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TV: What is your sense about the direction our society is taking?
Scholz: In my opinion, there's been a deterioration of values in American society -- the profit motive is replacing ethical values, and the way things are structured, people aren't really given a choice. The thing that made me decide to break with previous albums and include an overtly political song, was when I discovered that for the first time in American history big business owns the news media. Virtually every magazine, newspaper, TV station and cable channel is owned by a big corporation, and they've squashed stories that they don't want the public to know about. The media aren't playing the role of watchdog anymore, and that's something that hasn't happened in 300 years in this country. To me, it's a sign the U.S. is in trouble. We need a free media, not just freedom of speech. If people are lazy and they concentrate only on what they want to the exclusion of what's going on around them, we're in trouble. And as I see it, the Sierra Club is one of the very few organizations that can mobilize people and reverse public indifference.
TV: In the title track to your new CD, you reference several issues the Sierra Club is working on. Mind if I ask you to comment on a few of them?
Scholz: Not at all.
TV: ebony porn OK. Let's start with SUVs.
Scholz: SUVs are one of my pet peeves. At some point, if something is a public hazard, it needs to be addressed -- and this isn't even to mention the resources they use. As a trained mechanical engineer, I'm appalled at the way Detroit has been able to sell these to the American public. They're an abysmally poor means of getting from one place to another. People should be made aware that SUVs are more likely than standard automobiles to roll over, crash and kill them. And they're incredibly dangerous to drivers of other vehicles in a crash. I believe in my heart that most people actually want to do the right thing so far as the environment is concerned, but I don't think most people realize how wasteful and dangerous these machines are.
TV: Urban sprawl.
Scholz: Go for a walk or a drive and you'll see how insane it's gotten. Everybody's seen a stream or a wood they knew replaced by a strip mall. People have been convinced that growth for growth's sake is a good thing. I'm a pilot and, on the whole, pilots are a conservative bunch of people. I read flying magazines, and I've come across a lot of letters arguing that we need more and bigger runways. But lately one pilot wrote in to a flight magazine that even doubling the number of runways wouldn't solve the problem. I completely agree with him. I don't believe the best solution is always to build, build, build.
TV: Which leads into the next thing I was going to mention -- what you refer to as the "dizzy pace" of progress.
Scholz: The pace of growth and the pace of travel have been growing by leaps and bounds. Maybe we should think about slowing down a little. Back in the '50s, it was gospel that industrial growth was vital and all progress was good. But so much of what passes for progress these days is destructive of things and wasteful of environmental resources. It seems we churn out more and more "stuff" all the time, and to me, more "stuff" does not constitute progress.
TV: Factory farming.
Scholz: I don't think most people are aware of the realities of factory farming. The majority of people, for instance, don't know what a veal crate is. (I mention veal crates in the song "Corporate America.") That's because corporate America doesn't want people to know how veal calves are treated. Factory meat raising is horrifying. And sometimes I actually start to think human life is just as cheap to corporate America as animal life, so long as there are big profits to be made.
TV: Toxic pollution.
Scholz: There's such a broad spectrum of things you can point to that are all around us. You walk by a schoolyard and there are flags warning of poisonous substances. Rates of cancer are higher than they've ever been. PCBs and toxics are in the air and water all over the place and people aren't even aware. There's a wide range of toxic pollutants that people are dumping in their own living spaces. Down the road all living things will suffer.
The Bush administration doesn't seem to think toxic pollution is a problem. Instead of doing something to improve the situation, they're taking us backward. They don't seem to believe that things like asthma are a problem, even when there are places where asthma is occurring at many times the national average. What do they think, that asthmatics just move to those areas?
TV: I think maybe I've grilled you enough.
Scholz: Oh, no problem. I don't often get the chance to rant like this.
TV: Actually, it's a pleasure to hear your ranting. Or at least, it's a pleasure to hear that you're so obviously knowledgeable about these issues. In any case, I know I speak for all of us at the Sierra Club in saying that we're truly appreciative of your decision to partner with us and donate a portion of the proceeds from your upcoming tour.
Scholz: It's a great honor to me that the Club was willing to put their name out there alongside Boston. So I'm appreciative of that opportunity.
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