Locus Focus

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.

Hosted by

Episode Archive

Locus Focus on 04/15/09

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
A conversation with economist Chuck Collins on restructuring tax codes to fuel economic recovery

If the most affluent 400 Americans as of 2006 had paid as much of their incomes in taxes as the top 400 did in 1955, the federal treasury would have collected an additional $35.9 billion more in revenue in 2006 just from these 400 ultra-rich individuals. Guest Chuck Collins (Locus Focus' official economist) co-authored a Tax Day report "Reversing the Great Tax Shift: Seven Steps to Finance Our Recovery Fairly,” which offers proposals that would raise $450 billion of revenue to support economic recovery. 

 Here are some of the reports modest proposals:
Introducing a modest financial transaction tax that will chill speculation and generate $100 billion a year.
Implementing an estate tax reform that taxes inheritances over $2 million at progressive rates.
Setting an emergency tax rate on extremely high incomes that would generate over $60 billion a year.
Eliminating the tax preference on capital gains and dividend income, generating $80 billion.
Closing overseas tax havens for individuals and corporations, generating $100 billion.
Scrapping $18 billion in tax breaks that subsidize excessive CEO compensation.
 
“By seriously taxing the top, as we did in the 1950s, we could raise the revenues we need to better invest in infrastructure, education, and retrofitting our energy system,” says Chuck Collins, an IPS senior scholar and co-author of the new IPS brief. “Appropriately targeted, higher taxes on the top would also serve to dampen the speculative frenzy that has cratered our economy.”

 

At 8:20 we're joined by journalist Reese Erlich, whose new book Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba explores Cuba’s strained history with the United States and the power of the Cuba Lobby. We'll talk about Obama's new Cuba policy and what impact that may have on improving the relationship between our countries.

 

Reese Erlich is the author of The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis and co-author of the best-selling Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, Latino USA, Radio Deutche Welle, Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio. He also writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, St. Petersburg Times, and Dallas Morning News.

Locus Focus on 04/08/09

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 04/08/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
Is nuclear power a solution for climate change?

In 1980 investigative journalist Karl Grossman wrote a book called "COVER UP: What you are not supposed to know about Nuclear Power." That was a year after the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power facility in Pennsylvania scared the nation into rethinking its faith in nuclear power as a source of energy too cheap to meter. After a thirty year hiatus, however, nuclear power is back on the table, this time touted as a carbon emission-free source of electricity. But Karl Grossman is still here to tell us what we're not supposed to know about Nuclear Power.

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 04/01/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
Does it make sense to replace the current bridge across the Columbia with a 12 lane megabridge?

Consensus is growing that the future bridge across the Columbia River on I5 will be a 12 lane mega bridge. But many people in the community disagree and are raising their voices in concern that such a massive infrastructure will encourage the kind of car and oil dependent way of life that many in the Northwest profess to want to change. Guests Mara Gross with the Coalition for a Livable Future, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty and Joe Kurmaskie, who is helping organize a rally on April 5 to oppose the mega bridge proposal, will discuss Columbia River Crossing alternatives that will not encourage sprawl and increase our carbon footprint.

A grassroots coalition of Portlanders and Vancouverites opposed to the current scope and direction of the Columbia River Crossing project will host an Opposition and Alternatives Rally at Waterfront Park. The event is schedued for noon, Sunday, April 5th, on the lawn of Portland's Waterfront Park - just north of the Hawthorne bridge. Rally organizers call this the opening salvo in a sustained campaign to block funding for the project in its current form, and to offer alternatives that match the desires of a community to be fiscally responsible, address environmental challenges and tackle livability issues effecting the region.  

"This part of the world has made truly sustainable choices in the past, an urban growth boundary, investment in mass transit, bicycle infrastructure and the stoppage of the Mt Hood Freeway and Harbor Highway," rally organizer Joe Kurmaskie said. " Innovative decisions that have made us an attractive city to live in or visit. Putting up a four billion dollar, 12 lane mega-bridge will change all that, and not for the better.

"The project is based on models done before peak oil and the arrival of an economic crisis that's changing every aspect of people's lives, including their transportation choices. The CRC is 20th century thinking applied to a very different world today. The Coalition For A Livable Future has long said that we can not hope to build our way out of congestion. As proposed, this bridge promotes single occupancy vehicle use, invites unchecked sprawl to southern Washington and opens the door to widening I-5 through the heart of Portland."

The Waterfront Park rally will include speakers, calls to action, information booths, distribution of lawn signs and tangible steps citizens can take to oppose the project, as well as the announcement of teach ins by smarterbidge.org, and other organized events in the future. Speakers will include elected officials, transportation experts and community leaders explaining their opposition to the project while proposing alternatives.

So far, confirmed to speak are former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (who give’s Al Gore’s climate change presentation all over the country), Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz (the only city council member who voted against moving forward on a 12-lane CRC bridge), and Metro Councilor Robert Liberty (who voted against the project in the past and has offered specific alternatives) and  Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocate and educator Michelle Poyourow.

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 03/25/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
In the past week there has been intense outrage over AIG executive bonuses and other manifestations

In the past week there has been intense outrage over AIG executive bonuses and other manifestations of corporate greed. How do we go beyond the angry mob mentality? Guest Rob Johnson, who co-wrote "Too Big to Bail: The 'Paulson Put,' Presidential Politics, and the Global Financial Meltdown" with Thomas Ferguson, provides a larger context for understanding the current financial crisis and analyzing the knee-jerk responses that currently rule in the mass media.

Robert Johnson was formerly a managing director at Soros Funds Management and chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee.You can read a recenty article by Johnson and Ferguson at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090309/ferguson_johnson?rel=hp_picks

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 03/18/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
Why we need to make the Holgate Channel Ross Island lagoon wake-free or non-motorized zones - and wh

Between Ross Island and the east bank of the Willamette lies the Holgate Channel, a patch of natural paradise only a couple miles south of downtown Portland. Sitting above the river on the eastbank, with osprey and eagles and blue herron as your companions, you have no idea you're anywhere near a city. . .except for the roar of jet skis and motor boat engines - not to mention the bass enhanced stereo systems booming across the river. Bob Sallinger, Urban Conservation director for the Portland Audubon Society has been working hard to create a wake-free zone in the Holgate Channel and ban motorized craft outright from neighboring Ross Island Lagoon. Tune in to hear why he believes this is necessary to make the Holgate Channel a safer place for humans and wildlife.

Bob Sallinger is the Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland where he has worked since 1992. His current responsibilities include managing the Audubon Statewide Important Bird Area in Oregon, recovery of imperiled species, promoting wildlife conservation in the Portland Metropolitan Region, and overseeing the Society's wildlife rehabilitation center. He has a particular interest in anthropogenic impacts on wildlife and promoting wildlife stewardship in urban ecosystems. His favorite pastime rappelling off Portland area bridges to monitor the region's growing population of bridge nesting peregrine falcons. 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 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, a cat (indoor!) and a couple of chickens

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 03/11/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
Now that the Bush adminstration is history how do we hold Bush and his advisors and their cronies in

The Bush administration is now history but its legacy continues to tear the world apart. Senator Patrick Leahy wants to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commision, modeled after ones in South Africa and Latin America - to probe the potentially criminal actions of this administration but many people are calling for stronger measures to hold these culprits accountable for the pain and destruction they have caused. A couple weeks comedian Bill Maher suggested executing a couple bankers who "poisoned our financial markets with tainted investments" as a warning to other greedy financial captains. A more serious proposal has been offered in an commentary for New American Media by today's Locus Focus guest Roberto Cintli Rodriguez.

Locus Focus

Categories:
Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 03/04/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
Nuclear energy, long discredited as a dangerous and costly source of power, is now being ressurected

Thirty years ago this country's nuclear program came to a halt after the disasterous accident and meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania. Since then we are still debating how to safely store in perpetuity countless tons of high level radioactive waste that is the legacy of this program that once promised "energy too cheap to meter," but resulted in massive cost-overuns and environmental hazards. So why has the nuclear option returned to the table as we look for alternatives to carbon emitting climate changing fossil fuels? What forgotten lessons of the 1970s do we need to remember?

Locus Focus on 02/25/09

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 02/25/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am

Pratap Chatterjee talks about why the privatized, outsourced military Barack Obama has inherited from the Bush administration will prove a done deal.  Pratap Chatterjee's article, "The Military's Expanding Waistline, What Will Obama Do with KBR?," appears at http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175036

Pratap Chatterjee is an investigative journalist and producer and the program, director/managing editor of Corpwatch. He is the author of Iraq Inc.: A Profitable Occupation and The Earth Brokers. He hosted a weekly radio show on Berkeley station KPFA, was a global environment editor for InterPress Service, and wrote for the Financial Times, the Guardian, and the Independent of London. He has won five Project Censored awards as well as a Silver Reel from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for his work in Afghanistan, and the best business story award from the National Newspaper Association (U.S.), among others. He has appeared as a commentator on numerous radio and television shows ranging from BBC World Service, CNN International, Democracy Now!, Fox, and MSNBC. The winner of a Lannan Cultural Freedom Award in 2006, he lives in Oakland, California.

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 02/18/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
A look at the political and psychological as well as economic implications of the new economic stimu

President Obama has just signed an 787 billion dollar stimulus package into law. So what does it all mean and what can we hope for? Locus Focus Resident Economist Chuck Collins joins Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein to discuss the political and psychological implications - as well as economic - of the struggle to get this package enacted. Is it big enough to really have any impact? What else is needed to turn the economy around?

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy (IPS) and directs IPS’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is an expert on U.S. inequality and author of several books, including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity (New Press, 2005). He coordinates a national effort to preserve the federal estate tax, our nation’s only tax on inherited wealth. He co-authored with Bill Gates Sr., Wealth and Our Commonwealth, a case for taxing inherited fortunes.

In 1995, he co-founded United for a Fair Economy (UFE) to raise the profile of the inequality issue and support popular education and organizing efforts to address inequality. In 1997, he co-founded Responsible Wealth, a project of UFE to bring together business leaders and investors to publicly speak out against economic policies and corporate practices that worsen economic inequality. He was Executive Director of UFE from 1995-2001 and Program Director until 2005.

Locus Focus

Program: 
Locus Focus
Air date: 
Wed, 02/11/2009 - 8:00am - 9:00am
Short Description: 
What are the links between economic stimulus and health care?

This week the news is about Obama's economic stimulus package passing the Senate and about to be enacted into law. Last week it was about Tom Daschel, Obama's nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services, having to withdraw his name because of his problems with the IRS. So what are the connections between economic stimulus and health care? Barbara Dudley, a regular guest on Locus Focus, joins host Barbara Bernstein, in a discussion about these links. . .and more.

Audio

A CATASTROPHIC CONVERGENCE: The Oil Spill in the Yellowstone River & the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 07/18/2011

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.

TROPIC OF CHAOS: An Interview with Christian Parenti

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 07/11/2011

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.

Christian Parenti will be appearing at Powell's City of Books at 1005 NW Burnside, this evening, July 11 at 7:30 pm.

THE FATE OF COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON Continuing Our Conversation with Environmental Writer Steven Hawley

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 07/04/2011

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

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 06/27/2011

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:

http://willametteseedandgrain.com/

PORTLAND'S FOOD ZONING CODE UPDATE PROJECT

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 06/20/2011

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.

DAMNED DAMS, SALMON & THE COLUMBIA RIVER

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 06/13/2011

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.

WILL CHINA BECOME THE WORLD'S LEADER IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 06/06/2011

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.

IN THE YEAR OF SEVEN BILLION: An Interview with Andrew Revkin

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 05/23/2011

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.

A SEA IN FLAMES: An Interview with author Carl Safina

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 05/16/2011

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.

THE VIKING IN THE WHEAT FIELD: An Interview with Author Susan Dworkin

Categories:
program: 
Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 05/09/2011

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.

Comments

Global Warming

Barbara, I hope you might forward my comments to your guest. I was only able to listen to part of today's program but I am very interested. I want to raise my concerns about two prevailing frames that arise on your show and throughout serious discussion of climate change that I believe do great damage to the efforts to raise the awareness of the public and help them understand the urgency needed when addressing this issue.
First is the frame that global warming is happening slowly and will continue to do so. I do not believe the facts support such an assertion and not only does no one know that warming will not suddenly serge forward it seems to be doing exactly that. A report out last week raised the projected temperature for the planet by the end of the century to 9F from 4F degrees. That means that we are going to hit 4F by---2040? Until recently no one imagined the arctic ice cap could melt in anything like our lifetimes but in fact it will and it may do so as soon as 2013! The problem with the frames that give people the impression that GW is a slow process is that it provides fauls comfort, "Oh, technology will fix it before it happens," or "It is not my problem." Neither one is the case but too many people still think that way. So please start using a different frame from "by the end of the century," or “future generations." Instead say "within our life times," and stress the urgency. After all it is much more accurate to say catastrophic climate change is happening right now.

The second frame is that one cannot attribute any given weather event to global warming. That is only partly true. In fact one might say that you cannot not attribute any given weather event to climate change such is the post-industrial influence on the pre-industrial trajectory of the climate---we have departed the Holocene and are in the Antropocene some scientist tell us. It is like a basketball launched toward a basket that gets tipped by one of the players. Its trajectory is for ever changed. I think it is more accurate to say that the weather everywhere and everyday has been influence to some degree by GW. This is important because the frame that one cannot tell if an event is caused by climate change is asking them not to believe there own "eyes," experiences, or impressions which are often very astute. For instance in Oklahoma where I grew up we used to have thunderstorms in April and the 100F days did not come until late July. This year they had wild fires near Oklahoma City in April and the temperatures have been in the hundreds throughout much of this June---that has increasingly become the trend and is consistent with climate change projections. Now Oklahomans should by all rights believe that what they are experiencing is in fact global warming. It may be noted that Inhofe is a Senator from Oklahoma and one of the most radical global warming deniers and obstructionist in government.
I have been keeping up with this issue for a long time now and am alarmed at the rapidity that things are taking place. I truly believe we are probably in for crop failures, water shortages, and mass migrations here in North America, in this country, within our lifetimes and whereas I think there is a fine line to be drawn to not panic or send people into despair I think scientist tend to be much too measured in their statements. It is as though there is smoke billowing out of the projection room and the scientists don’t want be caught dead yelling fire in a crowded theater because there is no "proof" that there is in fact a fire.
Scientist have long dismissed the near term risk of a methane/co2 release from the arctic or the ocean meanwhile there is growing indications that that is exactly what is happening. As a NASA scientist you should know that a huge methane release was detected on Mars a few years ago and that is within a much more static system than ours----that should give us pause!
The public needs to be prepared in case there is a sudden spike in methane from the Arctic so I hope in the future Barbara you will direct your discussions of climate change toward the rapidity of changes already taking place and the potential danger of being too complacent and smug about what we know and what we think we do or do not know. Thank you.

Global Warming

I recently interviewed Phil Mote who has replaced climate change denier George Taylor as Oregon's State Climatologist. Like any careful scientist Mote does not feel comfortable attributing specific weather events to climate change. But he gave me a analogy that I like: It's like playing Russian Roulette and adding a second bullet to the chamber of the revolver. If you blow your head off it doesn't really matter whether it was the original bullet or added bullet that did you in.

Solar Energy

I echo Bruce's concerns and add commentary based on  Mon - 14 - Sep show.

While I support solar energy, I warn against pie-in-the-sky proposals that make it sound like we can find new sources to keep living our wasteful lives. The scale of the problem is lost when we pretend that putting solar panels on 100 roofs signifies real change.

There is some hope to be found in using solar power efficiently. This does NOT include powering electric resistance heaters with photovoltaics. It does mean passive solar heating, solar hot water, and solar clothes driers (AKA clotheslines).

When you have used conservation and innovation to convert the wasteful electric grid into a sustainable system, then we can begin the conversation about supplimenting the system for our transportation problems. Until then, the only real sustainable alternatives to petroleum are wind, human, and animal powered vehicles. Coal and nuclear, the primary sources of new electricity, are polluting uses of nonrenewable resources.

Walk, ride a bicycle, sail (without motor), and use horse and ox cart, if you are truly concerned about the serious threat of climate change. Park your car forever. We cannot afford cars any longer.

- Vernon Huffman

   Corvallis, OR

today's show & "socialism"

i think now is a good time to talk more about what socialism actually is - common ownership of the means of production - and what is is not - redistributing wealth. you are right to continue pointing out that what obama is talking about is a progressive tax structure, not socialism.

the progressive tax idea actually comes from adam smith himself, "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." [from book 5, ch.2 on taxes]

Intro Music

The intro music to Locus Focus is a song by Hugh Masakela called "Change." It's on his album "Time," which came out a few years ago. I plan on playing the song each week until Robert Mugabe relinquishes power in Zimbabwe.

brain gender

Did you see the piece in the NY Times re schizophrenia and autism having possible roots in parental dna - that is mother mix:father's mix? That is female characteristics manifesting as schizophrenia from mother dna and autistic characteristics from father's?

 

Copyright © 2012 KBOO Community Radio | Community Guidelines | Website Illustration & Design by: KMF ILLUSTRATION