Broadcast date: week of September 24, 2021

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A tree-lined street in Westmount, an upscale neighborhood of Montreal, Quebec. (Photo: abdallahh, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

This week, Peter Dykstra, editor of Environmental Health News, briefs host Steve Curwood on the link between household income and tree cover. Plus, how the wildfires in Australia led to giant algae blooms thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean. In the historical calendar, they remember the Montreal vaccine riot of 1885, when anti-vaccine sentiment turned violent in the face of a smallpox epidemic.


CURWOOD: Now is the time for us to take a look beyond the headlines with Peter Dykstra. Peter is editor-in-chief for Environmental Health News, i.e. EHN dot org, and He’s online from Atlanta, Georgia. Hi, Peter, what do you have for us today?

DYKSTRA: Hi, Steve. As we all know, according to this old saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees”. But in many cities, according to an analysis by CBC, Canadian Broadcasting, trees tend to grow near money. Several neighborhoods in Montreal with a median household income of 100,000 Canadian dollars or more, with tree cover more than double that of some of the less affluent neighborhoods of this beautiful city. Other Canadian cities, including Toronto and Quebec, have shown the same thing.

CURWOOD: Well, and that gives real numbers on something that a lot of us suspect, that the greener neighborhoods tend to be richer. I think of places like Buckhead in your city, Atlanta, or Central Park in New York, where the prices are much higher closer to the park.

DYKSTRA: Trees drive up rent and real estate.

CURWOOD: There you go.

DYKSTRA: You know, my next post also has a lot to do with trees, especially burning trees in Australia, where they experienced record wildfires two years ago in 2019. According to a study published in the journal Nature , these wildfires caused an algae to bloom 2,000 miles in diameter, as large as Australia itself, but more than 2,000 miles offshore from the nearest land point and the nearest wildfire in Australia.

A satellite view of forest fire smoke from New South Wales and Queensland in Australia drifts over the Pacific Ocean in November 2019 (Photo: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019) ), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

CURWOOD: So usually you get algae blooms, when you have runoff from farms, too much fertilizer or some factories, but obviously 2000 miles at sea, allowed them to point to wildfires. And what was the mechanism?

DYKSTRA: Smoke from forest fires contains all kinds of bad things other than the smoke that gets into your lungs. One of those bad things is significant amounts of iron. And iron, of course, is a fertilizer that can help things grow in the ocean. The iron was swept away in the smoke of a forest fire, it threw itself into the ocean. He created this immense proliferation of algae throughout the South Pacific. And it is the case of an environmental catastrophe which causes a second.

CURWOOD: I wonder if we’re going to see algae blooms in the eastern United States after all these western fires this year, or off the east coast.

DYKSTRA: That’s right.

CURWOOD: Well, let’s take a look at the story and tell me what you wanna talk about today.

DYKSTRA: I received another article from the beautiful city of Montreal. It was September 28, and there was a riot and demonstration in Montreal, where French-speaking citizens viewed the imposition of a mandatory vaccination program as an oppression by an English-speaking federal government. The point is that the year was 1885 for this anti-vax protest, and the vaccination was to help eradicate smallpox.

CURWOOD: Why was there such a protest against vaccination then?

A drawing by Robert Harris titled “Smallpox Epidemic Incident, Montreal” shows health police forcibly removing patients from the public during the time of the anti-vaccination riots of 1885. (Photo: Robert Harris, public domain )

DYKSTRA: Well, they stoned government offices, the house of a public health official in Montreal was set on fire. All because of the fear of vaccines, not in the 21st century, but in the 19th century, when smallpox was the supposed means of repression.

CURWOOD: So that means today’s political backlash against vaccination isn’t new to human history, eh?

DYKSTRA: Nothing new at all. We keep thinking that we are inventing new things. Instead, in cases like these, we are simply repeating the mistakes of past history.

CURWOOD: Well, thank you, Peter! Peter Dykstra is editor-in-chief for Environmental Health News, i.e., and We will speak again very soon.

DYKSTRA: Alright, Steve. Thank you very much, and I will speak to you soon.

CURWOOD: And there’s more to those stories on the Living on Earth webpage. This is


Radio-Canada | “In cities, money does not grow on trees, but trees grow near money”

Vox | “The forest fires in Australia have caused an explosion of marine life thousands of kilometers away”

Journal of the Canadian Medical Association | “When the anti-vaccine sentiment turned violent: the vaccine riot in Montreal in 1885”

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