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.
A CATASTROPHIC CONVERGENCE: The Oil Spill in the Yellowstone River & the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline
On July 1 an ExxonMobil oil pipeline running under the Yellowstone River near Billings, MT ruptured, dumping massive amounts of oil into the river. Critics of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline—that would carry oil from the Tar Sands pits of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast—point to this accident as one more reason why the Keystone XL Pipeline should be stopped. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk about the catastrophic convergence (to borrow a phrase from last week's guest Christian Parenti) bearing down on the Rocky Mountain states as the oil industry gears up its agenda to industrialize the pristine mountains and rivers of the region, with guests Zack Porter—campaign director for All Against the Haul in Missoula and Dena Hoff—a farmer who lives near the proposed XL Pipeline route in Montana.
Zack Porter is the campaign coordinator for All Against the Haul, a homegrown, four-state effort working to stop the construction of a permanent industrial corridor for massively oversized loads to the Alberta Tar Sands through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
Dena Hoff and her husband Alvin have farmed for 31 years on the Yellowstone River six miles west of Glendive, Mt. She is the past chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council, current Vice-President of the National Family Farm Coalition, and co-coordinator of the North American Region of La Via Campesina.
What does climate change have to do with armed conflicts erupting throughout the developing world? In his new book TROPIC OF CHAOS: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE NEW GEOGRAPHY VIOLENCE, Christian Parenti argues that a new era of climate war is upon us.
Extreme weather brought on by global warming is unleashing cascades of unrest and violence from Africa to Asia to the Americas—across a belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial states straddling the planet’s mid-latitudes, the “tropic of chaos.” On this episode of Locus Focus, Christian Parenti talks with host Barbara Bernstein about the catastrophic convergence of colliding political, economic and environmental disasters unfolding in the wake of the accelerating climate crisis.
Christian Parenti is a contributing editor at The Nation, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, and a visiting scholar at the City University of New York. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from the London School of Economics. The author of Lockdown America, The Soft Cage, and The Freedom. Parenti has written for Fortune, The New York Times, Los AngelesTimes, Washington Post, Playboy, Mother Jones, and The London Review of Books. He has held fellowships from the Open Society Institute, Rockefeller Brother Fund and the Ford Foundation; and has won numerous awards, including the 2009 Lange-Tailor Prize and “Best Magazine Writing 2008” from the Society for Professional Journalists. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
THE FATE OF COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON Continuing Our Conversation with Environmental Writer Steven Hawley
Any day now U.S. District Judge James Redden will come down with a decision that will determine the fate of salmon on the Columbia River. He is considering the merits of a plan submitted last year by the Obama administration to address the significant harm done to salmon by the gauntlet of federal dams along the river system, that juvenile salmon must navigate on their way out to the ocean and surmount again three to five years later when they return as adults to spawn. This plan is almost indistinguishable from previous plans that were rejected by the courts. The plan currently under scrutiny also rolls back important protections now in place and will cost almost $1 billion per year over the next 10 years.
On this episode of Locus Focus, environmental writer Steven Hawley returns to examine the possible scenarios for the future of Columbia River salmon, and what options are being considered while all parties await Judge Redden's impending decision.
Steven Hawley is the author of Recovering a Lost River, which describes the difficult passage salmon have navigating the federal agencies charged with their protection, a journey as challenging as surviving the dams along the Columbia River.
COSMIC INFLUENCES ON AGRICULTURAL PROCESSES: A Conversation with Organic Farming Pioneer Harry MacCormack
Harry MacCormack is legendary in the annals of the Oregon organic farming movement. A co-founder of Oregon Tilth, he has gone on to help organize numerous other sustainable food projects including the Ten Rivers Food Web and the Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project. On this episode of Locus Focus, Harry joins host Barbara Bernstein to talk about his new book, COSMIC INFLUENCES ON AGRICULTURAL PROCESSES, which concerns itself with the impact of celestial forces on agriculture in the Willamette Valley. We'll also discuss how climate change and other potential cataclysms need to be factored into future agricultural scenarios for the region.
Harry MacCormack has been living and farming on Sunbow Farm outside of Corvallis, Oregon since 1972.
For more information on where to find locally grown seed and grain in the Willamette Valley:
Portland is becoming a mecca for urban farmers but the city's zoning codes have yet to fully catch up with the growing phenomenon of guerrilla vegetable gardens and urban livestock. Recognizing the connections between food and the community’s environmental, economic and physical health, the City of Portland has initiated a project to update its zoning code to promote traditional and emerging ways of producing and distributing food. On this episode of Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein is joined by Steve Cohen, who heads all things related to food for the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. We talk about developing new zoning codes that encourage the proliferation of farmers markets, community gardens, community food distribution and urban farm animals, while also ensuring that the urban agricultural movement in Portland is well integrated and beneficial to the surrounding neighborhoods.
Steve Cohen manages food policy and programs for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. He focuses on all aspects of a sustainable food system including planning, food security, education, economic development, urban agriculture, purchasing, composting, and climate change. Steve also staffs the Portland-Multnomah County Food Policy Council. Over the past 30 years he has played key roles in establishing indoor and outdoor festival markets, performing arts venues and community spaces in Oregon.
This spring there has been so much water rushing down the Columbia River, fed by overabundant snow packs from the Rockies to the Cascades, that a surplus of electricity is overwhelming the power grid. So instead of spilling more water over the dams, the Bonneville Power Administration decided to shut off electricity generated by the windfarms that now dot the hills above the Columbia River. They claim this measure is meant to protect salmon.
This week environmental journalist Steven Hawley returns to Locus Focus to dispute the BPA's claim. We'll talk about why spilling water over the dams is good for young salmon making their way to the ocean and how BPA policy is part of an orthodoxy of old ideas that threaten the very survival of this iconic fish.
Steven Hawley, an environmental journalist, was among the first to write about the historic agreement to tear out Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Maine. Since then, his work has appeared in High Country News, Bear Deluxe, National Fisherman, OnEarth, Arizona Quarterly, the Oregonian, and Missoula Independent. He lives with his family along the Columbia River. His most recent book, Recovering a Lost River, was published this spring.
After many years of being considered the carbon-emitting elephant in the room, now China is being touted as the new leader in green and carbon-reducing technologies. A new report produced by the Climate Group describes China's plans, spelled out in its 12th Five Year Plan covering 2011 - 2015 to curb its carbon emissions and set significant targets for low-carbon energy, energy efficiency and clean technology over the next five years.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with one of the authors of this report, Allison Hannon. We look at what kind of sustainability leader China can actually be, since it plans to downsize its carbon footprint by relying more heavily on massive hydro projects and nuclear power, while still depending upon coal for two-thirds of its energy generation.
Allison Hannon is the co-author of a new and comprehensive report Delivering Low Carbon Growth – A Guide to the 12th Five Year Plan which considers how the Chinese government will deliver real carbon savings that could begin to curb national green house gas emissions, unlock new investment opportunities and ensure that China is seen to be pulling its weight on international climate targets.
Andrew Revkin's Dot Earthblog covers climate change, the environment and sustainability, and introduces itself in this way: "By 2050 or so, the human population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life." This year the earth's population is expected to exceed 7 billion people.
On this episode of Locus Focus Andrew joins host Barbara Bernstein to discuss the environmental significance of humanity eclipsing 7 billion and the impact it will have on climate change and the already over-stressed resources and carrying capacity of our planet.
Andrew “Andy” Revkin is one of the world’s leading environmental journalists. For 15 years, he covered the environmental beat for The New York Times, and his Dot Earth blog remains a popular mainstay at nytimes.com. He has 25 years' experience in environmental reporting, is a world traveler, is the author of several books on environmental issues and is also the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University.
It's been over a year since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig in the Gulf of Mexico produced one of the worst environmental, economic and social disasters this country has ever experienced. This event should have become what some call a teachable moment - when this country would take a hard look at our addiction to oil and recognize its untenable consequences. But as we've seen, this hasn't happened.
Soon after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. 2010, environmental writer and advocate Carl Safina traveled to the Gulf to find out firsthand what was going on. The result of this months' long Odyssey is a new book, A Sea in Flames, in which he takes us across the Gulf of Mexico to make sense of an ever-changing story and its often-nonsensical twists. On this episode of Locus Focus, Carl joins host Barbara Bernstein to deconstruct the series of calamitous misjudgments that caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout during the summer of 2010.
A Sea in Flames is ultimately an indictment of America’s main addiction. Safina writes: “In the end, this is a chronicle of a summer of pain—and hope. Hope that the full potential of this catastrophe would not materialize, hope that the harm done would heal faster than feared, and hope that even if we didn’t suffer the absolute worst—we’d still learn the big lesson here. We may have gotten two out of three. That’s not good enough. Because: there’ll be a next time.”
Carl Safina’s childhood by the shore launched a lifelong passion that led to scientific studies of seabirds and fish, a PhD in Ecology from Rutgers University and then a career as a leading voice for conservation. Dr. Safina saw fish as wildlife and brought ocean conservation issues into the wildlife conservation mainstream. He helped lead campaigns that ultimately banned high-seas driftnets, overhauled U.S. fisheries law, used international agreements toward restoring tunas, sharks, and other fishes, achieved a United Nations fisheries treaty, and reduced albatross and sea turtle drownings on commercial fishing lines.
Dr. Safina founded Blue Ocean Institute in 2003. He and the Institute crew work to highlight and explain how the oceans are changing and what the changes mean for wildlife and for people. Safina is author of over one hundred publications. His books include Song for the Blue Ocean, Eye of the Albatross, Voyage of the Turtle, Nina Delmar: The Great Whale Rescue and The View From Lazy Point; A Natural Year in an Unnatural World. Safina’s newest book is A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout.
Genetic diversity is nature's path to survival. But over the course of agricultural history human beings have done an exceptional job at narrowing the genetic diversity of the crops we grow and eat. This limiting of the genetic pool ultimately results in crop failures and famine when disease or pestilence strikes. For the past century several scientists have worked tirelessly to rebuild a repository of seed varieties from around the world that can be used as breeding stock to breed new varieties of crops, such as wheat, that are resistant to whatever the current pestilence may be. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Susan Dworkin, whose book THE VIKING IN THE WHEAT FIELD, portrays the struggle of scientist Bent Skovmand to preserve the world's harvests, by insisting on keeping precious plant genetic resources free and accessible to farmers and breeders everywhere. The story of Skovmand, who died in 2007, is especially relevant in this age of genetically engineered crops, as Monsanto and other chemical companies jealously guard patents of plant breeding and sue farmers whose crops are accidentally contaminated by their neighbors' GMO crops.
Susan Dworkin has written several biographies, including The Nazi Officer's Wife, and her articles have appeared in numerous magazines.