Summary: A new green biography of eco-billionaire Ted Turner, with author Todd Wilkinson. Kathleen Dean Moore offers a medicine for green despair. Writer and owl biologist Tim Fox sees humans as the unstoppable flood. Radio Ecoshock 141119.
Or listen on Soundcloud right now!
In this second half of the program, we ‘re going to hear about an answer to ecological despair, from the noted author and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore. We have a guest interview from Orion magazine. I’ll follow up with another view from author and owl biologist Tim Fox.
FIRST THIS RANT: MUST THE CLIMATE MOVEMENT HIBERNATE THROUGH EVERY WINTER?
Now that the Polar Vortex brings cold to much of North America, the whole climate movement goes dormant. The people don’t know the ocean off New England is 5 degrees above normal, so hot it’s threatening species there with extinction. They don’t know Alaska and Greenland are still way above normal. They don’t know Australia has been roasting again. A vast area of Eastern Australia is heading into another major drought. South Australia just had the driest October on record. But who cares? It’s really cold outside, so there isn’t any global warming….
How can we keep the climate movement conscious through winter in the Northern Hemisphere?
It’s not an impossible challenge. I remember the failed Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. It was bitterly cold outside in Denmark, but thousands of climate activists stood outside the halls. We may have to take climate change so seriously that climate protests continue even when it’s 20 degrees below zero outside. We’ll never make it as “fair weather” environmentalists.
By the way, all the time I was growing up, nobody ever heard of “the Polar Vortex”. It’s like a dam recently broke in the Arctic, flooding the plains and the East with polar weather. Did you know an American scientist named Jeniffer Francis discovered this shift in the Jet Stream may be due to disappearing Arctic ice?
Not enough people know that climate change is really climate disruption, – that it can bring unseasonably cold weather as well as heat. But Matt Drudge and his drones are already laughing at Obama’s China climate deal, because it’s COLD in Washington!
Another thing people don’t realize is that our emissions keep on going all winter. In fact, they ramp up in the North, as all those oil heaters, gas furnaces, and giant coal-fired electric generating plants run overtime. So we’re ducking the whole issue of climate change, while we go into another orgy of filling the atmosphere with our carbon garbage. Winter is a climate killer too. What heats your house?
Another fact about winter CO2: because there are far fewer plants in green during the winter, much more of the CO2 we produce goes into the oceans, or stays in the atmosphere.
I’m almost afraid to do a Radio Ecoshock show on how we are all going to roast. I know plenty of people, myself included, have a subterranean voice that says “mmmm warm, I’d like to be warm”. But the climate movement cannot be season. It can’t be a part-time job. Every month we toss more greenhouse gases into the sky. Don’t stop trying. I won’t.
LAST STAND: TED TURNER IN A TROUBLED WORLD
As The Economist reports, the top point 1 percent of America’s population have as much wealth as the bottom 90% of the people. No wonder some hope this elite will finally turn toward saving what’s left of the planet.
Do the billionaires know? Some do. There’s talk about Richard Branson and his 3 billion dollar pledge to combat climate change. Branson and other bigwigs like Warren Buffet and T. Boone Pickens credit another fellow billionaire for their turn toward green thought and action. That would be the unsung radical rich man Ted Turner, founder of CNN among other things.
There’s a new book out: “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet“. From Bozeman Montana, we have the author and long-time environmental journalist Todd Wilkinson as our guest. Find Todd’s web site here.
The secret to understanding Turner, says Wilkinson, is that he always sees himself as the underdog. This develops through a troubled childhood, where nature appears to have been part of Turner’s sustenance. His father, owner of Atlanta’s largest outdoor sign company, killed himself when Turner was 24.
Ted saw some unique opportunities. He bought an inexpensive Atlanta TV station, and hooked it up to a satellite, creating the first “Super Station” broadasting all over the world. Then he bought entertainment companies with rights to old movies, and played those on his growing cable network. Then he developed CNN news, which helped fuel some political change as people in different countries saw how others lived. Some give Turner’s CNN some credit for ending the Soviet system.
Even as Turner was a capitalist on his way to the wealth stratosphere, he still had a yearning to protest the system. I know in the 1990’s he was a big supporter of Greenpeace USA. Then he funded something called the Ruckus Society. They trained young people to climb trees or block bulldozers. It’s wild to imagine a capitalist quietly funding people who protest against capitalist pollution.
BACK TO THE LAND: IN A BIG WAY
Now Turner is the second largest land-owner in the United States, with about 2 million acres. Most of this is old ranches, big ones that were worn out from over-grazing cattle. Turner ruffled some rancher feathers when he said cattle were dirty and unsuited to the terrain. In their place, he introduced the almost extinct Plains Bison.
The Bison can protect themselves better than cattle from predators like wolves and bears. So taking a page from eco-radical Dave Foreman, Ted Turner started “re-wilding” his lands. In Montana, he re-introduced wolves, and now has the largest wild wolf pack in the lower 48 states. He also brought in Grizzly Bears, long extinct in the West. Turner admires Yellowstone Park, and has pretty well succeeded in having all creatures found in Yellowstone also on his Montana Ranch, called the Flying D.
Turner is still a capitalist, maybe an eco-capitalist, with all these ventures. Documentary producer Michael Moore claimed Turner’s land has a higher gross domestic product than the country of Belize. And he doesn’t just raise bison, he slaughters them for the meat he sells in his Ted’s Montana Grill chain.
Everything has to pay it’s way with Ted. But he sees that as justice for coming generations. The thinking goes we can’t saddle them with a “debt” of land that can’t pay for itself. And such lands will not be protected.
Wilkinson also explains that Turner has put easements on some of his lands that prevent them from being broken up in the future. This helps preserve the big corridors, connecting to public lands, that wide-ranging species need.
Turner also believes strongly in alternative energy, and in solar power in particular. He’s put his money where his mouth is. Turner Enterprises has a whole subsidiary where he’s gone into partnerships with large utility companies, (who previously invested mostly in coal plants) to build commercial grade solar electric projects.
In just one example, his Campo Verde Solar Facility in Imperial County California can produce 139 Megawatts. I did a little comparison, and found that is larger than the rated capacity of over 200 coal generating stations in the United States.
Find out more about his solar projects at Turner Renewable Energy here.
Turner money has gone into a wide range of green organizations – over 1,000 of them.
He’s also been concerned about the other big threat to human existence (beyond climate change) – nuclear weapons. With former Conservative Senator Sam Nunne he created a foundation called “Nuclear Threat Initiative”. For one thing, they helped pay for an American team to go grab unguarded nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union – before terrorist could. Find out more about Turner’s anti-nuke weapons foundation here. Warren Buffet has also got on board this one.
Oh yeah, and he gave a billion dollars to a foundation to promote public awareness of the United Nations. It was more than a pledge. He made good on it, giving $600 million himself, and finding $400 million from other private donors.
According to Wikipedia, quote: “In 2008, Turner asserted on PBS’s Charlie Rose television program that if steps are not taken to address global warming, most people would die and ‘the rest of us will be cannibals’.”
Most of our listeners are suspicious of super-rich white men talking about greening the planet. Nobody is perfect. Is Ted Turner our billionaire green hero savior? I asked author Todd Wilkinson that question. He says “no”. In fact, Turner’s wife of 10 years Jane Fonda said Turner was likely trying to save himself as much as the environment. And Turner does fly around to various houses in his private plane, creating super-sized personal emissions.
But Todd wrote the book for a couple of reasons.
First, Turner can influence other very wealthy people and does. He brought Texas wild-catter T. Boone Pickens to realize climate change from fossil fuels is real. Pickens has been pushing wind power. Turner also has influenced some of America’s richest people, like Warren Buffett, and the heirs of Sam Walton, owners now of Walmart. Ted also led the way in saying that at least half of great wealth should be given away, helping influence Bill and Melinda Gates.
More than that though, Wilkinson says Turner can be an example or meme that could help move the capitalist class, or even all of us, to save what’s left of the planet. Wilkinson has been an environmental journalist for 3 decades. He knows how tough it is. A revolution doesn’t seem likely in the near-term. the near-term is all we have left to make big changes, so we may have to get capitalists to care about saving the climate and the biosphere. That debate
The book is “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet”. Judging by the deep info and passion shown in this interview, it should be a worth read. It’s on Amazon of course, but Wilkinson asks you to support your local book store if you can. Find them here.
KATHLEEN DEAN MOORE: HOW TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF A BIG RIVER (or our society).
I have a good connection with Erik Hoffner, a photographer, fish-lover, and outreach co-ordinator for Orion Magazine. He sends me good tips and sometimes guests.
Erik pointed me to an article and podcast with Kathleen Dean Moore. She’s an author and philosopher I admire. I recorded her speech in Vancouver, and broadcast on Radio Ecoshock on May 2, 2012. Find that audio here. It’s titled “It’s Wrong to Wreck the World: Climate Change and the Moral Obligation to the Future“
Now Moore is back, talking about an epiphany she had one sleepless midnight in Alaska – when the temperature even at night was 93 degrees F! (34 C). Talk about global warming!
So this week I’m running that podcast interview from Orion Magazine, with Kathleen and Assistant Editor Scott Gast. She describes how a river changes, and what that means for we who despair of our civilization ever reducing greenhouse gases.
TIM FOX: A DIFFERENT RIVER
We’ve heard the story of the river from Kathleen Dean Moore. But there is another river flowing over the world, and that is us.
Whenever I encounter a nexus of enquiring minds, like Orion magazine, I don’t quit with the main article. It really pays to surf through the intelligent comments as well. That’s how I found our next guest. Tim Fox lives in Blue River Oregon, in the Cascade Mountains. He saw that other river.
So it’s appropriate that Tim tells the tale of a great raging river in the Pleistocene – that age running from about 2.5 million years ago to around 11,000 years ago (though to be the beginning time of modern human civilization). That river came as ice dams repeatedly melted from the glacier Lake Missoula.
Moving up to 60 miles an hour, this vast collection of rushing water – think of a land-based tsunami – reshaped the landscape, creating among other things the “Badlands” of Montana.
Tim’s point: we are that kind of river. Humans are flooding the globe, remaking the landscape as we go. We talk about what that means, and how we can ever hope to change a current like that.
Tim Fox writes for various alternative press outlets. He’s also been an owl biologist. Apparently the famous endangered spotted owl is being threatened not just by habitat loss, but also by one of it’s cousins, the newly arrived Barred Owl.
Some ancient forests in the US Northwest, like those near where Tim Fox lives, are protected under the Endangered Species Act because of the spotted owl. If that owl goes, the forests are no longer protected. Tim calls on us to revere the ancient forest for their own values, not just one species.
In the interview, I ask Tim to read out his very sane comment on the Kathlene Dean Moore podcast, and his own reaction. Tim Fox is a gem worth finding, and I thank Erik Hoffner for putting me, and all of us, in touch with him.
That’s it for our time together this week. Our web site is ecoshock.org. Find us on Soundcloud.
If you would like to help this program cover it’s costs and keep going, find out how here.
I’m Alex Smith, saying thank you for listening, and caring about your world.