WBEZ | EcoMyths http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EcoMyths: Do wildlife need our help in winter? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-wildlife-need-our-help-winter-109743 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths Wildlife winter.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With the extra-frigid winter we&#39;ve slogged through, it boggles my mind that <em>any</em> wildlife can survive so many sub-zero days outdoors. It has been hard enough for humans. So at EcoMyths we wondered: how do animals survive this challenge within our vast urban landscape? For our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">regular segment</a> on <em>Worldview</em>, Jerome McDonnell and I explored this topic with wildlife expert Bill Ziegler, Senior Vice President of Collections and Animal Programs at the <a href="http://www.czs.org/CZS/Brookfield/Zoo-Home.aspx">Brookfield Zoo</a>.</p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/134285676&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe>Can Wild Animals Be Homeless?</strong></p><p>Bill explained that &quot;many of our native animals are, in fact, homeless because their habitats have been disappeared or dwindled, not just in Illinois, but also further afield.&nbsp; In a well-intentioned effort to beautify our cities and neighborhoods, we have gradually almost completely replaced native habitats that once provided both food and shelter for thousands of species of birds, animals, and insects.&quot;</p><p>Bill continues, &quot;Based on positive motivations, we have planted beautiful exotic flowers, bushes, and trees from other parts of the world. We have cleared oak forests and drained wetlands to build safe, dry homes. And we have replaced our messy native tall grass prairies with pristine lawns so that our kids can play soccer and baseball in the yard.&quot;</p><p><strong>Some Fixes Are As Simple as Falling Off A Log</strong></p><p>Whether inadvertent or not, in many places only small pockets of habitat remain for native creatures such as red fox, white tailed deer, opossum, frogs, salamanders, and songbirds. But even with forest preserves and parks, Bill encouraged us to take steps to help wildlife find food and shelter in residential areas. In our own yards and parks, it can be as simple as keeping a pile of leaves or old hollow logs in the yard over the winter to provide homes for small animals.</p><p>In the summer we can prepare friendly year-round habitat by planting groupings of bushes to provide &ldquo;micro-habitat&rdquo; sanctuaries with seeds and berries for food.</p><p>Bill also emphasized the importance of providing connections between wild spaces. In some parts of Illinois we are fortunate to have many natural greenways due to the efforts of the County Forest Preserves and other conservation organizations. Preserving corridors and providing new connections between separate open areas are essential to the health of the animals, so that they can move easily from place to place to find additional food, shelter, and breeding grounds.</p><p><strong>Where Palm Trees Sway</strong></p><p>Not only did Bill enlighten us on wildlife habitat in Illinois, we also discussed the recovery of panther populations in Florida and vast habitat losses and restoration efforts in Southeast Asia. Development in Florida has drastically reduced the cypress swamps and pinelands which the panther inhabits. Now living in only 5% of its former habitat, the panther is more likely to venture out into human territory. Efforts are underway to expand the Florida Panther habitat so they can live and breed in the large interconnected spaces they need. In much of Southeast Asia, such as Sumatra and Borneo, where rainforests are being clear-cut to make way for profitable palm oil plantations, thousands of plant and animal species have been displaced.Much of the land has become a monoculture &ndash; home to a single species of plant. Orangutans and tigers are being driven out, as are the indigenous people who depend on these forests. In spite of agreements to make these plantations more sustainable, habitats continues to be lost and damaged.</p><p><strong>Healthy Wildlife Habitat is Healthier for Humans Too</strong></p><p>Although the protection of any particular single species may seem unimportant, it turns out that the restoration of native habitats is actually important to the human species as well. Why? Because native plantings absorb rainwater to prevent flooding and refill our groundwater wells; forests absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere moderating the rate of global warming; native plants attract and support the insects that depend on them; the native insects support the diets of the birds and mammals which in turn help the local plants to thrive by pollinating and spreading their seeds. There is no need to take extreme measures, like throwing out all our exotic plants and flowers from other areas of the world. These help make the landscape beautiful. But non-natives can also co-exist with healthy populations of native plants. Including native plants as part of your landscape can complement your colorful garden and also provide important habitat for local creatures. ;</p><p><strong>One Green Thing You Can Do: <u>Incorporate Native Plants</u></strong></p><p>Bill recommended consulting your local nurseries for advice on incorporating native plants into your yard. Not only will you be helping the wildlife, but your plants will be easier to care for!</p><p>Listen to today&rsquo;s EcoMyths Worldview podcast (link this) to hear the whole interview on the value of snow! To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to read further about the how we can help wildlife in winter and all year long.</p></p> Tue, 11 Feb 2014 09:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-wildlife-need-our-help-winter-109743 EcoMyths: Snow and Water Supply http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-snow-and-water-supply-109504 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths snow.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><u>The Snow Man Cometh</u></strong></p><p>In the past couple of weeks many of us have seen more snow than we&rsquo;ve seen in a lifetime.Since I grew up in Minnesota, however, the 5 foot snowbanks and freezing temps feel just like home to me. When the first snow falls, I immediately yearn to make snow angels and go skating. But for many, snow can be a real nuisance. So what&#39;s the bright side for those that view the first snow as time to head to Florida?<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/127588022&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong><u>Snow and Water Supply</u></strong></p><p>On Worldview&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">EcoMyths segment</a>, Jerome McDonnell and I explore if there is anything redeeming about snow. Our guest was Tim Loftus, PhD, Water Resource Planner for Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). He spearheaded CMAP&rsquo;s recent report on Northeastern Illinois water supply issues. Tim&rsquo;s view is that snow is important, at least somewhat, for replenishing the water supply. But in Illinois, snow only replenishes our drinking water when it falls on Lake Michigan and other open water bodies. As climate change proceeds, Tim says snow will become even less important as the proportion of annual precipitation from rain in the Chicago region increases as the amount of snow decreases.</p><p>Tim points out that in the mountain West, snowfall is significantly more important for restoring the water supply than in the Midwest. This is because in the mountains, melting snow occurs gradually over many weeks or months and flows down gradually refilling the reservoirs and rivers. While a decrease in snowfall in the Great Lakes region is not likely to have much impact, the same trend in the Mountain states would cause significant drought, straining water supplies needed for irrigation and for drinking.</p><p><strong><u>Would You Like Salt With That</u>?</strong></p><p>Here at home, the key issue regarding snow is actually sodium chloride, a.k.a. salt. The rock salt that we use to ice roads and sidewalks washes away when the snow thaws. It ends up in the storm sewers and eventually, our drinking water. Salt also dries out the soil and can damage plants. While there are some salt alternatives, it&#39;s the most common solution for dealing with ice. Tim points out that the short-term advantage of using salt, namely safety, is vital as we continue to use it as a de-icer. However, he says the long-term cost is the accumulation of salt in our water supply. As a result, our grandchildren may have to de-salinate their water in order to drink it, a very expensive and energy intensive process.</p><p><strong><u>One Green Thing</u></strong></p><p>Tim says the alternative to salt is sand. Although it does not melt ice as efficiently as salt, sand is a more benign solution. Sand does not hurt the garden and does not hurt the plants. But, as with salt, it is possible to overuse sand. If sand washes into the storm sewers, the silt can clog sewer pipes and add sediment to the water. But it is still not as damaging as salt.</p><p>The lesser of two evils for making icy winter surfaces safe for walking and driving is to use sand. <strong>The One Green Thing you can do: replace your sidewalk salt with sand to keep chloride out of the water supply -- and to save money for your grandchildren so they don&rsquo;t have to de-salinate their drinking water.</strong></p><p>Listen to today&rsquo;s EcoMyths Worldview podcast (SoundCloud file above) to hear the whole interview on the value of snow!</p><p>To learn more about this myth go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to read more on the importance of snow for replenishing our aquifers.</p></p> Thu, 02 Jan 2014 08:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-snow-and-water-supply-109504 EcoMyths: Effect of Global Warming on freshwater fish http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-effect-global-warming-freshwater-fish-109240 <p><p><strong><u>Let&rsquo;s Get Reel: Warmer Lakes and Streams Devastate Freshwater Fish </u></strong></p><p>If you had wonderful, lazy days fishing at the lake with your grandpa, you would bait the hook, reel in a couple of good sized perch, and bring them back for Grandma to cook.&nbsp; Those days are under threat now, and not just because of our obsession with Twitter and <em>Angry Birds Star Wars</em>.</p><p>We&rsquo;ve all heard about many changes due to of global warming like melting glaciers and unstable, unpredictable weather. But did you know it also affects freshwater fish? Today, Jerome and I talked with <a href="http://www.nwf.org/">National Wildlife Federation</a> spokesperson Frank Szollosi, M.S. to find out why some of our favorite fish species are declining or under threat.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/121871672" width="100%"></iframe>Recreational fishing is a big industry with $26 billion spent by consumers every year, according to a newly released <a href="http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2013/09-04-13-Freshwater-Fish-Climate-Change-Report.aspx">study on freshwater fish by the National Wildlife Federation</a>. Climate change is warming water to the point that cold-water fish species are not only driven north, but are dying. Frank told us that fish species are grouped into three different types of species: cold water, cool water, and warm water fish. Cold water fish become very vulnerable with increasing temperatures, making fish more susceptible to &ldquo;pollution, parasites, and disease&rdquo; according to the study. Species that are unable to migrate to colder, more hospitable waters often fail to reproduce in their native habitat and the populations die out.</p><p>Warmer air temperatures cause increased water temperatures, Frank says. In addition, warm air causes greater evaporation and can lower water levels, resulting in warmer water. Pollution also compounds the impact of warming waters. In the Great Lakes, the western basin of Lake Erie has a significant problem with enormous algae blooms that deplete oxygen from the water, making the water uninhabitable for fish.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="182" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ecomyths fish.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Data from this test is posted and available to Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, an international group that assesses the impact of climate change and other conditions on freshwater lakes. These scientists maintain that as summer wears on and the water heats up, nitrogen and phosphorous from waste emptying into the lake will increase the growth of algae, turning Lake Lillinonah in Bridgewater, CT into a thick, smelly and slimy green soup. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)" width="275" /></div><p>Climate Change will accelerate unless we cut our carbon footprints. Frank reminded us that we can make small daily choices that add up. Easy energy efficient changes at home can make a difference, like lowering the thermostat a few degrees in the winter and switching out some of your light bulbs for fluorescents or LEDs. It may not seem like much, but when thousands of us cut our energy usage, we cut down global-warming producing carbon into the atmosphere. Frank gave us hope, but also made it clear that we have to play our part to ensure we don&rsquo;t lose precious fish species in the wild.</p><p>Learn more about this myth! Listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to learn more about global warming impacts on freshwater fish.</p></p> Mon, 25 Nov 2013 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-effect-global-warming-freshwater-fish-109240 EcoMyths: Rinsing before recycling? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-rinsing-recycling-109244 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths recycling.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><u>To Rinse or Not To Rinse: A Recycling Mystery Solved</u></strong></p><p>At EcoMyths, people ask us all the time about recycling. One of the most frequently asked questions is &ldquo;Do you need to rinse all containers before tossing them into the recycling bin?&rdquo; That&rsquo;s a great question and have often wondered that ourselves. To explore this issue on our <strong>EcoMyths</strong> segment on <em>Worldview</em>, Jerome McDonnell and I talked with engineering professor and researcher <a href="http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/directory/profiles/Eric-Masanet.html">Eric Masanet, PhD</a>, of Northwestern University.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/117664526" width="100%"></iframe>The good news is that more than half of Americans, 58%, say they recycle on a regular basis. Of the 4.5 lbs. of waste that we produce on average per person, each day, we recycle about one-third of it, according to the EPA. Not too shabby, considering how much of all that recycling reduces the amount of garbage going into landfills.</p><p>Most recycling programs in the U.S. co-mingle glass, plastic, aluminum and other recyclables into one bin. Then they are processed together in a single stream at the recycling plant. So Eric advises that most containers be emptied and rinsed out before you toss them into the bin. Yogurt still in the container? Rinse it first. Peanut butter still in the jar? Scoop out what is left, then rinse, before recycling. Why so serious? Because according to Waste Management, the company that collects half of all the curbside recycling in the U.S., a single dirty container can contaminate thousands of pounds of recyclables.</p><p><strong><u>Water you talkin&rsquo; about?</u></strong></p><p>We asked Eric if the extra water used to rinse out the containers would negate the environmental benefits of the recycling itself. He said that even with the water used both at home and at the recycling plant, there are significant water savings compared to what would be used to manufacture new containers from scratch.</p><p>Not only that, the environmental benefits of recycling go well beyond water savings, Eric says. Over the life of a product there are also significant energy savings. For instance, if your peanut butter container is recycled into plastic lumber, energy is saved because the upfront impact of extracting the oil or gas used to manufacture the plastic has been eliminated. In addition, no live trees need to be harvested to create the artificial lumber.</p><p>As a professor of materials and manufacturing that focuses on product life-cycle systems, Eric has much experience researching the economic and resource impacts that occur in manufactured products. A <em>life cycle analysis </em>starts from the time a raw material is mined, drilled, or harvested to the manufacturing and use of the product and until it is disposed of or recycled. Eric points out that when we recycle and re-purpose materials &ldquo;we cut the loop short&rdquo; of the lifecycle of a product, creating significant environmental benefits, not to mention the money that is saved.</p><p>That said, the rules regarding whether you need to rinse out your containers actually vary from city to city. It depends on who collects your recyclables and the capabilities of the facility where those items are recycled. Eric advised us to check on the regulations that apply to your city or town by going to <a href="http://www.Earth911.com">www.Earth911.com</a>.</p><p>I think that not only is Eric incredibly smart, but he makes it really easy to understand the environmental and economic impact of recycling.</p><p>To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to read more about <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/10/myth-you-must-rinse-all-containers-before-recycling-them/">how to rinse your recyclables. </a></p></p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 09:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-rinsing-recycling-109244 EcoMyths: Is fresh cafeteria food an oxymoron? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-fresh-cafeteria-food-oxymoron-108814 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths-School Lunch.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><u>3 Reasons of Hope for Healthy School Lunches</u></strong></p><p>Reheated frozen chicken nuggets, mushy green beans, and jello have long been staples in many school cafeterias. But the times they are a changin&rsquo;. Efforts are being made across the United States to bring fresh, local foods to kids at school. Today, on <em>Worldview&rsquo;s </em>monthly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, Jerome McDonnell and I talked with Liz Soper of <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA.aspx">Eco-Schools USA</a> to get the fresh facts.</p><p>Many factors have come together to create this new trend toward providing fresh foods to schools. According to Liz Soper, these include Michelle Obama&rsquo;s campaign to get kids moving and eat healthy. In addition, the growing awareness of large food deserts in many urban areas has increased the need for schools to provide the best possible nutrition for children during the school day. In food deserts, their parents may not have access to buy fresh food in their neighborhoods, so school may be where kids get their healthiest meal of the day.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F113395618" width="100%"></iframe><strong><u>3 Reasons School Lunch is Going Healthy:</u></strong></p><p>1) Local, organic, fresh food is becoming a national priority.</p><p>2) School districts around the country are growing fresh foods to provide to their school cafeterias.</p><p>3) Kids perform better in school when they eat fresh food.</p><p>Liz reminded us that local, fresh food is coming to the forefront not just in schools, but in restaurants, communities, and in the culture in general. Community gardens are popping up all over the country. In addition, people are buying memberships in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which are local farms that deliver weekly crates of fresh, locally farmed produce to their members. This is happening due to increased interest in providing healthy foods for our families and ourselves. Plus, people prefer the taste of freshly-picked produce vs. that which was picked before it was ripe and shipped across the country.</p><p>This exciting development in schools can be seen in many of the largest public school districts across the country. Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Burlington (Vermont) all have implemented programs in which the school district grows produce and delivers it to its own cafeterias. Some of these school gardens are right on school grounds, so the students have an opportunity to plant, nurture, and harvest produce themselves. Liz told us that kids are much more likely to eat a fresh cucumber or bean if they have grown it themselves &ndash; and they like it! As she says, most kids are used to eating beans out of a can, so there is a transition period as their taste buds move towards preferring fresh and natural.</p><p>Eco-Schools USA, Liz explains, works with schools to develop green teams that do a food assessment and create a plan of action they can implement. They encourage schools to take small steps and help gradually kids transform the way they eat. The Eco-Schools programs help the kids make the direct connections between fresh foods and their communities.</p><p>Liz also suggests that school performance is enhanced when kids eat healthy too. Studies show children have more energy and are more alert when they eat fresh, whole foods rather than sugary or processed foods. Not only does eating fresh foods help fight obesity, but studies show that a healthy diet may improve students&rsquo; math scores.</p><p>Overall, it seems movement towards healthy food in schools is good for communities, great for kids&rsquo; health and energy levels, as well as helping school performance. That seems like a recipe worth following!</p><p>To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to EcoMyths Alliance website to <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/09/fresh-school-lunch-is-an-oxymoron/.">read further about why there is hope for healthy school lunches</a>.</p></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 09:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-fresh-cafeteria-food-oxymoron-108814 EcoMyths: Does antibacterial soap make us safer than regular soap? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-antibacterial-soap-make-us-safer-regular-soap-108709 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/washing-hands-plain-soap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When I go to the store to buy a refill for my home liquid soap dispensers, it is nearly impossible to find liquid soaps that are not &ldquo;antibacterial.&rdquo; I have heard for years that antibacterial soaps are suspected of helping to create antibiotic resistant bacteria.</p><p>So it got us thinking&hellip;does using antibacterial soap get us cleaner than regular soap and does it impact the environment the same way that antibiotics do? That is, does it get into natural systems and then back into our own?</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F105290486" width="100%"></iframe>To help us sort out the issues about antibacterial soaps, today on <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview" target="_blank">Worldview</a></em>, host Jerome McDonnell and I discussed it with our friend and water expert, Olga Lyandres. Olga is research manager at the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org" target="_blank">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>.</p><p>Olga confirmed that antibacterial soap is being found more frequently in our drinking water. In fact, she said that the main active ingredient in antibacterial soap, triclosan, is number 14 on the Alliance&rsquo;s list of emerging contaminants of concern in water. &ldquo;There is a misconception that these products are protecting you more than regular soap,&rdquo; Olga stated, adding &ldquo;washing hands with regular soap is just as effective at preventing the spread of disease.&rdquo;</p><p>The problem is that triclosan is a broad-range antibacterial, meaning that it kills good bacteria right along with the bad. It is a myth, Olga reminded us, that all bacteria are bad! In fact, we have tons of beneficial bacteria throughout our bodies and in our guts. So much so that when we take prescription antibiotics to cure bacterial infection, we can get stomach upset for awhile because our good bacteria is being beaten back at the same time as the disease-inducing bacteria.</p><p>Hand washing is a worldwide priority for promoting health and preventing disease. The Centers for Disease Control and the Global Partnership for Hand Washing are among the groups that promote <a href="http://globalhandwashing.org/ghw-day" target="_blank">Global Hand Washing Day</a> every year on October 15th. This initiative promotes washing hands with plain old soap, instead of just plain water. They do not at all promote antibacterial soap. Many people around the world are unaware of the need to wash hands with soap, especially after using the toilet to remove traces of fecal matter and the germs associated with it. Hand washing with soap prevents disease by removing bacteria and viruses from hands.</p><p>To learn more about this myth check out the full EcoMyth <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/08/antibacterial-soap-myth/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 09:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-antibacterial-soap-make-us-safer-regular-soap-108709 EcoMyths: Is Solar Power Practical Yet for Homeowners? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-solar-power-practical-yet-homeowners-108224 <p><p>My home faces south with tons of windows, so we get really warm on a typical sunny day. Does that mean I am harnessing solar power? If I wanted to install solar panels, would it save me energy and money? On <em>Worldview</em> today, host Jerome McDonnell and I explored these very questions with Dick Co, managing director of the <a href="http://www.solar-fuels.org/management-team--staff.html" title="Find others who have worked at this company">Solar Fuels Institute</a> and environmental chemistry professor at <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/search?search=&amp;company=Argonne-Northwestern+Solar+Energy+Research+%28ANSER%29+Center&amp;sortCriteria=R&amp;keepFacets=true&amp;trk=prof-0-ovw-curr_pos" title="Find others who have worked at this company">Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center</a>.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F103290717" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Dick walked us through the basics of solar power for homeowners as well as some truly &ldquo;cool&rdquo; solar-harnessing technology to make fuel (yes, liquid fuel) for practical use in the near future. But first, he helped us explore the virtues of solar. Of course, sunlight is free, in the sense that it does not have to be mined, and it&rsquo;s abundant. Dick said each year we receive a whopping 120,000 terawatts of energy from the sun, but the world&rsquo;s population uses only 16 terawatts annually. That&rsquo;s a pretty good ratio. Also, once installed, there is no harmful waste or byproduct from producing solar power. In addition, studies show that going solar may increase your home value.</p><p>Dick confirmed that my house benefits from <a href="http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/passive-solar-home-design">passive solar home design</a>, which can be done a lot more effectively if the home is intentionally designed to absorb sunlight during the day and release the heat at night. Of course, you can install solar panels on your roof, known as <a href="http://www.eere.energy.gov/basics/renewable_energy/photovoltaics.html">solar photovoltaic (PV) cells</a>. They can be installed on a tracking device that follows the sun. Finally, there is <a href="http://www.doe.gov/energysaver/articles/active-solar-heating">active solar heating</a>. This process uses a solar collector to heat water or air for later use.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="263" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Solar.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Gaiam has solarized more homes throughout the U.S. than any other company; 60,000 to date. (PRNewsFoto/Gaiam, inc.)" width="236" /></div><p>We also explored the costs to homeowners and the various state subsidies that make converting to solar affordable. Some people produce so much solar power that they actually get a rebate from their local utility for returning energy to the power grid!</p><p>To read more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show, or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> website to read more about the costs and benefits of home solar production.</p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 10:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-solar-power-practical-yet-homeowners-108224 EcoMyths: Does living near a wetland mean your home is at greater risk for being flooded? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-living-near-wetland-mean-your-home-greater-risk-being-flooded-107883 <p><p>When last April&#39;s massive storms waterlogged basements across the Midwest, <a href="http://www.epa.gov/">Environmental Protection Agency</a> and municipal hotlines were flooded with calls from angry homeowners blaming the damage on the proximity of wetlands to their homes. The calls keep coming, says Gary Sullivan, PhD, and Senior Restoration Ecologist for <a href="http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/">The Wetlands Initiative</a>, who points out wetlands provide natural water-storage features on the landscape&mdash;holding the water in when it rains, then releasing it slowly.</p><p>The misconception comes because homeowners who think they live &ldquo;near&rdquo; a wetland, most likely live &ldquo;in&rdquo; an area that was once a wetland that was destroyed or drained, says Mark Maffei, Ph.D, a wildlife biologist who used to work for&nbsp; the U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service and National Park Service in Florida, consulting on the Everglades wetland restoration project. He currently serves on the boards of the <a href="http://www.naturalland.org/">Natural Land Institute</a> and The Wetlands Initiative.</p><p><strong>Facts:</strong></p><p>In Illinois&mdash;as in other upper Midwestern Corn Belt states&mdash;nearly 90 percent of the state&rsquo;s wetlands have been drained during the last 200 years for agriculture or urban development, according to the <a href="http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Pages/default.aspx">Illinois Department of Natural Resources</a>,&nbsp;&ldquo;All those wetlands are now gone, and that reduces the capacity to stave off floods by 90 percent, not to mention the damage to the habitat&mdash;80 percent of birds depend on wetlands,&rdquo; says Sullivan.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wetland-jj-001.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 301px; float: right;" title="Wetlands in Illinois. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)" /></p><p>Currently, in the U.S., the pace of destruction is most extreme in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, which shelter New Orleans from hurricane. Thousands of square miles of former Lousiana wetlands have been filled in or developed. Florida&rsquo;s wetlands&mdash;the Everglades &mdash;have also been hard hit. Without the Everglades, much of South Florida would simply dry up, Maffei says. Once touting two million acres of wetlands, today Florida has only half of that, he adds.</p><div>Like Illinois, Florida has experienced tremendous damage to its natural habitat from the destruction of its wetlands, but Floridians also face a crisis regarding access to fresh water, because without the filtration protection of the wetlands, saline from the ocean is pushing into their water supply system and also, the region&rsquo;s rainfall is not replenishing the ground-water fresh water supplies.</div><p>Illinois ranks sixth in overall percentage of wetland loss, and fifth in terms of acres. That puts Illinois in the top ten percent of states with the greatest overall wetland loss over the past 200 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p><strong>Solution: Restoring Wetlands Will Help Ease Flooding</strong></p><p>The restoration of wetlands is vital, largely to prevent flooding, but also because they are valuable to us and our communities for to establishing environmental balance and the well being of humans. Wetlands are valuable in many ways according to Dr. Sullivan:</p><ul><li>Improving water quality</li><li>Reducing flood damage</li><li>Contributing to groundwater and surface water recharge</li><li>Supporting habitat for fish and wildlife</li><li>Providing educational, recreational, and research opportunities</li><li>Restoration efforts include wetland mitigation projects:</li></ul><p>In the Everglades, scientists and engineers have created or restored wetlands to lessen the impact of deliberate wetland loss.&nbsp;In DuPage County, IL., The Wetlands Initiative has embarked on an aggressive project with the <a href="http://www.dupageforest.com/">Forest Preserve District of DuPage County</a>&nbsp;to restore drained wetlands along three miles of degraded stream, bisecting both the St. James Farm and the Blackwell forest preserves.</p><p><strong>One Green Thing You Can Do:</strong></p><ul><li>Support organizations working to restore wetlands, like the Wetlands Initiative and the National Wildlife Federation.</li></ul><p><em>For more information about this myth, click <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/06/living-near-wetlands-means-flooded-basements/">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 10:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-does-living-near-wetland-mean-your-home-greater-risk-being-flooded-107883 EcoMyths: Helping kids experience (their) true nature http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-helping-kids-experience-their-true-nature-107410 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F94531605&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Lanier2-slide_695x316.jpg" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Students participating in an environmental project. " />Hard to believe, but true:&nbsp; the average American kid spends an average of seven and a half hours per day using entertainment media on a computer, cell phone, TV, or other electronic device, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/" target="_blank">recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.</a>&nbsp; This is 53 hours per week &ndash; more than a full-time job!&nbsp; Much of the rest of the time, they are in school. So when do they have time to experience nature?</p><p>On today&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/" target="_blank">EcoMyths</a> segment on Worldview, host Jerome McDonnell and I explore this topic with two experts.&nbsp; Emilian Geczi, the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator for <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness</a>, addresses the reasons that youth these days are disconnected from nature and shows us that not only electronics are the cause.&nbsp; In addition, we talk with Elizabeth Soper, Associate Director of <a href="http://www.nwf.org/eco-schools-usa.aspx" target="_blank">Eco-Schools USA</a>,&nbsp; who helps lead school programs for the National Wildlife Federation.&nbsp; Elizabeth and Emilian explain why it is important to connect children to nature and offer simple suggestions on how to encourage them to do it.</p><p>Emilian Geczi&rsquo;s main recommendation is for kids to use every moment outdoors as an opportunity to be attentive to nature: listening for bird songs, touching tree bark or climbing the trees, watching ants crawl into their tiny anthills to store tiny specs of food and crawling back out again to look for more.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness</a>, a consortium of over 300 environmental organizations of all sized in the greater Chicago region, has an initiative called &ldquo;No Child Left Inside&rdquo;, which is being celebrated for the entire month of June 2013, starting next week.&nbsp; They have created a <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/childrens-outdoor-bill-of-rights/" target="_blank">Children&rsquo;s Outdoor Bill of Rights</a>, which asserts that every child has the right to plant a flower, follow a trail, camp under the stars, and more.&nbsp; During &quot;<a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/june-is-leave-no-child-inside-month/" target="_blank">Leave No Child Inside&nbsp;Month</a>,&quot; there will be numerous outdoor activities for children and their families throughout the region, all of which are listed on the <a href="http://www.chicagowilderness.org/what-we-do/leave-no-child-inside/june-is-leave-no-child-inside-month/" target="_blank">Chicago Wilderness website</a>.</p><p>My favorite on this list is the right to play in the mud.&nbsp; There&rsquo;s nothing quite as satisfying as running around barefoot in a light, warm rain and squishing your feet into the soft, slimy mud. Everyone should experience it&mdash;preferably while watching the worms squiggle around on the grass while a stocky, shiny frog hops past.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A1-Green-Flag-SCDS-2_LauraHickey_219x165_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Students receiving the Green Flag, one of Eco Schools USA's three awards for participation in eco-friendly projects." />Kids in the Eco-Schools USA program have it made, too, because their teachers are encouraged to hold their classes outdoors!&nbsp; We were always trying to persuade our teachers to do that when I was in school, with little success.&nbsp; But in Eco-Schools, holding class in the dappled sunlight under the trees is not only likely, but it is also encouraged.&nbsp; Elizabeth Soper tells us about Eco-Schools guidelines and materials, most of which are available for free on the <a href="http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA" target="_blank">National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA website</a>.&nbsp; Getting kids outside actually helps them to be more confident and calm and even improves their academic performance, Soper said.&nbsp; They get in touch with themselves while getting in touch with nature. Eco-Schools USA shows teachers and administrators how to make their school buildings and grounds more eco-friendly, with the help of students.&nbsp; Their programs get students outside, showing them how to create rooftop gardens and wildlife habitat.&nbsp; Eco-Schools also encourages students to get involved in understanding issues in their local community, such as identifying sources of local water pollution and learning what they can do about it.</p><div><p>Our experts show that regardless of how busy children are, they can have more fun, get better grades and learn more about their world just by stopping to smell the flowers a little bit each day. Or by playing in the mud.&nbsp;</p><p>Amen to that.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-helping-kids-experience-their-true-nature-107410 EcoMyths: Emerald Ash Borer destroys millions of trees in Chicago and US http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-emerald-ash-borer-destroys-millions-trees-chicago-and-us-106872 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90022516" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Slash and burn: Why so many trees are cut down in the Chicago area.</strong></p><p>Say hello to a small unwelcome guest: the emerald ash borer.</p><p>This invasive wood boring beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the US and millions more to come. Cutting down these trees is just one strategy to get rid of the pest and save the remaining ash forest, but as we learned here at <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a>, it&rsquo;s not enough. For the next segment of our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">EcoMyths</a></em> series, Kate Sackman and Jerome McDonnell talk with Peter Gordon, city forester for Lake Forest, and David Horvath from <a href="http://www.thecareoftrees.com/">The Care of Trees</a> - both are ISA Certified Arborists.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP090611054785_1.jpg" style="float: left; width: 264px; height: 158px;" title="Emerald ash borer. Actual size of adult ranges from 3/8 to 5/8 inches. The invasive beetle has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees over the past decade. (AP Photo/Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, File)" /></div><p>Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic insect native to China and eastern Asia. The bug hopped a ride to the U.S. in cheap wood packing material more than ten years ago. First detected in Michigan in 2002, today EAB infestation is a problem in 19 states. Most recently in <a href="http://myemail.constantcontact.com/For-Immediate-Release--Save-Your-Ash-Trees---Learn-to-ID-EAB--.html?soid=1109594220206&amp;aid=hPdylZ4kTmU">New Hampshire</a>, the state&rsquo;s department of agriculture confirmed detection on April 5<sup>th</sup>.</p><p>Aside from feeding on leaves, the adult beetles do little harm. Ruin occurs when in larva stage, EAB</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>chew through trees and damage its vascular system &ndash; the tissue right under the tree bark that&rsquo;s responsible for transporting water and nutrients from the roots to the top leaves and branches.</p><p>Scientists say its continued spread across the country is most likely due to the sale of firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas across state lines. Even worse: Stress from climate change, namely drought, makes the trees more vulnerable to EAB. North American ash trees have no natural resistance to this foreign guest.</p><p>Arborists explain with such a large food source for the pests, the problem is only expected to grow. According to one of the nation&rsquo;s largest tree care companies, The Care of Trees, Ash trees comprise 10 percent to 40 percent of local urban forests. Many ash trees were planted during the recent housing boom &ndash; creating a monoculture that makes them easy targets for EAB -- and they are natural reproducers.</p><p>So what to do? Initially, many communities took a wait and see approach, says Peter Gordon, city forester for Lake Forest, IL -- where 19 percent of the tree inventory is ash. EAB came to attention during the economic downturn, Gordon notes, and budget-strained municipalities had few resources for tree treatment.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="181" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP1110260175558_1.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Forester Jeff Wiegert, of the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, points out markings left from emerald ash borer larvae on an ash tree. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)" width="240" /></div><p>&ldquo;The strategy was to see how states, count[ies] and towns handled EAB where it was first discovered,&rdquo; he adds.&nbsp; &ldquo;But now we don&rsquo;t have as many options.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed EAB is an epidemic and can&rsquo;t be ignored, says Fredric Miller, a professor of horticulture at Joliet Junior College and a research associate with the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill.</p><p>&ldquo;If you choose not to do any treatment, you will be overrun,&rdquo; Miller says. &ldquo;What communities have to come to grips with is that either you are going to manage this on your schedule, or the insect will dictate the schedule.&rdquo; And that means, in part, cutting down lots of trees in our neighborhoods in an effort to stop or slow the spread of EAB.</p><p>Arborists explain the alternative for a badly infested tree &ndash; allowing it to die from EAB damage and then cutting it down &ndash; is worse, because it does nothing to prevent the beetle from paying a house visit to a neighboring tree. Also, Miller points out, dead ash trees are a dangerous liability and must be removed &ndash; they&rsquo;re structurally weak and can fall during wind or ice storms. Many of these trees line walkways and paths in neighborhoods and forest preserves.</p><p>But some trees can, and should, be saved with proper insecticide treatment, explains David Horvath, an arborist in suburban Chicago with The Care of Trees.</p><p>Horvath says that homeowners and municipalities are now charged with identifying &ldquo;valuable&rdquo; trees &ndash; generally larger (greater than 12 inches in diameter) that provide environmental benefits such as shade to decrease energy demand, a deep root system that mitigates storm water damage or simply beauty to the property.</p><p>Overall, an integrated approach &ndash; treatment, prevention and some targeted tree removal &ndash; is the best way to put the brakes on EAB, and avoid destroying urban forest, say Horvath and the other scientists EcoMyths interviewed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP03041601077_0.jpg" style="width: 244px; height: 159px; float: left;" title="Crews cut down trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer, north of Whitehouse, Ohio. (AP Photo/J.D. Pooley, File)" /></div><p>According to a 2011 article in the <a href="http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/jrnl/2011/nrs_2011_kovacs_002.pdf">Journal of Environmental Management</a>, prevention and treatment may make more sense economically, too. The estimated cost of treatment, removal and replacement of EAB in all affected states from 2010 through 2020 is $12.5 billion. Prevention tactics (such as destroying egg-laying EAB and targeted tree removal) could slash those costs by up to $7.5 billion, the authors concluded.</p><p>In the Chicago area, for example, municipalities spend up to $1,100 to remove and replace one tree, according to a 2012 survey conducted by Miller and his team.&nbsp; He notes that the same tree can be treated with insecticides for more than 50 years at the same cost.</p><p>Insecticides may sound nasty, but remember the alternative: cutting down the tree or letting it die anyhow, while giving that nasty beetle a free pass for its next meal. Plus, when used correctly and responsibly, experts say, insecticides targeting EAB are not likely to harm humans or the environment.</p><p>How else are government and science addressing the spread of EAB? Interstate regulation prohibits the sale of firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas. Also any wood packing material used for international trade must be fumigated or heat-treated, explains Kerry Britton, a national pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service who studies invasive forest pests.</p><p>Another strategy: Britton notes that researchers are trying to breed ash trees with natural resistance to EAB by crossing Asian ash trees that fight off the pest with vulnerable North American ash species.</p><p>&ldquo;By the time the beetle was detected, it could not be eradicated,&rdquo; Britton says. &ldquo;The goal now is to slow it down.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>One Green Thing You Can Do: </strong></p><p>Don&rsquo;t move firewood from <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/quarantine.shtml">quarantined</a> areas. One study showed that EAB can establish on a credit card-size piece of bark.</p><p>Keep an eye out for EAB, whether in your yard or your neighborhood. Here&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.extension.iastate.edu/pme/Publications/EAB/FAQSUL21AshTrees.pdf">helpful guide</a> to identifying ash trees and distinguishing between EAB and other problems. Realistically, your best bet is to call an <a href="http://www.tcia.org/">accredited tree care company</a> since early evidence of EAB damage occurs at the treetop level, where it&rsquo;s not visible to most folks. <strong>Now</strong> is the time to act. Treating trees by mid-May minimizes the damage by adult beetles, which emerge in the spring. If detected early, trees can be treated with insecticide rather than being cut down.&nbsp;</p><p>Think you spotted one? <a href="http://www.emeraldashborer.info/call.cfm#sthash.59Vb2IGy.dpbs">Report</a> it to your state&rsquo;s agriculture department office or the call USDA&rsquo;s EAB toll-free hotline at 1-866-322-4512.</p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p>The unofficial <a href="http://www.emeraldashborer.info/treatment.cfm#sthash.jVmXYeMO.dpbs">EAB web site</a> with background and treatment information, a collaborative education effort by state universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service</p><p>A <a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/emerald_ash_b/downloads/multistateeab.pdf">map</a> showing EAB detections across the U.S. and Canada as of December, 2012 (does not reflect the recent discovery of EAB in New Hampshire)</p><p>To save or not to save? A <a href="http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/EAB/pdf/NABB_DecisionGuide.pdf">guide</a> deciding when to treat EAB</p><p>Summary argument by <a href="http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/eab/files/2012/03/EAB-Consensus-Document.pdf">Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation</a> on why ash tree conservation is preferable to wholesale tree removal</p><p><a href="http://www.slameab.info/">SLAM</a> (Slow Ash Mortality) is a pilot project in Michigan &ndash; ground zero for EAB &ndash; to slow down beetle infestation.</p></p> Mon, 29 Apr 2013 08:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-emerald-ash-borer-destroys-millions-trees-chicago-and-us-106872