WBEZ | Environment http://www.wbez.org/sections/environment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is an artificial tree part of the solution to climate change? http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-08-31/artificial-tree-part-solution-climate-change-112776 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/chemtree.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Here&#39;s the skinny: CO2 traps heat. There&rsquo;s about 40 percent&nbsp;more of it in the atmosphere today than there was in the millennia of human history before the Industrial Revolution, and that number is rising fast, since we just can&rsquo;t seem to curb our thirst for fossil fuels.</p><p>So what if there were a simple solution? What if we had a way to suck that excess&nbsp;CO2 right back out of the sky?</p><p>Well, actually, we do, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chbe.gatech.edu/faculty/jones" target="_blank">Chris Jones</a>, a chemical engineer at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.</p><p>&ldquo;These are our best ways of capturing CO2 from the air,&rdquo; Jones says as he walks under a canopy of trees on the school&rsquo;s campus. &ldquo;Trees evolved over millions of years to do this very efficiently.&rdquo;</p><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/xIMG_2101b%20crop.jpg?itok=cbzXoNg1" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Physicist Klaus Lackner stands beside a miniature greenhouse in his lab at ASU's Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, in which he's testing out the properties of his &quot;artificial tree. Lackner says he expects a square mile of artificial trees could suck as much as ten million tons of CO2 a year out of the atmosphere.(PRI/Ari Daniel)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></div><p>Thing is, we just don&rsquo;t have enough trees to fix our CO2 problem. In fact, the earth has fewer acres of trees every year. But Jones says that even if we planted trees everywhere we could, they still wouldn&rsquo;t be able to pull enough CO2 out of the air to offset our emissions.</p><p>Which for Jones means one thing. &ldquo;We have to come up with a chemical tree that can effectively extract CO2 out of the air,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Essentially mimic nature, only do her one better. The technical name for the idea is direct air capture. And it is a tall order &mdash; to improve on trees, which have been honed by millions of years of evolution. In fact, some say the technology will never be efficient or cheap enough. To which Jones and some of his colleagues reply, that&rsquo;s ridiculous.</p><p>&ldquo;People in the past said heavier than air flight is impossible, and all you needed to do is look at a bird and you know that&rsquo;s wrong,&rdquo; says&nbsp;<a href="http://engineering.asu.edu/cnce/klaus-lackner/" target="_blank">Klaus Lackner</a>, the director of the&nbsp;<a href="http://engineering.asu.edu/cnce/" target="_blank">Center for Negative Carbon Emissions</a>&nbsp;at Arizona State University in Tempe.</p><p>&ldquo;Capture from air is not impossible. All you need to do is look at a tree and you know it&rsquo;s possible.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:14px;">Prototypes and pasta cutters</span></strong></p><p>Chris Jones&rsquo; approach to the challenge is a ceramic cube about half the size of a loaf of bread and almost as light, hollowed out by hundreds of tiny square tunnels. If you hold it up to the light, you can see through it.</p><p>&ldquo;All of us who own a car own one of these,&rdquo; Jones says. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re in the catalytic converter in our car. Normally, these are used to clean up the exhaust coming out of our engine.&rdquo;</p><div><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/xIMG_3930b.JPG?itok=7NI6Mj6W" style="float: left; height: 224px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The artificial trees Georgia Tech chemical engineer Chris Jones is working on look nothing like actual trees. They're ceramic cubes full of tiny corridors, similar to the catalytic converter of a car, but coated with a material that absorbs carbon dioxide instead of carbon monoxide. (PRI/Ari Daniel)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></div><p>The ones in our cars are designed to hold onto pollutants like carbon monoxide. The tunnels of Jones&rsquo;s cube are coated with a material his team has developed that grabs onto carbon dioxide. As air flows through it, the lattice gradually fills up with CO2.</p><p>Jones has a pilot plant in California where he has 600 of these bricks stacked together into a block about the size of a semi-tractor trailer stood up on its end. The system uses fans to blow air onto the bricks, and steam to remove the captured CO2 so the bricks can be reused. The prototype sucks down about 1,000 tons of CO2 per year.</p><p>By itself, that&rsquo;s an inconsequential amount. But it is a start. Klaus Lackner&rsquo;s group at Arizona State is taking a different approach. It starts with a cream-colored piece of fabric that Lackner&rsquo;s colleague&nbsp;<a href="http://engineering.asu.edu/cnce/allen-wright/" target="_blank">Allen Wright</a>&nbsp;describes as almost &ldquo;leathery &hellip; kind of like a very, very dense sponge.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a material that bonds with CO2, and is usually used to purify liquids like wine and beer. Wright and Lackner used a pasta cutter to cut some of the fabric into thin strips &mdash; angel hair size &mdash; then wove the ribbons into a central rod. What they ended up with looks like a duster.</p><div><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/961646068%281%29.jpg?itok=o-b9CF4X" style="float: right; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 450px;" title="This pilot plant in California holds 600 of Jones's bricks. He says the prototype sucks down about 1,000 tons of CO2 per year. (Global Thermostat)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></div><p>&ldquo;These are nature-inspired shapes &mdash; pine-tree looking pieces,&rdquo; Lackner says, &ldquo;where contact with the wind is very, very natural.&rdquo;</p><p>Lackner says the eventual goal is to build devices much like a tree that would stand passively in the wind and absorb CO2 as the air blows over them.</p><p>No fans are necessary with their approach.</p><p>The material sheds the CO2 when it gets wet, so Lackner and his colleagues have also been working on ways to discharge the gas so it can be stored or reused later.</p><p>He says a full-scale version of the system &mdash; one with tree-like structures spaced out like a forest &mdash; is still 20 or 30 years away, but that initial results show real promise. Eventually, he believes, a square mile of artificial trees could suck up as much as ten million tons of CO2 per year.</p><p>That&rsquo;s still a far cry from the 1.5 trillion tons or so that we need to take out of the air to reset our atmosphere, but again, it is a start.</p><p>And lots of other people around the world are barking up the same artificial tree.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:14px;">Daring to dream</span></strong></p><p>The biggest hurdle right now is engineering these and other materials so they can grab enough CO2.</p><p>&ldquo;The technical challenge&rdquo; says Chris Jones at Georgia Tech, is &ldquo;to make it more efficient and optimize the process so that we can reduce the overall costs.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones says it&rsquo;s his job to get the cost down to the point where policymakers have no choice but to say yes to the technology.</p><p>That could take a long time &mdash; remember Klaus Lackner&rsquo;s estimate of 20 to 30 years to perfect his artificial tree.</p><p>But Lackner says costs are likely to fall dramatically. He points to the examples of wind turbines, which are 40 times cheaper today than 50 years ago, and photovoltaic panels, which are 100 times cheaper than they were half a century ago.</p><p>The first step was to show that direct air capture of CO2 was possible, and that&rsquo;s been done.</p><p>&ldquo;We can reverse the CO2 concentration in the air,&rdquo; Lackner says. &ldquo;We cannot reverse the melting of a glacier. We&rsquo;re already way too late. But we will do it.&rdquo;</p><p>And the carbon dioxide will be waiting for us when we do.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-08-30/artificial-tree-part-solution-climate-change-these-guys-think-so" target="_blank">The World</a></em></p></p> Sun, 30 Aug 2015 08:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/world/2015-08-31/artificial-tree-part-solution-climate-change-112776 Despite the drought, California farms see record sales http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-471006602-99705b6d250521f4014e8c84f29849326d342a59-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>While prolonged drought has put a strain on California agriculture, most of the state&#39;s farms, it seems, aren&#39;t just surviving it: They are prospering.</p><p>The environment, though, that&#39;s another story. We&#39;ll get to that.</p><p>But first, the prosperity. According to new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics/annual-cash-receipts-by-commodity.aspx#P892cc423657a499584e30a89895d0f4d_2_16iT0R0x5">figures</a>&nbsp;from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014, the year the drought really hit, California&#39;s farmers sold $54 billion worth of crops like almonds or grapes, and animal products like milk.</p><p>That&#39;s an all-time record, up 5 percent over the previous year, and an increase of 20 percent from 2012.</p><p>If you&#39;re surprised by this, you haven&#39;t been paying close attention, says&nbsp;<a href="http://are.ucdavis.edu/en/people/faculty/daniel-sumner/#pk_campaign=short-name-redirect&amp;pk_kwd=sumner">Daniel Sumner</a>, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. It&#39;s been clear for some time, he says, that California&#39;s farmers did very well last year.</p><p>There are two keys to the record-breaking revenues. The first is prices. &quot;You have all-time high prices over the whole range of crops,&quot; says Richard Howitt, another economist at UC Davis.</p><p>Second, even though farmers didn&#39;t get their normal supply of water from rivers and reservoirs, they pumped it from underground aquifers instead. According to a&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/DroughtReport_23July2014_0.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;that Sumner and Howitt co-authored last year, farmers in 2014 replaced about 75 percent of their surface water deficit by draining their groundwater reserves.</p><p>James McFarlane, who grows almonds and citrus near Fresno, is one of those farmers. He says that drought has been &quot;beyond terrible&quot; for some farmers. But for him personally? &quot;It&#39;s been a good year. We&#39;ve been able to make some money, and you have to just count your blessings and call that a good year,&quot; he says.</p><p>McFarlane has received some irrigation water from Kings River, via the Fresno Irrigation District, but he is also pumping water from his wells. &quot;If it weren&#39;t for the wells, we couldn&#39;t have made it work,&quot; he says.</p><p>Howitt says that there are two contrasting realities in California agriculture these days. &quot;Some people just don&#39;t have the underground water. You meet these people and they really are in poor shape,&quot; he says. But where there is water, &quot;you have investors pouring money into planting these almond trees at a rate that they&#39;ve never seen before.&quot;</p><p>But this is also where the environmental damage comes in. Those underground reserves are getting depleted, wells are going dry, and in many locations, the land is sinking as water is drawn out. When this happens, it permanently reduces the soil&#39;s ability to absorb and store water in the future.</p><p>California has enacted new rules that eventually should stop farmers from pumping so much groundwater, but for now, it continues. This year, California&#39;s farmers are still pumping enough groundwater to replace about 70 percent of the shortfall in surface water, according to a new UC Davis&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Final_Drought%20Report_08182015_Full_Report_WithAppendices.pdf">report</a>.</p><p>Such massive use of groundwater can&#39;t continue forever, and high commodity prices probably won&#39;t, either. Milk prices already have fallen, and if China stops buying so much of California&#39;s nut production, those prices may crash as well.</p><p>On the good side, though, maybe rain and snow will return, filling the reservoirs again.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/27/434649587/despite-the-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales?ft=nprml&amp;f=434649587" target="_blank"><em>NPR&#39;s The Salt</em></a></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 05:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 Here's why they call this the corpse flower http://www.wbez.org/science-friday/2015-08-27/heres-why-they-call-corpse-flower-112750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/corpseflower.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>A rotten stench has been wafting through a greenhouse at the Denver Botanic Gardens &mdash; and visitors are all too eager to breathe it in. Who knows if they&rsquo;ll ever get a second chance?&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="This corpse flower in Denver has now died, but another in Chicago is about to bloom. " src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/13465-v1-480x.JPG?itok=m5MCplbT" style="text-align: center; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="This corpse flower in Denver has now died, but another in Chicago is about to bloom. (Scott Dressel-Martin)" /></div><div>The odiferous offender is a plant native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and known commonly as the &quot;corpse flower&quot; &mdash; for reasons that are pungently apparent when it starts blooming. At that point, it becomes a botanical stink bomb, emitting a noisome odor evolved to attract certain beetles and flies, which unwittingly spread the plant&rsquo;s pollen. All told, the blooming process can take about 36 hours and won&#39;t happen again for years &mdash; if ever.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s something that is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see,&rdquo; says Nick Snakenberg, curator of tropical plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens. &ldquo;We made the mistake of saying it might bloom on [August] 16th, and we had people lined up at the gate.&rdquo; The garden has several corpse flowers, but this is this particular flower&#39;s debut bloom. The process started on Tuesday evening and finished on Thursday. This week, a corpse flower is expected to bloom in Chicago.</div><div>The corpse flower belongs to the same family as common houseplants such as philodendrons and peace lilies. But unlike its more domestic cousins, the place you&rsquo;ll most likely find this tropical species &mdash; which can reach 15 to 20 feet in its vegetative state, according to Snakenberg &mdash; is in university and botanical garden collections. In the floral stage, the plant is shorter.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It takes a lot of energy, and a long time, to build up a bloom. When a corpse flower finally starts the process &mdash; the Denver specimen is an estimated 12 or 13 years old &mdash; a leaf-like sheath called a spathe unfurls, revealing a ruffly, burgundy interior that starkly contrasts with the plant&rsquo;s green exterior. In its fanciful shape and two-toned hues, the structure is reminiscent of a weird hat you might see in a Tim Burton film.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the plant&rsquo;s true centerpiece is a fleshy, protruding structure called the spadix, which inspired its scientific name, Amorphophallus titanum. Translation? &ldquo;The giant misshapen phallus,&rdquo; says Snakenberg. The spadix also heats up, probably as a way to better waft the stench to would-be pollinators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Out of sight at the base of the spadix hides the actual flower &mdash; or flowers, to be more precise. In fact, the corpse flower is the largest unbranched inflorescence, or collection of individual flowers, on earth. The female flowers mature first, followed by the male ones, which produce the pollen that the insects collect.</div><p><img alt="The corpse flower draws crowds eager to smell it's awful odor" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/13466-v1-250x.JPG?itok=OyLOUZew" style="float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The corpse flower draws crowds eager to smell it's awful odor. (Scott Dressel-Martin)" /></p><div>The odor that emanates from the flowers is a putrid potpourri of chemicals, explains Todd Brethauer, a science education volunteer at the United States Botanic Garden, in a video produced by the American Chemical Society. Characteristic molecules include dimethyl trisulfide, &ldquo;which you can sort of describe as the smell of rotting onions or rotting cabbage,&rdquo; says Brethauer, as well as trimethylamine, &ldquo;which is the essence of rotting fish,&rdquo; and isovaleric acid &mdash; &ldquo;essentially the smell of old sweat socks.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Given the plant&rsquo;s fetid scent, why do visitors come in droves to sniff and see? &ldquo;I think people have a similar reaction to this as they would to, say, a roller coaster ride or a haunted house or something like that,&rdquo; says Snakenberg. &ldquo;I think it&#39;s just wanting this sensory overload in a safe environment. A shock to the system.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But maybe those visceral thrills will translate into something with staying power &mdash; at least, that&rsquo;s what Snakenberg hopes, anyway.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the way that big cats and bears excite zoo goers about the animal kingdom, &ldquo;I think having plants like the Amorphophallus titanum species in our collection is a real strong tool to excite people about plants,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and when we get excited about plants and about animals, we get excited about conserving them in the wild and protecting their environments. And when we protect the megaflora and the megafauna, just by default, we&rsquo;re protecting everything else that lives in those environments&rdquo; &mdash; the stinky, the sweet and all that&#39;s in between.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-08-26/when-corpse-flowers-bloom-people-flock" target="_blank"><em>Science Friday</em></a></div></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science-friday/2015-08-27/heres-why-they-call-corpse-flower-112750 Organic farmers struggle with stigma of 'dirty fields' http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.wbez.org/" alt="" /><p><p>While consumers might seek out organic food for its purity, organic farmers have a reputation for being anything but.</p><p><a href="http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&amp;context=gers_pubs">A study</a>&nbsp;conducted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that farmers who go organic are often subject to a &ldquo;weedy field bad farmer&rdquo; mentality in their communities, a social stigma organic corn and soybean growers face for having mare&rsquo;s tails and pigweeds poking their raggedy heads up through the neat rows of cash crops.</p><p>Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the judgment can be so harsh,&nbsp;<a href="https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/123677/Ch8.Transitioning.pdf?sequence=7" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s an actual risk factor</a>&nbsp;conventional farmers who are interested in transitioning to organic should consider before making the switch.</p><p>Organic farmers are a rare breed. Nationwide,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/organic-production.aspx" target="_blank">fewer than 1 percent of all farm operations</a>&nbsp;are certified organic. In the Corn Belt, they&rsquo;re even fewer and farther between. In Illinois, for example, of the state&rsquo;s nearly 20 million acres of cropland, only a smidgen -- 0.15 percent -- of it is USDA certified organic.</p><p><img data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" title="Juniper Lane sips sweet tea at the second annual Organic Fest hosted by the Illinois Organic Growers Association. (KUNC/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>For corn and soybean farmers,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards" target="_blank">being certified organic</a>&nbsp;boils down to avoiding a laundry list of synthetic materials - like pesticides that kill bugs and weeds - and not planting genetically modified seeds.</div><p>Dane Hunter, a conventional corn and soybean farmer from southern Illinois, said the social stigma of having a &ldquo;dirty&rdquo; field is a big obstacle.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of organic fields, compared to conventionally herbicide-managed fields, just have a lot more weeds in them, which is kind of a faux pas for the agriculture community,&rdquo; said Hunter, who is interested in transitioning part of his family&rsquo;s 1,200-acre grain farm into an organic operation.</p><p>Hunter said it&rsquo;s especially a barrier for older farmers, like men in his father&rsquo;s generation, who base their merit not on the success of the farm business, but on having, weed-free, pretty fields.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of behind-the-scenes chastising of organic fields,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to be that way, too,&rdquo; agreed Tom Yucus, an organic farmer who grows 480 acres of grain in the center of the state. &ldquo;If I&rsquo;d see weeds in somebody&rsquo;s field, I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Oh, what&rsquo;s wrong with him?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Yucus turned to organic farming for a number of reasons, including money. Organic grain typically sells for anywhere from two to three times as much as a conventional crop, which means organic farmers don&rsquo;t have to farm as many acres to make a decent living.</p><p>But Yucus, whose farm has been certified organic for more than a decade, said now he&rsquo;s committed to farming organic grain for more reasons than economics.</p><p><img alt="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" style="float: right; width: 400px; height: 267px;" title="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a change in mindset,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Everything you do affects the land and your food, so you know, keep it simple and don&rsquo;t add synthetic, non-natural stuff.&rdquo;</div><p>Colleen Yucus, Tom&rsquo;s wife, struggled to adopt her husband&rsquo;s new mentality, especially when it came to her weekly trip to the grocery store.</p><p>&ldquo;I think I was like a lot of other people that had the mindset that if food was on sale at a chain grocery store, that was wonderful and that&rsquo;s what I was gonna buy,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The differences in opinion led to a few minor marital disputes, but in the end, Tom managed to convince her.</p><p>&ldquo;My husband had a good point,&rdquo; Yucus recalled, with a smile. &ldquo;When I didn&#39;t want to buy organic potatoes that were $2 a pound, he came to me and said, &lsquo;Look at this bag of chips. How much did you pay for this bag of chips?&rsquo; And I said, &lsquo;$3.58.&rsquo; And he said, &lsquo;How much per pound would that 8-ounce bag of chips be?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The answer is $7.66, which means she could buy nearly four pounds of potatoes. When doused in olive oil and fried, that amounts to a lot more potato chips than you&rsquo;ll get in an 8-ounce bag.</p><p>&ldquo;The healthier eating, the non-processed foods, has just become so much more a part of our lives,&rdquo; Colleen said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really happy he chose to start being an organic farmer and I&rsquo;m really proud of him.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.kunc.org/post/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields#stream/0" target="_blank"><em>Harvest Public Media</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 Chicago's plastic bag ban is full of holes http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-31/chicagos-plastic-bag-ban-full-holes-112530 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/plastic bagsDay Donaldson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On August 1, Chicago joins the more than 130 cities and counties in the US with bans on plastic bags.</p><p>Chain stores more than 10,000 square feet in size will no longer be able to offer customers those flimsy plastic bags we&rsquo;re all used to.</p><p>There are three types of bags that are OK under the new law and two of them are technically plastic. So, what&rsquo;s going on here?</p><p>Joining us to sift through what&rsquo;s under the ban &mdash; and whether the new law is good to begin with &mdash; are two people on opposite ends. Jordan Parker is an environmentalist and executive director of Bring Your Bag Chicago and Jonathan Perman represents the American Progressive Bag Alliance, the trade association for manufacturers and recyclers of plastic bags and plastic film.</p></p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-31/chicagos-plastic-bag-ban-full-holes-112530 EcoMyths: You Don't Need a Car to see Nature http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-you-dont-need-car-see-nature-112595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/EcoMyths-Car to Nature.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-099f-5473-bdc3-171ceaca3dfa">Even though at times, cities and nature seem to be at odds, EcoMyths Alliance believes the two are not as disconnected as they may seem. For our EcoMyths segment, Kate Sackman will tell us why city-dwellers, with an itch to experience the wilderness, can do so without using a car. Joining her are John Cawood, education program coordinator for Openlands and Gil Penalosa, founder and board chair of 8 80 Cities.</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/216769748&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>Myth: You Have to Drive to Nature</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Do You Need Four Wheels and a Steering Wheel to Get to Nature?</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">City is often pitted against nature: Concrete jungle vs. forest or prairie. Civilization vs. wilderness. Shops and museums vs. dirt and, well, more dirt. But are cities as disconnected from nature as they seem? Must city-dwellers with an itch to experience wilderness rely on four-wheeled motorized vehicles to reach it?</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Though many of our urban areas were built to accommodate car culture (ahem, Los Angeles), open, natural space really can be just a walk, bike, or bus ride away in cities from Chicago to Bogotá.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">To help chart the sometimes surprising points of access, we chatted with</span><a href="http://880cities.org/index.php/services/gil-s-keynote"> Gil Penalosa</a>, PhD, of Toronto-based<a href="http://880cities.org/index.php"> 8 80 Cities</a>, an organization dedicated to creating more accessible, walkable cities that are planned around people rather than cars, and<a href="http://www.openlands.org/john-cawood?page_id=32"> John Cawood</a>, M.S., of<a href="http://www.openlands.org/who-we-are"> Openlands</a>, a Chicago-based nonprofit that unites people and nature.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Reality Check: You Don&#39;t Have to Go to the Grand Canyon to See Nature</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Let&#39;s be clear: even in cities, nature is generally not that far to begin with.</span><a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2013/05/kids-access-to-nature/"> You really can find evidence of it all around</a>, from the shady tree across the street and migratory bird swooping overhead, to the rich biodiversity that exists along the banks of many urban creeks. But what about those times when you want to get someplace more open and expansive than your own front sidewalk?</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Thanks to thoughtful city planning and conservation efforts working to preserve and link open space, large swaths of nature often abound in and around cities. Often, it&#39;s just a matter of learning where they are&mdash;and how to take advantage of existing biking and walking trails as well as public transit to get to them.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">So, where are these urban gifts of Mama Earth? &quot;Nature isn&rsquo;t always obvious in urban areas,&quot; says Cawood. &quot;But wherever you live, there are public lands that have been set aside specifically as places for people to engage in nature &ndash; forest preserves and city parks most notably, but many community gardens and school gardens are also open to the public.&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">For expansive natural landscape, he sees Chicago as a great example of a gateway. A bevvy of trails from the Chicago park system and the virtually uninterrupted 18.5 mile Lakefront Trail to the Grand Illinois trail provide picturesque space for walking, biking, sailing, investigating bugs, unicycling, what have you.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">In fact, he adds, one of the top birding locations in the country is just a brief walk away from one of the busiest intersections in the city&#39;s Uptown neighborhood. &quot;It&rsquo;s known as &#39;The Magic Hedge,&#39; a natural area at Montrose point, which happens to be a favorite stop for migrating birds along the flyway from Canada to South America&mdash;more than 320 species have been identified there!&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Examples like these bode well for city-dwellers, because boatloads of evidence indicates that</span><a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2011/12/ecomyth-getting-outside-is-fun-but-not-fundamental/"> nature is good for you</a>. So, how can we get to these local and regional treasures? Let us count the ways, via bike, foot, or transit&mdash;in Chicago and beyond.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Bike or Walk It, Baby!</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Creating more access to nature via biking or walking is a vital part of 8 80&#39;s vision, which sees nature as essential to the wellbeing of 8-year-olds </span>and 80-year-olds alike&mdash;aka the &quot;indicator species&quot; of a community&#39;s health.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">It all starts with making it easier for people to bike or walk safely around their neighborhoods. For example, with Penalosa&#39;s help,</span><a href="http://880cities.org/images/resource/walking-cycling-arti/learning-from-bogota.pdf"> Bogotá</a> now closes over 75 miles of roads to cars every single Sunday, allowing 1.5 million people to ride their bikes throughout the city. There are also 185 miles of fully sheltered bikeways throughout the Colombian capital.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&quot;The idea is to rethink the streets as public spaces,&quot; he says, &quot;The streets can have different uses according to the time of the day, the day of the week, of the year.&quot; From New York to San Francisco, from Paris to Toronto, cities are taking up this rallying cry in innovative new ways, closing roads, reducing speed limits, or limiting traffic to downtown.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Copenhagen is another excellent example of a bike-friendly city, Penalosa observes. Sure, it&#39;s cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and it rains all the time. &quot;Nevertheless, 41 out of 100 trips are done on bikes. Here in the U.S., cities like Portland are also working toward becoming more walkable and bikeable.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Do all these bike-friendly initiatives actually get you closer to expansive nature? Why, yes, they often do. A quick survey of</span><a href="https://www.google.com/maps"> Google Maps</a> shows many cities&#39; bike maps are up to date, and you can use it to zoom out to see green areas you&#39;d like to get to using bike routes.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Plus, valuable local resources exist on a city-by-city basis. For example, the Chicago Department of Transportation updates the city&#39;s</span><a href="http://www.chicagobikes.org/pdf/chicagomap_en_combined.pdf"> bike map</a> annually, and inexpensive<a href="https://www.divvybikes.com/stations"> bike rental stations</a> are now ubiquitous throughout the city, with user-friendly bike maps and tips available via app.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Transit to Trails: Next Stop, Nature!</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Public transportation doesn&#39;t just connect you from neighborhood to work to nightlife. In many cities, complex networks of buses and trains connect to rich nature areas in sometimes surprising ways.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Let&#39;s take a look at Chicago, with Cawood&#39;s help. Here, public transit provides access to dozens of natural areas outside the city limits. Consider: &quot;At the Millennium Station, you can jump on the South Shore train for a day trip to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. At Ogilvie, take the Union Pacific North train to the Fort Sheridan stop, from which the</span><a href="http://www.openlands.org/openlands-lakeshore-preserve"> Openlands Lakeshore Preserve</a>, a certified Illinois Natural area, is a 10-minute walk.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Wanna skip town in a bigger way? &quot;For an ambitious nature-based vacation, reserve a seat on Amtrak&rsquo;s Empire Builder train, which stops in</span><a href="https://www.google.com/maps"> Glacier National Park</a>. The Amtrak system also connects Chicago with other major transit hubs that happen to be gateways to nature as well &ndash; cities like Denver, Seattle, St. Louis, St. Paul, Flagstaff, Portland, and San Francisco. No automobile necessary!&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Cawood&#39;s a big fan of training it to nature. &quot;On a train you can multi-task. You are shuttled from point A to point B while you sleep, work, read, watch a movie, or have a nice conversation with someone. It&rsquo;s even legal to text while you are on the train!&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">California&#39;s Bay Area, is another interesting example of how public transit can connect some of the most building-bound folks out there to beautiful wilderness areas inside and just outside the city. Case in point: there&#39;s a municipal bus stop at the entrance to the expansive 2,500-acre Wildcat Canyon (pictured left-TK). Yep, just a 30-minute bus ride outta Oakland turns up an epic hike, complete with sweeping views of the bay and cities below.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">How to find said access points? In California,</span><a href="http://www.transitandtrails.org/"> Transit and Trails</a> provides detailed maps and schedules for public transportation options to outdoor recreation areas across the country. In Illinois,<a href="http://animaliaproject.org/t2t/"> Transit to Trails</a> is a project underway to make it easier to figure out which train and bus systems connect to which natural areas.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Cool Reclaimed Spaces Connect Us to Nature, too</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Making room for bikes on trains and existing roads is important&mdash;but it&#39;s not all that&#39;s happening in the way of connecting people to nature. Cities and orgs are working to convert areas of otherwise wasted space into cool places for the community to stretch their legs and their perspectives&mdash;a notion that 8 80 dubs Hidden Assets.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">The</span><a href="http://www.thehighline.org/"> High Line</a> is a high-profile example [KATE: DO you have pics from your visit there?]. In Manhattan, this 1.45-mile stretch of abandoned elevated train tracks was converted into an aerial park, covered with colorful and sustainable<a href="http://www.thehighline.org/High_Line_Plant_List.pdf"> plants</a> and proving a hugely popular walking path.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Reclaiming these unused train tracks is what the</span><a href="http://www.railstotrails.org/"> Rails-to-Trails Conservancy</a> program is all about, with a vision that calls for creating trails within three miles of every home in the U.S. By transforming unused rail lines into vibrant public places, the goal is to connect its current roster of 30,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails to a nationwide network.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Close! But There&#39;s Still Work to Do</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">While many cities are making great progress on the march to becoming more livable communities, there are still places where it can be tougher to get someplace beautiful. For example, in LA, only a third of school kids have a park within walking distance (a quarter mile), according to the</span><a href="http://880cities.org/images/resource/park-space-arti/trust-no-place-to-play.pdf"> Trust for</a> Public Lands. That&#39;s especially dismal when you compare to other big cities, like Boston, which reaches 97 percent of the city&rsquo;s children, and NYC&#39;s 91 percent.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&quot;We need to have nature everywhere in cities&mdash;within walking or biking distance, but also right outside your front door, in schoolyards, in city halls,&quot; says Penalosa. &quot;And when you want to go further, you should be able to use public transit.&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&quot;It&#39;s about changing habits around the built environment. How do we want to build our cities? The human population is growing quickly. According to the U.S. Census, the nation&#39;s population will grow by 100 million people in the next 35 years. That means the U.S. needs to build around 40 million homes. How are they being built? Is everyone having all their basic needs within a 10-minute walking distance or do they have to drive everywhere just because they want to buy eggs or milk? Not only do we have to improve the communities we have today, but we also need to create great communities for these millions of new people who are going to be in the same space in the next 40 years.&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">In other words, while cities like Chicago and Bogota are doing a great job, and ambitious nonprofit organizations are working tirelessly to connect the dots, there is yet work to be done.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Why Bother?</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">The pros of improving access to nature are extensive. As we rely less on cars and more on feet and bike wheels, we&#39;ll all be healthier. We&#39;ll experience less noise and stress. Air quality will improve.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">And, as Cawood points out, as more people experience nature, more people decide it&#39;s worth their while to make eco-friendlier choices, too, whether by supporting conservation work or opting for earth-friendly products at the store.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&quot;Environmentally, by biking or taking public transit, you are impacting social norms,&quot; Cawood explains. &quot;If you do it, your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors might be more likely to try it out. If it catches on, you&rsquo;re taking cars off the road, which conserves fossil fuels and essentially cleans the air.&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Plus, money. Penalosa says there&#39;s a potentially staggering impact on personal income for those who decide to go full throttle with car-free living. Americans today who use cars spend one out of four dollars on mobility, he comments, when we could be spending less than 4 percent if we walk, bike and take public transit instead. With AAA stats reporting average expenses for having a car tally up to about $8,500 every year, that&#39;s kinda like winning the Lottery, when you think about it&hellip;but with way better odds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Pretty decent perks, when you consider all you wanted was to stretch your legs and get a nice view of nature, huh?</span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Myth Outcome: Myth partially busted</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">In many cities, you don&#39;t need a car to get to nature&mdash;you just need your feet, a bike, or ticket to ride public transit</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Still, there are many ways we could improve access and provide better connecting points to places both within city limits and further afoot.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">One Green Thing</span>:</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">Ride your bike to a pretty nature spot this weekend. (Hint: Try using Google Maps or</span><a href="http://www.traillink.com/"> Trail Link</a> to identify the route.)</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">But wait, there&#39;s more, says Penalosa! &quot;Some people may say, &#39;oh I don&#39;t care about environment or health&hellip;What&#39;s in it for me?&#39;&quot; A potentially staggering impact on personal income, for one thing. Americans today who use cars spend one out of four dollars on mobility, he comments, when we could be spending less than 4 percent if we instead walk, bike and take public transit.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">What would we do with all that cash if we weren&#39;t spending it </span>every single year on transportation? His suggestions: We could spend it on education, or special experiences with our family&mdash;and that can in turn help boost the local economy, as we spend money on things like going out to eat or improving our gardens instead of on cars built in some far-off locale.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">RESOURCES</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://http://www.railstotrails.org/">Rails to Trails Conservancy</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.traillink.com/">&nbsp;http://www.traillink.com/</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2014/10/05/do-urban-green-corridors-work-it-depends-on-what-we-want-them-to-do-what-ecological-andor-social-functions-can-we-realistically-expect-green-corridors-to-perform-in-cities-what-attributes-defi/">&nbsp;http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2014/10/05/do-urban-green-corridors-work-it-depends-on-what-we-want-them-to-do-what-ecological-andor-social-functions-can-we-realistically-expect-green-corridors-to-perform-in-cities-what-attributes-defi/</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://activetrans.org/sites/files/Active_Trans_Chicago_Bike_Monitoring_Report_2014.pdf">&nbsp;http://activetrans.org/sites/files/Active_Trans_Chicago_Bike_Monitoring_Report_2014.pdf</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.divvybikes.com/">&nbsp;https://www.divvybikes.com/</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.openlands.org/eco-explorations">Eco-Explorations</a> program and the new<a href="http://www.openlands.org/birds-in-my-neighborhood"> Birds in my Neighborhood</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://chicagowilderness.org/CW_Archives/issues/summer2007/transit.html">&nbsp;http://chicagowilderness.org/CW_Archives/issues/summer2007/transit.html</a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-6e74e513-09a4-88ca-9a92-47f10afa1468">&middot;</span>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;2006<a href="http://880cities.org/images/resource/park-space-arti/trust-health-benefits-parks.pdf"> report</a> by the Trust for Public Land</p></p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-you-dont-need-car-see-nature-112595 EcoMyths: Composting Doesn’t Have to Smell http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-composting-doesn%E2%80%99t-have-smell-112594 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/EcoMyths-Composting.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Many shy away from composting because they have images of rotting food, scavenging animals and neighbors complaining about the smell. But EcoMyths Alliance wants you to know that composting can be odorless. Kate Sackman of EcoMyths and composting enthusiast, Jerome McDonnell, talk with Eliza Fournier of Chicago Botanic Garden. Fournier says, &quot;It only stinks if you&#39;re not going at it right.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212692927&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><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Myth: Composting Stinks!</strong></span></p><p><strong>&quot;Hold Your Nose!&quot;&mdash;Said No Real-Life Composter We Talked To, Ever</strong> <strong>Composters: They&#39;re just like us!</strong></p><p>Mine doesn&#39;t smell at all! I think the trick is plenty of dried matter (leaves in my case) and aerating it well. This is first time with my own composter and I&#39;m very happy so far!</p><p><em>~ Corina McKendry, Colorado</em></p><p>Every nose has its own unique point of smell&mdash;but all are likely to turn themselves up at the smell of rotting trash. Why then would we assault our nasal passages by composting, aka, piling up a bunch of food and plant waste with the express goal of, gasp, <em>purposefully</em> <em>letting it rot</em>?</p><p>Answering the why is easy: For one thing, that pile of decomposed organic waste turns nutrient-rich food waste back into food for the garden, and, by reducing food waste headed to landfill, takes some heat off the earth&#39;s atmosphere by reducing methane emissions.</p><p>But before we get into a full-blown love song about composting, it&#39;s time to set the record straight about the stink.</p><p>&quot;It only stinks if you&#39;re not going at it right,&quot; says Eliza Fournier of the<a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture/youthfarm/staff"> Chicago Botanic Garden</a>. &quot;After people read this article, they will do it right. Therefore composting doesn&#39;t smell!&quot;</p><p>As the leader of the Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest<a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture/youthfarm"> Youth Farm</a> program, Fournier would know if composting nose-plugs were a common request (they&#39;re not). She oversees the sites, which provide urban farming jobs to youth in food desert communities, giving them hands-on experience in the gardens&mdash;and in the compost piles around them, too.</p><p>The feds back up the case against the need for nose-plugging, too, proclaiming on the<a href="http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home"> EPA</a> website that a properly managed compost bin &quot;will not smell bad.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>COMPOSTERS: They&#39;re just like us!</strong></p><p>We compost and it does not stink at all. I&#39;m always learning when I open the lid, but I&#39;ve been doing it for four years and no bad smells yet!</p><p><em>~ Becky Staton, Chicago, IL</em></p><p>Still, because every aforementioned nose is indeed different, we also turned to<a href="https://www.facebook.com/ecomyths"> Facebook</a> for some first-hand accounts. Does your composting stink, we asked you? No! Was the resounding answer. (For more of what these real-life, non-professional composters said, check out the IRL stories sprinkled throughout this article.)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Smells Like&hellip;It&#39;s Easy to Bench the Stench</strong></p><p>Healthy compost is easy to maintain, explains Fournier. &quot;It&#39;s like making a parfait,&quot; except you&#39;re layering in nitrogen, carbon, air, and water.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><u>Fournier&#39;s Recipe (aka, Plain Ol&#39; Compost)</u></p><p><em>Ingredients:</em></p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Greens, including fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, and fresh grass clippings bring in the nitrogen</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Browns like dried leaves, twigs, straw, and pine needles serve up carbon</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Heat, water, air</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Optional: Top soil for a little dose of tiny, hungry arthropods to help accelerate decomposition</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<strong>SKIP</strong>: Meat, fish, and dairy. Those are the most common culprits in smelly piles.</p><p><em>* Note: </em>Quantities are irrelevant in this easy-does-it recipe.</p><p><em>Directions:</em></p><p>1. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Alternate greens and browns of different sizes.</p><p>2. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Add in water when the pile seems dry.</p><p>3. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Stir every couple of weeks to add air.</p><p>4. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Sit back, watch, and maintain balance!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>COMPOSTERS: They&#39;re just like us!</strong></p><p>At our new house they pick it up at the curb. We keep a small bin in the kitchen&mdash;it&#39;s small enough that it doesn&#39;t get too full before we have to take it to the compost can outside, which limits the smell in the kitchen. And really, if the food waste wasn&#39;t going in the compost bin, it would be going in the trashcan right next to it in the kitchen, so the smells would be there all the same.</p><p><em>~ Tiffany Plate, Boulder, CO</em></p><p>&quot;It&#39;s almost like having a pet,&quot; muses Fournier. &quot;If your pet is looking lethargic, or panting a lot, he probably needs some water. <em>Oh, he smells a little? Maybe he needs a bath</em>&hellip;</p><p>&quot;With composting, you start to do the same. It looks depleted? Give it some food. It&#39;s a little crunchy? Give it water. Too wet? Hold the water!&quot;</p><p>Like plants, pets, anything you care for, it&#39;s natural to want to observe it, and as you do, you&#39;ll be able to diagnose any issues pretty quickly.</p><p>Still, you don&#39;t need to be &quot;super precious&quot; about your compost, she says. &quot;The most important thing is balance. Everything in moderation in terms of greens, browns, soil, water, and air&mdash;not too much of any one thing.&quot;</p><p>So, let&#39;s say you strike out big time in terms of balance and somehow, against all odds&hellip;compost does stink?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>COMPOSTERS: They&#39;re just like us!</strong></p><p>We&#39;ve been composting daily for nearly three years and it NEVER stinks. But you know what does stink? Regular trash.</p><p>We had a situation with an out-of-towner who was confused and just tossed everything in the trash. We came home and thought there was a dead fish in our house. We finally figured out that his habits (just tossing whatever in the garbage) was what was causing our entire house to smell. Just a few adjusted habits and it&#39;s been easy-peasy. I love compost.</p><p><em>~ Kristin Urquiza, San Francisco, CA</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Never fear! Fournier says even if stink happens, you can stop it pretty quickly. &quot;Usually it starts smelling is if it has too many greens or is too wet. The way you deal with that is to add more browns to counter-act greens, stop watering, and get some air circulation in there.&quot; Not enough dried leaves around this time of year? No worries. Add non-glossy paper or cardboard.</p><p>As for the inside portion of the affair, just keep scraps in a lidded container and take &#39;em out every day. Apartment dwellers can try worm bins, aka<a href="http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/basics.html"> vermicomposting</a> systems, which are also non-stinky, and in Fournier&#39;s opinion, even easier than composting proper.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Hook, Line and Non-Stinker: Composting FTW</strong></p><p>Okay, so composting doesn&#39;t stink. But that&#39;s not the only thing it has going in its favor. We can all help reduce food waste, improve our gardens and selves, and even combat climate change, simply by returning our food scraps to the earth in an awesome way.</p><p>How awesome? Let&#39;s count the ways:</p><p style="margin-left:39pt;">&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>Beating food waste</em>: According to the<a href="http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home"> EPA</a>, food scraps and yard waste make up 20-30 percent of our nation&#39;s trash. In 2013, we threw away more than 35 million tons of food waste, roughly 95 percent of which ended up in landfills or combustion facilities. You don&#39;t need to watch a sad infomercial about world hunger to know that making the most of food is a good thing.</p><p style="margin-left:39pt;">&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>Combatting climate change: </em>All that soil-friendly food waste we trash not only takes up space in the landfill, it also becomes a significant source of<a href="http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html"> methane</a>, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, and therefore a big bad wolf in global warming.</p><p style="margin-left:39pt;">&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>Souping up gardens, on the cheap</em>: Compost improves soil health and structure, suppressing plant diseases and pests, and supporting water retention to reduce the need for extra water and fertilizers. It&#39;s also great for city-dwellers whose soil may need extra love when it comes to nitrogen composition in the soil, adds Fournier. Oh, and it&#39;s free.</p><p style="margin-left:39pt;">&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>Feel-good fun!: </em>How cool that you can not only waste less food, but you can also have more reason to get outside, asks Fournier. Plus, she enthuses, turning your compost pile is a great workout. &quot;It&#39;s great for your core&mdash;those little muscles on your side!&quot; It&#39;s also just plain interesting, like a little science experiment right in your backyard.</p><p>To make sure we covered all our bases in terms of potential stinkage and likely benefits, we also turned to a real life farmer.</p><p>&quot;Your pile won&#39;t stink,&quot; confirms Audra Lewicki of<a href="http://dirtdoll.tumblr.com/"> Dirt Doll</a> in Chicago, an urban farm in Chicago, &quot;as long as you&#39;ve got a good mix of greens and browns, water, and air. It&#39;s important for us to compost because we get to put all those nutrients back into the soil <em>and</em> avoid using up precious fossil fuels to haul them to a landfill. It kills me to think of our nutrient-rich turnip tops and dandelion greens sitting under heaps of plastic bags for decades in a landfill.&quot;</p><p>Good point, Dirt Doll. We can all take a deep breath and help save the world, one non-smelly, composted food scrap at a time.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Myth Outcome: Busted</strong></span></p><p>Composting doesn&#39;t stink&mdash;if you stick to the basics. The only thing that might stink? The trash, when it&#39;s unnecessarily full of all those food scraps that could&#39;ve been composted!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>One Green Thing</strong></span></p><p><strong>Compost!</strong></p><p>Not sure where to start? One start by learning how much compostable food your household is currently throwing away. Not only will this will help motivate you to set up your composting system, it will also give you a sense of how big an area or system you need to set up.</p><p>Use a Tupperware (or several, depending) to store non-meat food scraps for a week. Assuming you don&#39;t already have a compost system in place, you&#39;ll want to refrigerate this so it can accumulate without stinking up the kitchen. At the end of the week, weigh the Tupperware. Measure your own Multiplier Effect by multiplying the weight by 365. It adds up!</p><p>Wanna check out composting starter items? Our composting gurus weighed in with some tips:</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;IRL composter Kristen U. recommends<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Biobag-Food-Waste-Gallon-Count/dp/B002FC6JZG/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1434997346&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=bio+bags"> this simple lidded trashcan</a> for storing food scraps in the kitchen</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;IRL composter Tiffany P. says biodegradable<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Biobag-Food-Waste-Gallon-Count/dp/B002FC6JZG/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1434997346&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=bio+bags"> BioBags</a> are great for keeping curbside containers smell-free in cities lucky enough to have composting pickup services</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;IRL composter Becky S. simply drilled some holes into a black storage bin to layer her greens and browns. (Though her dream is to have a two-compartment<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Jora-Gallon-125-Compost-Tumbler/dp/B004U7ISQ2"> tumbler</a>&hellip;)</p><p>&middot; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Eliza F. recommends<a href="http://www.amazon.com/b?node=3753631"> buying</a> or<a href="http://my.chicagobotanic.org/horticulture/how-to/the-cadillac-of-compost-bins/"> making your own</a> three-bin compost bin system if you live in an area where an open pile would be too tempting for wildlife to resist.</p><p>When you know more about how big a system you need, you&#39;re ready to advance to the next level: read the quick how-to on setting up a compost pile, courtesy of the<a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/sites/default/files/pdf/plantinfo/compost.pdf"> Chicago Botanic Garden guide</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The Multiplier Effect</strong></p><p>The average U.S. citizen generates<a href="http://www.epa.gov/solidwaste/nonhaz/municipal/"> 4.4 pounds</a> of waste a day, roughly two thirds of which is compostable, according to<a href="https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily"> Duke University&#39;s Center for Sustainablity &amp; Commerce</a>. That means each of us who starts composting now could, in a single year, keep a half a ton of food waste out of landfills.</p><p><em>IRL Multiplier Effect</em>: Thanks to the waste-busting combo of composting and recycling, IRL composter Kristin U. has cut her household of two&#39;s actual garbage output down to a single 10-gallon trash bag <em>per month.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Resources</strong></p><p>Learn more basics on how to compost from the Chicago Botanic Garden -<a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/conservation/composting"> http://www.chicagobotanic.org/conservation/composting</a></p><p><a href="https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily">https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily</a></p><p><a href="http://www.safebee.com/home/how-compost-without-attracting-pests">http://www.safebee.com/home/how-compost-without-attracting-pests</a></p><p>Also related myth: <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/08/sink-disposals-vs-trashcans">http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2014/08/sink-disposals-vs-trashcans</a></p></p> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 09:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-composting-doesn%E2%80%99t-have-smell-112594 Could Chicago be in for a long hot summer? http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-be-long-hot-summer-112238 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/corn crops.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="https://climateillinois.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/so-far-fifth-wettest-june-on-record-for-illinois/">Near record rainfalls</a> in parts of Illinois this June have set the stage for what could be many muggy nights ahead, in part because of the type of crops we grow in the state.</p><p>David Changnon, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, <a href="http://www.niu.edu/geog/directory/dave_changnon_research.shtml#2004a">studies how dense Illinois corn and soybean crops can raise dew point temperatures</a>. He worries what might happen if the moisture from these crops, coupled with evaporation from this year&rsquo;s wet soil, meets high summer temperatures this year. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We could have incredible amounts of <a href="http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycleevapotranspiration.html">evapotranspiration</a>,&rdquo; Changnon said. &ldquo;Not just evaporation of water from the soil at the surface but our corn and soybean plants will begin to transpire a great deal of water into the lower atmosphere. In those situations it prevents the air temperature from dropping below that dew point, which limits how much cooling you can have at night.&rdquo;</p><p>In his 2004 paper on this subject, Changnon noted that the greatest increases in extreme daily dew point temperatures occurred in the Midwest in the second half of the last century. This period coincided with a doubling of corn and soybean crops in the area. In the years since, local cultivation of these crops has only increased.</p><p>And according to Changnon, these factors could combine with hot temperatures to reduce the number of Midwest summer days that fade into cool nights. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;So now you have not only hot muggy days, but you also have warm muggy evenings, which makes it very difficult if you don&rsquo;t have air conditioning to sleep and get around,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Chagnon notes that high temperatures and record high dew points also prevailed during Chicago&rsquo;s steamy summer of 1999 and deadly summer of 1995 when more than 700 died in the heat.</p><p>&ldquo;In both of those summers we had big heat waves in July &lsquo;95 and the end of July &lsquo;99 where temperatures in the Chicagoland area got close to 100 degrees if not exceeded them for a couple of days,&rdquo; Chagnon said. &ldquo;On those days we had dew points in the upper 70s, and we even set an all-time record at Midway of a dew point of 83 degrees.</p><p>&ldquo;It was those dew points that limited the ability for the atmosphere to cool down at night and that&rsquo;s what really caused the problem for most people who don&rsquo;t have air conditioning systems in their homes or apartments, especially for the elderly,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Still, Changnon notes that we also had heavy June rainfall in 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;Luckily it was accompanied by fairly cool temperatures, so it wasn&rsquo;t that much of a problem,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"><em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-be-long-hot-summer-112238 Battle over new oil train standards pits safety against cost http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-new-oil-train-standards-pits-safety-against-cost-112224 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/oil-train-ap_custom-0650f8c189b33da022b256e602227302594e89d9-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The federal government&#39;s new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.</p><p>The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren&#39;t strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.</p><p>Since February, five trains carrying North Dakota Bakken crude oil have derailed and exploded into flames in the U.S. and Canada. No one was hurt in the incidents in Mount Carbon, W.Va., and Northern Ontario in February; in Galena, Ill., and Northern Ontario in March; and in Heimdal, N.D., in May.</p><p>But each of those fiery train wrecks occurred in lightly populated areas. Scores of oil trains also travel through dense cities, particularly Chicago, the nation&#39;s railroad hub.</p><p>According to state records and published reports, about 40 or more trains carrying Bakken crude roll through the city each week on just the BNSF Railway&#39;s tracks alone. Those trains pass right by apartment buildings, homes, businesses and schools.</p><p>&quot;Well just imagine the carnage,&quot; said Christina Martinez. She was standing alongside the BNSF tracks in Chicago&#39;s Pilsen neighborhood as a long train of black tank cars slowly rolled by, right across the street from St. Procopius, the Catholic elementary school her 6-year-old attends.</p><p>&quot;Just the other day they were playing soccer at my son&#39;s school on Saturday and I saw the train go by and it had the &#39;1267&#39;, the red marking,&quot; Martinez said, referring to the red, diamond-shaped placards on railroad tank cars that indicate their contents. The number 1267 signifies crude oil. &quot;And I was like, &#39;Oh my God.&#39; Can you imagine if it would derail and explode right here while these kids are playing soccer and all the people around there?&quot;</p><p>New federal rules require stronger tank cars, with thicker shells and higher front and back safety shields for shipping crude oil and other flammable liquids. Older, weaker models that more easily rupture will have to be retrofitted or replaced within three to five years. But Martinez and others wanted rules limiting the volatility of what&#39;s going into those tank cars, too.</p><p>Oil from North Dakota has a highly combustible mix of natural gases including butane, methane and propane. The state requires the conditioning of the gas and oil at the wellhead so the vapor pressure is below 13.7 pounds per square inch before it&#39;s shipped. But even at that level, oil from derailed tank cars has exploded into flames.</p><p>And many safety advocates had hoped federal regulators would require conditioning to lower the vapor pressure even more.</p><p>&quot;We don&#39;t want these bomb trains going through our neighborhood,&quot; said Lora Chamberlain of the group Chicagoland Oil by Rail. &quot;De-gasify the stuff. And so we&#39;re really, really upset at the feds, the Department of Transportation, for not addressing this in these new rules.&quot;</p><p>Others criticize the rules for giving shippers three to five years to either strengthen or replace the weakest tank cars.</p><p>&quot;The rules won&#39;t take effect for many years,&quot; said Paul Berland, who lives near busy railroad tracks in suburban Elgin. &quot;They&#39;re still playing Russian roulette with our communities.&quot;</p><p>A coalition of environmental groups &mdash; including Earthjustice, ForestEthics and the Sierra Club &mdash; sued, alleging that loopholes could allow some dangerous tank cars to remain on the tracks for up to a decade.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t think our federal regulators did the job that they needed to do here; I think they wimped out, as it were,&quot; said Tom Weisner, mayor of Aurora, Ill., a city of 200,000 about 40 miles west of Chicago that has seen a dramatic increase in oil trains rumbling through it.</p><p>Weisner is upset that the new rules provide exemptions to trains with fewer than 20 contiguous tank cars of a flammable liquid, such as oil, and for trains with fewer than 35 such tank cars in total.</p><p>&quot;They&#39;ve left a hole in the regulations that you could drive a freight train through,&quot; Weisner said.</p><p>At the same time, an oil industry group is challenging the new regulations in court, too, arguing that manufacturers won&#39;t be able to build and retrofit tank cars fast enough to meet the requirements.</p><p>The railroad industry is also taking action against the new crude-by-rail rules, filing an appeal of the new rules with the Department of Transportation.</p><p>In a statement, Association of American Railroads spokesman Ed Greenberg said: &quot;It is the AAR&#39;s position the rule, while a good start, does not sufficiently advance safety and fails to fully address ongoing concerns of the freight rail industry and the general public. The AAR is urging the DOT to close the gap in the rule that allows shippers to continue using tank cars not meeting new design specifications, to remove the ECP brake requirement, and to enhance thermal protection by requiring a thermal blanket as part of new tank car safety design standards.&quot;</p><p>AAR&#39;s President Ed Hamberger discussed the problems the railroads have with the new rules in an interview with NPR prior to filing the appeal. &quot;The one that we have real problems with is requiring something called ECP brakes &mdash; electronically controlled pneumatic brakes,&quot; he said, adding the new braking system that the federal government is mandating is unproven.</p><p>&quot;[DOT does] not claim that ECP brakes would prevent one accident,&quot; Hamberger said. &quot;Their entire safety case is based on the fact that ECP brakes are applied a little bit more quickly than the current system.&quot;</p><p>Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg disagreed. &quot;It&#39;s not unproven at all,&quot; she said, noting that the railroads say ECP brakes could cost nearly $10,000 per tank car.</p><p>&quot;I do understand that the railroad industry views it as costly,&quot; Feinberg adds. &quot;I don&#39;t think it&#39;s particularly costly, especially when you compare it to the cost of a really significant incident with a train carrying this product.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re talking about unit trains, 70 or more cars, that are transporting an incredibly volatile and flammable substance through towns like Chicago, Philadelphia,&quot; Feinberg continues. &quot;I want those trains to have a really good braking system. I don&#39;t want to get into an argument with the rail industry that it&#39;s too expensive. I want people along rail lines to be protected.&quot;</p><p>Feinberg said her agency is still studying whether to regulate the volatility of crude, but some in Congress don&#39;t think this safety matter can wait.</p><p>&quot;The new DOT rule is just like saying let the oil trains roll,&quot; U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a statement. &quot;It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to address the threat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars.&quot;</p><p>Cantwell is sponsoring legislation to force oil producers to reduce the crude&#39;s volatility to make it less explosive, before shipping it on the nation&#39;s rails.</p></p> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 14:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-new-oil-train-standards-pits-safety-against-cost-112224 Pope's encyclical takes on climate change http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/popes-encyclical-takes-climate-change-112207 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/popefrancis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249);">▲&nbsp;</span>LISTEN&nbsp;</strong><em>The Vatican will release a rare encyclical on the environment Thursday. A leaked draft of Pope Francis&rsquo; letter came out earlier this week. In the draft, the Pope reportedly calls for urgent action to fight climate change and says global warming is &ldquo;mostly&rdquo; due to human action. </em>Morning Shift<em>&#39;s Tony Sarabia asked Sister Dawn Nothwehr, the Erica and Harry John Family Endowed Chair in Catholic Theological Ethics at the Catholic Theological Union, to discuss what this means.</em></p><p>VATICAN CITY &nbsp;&mdash; There&#39;s something of a whodunit going on in the Vatican to discover who leaked Pope Francis&#39; environment encyclical to an Italian newsweekly, deflating the release of the most anticipated and feared papal document in recent times.</p><p><em>L&#39;Espresso</em> magazine published the full 191 pages of &quot;Laudato Si&quot; (Be Praised) on its website Monday, three days before the official launch. The Vatican said it was just a draft, but most media ran with it, given that it covered many of the same points Francis and his advisers have been making in the run-up to the release.</p><p>On Tuesday, the Vatican indefinitely suspended the press credentials of <em>L&#39;Espresso</em>&#39;s veteran Vatican correspondent, Sandro Magister, saying the publication had been &quot;incorrect.&quot; A letter from the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, to Magister advising him of the sanction was posted on the bulletin board of the Vatican press office.</p><p>Magister told <em>The Associated Press</em> that his editor, not he, obtained the document and decided to publish it.</p><p>&quot;I just wrote the introduction,&quot; Magister said in a text message, adding that he had promised the Vatican to keep quiet about the scoop.</p><p>In the draft of the encyclical, Francis says global warming is &quot;mostly&quot; due to human activity and the burning of fossil fuels. He calls for a radical change in behavior to save the planet for future generations and prevent the poor from suffering the worst effects of industry-induced environmental degradation.</p><p>Several Vatican commentators hypothesized that the leak was aimed at taking the punch out of Thursday&#39;s official launch of the encyclical, in which the Vatican has lined up a Catholic cardinal, an Orthodox theologian, an atheist scientist and an economist to discuss the contents.</p><p>They noted that conservatives &mdash; particularly in the U.S. &mdash; attacked the encyclical even before it was released, chiding the pope for talking science in a church document and insisting that global warming isn&#39;t a scientific reality. It would be in their interest, the argument goes, to fudge the pope&#39;s message via a scoop by<em> L&#39;Espresso</em>, since Magister has championed views of the conservative Catholic camp hostile to Francis.</p><p>Italian daily La Stampa suggested that the leak might have come from conservatives inside Vatican, noting that Francis&#39; reform plans for the Vatican bureaucracy have been resisted by the more conservative old guard who would have an interest in sabotaging Francis&#39; labor of love.</p><p>A leak, however, was to be expected, given that drafts of the document have been circulating for months and that the text had been translated into multiple languages before its official release.</p><p>Not to mention that the Vatican has had a long and storied history of leaked documents: The last big scandal in 2012 resulted in the pope&#39;s butler being put on trial for stealing his private papers and passing them off to an Italian journalist. He was convicted but was eventually pardoned by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.</p><p>In the aftermath of the &quot;Vatileaks&quot; scandal, the Vatican City State updated its criminal code to include severe penalties for anyone who leaks a Vatican document or publishes news from it: Up to two years in prison and a 5,000 euro ($5,600) fine.</p><p>Vatican commentator John Allen, writing for the Boston Globe&#39;s Crux site, said the leak highlighted the clash of cultures at play at the Vatican over different understandings of embargoes: The Vatican regularly provides accredited journalists with embargoed documents to give them time to read them and prepare articles, with the understanding that they will only publish at a fixed time.</p><p>While the Vatican cried foul that the encyclical embargo had been violated,<em> L&#39;Espresso </em>obtained the article independently of the Vatican press office, and thereby wasn&#39;t beholden to the noon Thursday embargo that had been set.</p><p>&quot;As a final observation, the frenzy probably will boost interest in Thursday&#39;s official presentation, if for no other reason than to see whether there are actually any substantial changes between the leak and the real deal,&quot; he said.</p></p> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 11:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/popes-encyclical-takes-climate-change-112207