November 2008

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #8 “Cool Clear Water”

Posted by on 25 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Our topic for this episode of Ecotopia is water—where it comes from, how much of it there is, and whether or not there is enough to go around.

Listen to Ecotopia #8 online now!




As Coleridge lamented in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“Water,water everywhere and not a drop to drink”


From Global Citizen Corps comes this summary of clean water issues:

“According to the United Nations Development Program, more than 1 billion people – about one in six people in this world – have no access to clean and safe drinking water while over 2 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. The effects of unclean water often lead to an endless cycle of poverty, conflict, disease and death.  If we continue to follow the current trend, by the year 2025 two thirds of the people in this world will not have sufficient access to clean water. Though industrialized countries have done the most to bring about global climate change, it is developing nations that will suffer most as they lack the finances and resources to quickly and efficiently cope with and adapt to the changing climate.”



Erica McCarthy of the Atlantic Council of the United States writes that changes in the water supply and other environmental problems are linked to the potential for violent conflict. She says: 

 “Climate change will likely worsen the state of already scarce resources.  Many water resources are shared by more than one country, a situation ripe for interstate violence when the resource runs low.  Darfur andSomalia have already seen conflict over competition for arable land, which is likely to become less available with anticipated climate impacts.… These trends are most prevalent in those countries that lack the social institutions to handle the increasingly stressful scenarios.  This not only leads to unrest and distress within these countries, but also results in their citizens seeking shelter in places better equipped to deal with the changing environment.  Some estimates suggest that by the middle of the century, 200 million people may be permanently displaced ‘climate migrants.’  Such anticipated migration will undoubtedly lead to security stresses across the globe.”


Locally, in an article in this week’s Chico News and Review,  Robert Speer asks:

“Have you seen Lake Oroville lately? If so, you know California is running out of water. Reservoir levels are at historic lows, demand is at historic highs, we’re in the third year of a drought, salmon populations are crashing, the Delta is in decline, and global warming promises to make things even worse. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, provides habitat for 700 native plant and animal species. Experts agree it is in serious, long-term crisis. Fish are declining, its levees are weak, global warming threatens rising sea levels, and water quality is worsening.”





Our first guest is Chris Wood, author of a new book called  Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America (Raincoast Books) that investigates water supplies in North America and beyond and makes some predictions about whether we’re in the soup or maybe whether we’ll have enough water to make soup. Our questions for Chris include: 

  • Your title doesn’t ask whether the will be a water crisis in North America, but declares that it is coming. What do you see as the dimensions of the crisis?
  • Your book is about North America, not just the USA. What do you see as the role of Canada in this issue? 
  •  You suggest that our “water wealthy” neighbors may not want to help us out. Do you see possiblities for cooperation?
  • Why not South America?
  • Your book also links together wildfires, hurricanes, floods, crop failures and suggest that these are not “random events,” but are linked to the Dry Desert phenomenon. Please explain.
  • Who can help us solve this crisis? Is this a government issue?  Can the private sector be involved? Can individual citizens do anything other than install low-flow shower heads and not run the water while brushing their teeth?
  • Is the outlook as bleak as it seems? What do you see as hopeful directions to solve the Coming Water Crisis?

Then we talk with Jim Brobeck of the Butte Environmental Council, who tells us about BEC’s efforts to bring a halt to exploratory drilling that may be an unfortunate prelude to shipping Butte County water to the thirsty southern half of California. Some of our questions include:


  • Please explain the large picture for us. Who wants water, and what water do they want?
  • Who owns the water in the Tuscan Aquifer?  Who would profit from selling it?
  • BEC has reservations about Governor Swarzenegger’s $9.3 billion “Delta Vision” plan that aims to recover the Sacramento Delta’s environment while increasing the water supply south. What’s wrong with linking the environment to increased water to slake the thirst of California
  • How is BEC proceeding to stop these actions? What legal or other routes are available?
  • How can KZFR listeners become involved in the issue? What can one person do?



BUTTE COUNTY WATER FACTS (from the Butte Environmental Council)


  •  The vast majority (87%) of Butte County residents depend on ground water for their drinking water.
  • The California Department of Water Resources estimates that the Tuscan Formation aquifer, which underlies Butte, Glenn, and Tehama counties holds approximately 30 million acre feet (AF) of water (an acre foot is 325,900 gallons of water).
  • Metropolitan Water District of southern California is looking for 300,000 AF from the Sacramento Valley by 2010 and 550,000 AF by 2020.
  • Local irrigation districts have been funded by the California Department of Water Resources and the federal Bureau of Reclamation to explore using groundwater to facilitate water sales.                        
  • In 1994, 105,000 acre-feet of water were sold from Butte County. Individual wells ran dry, one Durham community well was forced to close, hoses ran between neighbors’ houses for water emergencies, people unwittingly drank polluted water before their wells dried up, and one family was forced to sell their farm.  
  • There is currently no real protection for Butte County’s ground water except the environmental review process required under the California Environmental Quality Act.  
  • The San Joaquin River is already dewatered in its upper reaches from excess water consumption and a significant portion of the San Joaquin ground water basin has been subsiding. 
  • The amount of energy currently devoted to pumping water over the Tehachapi mountain range from northern to southern California is equal to one third of the entire household energy use of southern California.     



We  recommend the website of Global Citizen Corps  This is a youth organization for young people of all ages, offering suggestions for ways to help end the water crisis. 

  • Measure and reduce your water footprint using their online calculator.
  • Sign a petition demanding that the Right to Water be added to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Use art to educate others about water issues; enter a poster contest to show how you view water in your life. 
  • Play one of WaterAid’s games to learn about water supply systems around the world.
  • Organize local debates and events; host a screening of the documentary film “A Journey in the History of Water.”. 
  • Raise funds through their Mercy Corps Well Kit.  For $1000 you can sponsor well drilling in third world countries. 

1. Cool Water      2:01   Sons Of The Pioneers    Sons of the Pioneers: The Essential Collection                        

2. Rain Rain Beautiful Rain    3:05   Ladysmith Black Mambazo      Long Walk to Freedom           

3. Don’t Go Near The Water    2:43   The Beach Boys  Sunflower/Surf’s Up             

4. Clear Blue Skies       3:07   Crosby, Still, Nash & Young   American Dream           

5. Water Music – Horn Suite in F      38:00 George Frideric Handel      The Baroque Experience                     

6. Weave Me the Sunshine       4:28   Peter, Paul And Mary   The Very Best of PPM





Ecotopia #7 South American Spring Break

Posted by on 18 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Listen to Ecotopia #7 online now!

In this program, we discuss our recent three-week trip to South America, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile via Patagonia. We were part of a tour that follows sustainable practices as much as possible, and along the way we studied environmental issues in both the cities and the countryside and conducted several interviews:

First we talk with Juan Cabrera, our tour guide leader on the trip. Juan grew up in Argentina, and we asked him about tourism and its effect on the economy and environment of South America.

Next we talk with Steve Anderson, originally from the U.S., who has lived in Santiago, Chile, for over twenty years and is the publisher and editor of Santiago Times, an online daily English newspaper, who also is developing two organic farm projects in Chile.

Finally, we speak with Kat Shiffler and Liz Tylander, most recently from Washington, D.C., who are environmentalists and writers currently working as volunteers on Steve Anderson’s sustainable organic farm in the mountains north of Santiago.

Our music for this program is by Claudio Gonzalez and Alvaro Ferrari, two musicians and songwriters we heard playing on Avenue Florida in Buenos Aires, and whose album, De Poesias y Amore (Of Poetry and Love)  we bought on the spot.  Play list:

La Chacarera (the truck farmer)

La Navidad de Luis (Luis’ birthday)

 Piano Man

Oleo de Una Mujer Con Sombrero  (painting of a woman with sombrero)


Contact them:,

Web Sites and Resources

Our tour was conducted by Great Adventure Tours.

Steve Anderson is editor and publisher of Santiago Times.

We lunched with but were not able to record a discussion with Fernanda Pinochet, Project Director for Fiscala del Medio Ambiente (roughly “Prosecutors for the Environment”), a law firm in Santiago doing remarkable work in getting various global corporations to be more environmentally responsible in the use of Chile’s water, mineral resources, timber, and people.

And at a celebration of the International Day of Tolerance at the Plaza del Armas in Santiago, we were impressed by the exhibit of Centro del Patrimonio Mundial (World Heritage Center) of UNESCO describing its environmental protection projects concerning clean water, the biosphere, the oceans, minerals and natural resources, forestry, natural disasters, and cultural diversity in Chile and elsewhere.

We also want to extend thanks and appreciate to Deidre Pike, a Journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who is currently teaching in Santiago and arranged our interview with Steve Anderson and Fernanda Pinochet.