Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein talks with local, regional and national experts, activists and policy makers about climate change, food policy, land use, salmon restoration, forest management and all the other things that matter in our environment.
No one understands the fundamental realities of life on earth better than the farmer. The farmer understands that each habitat can support a certain number of living things sustainably, and to exceed natural limits creates lasting damage. Farmers have been the engineers of humanity’s miraculous success on this planet for the past 3,000 years, and they will necessarily be the engineers of our future. On this episode of Locus Focus we are joined by farmer, author, entrepreneur and business leader Bryan Welch in a discussion about human population growth, economic vitality and the future of the business of agriculture.
Welch says, "As human population growth stabilizes, as it surely must, the farmer will define the value of crops in new ways. Simple trading of simple commodities will no longer offer the same financial incentive. Instead, farmers will be judged on the nutrition of their crops and the conscientiousness of their practices. Already farmers are pioneering this brave new world of agriculture, and reaping great benefits."
Bryan Welch runs Ogden Publications, the world’s largest media company focused on the environment and sustainability. Welch’s company also manufactures earth-friendly household products, and he and his wife raise organic, grass-fed cattle, sheep and goats on their Kansas ranch. He’s the author of Beautiful & Abundant: Building the World We Want.
For a long time we've known that streams shaded by riparian forests provide healthier habitat for salmon and other wildlife. A new study led by Daniel Sobota at Oregon State University confirms that riparian zone forests not only provide streams with needed shade to support salmon, they also help clean up high levels of nitrate pollutants from human activities that infiltrate waterways. In the study Sobota and his colleagues looked at nine streams in Oregon’s Willamette Valley that flowed through forest, agricultural or urban landscapes. Among their goals was to discover how much nitrogen was absorbed by the streams near the source, and how much went downriver. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Daniel Sobota about his study's findings that substantiate the crucial role riparian forests play in maintaing healthy streams flowing through urban areas and agricultural lands.
Daniel Sobota is originally from the Washington, DC, area. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Virginia Tech in 2000, and Master of Science and Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from Oregon State in 2003 and 2007, respectively. He has worked as a research associate at Washington State University (Vancouver campus) and is currently a research associate with the National Academy of Sciences in residence at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Corvallis. His research focuses on effects of land use activities on nutrient cycling in streams, rivers, and watersheds.
We're marking the anniversary of the nuclear castrophe at the Fukushima Nuclear Complex in Japan by looking at a potential nuclear nightmare much closer to home. For nearly 70 years the Hanford Reservation - birthplace of the Plutonium bomb that devastated Nagasaki - has been stockpiling massive quanties of high level radioactive waste. For over thirty years, the U.S. Department of Energy has been purporting to clean up this cold war legacy. Hanford's extensive contamination was supposed to be cleaned up decades ago, but at the end of last year the DOE announced that it had once again failed to meet yet another deadline to empty aging storage tanks that have been leaking high level radioactive waste for decades.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Rachel Monto, assistant director of Heart of America Northwest - an organization that bills itself as "The Public's Voice for Hanford Clean-Up" - about the latest developments in the ongoing saga of Hanford clean up. We'll discuss her organization's plans to pursue legal action to realize meaningful clean up of Hanford at long last. We'll also talk about Heart of America's campaign to stop plans to use Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump.
The city of Portland is noted for its proximity to outstanding natural areas—Mt. Hood, the Columbia Gorge, Oregon's North Coast. But Portland is also a great place to live because of the abundance of natural areas within the city itself. On this episode of Locus Focus we return to one of the city's nature jewels: Oaks Bottom, a 170-acre wildlife refuge complex of wetlands, meadows and woods, 4 miles SE of downtown Portland as the crow flies, and maybe a bit further if you're following the route of one of the bottoms' many Great Blue Herons. Why is Oaks Bottom such a treasure for Portland residents and what is being done to enhance its wildlife habitat? We'll hear from Portland Parks and Recreation ecologist Mark Wilson who returns to Locus Focus to tell us the latest nature news from Oaks Bottom and the adjoining Willamette River.
A LITTLE BIT OF OAKS BOTTOM HISTORY:
Oaks Bottom is a floodplain wetland located along the east bank of the Willamette River. The City of Portland acquired the landfill property from the Donald M. Drake Company at the beginning of 1969 to block its development as an industrial park. The area was believed, at the time, to be one of the few remaining marshland areas in Portland, and local residents were strongly opposed to its development as industrial property. The nine-acre south meadow is a former “construction debris landfill.” The former floodplain wetlands of the north meadow was originally slated for development and filled with clean fill from the excavation of the I405 freeway and US 26’s Vista Tunnel. Portland Parks &Recreation purchased the entire tract of land to link oak and riparian woodlands to the adjacent wetlands. The 26-acre North Meadow now shelters an amphibian habitat area. Portland Audubon, SMILE, PSU and ODF&W were instrumental in the saving of the 170 acres of Oaks Bottom and it was designated as Portland’s first wildlife refuge in 1988.
This year Oregon's Citizens' Utility Board is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their executive director Bob Jenks' tenure at the helm of CUB. CUB itself has been around since 1984 but many Oregonians probably don't know how much they owe this advocacy group. In its three decades of service, CUB has saved Oregon ratepayers $5.3 billion. It's also led the way for Oregon's investment in energy efficiency, by helping create the Energy Trust of Oregon in 2002 and working for passage of the state's 25% Renewable Energy Standard. CUB has worked to ensure that Oregon takes the lead on the national stage in battling climate change, most notably by helping to negotiate the closure of the Boardman plant in the Gorge, which will be the first 1970s-era baseload coal plant in the United States to shut down due to climate concerns. On this episode of Locus Focus, Bob Jenks joins us to talk about CUB's achievements past and present and its vision for a clean, sustainable and affordable energy future for Oregon.
Bob Jenks is the Executive Director of CUB and a national expert on utility-related issues. Bob started working for CUB in 1991, and has participated in nearly every major Oregon Public Utility Commission case since that time, including dozens of cases dealing with utility mergers, rates, and deregulation. He also regularly represents ratepayers before the Oregon Legislature. Bob has on numerous occasions been flown across country to speak on utility issues before such groups as the California Legislature, the Northwest Public Power Association, and the Consumer Federation of America. Bob sits on the board of Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, and is the Oregon representative of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA). Bob is a native Oregonian, and has an economics degree from Willamette University.
In the 1990s the spotted owl became the icon for environmentalists' struggle to save the remaining old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. But the spotted owl is not the only specie that needs old growth forests to survive. Twenty years ago the Marbled Murrelet was added to the list of threatened species whose populations have been severely declining due to intensive logging in old growth forests. For over a decade, Oregon was engaged in developing a habitat conservation plan that would have provided a modicum of protection for marbled murrelet. But it has abandoned that effort. On this episode of Locus Focus we hear from representatives from the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society of Portland, who are suing the state of Oregon over clearcutting practices in the coastal Elliott, Tillamook and Clatsop state forests, that threaten even further the remaining populations of Marbled Murrelets. Bob Sallinger with the Audubon Society and Noah Greenwald with the Center Biological Diversity talk about how the state’s practices are harming, harassing and leading to the demise of the federally protected marbled murrelet, which comes inland to nest and breed in mature and old-growth forests.
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland Conservation Director, has worked for Audubon since 1992. Bob’s passion for conservation was developed early exploring the woods of Massachusetts and later on solo hikes from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail and from Canada to New Mexico on the Continental Divide. Bob has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School. He currently serves on the Portland Parks Board and the Board of Directors for the Coalition for a Livable Future and the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District. He lives in Northeast Portland with his wife Elisabeth Neely, two children, a dog, cat, goats and chickens.
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity Endangered Species Director, directs the Center’s efforts to protect new species under the Endangered Species Act, to ensure that imperiled species receive effective protections and that we have the strongest Endangered Species Act possible. He also works to educate the public about the importance of protecting biodiversity and about the multitude of threats to the survival of North American wildlife. Before he joined the Center in 1997, Noah worked as a field biologist, surveying northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets and banding Hawaiian songbirds.
Transportation accounts for about a third of all carbon dioxide emissions in America. Cars and trucks are the biggest source of our smog pollution, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Gas prices are rising, the dependence on foreign oil is an ongoing concern, and local air pollution is not improving. This makes a powerful case for cleaner cars. Are electric cars the answer?
On this episode of Locus Focus, we revisit the subject of electric cars with Jim Motavalli, author of High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the Auto Industry, which describes the history of the electric car, the race to produce a new generation of all-electric vehicles and now, the tipping point, where half of all new cars heading into showrooms around the world will be at least partly electric. We talk about the challenges still facing all-electric cars: will they really attain enough market share to matter, how can their driving range be extended and how will they be made affordable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Motavalli first started reporting on the dream of electric cars in the late 1980’s during the SUV boom in Detroit and when cheap gas seemed infinite. He is the author of Forward Drive and several other books. He regularly writes about clean cars for The New York Times' Automobiles section, CBS, NPR’s Car Talk and MNN.com. Jim also has a weekly syndicated Wheels column. He lives in Connecticut.
"[Sea] turtles don't think about their next generation, but they risk and provide all they can to ensure that there will be one. Meanwhile, we profess to love our offspring above all else, yet above all else it is they from whom we daily steal. We cannot learn to be more like turtles but from turtles we could learn to be more human. That is the wisdom carried within one hundred million years of survival. What turtles could learn from us, I can't imagine." (Carl Safina, Voyage of the Turtle)
For decades Carl Safina — consummate environmental journalist and activist — has traveled the world following the migrations of sea turtles and other endangered species — and figuring out how to apply their lessons to the human experience. When he is not trekking across the globe he follows the arc of seasons from the The View from Lazy Point, his home on the eastern tip Long Island. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Carl about his journeys far and near, finding solace and delight in the power and resilience of living things, giving hope that we can learn to embody our connection with the natural world before we discover that we have destroyed it.
Carl Safina is a prominent ecologist and marine conservationist and president of Blue Ocean Institute, an environmental organization based in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. A winner of the prestigious Pew Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship and Guggenheim Fellowship, Safina has written five books — Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas; Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival; Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur; Nina Delmar: The Great Whale Rescue; The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, and due out in April of 2011, A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout. Safina’s new TV series, Saving the Ocean, premiered on PBS in April 2011.
Follow more of Carl's adventures on his blog.
More and more people are concerned about where their food comes from, how it is grown and who grows it. But if more of us want to eat locally grown, sustainable food, we also need to grow a new generation of farmers commited to sustainable agricultural principles. Who is going to ensure that new farmers can find affordable land close to markets and can navigate the unpredictable and often turbulent waters of full-time farming? We are fortunate in Oregon to have an organization dedicated to just that. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Leah Rodgers, field director for Friends of Family Farmers, about how her organization supports family farmers across the state who are dedicated to sustainable agriculture. We'll learn about some of their current projects including listening sessions with farmers across the state and iFarm, which connects new and young farmers with the land and resources they need to get starte. We'll also hear the latest on the 2012 Food and Farm Bill and why the Farm Bill matters as much to urban eaters as rural farmers.
Friends of Family Farmers is the only statewide agricultural organization working to promote and protect socially responsible family farming, ranching and healthy rural communities in Oregon. Their programs include a farmer campaign; programs designed for urban eaters such as the monthly InFarmation (and Beer); farm to school programs; and keeping tabs on the corporate agriculture lobby and the state agencies charged with promoting and regulating agricultural activities. They also monitor and make the public aware of the threats to Oregon agriculture from factory farms moving into rural communities.
When we talk about environmental health hazards, we usually are referring to toxins in the environment outside our bodies. But there are environmental health hazards inside our bodies as well. Chemicals and hormones triggered by stress and trauma can wreak havoc on our nervous systems and ultimately result in serious disease. In her new book Scared Sick, Portland family therapist Robin Karr-Morse, explores how many adult diseases, ranging from fibromyalgia to diabetes, as well numerous psychological disturbances, are rooted in childhood trauma. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Karr-Morse about how the wide array of stresses and trauma hurled at us from birth on, are overtaxing our innate "flight or fight" response and leading to a cascade of health problems that start in early childhood.
Robin Karr-Morse is a family therapist at the Parenting Institute in Portland, Oregon and author of Ghosts from the Nursery and Scared Sick.