Episodes

Living Downstream

This centuries old oak tree at Pepperwood compressed

Firing Forests to Save Them: Could Native Traditions Save Lives?

When we imagined a podcast about environmental justice – it was before the Tubbs fire here in Sonoma County – and the deadly fire seasons of 2017 and 2018. Even so, we wouldn’t have thought of Indians and their relationship to fire as a matter of environmental justice. But producers Allison Herrera and Debra Utacia Krol have a different viewpoint. They’re members of a Western tribe – and see the increasingly destructive fires in Northern California as a matter of the Anglo society forgetting lessons that Native Americans have known for millennia. Fire, they say, can be an important – even necessary – part of the landscape. Fire helps clear habitat for animals and space for plants. And smaller fires can allow us to avoid the cataclysmic fires that leveled neighborhoods in Santa Rosa and the surrounding communities – especially in the past…
1024px John C Boyle Dam Gates Open

Living Downstream: The Klamath Water Wars

This is the story of a 15-year conflict over what would be the biggest dam removal ever, a modern cowboys and Indians tale that shows how victories for Native American rights still come with fits of racism and armed conflict, and how rural folks learned to make peace (and collaborate on an 1800-page Congressional bill). It’s a complex story about a fight over shared (and limited) water, with both sides fearing the disappearance of traditional lifestyles. Written and produced by Emrys Eller and his brother Greg Eller. Language alert: some salty language courtesy of real folks who lived this story. (Image: John C. Boyle Dam on the Klamath River in southern Oregon. This is one of the dams scheduled for demolition within the next few years. Credit: Wikipedia/Bobjgalindo) Editor's Note: This story was completed in 2018, before Gavin Newson…
Mac Shaffer PCB Story Photos 0146

Living Downstream Visits Birthplace of Environmental Justice

This story comes from Warren County, North Carolina. In the early 1980s, Warren County became a flash point in the fight for something that didn’t have a commonly used name at the time: environmental justice. These days, members of this small, “majority-minority” community are taking new approaches to raising environmental consciousness. Jereann King Johnson and Joe O’Connell have teamed up to tell the story of local environmentalism in the present day. Jereann has been involved in social justice work in the county since the 1970s. She knows Warren County intimately. Joe, on the other hand, was drawn to this story through his work as a folklorist. He lives in Durham, about an hours drive to the south of where our story takes place. Learn more about PCBs and global environmental justice conflicts. (Image: Anti-PCB demonstration 1982.…
TOMS indonesia smog lrg

Fire and Rain: Living Downstream Reports from Borneo

The peat swamp forests of Borneo are the site of a failed agricultural experiment. Planners believed that rice should grow in the swamps, but it couldn't. Even today, experiments with growing oil palms and other trees are changing the forests, with little positive to show for these efforts. As indigenous people lost their livelihood, carbon poured into the atmosphere from uncontrolled fires. Daniel Grossman reports: (Image: Smog and smoke over Borneo and Indonesia, 1997. Credit: NASA)
carrot pullers from texas oklahoma missouri arkansas and mexico coachella valley 1 1024

Trailer Park Activists of Coachella Valley Fight for Health

You may be familiar with Coachella from hearing about the annual music festival there. But for 10 years, journalist Ruxandra Guidi has been visiting farmworkers in the area, learning about the deplorable conditions in which they live. There’s now some hope that community health workers are making a significant difference in the lives of workers. Here’s Ruxandra with the story – and stay tuned afterwards for a conversation with her detailing how she gains the trust of folks whose lives she’s documenting. Learn more about Coachella Valley trailer park activists. READ: Amid California's Toxic Dumps, Local Activists Go It Alone, by Ruxandra Guidi (In this historic photo by Dorothea Lange, migrant farmworkers pull carrots in the Coachella Valley. Credit: Library of Congress) Ruxandra Guidi reported and produced this episode of Living…
Red Water Pond Jean Hood and Peterson Bell Standing Black Tree Mesa

Uranium: A Toxic Legacy at Red Water Pond Road

For the Navajo people Mother Earth is sacred. She places her mineral riches below ground. That’s where they’re meant to stay. If the Earth’s elements are hauled up to the surface, Navajos believe they can turn monstrous -- or they can unleash the monsters in humankind. Uranium mining produces radionuclides and other toxic wastes full of heavy-metals. Transformed for weaponry and fuel, uranium can affect human genes, according to the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. To get at uranium deep underground requires scouring the earth with chemicals to extract the raw ore and its poisonous bedfellows. What’s left are soils that blow contaminants through the air as dust, and wastewater that seeps deep into underground aquifers and pollutes groundwater. The residents of the Red Water Pond Road community in New Mexico have lived with uranium…
occupy richmond 4 20 2012 dan arauz flickr

Smackdown: City Hall vs. Big Oil

"Smackdown" tells the story of Richmond California, a working class town that grew up in the shadow of a massive Chevron refinery. The refinery emits a toxic soup of chemicals and residents suffer an asthma rate that is double the national average. Explosions and fires have periodically shaken the refinery since 1989. But Chevron is also the biggest employer in town and its taxes supply tens of millions of dollars for city services. Can Richmond maintain a healthy economy while transitioning away from fossil fuels and lessening its reliance on Chevron? And what role does electoral politics play in the mix? In October, 2018, Chevron settled a suit brought by the U.S. EPA, requiring it to pay nearly $3 million in damages, and spend about $160 million dollars upgrading refineries around the United States, including the facility in Richmond,…
BillyMcLean Von Jones

Forgotten Civilians of Eglin Air Force Base

During the Vietnam War the U.S. military defoliated large swaths of Vietnam with Agent Orange to deprive enemy forces of jungle cover. In the process it exposed American soldiers to this toxic chemical as well. Our own civilians back in the U.S. were also exposed to Agent Orange, along with other herbicides. They were involved in testing herbicides at an Air Force base in Florida throughout the 1960s. Dozens of civilians involved in the testing at the base say that more than 40 years after their exposure, they are ill and dying. (Billy McLean (L) and Von Jones pictured. Credit: Jon Kalish) Jon Kalish reports from the Florida panhandle on Agent Orange and "The Forgotten Civilians of Eglin Air Force Base." Learn more about Agent Orange. Terell Ratlin died soon after being interviewed by Jon Kalish for this story Lawyer Victor Yannacone on…
we love earth 350 bodin

Preview: Living Downstream Addresses Environmental Justice

Here's a preview of our 12-part podcast, featuring stories from California and the rest of the country (and the world). We're doing a deep dive on environmental justice issues. The timing couldn't be better, as the media is now turning its attention to this issue with full force. Most recently, the Washington Post ran a news analysis under this headline: "In the U.S. Black, Brown and Poor People Suffer the Most from Environmental Contamination." We start our podcast with a story from East Chicago, Indiana. Why did municipal authorities build a public housing project on top of a Superfund site contaminated with lead? (Photo: 350.org, Raphael Bodin, Survival Media Agency) Future stories will visit a testing range where civilians were doused with Agent Orange, and look at an election in Richmond, California, where communities organized to…
Calumet Live Matter

Living with Lead: Public Housing on a Superfund Site

In East Chicago, Indiana, authorities built a public housing project on land once occupied by a lead smelting operation. The area has been declared a Superfund site, and residents of the housing project, but not the surrounding area, have been moved. After we produced this episode of our podcast, the housing project was torn down. Nevertheless, in the summer of 2018, revelations have continued about inaccurate and misleading information provided to community residents by officials, who hid the health impact of the buried lead in their neighborhood. (photo: Calumet Lives Matter president Sherry Hunter, left, sports her group's signature shirt at the independent Community Strategy Group's Calumet Day table with Rev. Cheryl Rivera. Photo credit: Annie Ropeik for Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.) Annie Ropeik and Nick Janzen followed…

Environmental News

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.