October 2011

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #161 Activist Mary Lou Sharon

Posted by on 26 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

October 18, 2001

Tonight’s Program

It is a special pleasure for us to be on the phone with Mary Lou  Sharon, who was a classmate of Steve’s at Naugatuck High School in Connecticut.  They recently met up at a high school reunion,  and we heard Mary Lou’s amazing story of activism in essentially shutting down a toxic dump in our home town.

Listen to the Program

Our Questions for Mary Lou Sharon

By way of background, when Mary Lou and Steve were kids in the 1950s, Naugatuck, Connecticut, was an industrial center, producing sneakers, synthetic rubber, agricultural chemicals, and brass products.  The Naugatuck River held no life and changed color with industrial discharges, and the town often smelled of diverse chemicals that went up the stacks.  Most of that industry is now gone, but the effects remain, and that’s where Mary Lou Sharon came in.

Your story begins in the 1960s, when you noticed trucks headed up the road near your house carrying waste to the Hunter’s Mountain landfill.

•What was in those trucks?
•Why were you concerned?
•You formed a citizen’s action group.  Who was in it and what did you try to accomplish?
•In 1983 Hunter’s Mountain–renamed Laurel Park Landfill–was declared a Superfund Site.  Didn’t that take care of your concerns?
•In the course of your activism, you were threatened and vilified.  Why were some elements of the town opposed to your work?
•Despite the contamination, developers still wanted to build a number of homes up on Hunter’s Mountain.  Please tell us the story of that fight.
•In April 2011, you were declared Honorary Mayor of Naugatuck as part of Earth Day.  What did you do during your brief time in office?
•What advice do you have for other activists who are fighting difficult battles trying to preserve the environment and our health?

Thank you, Mary Lou Kosko Sharon, for being with us tonight and telling us this inspiring story.  Our home town is a much better place to live, thanks to you, and we’ll look forward to seeing you down the road at Naugatuck High School reunions.  Listeners, if you would like to learn more about this story, here are some links:

NY Times: “Action on Dioxin”  http://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/14/nyregion/the-region-action-on-dioxin-in-connecticut.html

NY Times:  “Two-Year Battle Won at Dioxin Site”  http://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/15/nyregion/two-year-battle-won-at-dioxin-site.html

Naugatuck Patch: “Mary Lou Sharon: Naugatuck’s Earth Day Mayor for the Day”  http://naugatuck.patch.com/articles/mary-lou-sharon-naugatucks-earth-day-mayor-for-the-day

Ecotopia #159: Local-to-Global

Posted by on 13 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: October 11, 2011

This week we will take up two Ecotopian topics. In the first part of the program, we’ll talk about electric automobiles. Our guest will be Stephanie Janczak, Manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Policy for the Ford Motor Company. She’ll be talking about some of the ways in which Ford is preparing to meet consumer demand for all-electric vehicles.

And then we will speak with Carl Ochsner, who is the Executive Director of Work Training Center, Inc., the northstate organization that provides services to people with disabilities and, among other projects, runs Fair Street Recycling.

Sorry, no show recording available this week 🙁

Our Questions for Stephanie Janczak

Stephanie is Manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Policy for the Ford Motor Company. Ford recently sent out a press release describing “20 Cool Places to Charge Your Electric Vehicle,” including some in California as well as others from Hawaii to New York. We’d like to ask about those places and, more broadly, how electric cars can contribute to a cleaner environment.

  • Please tell us a little about your job with Ford. What are your responsibilities concerning “Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Policy”?
  • The Ford web site makes distinctions between hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric cars. Please tell us a little about those distinctions. Which of those can use a charging station?
  • Ford is introducing an all-electric Focus with the 2012 models. You are also promoting one called the C-Max. Can you tell us about these? What is their mileage range between charges? How long does it take to recharge?
  • Why did you decide to make a list of “20 Cool Places” to charge your electric vehicle? The closest site to Chico on your list is Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco about 170 miles from Chico. Are there other, possibly less cool places in California that are closer to home for us? How does one find a charging station?

[Note to Stephanie: One cool place NOT on your list is the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. Sierra Nevada has an impressive record of sustainable business practices and has a charging station in the parking lot outside its restaurant. Generally speaking, we found it difficult to go online and fine charging stations.]

  • Who owns and operates these charging stations? Do they work with all varieties of electric vehicles currently on the road? What does it cost to fill the tank of an electric, and how does that compare with gasoline or diesel fillups–what’s the cost per mile?
  • Electric trolly buses in San Francisco are boldly labeled “emission free.” While that’s technically correct, it’s misleading, since the electricity they use may be generated in conventional coal and gas generating plants that are not “emission free.” And there is the cost of transmitting electricity from the generator to the electrical outlet. Is something like the 2012 electric Focus really cleaner than a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle?
  • Some states (including California) are demanding that power companies increase their percentage of “clean” electricity from green sources. How do you see this affecting not only electric vehicle sales, but the future of the planet? (Will there ever be–or is there already–a practical all-electric with solar panels on its roof?)
  • What does Ford project to be the demand for all-electrics (and electricity-based variations) over, say, the next 20-30 years?
  • Where can people learn more–specifically about Ford’s all electrics, and more broadly, about charging stations and the future of electrics?


Our Conversation with Carl Ochsner

Carl Ochsner is the Executive Director of Work Training Center, Inc., a northstate organization that provides services to people with disabilities. Most of us know WTC best for its Fair Street Recycling Center (with locations in Chico, Oroville, and Magalia), but the WTC has an amazing range of programs we’d like to hear about.

  • WTC has been around since 1949. Why and how was it created? What is your mission?
  • Because most of us are familiar with Fair Street, please explain that as an example of the kinds of programs you run. Where do the trainees come from? How long are they at the Center? What skills do they learn?
  • You have a number of other programs. As our time permits, let’s discuss several:
    • Creative Learning Center
    • Do It Leisure
    • Joe McGie Center
    • Made in Paradise
    • The Landscape Service
    • Sierra Center
    • Social Skills Training
  • Please tell us about funding for these programs. We know that the projects produce some income, but are their outside public or private sources as well?
  • What are your hopes for the future for WTC?
  • You have a Turkey Dinner and Raffle coming up in November. What will that event involve? Is it open to the public?
  • How can our listeners learn more about your work and/or become involved?

We’ve been talking with Carl Ochsner, Executive Director of the Work Training Center. For sure, listeners, visit their website <http://wtcinc.org/home/welcome.html> and see what you can do to participate in this very Ecotopian project.


  • AC/DC 5:05 Andrew Lloyd Webber Starlight Express (Soundtrack from the Musical) Soundtrack
  • Route 66 7:12 The Brian Setzer Orchestra The Ultimate Collection Rock
  • Recycle Reuse Reduce 2:46 Heidi Howe Give a Hootenanny! Country
  • reduce, reuse, recycle 3:35 The Junkman (Donald Knaack) Junk Music 2 Rock
  • Land of the Future 5:14 Josh Lasden & Synoptic Futuristic Music EP Part 2 Dance & DJ Powerhouse 2:56
  • Don Byron Bug Music Jazz


  • AC/DC 5:05 Andrew Lloyd Webber Starlight Express (Soundtrack from the Musical) Soundtrack
  • Route 66 7:12 The Brian Setzer Orchestra The Ultimate Collection Rock
  • Recycle Reuse Reduce 2:46 Heidi Howe Give a Hootenanny! Country
  • reduce, reuse, recycle 3:35 The Junkman (Donald Knaack) Junk Music 2 Rock
  • Land of the Future 5:14 Josh Lasden & Synoptic Futuristic Music EP Part 2 Dance & DJ Powerhouse 2:56
  • Don Byron Bug Music Jazz

Ecotopia #158 Our Dying Planet

Posted by on 05 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: October 4, 2011

Our guest tonight on the phone is Peter Sale, an ecologist awho is Assistant Director of the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Hamilton, Ontario. He has taught at Sydney University, the University of New Hampshire, and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Windsor. His book is called Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist’s View of the Crisis We Face.

Listen to the Program

Part I: Our Dying Planet

  • Could you begin by telling us about United Nations University and the institute where you work?
  • How are you aligned with the U.N.?  What areas/issues does the institute investigate?  
  • Why did you decide to write this book? It’s called “our DYING planet”. Is the situation really that severe?
  • You have been studying planetary ecology throughout your career, and the ecology of coral reefs is your particular area of expertise. Tell us a bit of your history with reefs.
    • You’ve called reefs particularly fragile and a canary in the ecological mine. What does the future hold for reefs?
    • Which of our various impacts is most critical for coral reefs: overfishing, pollution, climate change, tourism, cruise ships, acidification, others?
    • There are some success stories with coral reefs that have been brought back from the brink. Could you tell us about some of these? What lessons can we learn from those stories?
  • To get back to larger picture of the “dying” planet of: How will the various imacts you’ve mentioned (and others) affect the total ecosystem?
    • Focus on the complexity of “overfishing”-loss of diversity, older fish, the whole ecology of the ocean.
  • Can we predict the sum total of environmental impacts? You emphasize in your book that we can’t just focus on one ecosystem at a time. Exponential change.
  • What’s the future of the planet if we don’t change the pattern? The dodo, the polar bear.

Part II: Reversing the Trends

This is Ecotopia on KZFR and we’re talking with Peter Sale of the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health in Hamilton, Ontario. His book is called Our Dying Planet. We know that you don’t consider the situtation totally hopeless. In this segment, we’d like to talk with you about steps we can take to reverse the decline of our ecosystems.

  • In one chapter, you discuss “our unrealistic belief in the balance of nature.” What has been our belief and why is it unrealistic? How have we understimated the effects? Butterfly effect?
  • You talk a bit about the ‘human footprint’ being too large. What is the human footprint? How is it possible to use more than the Earth produces? What will happen if we continue to behave as at present?
  • Eventually, the planet will run out of oil. Is this a partial “solution” to healing the planet–that we’ll have no choice but to cut emissions?
  • You have a chapter on the human population, and suggest that it will be very difficult to deal with our impacts on the natural world without addressing this ‘problem’. What is the problem here, and what right do you have, as a marine ecologist, to discuss solutions to human population growth?
  • Your final chapter describes alternative futures–plural. Please tell us a little about the range of futures you forsee and the major variables that could lead to them. Four choices for the future:
  • Belvedere–me first, “colonialism at a new level”
  • Woodstock–cut back on environmental usage
  • Technopolis–techfixes, including alternative methods of food production–invent ourselves out of our dilemna
  • New Atlantis–“…use our technological expertise and ethical principles to build a civilization that lives in harmony with the natural world while still aspiring to fosster all the creative exuberance of which humanity is capable,” valuing “every human lifewhile actively constraining our natural capacity to grow more abudant.” (287)
  • Given the enormous amount of research you have done, are you optimistic at all about the future of humankind and the planet?
  • What recommendations do you have for listeners who want to take a more active hand in saving our dying planet?

Our guest has been Peter F. Sale, author of Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist’s View of the Crisis We Face, just released by the University of California Press. If you are interested in learning more about his work at the Institute for Water, Environment, and Health go to inweh.unu.edu/. You can read more about his book at petersalebooks.com, and ucpress.edu.

Thank you Peter Sale.