Joining Illinois Sierra Club Members in Lake and Northeastern Cook Counties

Spring 2005, Issue #47

In This Issue 

Go To Article Split in the 62nd - Turnout Critical Go To Article Ending the Endangered Species Act?
Go To Article Before You Buy That Car Go To Article Meetings: Dragonflies, Chicago River
Go To Article Conservation News Go To Article Sightings: Human Diseases - When Man Abuses Nature
Go To Article April W&W Concert & Auction Go To Article W&W Board Change Needs Your Approval
Go To Article   Go To Article 403 kBPrintable, Portable W&W News
Go To Article Next Issue of W&W News Go To Article Last Issue of W&W News


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{ Meetings O Outings

Rustle the Leaf



Split in 62nd District, Turnout CrucialReturn to Top


After watching him rack up IEC environmental voting scores of only 30% in 2003 and 25% in 2004, we’re glad to see incumbent State Representative Robert Churchill retiring from his IL state house seat. To our dismay, he hopes to perpetuate his dismal record, and now seeks a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. While stepping down he has selected Barbara Oilschlager as his Republican successor. So far she has shown equally little regard for environmental issues.

The good news is that this open seat gives the voters of the 62nd District in north-central Lake County the exciting possibility of electing a state representative who is truly committed to preservation of the environment! This year, the residents of this state house district have the opportunity to vote for a qualified, pro-environmental candidate in the primary regardless of whether they chose a Republican or a Democratic primary ballot. With two good candidates to choose from, the Sierra Club has taken the unusual decision to endorse the primary bids of both: Republican Sandy Cole and Democrat Sharyn Elman.

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Sandy Cole has served on the Lake County Board and the Lake County Forest Preserve District since 1996, and has gathered and demonstrated mastery over the spectrum of policy challenges important to constituents in the 62nd. Cole has a long record of preserving open space and wetland areas. Going forward, she intends to focus on Lake Michigan watershed and mercury pollution. A long-time member of the Sierra Club, Cole has consistently won our endorsement, and has also been endorsed in this race by the Illinois Chapter of REP America (Republicans for Environmental Protection). Gurnee resident Sharyn Elman is a former radio and TV journalist who has shown an interest in a broad range of environmental issues. A breast cancer survivor, Elman has a particular interest in the links between environmental and human health. Elman is committed to finding practical and effective ways to reduce pollution through regional transportation planning.


Two good candidates presents a risk of splitting the conservation vote, so this should be seen as a challenge as much as it is a luxury. Unless we mobilize to support these better candidates, Oilschlager might steal the prize.

Please lend your support.

Citizens for Sandy Cole
1315 Osage Orange Road
Grayslake, IL 60030
(847) 548-0877
Friends of Sharyn Elman
P.O. Box 8304
Gurnee, IL 60031
(847) 528-6918

Ending the Endangered Species Act?Return to Top

Larry Marvet, Conservation Chair
G. W. Bush and main anti-environmental henchman, Congressman Richard Pombo, are midway in their effort to gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA), perhaps the world’s best wildlife protection law. I’m not kidding when I say this is half complete - Pombo’s “Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act” passed the U. S. House of Representatives in September, 229 to 193. North suburban Congressional representatives Mark Kirk and Melissa Bean voted against this horrible bill, but it still got through and similar legislation will be voted on in the U. S. Senate. Pombo’s law, if passed, would:
  • Eliminate conservation measures on tens of millions of acres of land around the country, the "critical habitat" of endangered species, and prevent such conservation activities in the future.
  • Require the federal government to pay developers, the oil industry and other special interests to keep them from killing or injuring publicly owned fish and wildlife.
  • Abandon the nation's commitment to recover healthy numbers of species facing extinction by ensuring that recovery plans are unenforceable and eliminating the requirement of current law that plans be prepared to ensure the "conservation and survival" of listed species.

 Pombo and Bush Interior Secretary Gale Norton are both pushing to make the ESA as toothless as possible. (Norton is most famous as the protégé of Reagan Interior Secretary Jim Watt, the prototypical anti-environmentalist. Norton went on to become Colorado Attorney General where she tried to have the ESA declared unconstitutional.)

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This new legislation is their most obvious attack, but just part of the administration’s 5 year battle to emasculate the law. As noted in Ted Williams’ excellent Audubon Magazine article, “There are three main strategies in the [Bush] administration's ESA end run: rigged and suppressed science; sweetheart lawsuits in which the White House encourages legal action against the act, winks at the plaintiffs, then gives up; and bizarre interpretations of the law that are inevitably struck down but delay recovery for years.”

 Bush, Pombo and Norton are not the first, nor will they be the last, to attack the Endangered Species Act. The reason it still stands, and is as strong as it still is 33 years after passage, is because Americans believe in it. With this latest threat, it’s time to reassert your position with our federal legislators. Ask them to support the ESA and oppose any bill that would weaken protections for endangered species and habitat. 

Call your senators and congressional representative at the US Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121. (To find out who your federal legislators are, go to this web site.)


Before You Buy That CarReturn to Top

Evan Craig, Group Chair
There is a lot you can do to improve the quality of the air we breathe and stop global warming. About a third of our air pollution comes from the power plants that generate electricity and factories that make our stuff. Another third comes from the cars we drive and the lawn mowers we use. The other third comes from our furnaces, water heaters and appliances. Here are some surprises I discovered during two recent purchases.

If you want to stop global warming, before you buy that car, buy a more efficient furnace. You’ll also save money and live more comfortably. According to the EPA, upgrading from a standard 78% efficient furnace to a 90% efficient furnace for a 2000 square foot house will keep 12,000 lb of CO2 out of the air every year! Ditching your 22 mpg car and buying a 40 mpg car will only cut your CO2 by 6,000 lb – half as much. If you have a 25 year old furnace like I had, you’ll stop 20,000 lb of CO2! It will set you back around $4500, but even at present gas prices – expected to rise sharply – you’ll save the money back quickly. There are two ways of looking at payback. One assumes your present unit is dead, and you are choosing between paying for a standard 78% or a 90% efficient (AFUE) furnace. The difference is saved in only 2 years. If you look at the total cost, it’s still only 5-6 years.

  1. Assume that your present unit is about to die. If you want to stay warm, you need at least a new standard 78% efficiency furnace. The difference in cost of that vs. a high 90% efficient (AFUE) furnace is recouped by the money you’ll save on your electric and gas bills over the course of the next two years.
  2. Assume that your present furnace is a 78% standard efficiency model in great condition. If you rip it out and replace it with a new 90% high efficiency furnace, it will take five to six years to recoup the cost of the new furnace through lower utility bills.

Tragically, many new homeowners expecting to occupy their dream houses for decades are getting wasteful low efficiency furnaces. You can tell who has what as you drive by the back of the house. The intake and exhaust of high efficiency furnaces are a pair of plastic pipes at ground level, not a vent out the roof. This EPA payback calculator reminds you to include a programmable thermostat in the deal.

While you’re at it, upgrade that old central air conditioner to at least SEER 13 for additional savings in the summer. I chose a less expensive, noisier, bottom-of-the-line “contractor’s version” with global warming-safe Puron refrigerant. With the new furnace, I get 15.5 SEER. But first I spent a few hundred bucks on a whole house fan to use instead of the A/C on those not-too-hot days. It installs in the top floor ceiling and draws fresh air into the house during the cooler parts of the day. Air conditioners account for huge increases in electric bills – and that means that the coal-fired electric power plants are belching more pollution in our airshed when you turn them on. Fans use much less.


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Now that you’ve evicted the thief in your utility closet, you are pre-qualified to choose a car. Those of us who did our own engine repairs 20 years ago rose to the challenge when wires and pollution controls took over the engine compartment. But even we gave up looking under the hood when engines disappeared under stylish manifolds. Now there’s a new reason to raise the hood, and it doesn’t take a gear-head to figure it out.

Everyone knows that a Prius gets more mpg than a Hummer, but few realize that every Prius is not created equal. Every model of every popular car sold today is built in several versions, and while the differences in mpg (and global warming scores) between the versions of the same car are minimal, the amount of pollution in their exhausts can more than double! That pollution comes in the form of NOx (combines with:) NMOG (rhymes with smog), CO (poisonous carbon monoxide), PM (soot) and HCHO (formaldehyde, lung irritant and carcinogen). The differences are less for new cars than for cars built before 2004. So how do you know which cars are the clean ones? It’s not on the window sticker. It’s on a sticker under the hood.

The EPA has posted a website that allows you to easily look up any car made since 2000. It lists the different models and for each one gives the Emission Standard (LEV, BIN 5, BIN 3, SULEV, etc.) and the Underhood Label ID (e.g.: 5FMXV02.31D4) that reveal whether that 2005 Ford Focus you’re looking at gets a stinky 2, or a respectable 9 score. If you’re buying a new car, it has just gotten a little easier. EPA is certifying ok cars as “SmartWay,” and the cleanest as “SmartWay Elite.” You’ll probably still get a blank look when you ask the dealer about “SmartWay Elite,” but it’s easier than asking him to find those codes. The website is: .

Comparing several different used cars made in several different years by looking up each one separately can get laborious. Luckily the tabulated scores are available, and I’ve combined them for all years into one spreadsheet and sorted it by overall scores. You can find it in this on-line version of this W&W News at As you’d expect, hybrids top the list. But then there are some surprises. While their mpg is only in the 30’s, the Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra and Ford Focus have clean enough emissions to rank them among the grubbier hybrids. So print out the first few pages and take it with you to the used car lot. You’ll make a difference.

Join Our Free E-mail Lists! Return to Top

Members are invited to join the W&W group's e-mail lists. On the ALERTS list you will receive infrequent timely posts from the Group Chair (only), primarily on local issues. Some of these appear on this website, and if you subscribe you will learn about them in time to help. The ISSUES list allows you to share in a discussion with other W&Wers. To sign up, just visit each of these websites and click Join :



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Meetings: Chicago River, DragonfliesReturn to Top

Larry Marvet, Conservation Chair
April Program:
Cathy White, Environmental Quality Coordinator, Village of Wauconda
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:45pm
Vernon Area Library

Their scientific name is Odonates, but we see them flitting from place to place in our gardens and know them as dragonflies and damselflies. Delicate, beautiful, fragile, (and deadly to other bugs), these insects have suddenly made the headlines as the State of Illinois has accelerated plans to extend U. S. Highway 355 - in the vicinity of the Hines Emerald Dragonfly habitat.

The Hines Emerald is the only federally endangered dragonfly in the United States. So far it is known to exist in only three locales: Door County, Wisconsin, the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and in a few isolated places near the Des Plaines River in northern Illinois. (Which also happens to be the path of I-355.)

 With highways targeting their habitat, there is no better time to learn about these striking insects, and few understand their lives better than our Wednesday, April 19 speaker, Cathy White, Environmental Quality Coordinator for the Village of Wauconda. Before joining Wauconda’s Environmental Quality Office, Ms. White received a Master’s Degree in biology, worked in Naperville and Addison, and has helped to protect dragonflies in the Midwest. Come to our April meeting to appreciate the hidden lives - and dangers to - damselflies and dragonflies.

Wednesday, April 19
6:45 pm
Vernon Area Library
300 Olde Half Day Road

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May program:
The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History

Professor Libby Hill
Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:45pm
Vernon Area Library

After the glaciers, the Chicago River in Lake County was primarily a series of interconnected "sloughs" that made farming and settling the land problematic. In Cook County, the "river" was more defined, but in both counties draining and ditching and reshaping the watershed created today's familiar landscape. Libby Hill has been studying our human and geological history for many years. Through her books and publications she has brought to life the unique natural and unnatural history of the Chicago River. She will bring it to life for us at our May 17th meeting.

Ms. Hill is the author of The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History, winner of the American Regional History Publishing Award, and other publications. Ms. Hill teaches the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at Northeastern Illinois University and works for the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC). Her signature history-sociology-librarian-geography-ecology bent makes her an interesting and exciting speaker that should not be missed!


Thursday, March 23
6:45 pm
Vernon Area Library
300 Olde Half Day Road



See Meetings for a map, and other Group meetings.


Conservation News Return to Top

by Larry Marvet, Conservation Chair
2005 was an action-packed year for environmentalists everywhere, and especially in the North Suburbs of Chicago. Locally, we reversed an attempt by Lake Forest and Costco to build a -big box-store on important natural land adjacent to one of our best forest preserves. At the state level, we pushed back the Illinois State Legislature’s powerful attempt to ruin state and county wetlands protections. And nationally, we stopped (again) George Bush’s pet project, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Notice that each of these victories were to stop something terrible, not to realize any new protections for wildlife, wild lands or the environment in which we live. That is, unfortunately, what you get when the drill, pave and burn gang rules our governmental bodies. It doesn't have to be that way, and, in fact, I think the trend is swinging back our way.

The national security argument goes only so far when this security requires us to destroy the things we love. With so many trust me’s falling apart for our current leaders (many of whom are facing corruption charges and stiff jail sentences), the upcoming state and federal legislative sessions, as well as elections, will provide us a great opportunity to ring out the bad, bring in the good and, maybe, go on the offense.

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Our efforts are already bearing some fruit, as Governor Rod Blagojevich (up for reelection in November) has proposed some great, new mercury reduction rules for Illinois’ coal-fired power plants. These rules would require Illinois coal plants, to reduce mercury pollution by 90% by 2009. We'll need to push these rules to assure they’re approved and finalized, but it feels nice to have the ball. Call your Illinois state legislators and tell them you want to eliminate mercury pollution and support these new rules. You can find contact information for your legislators at this website:

On the elections front, we've already started our selection and endorsement process meant to sort the good candidates from the bad. (Please see specific primary endorsements in this issue.) We'll also be actively helping our friends to get elected and publicizing who will or won’t protect the environment. To help us get the best elected, call or contact our Political Chair, Chuck Knight (847) 680-6437 at:

As always, we depend on you push for environmental protection. At the very least, read our newsletter, vote for our endorsed candidates, and make phone calls to your legislators during crunch time. If you have an itch to get involved further (nearly all Sierra Club activists are volunteers), call or write us. Hope to hear from you!

Larry Marvet, Conservation Chair, 847-537-2083


Sightings: Human Diseases - When Man Abuses Nature Return to Top

by Donald R. Dann
Avian flu, HIV, West Nile virus, Monkey Pox, Ebola, SARS and others, are not frightening words, but deadly human diseases. Interestingly, all are relatively recent arrivals on the world scene. Why? What is happening in nature that is causing previously unknown or otherwise initially benign viruses to turn into human killers?

Ebola – Prior to the mid-1970’s it was unheard of and then severe outbreaks in Sudan and the former Zaire killed approximately 440 people. Ebola infections of humans have been linked to direct contact with animals found dead in the rain forest, including gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, forest antelopes and others.

SARS – It was thought that Asian civet cats were the source of this virus, but most scientists now believe it resides is in bat populations. The prescription is to do everything possible to avoid encroaching upon bat habitats and to resist using bats as food and medicine (as is practiced in some countries).

West Nile Virus – The disease was unknown prior to 1937 when a Ugandan woman was infected. Birds are the unwilling hosts of the virus and if a bird is bitten by a common household mosquito which then infects a human, it can be potentially lethal.

HIV – Over a long period of time viruses evolve to live with their long term hosts since if a virus kills off its host it will also die. For example chimpanzees in West Africa live compatibly with their HIV-like viruses. However, when we butcher them for bushmeat, the virus emerges in a new host, humans. The result has been a devastating global pandemic.

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Avian (Bird) Flu – Some authorities believe that avian influenza has been carried by waterfowl, harmlessly, for hundreds of thousands of years. But in Hong Kong in 1997 it apparently moved from ducks to people, portending the viruses’ capability of “travel at pandemic velocity through a densely urbanized and mostly poor humanity” (Mike Davis, from The Monster at our Door).

Consider the forces that are bringing all these diseases front and center: worldwide travel, densely packed urban slums, especially in the third world, wetland destruction, unsustainable forest clearing, and factory farms where livestock and poultry are raised in overcrowded and oft-times filthy conditions. As we destroy more habitat, stresses on wildlife populations intensify as does human contact with them. When we develop unused land and remove wildlife, we create the conditions in which disease agents search for new hosts, including humans.

Dr. Peter Daszak says, “Anytime you bring multiple species of animals together at high density and mix them with humans (for example, live animal markets), you set the stage for pathogens to jump between species and for an outbreak to occur."

Once we understand that human activities drive disease emergence, through the wildlife trade, global travel, agricultural intensification or expansion into wildlife habitat, we can do more to protect ecosystems and preserve natural biodiversity, thereby limiting the ways in which we bring people, domestic animals and wildlife into closer contact. In this way we can reduce opportunities for these and unknown future diseases to emerge.

Nature is incredibly resilient but these diseases show what happens when we relentlessly abuse it.


W&W Board Change Needs Your Approval Return to Top

Woods & Wetlands Board Change Needs Your Approval! The proposed bylaws change below is one of the ways your local Sierra Club group hopes to increase member participation and deal with our improving fortunes. As you know, over the last year or so we’ve restarted regular general membership meetings, initiated regular meetings of the Conservation Committee, increased the number and quality of our outings, and, most importantly, engaged more members in our community activities.

With all these people and activities, we believed it time to increase the number of officers on our board. To now, we’ve had 5 elected board members for our Executive Committee (what we call ExCom). As we grow, more ExCom members will provide a more diverse range of opinions and lend additional hands to our projects. The new ExCom will increase to 7 members.

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But why stop at only seven? Saving our fragile environment relies on all of us coming together for the environment and doing what it takes. If this passes, seven of your fellow members will soon be busy making ways for all of our 2300 members to get involved, have fun, and make a difference.

Here is your first chance to help. Use the simple Special Election ballot below to vote whether to change our Bylaws to accept two more members to our Executive Committee. If two thirds of the votes we receive favor this change, we’ll be on the lookout to appoint two new ExCom members. You’re reading page 4 of this newsletter – could one of them be you?

To vote, just cut out and use the ballot below, or simply write YES or NO on a scrap of paper. For joint memberships you can generate a second ballot so both members can vote. Put your ballots in an envelope and write your name(s) and address only on the envelope, which will be separated from your ballot (required for your vote(s) to be tallied).


Increase the W&W Executive Committee from 5 to 7 members.

YES ____________ NO ____________

Mail the envelope by April 29, 2006 to:

Sierra Club W&W Bylaw Change
P. O. Box 876
Grayslake, IL 60030



Printable and Portable W&W News Return to Top

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