Living on Earth: Beyond the Headlines

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Broadcast date: week of December 10, 2021


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Indigenous groups in Peru and Ecuador unveil plan to protect 80% of the Amazon at their borders by 2025 (Photo: World Water Forum, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

This week on Beyond the Headlines, Environmental Health News Editor-in-Chief Peter Dykstra joins host Bobby Bascomb to talk about a plan by indigenous groups in Peru and Ecuador to protect 80% of the world. ‘Amazonia in these countries; a hidden gem in the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will help salmon swim freely; and in the story, a look back at a deadly fog in London.

Transcription

BASCOMB: Well, it’s time for a trip now from Beyond the Headlines with Peter Dykstra. Peter is editor-in-chief for Environmental Health News. It’s ehn.org and dailyclimate.org. Hi, Peter, what do you have for us this week?

DYKSTRA: Hi, Bobby. I’m watching a report from a large nonprofit site called Mongabay, that indigenous groups are submitting a plan to the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments to protect 80% of the Amazon rainforest in those two countries.

BASCOMB: Whoa. 80%. It’s enormous. But of course most of the Amazon is in Brazil, which is, you know, less receptive to that sort of thing, I think.

DYKSTRA: That’s right, the Bolsonaro government is seen as quite hostile to most environmental protection measures. They have set their sights on the Brazilian Amazon for increased levels of exploitation. But at least there is good news from the Amazon upstream area. 86 million acres could be protected if this proposal is passed. It’s just slightly smaller than the US state of Montana, the fourth largest US state.

BASCOMB: Well, it’s still huge. And I mean, there is so much biodiversity, in this part of the world. I guess this is part of the 30 by 30 initiative to protect 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.

DYKSTRA: Yeah, and it’s an important piece that could be one of the first to be performed.

BASCOMB: Mm hmm. Well what else do you have for us this week?

Hidden in the infrastructure bill is a plan to help remove obstacles, like culverts, from the path of salmon in rivers. (Photo: USFWS Southwest Pacific, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

DYKSTRA: Another piece of good news that was hidden in the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. When you have a $ 1.2 trillion bill, you can hide a lot of little billion dollar sweet nuggets in it, and not many people will notice. One of them is a billion dollar fund to help salmon swim freely under bridges, culverts and other areas, where anadromous fish like salmon move up the river to spawn. Anadromous being one of my favorite words.

BASCOMB: It’s a big anadromous word, of course, which means they live most of their lives in the ocean, but return to freshwater to spawn.

DYKSTRA: That’s right. The sturgeon is another example here on the east coast.

BASCOMB: And in doing so, they realize that they run into a lot of these little obstacles along the way that this money would help remove.

DYKSTRA: Yeah, man-made blockages and put a road over a creek, put a creek in a culvert or a tunnel. If you’re a salmon, and of course I’m not saying you’re Bobby, but if you were, it would be a tough swim to get back upstream to spawn and die and keep your species alive.

BASCOMB: Yeah, it’s a tough life being a salmon these days, I’m afraid. And I know there are a lot of these little dams across the country. You know, the big dams have been removed, like in Washington state. But there’s a lot of these little dams that maybe haven’t been used for 100 years to grind wheat back then that’s still standing and blocking the way for a lot of these fish.

DYKSTRA: Or obsolete dams that were meant to generate relatively small amounts of electrical power that broke down. The Elwha River in Washington, one of the largest. Another is the Penobscot River in Maine. Free-flowing rivers are good news for everyone, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good billion dollar investment.

London’s deadly smog in December 1952 finally lifted after days of blanketing the city. (Photo: geograph.org.uk, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

BASCOMB: Mm hmm. Yeah, I would agree with you. Well, what have you got in the history books for us this week?

DYKSTRA: On December 9, 1952, a deadly fog that had covered the city of London for several days finally lifted. There were as many as 12,000 Londoners who may have died from the mixed impact of hazy weather, ground-level ozone, better known as smog, and pollution from factories. The United States went through much the same thing. There was another deadly fog in Dinorah, Pa. Outside Pittsburgh in 1948 that struck a steel mill and zinc smelter town in the industrial belt just upstream of Pittsburgh.

BASCOMB: I guess the smog in London was at least so bad that they’re actually called pea soups. You know the air was so dirty that people got hit by cars and trucks even because they just couldn’t be seen.

DYKSTRA: They were. London has always been a foggy place historically. When the industrial age hit, it became a more deadly hazy place, leading to laws even before the United States passed its own clean air laws.

BASCOMB: Alright, thank you, Peter. Peter Dykstra is editor-in-chief for Environmental Health News. It’s ehn.org and dailyclimate.org. We’ll talk to you again very soon, Peter.

DYKSTRA: Alright, Bobby, thank you very much. See you soon.

BASCOMB: And there’s more about those stories on the Living on Earth website. This is loe.org.

Connections

Learn more about indigenous groups protecting the Amazon

Learn more about the agreement to help salmon swim freely

Learn about London’s deadly fog

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