Heavy Weather

Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 02/08/2010

The Copenhagen Climate Talks yielded disappointing results. But there are many effective initiatives we can take to reduce global greenhouse emissions that don't require international treaties. HEAVY WEATHER, a new radio documentary by Barbara Bernstein explores the connections between increasing extreme weather and our changing climate and landscapes. It presents solutions that are community driven, based on decisions we make to change the ways we live and travel. Changes that actually can improve our quality of life.

For a hundred years people in the Pacific Northwest—and much of the world— have transformed the landscape to suit their needs. At the same time we’ve pumped enough greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to transform the climate, forcing us now to rethink the shape and placement of our built environments. Now the burden of past decisions rests on our shoulders. Heavy Weather looks at what kinds of choices we can make to lighten that burden for future generations.

HEAVY WEATHER spends time in several communities around the Pacific Northwest, contrasting differing responses to the dramatic flooding that has occurred in the past 14 years and which will probably increase as the climate changes. It looks at the important role that remaining wetlands play in managing storm water in an ecological and healthful manner, as well as efforts to "re-nature" the city, like Portland's Environmental Services project, Tabor to the Willamette Project. HEAVY WEATHER explores how the transition from engineered solutions for managing water to natural processes, including protecting natural wetlands, helps clean our rivers, protect salmon and buffer us from flooding that will only get worse as the climate changes.

We hear the voices of climate scientist Philip Mote, ecologist Kathleen Sayce, environmental ethicist Kathleen Dean Moore, sustainable farmers in Oregon and Virginia, as well as elected officials in Lewis (WA) and Tillamook (OR) Counties, Metro councilor Rex Burkholder and Portland and Vancouver, WA mayors Sam Adams and Tim Leavitt. Portland's urban naturalist Mike Houck takes us on a tour of the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and wetland in the Sellwood district of Portland. Former Lewis County public works director Mark Cook shows us around the suburban sprawl spreading across the Chehalis River floodplain. And Portland State University faculty member Vivek Shandas guides us through the Brooklyn Basin, where Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services is trying to replicate with ecoroofs, curbside and parking lot swales and tree planting, the course and function of a historic creek that flows under the streets of  SE Portland on its way to the Willamette River.

HEAVY WEATHER was produced with funding from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Oregon Humanities (an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities) and the Ralph L. Smith Foundation.


is available on CD from Feather & Fin Productions, P.O. Box 82777, Portland, OR 97282. Check out the Heavy Weather Journal at



Fabulous show today!

Thanks, Barbara, for this excellent show.  I was amazed at not only the pithy substance (lots of easily understandable bites to chew on) but the rapid fire soundbites with excellent intros and IDs.  Really high quality radio!

- Jamie Partridge


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