June 3, 2004
The Durango Herald
Local radio show aims for inspiring stories on environment
By Dale Rodebaugh
Herald Staff Writer
Tom Bartels, left, and Gary Lewin sit Wednesday in the Cosmix
Sound Studio, where they record the Good Dirt Radio program.
On the premise that good news creates a chain reaction that provides
wide, lasting benefits, seven Durango residents have crafted a five-minute
program - Good Dirt Radio - focusing on cheerful, environmentally
"There is no subject we won't consider, but it can't be fluff,
pie in the sky," said Tom Bartels, former owner of the Abbey
Theatre and one of the seven-member board. "It has to be positive,
inspiring and show that what's being done works and that it works
for the environment."
So far the group has produced paeans to biodiesel fuel, compact
fluorescent light bulbs, nontoxic means of dealing with the West
Nile virus and an organic spray to combat the Ips beetle. Bartels
and Tami Graham, executive director of the Animas Conservancy, host
The programs air monthly or bi-monthly on La Plata County stations
KSUT-FM (90.1) and KDUR-FM (91.9). But plans call for approaching
the 30-station High Country Community Radio Coalition - of which
KDUR is a member - about spreading the good word on stations in
New Mexico and Utah as well as Colorado.
If Good Dirt Radio gains a foothold in the Rockies, organizers
plan to approach the 1,100 public radio stations across the country
next year. They say they need a dozen programs in the can to show
what they can do.
"Good Dirt is about digging up good news … for a change,"
said Gary Lewin, a Durango real estate broker and owner of Cosmix
Sound Studio. Lewin conceived the program as a way to use the media
to get involved in issues needing change.
Good Dirt Radio programs, which condense 40 hours of research,
interviewing, writing, editing and producing into five minutes of
air time, show how environmentally effective efforts can be applied
by everyone, Bartels said.
Take global warming, Bartels said. Individuals understand the
consequences intellectually, but the problem seems so overwhelming
they may end up doing nothing. On the contrary, Good Dirt Radio
deals with issues that can be taken on locally and that can produce
observable results, he said.
Bartels cited the Good Dirt Radio program on how Fort Lewis College
is swapping incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones.
The effort started with Ray Vigil, an employee at the college's
physical plant. Vigil, one of whose ongoing jobs was changing burned-out
incandescent light bulbs, noted the frequency with which he made
his rounds. With a cost/benefit analysis made with the help of the
college's environmental center, Vigil persuaded his boss, Al Mages,
to start retrofitting.
Mages was quoted on Good Dirt Radio as saying that the compact
fluorescent bulbs not only cost less to use, but also last eight
to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Good Dirt Radio tackled another ongoing, readily visible phenomenon
- the thousands of dead or dying piñon pines across the Four
The program interviewee was Bill Ruth, an Arizona businessman,
who by trial and error produced an organic solution to combat the
Ips beetle, the scourge of pinons. Ruth recommends the plant nutrient
be used as a foliar spray as well as an ingredient in the mixture
used to irrigate the tree.
A Prescott, Ariz., pest-control firm has switched from chemical
sprays to Ruth's product, and Friends of the Trees, in Albuquerque,
is testing the product. Arborist Hans Hartman of Affordable Fellers,
in Durango, also is using the organic spray, which fortifies the
tree against assault by the Ips beetle.
Lewin and Bartels are quick to point out the benefits of Ruth's
organic spray. It doesn't kill bees or butterflies - as chemical
sprays do. The nutrient helps the tree maintain its health by retaining
water and building capillary pressure to expel intruders. The Ips
beetle, like any invader, prefers easy prey.
Good Dirt Radio airs on KSUT-FM (90.1)
at 4:30 p.m. the last Wednesday of the month. It airs bi-monthly
on KDUR-FM (91.9) but not on a set schedule. All programs
are available on the Good Dirt Radio Web site www.gooddirtradio.org.
Program organizers are looking for writers
to submit story ideas. Guidelines for submissions are available
on the Web site, as are background and contact information
about people interviewed for the shows.
"If chemicals drift, they're still a problem," Bartels said. "Organic
spray solves a problem without creating new ones."
Good Dirt Radio also has told the story of biodiesel fuel, a topic
dear to Katrina Blair, an educator, founder of Turtle Lake Refuge
and a board member. Blair has taken traditional biodiesel a step
further, outfitting a 1984 diesel truck to operate on filtered vegetable
oil donated from restaurants.
The Good Dirt show points out that Rudolph Diesel, the inventor
of the engine named after him, designed the engine to operate on
In addition to Lewin, Bartels and Blair, the Good Dirt Radio board
is comprised of Ron Margolis, an activist and retired environmental
lawyer; Michael Rendon, from the Fort Lewis College environmental
center; Jude Terry, a psychotherapist; and Nancy Jacques, an environmentalist
and writer whose column appears in the Herald.
Upcoming Good Dirt programs take a look at:
"Green" hotels, those that recycle, use bulk soaps
and shampoos instead of individual dispensers and try to save natural
resources, energy and waste by offering guests staying more than
one night the option of not having their bed linen and towels changed
Bio-mimicry, which basically is humans learning from
nature. Bartels and Lewin cited British scientists who developed
water-collecting methods in arid areas by observing a South African
beetle. The beetle survives in the Namib Desert, one of the most
inhospitable regions on Earth, by capturing water from dense fog
that blows in from the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning.
The November elections, which at first glance wouldn't
appear to be an environmentally oriented topic. But Bartels makes
the point that environmental issues could see different resolutions,
depending on who wins. Good Dirt wants everyone to get out and vote.
Slow food, which Lewin defined as "taking the junk
out of fast food."
"Green" buildings, a look at practical, cost-effective
alternatives available to architects and builders to replace outdated,
energy-inefficient materials and techniques.
Almost any topic - energy use, food production, recycling
- has an environmental angle, Bartels said. It's just a matter of
"We're overloaded with bad news," Lewin said. "We're
trying to create a niche that provides positive examples and good
news � for a change."
Reach Staff Writer Dale Rodebaugh here.
the original Herald article.