WBEZ | Nature http://www.wbez.org/tags/nature Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Wildsounds: The conversation between a city and nature http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wildsounds.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When environmental science professor Liam Heneghan moved to Chicago, he noticed something surprising.</p><p>The farther he got away from the city, the harder it was to find interesting habitats to study, because there was just a lot of farmland.&nbsp; He found less of the protected forest preserves or even parks you see inside the city limits.</p><p>&ldquo;Strangely, Chicago is the place you go, that you deliberately seek out if you want to do conservation in the midwest.&rdquo; Heneghan said. &ldquo;That blows my mind.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />So when Heneghan discovered a project that set out to record nature sounds across the world, he wanted to make sure cities were a part of it.&nbsp; He has been recording, alongside his students, in Chicago for about a year.</p><p>By listening to nature sounds in the city, researchers have learned the complex way that human noise makes animals change the way they sound; from insects that shift their pitch to be heard over traffic, to birds that sing at different times of day.</p><p>But Heneghan does not want the message of the recordings to be that people sounds are bad. He wants this project to help the rest of Chicago have that same experience he did when he first moved here.</p><p>When they listen, he wants them to notice how much nature is right here &mdash; outside their apartments and office buildings, beside highways and train lines.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 EcoMyths: We can experience nature and art together http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-we-can-experience-nature-and-art-together-110675 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ecomyths.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> says: &ldquo;Too often, we think of nature and art as unrelated experiences. One is outside, the other is inside. But the way humans experience nature and art has been powerfully linked throughout history...And when that art speaks to us, it in turn deepens our connection with the world around us.&rdquo; For our regular <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, <a href="https://www.fieldmuseum.org/about/staff/profile/416">Alaka Wali</a>, anthropology curator at <a href="https://www.fieldmuseum.org/">The Field Museum</a>, joins Kate Sackman and Jerome McDonnell to share why she believes, &ldquo;engaging with art, whether viewing or making it yourself, gives you a visceral experience. This aesthetic, emotional experience [can be a] great way to engage with nature.&quot;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160840481&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 dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-92fe108d-f057-a90e-069f-fd6c5c486bf9"><strong>Key ways art and nature influence each other:</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em>&middot; Scientifically grounded art brings natural science to life:</em> Many people find science simply over their heads. Art can bridge the gap by enabling us to visualize what otherwise may seem remote or irrelevant. Audubon did this with detailed renderings of birds, just as the Field Museum does with artistic dioramas, which evoke a sense of the habitat and behavior of any given species, as well as its<a href="http://restoringearth.fieldmuseum.org/"> Restoring Earth</a> exhibit, which brings conservation science to life with mini-collections created by visitors. Wali also cites the example of the international<a href="http://crochetcoralreef.org/"> Crochet Coral Reef</a>, which raises awareness about coral reef destruction using an intricate crochet technique (get the full scoop in<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_wertheim_crochets_the_coral_reef"> this TED Talk</a>).</p><p dir="ltr"><em>&middot; Nature-themed art opens doors to other worlds &ndash; including the one outside:</em> Museums can inspire us to head outside, whether it&#39;s the urban kid who doesn&#39;t realize how much nature is all around us until he sees an exhibit on local wildlife, or the art afficionado, inspired to book a trip to the gardens at Giverny and see the famed water lilies for themselves.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>&middot; Nature-inspired art inspires us to make a difference: </em>Because environmental topics can be overwhelmingly complicated, sometimes a single image is most effective in inspiring action. For example: To<a href="http://www.rare.org/history"> save an endangered parrot</a> native to St. Lucia, international conservation group<a href="http://www.rare.org/"> Rare</a> worked with schools to develop artwork, which eventually became a postage stamp, generating major community support for active protection of the bird. Another example: National Geo photographer Joel Sartore&#39;s<a href="http://photoark.com/galleries/"> Photo Ark</a> documents vulnerable species like the Carolina Grasshopper sparrow, which now has a real<a href="http://photoark.com/measurable-success-for-photo-ark/"> chance for comeback from decline</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Stories like these abound: An artful interpretation of nature can, and has, inspired some of our noblest actions.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>EcoMyths Outcome</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Is getting outdoors the only way to experience nature? Nope! Is going to the museum the only way to experience art? Not a chance. Art can provide a meaningful portal into understanding and connecting with nature&mdash;and vice versa.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>One Green Thing: Let the great outdoors inspire your own art</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Whether it&rsquo;s<a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-tips/nature-landscape-photos/"> snapping an artful shot</a> with your phone,<a href="http://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-a-haiku.html"> writing a haiku</a> about the crazy shapes of the clouds, or<a href="http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/01/incredible-balancing-stones-by-michael.html"> balancing river rocks</a>, getting creative in the great outdoors is a powerful way to commune with nature.</p></p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-we-can-experience-nature-and-art-together-110675 Bioluminescent creatures keep predators at bay http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/bioluminescent-creatures-keep-predators-bay-107012 <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/bio%20bay%20youtube.jpg" title="The bioluminescent ripple effects of a splash in the Bio Bay. (YouTube/TobiasJHN)" /></div><p>When I was in my early 20s I traveled to Puerto Rico on vacation with some friends from high school. We sat on the beach and drank fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas, visited the colonial fort in old San Juan (a place that, with its rolling green meadows and stone turrets perched just above the ocean cliffs, looked to me like Narnia) and for several days we stayed in a rental in Vieques.</p><p>The diminutive island eight miles east of the mainland was for many years a U.S. naval base. Much of the heavily forested island was made into a wildlife preserve, which is now off-limits. But the rest of the island has retained a similar kind of rural, unspoiled beauty. There are white sand beaches and coral reefs, and even feral horses that trot around the pastel-colored houses. But Vieques&rsquo; most remarkable natural feature is its <a href="http://biobay.com/">Bioluminescent Bay</a>.</p><p>I went to the Bio Bay at night, on a bus that departed from the tiny town of Esperanza and wound its way east along the coast. It was perfectly dark when we arrived, and silent, except for the sound of insects and giggling tourists. Our tour guides produced canoes, and we filed in by twos and threes, paddling out to the center of the bay.</p><p>The water was black and glassy, but at the appointed time we jumped in to meet the creatures that give the Bio Bay its name. As we landed in the murk with one splash after another, the water around us flashed with a bright, milky blue glow, illuminating our limbs and reflecting up onto our faces. I swept my arm through the water and watched as it left a trail of blue stardust lit up behind it.</p><p>The Bio Bay, you see, is home to millions upon millions of tiny, one-celled microorganisms called dinoflagellates &ndash; in this case tiny marine plankton that are among the earth&rsquo;s many bioluminescent creatures. They produce their eerie light when they&rsquo;re disturbed, as they were when we decided to take a midnight swim in their home.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s the <em>point </em>of that light?&rdquo; J. Woodland &ldquo;Woody&rdquo; Hastings asked at a recent Chicago lecture. The Harvard professor of Natural Sciences studies bioluminescence in creatures across the spectrum of life, from simple, one-celled bacteria to angler fish that swim in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean and carry their light around with them.</p><p>Hastings said this is the question he&rsquo;s invariably asked at his talks. In the case of one such organism he&rsquo;s studied, a luminous mushroom found in the Brazilian rain forest, Hastings posited that the glow of the fungi attracts insects, which will eat the mushroom and help disperse its spores. But in the case of the plankton in the Bio Bay, my tour guide had another explanation: supposedly, he said, the glow was meant to act like <a href="http://siobiolum.ucsd.edu/dino_bl.html">a &ldquo;burglar alarm,&rdquo;</a> meant to attract a secondary predator that would threaten and scare away the primary predator bothering the dinoflagellates.</p><p>As my tour guide spoke, I felt a blindingly painful sting on my left calf. A jellyfish that I could not see &ndash; but which had clearly seen me &ndash; had wrapped its tentacle around my leg. I hauled myself out of the water and back into the boat, howling with pain. Nature at work!</p><p>In the audio above you can hear Hastings&rsquo; account of another mystical spot of bioluminescent water, this time in the Indian Ocean, known to generations of sailors as the &ldquo;milky sea.&rdquo; And, you can hear more about the spectrum of creatures that cause our waters to glow like a softly lit siren.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Woody Hastings spoke at an event presented by the Chicago Council on Science and Technology in February of 2013. Click</em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/bioluminescence-living-lights-lights-living-106379"><em>here</em></a>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter</em><a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">&nbsp;<em>@rsamer</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Sat, 04 May 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/bioluminescent-creatures-keep-predators-bay-107012 One CEO's garden ethic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/one-ceos-garden-ethic-106522 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/reneerk/3979280475/lightbox/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/reflection%20by%20renee%20rendler-kaplan.jpg" style="height: 479px; width: 610px;" title="A pond in the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Renee Rendler-Kaplan via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Yoga pants really have nothing to do with environmental ethics. But to hear Lululemon, Apple or any number of companies appropriate terms like &ldquo;ecosystem,&rdquo; you might start to think all CEOs are green thumbs.</p><p>Most are not, but <a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/info/senior_staff/siskel.php" target="_blank">Sophia Siskel</a>, CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, thinks more should be.</p><p>&ldquo;Gardening has the power to heal the world&rsquo;s economic and environmental problems,&rdquo; she said Friday at Northwestern University, well aware of how that admittedly tall order might be received.</p><p>&ldquo;Someone could say that&rsquo;s flowery, flighty or naïve,&rdquo; said Siskel, who got her master of business administration degree from Northwestern, but &ldquo;we have to stop being embarrassed about the things we&rsquo;re passionate about when they don&rsquo;t have hardcore quantitative metrics.&rdquo;</p><p>Not that protecting the environment comes at the expense of business, boasting more than 1 million visitors per year, the Chicago Botanic Garden saw its highest-ever attendance in 2012 &mdash;&nbsp;a record it had set in each of the three years prior.</p><p>Several years ago the garden made a commitment to beauty as its own end, focusing on six basic tenets Siskel learned as a gardener: patience, beauty, science, learning from each other, learning form hard work, and faith.</p><p>Those personal values can inform business decisions. &ldquo;Impatience is not an asset in building a strong business or an enduring economy,&rdquo; Siskel said. &ldquo;Impatience breeds waste.&rdquo;</p><p>Refocusing on their inherent interest in natural beauty also led to a renewal of the garden&rsquo;s scientific mission. They developed a plan with NASA to train up to 60 Chicago-area teachers to use NASA&rsquo;s global earth observation data in a climate change curriculum for 4<sup>th</sup>-12<sup>th</sup> graders.</p><p>The writer Michael Pollan offered up a similar &ldquo;garden ethic&rdquo; in his book <em><a href="http://michaelpollan.com/books/second-nature/">Second Nature</a></em>. He bought a farm and attempted to let it grow free, with disastrous results. But waging an all-out war on the natural world also ended in failure. Pollan arrived at a garden ethic to reconcile his respect for the integrity of nature with his needs as a member of contemporary society.</p><p>Siskel&rsquo;s garden ethic shares that environmentalist sentiment, but applies it more specifically to professional and personal relationships. She pointed to the proliferation of urban gardening and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/greencorps-graduates-cultivate-citys-green-jobs-105042" target="_blank">green jobs programs for hard-to-employ individuals</a>&nbsp;as evidence of the value of lessons learned through gardening.</p><p>&ldquo;Economic calculations often ignore nature. The result can be the destruction of the very ecosystems on which our economy is based,&quot; she said. &quot;Somehow by the time we get to be grown-ups, we forget that the future of life on earth depends on the ability of plants to sustain us.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sat, 06 Apr 2013 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/one-ceos-garden-ethic-106522 Pinning down the value of Illinois' trails http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/pinning-down-value-illinois-trails-106461 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/trails2.JPG" style="height: 408px; width: 610px;" title="Volunteers conduct surveys at Tunnel Hill State Trail. (Courtesy Thomas' Photographic Services)" /></p><p>With <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-09/bloomingdale-trail-reveals-chicagos-idea-grand-city-planning-102655">the Bloomingdale Trail poised to cut a streak of green</a> through the park-poor west side of Chicago, there has been renewed talk of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/nyregion/with-next-phase-ready-area-around-high-line-is-flourishing.html">the so-called High Line effect</a> &mdash; the idea that trails like New York&rsquo;s defunct viaduct-turned-economic engine could be a boon for businessmen <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-a-birnbaum/the-real-high-line-effect_b_1604217.html">as well as urbanists</a>.</p><p>We typically imagine the value of trails to be the way they connect people with nature. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/new-orland-grasslands-trail-stirs-environmental-concerns-106058">Though not without their own environmental concerns</a>, trails make wilderness accessible. But <a href="http://trailsforillinois.tumblr.com/maketrailscount">a new study from Trails for Illinois</a>, a local trails advocacy group, suggests they also open up users&rsquo; wallets.</p><p>More than one third of trail users bought something during their visits to six Illinois trails last summer, according to the study&nbsp;<em><a href="http://trailsforillinois.tumblr.com/MTC-Download">Making Trails Count in Illinois</a></em>. That should encourage communities along the <a href="http://calsagtrail.org/Friends_of_the_Calumet-Sag_Trail/Triple_Bottom_Line.html">Cal-Sag Trail</a>, a 32-mile multi-use path that would link hikers and bikers to the downtowns of several south Chicago suburbs. In Blue Island, for example, that trail would link in directly with bike lanes that travel through the town&#39;s main business corridor.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully it takes the blinders off of towns and merchants,&rdquo; said Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois. &ldquo;Trail users have credit cards, and will swipe it if you ask them to.&rdquo;</p><p>Between mid-July and mid-October 2012, volunteer teams counted the number of trail users and plucked surveys from boxes placed on six trails statewide, including the Chicago area&rsquo;s Fox River and Old Plank Road Trails.</p><p>&ldquo;This moves beyond being anecdotal about what trails do for quality for life and the local economy,&rdquo; Buchtel said. &ldquo;These six trails are just the start. We&rsquo;ve got a baseline of data that gives us a sample of how trails are benefiting Illinois, and we want to grow and leverage that.&rdquo;</p><p>The average amount of all purchases recorded by the survey was about $30. In addition to ripple effects for the local tourism and service industries around trails, Buchtel sees inklings of a &ldquo;triple bottom line&rdquo; in the data &mdash; health topped the list of reasons given for trail use, reported nearly twice as frequently as recreation.</p><p>And <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CDIQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hamline.edu%2FWorkArea%2Flinkit.aspx%3FLinkIdentifier%3Did%26ItemID%3D2147491171&amp;ei=a-RcUcvdKsjbqQGRwIDAAw&amp;usg=AFQjCNGxD8NoWm2iRDvJcOsVAEHyP6ljyA&amp;sig2=bOoXFTwyz2_J6hqWuZypRg&amp;bvm=bv.44770516,d.aWM">research</a> backs up the notion that spending time in nature improves environmental stewardship. But could we eventually lose our connection with nature as a result of technologically tricking out our trails? Maybe, Buchtel said, but for now he&rsquo;s focused on getting more built.</p><p>Nearly 70 percent of users surveyed found trails by word of mouth, suggesting a promotion problem that could leave environmental assets hiding in plain sight.</p></p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/pinning-down-value-illinois-trails-106461 Today’s Mighty Acorns, tomorrow’s environmentalists http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/sets/72157632687648819/with/8446261684/" target="_blank"><object height="458" width="610"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2F&amp;set_id=72157632687648819&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632687648819%2F&amp;set_id=72157632687648819&amp;jump_to=" height="458" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="610"></embed></object></a></p><p>Part of the conservationist Aldo Leopold&rsquo;s classic &ldquo;<a href="http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/landethic.html">land ethic</a>&rdquo; was the idea that you cannot act ethically toward something that you do not &ldquo;understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Your true modern is separate from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets,&rdquo; he wrote in 1948&rsquo;s <em>A Sand County Almanac</em>. &ldquo;He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow.&rdquo;</p><p>For many children growing up in a metropolis like Chicago, that may be the case. Indeed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/chicagos-hispanic-neighborhoods-farther-nature-study-shows-104838">some communities are consistently deprived easy access to nature</a>. But Chicago&rsquo;s famous stockyards and steel-framed skyscrapers are not as isolated from Leopold&rsquo;s land as the city&#39;s middlemen and gadgets might suggest.</p><p>Twenty years ago, The Nature Conservancy started&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mightyacorns.org/ourstory.html">Mighty Acorns</a>, an environmental education program&nbsp;that introduces Chicagoans to nature when they are young, hoping to recruit (or awaken) life-long stewards of the land.</p><p>Before they joined the program, for example, some students from the <a href="http://agcchicago.org/">Academy for Global Citizenship</a>, a charter school near Midway airport, might not have know about the rolling hills and forests less than 10 miles down the road at Arie Crown woods in southwest suburban Countryside, Ill.</p><p>Monday morning was the fifth graders&rsquo; second visit to Arie Crown woods. In just a few hours, the group spotted a coyote and a Cooper&rsquo;s hawk, as well as plenty of deer tracks in the fresh snow. They also got a crash course in ecological restoration, learning to identify and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/restoring-prairieland-calumets-industrial-corridor-104751">clear buckthorn, an invasive species that crowds out native oaks</a>.</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/acorns3-610px.jpg" title="Kids cut up buckthorn, an invasive species. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s the best kind of education: getting out and experiencing things,&rdquo; said Ruth Jetton, a teacher whose fifth grade class seemed especially adept at reading animal tracks &mdash; and initiating the occasional snowball fight.</p><p>Teachers who once turned to textbooks for far-flung environmental case studies now teach sustainability from Chicago&rsquo;s backyard.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it gives the kids some ownership,&rdquo; said another teacher, Joe Phillips. &ldquo;They know about wildlife already but they don&rsquo;t have the same sense of it until they visit.&rdquo;</p><p>Other exercises focused on adaptation and interdependence. Students mocked up a &ldquo;web of life,&rdquo; donning nametags like &ldquo;mushroom,&rdquo; &ldquo;mouse,&rdquo; and &ldquo;hawk,&rdquo; and then literally stringing out the relationships of their adopted identities using orange rope.</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/acorns16-610px.jpg" title="The “web of life” exercise, wherein kids map out ecological relationships using orange rope, is interrupted by the flight of a Cooper’s hawk overhead. Cheryl McGarry of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, points to the bird. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>The Forest Preserve District of Cook County serves the most children per year of the two dozen <a href="http://www.mightyacorns.org/Partners.html">partner organizations</a> that make up the Mighty Acorns consortium.</p><p>The environmental challenges that these kids will face are incredibly complex, inherently political and potentially very costly. So an awareness of nature and basic ecology is only the beginning of a real environmental education. But an early connection to the land can set the stage for lifelong growth, teachers say.</p><p>Congress even gave this idea a vote of confidence in 1990 by passing the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/pdf/neea.pdf">National Environmental Education Act</a>. And Aldo Leopold knew the value of education, too.</p><p>&ldquo;The objective is to teach the student to see the land,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;To understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 09:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347 Forest Preserve looks to revive camping in Cook County http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/forest-preserve-looks-revive-camping-cook-county-104972 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BD0A7378.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="General Superintendent Arnold Randall announced the masterplan Saturday at Camp Sullivan, one of the new campground sites promoted in the report. (Forest Preserve District of Cook County/Cristina Rutter)" /></p><p>Decades ago, camping was popular among patrons of Cook County&rsquo;s forest preserves. So popular, in fact, that a 1956 report by D.H. Burnham Jr. and Robert Kingery fretted about picnickers and campers who &ldquo;came and went wherever they pleased, littering the ground and marring the beauty and serenity of the woodlands.&rdquo;</p><p>The advent of the automobile had apparently unleashed the full clamor of human activity on the county&rsquo;s natural areas, prompting a 1929 committee to begin restricting recreational use. Outings for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were okay, but &ldquo;the prevailing practice of letting people build and own cabins in the public preserves was to be terminated.&rdquo;</p><p>Now the Forest Preserve District of Cook County is encouraging camping again with <a href="http://www.fpdcc.com/camping">a new campground masterplan</a>, which is meant to foster appreciation for the natural areas in Chicago&rsquo;s backyard &mdash; especially among those who now travel out of state for a taste of nature, or those who might not otherwise experience it at all.</p><p>&ldquo;Camping is one of those ways we&rsquo;ll get a whole new generation of environmentalists,&rdquo; said Arnold Randall, general superintendent of the Forest Preserve District. &ldquo;As well as a new generation of people interested in our Forest Preserves.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There will be aggressive outreach to kids and families in Chicago who wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise go camping,&rdquo; Randall said Tuesday. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re not going to Michigan, and certainly not to Colorado or California.&rdquo;</p><p>The Forest Preserve&rsquo;s board of commissioners approved the masterplan Tuesday, but the process of drafting it started more than a year ago. After soliciting public feedback and convening focus groups, the District selected eight potential sites for camping.</p><p>They include three new sites &mdash; Shabonna Woods in South Holland; Bullfrog Lake / Pulaski Woods in Willow Springs; and Camp Pine Woods in Northbrook &mdash; and a revitalization of existing Camps Reinberg and Sullivan. The plan also calls for more modest investment in secondary sties at Camp Kiwanis and along the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers on the North Shore.</p><p>The plans are just concepts now. Architectural and engineering work will flesh out the actual site details &mdash; campsites won&rsquo;t be open until 2014 &mdash; but the goal is to make the programs revenue-neutral. The District will likely collect user fees and devote that money to maintaining the sites.</p></p> Thu, 17 Jan 2013 06:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/forest-preserve-looks-revive-camping-cook-county-104972 Chicago's Hispanic neighborhoods farther from nature, study shows http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/chicagos-hispanic-neighborhoods-farther-nature-study-shows-104838 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS4344_P1030210-scr.JPG" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="A man fishes in Humboldt Park lagoon in early fall. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></p><p>Moving to the city shouldn&rsquo;t mean giving up nature. <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100723161221.htm">Studies have shown</a> that people who spend more time in natural settings bounce back from stress faster and <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2001-03-23/health/nature.health_1_nature-howard-frumkin-view?_s=PM:HEALTH">might even be healthier</a> than those without access to parks and open spaces. In Chicago, however, some communities are closer to nature than others.</p><p>According to recent research out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, residents of Chicago&rsquo;s Hispanic neighborhoods live farther from nature than residents of other neighborhoods.</p><p>What is unique about the study, titled &ldquo;<a href="http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/ES12-00126.1">Green infrastructure and bird diversity across an urban socioeconomic gradient</a>,&rdquo; is that it looked at multiple variables instead of just, say, average distance to greenspace. They measured proximity to open space and Lake Michigan, but also the presence of trees (canopy cover), and bird biodiversity in census tracts across the city.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Tree-canopy-cover,-bird-biodiversity-and-distance-to-the-lake.jpg" title="Left to right: tree canopy cover, distance to open space, and bird biodiversity. (Amélie Davis)" /></div></div><p>&ldquo;When you look at the patterns across all four variables,&rdquo; said <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/davisamelie/">Amélie Davis</a>, a postdoctoral research associate at UIC and lead author of the study, &ldquo;you can see the low- to mid-income Hispanic tracts are further from Lake Michigan, further from open space, they have lower bird biodiversity, and they have the lowest percent canopy cover.&rdquo;</p><p>That means they are also farther from the benefits those natural elements either indicate or provide directly &mdash; ecosystem services, to use the jargon. Canopy cover, for example, is more than aesthetic. Trees help regulate the local air quality, stormwater runoff and even noise pollution.</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/streetview%20comparison.png" style="height: 266px; width: 620px;" title="A Google Streetview comparison of two neighborhoods with different amounts of canopy cover. (Google)" /></div><p>That socioeconomic disparities influence Chicagoans&rsquo; access to nature is not entirely surprising, given the city&rsquo;s legacy of <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/10333485-417/segregation-drops-sharply-in-chicago.html">segregation</a>. What was unexpected, Davis said, was that the statistical analysis found low-income, Hispanic neighborhoods fared significantly worse than low-income, African-American areas.</p><p>&ldquo;We thought if there was an environmental injustice,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;it would be for all of the groups or none. Not the same group consistently underserved.&rdquo;</p><p>As <a href="http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/theskyline/2011/10/cramped-chicago-half-of-the-citys-27-million-people-live-in-park-poor-areas-lakefronts-parkland-disg.html">the <em>Tribune</em>&rsquo;s Blair Kamin pointed out</a>, Chicago&rsquo;s massive lakeside parks give the impression that the whole city enjoys easy access to open space along the shoreline <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-has-chicago%E2%80%99s-coastline-changed-over-decades-104328">(which is, after all, &ldquo;forever open, clear and free&rdquo;</a>). Inland it is a different story. Little Village, for example, has <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/blog-post/6262">the least green space per capita</a> of any neighborhood in the city.</p><p>But Davis cautioned against assuming any ill-intent on the part of City Hall.</p><p><em>&ldquo;</em>It might be a concurrence of circumstance, and not pernicious,&rdquo; she said. Industry squeezed out most of the natural spaces in Pilsen and Little Village before those neighborhoods became an important Hispanic enclave. When their notorious coal-fired power plants shut down last year, however, <a href="http://www.archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6258">residents of the southwest side left no doubt</a> about their aspirations for more green space.</p><p>And the study does not tell the whole story. Proximity to open space is not a perfect stand-in for access, to say nothing of the quality of that open space.</p><p>Davis&rsquo; research is funded by an Urban Long Term Research Area Exploratory grant from the National Science Foundation. &nbsp;The study was published in Ecosphere, a journal of the Ecological Society of America.</p><p><em>Follow Chris on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@cementley</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Jan 2013 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/chicagos-hispanic-neighborhoods-farther-nature-study-shows-104838 Clever Apes #29: Nature and human nature http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-04/clever-apes-29-nature-and-human-nature-97867 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/classroom drawing.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/classroom%20drawing_1.jpg" title="Menominee students integrate natural systems into their language learning. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></div><p>First off, this episode is sort of a goodbye. I will be departing my beloved WBEZ shortly to strike out for new adventures. I’ll include my weepy valedictory at the bottom of this post. But the story this week is important, so before your attention wanders …</p><p>As kids, we usually learn about nature from a decidedly human point of view. The world exists in relation to us. People are the stars in this scenario: We are Hamlet, while nature is like Denmark – the place where we happen to be. The conventional wisdom has been that this is a universal way the mind develops its awareness of the natural world.<!--break--></p><p>But an eclectic group of researchers are challenging that. The team is made up of psychologists from Northwestern University, and researchers from the Menominee Reservation and the American Indian Center of Chicago. They started looking carefully at the way Native and non-Native children come to learn about nature. They found some distinctive differences.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/Richard%20falls_0.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 10px; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Richard Annamitta is hoping to restore Keshena Falls to the state it was in when his ancestors saw it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></div><p>Namely, Native kids tend not to have that anthropocentric view in the early years. They come to see the biological world in terms of relationships and connections – what psychologists call “systems-level thinking.” Non-Native kids, on the other hand, generally think more in hierarchical categories like taxonomy – kingdom, phylum, species, etc. So the human-centered learning may not be universal after all, but instead flavored by the culture we grow up in.</p><p>This goes deeper than just having different beliefs. The scientists say those distinctive worldviews actually change the way we think, learn and reason. Over the last decade or so, the team has been designing experiments to tease out the ramifications of that change. It has major consequences for education, an<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/Bear%20clan_0.jpg" style="float: left; width: 240px; height: 320px; " title="This Bear Clan figure demonstrates how the Menominee see humans and animals as connected. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">d might (this is my speculation!) influence our attitudes about the environment.</p><p>So, this will be my final episode of Clever Apes. We are hopeful that it will continue in some form, so you may not have heard the last of WBEZ’s science experiment. Creating this series has been a rare privilege – I have had one of the greatest gigs in media. My deepest gratitude goes to my editor Cate Cahan, whose gusto and keen mind have long inspired me. Michael De Bonis has been a fantastic collaborator, friend and co-conspirator, without whom the Apes would be far less clever. And Sally Eisele has shown great vision (or folly) in supporting this weird project from the get-go.</p><p>Thank you for sticking with us, and of course you can still subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/Megan%20murals_0.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Megan Bang helped incorporate systems-level thinking into the design of an early education classroom. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 03 Apr 2012 10:16:50 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-04/clever-apes-29-nature-and-human-nature-97867 A suburban writer chronicles his search for the wild in new memoir http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-15/suburban-writer-chronicles-his-search-wild-new-memoir-87874 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-15/cabin.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This Sunday is Father’s Day, which brings to mind one of <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>’s favorite fathers, <a href="http://tommontgomeryfate.com/author.html" target="_blank">Tom Montgomery Fate</a>. Fate is a writer and regular contributor to the show. He turns time spent in the woods – and the suburbs – into reflections on life, parenthood, birth and death. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> invited Fate in to share his discoveries.&nbsp;<br> <br> Tom Montgomery Fate's new memoir is<a href="http://tommontgomeryfate.com/cabinfever.html" target="_blank"> </a><em><a href="http://tommontgomeryfate.com/cabinfever.html" target="_blank">Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild</a>.</em>&nbsp; You can catch him at his reading Wednesday, June 15, at the <a href="http://www.oppl.org/events/calendar.htm#15" target="_blank">Oak Park Public Library</a>.</p></p> Wed, 15 Jun 2011 14:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-15/suburban-writer-chronicles-his-search-wild-new-memoir-87874