WBEZ | Environment http://www.wbez.org/sections/environment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Where do Chicago's bats hang out? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BATS%20TOPPER%20FOR%20WEB5.jpg" title="" /></a></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161019975&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578#bio">Rory Keane</a> was ambling around Chicago&rsquo;s downtown a few years back when he stumbled upon what looked like a piece of fried chicken glistening on the sidewalk. But it didn&rsquo;t take long for him to be disabused.</p><p>&ldquo;I saw it twitch real quick,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The next thing I knew, it grew wings and it was flying around my ankles and then right past my face.&rdquo;</p><p>It was a bat, in broad daylight, just doing its bat thing downtown. Soon after, Rory collected himself from fright and submitted these questions to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many bats are in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop? What are their favorite hangouts?</em></p><p>Spoiler alert: Our experts say we can&rsquo;t pinpoint exactly how many bats call the Loop home. Nor can we locate particular buildings the critters like, either. (Alas, someone else will have to explore whether the <a href="https://www.flickr.com/search/?l=commderiv&amp;q=wrigley%20building%20chicago" target="_blank">gothic tower atop the Wrigley Building </a>acts a bat-magnet). But experts<em> can </em>say which types of environments Chicago&rsquo;s bats like to hang out in and how popular those sites are.</p><p>The takeaway is that these furry fliers are likely closer than you think. And, beyond that: All this bat activity&rsquo;s a good sign, given that there&rsquo;s an ominous threat to their very existence.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where local bats <em>aren&rsquo;t</em></span></p><p>In 2012 researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Urban Wildlife Institute embarked on a study to measure the Chicago-area bat population. They wanted to learn more about which bat species call Chicago home (or were at least recurring squatters), gauge their numbers and determine their favorite haunts, all with the hopes of keeping close tabs on bat species affected by the fatal spreading disease called &ldquo;<a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">White Nose Syndrome</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>By 2013, the scientists had set up 18 bat detectors in various habitats around Cook and Kane counties: forest preserves, golf courses and at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk. As much as we hate to let Rory down, none of these detectors was in the Loop.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eastern-pipistrelle-little-guy.png" style="float: right; height: 116px; width: 180px;" title="An eastern pipistrelle." /></a>That&rsquo;s for several reasons.</p><p>The first one: Bats probably aren&rsquo;t hanging out downtown. Liza Lehrer, a research coordinator at UWI, says bats might fly through the Loop looking for food, but likely wouldn&rsquo;t make a home in urban infrastructures like skyscrapers. But if we were to try to pinpoint a bat hangout in the Loop, Lehrer says, be on the lookout for older, cozier buildings with lots of nooks and crannies.</p><p>&ldquo;They like old churches, barns, things like that &mdash; areas with lots of older architecture with attics that are easy to get into through roofs,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;Maybe the Bucktown, Wicker Park areas, but I&rsquo;m sure anywhere around the city where they can use those spaces they&rsquo;re probably using them.&rdquo;</p><p>Lehrer says it&rsquo;s hard to put a number to how many bats hang out in urban infrastructure. But she wouldn&rsquo;t be surprised if there were 1,000 or more bats living in older Chicago neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;Maternity colonies can have hundreds of individuals in one colony,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s very possible there are thousands in the Chicago area for sure.&rdquo;</p><p>The second reason why UWI didn&rsquo;t place bat detectors in the Loop has to do with sound.</p><p>Julia Kilgour, a former UWI bat researcher, says the sheer noisiness of the Loop makes it a bad environment to pick up bat calls, and it&rsquo;s even noisier for the bats themselves.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sonobat.jpg" title="A screenshot from Sonobat software that shows bat call frequency and species. Researchers can use this to determine how active certain sites are. (Photo courtesy UWI)" /></div><p>If you were sick the day they talked about <a href="http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/bat2.htm" target="_blank">echolocation</a> in school, here&rsquo;s how bats navigate the world. Their eyesight isn&rsquo;t so hot, but their hearing is. Bats send out ultrasonic calls, which bounce off trees, buildings and prey. They listen to these echoes to locate who and what is around them.</p><p>Echolocation is not a problem in quiet, rural areas; but in dense, urban areas like the Loop, bats have a harder time pulling it off.</p><p>Rory himself was on to that explanation: &ldquo;I imagine if I&rsquo;m a chic urban bat and looking for a place to live, the Loop would be accommodating ... but it would be noisy.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">Where the bats </span><em style="font-size: 22px;">are</em></div><p>UWI researchers had plenty of other locations to gather data from; they&rsquo;ve analyzed thousands, if not millions, of bat calls gathered from forest preserves and golf courses around the Chicago area. Liza Lehrer says she&rsquo;s counted up to 3,000 calls from one detector in a single night.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/forgotten bat 2.png" style="height: 242px; width: 180px; float: left;" title="A silver-haired bat" /></a>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s really exciting about what we&rsquo;ve found so far is we see a lot of bats in Chicago, both in urban and rural areas,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We actually see more bats using Cook County sites in the height of the summer, but out in rural areas we saw more consistent numbers.&rdquo;</p><p>Another interesting finding? Bats really like golf courses.</p><p>&ldquo;You may not consider that an area for wildlife, but there&rsquo;s lots of bat diversity in golf course sites,&rdquo; Lehrer says.</p><p>Golf courses aren&rsquo;t as dense as the city&rsquo;s forest preserves and typically contain a small body of water, so they appeal more to tree-roosting bats, such as the hoary bat and the eastern pipistrelle.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank">(To see a breakdown of favorite bat habitats around Chicago, check out our visualization by artist Erik Rodriguez, based on research provided by the UWI).</a></p><p>But the finding Lehrer says she&rsquo;s most excited about is that all seven species common to Northeastern Illinois have been detected at the <a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/nature-boardwalk" target="_blank">Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk</a>, a mere three miles north of the Loop.</p><p>&ldquo;[Bats are] living right here in Chicago, right in the middle of the city, right here at the zoo,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fortunate to have an amazing array of green space in the city so they&rsquo;re able to take advantage of that as much as possible.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The dreaded white-nose</span></p><p>Finding all seven bat species so close to a dense metropolis is especially exciting, Lehrer says, because several species are directly threatened by <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">white-nose syndrome</a>.</p><p>A bat afflicted by the white fungal disease can wake up early during winter hibernation. Affected bats become active right when nature designed them to conserve energy and do as little as possible: when food stores are low and temperatures are dangerous. Lehrer draws an analogy that Chicago-area residents can certainly relate to. &ldquo;If you think about if you emerged from hibernation during our polar vortex,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;there&rsquo;d be nothing for you to eat. It&rsquo;d be very difficult for you to survive if you were a bat. So, thats what&rsquo;s happening. They emerge from wintering spots and aren&rsquo;t able to survive or find food.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LITTLE BROWN BAT WEB.jpg" style="height: 430px; width: 620px;" title="Little brown bat populations, illustrated above, have been decimated by white-nose syndrome in the northeastern U.S., but researchers have detected bat calls from them at the Lincoln Park Zoo's nature boardwalk." /></a></div><p>Since white-nose syndrome spreads when bats are hibernating in close proximity, Lehrer says, &ldquo;some caves have found up to 90 to 100 percent mortality.&rdquo; According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the disease has killed millions of bats across the U.S. and Canada. There have been <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map" target="_blank">confirmed sightings</a> in Illinois, as well as several neighboring states.</p><p>The disease is <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/about/bats-affected-wns" target="_blank">hitting some bat species harder than others</a>. Of the seven species that call the Chicago area home, the big brown bat (<em>Eptesicus fuscus</em>), the little brown bat (<em>Myotis lucifugus</em>), and the tri-colored bat (<em>Perimyotis subflavus</em>) have been susceptible.</p><p>The UWI study is one effort to monitor bat populations, health and behavior while scientists find cures for the disease.</p><p>So while bats may be on the top of the list of scary creatures for many Chicagoans, the scarier proposition is that there would be no bats left. At least, that&rsquo;s how Rory Keane feels about it.</p><p>&ldquo;When you come across something really puzzling like WNS &hellip; it&rsquo;s troublesome,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If it spells the end for bats it&rsquo;s just one more fixture in the ecosystem that&rsquo;s going to throw things out of balance for us as we experience it every day.&rdquo;</p><p>He points to a scene most Chicagoans can relate to. &nbsp;</p><p><a name="bio"></a>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re driving down Lake Shore Drive and it&rsquo;s a clear day and you can see the skyline in front of you,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;you marvel at the success we&rsquo;ve built up around us. &hellip; But could it have all worked out without the contributions of even these tiny, erratically-flying, illogical mammals we call bats?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rory%20mug%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 199px; width: 200px;" title="(Photo courtesy Rory Keane)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Rory Keane</span></p><p>Chicagoan Rory Keane got us looking into bat habitat a few years after he nearly stomped on one that was hanging out in the Loop. A graduate from Northwestern&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism, he&rsquo;s worked as an English teacher in China and is currently working as a digital marketer in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I guess you could characterize me as a curious person,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I have a little bit of a curiosity when it comes to travel and seeing the world from a different perspective.&rdquo;</p><p>So, he&rsquo;s no stranger to new experiences, but he still didn&rsquo;t expect to get a new perspective from that one, tiny bat in his hometown.</p><p>&ldquo;It was already an incredibly precious encounter given that you would never expect it,&rdquo; Rory says of the eastern red bat he nearly squashed. &ldquo;It took a bat to startle me into realizing what was going on around me [in the natural world] on an everyday basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Did we mention Rory also does a fantastic Werner Herzog impression? You gotta listen to his speculations on what life as a Chicago bat is like:</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161020052&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/JnnBrndl" target="_blank">Jennifer Brandel</a> is Curious City&#39;s senior producer and <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Bat and habitat illustrations by <a href="http://www.erographics.com/">Erik Nelson Rodriquez</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 After Water: Science, art and journalism around climate change http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/After-Water_crop.png" style="height: 269px; width: 620px;" title="" />Join us as we focus on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. WBEZ&#39;s brought fiction writers and scientists together, then asked the writers to jump off from there, creating stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">science</a> and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/sets/after-water-fiction">art.</a> We&#39;ll be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories and the science behind them here. It&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater"><em>After Water</em></a>. We invite your thoughts.</p><p><strong>The stories</strong></p><p>Local author Nnedi Okorafor starts out the series on Chicago&#39;s South Side. In her story,<a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky"> </a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92734891798/after-water-fiction-poison-fish-by-nnedi-okorafor">&quot;Poison Fish&quot;</a> (or, &quot;Poison Poisson&quot;), Okorafor brings us to a dystopian backdrop of memories and chaos, set along the waterfront on Chicago&#39;s Rainbow Beach.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-nnedi-okorafor/s-KJdW3">&nbsp;Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Nnedi Okorafor. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear some of the science behind her story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159874918&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">In his story</a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">,</a> &ldquo;Thirst&rdquo; Los Angeles-based author Max Andrew Dubinsky brings us to a California that&rsquo;s dry and dying, its inhabitants looking to the Great Lakes as their last salvation. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-max-andrew-dubinsky/s-mxJX9">Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Max Andrew Dubinsky. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">&nbsp;hear some of the science behind his story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159999662&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92743040588/after-water-fiction-world-after-water">&quot;World After Water,&quot;</a> Abby Geni brings us to a city drowned in dirty, toxic water. Four young brothers are forced to steal filtered water from their wealthy neighbors in order to survive. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-abby-geni">Listen to an interview</a> with Abby Geni about her story. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear about some of science</a> behind her story.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160123800&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></em></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92840460528/after-water-fiction-the-floating-city-of-new-chicago">&quot;The Floating City of New Chicago&quot;</a>, we see a Chicago divided by class...and water. The wealthy have fled the city for a secret island in Lake Michigan. The &quot;wet-collar&quot; workers have been left behind to do the city&#39;s dirtiest jobs. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-tricia-bobeda">Listen to author Tricia Bobeda</a> talk about how she found inspiration in a <em>30 Rock</em> episode. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">Or hear conversations</a> about the science behind her story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160658367&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/93235111273/after-water-fiction-the-last-cribkeeper-by-peter-orner">&quot;The Last Cribkeeper&quot;</a> we meet Harry Osgood as he walks along the shores of Lake Michigan. For years, he served as the guard for one of the water intake cribs miles from Chicago&#39;s shores. Now an old man, Harry looks out over the lake and reflects on how it has shaped the city&#39;s identity and his own.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-peter-orner"> Listen to author Peter Orner</a> talk about his lifelong fascination with the city&#39;s water cribs. Or <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">check out some of the science</a> behind the story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160834671&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>The science behind the stories</strong></p><p>The short&nbsp;stories you&#39;ve been listening to are solidly in the science fiction category.&nbsp;But some of&nbsp;the&nbsp;issues the&nbsp;writers touch on aren&#39;t as far out as you might think. Before they jumped 100 years into the future, we paired writers&nbsp;with scientists and policy experts to talk about the threats facing the Great Lakes right now. You can hear our conversations about the science behind the stories below.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/44458855&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 After Water: 'How do you sleep at night?' http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/after-water-how-do-you-sleep-night-110529 <p><p>This summer WBEZ has been reporting <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520">a lot on water</a> and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112">Great Lakes.</a> But this week we are beginning a series that puts a twist on that&mdash;it is called <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/">After Water.</a> We have asked fiction writers to pen stories set in the Great Lakes region some 100 years from now. We paired them with scientists and asked them to leap off from there. &nbsp;</p><p>As we looked for writers who would be game for this experiment, we came across <a href="http://www.michelemorano.com/">Michele Morano</a>. She teaches creative nonfiction at DePaul University and it turned out she was already talking with scientists. We decided to launch our series with the story about those conversations.</p><p>It all started when Morano was having trouble sleeping. She would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about climate change. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even think I knew enough then to imagine scenarios, I think I just had this blank fear of, what&#39;s going to happen, what&rsquo;s going to happen to my child?&rdquo; she explained.</p><p>All her 3 a.m Googling wasn&rsquo;t helping much. But then she tripped upon this online support group for people anxious about climate change. No one was debating politics or policy, they were just genuinely trying to figure out the same problem Morano was trying to solve.</p><p>&ldquo;How do we get through, not even through the global warming, but how do we get through what we are facing right now, which is the kind of knowledge that something awful is coming, but not knowing exactly what&rsquo;s that going to look like?&rdquo; said Morano.</p><p>This online support group was for everyday people, but Morano started to wonder if the people who study climate change were having these conversations, too. Do scientist feel better because they know more? Or is it scary studying about what could be ahead? So she did something kind of crazy and kind of brave: she called some of the top climate change scientists and asked: What are you seeing and how are you coping?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How it feels to predict the future</span></p><p>Morano thought it would be hard to get the scientists to be emotionally open, but it turned out they were eager to talk. Some scientists said they just did not focus on the future too much, because they had to detach themselves if they were going to keep working to solve the problem. Others said they worried about their children and grandchildren.</p><p>Morano says most scientists she talked with did not &nbsp;think we will be able to stop the earth from heating up by at least <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/02/1402277-global-warming-2-degree-target/">two degrees on average</a>. As Morano talked with scientists, she started to get a more real idea of what that was going to look like.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><a href="https://woods.stanford.edu/about/woods-faculty/terry-root">Terry Root</a>, one of the &ldquo;go-to scientists&rdquo; looking at how animals and plants handle climate change, told Morano that if we get to 2 degrees warmer, we could lose 20 to 40 percent of all the known species on the planet. If we get to 4 degrees warmer then we could lose as many as half.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of them are going to be species that we need. How do we know what species we need ahead of time? We can&rsquo;t save them all. That&rsquo;s why I get into<a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/conservationists-triage-determine-which-endangered-species-to-save/"> triage</a>,&rdquo; Root told Morano.</p><p>Morano said it was comforting for someone to be frank about the harsh situation we were up against, it was also comforting to hear such practical solutions. But Morano says she could tell that Root was also someone who was struggling with the realities.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I just had a discussion on the phone with my boyfriend about how much longer can I do what I&rsquo;m doing,&rdquo; Root told Morano. &ldquo;I &nbsp;mean all I do all day long is think about how species are going extinct. It is tough. It truly is tough.&rdquo;</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/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-21%20at%2012.01.48%20AM.png" style="height: 438px; width: 620px;" title="This little brown fish is called a sculpin. (Flickr/Ohio Sea Grant)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The local take</span></p><p>Morano talked to scientists all across the country. But we wanted to hear local scientists answer Morano&rsquo;s questions&mdash;what were they predicting for Chicago and how they were coping with those predictions. So we joined Morano as she talked to some local scientists.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497" target="_blank">Will California drought prompt more Midwest agriculture?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><a href="http://www.sheddaquarium.org/Conservation--Research/Conservation-Research-Experts/Dr-Phillip-Willink/">Philip Willink</a> is a research biologist at Shedd Aquarium and he took us down to Lake Michigan. He said the lakes are predicted to get warmer and he pointed out species that would thrive in that environment, such as the &nbsp;big mouth bass. But he also told us about species that would struggle in warmer water, for example, a fish called a sculpin.</p><p>Sculpins are not the kind of charismatic creature that you&rsquo;d see in an environmental ad&mdash;like a dolphin. It&rsquo;s brown and grumpy looking. But Willink studies it. It is his brown fish.</p><p>He says sculpins are having a hard time because of habitat destruction and invasive species. But climate models show the fish may have bigger problems. The fish likes cool water.</p><p>&ldquo;So do we go through all the effort to save this species from invasive species and habitat loss if it&rsquo;s just going to be doomed by climate change?&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Willink says studying an obscure and at-risk fish can be a lonely pursuit. But as a scientist he is used to change.</p><p>&ldquo;If we were to go out over here in Lake Michigan there&rsquo;s the remnants of a forest, because we know at one time Lake Michigan was 50 to 100 feet lower, at one time. &nbsp;So we know over the past several thousand years the waters have gone up and down,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>To understand the kind of long-term changes Willink talks about we went next door to The Field Museum where we met <a href="http://www.fieldmuseum.org/users/abigail-derby-lewis">Abigail Derby</a>, a conservation ecologist.</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/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-21%20at%2012.02.00%20AM.png" style="height: 421px; width: 620px;" title=" A display from the Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit. (Flickr/Rebecca Gaines)" /></div><p>She took us to an exhibit on <a href="https://www.fieldmuseum.org/happening/exhibits/evolving-planet">earth&rsquo;s evolution.</a> The exhibit covers five mass extinctions, including the dinosaurs. Then at one point, you turn a corner, and you are suddenly in present day&mdash;the sixth mass extinction. &nbsp;According to a ticker in the museum, 33 species were estimated to have gone extinct between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. that day.</p><p>Derby told us that there are two big differences between current mass extinction and the previous five. The first is the rate: change is happening faster than at any other time we know about in geological history. The second big difference is what&rsquo;s causing the change; Derby calls this the driver. And this time, it&rsquo;s us.</p><p>&ldquo;The good news for the driver is we can change that. We can make choices to do something different,&rdquo; said Derby.</p><p>Morano asked her how optimistic she was that we would make the right choices, and make them quick enough.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it depends on the day you ask me,&rdquo; she told us ruefully. &ldquo;I happen to work with municipalities to do green infrastructure, and I find that a very rewarding and very optimistic field to be in. There is lots of action on the local level.&rdquo;</p><p>Derby acknowledged that she was not quite answering the question. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I purposefully didn&rsquo;t answer whether or not I felt that we would make enough gains in the amount of time needed to reduce the most negative impacts, because I feel in some way if I say out loud, &lsquo;Oh I don&rsquo;t think that can happen,&rsquo; then somehow I am contributing to it not happening. And I don&rsquo;t truly believe in my heart of hearts that it can&rsquo;t happen. So I am careful about what I say. Because at the end of the day I want the message to be what you do matters.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>There&rsquo;s <a href="http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/the-psychology-of-climate-change">research</a> that backs up Derby&rsquo;s worry. It shows that if you tell people about a possibly terrible future and you do not give them any sense of hope, they shut down.</p><p>Scientists worry about that because they want people to act on the research. Morano said almost everyone she spoke to was optimistic technologically and pessimistic politically.</p><p>&ldquo;Over and over again people said, we can fix this. But we&rsquo;re not doing it. And there&rsquo;s no indication we will.&rdquo; said Morano.</p><p>One of the reasons for that political pessimism is because of how we think about time.</p><p>For scientists who study big changes&mdash;the formation of the lakes, species adaptation&mdash;it may be easier to think over long, geological stretches.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s a struggle for the rest of us to think even 10, 20 or 100 years into the future.</p><p>But that is just what we are up to in a series we are beginning today. We&rsquo;re focusing on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. We have brought fiction writers together with scientists and then asked the writers to create stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of science and art. We will be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories online and on air over the next couple of weeks. It&rsquo;s called <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/about">After Water.</a> We hope you join us.</p><p><em>Michele Morano teaches creative non-fiction at DePaul and is working on an essay about her climate conversations. You can find out<a href="http://www.michelemorano.com/"> more about her work here</a>. </em></p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h">Follow her</a>.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;">***</p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country. </em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 20 Jul 2014 23:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/after-water-how-do-you-sleep-night-110529 In Dayton, Ohio an economic comeback is in the water http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 <p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s Mad River wellfield is on a grassy island in the middle of one of the city&rsquo;s three major rivers. Phil Van Atta, head of Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment operation, says the wellfield, where Dayton pumps up groundwater from the <a href="https://www.miamiconservancy.org/water/aquifer_what.asp">Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer,</a> is one of his favorite places. The shallow sand and gravel aquifer in some places lies just feet below the ground, and its 1.5 trillion gallons of freshwater is constantly recharging from the rivers and rainfall.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got loads of capacity now,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We would love to see more demand, more industry come in. Not just to increase their demand for water, but also so there are more jobs available to people in this area.&rdquo;</p><p>Dayton is Ohio&rsquo;s sixth-largest city, but its population has stagnated in recent years due to the foreclosure crisis and loss of industry. In Dayton, both crises hit years before they tore apart the national economy. But now the city may be on the cutting edge again. As states like California face major water shortages, city officials in Dayton sense a business opportunity.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Almost all local jurisdictions draw from the Great Miami Aquifer, and Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment system serves 400,000 in the city and surrounding Montgomery and Greene Counties. It&rsquo;s no Lake Michigan, but the self-filtering, self-recharging freshwater supply, along with the rivers, once made Dayton attractive to water-intensive industries in the 19th century.</p><p>Mills, factories, and countless little breweries lined the river before Prohibition, and Dayton was a hub of innovation and wealth. The airplane, the cash register, the self-start automobile ignition, and the pop-top soda can were all invented here. But now that&rsquo;s just a distant memory.</p><p>&ldquo;We lost all the GM plants and the Delphi plants and the parts plants associated with those plants,&rdquo; says Van Atta, turning the truck onto the gravel road that makes a loop around the island.</p><p>Tens of thousands of jobs evaporated &mdash; the final blow was when GM left in 2008. &ldquo;That was a big hit on our water demand,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Now Dozens of out-of-use wells dot this island; Van Atta says they rotate them in and out of use following a reduction in demand of over 25 percent since 2008.</p><p>And yet, Dayton is betting that in the future, water will be the key to turning things around.</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/Dayton%20Water%201843.jpg" title="Water sits in softening ponds at the Dayton water treatment plant. The system's two wellfields supply water for 400,000 people in the area from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;We&#39;re running into limits&#39;</span></p><p>U.S. census numbers reveal that in recent years the population has been <a href="http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/043/">virtually flat or shrinking in places like Ohio, Illinois and Michigan</a>, where there&rsquo;s tons of water. The biggest areas of growth are in the west and <a href="https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb13-94.html">southwest</a>, where water scarcity is a growing emergency. Parts of Texas have seen the worst droughts on record for four years and counting, and California&rsquo;s facing much the same.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re running into limits,&rdquo; says Peter Gleick, the head of the <a href="http://pacinst.org/">Pacific Institute</a>, a nonprofit research organization in Oakland, California. &ldquo;The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea in an average year because humans use all of the flow. We&rsquo;re over-pumping groundwater aquifers in the western U.S...In the past we&rsquo;ve sort of assumed enough water would always be available, and I think we can no longer assume that&rsquo;s going to be the case.&rdquo;</p><p>The parched conditions are affecting everything from food prices to energy spending and the intensity of wildfires. Climate change means this is probably just the beginning.</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;Some of these south-western cities that not only have water scarcity problems but are gonna start to see more and more costs for energy, for cooling, more and more uncomfortable extreme heat days,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In that kind of situation I think it&rsquo;s possible that we may see a change in the kind of migration we&rsquo;ve seen over the latter part of the 20th century, maybe back to some of these population centers in the midwest and in the east.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Dayton calling</span></p><p>&ldquo;Back to the midwest&rdquo; &mdash; that phrase is music to Karen Thomas&rsquo;s ears. Thomas is the head of water marketing for Dayton (yes, that&rsquo;s actually a job).</p><p>&ldquo;We have an abundant water source,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t believe that we would have to worry about water.&rdquo;</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/Dayton%20Water%201750.jpg" title="The Mad River wellfield in Dayton sits on a wooded island between heavily industrial areas in northeast Dayton. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>The water in the vast underground aquifer is usually out of sight, but it&rsquo;s up to Thomas to make it visible, and sell it. Efforts in the last few years have included a <a href="http://www.daytonwater.org/uploads/docs/SWPA%20Brochure.pdf">&ldquo;Take Back the Tap&rdquo;</a> campaign to encourage citizens to use Dayton tap water rather than bottled water. Officials have also reached out to companies in water-stressed areas, pushing Dayton as a cheap alternative.</p><p>Thomas thinks this is what could put Dayton back on the map.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is a public good, but it&rsquo;s also a commodity,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>An economic development team in Dayton has conducted talks with several food processors, manufacturers, and beverage makers that could use an inexpensive and abundant supply of water. Companies that choose Dayton would face little of the regulation placed on water diversions in the Great Lakes basin; here, if you can drill a well, you can drain it.</p><p>&ldquo;If they&rsquo;re looking for water, this would be a great place to relocate to,&rdquo; says Thomas.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">You can&#39;t make beer without water</span></p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s water pitch may sound like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, but it&rsquo;s not all that far-fetched.</p><p>&ldquo;You know people turn on the tap and they think water&rsquo;s free, they just assume it&rsquo;s gonna be there,&rdquo; says Peter Kruger, master brewer at <a href="http://bearrepublic.com/news/using-space-technology-to-conserve-water/#.U8fOR41dWKI">Bear Republic brewery</a> in California, north of San Francisco.</p><p>&ldquo;There was a period in early February where the governor listed 17 cities in California that were within a hundred days of running out of water,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and our brewpub in Healdsburg was one of those towns, and our production brewery in Cloverdale was another.&rdquo;</p><p>In the brewing industry, water isn&rsquo;t negotiable &mdash; most of it is used for cleaning equipment and of course for the beer itself, which is why Kruger is nervous. I called him to hear about the work they&rsquo;re doing to conserve, but he says they are actually considering a move.</p><p>&ldquo;We have talked about other locations for a brewery that are not as water-stressed as California is.&rdquo;</p><p>They&rsquo;ve looked at Pennsylvania, Wisconsin &mdash; and yes, even Ohio.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497" target="_blank">Will California drought prompt more Midwest agriculture?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>But Karen Hobbs, a <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/khobbs/">senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a> is not on board with this idea.</p><p>&ldquo;These are difficult economic times. But the troubling part about marketing water resources I think is that it tends to devalue that asset,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Hobbs thinks clean water in the Great Lakes region comes too cheap. In Chicago, almost 2 billion gallons of water a day leave Lake Michigan for use in homes and industry, and drain into the Chicago River, never to be returned or recycled.</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/Dayton%20Water%201848.JPG" title="Karen Thomas, the city of Dayton's full-time water marketer, holds up a brochure advertising Dayton's water supply. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>Plus, the midwest is not immune to the effects of climate change, like drought or huge storms and floods, which can affect water quality as well as quantity. She says before companies just move to where the water is, they should work harder to reduce, reuse and recycle.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s lots, lots of low-hanging fruit in terms of improving water efficiency and increasing conservation that companies and individuals can take,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>But Peter Kruger says Bear Republic Brewery is doing a lot of that already (Hobbs actually referred me to its conservation efforts.)</p><p>&ldquo;Traditionally breweries have used anywhere from 10 to 15 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Our ratio now is down to 3.5 gallons of water to make a gallon of beer.&rdquo; They get their water from the Russian River, which has been dramatically low; the company is now putting its own money into sinking a well to access groundwater at the edge of town.</p><p>Still, their water use may not be sustainable in the long run. Kruger says he&rsquo;d hate to leave beautiful sunny California, but this year has been a reality check.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is really gonna be the challenge our kids and grandkids deal with,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As there are more people there&rsquo;s not gonna be more and more water, there&rsquo;s gonna be less and less clean water. That&rsquo;s anywhere. That includes Ohio or, you know, the wettest place in the world.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Betting on a future where water is king</span></p><p>Some people in Dayton believe they&rsquo;re walking on a liquid gold mine: people may have lost jobs, people, and whole industries, but the Great Miami aquifer is still here.</p><p>Though not entirely unthreatened: In the 1980s, the drinking water in Dayton was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of industrial chemicals. A 1987 fire at a Sherwin Williams paint warehouse had to be allowed to burn for days on end to avoid dousing the plant&rsquo;s chemicals directly into the aquifer near the wellfield.</p><p>Following the fire, Dayton and the surrounding municipalities that use the water system passed stringent drinking water protections that incentivize industry to keep chemical contaminants away from the wellfields. Still, today the city sometimes cleans up industrial chemicals including trichloroethylene (TCE) from the water before it&rsquo;s sent to the tap.</p><p>Now a handful of local manufacturers are pushing to reduce some of those protections, saying the chemical limits treat smaller businesses unfairly. The city says reduced demand on the wellfields has shrunk the area in need of active protection, and has <a href="http://wyso.org/post/dayton-discuss-proposed-changes-drinking-water-protections">put forth a controversial proposal</a> to reduce that area by 40 percent.</p><p>Even as <a href="http://wyso.org/post/residents-speak-out-against-proposed-water-protection-changes-video">a public debate over water gets underway</a>, Dayton leaders aren&rsquo;t concerned about the future water supply. Karen Thomas&rsquo;s message for master brewer Peter Kruger? Come and get it.</p><p>&ldquo;To be able to turn the faucet on, to get a cup of coffee, to flush your toilet, to take a shower, and the water&rsquo;s there and it&rsquo;s clean, why not love water?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Especially Dayton water!&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is an economics reporter and host for WYSO, the public radio station for Ohio&rsquo;s Miami Valley region. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 California drought renews debate on regional food systems http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DROUGHT MIDWEST.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At a Chicago area farmers market in July you won&rsquo;t see many signs of the California drought. This is the time of year when produce lovers can pretty much gorge on all the local cherries, blueberries and zucchini they want.</p><p>But this wasn&rsquo;t the case in January.</p><p>&ldquo;What we saw was extremely high prices on kales, leafy greens etc in the first part of the year,&rdquo; said Bob Scaman president of Goodness Greenness the Midwest&rsquo;s biggest distributor of organic produce.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>And as the year wore on, Scaman says, the effects of the drought only got worse. Farmers had to decide which crops they were going to water and which they weren&rsquo;t resulting in what he called the California &ldquo;cherry season that didn&rsquo;t exist in 2014.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, the Washington State cherry crop was booming this year. And today Michigan cherries have filled any other gaps. But Scaman warns that this bounty will last for only about another 100 days in the Midwest.</p><p>&ldquo;But going into the late fall, early winter when we are relying again on California we are going to be right back where we were on these drought supplies,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we will be negatively affected back here in the Midwest.&rdquo;</p><p>One Arizona State University study says that the California drought is likely to push items like avocados and lettuce up 28 to 34 percent.&nbsp; And the USDA expects drought and other factors to push domestic food prices for meat and produce up 3 to 6 percent this year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Business professor Timothy Richards who conducted the Arizona State study noted that the pricier California crops could drive more retailers to source their produce from Mexico and Chile. But others think we should go the other way and reestablish more regional food systems again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the ideal storm for the local food network in the Midwest,&rdquo; Scaman said. &ldquo;It really brings home what people have been talking about for years: the need to grow more local food, stabilize the food supply and build the local market.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Adding to the drought problems this year were high summer gas prices that further argued for more localized food production.<br /><br />&ldquo;So not only is there less product but we are paying more to transport it from California,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got a double whammy coming at us. So when you look at local food supplies, we&rsquo;ve got a little more stability in getting it to the marketplace, lesser freight costs and we are growing our local economies.&rdquo;</p><p>Terra Brockman founded the Land Connection, a local non-profit that helps train Midwest farmers. She says that while the drought hasn&rsquo;t made big waves among local farmers so far, it has revived important questions.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Like, &lsquo;Why do we have plenty of farmers market farmers and CSA farmers but not enough people growing at a slightly bigger scale that could produce quantities of fruits and vegetables that could go into our grocery stores and school cafeterias and other institutions where people are shopping and eating,&rdquo; Brockman said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a question of building infrastructure and putting together policies and funding to make that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman says that Land Connection has recently applied for grants to teach Midwest farmers techniques for extending the notoriously short growing season.</p><p>Bob Borchardt of Harvest Moons Farm in Wisconsin says he is already using some of them and investigating others.</p><p>&ldquo;Some kind of controlled environment growing is really the answer,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;whether it be greenhouses or hoop houses or inside and vertical gardens. Anything that we can do to push more local product into the non-conventional farming months here in the Midwest I think are things that need to be on top of our list as producers.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman notes that farmers can also extend the seasons by planting varieties of vegetables that mature early or late in the season.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s like an early broccoli and a late broccoli,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;One that comes to fruition earlier and later. Just not putting your eggs in one basket or not just planting one kind of broccoli you can sort of insure yourself from whatever the season might be.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says the drought isn&rsquo;t the only water related issue causing debate in Midwest agricultural circles.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re concerned about water then you have to be concerned about agriculture because the thing that affects our water quality the most of anything in this state is agriculture,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>&ldquo;So that&rsquo;s everything from erosion and soil washing into our rivers and silting them up and making them inhospitable for river life, and especially the run off. So in Illinois the main source of pollution in our waterways is industrial farming, and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that runs off that becomes a dead zone the size of Delaware in the Gulf of Mexico is due to runoff from Illinois and Midwest corn fields.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman hopes that concern for our waterways will prompt Midwest farmers to swap synthetic fertilizers for crop rotations that take longer but can fertilize the soil naturally.</p><p>Scaman, however, has aspirations that go one step further. Given the growing demand for local produce and the richness of Illinois soil, he hopes the drought might convince some corn and soy farmers--whose harvests go primarily to processed food, animal feed and ethanol tanks--to grow crops suitable for local human consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Years and years ago, Illinois as an example was one of the largest vegetable growing states in the country,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t necessarily need to just grow soybeans and corn. There is a need for vegetable production here in the Midwest to supply Chicago and other cities. And it provides a lot of economic opportunities for rural communities. So [the drought] has really brought that need to the forefront. You are seeing more and more farmers every year and more local produce. And the demand for local is off the charts.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 Majority of Illinois crops are genetically engineered http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 <p><p>The recent rainfall in Illinois has provided some welcome relief for many farmers who worry that too much or too little moisture is tricky for corn and soybeans.</p><p>But farmers like Lin Warfel, a Central Illinois farmer who grows corn and soybeans in Tolono, may have found a solution.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m nearing the end of my tenure, this is my 52nd crop, so I&rsquo;m trying to simplify everything and the simple way and easy way to do it nowadays is just plain corn and plain soybeans. Both of which are GMO.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel started using corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified, that means scientists have been able to identify and multiply the strongest and best genes.</p><p>He says he doesn&rsquo;t necessarily have to worry about the weather anymore and has seen a huge difference in his yield compared to the years before GMOs were around.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GMO-Corn_0.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Around 89 percent of corn in Illinois is grown from genetically engineered seeds, according to the Illinois Farm Bureau." />&ldquo;About 25 years ago, we had a drought and this was before current genetics. My corn that year yielded just over 100 bushels per acre. With the change in the genetics, it was only 155. It was 55 bushels better than my corn was earlier because of genetics.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ilfb.org/">Illinois Farm Bureau</a>, 89 percent of corn in Illinois and 92 percent of soybeans are grown from genetically engineered seeds.</p><p>Warfel says GMO corn and soybeans are more likely to make it through harsh weather conditions.</p><p>&ldquo;It withstands too much moisture better or not enough moisture better. So, it&rsquo;s more productive, more consistently, than it used to be.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel says using GMO crops also helps to reduce his bottom line. He spends less on fuel because he doesn&rsquo;t need to be out on the field twice cultivating it. He also employs fewer people because there&rsquo;s not as much work that needs to be done.</p><p>But not all farmers are on board with GMOs</p><p>Dave Bishop is the owner of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.prairierthfarm.com/PrairiErth_Farm/Homepage.html">Prairie Earth Farm.</a>&nbsp;His farm is also based in Central Illinois, but grows organic and conventional non-GMO produce including corn and soybeans.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there are better ways to address issues of pest resistance and weather changes to different kinds of crop rotation and cover crops. In my opinion, far better than genetically engineered crops.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop says he doesn&rsquo;t believe the hype that GMOs are better at resisting drought or too much rain.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that conventional crops yield as well. They are more profitable in most cases, at least here we have a significant premium in the marketplace for non-gmo crops.&rdquo;</p><p>But, Illinois Department of Agriculture director Bob Flider says despite the significant crop devastation due to the drought of 2012, crops were <em>still </em>able to survive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you think about the drought that we had a couple of years ago, quite candidly it was probably the worst weather conditions that we&rsquo;ve had in Illinois ever, in terms of the heat and the dryness, but yet we still had a crop. If we hadn&rsquo;t have had those kinds of seeds and scientific research that could grow and develop a crop we might have had virtually nothing and that would have been a disaster.&rdquo;</p><p>Flider says as resources around the world continue to become depleted, it&rsquo;s important to support research and find ways to increase production in order to feed the growing population.</p><p>And that is a topic that pits the debate of good versus bad when it comes to the overall impact of GMOs.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 EcoMyths: Trees Cooling the Climate http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-trees-cooling-climate-110420 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Tree hugger.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The science is clear that trees help reduce the effects of Climate Change because they remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. For our EcoMyths segment, Kate Sackman joins us to talk with Robert Fahey from Morton Arboretum. They want us to know that &ldquo;treehugging is cool&rdquo; for us and the environment. Fahey studies forest ecosystems and urban forestry and admits to hugging trees, but clarifies that it&#39;s &quot;usually for research purposes.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/155848109&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong><u>Urban Trees Cool Chicago Saving $44 million annually</u></strong></p><p>What&rsquo;s cool depends on who you&rsquo;re asking. James Dean was definitely cool, <a href="http://www.metrolyrics.com/cooler-than-me-lyrics-mike-posner.html">Mike Posner</a>, not so much, and tree hugging &ndash; well, again, it depends who you are asking.</p><p>Today on <em>Worldview</em>, Jerome McDonnell and I explored the topic of how trees cool our homes, our cities, and our planet. We invited <a href="http://www.mortonarb.org/science-conservation/scientists-and-staff/robert-t-fahey">Robert Fahey PhD</a>, an expert in forest ecosystems at the Morton Arboretum, to tell us about the amazing things that trees do as well as the threats to trees caused by the warming planet. As many know, carbon dioxide (CO2) occurs in the atmosphere naturally as part of the cycle of life on earth. But excess CO2 emitted into the atmosphere causes planetary temperatures to rise. Fahey explains that forests and trees absorb much of that carbon from the atmosphere, store it in their wood, and emit oxygen in return, making forests extremely important for mitigating climate change.</p><p>He described how forests around the world, including in Borneo, the Amazon, and Siberia, suffer the impacts of global temperature rise, such as fire, severe storm damage, and drought. In the Midwest and Eastern U.S., many of our native trees, such as oaks, are hearty in a broad range of temperatures, but remain vulnerable to insects and pathogens that thrive in warmer climates. These living threats include emerald ash borer in the Midwest and the mountain pine beetle which is devastating forests in the Mountain West. Fahey says that the management policy in large forests is to let trees adapt naturally. But in urban settings, we can select trees that are more resilient to various urban stresses.</p><p>In cities such as Chicago, &ldquo;trees are extremely important for reducing energy costs and cooling the city&rdquo; Fahey says. He said a recent study &ldquo;estimated that the urban forests in the Chicago region reduce energy costs by about $44 million per year&rdquo; in addition to reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere due to less fossil fuel burned that would have been used to create that energy.</p><p><u><strong>One Green Thing</strong></u></p><p>Plant a native tree! If you don&#39;t have space to do so, you can also donate to a tree-planting effort like the <a href="http://shop.arborday.org/content.aspx?page=Commemorative">Arbor Day Foundation</a>, or volunteer at a forest preserve on a planting day.</p><p><strong>Listen to the Worldview podcast (above) </strong>for the whole story and to learn more about the Global Feedback Cycle that includes trees and CO2. For a deeper dive, Read the Myth at <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">ecomythsalliance.org</a>.&nbsp;</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/06/myth-treehugging-isnt-cool/">EcoMyth: Tree Hugging Isn&rsquo;t Cool</a></li><li><a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/06/global-warmings-not-so-hot-impact-on-trees/">Blog: Global Warming&rsquo;s Not-So-Hot Impact on Trees</a>: A closer look at the Science</li></ul></p> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 09:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-trees-cooling-climate-110420 Global Activism: Helping the people and ecosystem of Guatemala's cloud forests http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-helping-people-and-ecosystem-guatemalas-cloud-forests-110287 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cloud forest_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><a href="http://www.cloudforestconservation.org/">Community Cloud Forest Conservation</a> (CCFC) works to alleviate poverty and protect Guatemala&rsquo;s tropical cloud forests. They support projects that include reforestation, agricultural biodiversity, education and bird monitoring. CCFC also teamed up with local bird conservationists like <a href="http://chicagoregion.audubon.org/">Audobon Chicago Region</a>, to protect the winter homes of birds that migrate between Guatemala and Chicago. For our Global Activism segment, Founder and director Rob Cahill gives us an update on what he calls &ldquo;the great progress&rdquo; his group has made in the last few months.</div><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152998102&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-helping-people-and-ecosystem-guatemalas-cloud-forests-110287 EcoMyths: Paper or plastic? The answer may be 'neither' http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-paper-or-plastic-answer-may-be-neither-110251 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths-plastic paper.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&#39;s new plastic bag restriction represents an effort to green up the city, but does it imply that paper is the eco-friendly choice? Northwestern University&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.mech.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/profiles/masanet-eric.html">Eric Masanet</a> joins Kate Sackman from <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/myth-paper-bags-are-greener-than-plastic/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> to discuss the environmental effects of both paper and plastic single-use bags.</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-64ee338f-4856-4acf-e34a-1f88e793c45a"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151549171&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></span></p><p><strong>The Myth</strong></p><p>In his introduction to sustainable engineering classes at Northwestern University, professor Eric Masanet likes to set the tone for the semester by posing the once ubiquitous checkout question: &quot;Paper or plastic?&quot; For many of his eager young students, the answer seems obvious&mdash;paper breaks down fast in the environment, is easy to recycle, and comes from trees. Meanwhile, plastic is notorious for building up indefinitely in the environment, harming aquatic ecosystems and clogging drains, and is made from fossil fuel. With all that in mind, it&#39;s easy to conclude that paper bags are the eco-winner.</p><p><strong>The Facts</strong></p><p>But life cycle analysis (LCA)&mdash;i.e., measuring an item&#39;s cradle-to-grave impact&mdash;reveals a more complex picture. In terms of single use bags, &quot;the science shows that moving from plastic to paper is not necessarily &#39;greener,&#39;&quot; says Masanet. In a nutshell, here are the key categories he says are part of determining the environmental footprint of any bag:</p><ul><li><em>Production</em>: For both plastic and paper, processing raw materials and manufacturing the final product causes pollution and requires energy and water. The numbers are too complex to get into here, but the UK&#39;s Environment Agency&#39;s<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291023/scho0711buan-e-e.pdf"> life cycle analysis</a> determined that the impact of paper production on human health and eco-toxicity is &quot;significantly worse&quot; than plastic&#39;s.</li><li><em>Distribution</em>: Simply put, because a paper bag is five to seven times heavier than a plastic bag, transporting paper bags requires more resources to move it from point A to B. With more trucks, you burn more fuel, and you get more greenhouse gas emissions.</li><li><em>End of life</em>: Paper definitely scores points for being easily recycled, or, if trashed, breaking down quickly. But worth noting, too, is that UK LCA&#39;s estimate that 76 percent of plastic shopping bags are reused at least once, which can help reduce the purchase of new trash bags and pet waste bags.</li></ul><p>Does biodegradability trump reuse? Does harming aquatic life outweigh distribution-related air pollution? Masanet cautions us from calling a winner, because there are so many variables involved&hellip;which is why, when he learned of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-crack-down-plastic-bags-pedicabs-110113">City of Chicago&#39;s new bill</a> to restrict plastic bags, he worried it might have the unintended consequence of making paper the de facto eco-hero in this story.</p><p><strong>One Green Thing</strong></p><p>So, what&#39;s a planet-appreciating person to do? You probably know the answer: <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/OGT-BYOB.png">BYOB</a>. In terms of legislation, perhaps Chicago can take a cue from cities like <a href="http://bringitaustin.com/ordinance">Austin</a>, TX, which banned businesses from providing single-use bags of any kind, but instead recommends reusables.</p><p>Compared with both paper and plastic single-use bags, reusable bags are &quot;an environmental slam dunk&mdash;if you reuse them,&quot; says Masanet. If you need to buy a bag, opt for <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/ready-to-buy-reusable-bags-for-the-win/">durable recycled plastic options</a> over cotton, unless you plan to reuse the cotton bags hundreds of times.</p><p>To learn more, check out the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/05/myth-paper-bags-are-greener-than-plastic/">cartoon and full myth</a> at EcoMyths.</p></p> Tue, 27 May 2014 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-paper-or-plastic-answer-may-be-neither-110251 Alan Weisman asks, 'How many people can the Earth sustainably hold?' http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-05-17/alan-weisman-asks-how-many-people-can-earth-sustainably-hold-110196 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/weisman cms.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Alan Weisman&#39;s latest book is <em><a href="http://www.littlebrown.com/countdown.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth</a></em>. It considers how many people the planet can sustainably hold. Medical advances and revolutionary leaps in food technology has caused humanity to swell in number, far-outpacing any species on the planet. He&rsquo;ll talk with us about the stress on our resources and ecosystems.</p><div class="storify"><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-alan-weisman-s-countdown-examines-danger.js?header=none&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-alan-weisman-s-countdown-examines-danger" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Alan Weisman's 'Countdown' examines dangers of human overpopulation" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-alan-weisman-s-countdown-examines-danger/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-alan-weisman-s-countdown-examines-danger.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-alan-weisman-s-countdown-examines-danger" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Alan Weisman's 'Countdown' examines dangers of human overpopulation" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 19 May 2014 08:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-05-17/alan-weisman-asks-how-many-people-can-earth-sustainably-hold-110196