Southern California environment news and trends

Pocahontas and Pig Iron: An L.A. actor connects to Brazilian forestry problems

Marizilda Cruppe

Pocahontas is on the right.

The two categories of actors who ally themselves with eco-matters are not “the ones who are earnest” and “the ones who aren’t.” Green carpet or blue carpet, red carpet or no carpet, they pretty much all mean it--at least the ones I talk to--when it comes to the ocean or climate change or energy efficiency. The dividing line is really “the ones who are serious” and “the ones who needed a socially-valid hobby.”

Apparently Q'orianka Kilcher is of the serious type. She’s a 22-year-old actress, based in LA. She’s all over issues raised by GlobalGreen, Oceana and even the L.A.-centric Liberty Hill Foundation. Her own foundation aims to put video cameras in the hands of people who can document environmental harms in hard to reach places. This week she climbed up an anchor chain in Brazil as part of a protest that’s now extended a week, over the export of pig iron to U.S. companies. Iron ore gets turned into pig iron with incredibly high temperatures created by burning wood. In Brazil, charcoaled wood comes from rainforests. Greenpeace has brought in people to sit, essentially, on the anchor, to point out that this is still happening.


Sailing the "Seas of Science" a few more times, and for free

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Tabitha Esther, also known as Paris Killton, created "Seas of Science" to make science more accessible to kids.

Because I suspect in the future we will have robot overlords, I like the idea of seeing them in musical theater. Last fall I did a story on a little show about science, photosynthesis and deforestation for kids. It featured a song I found pretty catchy, and, yes, a robot. As for what else the show is about: 

Among the other key ingredients to a good show are an alien king puppet, three scientists, a friendly fern and a boat. "Marisol is a young girl; she has a mother and friends in Cleveland. She has a porthole in her attic, through which she joins her friends on a magical sailboat," Esther says. Marisol's best friend is Barry the robot; Sergio the cook is represented by a puppet with nutcracker-like teeth.

In the time since she wrote Seas of Science, and directed it last fall in her old Derby Doll stomping grounds, Tabitha Esther made a short video preview for people to check out in advance of shows this time around.


Corporate social responsibility; or, Mattel finally speaks to KPCC about deforestation, APP, Greenpeace stunt

Greenpeace's Barbie Protest

Grant Slater/KPCC

Sometimes people do ask corporations to be responsible citizens. Sometimes corporations do. Outside Mattel HQ, El Segundo, CA.

I was just listening through the tape from last Friday’s Grammy corporate sustainability event one more time. Not to start a fight with myself, but after I raised questions about the responsibility we ask from corporations, I found an example where people did just that. 

You may remember that last spring Greenpeace campaigned to get Mattel to source its packaging more responsibly: that is, they wanted Mattel to stop using pulp from Asia Pulp & Paper and its associates. (See here for more from last October, when Mattel did develop sustainability rules.)

Well, when I realized Mattel was at this event, I asked Jennifer Miller DuBuisson, the company’s associate manager of global sustainability, whether the Greenpeace campaign took them by surprise. “I mean, it definitely shows where social media is today. A pretty amazing campaign,” DuBuisson said gamely, quipping about the quality of the color scheme in the protest-stunt props. DuBuisson emphasized that Mattel did not approve of the action’s potential for harm to Greenpeace protesters and Mattel employees.   


Song of the Week: "Slash & Burn," for the NAMM show's musical instrument wood controversy

Jamie Ambler

Razia Said, Malagasy singer.

I try really hard not to pick protest songs for "Song of the Week." For so many reasons, but mostly, they tend to be insufferably bad, if not just whiny. I settled on picking Razia Said for this week's artist, because of the NAMM show, and Said's protest song, "Slash and Burn," has a groovy rhythm that reminds me of political songs of the early nineties out of other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, so let's do it. 

This song is for the NAMM conference, wrapping up today in Anaheim. Yesterday we heard about Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson guitar, a guy who has felt caught up in in something larger in a way he doesn't like. Razia Said's song is kind of about the same feeling, but from a different perspective. 

One day in may
It was a beautiful day
I felt so alone
When the sky opened up
And changed to charcoal grey 
One day in may
Just like any day
It chilled my bones
When i heard you say
That the hills have burned away
Slash and burn
Slash and burn
No where left to hide 
On the mountain side


Why Gibson guitars ran afoul of logging rules, and why activists are in Anaheim for NAMM

Sen. Rand Paul Host Roundtable With Gibson Guitar CEO

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of the Gibson Guitar Co. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided the Gibson Guitar Co. and seized wood, computer file and accused the company of making guitars with prohibited wood.

Over the last few years, guitars and a sort of obscure law against illegal logging have come into conflict. Environmental activists are in Anaheim today, at the National Association of Music Merchants trade show, to do a raising awareness song-and-dance about this. Literally: they've got a musician with them. 

The guitars are Gibsons, and the law is the Lacey Act. An NPR colleague reported on this issue from Tennessee last year. Gibson is just a flash point: federal law enforcement officials have investigated the company on the suspicion that it broke laws in India and Madagascar. The Lacey Act makes it illegal to import and trade in illegal timber. (For more about how that's determined, check out the resources from NGO Environmental Investigation Agency.) The idea's to make the supply chain more transparent; U.S. importers of wood products must file a declaration identifying the species name and country of harvest.