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.
The storm surge generated by Hurricane Sandy, flooding significant areas across Greater New York and New Jersey, demonstrated that the specter of climate change and the disasters it will wreak are now upon us. As the Northeast engages in a slow recovery from the storm's damage, a debate is now raging about how to prevent similar destruction from the inevitable next super storm.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with climate scientist Todd Sanford about the public health impacts of climate change-induced storms such as Sandy, and what it will take to build communities that are more resilient to the ravages of extreme weather events in a warming world.
Todd Sanford is a climate scientist with the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. His main areas of focus are the public health impacts of climate change and the "social cost" of carbon—the various financial costs associated with climate change.
Rebroadcast of program originally aired on 3/7/2011
Until World War II, Odessa was one of Europe's great multicultural cities, a place of optimism and light. For nearly a century its colorful street life inspired poets and writers like Alexander Pushkin, Mark Twain and Isaac Babel. It was also a major center of Jewish culture, and by 1941 Odessa had 200,000 Jews living within its bounds—over a third of its population. But by the end of the war there were only 48 Jews left. Many had perished in a gruesome—but still largely unknown—episode of the Holocaust.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with historian Charles King, author of Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams. His new book explores the greatest port on the Black Sea, examining the enduring mystery at the heart of Odessa’s story: how a city once known for its freewheeling and cosmopolitan culture ended up nearly destroying itself during the Second World War.
Charles King lives in Washington, DC, where he is a professor of international affairs and government at Georgetown University. He is the author of four books on Eastern Europe and a frequent commentator on events in the region for television, radio, and the press.
At 6:30 in evening on Hiroshima Day this month, the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond exploded in a massive fire, spreading a mushroom cloud of thick black smoke over the homes and gardens of the residents of this marginalized community. That night thousands of people flocked to local hospitals complaining of respiratory problems. No one seems to know what toxins were contained in that dark cloud that settled over the city for a couple hours, before the winds changed and the toxic cloud dispersed above more affluent communities. In the aftermath of the fire which burned out of control for over six house, Richmond residents not only worry about the toxins they may have inhaled during the fire. They are worried about what poisons linger on the plants in their vegetable gardens and in the soil, rendering their gardens toxic.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Doria Robinson, who heads Urban Tilth, a Richmond resident-run urban agriculture program, operating 11 different school and community gardens in the city. She'll talk about why it's urgent to hold Chevron accountable for the release of a myriad of dangerous contaminants into the air, that among other things, may result in the potential loss of thousands of pounds of food grown by local school children and residents, intended to help alleviate problems of food scarcity.
Urban Tilth cultivates agriculture in west Contra Costa County to help its community build a more sustainable, healthy, and just food system. They work with schools, community-based organizations, government agencies, businesses, and individuals to develop the capacity to produce 5% of their own food supply. Urban Tilth believes that environmental restoration is inextricably connected to economic and social restoration. They are committed to training and employing local people, working collaboratively within the community, engaging in local policy decisions and growing their food (and themselves), locally and organically.
Doria Robinson is a 3rd generation resident of Richmond, California and the Executive Director of Urban Tilth. Formally trained as a Watershed Restoration Ecologist, Doria has also worked on organic farms in Western Massachusetts where she attended Hampshire College; at Veritable Vegetable, a women owned organic produce distribution company; Real Food Company and Mixed Nuts Food Co-op. She is passionate about physical, social and economic health being dependent upon ecological health; the restoration of one depends on the restoration of the other. She was recognized as Environmental Advocate of the Year for Contra Costa County and as Woman of the Year for Contra Costa County in 2010 and in 2011 she was presented with a Community Resiliency Leadership Award from Bay Localize. Doria currently lives in the neighborhood she grew up in in Richmond with her wonderful 10 year old twins.
Learn more about Urban Tilth and how you can support their efforts to keep growing abundant gardens in Richmond in the aftermath of the August 6 refinery fire by visiting their facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/urban.tilth
Urban Tilth is featured in an upcoming documentary film Gaining Ground, produced and directed by Elaine Velazquez and Barbara Bernstein. You can learn more about the film and see a clip featuring Doria Robinson at http://mediaprojectonline.org/
A preview edit of Gaining Ground will be screened at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, OR on September 13.
Portland has long been a center of ad-hoc urban agriculture. For many decades, Portlanders have grown vegetables in their backyards. Over the past 30 plus years, community gardens have sprung up where people without adequate yard space can also garden. And now an increasing number of folks are raising livestock in town as well. The City of Portland has supported in theory this booming movement of farmers' markets, community gardens, backyard farming, community supported agriculture and food buying clubs. But zoning code regulations have not kept pace and in many cases are cumbersome or contradictory.
So now the City of Portland has approved an updated food zoning code. It's the city's first broad look at how regulations affect the activities associated with growing and distributing food in our neighborhoods. And hopefully the new code will reflect the changes and needs of a city that is trying to feed itself.
On this episode of Locus Focus we find out about how this new code will hopefully encourage more agricultural activities within the city, as we talk with Portland's "food czar" Steve Cohen and senior planner Jessica Richman, who is part of the team that wrote Portland's new food zoning code.
TEN YEARS AFTER THE BISCUIT FIRE: A RETROSPECTIVE IN A SUMMER OF FIRE
In mid July of 2002 a series of lightning strikes ignited a number of small fires in some very remote mountainous areas of SW Oregon. The fires merged into what became known as the Biscuit Fire, the largest fire that year in North America. Burning across an area of over 500,000 acres it was the largest fire in Oregon history - until this summer. Once the fire was extinguished political conflagrations erupted over how to manage the fire-affected wilderness landscape. Those arguments are still echoing ten years later as we experience another summer of extreme wildfires across the West.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk again with forest ecologist Dominick DellaSala about the lessons learned from the Biscuit Fire. We'll discuss why there is a key difference between the impact of that fire - and other large Oregon wildfires - and the devastating human toll that this summer's fires in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico are taking. Could it have something to do with Oregon's land use laws?
Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is an internationally renowned author of over 150 technical papers, including the award winning “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World” (www.islandpress.org/dellasala). He has appeared in National Geographic, Science Digest, Science Magazine, Time Magazine, Audubon Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, High Country News, Terrain Magazine, NY Times, LA Times, USA Today, Jim Lehrer News Hour, CNN, MSNBC, “Living on Earth (NPR),” several PBS wildlife documentaries and is a frequent guest on Locus Focus. Dominick co-founded the Geos Institute in July 2006. He is motivated by leaving a living planet for his daughter and all those to follow.
Johnson Creek flows 26 miles from its headwaters near the Sandy River to its confluence with the Willamette River, passing through five cities (Gresham, Portland, Milwaukie, Damascus, and Happy Valley) and two counties (Clackamas and Multnomah) along the way. Once a favorite camping and fishing spot for Native people, the creek was degraded by decades of abuse when white settlers took over the landscape. For years, Johnson Creek was known primarily as an eyesore that frequently flooded. Over the last few decades a growing number of people have become determined to right past wrongs in the Johnson Creek Watershed and return the creek to something of its former natural glory. In the mid-1980s, a small grassroots group called the Friends of Johnson Creek (also known as the Johnson Creek Marching Band) began leading tours of Johnson Creek, highlighting it as a community asset. It was the first time that any group had portrayed Johnson Creek in a positive light publicly. These days the Johnson Creek Watershed Council is the official body that oversees the restoration, enhancement and protection of the creek.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Robin Jenkinson, JCWC Restoration Coordinator and author of the recent State of the Watershed Report for Johnson Creek, that looks at several areas of concern in the Johnson Creek Watershed: fish and wildlife, shade and temperature, streamflow, turbidity, pollution and a 2020 vision for the creek.
Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground. No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Abrahm Lustgarten, whose recent series of articles for ProPublica, investigates a legion of problems and potential catastrophes inherent with the practice of pumping deadly toxins beneath the surface of the earth.
Abrahm Lustgarten writes about energy, water, climate change and anything else having to do with the environment. Before coming to ProPublica in 2008, he was a staff writer and contributor for Fortune, and has written for Wired, Salon, Esquire, the Washington Post and the New York Times. At ProPublica, his investigation into fracking for natural gas was recognized with the George Polk award for environmental reporting, a National Press Foundation award for best energy writing and a Sigma Delta Chi award. His reporting on BP and the Deepwater Horizon tragedy was nominated for an Emmy. Abrahm is the author of Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster and China’s Great Train: Beijing’s Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet.
It used to be that when people talked about the "Big One," they were referring to the next giant earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, that in the parlance of the time, might cause California to fall into the ocean. It turns out that the fault to watch is the much longer and potentially damaging Cascadia Subduction Zone, a fracture in the earth’s crust roughly 60 miles offshore, that starts just north of the San Andreas Fault in northern California and runs all the way to northern Vancouver Island. This fault generates a monster earthquake about every 500 years. The last time it shook was in 1700 and there is roughly a 30 percent chance that just such a disaster could happen within the next fifty years. Or it could happen during this episode of Locus Focus, when we will be talking with Jerry Thompson, a journalist who has been following this story for twenty-five years, and is author of Cascadia’s Fault, which tells the tale of this potentially devastating earthquake and the killer waves it will spawn.
Jerry Thompson has worked as a radio and television reporter in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver and as a network news correspondent on assignments around the world. He has covered everything from forestry and fishing to earthquakes and tsunamis. From geo-engineering the climate, to the ozone hole in Australia, to the struggling Sandinista government in Nicaragua, to ethnic civil war in Sri Lanka, and the chemical disaster in Bhopal. In January 1994, he began writing and directing hour-long documentaries in partnership with his wife, producer Bette Thompson, through their production company, Raincoast Storylines Ltd. In between documentary projects, Jerry has written two screenplays, a television series pilot, and is currently at work on a novel. The Thompsons live in the village of Sechelt on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.
HARVEST THE WIND: An Interview with Author and Environmental Lawyer Philip Warburg
Wth the rising threat of climate change and the steady depletion of fossil fuels, wind power is arguably the only renewable energy resource ready to meet a significant portion of our energy needs. Yet on a national level, the United States has failed to make a meaningful commitment to support further development of wind's full potential to generate electricity. Wind power does not only meet resistance from the fossil fuel industry. Its critics also include segments of the environmental movement, who raise concerns about bird and bat kills and possible health risks from living close to industrial-strength wind farms, which they also view as eyesores on the landscape. On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with environmental lawyer Philip Warburg, whose new book Harvest The Wind, reveals both the remarkable growth of a breakthrough technology and the formidable challenges it faces.
Philip Warburg was president of the Conservation Law Foundation in New England, from 2003 to 2009. Previously he was an attorney at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. He has also worked with governments and citizen groups on anti-pollution initiatives in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and across Eastern Europe
Over the past 100 years, levels of carbon in the atmosphere have risen 30%—to 393 parts per million. One thing that has kept global warming in check is that the oceans absorb a third of that carbon dioxide. Until recently the process of oceans soaking up our excess CO2 was considered beneficial. But the 22 million tons per day of carbon dioxide that the oceans are taking up is beginning to wreak havoc on ocean ecosystems. Scientists are discovering that all this carbon dioxide is causing the ocean to rapidly acidify, changing ocean ecosystems in profound ways.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Brita Belli, editor of E Magazine and author of the lead article in this month's issue: "This Is Your Ocean On Acid." We'll discuss how ocean acidification is threatening nearly every aspect of the ocean food web, from shellfish to coral reefs.
Brita Belli is editor of E and author of The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates.