Joining Illinois Sierra Club Members in Lake and Northeastern Cook Counties

Winter 2008, Issue #58

In This Issue

Go To Article Antioch Adopts Phosphorus Ban
Go To Article Beat the Blues Party
Go To Article Plenty of Fish in the Sea?
Go To Article Building Green
Go To Article Protecting the Peruvian Rainforest
Go To Article Equestrian Olympics Go Cross-Country
Go To Article Lake County's Broken Water Protection System
Go To Article Time to Vote for W&W ExCom!
Go To Article US Mail Slow, Switch to E-Mail
Go To Article Exquisite Corpse
Go To Article 403 kBPrintable, Portable W&W News
Go To Article Next Issue of W&W News
Go To Article Previous Issue of W&W News
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   C A L E N D A R  
{ Meetings O Outings

Rustle the Leaf


 


Antioch Adopts Phosphorus BanReturn to Top

By John Massman

On October 15th the Village of Antioch took the first step in cleaning up Lake Marie and the Chain O’Lakes in northwestern Lake County. After several meetings with representatives of the Woods and Wetlands Group, along with Illinois Chapter staff, the Village saw the light and passed a ban on the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. It is our hope that Antioch will be the first of many communities in the area to take this positive action to improve the water quality of the lakes and streams of Lake County.

The Woods and Wetlands Group worked with the Village of Antioch to enact a ban on the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus in the village to reduce pollution in Lake Marie, one of the Chain O'Lakes.

Lake Marie, Phosphorous polluted brown waters. © Evan Craig

Antioch will be the first community in the state to ban lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. Phosphorus encourages plant growth, which is good for the grass but not good for the rivers and lakes when rain washes it into the water. Phosphorus can also fuel algae growth, often to the point where algae sucks oxygen out of the water, killing fish and other aquatic life. Unnatural "blooms" of algae and other plant life can also cause odor problems and obstructions for boaters.

The Illinois EPA says that most soils in Lake County contain sufficient quantities of phosphorus to support healthy lawns. The Woods and Wetlands Group has been working with the Village on their expansion plans for the sewage treatment plant, whose discharge to Sequoit Creek ends up in Lake Marie (see Lake & Prairie 2nd Quarter 2007 "Sequoit Under Siege" and "IEPA Hearing Expected: Antioch vs. Lake Marie"). During meetings with the Village we brought up the fact that Lake Marie and the Chain O'Lakes already show signs of suffering from phosphorus overload, and an increase in outflow from the treatment plant was cause for concern. This phosphorus ban is just one step in improving conditions in the lakes. As part of the permitting process for the WWTP expansion, the Village has agreed to work with us to further reduce phosphorus and nitrogen loading.

The discharge permit requires: monitoring of total nitrogen, limiting yearly average maximum phosphorus loading to 13.3 lbs/day, and UV disinfection. Additionally, the Village will participate actively with W&W in the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) study that the IEPA is conducting in Lake Marie and many of the lakes in the Chain, provide a metered tap on its finished wastewater for irrigation water haulers, and work with W&W to explore opportunities and funding for habitat restoration on Sequoit Creek.

A special thanks goes out to IL Chapter staffer and Clean Water Advocate, Cindy Skrukrud for her great efforts toward this victory.

 

 


Beat the Blues PartyReturn to Top

By Barbara Bell

If your last name starts with:

Bring

A-E

deserts

F-J

refreshments

K-P

fruits & vegetables

Q-T

protein

U-Z

carbohydrates

Soon we'll be enduring the cold of January, the holidays will be a distant memory, warm weather will seem a long way off and there will be nothing to look forward to.

Well, Woods & Wetlands has a solution to beat the winter doldrums. It’s our fourth annual Beat the Blues Party at a club member’s house in Lake Bluff. Members can gather to talk, eat and imbibe spirits.

The party is on Sunday, January 27, 2007, and goes from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. We suggest that you bring a dish from a food group based on the first letter of your last name (chart rearranged for 2008):

For directions to the party, email ww-blues@illinois.sierraclub.org or call Barbara at (847) 367-4253.

 


Plenty of Fish in the Sea?Return to Top
Winter Sierra Club Meeting

By Larry Marvet

W&W Public Meeting
Cecelia Ungari, Conservation Programs Shedd Aquarium
Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 6:45 p.m.
Vernon Area Library, Lincolnshire

 

By now we all know how our energy use and driving habits are affecting climate change, but do our eating habits also alter our environment? In the case of ocean life and seafood, eating the wrong fish can damage wild populations. Cecelia Ungari is leading an effort by Chicago's world famous Shedd Aquarium to promote sustainable seafood and the careful protection of fragile sea animals.

Ms. Ungari will describe the current state of fishing, bycatch and aquaculture and how our seafood choices can have a big impact on these practices and the health of our waters worldwide. After Cecelia's presentation, you'll be able to choose more wisely at your next seafood dinner.

For additional questions, contact Larry Marvet (847-537-2083).

See Meetings for more information.

 


Building GreenReturn to Top
Winter Sierra Club Meeting

By Larry Marvet

W&W Public Meeting
Jill Russell and Victor Wolbrink, Wolbrink Architects
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 6:45 p.m.
Vernon Area Library, Lincolnshire

 

Construction and use of homes and other structures has an unquestionable effect on nature, through the use of materials, land and energy. Luckily, there is a trend among leading architects towards sustainable designs and low impact construction practices, including the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program gaining wide acceptance in the industry.

Our speakers, Jill Russell, LEED certified general contractor, and Victor Wolbrink, principal architect, received Mayor Daley’s 2006 Greenworks Award for Market Transformation and designed and built the first Energy Star three-flat in Chicago.

At our March meeting, Russell and Wolbrink will explain environmentally friendly building and industry improvements, much of which can be applied to your own homes and workplaces.

See Meetings for more information.

 


Protecting the Peruvian RainforestReturn to Top
Winter Sierra Club Meeting

By Larry Marvet

W&W Public Meeting
David Meyer, President Rainforest Conservation Fund
Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 6:45 p.m.
Vernon Area Library, Lincolnshire

 

The Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF) is an all volunteer organization founded by a small group of Chicagoland residents concerned about rainforest destruction. Since it's beginning in 1988, they've focused their efforts on Peru's one million acre Reserva Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo (RCTT), home to the most diverse assembly of primate species on any protected land in the world.

Mr. Meyer will tell us how RCF works with the adjacent communities to limit destructive activities through alternative methods and industries. By protecting the Reserva, the Rainforest Conservation Fund is protecting numerous unique and endangered animals, including jaguar, pink river dolphin, harpy eagle, red uakari monkey, giant otter, and the giant anteater.

 

See Meetings for more information.

 


Equestrian Olympics Go Cross-CountryReturn to Top

By Larry Marvet, Conservation Chair

Since last we wrote about the misguided efforts of the Lake County Board to host the 2016 Olympic horse events in the center of Lakewood Forest Preserve, much has happened. Unfortunately, no decision has been made to actually move the games to a less sensitive place, but the Board may have fumbled the Olympics into DuPage County hands.

In case you don't know the issue, the Lake County Board gleefully snagged part of the (proposed) 2016 Chicago Olympics, specifically the equestrian events. Negotiating in secret and approving unanimously with a single public meeting, they chose the Lakewood Forest Preserve as the location for this massive event, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to a rural Lake County forest preserve known for many endangered animals and plants. The most famous residents (due to a headline article in the Tribune) are a nesting pair of Sandhill cranes, possibly the most beautiful and endangered bird in Illinois.

To be clear, we like the Olympics, but we think it harmful to place such a gigantic event in, or even adjacent to, a natural area like Lakewood FP. Were our Lake County officials and Chicago to change their planned location to an industrial area or to a developed equestrian center (like Tempel Farms in Wadsworth), we would support them to make this the greenest Olympics possible.

Apparently our outrage about this has been heard, both by the Board and by the Chicago Olympic people. During a July 25 County Board meeting, both director (Doug Arnot) and chairman (Patrick Ryan) of Chicago 2016 spoke words of understanding regarding this issue. Among other things, Arnot said, "Environmental assessments will be looked at all the way down the line. If we were to determine that [this] would have a [negative] impact ... our partners wouldn't want to go forward, and we wouldn't want to go forward."

During this meeting, some of the Board members braved a few good comments, suggesting that maybe we should think about this a little more. Then, about a week later, the Forest Preserve District announced that they were rerouting the cross-country trail away from an oak forest and Sandhill nest. (Though the cranes likely will be scared off when bulldozers grind up the land 100 feet away or starve when the 15,000 seat stadium is built on their foraging grounds.)

Maybe it was too little, too late to paper over the obvious controversy. Chicago has enough trouble competing with the likes of Madrid and Rio de Janeiro—they don't need to compound things through bad local publicity and a reputation for poor environmental stewardship. So in October, Chicago started discussing an equestrian move to a different Lake County preserve (Raven Glen), or out of the county altogether, to ready-made horse facilities in DuPage County.

DuPage has 3 equestrian facilities available, Danada, St. James Farm and Lamplight (which hosts many international events), making one wonder why they weren't the original choice. (Lake County offered a forest preserve with no equestrian facilities.) It may be that Olympic co-sponsor Abbot Laboratories—headquartered in Lake County—had some say in handing out potential opportunities. Unfortunately, as Chicago football fans know, if you fumble the hand off you may be taken out of the game.

No decision has been made, leaving us today where we were a few months ago—the Lake County Board still fully intends to bulldoze and develop hundreds of acres of the Lakewood (or Raven Glen) Forest Preserve for the 2 week long 2016 Olympics.

It's important that we make our thoughts heard now, while this issue is still in discussion—perhaps at a tipping point—by writing to or calling these people:

  1. Your Lake County Board Member. See: http://www.co.lake.il.us/officials/board.asp

  2. Doug Arnot, Chicago 2016 Committee 180 North Stetson Suite 1500 Chicago, IL 60601 Ph: 312.552.2016 E-mail info@chicago2016.org

  3. Chicago Tribune, Letter to the Editor 435 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611-4041 email: ctc-tribletter@tribune.com

  4. Lake County News-Sun--LTE 2383 N Delany Rd Waukegan, IL 60087 email: CSelle@scn1.com

  5. Daily Herald--Letters to the Editor fencepost@dailyherald.com

To get more involved, or for more information, please write me at LEMARVET@GMAIL.COM.

 


Lake County's Broken Water Protection SystemReturn to Top

An Interview with Eric Roe, by Larry Marvet

Lake County has the best remaining lakes, rivers, and streams in Illinois, and many of us live here because of that natural beauty. So protection of our waters should be a high priority, right? Maybe not. In a recent interview with one of the County's toughest volunteer activists, I learned that a straightforward municipal construction project flushed tons of dirt (see photo) into one of our most pristine lake systems, even though the city had been warned for months about the danger. It's a sordid story, best told by Antioch resident and Sierra Club member Eric Roe.

Did you try to warn anyone?

Sadly, it seems that this incident is not isolated and may be symptomatic of the County trend to “delegate” responsibility for water protection to lightly staffed, development oriented towns in our area. The following is my discussion with Mr. Roe.

LM: Can you describe the construction project that lead to this pollution incident?

ER: Osmond Sports Park is a joint project between the Village of Antioch and Antioch Township to build a youth sports complex on 37 acres along the northern edge of the H.O.D., EPA Superfund site. It is also adjacent to Sequoit Creek, with access to the park property off Depot Street east of downtown Antioch.  

LM: Were you concerned when you first heard about the construction proposal?

ER: Yes and no. Many residents have seen the development as an enhancement to that which it was, a dump site. The idea that there is open space at the location which could be converted to youth athletic fields seemed like a good idea to many, especially in our rapidly-urbanizing community. Adjacent property owners were happy to learn there would be landscaped fields in their backyards. I think the idea is fine, but my concern was, and is, stormwater discharge from the site, and the potential for flooding and pollution of our glacial-lake community. After Little Silver Lake turned completely brown in 2000, several studies identified flooding and water pollution problems that were the responsibility of the Village of Antioch. The Village has known about these problems for years, but has done little to correct the stormwater problems in our basin lake. The Village has never really addressed the documented failures in our area, which they created by allowing poorly functioning stormwater practices in developments under their control. The developer goes broke, takes whatever money is left and leaves the community with many problems. Infrastructure failure is now becoming a major concern of the public since many developments go bankrupt in Antioch before they are completed. The Village has allowed - or has not disallowed - incomplete inspection practices as many sites in our area are missing, or have incomplete, inspection reports, even though inspection reports are required by law, for the benefit of the public.

LM: Were you able to evaluate the Osmond Park plans, to see whether your worries were founded?

And did anyone ever take any action?

ER: No, I tried several times and I was told that I could see them by Township Supervisor Steve Smouse, but he never followed through. I called and asked for information many times. I attended meetings and asked for the information many times.

LM: Did you try to warn anyone?

ER: Yes, for months! At the Park site I witnessed a steady flow of dump trucks entering the property during the week of Thanksgiving 2006. I found this to be odd because I had not heard of any issued permits. What I observed was the mixing of at least 2 different materials on site, which were then being spread by a bulldozer. There were many piles of spoil that had been left by the dump trucks. There were also many piles of dark-brown colored material that looked to me like dredge spoils around the area too. There was no silt fence at or near the mixing/spreading location, and later I found that there were no permits for the activity either. I called the Village of Antioch Administrator, Mike Haley, and asked for information about the site development activities. He said it was nothing and that “If I thought he was doing something wrong I should report him.”

What happened to Sequoit Creek?

A few days later, at the Antioch Park Committee meeting dated 11/29/06, confusion was obvious regarding the type, use and placement of spoil for the park. Apparently, material was dumped on the proposed construction area without wetlands or erosion control concern or documentation, and apparently against the advice of the contractor, too. I called Judy Martini of the Lake County Board and explained what I learned at the 1/31/2007 committee meeting. Judy brought forth some of the information I provided, about the Osmond Park property, to the Stormwater Management Commission at their regular meeting on 2/7/07. Coincidentally, the Village of Antioch was up for re-certification that night and as a result of the information Judy supplied to the commission, the Village did not receive their expected re-certification. In early February, personnel from the Stormwater Management District (SMC, Lake County's water protection organization) visited the site and documented that no silt fence was surrounding the aggregate of erodible, and potentially toxic, spoil material that were stored and graded around the site.

LM: This was seen by SMC 2 months after you notified the Village, right?

ER: Yes, and this seemed to spur Antioch's mayor to write the SMC, promising to take all the proper precautions by the end of March.

LM: And did anyone ever take any action?

ER: We probably wouldn't be talking about this if they had done anything, but no, the promised activities never occurred, so in early April I followed procedures and filed a formal complaint with James Keim, Antioch's Certified Community Enforcement Officer (CCEO)—the person that Lake County delegates enforcement authority to—listing the screw-ups: no watershed development permit, no soil erosion and sediment control plan, no wetland submittal requirements, no storm water pollution prevention plan, no conditional approval / earth change approval, road built through wetlands, dredge and construction spoils stored on site.

Over time, if we let our guard down, developers will return to dangerous habits and regulators will reduce their supervision.

LM: Did they, finally, take fast action?

ER: Again, no. And this time the CCEO immediately replied to my complaint saying, strangely, that there was no construction and to quit bothering him! His letter said,

1. construction for the project had not started yet,

2. the project won't start until until all required plans are in place,

3. there is no road through wetlands, and

4. there is a silt fence around any fill that might or might not be in the non-construction area. I should note that by this time they had put in a silt fence—but it was in the wrong place so couldn't stop water from flowing off the dirt and into the Creek.

LM: Let's fast-forward to this past August of 2007, a rainy month here. What happened to Sequoit Creek and why?

ER: During a few of the heavy rains, spoil and other soil material eroded from the site and washed through a high-quality wetlands then directly into Sequoit Creek, which feeds into Lake Marie and the chain of lakes. Millions if not billions of gallons of sediment-saturated water turned the Creek a chocolate color from the Osmond Park all the way to Lake Marie. The reason for this massive pollution is that Antioch failed to use modern construction practices and to build the proper safeguards into this simple construction project. Lack of a proper monitoring and the missing silt fence were probably the most flagrant errors. Moreover, officials had been warned many times by various people and organizations, that the site was a disaster waiting to happen. And it did.

LM: We see the photo, but can you describe the damage?

ER: The sediment clouds and discolor the waters limiting recreational uses, it also adversely impacts aquatic environments by accelerating plant growth, which depletes dissolved oxygen levels and stresses fish populations. If there are dangerous chemicals in the spoil (this project is adjacent to a Superfund site and some of the material may have been dredged from a contaminated stream) then the damage to the water and ecosystem can be magnified greatly.

LM: How is the City and County correcting this damage?

The public needs assurance that politicians are not pressuring inspectors to ignore environmental violations.

ER: Since the disaster in August, there has been improved management of the site including, silt fencing and better oversight of the construction practices at Osmond park. Adjacent wetlands received a tremendous amount of sediment-laden runoff, which has no doubt had a negative impact. Once the layer of sediment dries it will become like concrete and the wetlands will no longer be able to soak up and retain stormwater. This will lead to the potential for more flooding and less filtration. The village should clean up the mess they have caused. Unfortunately, so much damage has already been done, and I worry that over time, if we let our guard down, developers will return to dangerous habits and regulators will reduce their supervision.

LM: Do you have any suggestions to fix the system?

Getting public documents is much harder than it should be.

ER: When SMC delegates their authority to local municipalities, the local field inspectors can feel pressure to ease the monitoring and maintenance of environmental safeguards which are designed to limit construction generated pollution. Inspectors need to be more empowered in their work, since they are often employed by towns under the control of politicians who receive considerable campaign contributions from the development community. When developers run into trouble, they go to politicians for help. The public needs assurance that politicians are not pressuring inspectors to ignore environmental violations. SMC enforcement employees need to be insulated from local politics. I can also tell you, after slogging through this issue, that the delegation process today is too easy in the first place, and too difficult to remove after a municipality has screwed-up. I've also learned that there is little transparency into these regulatory processes. I've spent many hours trying to get documentation that is legally required to be on-file for the public. Getting public documents is much harder than it should be.

LM: Thanks for telling us this story, Eric. I hope you continue your hard work.

ER: As a final word, Lake county has been blessed with many high-quality wetlands and open-water lakes. Wetlands are essential to countless creatures for their health and survival. In essence these creatures are our brethren on Earth, their health and ours are intertwined. If we are not careful with our natural resources they will soon be gone. Once lost, they will never return and mankind will ultimately suffer as a result. Let us see that this is not our fate. God Bless!

 


Time to Vote for W&W ExCom!Return to Top

By Larry Marvet, W&W Election Committee

The Woods & Wetlands Group executive committee, or ExCom, is our small band of activists who have taken on additional responsibility to assure the Group runs smoothly. The seven people on ExCom run the organization, including the Chair who leads ExCom and is the group's main contact, the Conservation Chair who leads on local and other issues, and the Treasurer who tracks our finances. This group shares the important work, both exciting and mundane, needed to keep Woods & Wetlands Sierra Club going. ExCom has 7 members, with about half elected every year for two year terms. This time around we have three positions available. (The other 4 spots will be voted on next year.) Below are statements from the 4 members running for these openings.

The easiest way to vote is to click here for a webpage that lets you vote on-line. Each member may use it to vote separately. Rank the candidates 1 through 3 (with 1 being your top choice).

If you'd rather use paper and postage, list the names of your picks on a scrap of paper. Both members with a joint membership may vote. Put your ballots in an envelope and write your name(s) and address only the outside of the envelope (as the return address). Mail the envelope to: Sierra Club W&W Elections P. O. Box 876 Grayslake, IL 60030.

Vote by January 25, 2008.

Woods & Wetlands Sierra Club Ballot

Candidate one:   ____________________________

Candidate two:   ____________________________

Candidate three: ____________________________

Must be postmarked by January 25

  • Simply write your choices, as shown to the left, on a scrap of paper;
  • Vote by ranking the candidates 1 through 3 with 1 being your top choice, 2 your second choice, etc. (See their statements below);
  • For joint memberships, 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 F required for your vote to be tallied E, which will be separated from your ballot; and
  • Mail the envelope to:
    Sierra Club W&W Elections
    P. O. Box 876
    Grayslake, IL 60030.

 

 The Candidates

Evan Craig has served on the Executive Committee as Chair for 9 years. He still believes that our Group’s ability to protect the environment depends upon involving members locally. To achieve this, he informs members through the W&W News, the Group website and e-mail networks; involves them in committees, campaigns, legislative visits and wilderness outings; and trains new leaders. Meanwhile, he represents the Club to battle the impacts of sprawl, sewage treatment plants and wetland destruction. Under his leadership, W&W members on the Illinois Grassroots Lobbying Committee helped win landmark environmental legislation this year. He also formed the W&W LobbyCom to initiate a similar effort at the county level. Evan runs again with the hope that more members will take the challenge to address global warming where we live.

Jeff Maras

I am a recent member of the Sierra Club and have lived in Lake County for almost twenty years. I have seen Lake County change drastically and believe the club makes a strong environmental impact in the county. I have a strong scientific background that aids me in understanding the issues we currently face and the ability to positively influence leaders in our county. My longtime interest in sustainable and renewable energy gives me the background to step up our efforts to phase out fossil fuels.

Eric Roe

Antioch

Education: New Trier High School Northfield, IL. 1972-1976; Oakton College, Des Plaines, IL. 1984-1986

Environmentalist since 1975

Studies: Birds of Prey & Falconry 1975 -
Clean Water Advocate 1998 - current

I am single with two sons, named Mark (8) and Luke (5).

Mike Wagner

Lifelong resident of Lake County and a long-time member and supporter of the Sierra Club. Dedicated supporter of environmental and habitat preservation. Volunteered on numerous projects such as trail rebuilding in the Porcupine Mountains, the dunes restoration at Sleeping Bear Dunes and worked on the Wolf Park, Indiana protection projects.

My true passions are Great Lakes issues and fresh water sustainability, having grown up on the lakes as a sailor and even working on fishing boats as a kid. I've reached a point in my life and career that I truly desire a more hands-on involvement dealing with the issues that mean the most to me, which is the reasoning behind my involvement with the Sierra Club, and more specifically the Woods and Wetland group. I look forward to being a more involved member and contributing to the growth and expansion of the group.

 


US Mail Slow, Switch to E-MailReturn to Top

By Evan Craig

It’s gotten so bad, it’s on the evening news. We just can’t count on having this newsletter delivered, and it regularly takes weeks. Meanwhile, the cost of postage just keeps going up.

Our solution? Sign up to get your newsletter by e-mail. It’s fast, and it’s free! We’ll send you these same great stories and events, with better pictures and richer content - in time to respond and participate! To sign up, address an e-mail message to

 LISTSERV@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG

and then include the following commands in the body of the message :

SUBSCRIBE IL-WWG-ALERTS firstname lastname

(inserting your first name and last name).

If things don’t improve, we might decide to stop printing and mailing this version of our newsletter, and rely solely on e-mail and our website to get the news to you. So don’t miss out! Subscribe now.

Worried that you might have missed an issue? We post this newsletter on our website too. Bookmark our website:

http://illinois.sierraclub.org/w&w

 


Exquisite CorpseReturn to Top

By Evan Craig

After the third quarter L&P I talked to several group members who were angry about the content provided by the RPG, and didn’t want it coming to their groups in the L&P. They thought the myth-busting article would discourage readers from becoming activists. One thought it violated Club policy. So I read the fourth quarter installment with a critical eye. I think we’re lucky to have Paul Mack, our own Andrei Codrescu, contributing his talent to the L&P in the DuPage Sierran. But I hope that he will turn more of his ire toward external targets.

There’s a growing sentiment among activists that we need to kick it up a couple notches. There are serious problems facing civilization as we know it, and the methods of the 20th century not only failed to solve them, they continue to cause them in the 21st century. Recycling isn’t enough. Neither is just changing light bulbs, and Club Transportation activists put MPG on that list too. The kinder, gentler Sierra Club has also turned its back on US population, which amplifies our outrageous per-capita environmental footprint. I think members need to face these issues, not just add environmental feel-good to their excessive lifestyle shopping lists.

So I'm proud that the IL Chapter is showing that there is more that we can do – together. Support for that spirit of fundamental reform should be spurred whenever anyone decides to criticize the complacency of our own members. We’re not just changing light bulbs, we’re making Illinois power companies provide energy conservation and renewable energy. And we’re getting local stores to recycle the mercury in those CFL’s.  We’re not just cleaning our dishes, we’re getting manufacturers to sell us detergent without phosphorus. If litter isn’t a threat, it’s because our message of stewardship has resulted in less hazardous waste in the trash. We're building an impressive record of significant achievements, and while the precautionary principle applies to environmentalists as much as it does to industry, we must maintain our momentum to stand a chance of saving our environment.

Mack is right about Recycling, but dwells too long on the shortcomings of what those who care about the environment have thought was a good deed. The culprit, as he lays out eloquently in his last mythbuster, isn’t Recycling, it’s the defiance of our entire consumer economy to Reduce and Reuse. But Mack also misses the point. Recycling is an example of the kind of work can do – together. If we get our government to replace virgin materials subsidies with progressive, conservative policies (like repealing the 1872 Mining Act, or Al Gore’s proposal to replace the income tax with a carbon tax), the market for recycled material will skyrocket. The price for recycled material is set by the cost of virgin material. Rather than show a dismal picture of the profitability of recycling, we need readers to understand how government subsidies for extractive industry set the virgin market artificially low. Polymers can be resynthesized from recycled material to their original quality, it just takes more money. As an engineer, I was recently approached by GE, a plastic resin supplier, to test the market for just such a product. There's interest, but with the present cost of resin made from virgin (crude) feedstock, I haven’t been able to sell it to my team at work.

However eloquent, Mack is just wrong about Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (the ones that resemble soft-serve ice-cream cones). Bad habits degrade both CFL's and incandescent (regular) light bulbs alike. Both wear out more rapidly and suck more energy when we flip the light switch on and off. CFL's perform well with normal lifestyles, even if we occasionally turn them off less than ten minutes after turning them on. And thanks to European regulations, and more recently, Illinois law, their little circuit boards no longer contain hazardous materials like lead. We still need to return them to keep their tiny 2mg load of mercury in those spiral tubes out of the landfill, but even if we don't, the amount of mercury that a coal fired power plant would spew into the air to power the equivalent incandescent bulb would be twice as much. As for shipping, the weight of the five incandescent bulbs needed in place of one CFL would be at least 50% heavier, and then there's the packaging. If only we could stop Global Warming with decisions as easy as this!

Unfortunately, Mack’s cynicism about environmental group-think blinded him to specious arguments about sprawl>> from our opponents at the Cato Institute>>. A report from CNU>> shows that, compared to other urban areas, Portland is actually doing much better redirecting growth away from its suburban metropolitan areas. Problems caused by runaway US population, over-reliance on cars, and low density development should not be blamed on green space. Until policies creating these pressures are reformed, preserving green space will continue to be the last best hope for saving wildlife habitat. Here are five ways that we presently subsidize sprawl into green space from the Club's Sprawl website>>:

  • building new and wider roads

  • building schools on the fringe

  • extending sewer and water lines to sprawling development

  • extending emergency services to the fringe

  • direct pay-outs to developers (tax pay-backs, etc.)

Preserving green space is especially important in biodiversity hot-spots like the Chicago region>>. Oregon's urban growth boundaries for existing municipalities and Portland's density and mass transit priorities succeeded in improving urban planning. Rather than dismantling them as failed, the neighboring state of Washington should adopt them, and Oregon should supplement them with measures to restrict unplanned growth in outlying green space. Instead of filling in or sprawling out, we need to ratchet back, grow up, renew our urban areas, and set aside enough habitat for wildlife, healthy streams, and the human spirit. In Illinois, we are working on that too.

There are many more food shopper categories than Mack recognizes, and choices consumers make about their food are crucial for a healthy planet. The value of organic food is that it teaches that foods that are better for our planet are better for our bodies too. Mack should not have reduced it to the presence of chemical or pathogen residues. Organic farming sustains healthy soil biota, which contribute to the vitamin and mineral content of the foods they yield. In his book, The Future of Life, Harvard's E. O. Wilson deals with humanity's apparent inability to marshal its own population, and the consequences of this for the amount of land that will be needed to grow our food. His conclusion is that, however better for the soil, the lower productivity per acre of organic foods, compared to GM foods, is unsustainable. Since then other food factors have become prominent, and the market is beginning to reflect the planet consciousness lesson taught by organic foods. For those concerned about energy use shipping their produce, labels in some stores now indicate where foods were grown. We need to create similar demand for cover crop and permaculture farming. This is no time to be complacent about using customer demand to influence how food is produced.

The real myth is that civilization can continue to do what it’s been doing without wrecking the environment. Our case for change is stronger when we point to ways that citizens and communities have cooperated to protect the environment in the past, and call on the same spirit of resolve and cooperation to address the greater problems that loom now.

 


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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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We do not share e-mail address lists, and you can remove yourself from either list at any time.


Printable and Portable W&W News Return to Top

Here's the printed version of this issue of the W&W News in pdf ». It's 106 kB and you'll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. If you want to give a copy to a friend who doesn't have internet access, we suggest printing this pdf rather than this web page. This issue of the W&W News is also found in print as part of Volume 49 #1 » of the Illinois Chapter's Lake & Prairie newsletter. It's ?.?MB.

Another option is to take this on your PDA with AvantGo », a free service that lets you download and synch web pages with your PDA. Just have it synch this one from Woods & Wetlands News #58 » .


Contributions Welcome

Contact the Group Chair to discuss the issue and how much space to take, or send your finished article directly to our Newsletter Designer.

 

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