR: A lot of places scattered all over Lebanon, especially in the mountainous areas, are contaminated with toxic wastes. When you have heavy rain and melting snow, which is often the case in the winter and autumn, you have lots of water carrying the toxics into rivers and into the groundwater as well.
ERLICH: From 1975 until 1990, the country's violent civil war meant there was no central government, let alone environmental controls. So, the toxic dumping went unhindered, with a tragic human cost. In 1987, the Lebanese Forces militia hired a family displaced by the war to guard the Schnanir Quarry. They lived on the site. The head of the family used one of the chemicals to keep off insects, and another as soap. A Franciscan nun, whose school is located less than 100 yards from the quarry, said she tried to warn him.
NUN: [Speaks in Arabic] TRANSLATOR: The man of the family was young and very healthy. We said, "You have to be careful. These chemicals may be very toxic." But the man said, "Don't worry; it's only paint." I told him he shouldn't touch it, but he kept on insisting, "It's only paint. It's not dangerous." Eventually he got cancer. He died 10 months later.
(A door opens; ambient conversation)
ERLICH: Pierre Malychef owns a pharmacy. He's also one of Lebanon's most respected environmental scientists. Back in 1988, the Italian chemical barrels began to bubble over and explode, so the Lebanese forces asked Mr. Malychef to test them. He alerted the public that the barrels contain toxic chemicals, and he discovered other dumping sites scattered around the country. The Lebanese Forces were not pleased. The government jailed him for a week for allegedly giving false testimony during an investigation of the dumping, but the charges were dropped. Months later, thugs who he says were paid by the Lebanese Forces severely beat him.
MALYCHEF: [Speaks in Arabic] TRANSLATOR: I was finding all this toxic material so quickly. It became a real problem for the Lebanese forces. If the government returned the toxics to Italy, then the Lebanese militias would be obliged to return a big part of the money they got for taking the toxics in the first place. This didn't make them very happy, and they retaliated against me.
ERLICH: Mr. Malychef and other environmentalists weren't intimidated. When the toxic dumping became exposed, the public was outraged. In the midst of the public outcry, the Italian government shipped the waste back to Italy after Jelly Wax refused to act. Lebanon's Minister of Environment, Akram Shouhayeb, explains.
SHOUHAYEB: [Speaks in Arabic] TRANSLATOR: We took out a huge number of toxic barrels and sent them back to Italy, so we dealt with it in a legal and logical way. These toxics entered illegally but they eventually went out legally. But the judicial file is still open for all toxic dumping cases. Investigation is still open because there may be more barrels.
ERLICH: While the investigation may still be technically open, environmentalists say nothing much is being done in practice. Only one person, a Lebanese citizen, was ever charged in connection with any of the toxic dumping cases. Others remain at large. Last year, Lebanon passed a law banning the importation of toxic chemicals. But Professor Rizk says the country needs to further strengthen its environmental laws.
RIZK: [Speaks in French] TRANSLATOR: Anyone involved in the traffic of toxic wastes should be prosecuted. Under the Basel Convention, which bans the export of toxic chemicals, everyone involved in such trafficking should be punished. Unfortunately, our local legislation isn't strong enough. We should strengthen our Lebanese laws to prevent the repetition of this kind of hideous traffic. The current Minister of Environment is full of good intentions, but he doesn't have the necessary laws to really crack down.
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ERLICH: The Environment Minister admits that two sites here at the Shnanir Quarry are highly contaminated from the Italian chemicals. He says they'll only clean up one of the sites, however. Greenpeace's Fuad Hamdan doubts that they will really remediate either site.
HAMDAN: One of these days, the two spots will be rehabilitated the Lebanese way, meaning that they will be mixed with the rocks and stones and sent to construction sites to build roads or buildings, endangering, in this way, the workers.
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ERLICH: Since the law banning importation of toxic chemicals was passed last year, environmentalists say there have been no new toxics delivered to Lebanon. Containers of Canadian and Belgian toxics have been waiting in the Beirut Harbor and are scheduled for shipment back to their home countries. Lebanese environmentalists say, however, that the government is doing nothing to clean up the quarries and sites where the toxics are contaminating the land and groundwater. For Living on Earth, I'm Reese Erlich in Beirut.
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CURWOOD: Just ahead: Safeguarding the gene pool of domestic animals for future generations. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.
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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Humanity is today witnessing the greatest mass extinction of species since the dinosaurs left the planet. Most of the vanishing breeds are wild, and many are found in remote locales like tropical rainforests. But some threatened species live much closer to home, in farm yards. About 30% of the world's domestic animal breeds risk extinction, the United Nations estimates, and their figures suggest that each week one domestic animal species is lost forever. Some efforts are being made to stem the tide. Living on Earth's Daniel Grossman visited a farm in Maine, which is saving threatened livestock for future generations.
(A cock crows; other animals chime in)
GROSSMAN: A stately farm house sits at the crest of a hill surrounded by a white picket fence in a neat green pasture. Inside a barn, the air is heavy with the sweet smell of manure.
(A sheep bleats)
GROSSMAN: A barrel-chested man named Lee Straw wrestles with a creamy white sheep.
(A shaver motor runs)
STRAW: My left hand pulls the skin, will grab a leg, pull it up. And when that leg comes up it'll tighten its skin along the shoulder, so I can go down over it without cutting it.
GROSSMAN: The entire fleece is on the floor in minutes. Nearly a dozen farm hands arranged in a sort of disassembly line are helping out, guiding the shaggy ewes into the steel shearing pen, leading the scrawny shorn ones off.
(A gate creaks. A sheep bleats.)
GROSSMAN: A crowd of youngsters from the farm's day camp look on.
CHILD: After they get sheared, their hooves get clipped so they're shorter. And they give them worm medicine that takes all the worms out.
ANOTHER KID: Disgusting. Ugh.
GROSSMAN: There are 6 breeds of sheep here at Kelmscott Farm in Lincolnville, Maine. The farm is dedicated to raising rare breeds of livestock, breeds that were once common but have gone out of style. It also raises awareness of the plight of these threatened breeds with tours and a nature camp.
CHILD: Beth, do the sheep like getting sheared?
METCALF: Um, probably they would like eating grass better. But it's something that has to be done.
GROSSMAN: The center of attention today are the Cotswald sheep. Robin Metcalf, who founded the farm in 1995, says they're steeped in history.
(Sounds of shearing, bleating, children shouting)
METCALF: These sheep, the Cotswald sheep, is a very, very old breed of sheep that came up from the Romans to England during the Roman occupation. And it became the basis of their wool industry during the 1500s and 1600s. Then this wool was sold to the continent, and the tax revenues that came from the sale of this fairly large wool industry really created a booming economy during that period.
(Shearing and bleating continue)
GROSSMAN: Until about 50 years ago, Cotswalds were common in the US as well as England. But they aren't good meat producers, and the demand for their coarse wool slumped as artificial fibers gained popularity.
METCALF: They dropped down in England to about 60 of these sheep left in England, about a comparable number here in the United States, around the 1950s and 1960s.
GROSSMAN: Then some ranchers realized the breed was in peril and pitched in to halt its slide.
METCALF: And now there's probably 1,500 of them in the UK and 1,500 of them in the United States.
GROSSMAN: The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy tracks rare farm animals in the US. It reports that about 50 such breeds are teetering on extinction. Many have disappeared already, including the Davis Victoria hog and the Narragansett pacer, one of the first horses developed in this country. For Robin Metcalf, one important reason to save these animals is to keep a piece of the world's agrarian heritage.
METCALF: They reflect the history that created them. You can look on the hillside here and see landscapes that many of the kings of England looked out their castle keep and saw with the sheep grazing away. Today, things, whether they're on the computer or whether they're on a movie screen, it's never the real thing. And, you know, these are the real thing.
(Bleating; fade to indoor setting)
METCALF: All right, so let's just summarize what we're doing here. Perry, you're doing sort...
GROSSMAN: In a rustic building adjoining the farm house, Robin Metcalf hands out chores the next morning. Part entrepreneur, part cowboy, she wears a pocket knife and a cell phone.
METCALF: And then, Acelia, you're doing pigs, and so the thing is perhaps Acelia, you could help Perry with some of these...
GROSSMAN: In addition to sheep, Kelmscott is home to nearly 2 dozen rare breeds: rabbits, poultry, goats, cattle, pigs, and horses, including a shire horse descended from the steeds that bore English knights to the Crusades.
METCALF: Okay, let's go, cause we've got that meeting coming up.
GROSSMAN: One of Robin Metcalf's tasks is to visit Penny, the farm's new piglet. Penny's not herself today. She's had a poor appetite.
METCALF: Penny, Penny, lie down. Here, Penny, Penny. (Grunting from pig) Oh, you're a good girl. What are you up to, huh? (Grunting from pig)
GROSSMAN: Penny, a Gloucestershire old spots pig, is now only the size of a small dog. But adults in a nearby pen weigh several hundred pounds. Big ears flop over their eyes and a dozen or so round, black patches, some the size of a dinner plate, cover their backs.
METCALF: Well, the Gloucestershire old spots pig is the oldest spotted pedigree pig in the world. And it was very popular, you know, in the beginning part of this century, up until the time when lard became a bad word, you know, right after the war, where everybody wanted low-fat foods. And nobody wanted any animal that was associated with the word lard.
GROSSMAN: Today consumers want meat that's lean, not fattier old spots pork. The story is similar for all these rare animals. In part, they've been shoved aside by breeds that have finer wool or leaner meat. They've also been a casualty of the transition from family farming to factory farming. Mammoth corporate ranches with national markets need a single, uniform product.
METCALF: We all know that most of our milk all comes from Holstein cows. We know that there's just a few breeds of pigs that produce all of our pork. And there's just 1 or 2 hybrid breeds of poultry that produce our broilers and fryers and all of our eggs.
GROSSMAN: These breeds are awesomely efficient at making milk and meat and eggs, but Robin Metcalf worries what would happen if any of them came under assault from an untreatable disease, the way the Irish potato crop was decimated by the potato blight 150 years ago.
METCALF: We need to have a genetic back-up plan.
GROSSMAN: And that's one key reason why historic farm animals still have a role to play, because genes from the livestock at farms like Kelmscott could be needed some day to fight an unforeseen epidemic, or to create breeds with traits not valued today. It's happened before. Today's grocery store chicken was developed in the 1930s by crossing a Cornish cock with a white rock hen. At the time, Cornish chickens were uncommon, and they were mostly in the hands of bird fanciers.
METCALF: (Talking to Penny) What is it, huh? (Grunting from Penny)
GROSSMAN: Robin Metcalf may be sitting on a genetic gold mine. But for now she makes do by charging admission to visitors and by selling products to niche markets, like hand-spinners who want stiff Cotswold wool and restaurants which prize exotic meats. She compares a juicy slice of old spots pork to a tasty home-grown tomato. The farm teaches a new generation of kids the value of historic breeds, and the students are listening.
CHILD: Most of the animals here are very rare. So, people can come and see them here at Kelmscott and learn about 'em. And maybe, if they see the rare breeds they'll say maybe I'll raise some. So there are more and more.
GROSSMAN: And that's exactly what's happening. Three years ago there were only 4 Gloucestershire old spots pigs in the country, living on just 3 farms. Today, through the work at Kelmscott, a dozen farmers nationwide tend 90 old spots. And Robin Metcalf says conventional breeders are expressing interest in the spotted porkers. One farmer recently began crossing old spots with a commercial breed, a union that yields a larger litter of piglets and no runts.
(Many sheep bleat)
GROSSMAN: For Living on Earth, I'm Daniel Grossman.
(Bleating continues. Fade to music up and under)
CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues; the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com; Jennifer and Ted Stanley; and Church and Dwight, a tradition of environmental responsibility: the makers of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, the standard of purity.
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NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio. CURWOOD: Just ahead: no condos for now. Gloucester, Massachusetts, decides to keep its harbor a working port, looking ahead to the day when the fish will return. Keep listening to Living on Earth.
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SECOND HALF HOUR
ANNOUNCER: Stonyfield Farm and Living on Earth are partners in the 1998 Planet Protector Contest, and we want to hear from kids 8 to 14 about what they're doing to protect the planet. To enter, kids can send a 1-page essay about their efforts to build a healthy planet. Look for contest details on our website. That's www.livingonearth.org. Or, on Stonyfield Farm Planet Protector quart containers.
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CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Picture a ransacked office with open files strewn across the floor and boxes for computer disks overturned and empty. Imagine the interrogations and threatening phone calls that might have led up to the break-in. Now, envision that scientists are the victims of the incident and Federal bureaucrats are the alleged perpetrators. In Science Under Siege: The Politicians' War on Nature and Truth, writer Todd Wilkinson uncovers 8 stories of government scientists whose research was allegedly suppressed by their employers, including the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. I spoke with Mr. Wilkinson, who began by telling me the story of grizzly bear biologist Dave Mattson.
WILKINSON: Roughly, 5 years ago, Dave came to work one morning and discovered that his office had been raided, that all of his data had been confiscated, and that the person behind it happened to be one of his superiors, who seized the information because he didn't like the fact that Dave was using some of his own data to criticize the policy of the government, which today looks as though it is leaning towards delisting the grizzly bear beginning as early as next year.
CURWOOD: Now, what's this dissent that he voiced?
WILKINSON: Dave and an independent scientist named Craig Pease published an article in which they assert that the dispersal of bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem may be due to the fact that there are threats to natural food sources, and thus that because bears aren't able to access these foods in Yellowstone, that they're roaming wider. The flip side to that coin is that the government then uses wider-roaming grizzlies as a justification for looking at taking the grizzly off the list of threatened species.
CURWOOD: So, in other words, his argument is that the bears aren't necessarily in better shape. They're engaged in some desperation measures that make it look like they might be in better shape.
CURWOOD: Now, you're a journalist, Todd Wilkinson. You're not a scientist. So, how can you say for sure that Dave Mattson's data is more accurate than what the committee is now saying should be done in Yellowstone?
WILKINSON: Well, I think we can point to a couple things. One is that Dave Mattson has published more peer-reviewed scientific journal articles than any of his colleagues. In other words, he has survived the red-face test under careful scrutiny of both independent scientists and the government. But I think the second thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that even Dave Mattson acknowledges that he may be wrong with a few of his assertions. The problem is that the government doesn't allow him to voice dissent, and in fact, whenever he does voice dissent they take action to punish him.
CURWOOD: Does his experience represent the exception these days in terms of environmental scientists working for government agencies? Or is it fairly common?
WILKINSON: What has happened to Dave Mattson, while that might be an extreme example, scientific suppression, retaliation against people who differ with the bureaucratic status quo, I think it's a fairly common thing going on in many of these Federal agencies.
CURWOOD: Why do you suppose that's happening?
WILKINSON: You can look at the grizzly bear as an example. One thing is, you have surrounding states that are tired of dealing with regulations relating to grizzly bear protection. They would like to have public lands open for oil and gas development, for example; to make sure that lands stay open for livestock grazing; to reduce any potential restrictions on mining. And it's also clear that Bruce Babbitt earlier this year, in announcing that he wants to move toward delisting 30 species, that he wants to use delisting as a stage for suggesting that the Endangered Species Act works, as Congress now debates its reauthorization.
CURWOOD: Recently, Representative Don Young of Alaska called for an investigation of Justice Department employees to find out which of them are members of environmental groups. He's also investigated Forest Service employees. Do you call this environmental McCarthyism?
WILKINSON: If anyone doubts the atmosphere of repression, the atmosphere of intimidation that exists in the Federal agencies, all they need to do is look at Congressman Young's letter, which he sent to regional forester Eleanor Towns in July. In that letter, he asked the forester if she could identify or knew of any employees working for the Forest Service, who had memberships in environmental organizations, the assertion being that anyone on their own time, at their own expense, paying membership dues to environmental organizations, were somehow subversive. And in the book, there is an example in which Jeff Van Ee, an employee with the Environmental Protection Agency, was threatened with fines, jail time, and firing from the Justice Department and the EPA for holding membership with the Sierra Club and being active with it on weekends.
CURWOOD: Well, is this McCarthyism, though? I mean, let's say that a Justice Department lawyer was covering stock transactions; that's something that's in the news these days. Would it be appropriate for that Justice Department lawyer to own stock in the company that they were investigating?
WILKINSON: Well, there seems to be a double standard here. On the one hand, you have Congressman Young, who presides over the Committee on Resources, wondering if Federal employees hold memberships in environmental organizations. And yet his own committee has former timber industry and mining industry lobbyists working for him, helping to write laws and helping to set natural resource policy. If that isn't calling the kettle black, I don't know what is.
CURWOOD: Todd Wilkinson writes for the Christian Science Monitor, and he's author of Science Under Siege: The Politicians' War on Nature and Truth.
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CURWOOD: In New England, fishing boat operators and scientists continue to debate just how many fish there are in the sea. Some observers say that cod and other ground fish stocks are dwindling to a dangerously low level in the once-bountiful Gulf of Maine. But last month, a Federal management council backed off from a plan to implement emergency restrictions on cod fishing in the Gulf. In the meantime, hundreds of miles to the south, where fishing grounds have been closed for 4 years, there are signs that the cod may be coming back. This could mean good news for Gloucester, Massachusetts, the nation's oldest seaport. The town has had a difficult time adjusting to the economic realities that come with closed fishing grounds. This summer, an old icon of the town's fishing legacy became the focal point of a debate about its economic future. Living on Earth's Sandy Tolan has this chapter in our continuing series, Gloucester at the Crossroads.
(Lapping surf and foghorns)
MAN: Every vessel that has sailed in and out of Gloucester since the 1840s, for 150 years, has sailed past the paint factory, and so it strikes deep in the heart of the meaning of the community.
TOLAN: It juts into the harbor like the bow of an old schooner. Faded but urgent, silent yet full of stories, abandoned but essential.
WOMAN: It's the entrance to our inner harbor. It's a landmark that we've taken for granted forever.
MAN: The paint factory is the cathedral of the fishing industries.
TOLAN: On one side of the rambling redwood building, white letters still call out: Paint Manufactory 1863, Gloucester SeaJackets. The coats of copper paint that protected the city's fleet of fishing schooners long ago.
MAN: Please, please, do everything possible, everything you can to preserve this property. It is absolutely part of our essential heritage.
TOLAN: But the high-rolling days of the Gloucester fisheries are over, and with them any notion that the boom lasts forever. So now, as the industry adjusts, even city icons are up for reconsideration.
WOMAN: Like the paint factory. You know, there's not a use for it now, and there probably won't be a use for it in the future. So, what do we do?
(Fade from surf and gulls to indoor echoes)
HARRISON: What you see before you is a proposition with 8 condominium units, 8 residential units, with a condominium form of ownership. We don't believe this is a negative change for the neighborhood, because now you have a vacant, empty, vandalized building.
TOLAN: On a drizzly night, 50 people crowd into the back room of a neighborhood restaurant. They're here to consider the fate of the paint factory, closed now for a dozen years. All that remains is the shell of the old marine industry.
HARRISON: We own all the paint factory.
TOLAN: Attorney Michelle Harrison represents developers who want to preserve the facade of the paint factory and build condos inside.
HARRISON: And it is the intent of this development project to preserve that landmark. So, you're not going to see it torn down to the ground and something new going up. There is an intent...
TOLAN: It seems a simple proposition: a landmark everyone wants to save and a plan to preserve it. But it won't be easy. To build condos inside the plant, this piece of the inner harbor will have to be rezoned, and in Gloucester that means a fight.
FOOTE: There are millions of dollars waiting to come into this harbor, to come in here and develop. And the word condominium means something. It means something to all the developers.
TOLAN: Across the harbor, City Councilor Gus Foote takes the microphone in a hearing before Gloucester's Planning and Zoning Board. In 1960, when the trawler Agnes and Mernie went down without a trace, Gus Foote lost a brother. Today, he's one of the city's staunchest defenders of the fisheries.
FOOTE: But remember this here: that with all the regulations that we put on the fishing industry, everything is coming back in time. But change this one piece, there will be nothing to come back to. Because if this part of this harbor goes, there will be others to follow. This is how you lose the harbor. (Audience applause follows)
TOBEY: The point of hottest political debate for any economic development initiative that could be proposed in the city, the point will be the harbor, the inner harbor in particular. And what if anything do we allow down there that may be different? And what might it look like if it's allowed?
TOLAN: Gloucester Mayor Bruce Tobey likes to point out that 9 of the city's 10 biggest employers don't deal in fish. They make electronics and medical supplies and light manufactured goods.
TOBEY: Folks still see this place, folks beyond, across the country, as a, you know, a quiet little cove with a group of fishermen huddled and nothing else here. There's a whole lot else here, and it's a much more dynamic picture than folks routinely recognize, I think.
TOLAN: With the fishing industry in transition, Mayor Tobey says, Gloucester must diversify. And that may mean some changes for the inner harbor.
TOBEY: There was a political paradigm in Gloucester, for a long time, that the fashionable thing to do was to slam your fist down on the table and to say, "I will not yield one inch of Gloucester's waterfront or land except to save it for the fishing industry." Which meant nothing happened.
TOLAN: The fight over Gloucester's soul, over how the town can modernize without losing its character, has been going on for generations.
(Gulls call; a boat engine runs)
ANASTAS: Gloucester, too, is out of her mind, and is now indistinguishable from the USA.
TOLAN: Gloucester writer and activist Peter Anastas reads selections from poet Charles Olson. Olson spent years in Gloucester during a time of similar upheaval, the urban renewal of the 1960s.
ANASTAS: Oh, city of mediocrity and cheap ambition. Destroying its own shoulders, its own back. Greedy present persons stood upon. Stop this renewing without reviewing.
TOLAN: We sit near a lone stone building on a hill overlooking the harbor. It's all that remains of a once lively neighborhood of fishermen's homes.
ANASTAS: And most of us, looking back on it, ask ourselves why we let it happen. There was very little protest.
TOLAN: On the wharf below us, men salt fresh-caught herring for bait. The trawlers April Gale and Spray are tied up on a finger pier. Across the harbor a fire boat is being repaired at the marine railways. The scene is surrounded by residential zones of waterfront homes and the occasional condo.
ANASTAS: You have another kind of development pressure in Gloucester today. You have a pressure coming from at least 2 areas. One is housing pressure, a pressure to create upscale, high-end luxury housing, condominiums, trophy houses, expensive subdivisions in which the houses begin at 6 or 700 thousand dollars. And you also have a pressure to rezone your industrial waterfront for non-marine uses. It seems like we never learned. We haven't learned from history.
TOLAN: And history tells Mr. Anastas to move quickly if Gloucester's harbor is to be saved.
ANASTAS: There's a window of 6 months to a year in Gloucester to get a handle on what's happening. Or the place is gone. Gone in that what we live in today will no longer be visible. Within a couple of years Gloucester could be a bedroom for Boston. Then the pressure is when people, very affluent people, move into a community, there are enormous pressures for the community to reflect their values. But when you destroy the real indigenous character of a place, when the kind of work that makes the place tick goes, then the place is worthless anymore.
WOMAN (shouting): Underway!
(A fog horn blares; a whistle blows)
TOLAN: Mayor Tobey boards a Coast Guard cutter, a 270-footer, to give it a send-off after 2 days in port.
MAN: Port stop! Check your rudder.
MAN (answering): Port stop.
TOLAN: We cruise past the paint factory, to some the first domino in a plan to rezone the harbor and turn Gloucester into another Nantucket harbor of pleasure boats and tourist shops. But to the mayor --
TOBEY: It's just bogus, it's panic mongering by folks screaming Chicken Little. The fact of the matter is that that site on the tip of our residential neighborhood doesn't make sense marine industrial. There never was a fish in there, and there probably never will be. And the fact of the matter is the bulk of Gloucester's marine industrial zone in the inner harbor is well protected and will continue to be well protected.
TOLAN: A big chunk of the mayor's campaign funds, thousands of dollars, much of it for an uncontested election, is from developers--some out of town and some local, like the developer of the paint factory condos. These donations fuel local worries that City Hall is prepared to sell out the harbor, concerns the mayor says are way off-base.
TOBEY: They're full of baloney. The record is quite different from those allegations. So anyone who gave me money, thinking that they as developers will get favoritism from me, probably won't be coming to my fundraisers the next time out. I have been out and about this state and doing a lot of marketing of this place, and that has brought me into contact with folks who, you know, have taken an interest and want to be helpful.
TOLAN: Well, what do they want?
TOBEY: I don't know what they want, but I'll tell you what they get: good government.
TOLAN: Others credit the mayor with helping revive the fishing industry in Gloucester, especially with the daily seafood auction.
MAN: Large gray sole, 212 pounds. How much for the live grays?
MAN 2: Four bucks.
MAN 1: Four dollars is the bid. Offered four dollars for those and five, four five four five and ten, ten, ten (another man shouts) and twenty-five...
CIULLA: We're looking at these different species of fish put in their aisles. Rows of scrod haddock, rows of market cod, large cod, cod scrod, flat fish, gray sole, dabs, pollocks, so forth and so on. So then a buyer comes here in the morning. If he wants to look at haddock he goes to the haddock section, as if you were going shopping for cereal in the supermarket.
(Beeping truck sounds)
TOLAN: Larry Ciulla walks through a 31-degree warehouse behind the auction room. Fork lifts wield pallets of iced-down fish into trucks bound for dealers in Gloucester, Boston, and beyond. City Hall and the state provided the Ciulla family with loans to build the facility.
(More beeps, industrial sounds)
CIULLA: If there wasn't a future, we wouldn't have built this, the Gloucester seafood display auction. You know, people look at it and say the industry is symptomatic of one that is dying, but it's not. It's an industry that is changing. And we're changing, a lot of new opportunity.
(Beeping sounds continue)
TOLAN: This auction is revitalizing Gloucester, making it a port of call for ships up and down the New England coast. Fish landings are increasing here, the price per pound is up, and the fishermen who manage to hang on could within a few years be working in a healthy industry. And yet the fish auction is part of the city's effort to consolidate the industry here, encouraging more businesses under fewer sites. For other Gloucester fish dealers, long the middlemen between the boats and the buyers from Boston, this new auction has put their businesses deeper in the red.
CIMITARO: My name's Joe Cimitaro. We're down at Captain Joe and Sons. My cousin Frank and I run the company that was started by my grandfather. We worked here since we were 9 years old.
TOLAN: Joe Cimitaro stands in the fog beside an old pier, slumping concrete atop rotting timbers, nearly falling into the water.
CIMITARO: Yeah, that's our pier. It doesn't look like much but (laughs) I hate to say, I can't afford to make it look all that pretty.
TOLAN: Inside, the place looks healthier. They're trying to survive by selling lobster. But Joe says they're barely making it.
CIMITARO: A lot of people in town would like to keep the old-time piers, and they want to save the entire harbor for the fishing industry. But places like ours and other places are being squeezed out. We're kind of caught in a double-whammy.
TOLAN: On the one hand, the boats that used to unload at Captain Joe's now go to the auction the city and state helped finance. And then, he says, the city and state's zoning restrictions hamper his ability to make adjustments.
CIMITARO: If the city and the state are going to finance the auction to compete against us, the state is going to finance a $13 million pier, and you want to take that away from the smaller businesses, then I say okay, you've got to make a decision. You're going to do that and compete against me, but allow me to diversify, or you don't do those things.
TOLAN: Captain Joe's would like to diversify, maybe a marine research facility, perhaps combined eventually, he says, with a few condos.
CIMITARO: I know that's such a dirty word: condominium.
(A large indoor room with ambient conversation)
WOMAN: It's a pretty great harbor, as he said. All parts of it, I mean, you know, you've got an active art colony and restaurants and ...
TOLAN: Every month, 100 or so people gather in City Hall to discuss the future of Gloucester Harbor. They run the gamut: developers, fishermen, activists, urban planners, each with their own vision of the harbor.
MAN: The question is, what specific improvements would you like to see developed and where, using your blue dots...
TOLAN: But while citizens debate their vision of the harbor, change is already underway, and it's stunning. In the last 2 years, a floating casino has arrived, along with occasional visits from a Caribbean cruise ship and jet skis skimming past the fishing boats. And there's the constant drum beat advocating mixed use: a waterfront hotel, more moorings for pleasure boats. To many it will inevitably move this way, where the big money flows.
MAN: If those cruise ships do materialize, we definitely need trinket shops, you know.
MAN 2: Nah, I wouldn't go so far as to say trinket shops, but I would say...
TOLAN: But a smaller chorus is calling for investments in value-added products, using the older wharfs for things like fish meal, canned herring, or smoked salmon. This vision, says Gloucester economist Carmine Gorga, cannot coexist with residential use.
GORGA: Either we take the road of continuing industrialization of the city and especially the harbor, or we take the other, the service road, of tourism and residential. We cannot have them both, because the people will occupy those places. First, they are going to be wealthy; second, they are going to be powerful--politically powerful. So the day after they come in and they set foot on the harbor, they are going to say, "I'm sorry, you know, I'm here to raise my children here. I do not want the dangers of the trucks, the noise, the smell, and so on and so forth." Either we choose one or we choose the other. We have to decide now.
MAN: We cannot sell Gloucester out. We can't afford to sell one piece of the waterfront out.
WOMAN: This isn't a series of condos ringing the harbor. We're talking about one small piece of marine industrial property that is not anywhere near the rest of our working harbor.
MAN: Can you people hear us clearly in the back?
TOLAN: At the crucial City Council vote, 200 people crowd into an auditorium to debate the future of the paint factory in Gloucester Harbor.
WOMAN: What happens tonight will be a turning point in Gloucester's future.
MAN: The Gloucester waterfront is changing. Like it or not, forever. Our zoning laws must be studied and revised to reflect the reality of the times we live in.
MAN: You will be remembered by your decision tonight. Act fearlessly, as fishermen did. Don't give up the waterfront. The paint factory is a tolling bell. (Audience applause follows)
TOLAN: The debate rages on past 1 AM. There's shouting and cheering from all quarters. Then the stakes are raised one last time. The paint factory's representative steps forward. He tells the council that this deal must go through, or the building's fate will be sealed.
MAN: I hope you appreciate the significance of the decision you folks are going to make tonight, because voting against rezoning this property puts the potential and probable course of action in play. And that is the demolition of this property.
MAN: Councilor Webster?
MAN: Councilor Foote?
MAN: Councilor Giacalone?
MAN: Councilor Grace?
TOLAN: The developers need 6 votes to change the zoning law. They get 5. In the end, concerns about a domino effect override the town's love of its old icon. Zoning restrictions, the councilors decide, are more important.
MAN: This harbor, industrial, is not for sale to big money or anyone else.
(Cheers and applause from audience follow)
TOLAN: The zoning stands. The building may fall.
TOLAN: Late August, the first cool whiff of fall in the air. At the Gloucester Marine Railways, a man sandblasts a metal plate to weld it to a tugboat in for repairs. Business is down and the facility is in bad shape. Despite the City Council vote, Sam Novello and Joe Sinagra say development pressure hasn't led up on harbor property.
NOVELLO: I think it's going to be happening all the time now, because there's probably going to be more money, more money. People are going to see it, more people are going on vacation, you know,.
SINAGRA: Gloucester's a beautiful place. Look what they did to Cape Cod. You know, it's all bought up. Here's another cape; it ain't bought up yet. Some beautiful panoramic views, you get up there on the hill, I shouldn't even talk about it. Hey, Gloucester's a horrible place, it stinks here, don't come here.
TOLAN: The Railways is treading a middle path between slow death and sell- out. It rejected the developer's $2 million buy-out bid, but accepted a proposal to restructure the business with local investors. The cash infusion, along with the income from a maritime museum to be built on the property, could help the Railways survive long term.
SINAGRA: The business has been the mother to this port for years and years. You know, just because your mother's sick for a little bit you don't throw her own the goddamn window.
(Sandblasting continues; fade to lapping surf)
TOLAN: As for the paint factory, the day after the City Council vote, the landowner took out a demolition permit, as promised. And so on this Saturday morning, the City Conservation Commission meets with the foreman of the demolition crew in the shadow of the old red building. As opponents try to raise money to buy the site and come up with their own preservation plan, commissioners discuss how best to take down the old factory. Some believe the developers are bluffing, making one last attempt to pull at the town's heartstrings and change its decision. Some in Gloucester are glad, saying the demolition will show the do-gooders a lesson. Others wonder, what's the use of saving a facade, putting wealthy outsiders inside a building that once kept afloat Gloucester's mighty fleet? Better, they say, to sacrifice the beloved building and protect the city's fisheries for better days to come.
(Gulls and surf)
TOLAN: For Living on Earth, with Emily Wong, this is Sandy Tolan in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
(Gulls and surf continue, fade to music up and under)
CURWOOD: And for this week, that's Living on Earth. Our production team is Jesse Wegman, Terry FitzPatrick, Liz Lempert, Daniel Grossman, and Miriam Landman, along with Roberta de Avila, Peter Shaw, Julia Madeson, and George Homsy. Our interns are David Winickoff and Anne Parry. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Peter Thomson heads our Western Bureau. Joyce Hackel is our senior editor, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer. Michael Aharon composed the theme. Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
(Music up an under)
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