The recent drop in the level of the Great Lakes could be part of a
long-term trend. That’s part of the findings of a recently released
regional study. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman
The phrase, ”small is beautiful,” came into use in 1973. That’s whenBritish economist E. F. Schumacher published his famous book by thattitle. Schumacher argued that small-scale enterprises are often morebeneficial to society and the environment than large-scale ones. Today,thanks to new technology, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator ByronKennard argues that small is more beautiful than ever:
Millions of homeowners in the Great Lakes region use two-stroke
engines. They’re found in chain saws, grass trimmers, and lawn mowers.
But those engines are major polluters. Now government regulators have
finally begun to focus on the pollution these engines cause, and so have
manufacturers like the John Deere Company. Deere is bringing new
technology to the marketplace. It’s called compression wave injection,
and Deere says it makes two-cycle engines produce much lower emissions.
But not everyone is happy with the result. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Herb Trix reports:
People around the Great Lakes region may not know exactly what ”wind
chill” means, but they can tell you that strong winds make a cold winter
even colder. Wind chill is defined as the rate at which cold and wind
cause the body to lose heat. The index has been used by the National
Weather Service since 1973, but now they’re re-thinking it. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Flynn visited with 3 college students
whose mechanical engineering project supports the latest research: that
the wind chill index needs updating:
High heating costs are leading some people in the Midwest to turn toDepression-era tactics to keep warm. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’sLester Graham reports:
High heating costs are leading some people in the Midwest to turn to
Depression-era tactics to keep warm. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports:
During the Depression corn prices were low and few farmers could afford the
cost of coal. So many ended up burning the grain for heat. Paul Bertels is
with the National Corn Growers Association. He says the circumstances are
similar enough today that corn is being burned again.
“Corn prices are relatively low. There’s an abundance of
it. And, you know, fuel prices, particularly natural gas and propane are
The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported a company that builds
especially efficint corn-burning stoves saw sales jump 500-percent since
last august. But Bertels says burning corn is not for everyone.
“If you had a machine shed or workshop or something like
that and you had a grain bin right next to it, it would probably pencil out.
but, I don’t see a large migration to corn stoves for heatin’ houses and
office buildings and things like that.”
Pound for pound burning corn creates almost as much heat as burning coal.
However, corn prices are not expected to stay low. So the cheaper renewable
fuel might not stay cheap for long. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
New research from Chicago might help communities reduce how often their lakebeaches are closed this summer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s LesterGraham reports:
New research from Chicago might help communities reduce how often their lake beaches
are closed this summer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
After Chicago beaches were closed to swimmers more than 120 times one
summer due to high bacteria counts, the city decided to find out why that
was happening. Richard whitman is a scientist with the US Geological
Survey. He says the cause doesn’t seem to be human sewage carried along by
the current as was once thought.
“The majority of the time it’s something local. And we
Cannot-we surely cannot rule out animal sources.”
Namely sea gulls. Researchers say they can use computers to predict when
the winds and waves will likely stir up the bird droppings and cause high
bacteria counts. Marcia Jiminez is with the chigago deaprtment of
Environment. She says now Great Lakes cities need to gather data for the
“Where we’re all doing the same kind of testing, we’re
Sampling in the same frequency, i think that’s where we’re really going to
make a difference.”
Besides trying to predict high bacteria conditions, Chicago will also work
to discourage sea gulls by keeping beaches clear of food waste.
For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.
A bill now being debated by the Wisconsin legislature would fill the gap inwetlands protection created by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January.Wisconsin is the first state in the country to respond to the ruling thatopened up millions of acres of wetlands around the Great Lakes todevelopment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil Halsted reports:
A bill now being debated by the Wisconsin legislature would fill the gap in wetlands
protection created by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January. Wisconsin is the first state
in the country to respond to the ruling that opened up millions of acres of wetlands
around the Great Lakes to development. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil
Last month, the nation’s highest supreme court stripped the authority of the Army
Corps of Engineers to regulate what are known as isolated wetlands. Those are wetlands
not directly connected to a lake, river or tributary system.
Environmental groups in Wisconsin have estimated that would leave more than four
million acres of wetlands vulnerable to development. So right after the Supreme Court
announced its ruling, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources and a coalition of
environmental groups began working on a new law — one that would give the state the
authority once held by the Corps of Engineers. Former DNR secretary George
Meyer says such fast action was needed… as soon as the Supreme Court
ruling was announced, developers began calling the state about
“It’s a good thing this happened in the winter or we would
already be hearing the sound of bulldozers and buzzsaws.”
The proposed new law has passed the state Senate, but it faces
stiff opposition from real estate developers in the state Assembly.
Many rivers in the Great Lakes region were once used for waste disposal –and debate still rages over how to best clean up the lingering pollution.Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Mike VanBuren says futuregenerations will thank us if we do the job right:
Many rivers in the Great Lakes region were once used for waste disposal – and debate
still rages over how to best clean up the lingering pollution. Great Lakes Radio
Consortium commentator Mike VanBuren says future generations will thank us if we do
the job right.
Michigan’s Kalamazoo River has a colorful past. It used to be different colors on
different days. Sometimes it was green, sometimes red and sometimes white – depending
on which wastes were being dumped into the water.
And the stench was awful. I remember holding my breath whenever I had to cross the
river on the way to someplace else. Like many rivers in the Great Lakes basin, the
Kalamazoo was an open sewer. Life magazine even photographed some ugly fish kills –
when waste from paper factories choked the river and robbed it of oxygen.
It’s not much of a legacy – not for a resource that once attracted an international host of
anglers to its world-class fishery – including former President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Kalamazoo and other rivers have historically been among the biggest sources of
Great Lakes pollution. Industrial waste, pesticides and other contaminants have leached,
or been dumped directly into rivers feeding each lake. In Lake Michigan alone, toxins are
found from the Manistique River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to the Menominee
River in Wisconsin and Waukegan Harbor in Illinois.
In some ways, the Kalamazoo – like other rivers – has made a great recovery in the last
40 years, thanks to tougher anti-pollution laws and millions of dollars spent to upgrade
waste-treatment facilities. Today, ducks float quietly on the surface, deer frolic in the
shallows, and fish are practically everywhere.
But we still have a long way to go. What’s not so obvious is that local eagles can’t seem
to keep their young alive. And fish are so tainted that health advisories are posted at
every public access site, warning not to eat them.
The problem is invisible – leftover PCBs in the river sediment and along the banks. The
chemicals – once used in the production of carbon-less copy paper and other products –
often wash into the water when it rains, or when the river rises and falls.
Four paper-making companies were ordered to draft a plan for undoing the damage.
They’ve proposed a $73 million effort to stabilize the riverbanks, monitor the breakdown
of PCBs and continue the fish-consumption advisories.
That’s not good enough. For one thing, it only deals with part of the river. The rest
would be covered in a later phase. Secondly, it doesn’t really clean anything up. It
merely tries to contain the problem so it doesn’t get any worse.
That’s the trouble with many proposals to eliminate sources of Great Lakes pollution.
They avoid the real work needed for a thorough cleanup. The excuses are many – too
costly, too time-consuming, or too risky if the work dislodges toxins that are otherwise
Citizens shouldn’t accept these excuses. We should demand that polluters clean up after
What’s good for rivers like the Kalamazoo is good for the Great Lakes. We need to act
responsibly when deciding how to restore our resources. After all, our children and
grandchildren will live with the consequences.