Killer Whale Shows Reconsidered

  • Animal rights activist Will Anderson says there is nothing healthy about the relationship between captive marine mammals and their keepers. (Photo Courtesy of Milan Boers CC-2.0)

People who want to watch marine mammals like dolphins often head to
theme parks such as SeaWorld. But after a killer whale at one SeaWorld
killed its trainer last month, critics are calling for a reevaluation
of keeping these huge animals captive. Ann Dornfeld has the story:

Transcript

People who want to watch marine mammals like dolphins often head to
theme parks such as SeaWorld. But after a killer whale at one SeaWorld
killed its trainer last month, critics are calling for a reevaluation
of keeping these huge animals captive. Ann Dornfeld has the story.

In the wild, a killer whale’s world sounds something like this:

[Killer whale calls in British Columbia]

But most people see killer whales in an environment like this:

[Electric guitar at SeaWorld show, chanting of “Shamu! Shamu!
Shamu!”, audience claps in time]

SeaWorld calls all of its performing whales “Shamu.” Millions of
people have visited SeaWorld over the decades to get splashed by
Shamu’s tail and watch trainers leap off the killer whales’ noses. The
trainers hug and kiss the animals between high-flying stunts.

But animal rights activist Will Anderson says there is nothing healthy
about the relationship between captive marine mammals and their
keepers. The waters around Seattle, where he lives, are home to wild
killer whales. Anderson has worked to free captive killer whales for
40 years.

“The relationships they have with their trainers are
nothing less than ‘Well, what else is there to do?’ If you’re starved
for what you innately need – social bonding – you’re gonna settle for
whatever morsel you can get.”

Killer whales are actually huge dolphins, not whales. Anderson says
tanks are no place for animals which roam up to 100 miles each day in
their native waters.

“Their bodies and their minds, and their behaviors,
their needs and their huge size, they are all adapted for the wild.
They are not adapted for tanks.”

At SeaWorld, Julie Scardina is the Animal Ambassador. She handles
public relations for the theme park. She says just because killer
whales can roam 100 miles a day in the wild doesn’t mean they often
do.

“The 100 mile statistic there is actually just a
capability. They have the capability of roaming that far, just like
humans have the capability of walking 20 miles or more per day. We
provide opportunities for exercise, for play, and of course during our
shows they get plenty of exercise.”

Scardina used to train killer whales. She says the tricks show the
public what the animals are capable of. And she says keeping killer
whales in a more naturalistic, aquarium-like environment wouldn’t
serve the animals well.

“I’ve worked with animals for over 30 years. There’s
no way you can convince me that it would be better to let an animal
kind of hang. That’s kind of like saying it’s okay to let a person sit
on the couch if they’d like. You need to provide stimulation, you want
to get them up and moving.”

Scardina says the goal of SeaWorld’s Shamu shows is to encourage
marine conservation.

“Well, certainly our mission is to educate people
about the oceans, to inspire them. And that’s what obviously our hope
is, is by seeing these animals and how incredible they are – I know
that’s how I became inspired when I was a child.”

But in a promotional video for SeaWorld’s main killer whale show,
called “Believe,” SeaWorld employees suggest a different theme… more
conquest than conservation.

“How do we get in the water with the top predator in the ocean, y’know. that kills and eats anything it wants at any time.
I thought for a moment right there, y’know what, this is really crazy
what we do. But we are doing it!”

The video, and the “Believe” show itself, focus on the power of the
human spirit – not the marine environment.

Activists like Will Anderson are calling for theme parks like SeaWorld
to return killer whales to their native waters, protected by huge
enclosures. There is general agreement that captive killer whales
wouldn’t survive if released into the open ocean.

For The Environment Report, I’m Ann Dornfeld.

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Mountaintop Mining Protest

  • One of the organizers of the rally opposing mountaintop removal coal mining scheduled the protest to coincide with the first day of climate talks in Copenhagen. (Photo by Sandra Sleight-Brennan)

World leaders are in Copenhagen,
Denmark where the debate over
what to do about climate change
is getting loud sometimes. But
in West Virginia coal country, the
debate is even louder. Lester
Graham reports:

Transcript

World leaders are in Copenhagen,
Denmark where the debate over
what to do about climate change
is getting loud sometimes. But
in West Virginia coal country, the
debate is even louder. Lester
Graham reports:

When the West Virginia Coal Association heard about plans for a rally to protest mountaintop removal coal mining, it issued an email. The Associaiton wanted supporters of the coal industry to hold a counter protest to the quote, “liberal enviro-whacko’s rally.”

(sound of protest and truck horns)

The coal mining supporters not only showed up, but they brought in some big trucks, horns blaring to try to disrupt the protest speakers at the rally in front of the offices of West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The Coal industry’s message was simple. Coal means jobs. Jobs mean paychecks.

But the protestors against mountaintop removal coal mining say there are more important things.

One of those speakers was Maria Gunnoe. She’s a coal miner’s daughter who’s worked against the environmental damage of blowing off the tops of Appalaichan mountains to get to the coal. The blasted debris has been dumped into valleys, damaging streams and water supplies.

“I challenge you. You think it’s hard to live without a paycheck? Try living with nothing to give your children to drink. Paycheck’s not important when you don’t have water to give your children.”

Maria Gunnoe has been there. She lives in a valley just downhill from a debris fill. She testified against the coal companies in a court case to stop them from dumping debris in streams. Let’s just say she’s not a popular figure among the pro-coal folks.

Bo Webb lives in Coal River Valley. He’s one of the organizers of the rally opposing mountaintop removal coal mining. He scheduled the protest the same day climate talks in Copenhagen started. He’d liked to see the people where he lives get something from those negotiations.

“I’m hoping what comes out of Copenhagen for here would be a message that some of these miners could start understanding and stop manipu- allowing- themselves to be manipulated by a coal industry that’s got one concern, and that’s profits.”

At the counter-rally, many of the coal mining supporters did not want to talk to news people. One guy who would talk is Gary Finley. He’s from Ohio and sells equipment to the coal mining industry.

“You know, this industry is regulated, heavily regulated, now. It has been since, what, 1977? (Yep.) So, you know, we’re doing everything that’s dictated by law in the mining of coal.”

When asked about the future of coal, Finley hesitated.

“Well, (laughs) right now I’m uncertain. I can tell you what I hope it’ll be. I hope it continues. You know, we’ve got a lot of coal in these mountains. I don’t believe the people in this country realize how important coal is to the economy of the eastern United States, people realize when they go into their homes and turn on their light switch and the electric comes on, if we don’t mine coal, that’s gonna be- it’s done.”

The protest was a lot of passionate speakers, a lot of booing, and a lot of truck horns.

But what irritated the coal mining supporters more than anything seemed to be the idea that outsiders were coming to West Virginia to tell them what to do. And the liberal outsider that aggravated them most was environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Junior. Kennedy calls fossil fuels a deadly addiction that’s wrecking the country, and says mountaintop removal coal mining is destroying communities.

“And, you know, we need to figure out ways to power our country that don’t compromise the aspirations of future generations, don’t compromise their potential for prosperity, for wholesome, dignified communities.”

In the end, nothing was settled in West Virginia, just as nothing will be settled in Copenhagen.

But at the local level and the international level, people are talking about fossil fuels differently. Some see a bright future in renewable, sustainable energy and preserved forested mountains, while others feel their lives and their livelihoods threatened.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Related Links

Interview: Bill McKibben

  • ill McKibben is an author and the founder of 350.org, a grassroots effort to increase awareness of the threats of climate change. (Photo by Nancie Battaglia, courtesy of Bill McKibben)

Bill McKibben has been writing about
climate change for 20 years. More
recently, he founded the grassroots
organization 350.org. It urges
governments to do something about
climate change. Lester Graham talked
to McKibben and asked him how his
group deals with the debate in Congress –
especially when it’s less about scientific
facts and more about your brand of politics:

Transcript

Bill McKibben has been writing about
climate change for 20 years. More
recently, he founded the grassroots
organization 350.org. It urges
governments to do something about
climate change. Lester Graham talked
to McKibben and asked him how his
group deals with the debate in Congress –
especially when it’s less about scientific
facts and more about your brand of politics:

Bill McKibben: Well, it’s hard to deal with it because, of course, we don’t a kind of separate physics and chemistry for Republicans and Democrats. You know, the laws of nature tend to operate the same way no matter whether you spend your life marinating in Rush Limbaugh or not, you know. So it’s difficult because we have to deal with those physical facts. The only good news is that the only place where this is a political issue in those ways is the United States. The rest of the world, everybody’s on-board, understanding that we need to go to work. We’ve still got serious problems in this country. It’s one of the reasons that we desperately need the President to finally make some serious noise about climate change, and say straightforwardly and out-front what the dangers are and do what he can to drive home the peril that we’re in.

Lester Graham: The Center for Public Integrity reports that there are more lobbyists in Washington than ever before, working on supporting or blocking or somehow reshaping climate change legislation. How does a grassroots effort, such as 350.org, compete with the big moneyed lobbyists at work?

McKibben: Well, we can’t compete with them in terms of money. There are, I think, 2800 lobbyists that industry has hired to go to – which gives you some idea of what a bad job being a Congressman is. Each Congressman has 7 people devoted to making sure that they toe the line on fossil fuel. We can’t compete! Exxon Mobile, last year, made more money than any company in the history of money, okay? So, in that currency, we’re sunk. The only currency we’ve got is bodies and commitment. And that’s why we’re finally trying to organize a real movement around climate change. It’s not enough to depend on the fact that the science is on your side, and that any rational system or person would be doing everything they can to try to deal with this biggest problem we’ve ever faced. Our system, in that sense, isn’t rational. It’s dependent on power and pressure. And we have to accept that, and we have to accept the challenge of building those kinds of movements.

Graham: What do you think of the legislation on greenhouse reductions, greenhouse gas reductions as it’s shaping up in Washington?

McKibben: It’s in grave danger, if it hasn’t already, of turning into a sort of piñata filled with goodies for each special interest. Each Senator now is saying, ‘yes, but in my state we need a lot of money or whatever to do this, or, ‘we have to exempt this industry,’ or whatever. These guys don’t get the degree of danger that we’re in. They’re still using it as just one more political game to play. It’s why Obama’s gotta step up to the plate. He can’t let happen what happened with healthcare – just Congress take all of this on its own, let it drift, come out with some mediocre thing, and call it a victory.

Graham: What would you like to hear President Obama say that would compel people to say, ‘oh my gosh, we’ve got to do something about this!’?

McKibben: I’d like him to do what leaders around the world now – partly at the behest of 350.org – have been doing over the last few weeks. Saying, ‘here, in my country, are the grave dangers that we face.’ That’s the kind of leadership that we’re not seeing out of Obama, unfortunately.

Related Links

Teen Pedals Across Canada for Climate Change

  • 17 year-old Malkolm Boothroyd rode a bicycle for 3 months across Canada. Here he is giving a speech at the end of his trip on Parliament Hill. (Photo by Karen Kelly)

All over North America, people
are becoming more concerned
about the dangers posed by
climate change. Karen Kelly
spoke to a teenager who comes
from the far north of Canada,
one of the areas of the continent
that’s already feeling the effects:

Transcript

All over North America, people
are becoming more concerned
about the dangers posed by
climate change. Karen Kelly
spoke to a teenager who comes
from the far north of Canada,
one of the areas of the continent
that’s already feeling the effects:

Malkolm Boothroyd is 17. He lives in Whitehorse in the Yukon, a province at the northern tip of Canada.

It’s a wild mountainous place, with huge caribou herds, moose, bear, and foxes. It’s also a place where climate change is already evident.

The winters are shorter. The permafrost and sea ice are melting. And for young people like Boothroyd, it’s a source of worry.

“Climate change is impacting wildlife patterns, tundra ponds are vanishing. We are one of first places that will feel the severe impacts of climate change. Growing up in the Yukon, you’re maybe more aware of that.”

Boothroyd says already the native Inuit tribes are having a harder time living off the land. And he felt frustrated by what he sees as the Canadian government’s lack of action.

The government has not kept international commitments it made to reduce the gases that cause climate change. So he decided to head to the capital city of Ottawa to lodge his complaint.

Ottawa is 3,700 miles away from the Yukon.

(sound of gears)

Boothroyd hopped on his bicycle.

“I think there are days when you question your sanity, when you’re sitting out in the rain with black flies all around your head and with a soaking wet tent and wondering, ‘why am I doing this?’ But I don’t think there was any time I wanted to go back or anything like that. I just wanted to see the project through and make sure we were here on Parliament Hill to give our message to the government.”

It took him just under three months to ride from the northwestern tip of Canada near Alaska to Ottawa, which is just north of New York State.

His mom rode with him for the first 1,200 miles.

Then he joined up with other young riders, arriving for a rally on Parliament Hill in late September.

“I’m 17-years-old, and that means I’m too young to vote. But I believe I should have a say in decisions that are made on this Hill because when Parliament makes decisions about climate and energy, its people my age – people who are too young to vote – who will live in the world determined by what decisions made.”

(applause)

About a dozen members of Parliament and maybe 50 cyclists showed up for the rally. Boothroyd talked to hundreds more as he rode across the country.

He says he wasn’t just doing it for a good cause, he was doing it to protect his home.

“You’re very protective over wherever you grew up, and the place you know very well and love, so if you see a threat to that, you want to do everything you can.”

Now, Boothroyd is a regular twelfth grader again.
But unlike most, he’ll be keeping a close eye on the climate change talks taking place in Copenhagen in December.

He’s hoping his effort convinced the Canadian government to do more.

For The Environment Report, I’m Karen Kelly.

Related Links

Slacker Activism: Slacktivism

  • The "Lil' Green Patch" application on Facebook (Image by Jessi Ziegler)

Getting involved in a social
or environmental cause these
days is as easy as clicking
your mouse. Some people think
grassroots activism is just
changing its face as technology
changes… but other people think
we’re becoming slackers. Rebecca
Williams explores whether we’re
a nation of slack-tivists:

Transcript

Getting involved in a social
or environmental cause these
days is as easy as clicking
your mouse. Some people think
grassroots activism is just
changing its face as technology
changes… but other people think
we’re becoming slackers. Rebecca
Williams explores whether we’re
a nation of slack-tivists:

The other day I met this guy, Patrick Diehl. And I was trying to get him to describe himself.

“Uh, I’m a Pisces and I enjoy long walks on the beach and horseback riding; good sense of humor; still gets pimples.”

Add to that: slack-tivist. That’s a slacker activist. But he was telling me he wasn’t always this way. For twenty years, he was one of those door knocking, envelope licking activists. He worked for a governor. He used to drag his little daughter to rallies. Now he’s just burned out.

“I could get on the phone and call someone about an issue but I choose to sit down on Facebook and hit three mouse clicks and a return and feel good about myself.”

And lately, his slacktivism has hit a brand new low.

(sound of mouse clicks)

“My little green patch is dry. That means I’ve been neglecting it.”

If you’re a Facebook virgin, the Lil’ Green Patch is this application that lets you send plants to your friends’ online gardens. The idea is, the more you play, the more money advertisers will give to save the rainforest.

“Rebecca: “So wait did you actually do this for a while?”

Patrick: “Yeah!”

Rebecca: “And you felt good about it.”

Patrick: “Yes! I thought my spending time on here is leading to something bigger than myself.” (laughs)

But then, Patrick got in trouble. His wife – Anita – said he was just spending way too much time online. Lil’ Green Patch died. He’d rather play another online game, like Mafia Wars.

But you know, at least at one time Patrick was very active. Some people think clicking on a little green patch is their contribution to a better world.

“That’s a trending topic, that’s a trending term, slacktivist.”

Apollo Gonzales works for one of those big environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council. He’s what’s called a netroots manager. You might say it’s his job to get slacktivists off their butts.

“If you measure the one click activism, or slacktivism, against someone who’s visiting their representative on the Hill once a year, then yeah I think it’s on the low end of what can be done. But you’ve got to start somewhere with a lot of these people.”

So, Apollo blogs and tweets and uses online social media to get people talking. Because talking sometimes actually leads to doing something.

“We have a world where we are more connected than we ever have been, and a world where we can share our stories faster and more richly than we ever have been able to. And that’s great for people who are fighting for a cause.”

And there’s actually some research to back this up.

Scott Campbell studies new media at the University of Michigan.

“There have been some studies recently that show when people use text messaging as reminders to go out and vote, we do see significant increases in voter turnout.”

He says cell phones and the Internet are basically giving us more ways to communicate – and that’s good for us as a society. But he says we do have to be a little careful – because if all our online friends think like we do, we can become little isolated e-communities.

Basically, the more Facebook friends you have, and the more new ideas you can share, the better.

So if you want to be a better slacktivist, you might have to make some choices. You could sign a million online petitions. I mean there are 15,000 environment causes on Facebook. And then there’re all those other things, like Mafia Wars, and other distractions that people like Patrick have to deal with.

Patrick: “I’ve been kidnapped to Barcelona but I’m gonna ignore that.”

Anita: “See you just say ignore, ignore it!”

Patrick: “Someone just sent me a slap on the rear end. I’m gonna ignore that. I probably wouldn’t but my wife is right here so I’m going to ignore that.” (both laugh)

With distractions like these… even slacktivism’s getting to be hard work.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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Hip Hop Artists Tackle Environmental Issues

  • Some Hip Hop artists are using their music to reach people about environmental issues affecting their communities (Photo source: Lestat at Wikimedia Commons)

When many people think of songs about the environment, they conjure up visions of folk singers and acoustic guitars. But the environment is becoming a more prevalent issue among Hip-Hop artists. Lester Graham reports they’re looking at the issue and how it affects their lives directly:

Transcript

When many people think of songs about the environment, they conjure up visions of folk singers and acoustic guitars. But the environment is becoming a more prevalent issue among Hip-Hop artists. Lester Graham reports they’re looking at the issue and how it affects their lives directly:

Environmentalists are often portrayed as treehugging elitists by conservative talk show hosts – and others.

That image really was never accurate, but the environmental movement is becoming more diverse. The environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to a wider swath of society.

Mike Cermack is a consultant for Boston’s public schools. He helps teachers figure out the best ways to teach classes such as environmental science.

He’s come to the conclusion that music can go a long way in getting the attention of kids in the classroom – especially since Hip-Hop artists started tackling the environment and not just as some distant ‘polar bears and butterflies’ issue.

“We really want to start at the corner store and ask deep questions like, ‘why isn’t there any fresh produce? Is that linked to the fact that diabetes and obesity is kind of rampant in our neighborhoods and in our families?’”

As people living in inner cities Cermack says – artists such as Mos Def did it in his song ‘New World Water.’

(clip of Mos Def song)
And it’s not just those big nationally known artists.

Mike Cermack says he stumbled into Boston’s local ‘green Hip-Hop’ movement by working with activists who were trying to stop a power plant from being built next to an elementary school.

“In talking with them further and getting to know them, also many of them turned out to be these really talented MCs, these talented lyricists who are using the new knowledge that they found working with the non-profits and kind of weaving those into their more traditional narratives of ‘this is what’s wrong with street/urban issues; this is what’s wrong with all the gangsters around/in my city.’ They’re saying how can we also bring in these environmental issues.”

And those artists are pulling in friends and bringing a whole lot of street cred to environmental issues.

Tem Blessed and Ben Gilbarg called in some of their Boston friends to perform ‘Green Anthem.’

(clip of ‘Green Anthem’)

“They’re staying true to their roots as kind of the voice social injustice and speaking out against urban problems and they’re really mixing it up with a lot of environmental issues.”

Mike Cermack says he’s been working to get students interested in environmental issues in the classroom, but Hip-Hop artists such as J-Live and Thes One get it done in a way the students know.

“They’re already used to loving the hip-hop tracks. And they know the MC. You know, it’s more important that the MC is from the community. That’s another big piece. I think it’s a really interesting start to this green hip-hop potential.”

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Law Labels Eco-Protestors as Terrorists

Activists who strike out in the name of the environment or animal rights could find themselves labeled terrorists under a new law. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Activists who strike out in the name of the environment or animal rights
could find themselves labeled terrorists under a new law. The GLRC’s
Lester Graham reports:


State governments and activists across the nation will be watching this
so-called ‘eco-terrorism’ law when it goes into effect in Pennsylvania.


You’re considered an eco-terrorist if you’re involved in civil
disobedience against firms that extract resources, do agricultural research
or animal experimentation. The law also increases penalties for crimes
such as trespassing and vandalism.


Larry Frankel is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says the
new law tosses around the term terrorist too loosely…


“It not only is unfairly targeting some people as terrorists, it’s really
cheapening the use of the term ‘terrorism’ and it’s going to become at
some point– the government’s going to be crying ‘Wolf,’ calling
everything they don’t like ‘terrorism.’”


The law is in response to activists who’ve destroyed labs and property.
Frankel thinks the law will actually incite those who’ve used such tactics
to go even further.


For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

River Otters on the Rebound

  • Now that the river otter's population is recovering, some worry that they are plundering fish farms. The proposed solution to this problem is stirring up some debate. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

There have been many wildlife success stories in the region. For instance, the numbers of white-tailed deer and Canada Geese have rebounded so strongly that many consider them pests. Now, another animal is being added to that list. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports on the rebound of the river otter:

Transcript

There have been many wildlife success stories in the region.
For instance, the numbers of white-tailed deer and Canada Geese
have rebounded so strongly that many consider them pests. Now,
another animal is being added to that list. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports on the rebound of the river otter:


In the late 1980’s river otters were so rare in Ohio that wildlife officials imported 123 of the animals and released them along rivers and streams. Now, it’s estimated that Ohio has more than 4,000 river otters. Dave Scott helps track the Ohio numbers for the Natural Resources Department.


“River otters are a really neat success story. And like some other wildlife things, they’ve done better than anticipated.”


In fact, so much better that the otters in Ohio are now being blamed for eating up fish in stocked ponds and in farm lakes where fish are raised for sale. That’s why wildlife officials are now proposing a trapping season here next winter. Trappers value river otters for their fur and back the idea of a trapping season but animal protection activists oppose it. They say the foothold traps that are used are inhumane.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.

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The Color of the Environmental Movement

  • Many hope that the future generations of envionmentalists and conservationalists will include more minorities. That's why the National Wildlife Federation now has a program to encourage youth and adult minorities to learn about and adopt careers in environmental fields. (Photo by Hans-Günther Dreyer)

The environmental movement and conservation agencies tend to be very white. There are relatively few people of color involved in environmental activism or getting jobs in resource management. If one man has his way, that will change in the coming years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The environmental movement and conservation agencies tend to be very white. There are relatively few people of color involved in environmental activism or getting jobs in resource management. If one man has his way, that will change in the coming years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


If you happen to go to a national conference of environmentalists, or conservation-minded organizations, you probably wouldn’t see a lot of black faces… or Latino… or Asian. Oh sure, a few sprinkled here and there, but mostly, it’s white folks.


But that’s beginning to change. Jerome Ringo is the chair-elect of the National Wildlife Federation. He will be the first African-American to head up a major environmental organization. He says times are changing.


“We are seeing a reversal of the trend. We’re not where we want to be with respect to minority involvement in conservation, but I can guarantee you we’re not where we were. Years ago when I got into the environmental movement, there were very, very few minorities involved.”


Ringo is working to keep the trend reversed. Through the National Wildlife Federation’s youth program, Earth Tomorrow, he’s encouraging young African-Americans and other minorities to learn about the environment and conservation.


And a few young people are listening. Kenneth Anderson is a college student, studying to be an ornithologist. He’s something of a rare bird himself. He grew up in the city – in Detroit – where he says a lot of his friends and neighbors are not all that interested in nature and the environment.


“Really, I mean I can understand why people wouldn’t because throughout most of their life, they’re in this urban setting away from as much wildlife or forests or anything like that so they don’t look at the environment as something of importance because in a way it’s already been taken away or hidden from them. So, that’s why you don’t have a lot of people of color or minorities involved in environmental fields.”


Being cut off from nature is only one obstacle. There are others. Kiana Miiller is a high school student in Detroit. She says a lot of kids are worrying about more pressing problems…


“People of color are in urban areas and urban areas have a lot of different problems like financial issues, stuff like that. So, environmental issues may not be number one on their priority list.”


Kiana Miller and Kenneth Anderson are among a handful of young people of color who are at a meeting to hear from activists and people working in wildlife management about getting involved in environmental issues… and getting jobs.


Like a lot of the kids, many of the speakers at this meeting grew up in the city. For example, Monica Terrell says she didn’t know anything about nature until someone took her on a camping trip when she was a kid. Now, she’s with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources working with state parks all over. She’s at this meeting recruiting.


“People of color and also women need to be made aware of the career opportunities. When you look at different fields, you usually look at people that you know who are already in those fields. You may have a father who is a doctor, a friend who is an attorney, teachers, plumbers, what have you. But we don’t have very many people of color and women who are already in those fields. And so, that’s why it’s so important for us to go out to recruit, select, hire these folks, mentor them, make sure they have a comfortable, successful experience in natural resource management fields.”


Getting the message of environmental involvement doesn’t stop at getting young people thinking about their options. The National Wildlife Federation’s Jerome Ringo says it also means getting grown-ups, especially the poor and people of color, to get active in their community when there are environmental problems. He says he first got involved in environmental activism because he knew of chemical releases that were being emitted from a refinery, and some of those chemicals could cause health problems for the people who live nearby – most of them low-income African-Americans.


“We have to readjust our priorities from just quality of life issues like where next month’s rent is coming from, how do we feed our family. Environmental issues have to be within our top priorities because, as I tell the people in ‘Cancer Alley,’ Louisiana, what good is next month’s rent if you’re dying of cancer? So, we’ve got to be more involved in those quality of life issues and make environmental/conservation issues one of those key issues in our lives.”


Ringo says whether it’s fighting pollution, or a desire to preserve a little of the remaining wilderness, people of color need to take hold of environmental and conservation issues, and make them their own.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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