May 2009

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #33 Community and Sustainability

Posted by on 19 May 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

May 19, 2009

Date:  19 May

Community and Sustainability

 Tonight’s program focuses on community and sustainability. We talk with documentary filmmaker Gerard Ungerman. His new film is called Belonging, and it’s described as a “scientific and spiritual journey into humanity’s footprint on the Earth.”  In the first half of the program, we talk with Gerard about the making of that film and about how a filmmaker perceives his world and presents his observations through the medium of film. And in the second part, we discuss his newest project, which is based in Chico and the Northstate and will explore the concepts of community and sustainability as they are emerging in our part of the world.

 Our Questions for Gerard Ungerman

 Part One

·         Your  film is called “Belonging,” and it is being screened in the Northstate area, including a scheduled showing next Saturday night on Cable Channel 11 as part of the Chico Peace and Justice Film Program.  Please tell us about the title and contents of the film.

·         Belonging is part of your larger filmmaking project, which  includes The Oil Factor, Hidden Wars, and Plan Columbia. Please tell us about that sequence.

·         In a recent screening and discussion at Chico State, you were talking about documentary filmmaking as a learning process. What was that process for Becoming? What was the original concept for the film?  How did that evolve as you began the project?

·         In particular, you told the Chico State audience that as you studied the Inuit people of North America, you came to see how the petroleum culture had shaped their lives. What were your observations, and how did they play out in the rest of the film?

·         How do you make a film anyway?  Do you gather the visual images first and then work on the text?  When and where do you seek out interviews? How do you weave in the narrator (in this case Dustin Hoffman—how did you get Hoffman involved in the project?)? 

·         What do you hope the impact of your film can be?  Who should see it? How will it get around? 

·         As we mentioned, Belonging will be shown as part of the Chico Peace and Justice Film Program on Cable Channel 11, Saturday, 8 pm.  What other screenings are in the works?

·         How can people get their own copy of Belonging?  And your other films?


Part Two

You’re interested in sustainability both globally and locally.  As a relative newcomer to Chico and the Northstate, please tell us about your new project, which we understand will be centered on our town and its people.

·         In speaking at Chico State, you said you thought that this area has the potential to be a model for a sustainable community.  Please explain that.

·         In the first half of the program, we asked you about the process for making Becoming. Let’s talk about how you are proceeding with this project (does it have a working title)?   Do you just point your camera in lots of directions and then edit out the parts you don’t want?  Or do you have a deliberate plan of gathering footage?  Do you have a “thesis” already, or might that emerge as you shoot?

·         What aspects of community in the Northstate have most impressed you? What needs to happen for Our Town to move toward a smaller ecological footprint?

·         More broadly: your work impresses us because you are an activist as well as a filmmaker—you’re obviously not just making movies to earn the big bucks.  As an activist, what do you see as the major problems confronting us (in Chico, in the world) as we move toward sustainability?

·         What would a sustainable world look like? (Can we ever become truly sustainable?  Entropy—which you mentioned at CSU—tells us that basically everything is winding down anyway.)

·         Globally, many governments, including the U.S., have made moves toward sustainability through green building requirements, automobile innovation and restriction, wind and solar, waste and recycling, etc.  Is this a government concern?  Can governments do enough?

·         Our guest last week, David Paxson, saw population as the overwhelming global sustainability problem.  He said that the success of all other causes depends on population control of some sort.  You have noted that the petroculture actually encourages unsustainability—e.g., the Inuit—by allowing people to essentially live beyond their energy means. How does population control fit into your picture of the world?

·         After you finish your film based in the Northstate, where will you point your camera next?

Coming Event

We want to tell you of a special Eco Event taking place tomorrow evening, May 20, when environmentalist, water conservationist, and slide guitar player Jim Brobeck will be performing at Café Flo.  One of his lyrics, “Shoemaker,” reads this way:

 Feet were sore, so we learned to make shoes,
Belly empty, we learned to grow food,
Weather inclement, we learned to make roofs.
So I’m kinda disappointed at the way we have goofed.

We’ve got the brains,
We’ve got the fingers.
God knows we get in
All kinds of mischief.

 You love Jesus, your prince of peace.
We honor Gandhi and Dr. King.
40 years of singing “Give peace a chance”
So I’m kinda disappointed at our circumstance.

 We’ve got the brains,
We’ve got the spirit.
Come on people,Bring peace to the planet

 We’ve got the internet to spread the light,
We’ve got buses, legs, feet and bikes.
Solar panels and power from wind.
So I’m kinda disappointed at the mess we’re in.

 We’ve got the brains.
We’ve got the information.
Come on people,
Let’s clean up the nation.

Playlist for Ecotopia #33: Community and Sustainability

 1. Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)            5:11    Neil Young    Ragged Glory           Rock              
2. BELONGING        1:54    Sound Clip               
3. North Sea Oil (2004 Digital Remaster)            3:12    Jethro Tull     Stormwatch  
4. Home         3:46    Michael Bublé  Home                    
5. Glorious     5:19    MaMuse                     All The Way 
6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary            The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary   Folk               
7. Powerhouse         2:56    Don Byron       Bug Music





Ecotopia #32 Population and Environment

Posted by on 14 May 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

May 12, 2009

Our guest tonight is David Paxson, President of World Population Balance, a Minneapolis-based organization that is dedicated to educating people about the need for population stabilization and the effects on the world if we do not take action to control population growth.

Listen to Ecotopia #32 Online Now!

Some Historical Perspectives on Population

From the Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament Bible:

“…And Attai begat Nathan, and Nathan begat Zabad, And Zabad begat Ephlal, and Ephlal begat Obed. And Obed begat Jehu, and Jehu begat Azariah, And Azariah begat Helez, and Helez begat Eleasah, Eleasah begat Sisamai, and Sisamai begat Shallum, And Shallum begat Jakamiah, and Jakamiah begat Elishama…”

From Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798):

I have read some of the speculations on the perfectibility of man and of society with great pleasure. I have been warmed and delighted with the enchanting picture which they hold forth. I ardently wish for such happy improvements. But I see great, and, to my understanding, unconquerable difficulties in the way to them. [,,,]

Thomas Malthus  offered two “postulata:”

First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.

Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state. […]   Thus the power of population is  indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

Malthus’ predictions have been widely debated for over two centuries now, and he still has defenders and attackers. But whether or not we accept his predictions as exact, this essay be Theodore Steck from the Encyclopedia of Earth suggests that Malthus was at least partly right:

Approximately 6.6 billion humans now inhabit the Earth. By comparison, there might be 20 million mallard ducks and, among a multitude of threatened and endangered species, perhaps 100,000 gorillas, 50,000 polar bears, and less than 10,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown nearly ten-fold over the past three centuries and has increased by a factor of four in the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural

A pronounced expansion began with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, about two centuries ago [which, of course was just when Thomas Malthus was writing]. Whereas tens of thousands of years passed before our species reached the one billion mark, around 1800 C.E., it took only 130, 33, 15, 13 and 12 years to add each succeeding billion. This accelerating rate of increase is what is meant by the term population explosion. Around year 1970, population growth reached a maximal rate of about 2% per year—perhaps a thousand times faster than growth in prehistoric times. The annual increment has since dropped from 2.0 to 1.1% (or, as demographers prefer, to 11 per thousand), and it is still going down. The greatest annual increment in population, about 90 million individuals, occurred in 1995, while our numbers grew by only around 76 million in 2004 Nevertheless, this cohort is comparable to adding the population of Germany to the planet each year.

[…But] Fertility is declining with time. It has now dropped to below replacement level (i.e., below 2.1 children in a woman’s lifetime) in most of the developed countries. World-wide, the average woman currently bears 2.6 live offspring. In some African nations, fertility still exceeds 7 live births. At the other extreme, the average woman in Japan and in much of Europe bears approximately 1.3 live babies.[…]

Globally, birth rates will probably continue to decline in the coming decades since, nowadays, couples are increasingly prone to limit their family size, whatever their wealth. Coercion by national governments, such as China’s one-child policy, appears to be unnecessary. If and when the global birth rate again matches death rate, we will hit zero population growth. This could occur by the year 2070 when the population might be 9.5 or 10 billion.

Our Questions for David Paxson, President of World Population Balance, which he cofounded in 1991:

· Please tell us about World Population Balance and your work educating people about the crisis.

· Earlier, we read short passages from Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Human Population. You recently published an article in your newsletter in which Andrew Ferguson argues that Malthus’s postulates are still valid, arguing that though some aspects of the world have changed, the principles of food and population and Malthus’ warnings should still be heeded. Please explain that argument.

· Let’s explore the environmental problems that can be created by the continued population explosion:

o food supplies, factory farming

o water supplies

o the oceans

o fuel and energy supplies

o disease

o aging populations

· One of Malthus’ propositions was that the problem of overpopulation is also a problem of poverty, that, in fact, the consequences of overpopulation are more likely to be visited on the poor than the wealthy. What does your research indicate?

· We earlier read U.N. statistics that show that fertility rates are declining in the so-called developed countries, especially Europe and parts of Asia.

o Where does the U.S. fit into this pattern?

o Are we really in a position to tell countries that are poor and not industrially advanced to lay off procreation?

· In an editorial in your newsletter, Balanced View, you wrote recently:

“In a world with finite and declining vital resources, it’s not rocket science to realize that at some point resources will no longer support more people. So the far more important question is: How will it happen? Will population stabilize inhumanely—by deaths increasing to balance with births? Or will population stabilize humanely—by fewer births balancing historically low death rates?”

How do you see the problem being resolved humanely?

· Your mission statement declares: “Believing strongly in democracy and individual freedom, members of World Population Balance oppose any coercive population control measures.” Is it realistic to suppose that people will come to limit the birth rate voluntarily?

· You also note that you have members who are pro-choice, others who are pro-life. How do you manage to work those two groups?

· You have also done work with the Catholic church and its leaders. Please tell us about that.

· You do a great deal of work in the public schools, helping to educate young people about population issues. What do you say about such controversial issues as abstinence and birth control?

· What role does immigration play in population growth and the availability of resources? Does your organization have a policy or recommendations regarding immigration?

· You recommend that people “meet with your elected representatives and insist that they support population stabilization policies.” What are those policies and how can the U.S. implement them?

· You write “No matter what your cause, it is a lost cause unless we stabilize and then reduce the population.” Can population become a unifying cause for progressive groups?

· What steps can the individual take to participate in the movement for humane population stabilization?


> If anything, our program on the population explosion has pointed out both the enormity of the problem and a paucity of “simple” solutions. One interesting “map” of possible solutions appears on a website called Mind Maps. Instead of presenting quick-and-easy sure-fail solutions, they draw diagrams that show some of the complexities of these relationships. Check it out at:

> Planned Parenthood has a program to Expand Global Reproductive Rights. Their key issues are:

· Keeping Birth Control Affordable

· Protecting Abortion Access Ensuring Health Care Access

· Expanding Global Reproductive Rights

· Fighting for Real Sex Ed

· Opposing Attacks on Women’s Health

When women have control of their reproductive health, it improves the overall health and economic well-being of their entire communities. Worldwide, women face the risks of unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and sexually transmitted infection every day. Limited access to health services, legal restrictions, cultural taboos, and harsh gender inequality are just some of the reasons why every minute of every day a woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause.

The health and safety of women and men around the world must be protected. By increasing access to reproductive health services we can improve gender equality, maternal health, and child survival, allowing women to take control of their lives.

The PPFA International Program partners with local organizations in 17 countries around the world to expand services and pioneer efforts to improve reproductive health and rights. By accepting only private funding, we have the flexibility to carry out truly cutting-edge work.

Planned Parenthood works in Washington to change foreign health policy as well. Just days after taking office, President Obama rescinded the global gag rule, recognizing that women’s health truly matters worldwide.

Playlist for Ecotopia #32

1. Salute Your Solution 3:00 The Raconteurs Consolers Of The Lonely

2. Traffic Jam (Album Version) 2:13 James Taylor James Taylor Live

3. Supernova 4:42 Liquid Blue Supernova

4. Let’s Have A War 2:31 Fear Repo Man

5. People (Single Version) 3:43 Barbra Streisand People

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

7. Laughing 3:36 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Four Way Street [Disc 1] [Live]

8. Powerhouse 2:56 Don Byron Bug Music

Ecotopia #31 Saving the Sacramento

Posted by on 04 May 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: 5 May 09

A few weeks ago, we read you a news release from the American Rivers conservation group that declared the Sacramento-San Joaquin river system to be the most endangered system in America. In earning this dubious distinction, the Sacramento-San Joaquin beat out the Flint River, in Georgia, which, despite extended drought, is threatened with damming projects to slake the thirst of Atlanta, and the Snake River in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, which has been dammed and sluiced over the years to the extent that if you are a barge owner, you can float 800 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Lewiston, Idaho, but if you are a salmon, you can’t make it back to your spawning grounds.

In this program, we speak first with Steve Rothert, authored the report on the Sacramento and San Joaquin system for American Rivers to learn more about the system and how it is being pressured.Then we will talk with Greg Werner of the Nature Conservancy office here in Chico, which, for twenty years, has conducted a project aimed at restoring the Sacramento river here in the Northstate.

Listen to Ecotopia #31 Online Now!
To download the file, right-click (Mac users control-click) and select “Save Link As…”

Our Conversation with Steve Rothert
A recent report from American Rivers begins, “The largest watershed in California is on the verge of collapse, threatening the water supply for 25 million people, placing the capital of the nation’s most populous state at high risk of flooding, and damaging a once productive and healthy ecosystem that supported the nation’s most diverse salmon runs.”

  • Please tell us a little about the American Rivers project, how you function, what your goals are.
  • The Sacramento flows through the heart of our listening area, just five miles west of Chico, so we are familiar with that. But we know less about it once it leaves our area. Please describe this system for us. (In particular, many of us are a little murky about the “delta” and how it operates.”)
  • Is it truly in danger of “collapse”? What would be the effects?
  • How did you research the Sac-San Joaquin systems in preparation for this report. What criteria did you use in selecting ours as the most threatened system?
  • Let’s review the major threats to the Sac-San Joaquin
    • flood control
    • loss of species
    • overuse
    • water diversion
  • What is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and what are its aims? Who are the stakeholders? Can they agree on recommendations?
  • Your report also mentions a controversial peripheral canal and the California Flood Plan. How would that work?
  • One of the key elements in American Rivers recommendations is water conservation. Can we realistically expect to reduce demands on the system?
  • What’s the available time frame before damage becomes irreversable?
  • How can concerned citizens join in the effort to save these rivers?
    Read the full report at

Our Conversation with Gregg Werner

Gregg Werner is director of the Sacramento River Project for the Nature Conservancy. This project has just celebrated its 20th anniversary.

  • Please tell us more about the work of the Nature Conservancy generally and the Sacramento River Project in particular over the past twenty years.
  • Your website states that in the past 150 years, the Sacramento has lost about 98% of its natural woodlands and riparian areas. How have you attempted to remedy that?
  • Please tell us about the Hamilton City levee project, which, you say, involves “combining both flood management and public safety benefits with ecosystem conservation benefits.”
  • You’ve also said, “We’ve forged a new way of doing business working in close partnership with local residents and unlikely partners like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” [italics added]
  • What are your plans for future projects?
  • How can concerned listeners get involved with or support the work of the Conservancy on the Sacramento River Project


You’ve heard already from Steve Rothert of American Rivers and Gregg Werner of the Sacramento River Project about ways of supporting their work.

–You should also remember that the Butte Environmental Council has water protection as one of its central projects. A particularly disturbing page on their website reviews endangered and threatened waterways in our area, e.g.
Big Chico Creek (mercury, resource extraction)
Butte Creek (mercury, acidity, resource extraction)
Feather River ( temperature, flow restrictions for hydroelectric)
Lake Oroville (PCBs, mercury)
Sacramento River (chlordane, PCBs, mercury)

–University of Minnesota Extension Division has a useful website outlining ways in which recreational users can protect waterways, including

  • protecting the banks, don’t erode
  • not using herbicides to control growth on the banks
  • not using soap to bathe in the water
  • not dumping paint or oil in storm sewers
  • avoiding gas and oil spills
  • packing out all camping trash and waste
  • keeping off-road vehicles out of waterways and off banks
  • preserving wetlands
  • preserving forest areas
  • avoiding the introduction of non-native species

–Also check out the website of Northern California River Watch
Though based primarily in Sonoma county, the site has excellent statistics on river problems and legislation affecting the maintenance of rivers. One of their recent articles argues persuasively that California doesn’t have a “water problem,” it has a “plumbing problem,” with all that implies.

–And check out, which features a “genuine water conservation and protection search engine,” which turned up 46 hits for Big Chico Creek, including a fascinating history of the Big Chico Creek watershed, plus active links to river conservation groups all over the world.

Playlist for Ecotopia #31

1. Old Man River 2:40 Paul Robeson Live At Carnegie Hall, 1958
2. Proud Mary 5:27 Tina Turner All The Best
3. Riverdance 3:17 Celtic Roots Riverdance & Lord Of The Dance
4. Haunted by Waters – A River Runs Through It (Reprise) 4:2 Mark Isham A River Runs Through It Soundtrack
5. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
6. Catch Hell Blues 4:18 The White Stripes Icky Thump
7. Cool, Cool River 3:56 Paul Simon Rhythm Of The Saints