Sustainability Now! on KSQD 90.7, 89.5, 89.7 FM & KSQD.ORG

Every other Sunday from 5-6 PM

Sustainability Now! is underwritten by the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation

Radio Show #126: Cull of the Wild: Killing in the Name of Conservation with Hugh Warwick

Do you remember the Northern Spotted Owl, icon of the old-growth Redwood Wars of the 1990s?  Well, the Northern Spotted Owl is, once again, under threat.  This time, however, the threat comes from another species of owl, the Barred Owl, a larger and more aggressive bird native to the United States, whose range has been expanding westward as a result of development and climate change.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife has devised a plan to protect the Northern Spotted Owl: shoot Barred Owls.  Scientists, conservationists and the public are torn: should humans intervene to prevent animal extinctions by competitors and invasive species if they threaten the survival of endemic ones, or should we let nature take its course?  And since humans have intervened in nature for thousands of years, everyday and everywhere, what is the right thing to do?  How can we decide?

Join host Ronnie Lipschutz for a conversation with Hugh Warwick, spokesperson for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, who has been looking into this dilemma around the world. He has just published Cull of the Wild: Killing in the Name of ConservationWarwick is a frequent speaker on wildlife conservation in public talks and on British radio and TV. He also runs courses on hedgehog conservation.

That’s on Sustainability Now!, Sunday, July 21,2024, from 5-6 PM right here on community radio for the Monterey Bay Region, KSQD 90.7 FM, KSQT 87.9 FM, K207FE (FX) 89.5 and KSQD.org, streaming on the internet.

(Warwick with hedgehog photo © Zoe Broughton)

 

The world is awash in plastic. According to a study published in 2020, total production of plastics since 1950 is now over 10 billion tons, with more than half of that simply discarded.  And the production of plastics will only increase in the future.  There is a lot of oil and natural gas in the world and, if and when we wean ourselves from fossil fuels, oil and chemical companies will be looking for other places to use their stocks.

So far, only about one billion tons of plastic have been recycled—that is, put into the recycling chain.  What exactly has happened to that material is less clear.  Different types of plastic require different post-consumer processing to turn them back into pellets of raw material.  Most factories are set up to use only particular types of plastic and it is still cheaper to buy virgin pellets than recycled ones.  Are compostable plastics the solution?  What is a compostable plastic?  What is it made from?  How is it broken down?  Are there plastics that will simply decompose into constituent molecules by weathering and micro-organisms?  Questions, questions.  Are there answers?

Join host Ronnie Lipschutz for a chemistry and economics lesson from Dr. Susannah Scott, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and occupant of the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalytic Processing at the University of California Santa Barbara. Here I quote from a UCSB website: “Her research interests include the design of heterogeneous catalysts with well-defined active sites for the efficient conversion of conventional and new feedstocks, as well as environmental catalysts to promote air and water quality.”

According to those who know, we are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction, this one brought on by the activities of human civilization that are resulting in a species extinction rate that is estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than natural extinction rates.  So far, efforts to protect endangered plants, animals and insects have proven inadequate to the challenge.  What are we to do?

Join host Ronnie Lipschutz for a conversation with Professor Douglas Tallamy, who teaches in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.  He is the author of Nature’s Best Hope—a New Approach to conservation that Starts in Your Yard, published in 2019, and a just-published companion version for children, subtitled How You Can Save the World in Your Own Yard.  Both books propose what some might consider a radical approach to protecting species through transformation of front and back yards into conservation zones.

You probably receive an electricity bill every month from your local utility and, after complaining about it, dutifully pay it.  But do you ever stop to read your electricity bill?  If you are a customer of PG&E and, maybe, a local community choice aggregator, you receive 6 pages of unintelligible, closely-spaced text, numbers, graphs and acronyms.  As Groucho Marx might have said, “This is so simple, a PhD could read it.  Run out and find me a PhD!”

Join host Ronnie Lipschutz on Sustainability Now! when we offer “A Talmudic Exegesis: Reading and Interpreting Your Electricity Bill–A Talmudic Exegesis:.”  You will learn why your local the utility pays a wholesale price of only about 3 cents per kilowatt hour for renewable electricity while charging you 50 cents!  You’ll learn about PICA, which is not a small animal but, rather, the “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.”  And you’ll find out why your bill seems to be rising ever upward and why the newly-announced fixed charge, due to show up on your bill next year is unlikely to make it stop rising.

You can find a handout here, to be followed along with the broadcast: A Guide to Reading your Electric Bill.

Why do humans dominate nature and why have they done so?  Is it because of God told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”? Is it because capitalism sees the world in terms of scarcity and commodification and must find monetary value in everything?  Some psychologists and philosophers have proposed that we seek to overcome our fear of death by controlling that nature to which we must inevitably return when we die? Join Host Ronnie Lipschutz for a thought-provoking conversation with James Rowe, Associate Professor of Political Ecology and Cultural, Social, and Political Thought at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island, who has just published Radical Mindfulness—Why Transforming Fear of Death is Politically Vital.

The light and energy from the sun falls on us all, humans, animals and plants.  That light is what sustains life on Earth.  But that light can also be transformed into electricity by solar photovoltaics that are not cheap.  Is solar energy the common property of everyone on Earth or is it the exclusive property of those who can afford the technology to capture it?  In two weeks, on Sunday, May 12th, join me for a conversation with Anthropology Professor Kathryn Milun, from the University of Minnesota Duluth, who is head of the Solar Commons Project at the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, a project that seeks to create wealth from solar electricity for low-income communities and households.

Students eat.  But what do they eat?  And where does that food come from?  Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are trying to help small farms sell more of their organic produce to public schools, shortening the supply chain between farms and consumers and encouraging students to eat more salads and other healthy foods.  Join host Ronnie Lipschutz and guests Mireya Gomez-Contreras and Alma Leonor-Sanchez from Esperanza Community Farms in Watsonville, along with Pajaro Valley High students Mark Mendoza Luengas and Julio Gonzales, to hear about Esperanza’s farm to cafeteria program and their efforts to help Latine operators of small farms on the Central Coast to earn more revenue for their crops by selling directly to customers.

Bees are in danger; what can we do? Tune into a Sustainability Now! rebroadcast from 2021 to hear a conversation with Eve Bratman, an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Bratman is a political ecologist with interdisciplinary training utilizing social science to explore conservation and land use issues relating to sustainable development politics and policies.  She is author of Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development Politics in the Amazon, and is finishing her book, called Bee Politics: Protecting Pollinators and the Local-to-Global Challenge of Sustainability, which uses bees as a prism for seeing broader social and ecological phenomena and is premised upon revealing the ways that human society fumblingly strives to protect and preserve their roles in our lives.

You can find out more about Bratman’s research at http://www.evebratman.com/ and her work on bees at http://www.evebratman.com/bees/ and a recent article about beekeeping in the city at https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1002/pan3.10206?download=true

Solar electricity is the fuel of the future.  But can we go solar without damaging the environment?  Solar farms in distant places need transmission lines to get their product to the market.  Storage batteries, and especially electric vehicles, require lithium and the stuff must be mined somewhere.  And all the while, its seems that the solar enterprise is being undermined by the struggle to control where solar panels can go and who can decide how little wholesale power will cost and how much you, the consumer, will pay.

Join host Ronnie Lipschutz as he welcomes back SJSU Environmental Studies Professor Dustin Mulvaney, who has been looking into the environmental consequences of solar farms, transmission lines and mining in California’s “Lithium Valley.”

All of us—well, many of us—are backyard gardeners. And it’s planting season. Backyard gardens are not immune from the impacts of violent and unpredictable weather or the longer-term effects of climate change.  Join Ronnie Lipschutz for a conversation with Kim Stoddart, editor of Amateur Gardening and author of The Climate Change Resilient Vegetable Garden—How to Grow Food in a Changing Climate.  She lives and gardens in West Wales, where weather conditions are not always optimal.  Kind of like California.

We live in a Consumer Society.  Rising consumption is good, since it makes the economy grow.  At the same time, we face a Climate Crisis.  Rising consumption is bad, since it makes carbon emissions grow.  People across the Global North believe we must reduce emissions but they are reluctant to reduce their consumption. What can we do?  Some advocate ecological modernization by making our goods and services greener.  Others argue that only shrinking the economy–“degrowth”–will do the trick.  Maybe both are more mythic than technologically or politically feasible. Can we square the circle (or, maybe, circle the square?) and find a path to sustainability?

Join SN! host Ronnie Lipschutz for a thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Jean Boucher, about the promises and myths of sustainable consumption.  Boucher is a senior Research Scientist and Macaulay Development Trust Fellow in Land Use and Societal Metabolism at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland.  His research ranges from

The elephant seals are back!

The elephant seals have made their annual trip back to the California Coast!  During the winter months, Elephant Seals turn to love…and fighting… and feeding… and laying around in the sun and rain. This is the prime viewing season at Año Nuevo State Park and Point Reyes National Seashore, where you can watch the two-ton male seals fight bloody battles over the females, the females feeding their large and growing pups, and listen to the odd noises they produce (although they probably think humans make strange noises).

On Sunday, February 18th, 2024, we will rebroadcast an interview discussion with Dr. Theresa Keates, who is holds a UCSC PhD in Ocean Sciences and is currently a Legislative Analyst with the California Energy Commission. Keates’ dissertation research centered on deploying oceanographic tags on elephant seals, which offer both a source of valuable oceanographic data from remote regions as well as a unique platform to investigate these very large marine mammals.

Climate change is transforming what scientists call the land-sea interface, with crumbling cliffs, falling structures, tidal and storm flooding and loud homeowners demanding government action.  Should that interface be buttressed and built up to prevent further coastal erosion or is managed retreat a better strategy? Join host Ronnie Lipschutz for a conversation with Rosanna Xia (“Shaw”), an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020.  Xia has just published California Against the Sea—Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline.  She has traveled the state’s 1,200-mile coastline and talked to experts, politicians and the public to see what is happening, what communities are doing and what we can expect for our coastal future.

Energy has been with us for a long time and, over the past 100 years, fossil fuels have been cheap and plentiful.  Now we are going to have to pay the piper if we want to limit the future impacts of climate change.  How could that happen.  Tune in to hear Amory Lovins, cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and long time energy policy analyst and advisor to many utilities, regulators and businesses.  Almost 50 years ago, Lovins published a groundbreaking article in the journal, Foreign Affairs, entitled “Energy Strategy: The Road not Taken,” which recommended a renewable-based strategy over one based on oil, coal and nuclear power.  Surely, but slowly, that vision is being realized, albeit in a much more complicated and conflicted fashion.  Amory will talk about efficient energy use, integrative design, renewable supply (including grid integration), and long-term energy needs and paths to getting to an electrified future.

 

Monterey Waterkeeper is part of a coalition of organizations seeking to reduce nitrate pollution in the region’s groundwater. Nitrate contamination, the result of over-application of fertilizers, can cause the “blue baby syndrome” and various cancers in adults.  The State Water Board recently issued rules that allow growers to continue over-application of nitrogen fertilizers without any deadlines for cleaning up contaminated water.  In October 2023, rural Latino community and farmworker groups, environmental organizations, including Monterey Waterkeeper, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations filed suit to overturn the decision.  Tune in to hear Chelsea Tu, Executive Director of Monterey Waterkeeper, talk about the problem, the situation and the solution

 

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Bees are in danger; what can we do? Tune into Sustainability Now! to hear a conversation with Eve Bratman, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Bratman is author of Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development Politics in the Amazon. She is currently writing a book entitled Pollen Nation: A journey into the politics of saving the bees and the ethics of a sustainable future, which uses bees as a prism for seeing broader social and ecological phenomena and is premised upon revealing the ways that human society fumblingly strives to protect and preserve their roles in our lives.

You can find out more about Bratman’s research at http://www.evebratman.com/ and her work on bees at http://www.evebratman.com/bees/ and a recent article about beekeeping in the city at https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1002/pan3.10206?download=true

 

Previous broadcasts of Sustainability Now! are archived at KSQD.org and on Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Sustainability Now! is underwritten by the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation.