Some physicians are concerned about the United States not attending the final talks on the Kyoto Protocol on global warming held in early November. The physicians say global warming is already a problem and is adding to a number of public health threats. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Some physicians are concerned about the United States not attending the final talks on the Kyoto Protocol on global warming held in early November. The physicians say global warming is already a problem and is adding to a number of public health threats. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Some physicians believe the increase in infectious disease outbreaks such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Hantavirus are connected to global warming. They say the warming already seen contributes to the spread of the viruses. The warming also could be causing more volatile weather –such as sudden storms in some parts of the Great Lakes region. That can cause flooding of sewer systems that lead to illnesses. Bob Musil is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He says the group is encouraging politicians to upgrade sewer systems to cope with the changes.
“There are sudden storm surges, sudden precipitation leads to flooding in combined sewage and storm drains. In the state of Michigan in our report we discussed this problem. And we actually, as physicians, go and talk to the responsible officials.”
But the physician’s group says adapting to the changes only treats the symptoms. Musil says the long-term problem can only be dealt with by reducing air pollutants that cause global warming, something the group says the U-S is refusing to do right now. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:
A recent United Nations report indicates the earth’s population has doubled since 1960. The report says the result of that growth is that humans are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
In its report, the United Nations Population Fund said that with six-point-one billion people on earth, humans are using more resources than ever before. The report indicates rising affluence and consumption along with the growing population are combining to cause extensive environmental damage. The report explains that increasing population itself does not mean increasing damage to the environment. But to be sustainable where the population is growing fastest, Asia and Africa, those regions must have better access to outside resources and technology to better manage their own natural resources, and the political will to use them responsibly. Without the resources and political will, the report indicates that growing populations in undeveloped areas tend to strip the ground clear of natural resources as well as damage the environment and induce famine and disease. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
The gray wolf is making a comeback in the upper Midwest, and for some young wolves the area may be getting a little too crowded. It’s not unusual for young wolves to travel long distances to stake out a territory of their own, but as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports… one wolf’s trip has surprised everyone:
The gray wolf is making a comeback in the upper Midwest. And for some young wolves the area may be getting a little too crowded. It’s not unusual for young wolves to travel long distances to stake out a territory of their own, but as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports… one wolf’s trip has surprised everyone:
The wolf was first seen two and half years ago as a young pup in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At that time he was caught in a trap, and wildlife officials tagged him as “Wolf No. 18.” They fitted him with a radio collar and followed his movements for nine months before they lost track of him.
About a year and a half… and over 450 miles later, the wolf’s luck came to an end. A bow hunter from central Missouri saw the wolf snooping around his sheep pen. The hunter shot and killed the wolf – apparently mistaking it for a coyote. He realized his mistake when he noticed the radio collar.
Typically, young wolves travel west or northwest from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so when Michigan Wildlife Division Supervisor Jim Hammill heard the news that one of their wolves had turned up in Missouri… he could only think of one explanation:
“My first reaction was that somebody possibly killed the wolf in Michigan and transported it to Missouri and they found the carcass of the animal down there… but that was not what happened… and you know this animal was seen alive in Missouri before it was killed, so you know, it’s obvious that this was a natural movement and, uh, really sort of a stunning thing to have happened.”
Stunning because Hammill has never heard of a wolf traveling this far south before. They’ve seen wolves travel as far west… and northwest, but typically those wolves have an easier trip. Wolf Number 18 would have had to overcome huge obstacles, such as a number of major highways, a number of rivers including the Mississippi, and large open spaces like farms.
Hammill says this wolf’s trip will likely shed some light on the gray wolf’s behavior. And that may be especially helpful to biologists in the northeast – a region that hasn’t heard the howl of a wolf for some time:
“A lot of folks up there feel that there’s no way that wolves could re-populate the area without a trap and translocation program. But, you know, I wonder about that because of the kinds of movements that we’ve been seeing here in the Midwest.”
Wolf 18’s body has been shipped back to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources lab. There – they’ll try to piece together just what this wolf encountered on his historic trip south. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
Great Lakes residents use more than two million tires a year, and many of them end up in a landfill. But one Illinois school has found an unusual way to use some of those tires. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Lehman has more:
Great Lakes residents use more than two million tires a year, and many of them end up in a landfill. But one Illinois school has found an unusual way to use some of those tires. And they’re saving on hospital costs as well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Lehman has more.
(natural sound football practice, fade under quickly)
From beer cans to soda bottles, there are plenty of items that can be recycled at a typical football game. But at the 31-thousand seat Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, what is perhaps the largest recycling effort is in the field itself. More than 18-thousand ground-up tires are underneath the new surface of the playing field . . .mixed with sand; they provide a soft but durable base for all types of athletic events. The fake grass on top is similar to Astroturf, but project manager Norm Jenkins says this surface is better. He says the most important advantage is safety.
“It’s well documented over the last few years since these fields have been installed that the injury frequency goes way down in terms of ankle and knee injuries on this surface as opposed to the old Astroturf carpet. So it really simulates grass in that way. The other big advantage to this in our judgment is the appearance. Because really, as you sit in the stands at a Huskie football game–and even from the sidelines when you stand on that stuff–you’re convinced that the surface is grass. It looks, it appears just like a pristine grass playing surface”
The artificial turf at NIU is a brand called Field Turf. Jim Petrucelli is Vice-President of Turf USA, a Pittsburgh-based distributor of Field Turf. He says the scrap tires for the product are first washed with a high-pressure cleaning system similar to a car wash. But the tires aren’t run through grinder blades. That process is called ambient grinding because it takes place at room temperature. It tends to produce longer, rougher particles.
Instead, Petrucelli says the company cryogenically freezes the tires to temperatures below negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
“And then they drop them onto a hammer-mill. And the hammer-mill shatters them into pieces. And those pieces tend to have much flatter sides on them . . . that works much better in our system to prevent the rubber from migrating through the sand that it’s mixed with.”
Field Turf is used at several universities in the Great Lakes region, including the University of Cincinnati, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, and at a University of Michigan field house. It’s also in use at dozens of high schools and public recreation facilities across the region, and has been installed in places as far away as Botswana and New Zealand.
Petrucelli says that at more than eight dollars a square foot, Field Turf is the Cadillac of artificial turf products. At Northern Illinois University, nearly one-third of the cost of installing the Field Turf was recovered through a variety of money-saving measures. The largest of these was a 200-thousand dollar grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. The money was awarded to the school for its use of the tires, which came from a salvage yard near Chicago. Robert Albanese is NIU’s Associate Vice President of Finance and Facilities.
“Every time you purchase a new tire there’s a fee that goes along with it. It goes to this fund for recycling the tires. And this process will only work, is if we use those recycled materials on the other end. And this is probably one of the bigger uses for recycled rubber that we’ve seen in the state of Illinois.”
NIU Director of Recycling Mary Crocker says the use of old tires in the Field Turf project wasn’t just about saving money.
“We’re interested in keeping the tires out the landfills. So this is probably the most comprehensive recycling program that you can find, where virtually everything has to do with recycling.”
(More football sound under)
The old Astroturf, which was removed to make way for the Field Turf, was also recycled. The university sold it for use as a soccer field overseas, earning an additional 29 thousand dollars for the school. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chris Lehman.
American Electric Power is working to stop blue clouds of sulfuric acid from descending on towns near the Ohio River. Ironically, the clouds are a by-product of a 200-million dollar system installed in May to help curb smog-producing emissions from the General James M. Gavin Power Plant. The search for a solution is being watched by other power plants in the U.S. that have to comply with stricter anti-smog regulations put in place by the federal government.
Blue clouds of sulfuric acid have descended upon towns in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia more than a dozen times since May. The clouds are from smoke stacks at American Electric Power’s General James M. Gavin plant in rural Cheshire, Ohio. It’s one of the largest coal-burning power plants in North America. The company blames a new 200 million dollar pollution control system for releasing more toxic emissions. If they’re right, other Midwestern power companies may face similar troubles when trying to comply with federal clean air laws. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports:
Blue clouds of sulfuric acid have descended upon towns in south-eastern Ohio and West Virginia more than a dozen times since may. The clouds are from smoke stacks at American Electric Powers General John M. Gavin plant in rural Cheshire, Ohio. It’s one of the largest coal-burning power plants in North America. The company blames a new 200-million dollar pollution control system for releasing more toxic emissions. If they’re right, other midwestern power companies may face similar troubles when trying to comply with federal clean air laws. The great lakes radio consortium’s Natalie Walston reports.
The small, rundown airport in Mt. Pleasant sits on a flat part of the hills of West Virginia.
It’s surrounded by thick trees. Its rural enough here that it’s common to see wild turkeys dashing across the runways. One summer afternoon airport manager Ben Roush looked out his window. But instead of seeing a plane land … he saw thick smoke clinging to the tops of the trees.
“It looked like, uh, exhaust out of a car or something like that. It wasn’t black smoke it was blue. Very, very visible.”
After the smoke appeared, his phone began to ring.
“The fire department down here called up here and wanted to know if we had a fire up here because it was all in these … it settled to the ground. And, it was in those trees.”
The clouds contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid. That’s not normal … even this close to a power plant that burns coal with a high sulfur content. For years, most coal-burning power plants have had pollution control devices called “scrubbers” to deal with that sulfur. The scrubbers do just what the name implies – they scrub the air clean of sulfur dioxide as well as some other pollutants. But, they don’t do a good job in removing nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is blamed in part for causing acid rain and smog.
Paul Chodak is manager of American Electric Power’s Optimization Group. He says AEP installed a selective catalytic reduction system … or SCR … in an effort to remove nitrous oxide. Chodak says the SCR system is a relatively new technology. And, so far, it and the scrubber aren’t working well together. That’s because they are combining to make sulfuric acid, but in a different form. And that form then gets released into the air.
“The SO3 … or sulfuric acid is in very fine droplets … sub-micron size droplets. Very, very tiny. And they’re so small that they travel through the scrubber and they’re not removed. So, the scrubber works very well on the gas in removing SO2. However, it’s not very effective in removing SO3.”
Chodak says this is all because of an effort to reduce emissions that cause acid rain and smog in eastern seaboard states. But… as AEP scrambles to stop polluting the air hundreds of miles away … people who live beneath the smoke stacks claim their health is being sacrificed. They say that in the summer, when the sulfuric acid clouds move in it’s difficult to breathe.
(natural sound of NASCAR race and drunk people carrying on)
Gallipolis is a small city five miles south of the power plant. Today there’s a small crowd of people gathered at Sunny’s bar and grille. People here will only give their first names to an out of town reporter. A man named Steve is drinking a beer at a table with his sister. He says fallout from the plant makes the paint peel off cars.
“All that acid and stuff goes on these cars. They gotta repaint the cars … so you know it’s tearin’ us up. Our bodies. And, like I say, we worry about our kids and grandkids more. We’re old enough that it’s not gonna bother us no more.”
His sister Tammy drags slowly on a cigarette as Steve talks.
When he finishes, she jumps in to say that since the blue clouds started showing up, everyone in town has become sick.
“I have health problems. I cough all the time. Allergies all the time. Allergies to something’. Runny nose. Constantly. You know, I think everyone in town has health problems that live around here.”
But AEP claims the air is cleaner than it was before the SCR system was installed. Paul Chodak says the air turned blue this summer because the sulfuric acid reacted with sunlight on hot, humid days. He says people become scared because they could actually see what they were breathing.
“The hard thing for people to understand is that what is coming out of the stack is significantly cleaner than what was coming out before. This is an improvement from a pollution control perspective. However, it has created this local phenomena that is a problem. And, AEP is moving to address that and we will solve it.”
Sulfuric acid measurements taken by the company and examined by Ohio and U.S. EPA researchers meanwhile don’t show a major sulfuric acid problem. But there are no state standards in place in Ohio for levels of gaseous sulfuric acid in the air.
Kay Gilmer of the Ohio EPA says emissions from AEP have exceeded sulfuric acid standards set by other states. However, she says people near the plant stacks aren’t in immediate danger. But she hesitates to say the air is perfectly safe to breathe.
“We didn’t have anything that would um … that we would … that we looked at that was exceptionally high. But, that was, I don’t want to say that to say we’re not concerned with the problem.”
Meanwhile, people near the plant say they’re tired of having their health jeopardized so people far away from them can breathe easier. They are working with state environmental groups to possibly fight the power plant in court.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Natalie Walston.
Some environmental groups are calling the Army Corps of Engineers “arrogant” for a policy change that the environmentalists say will make it easier for developers to destroy wetland habitat. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has the details:
Some environmental groups are calling the Army Corps of Engineers “arrogant” for a policy change that the environmentalists say will make it easier for developers to destroy wetland habitat. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Since the first Bush administration, federal agencies have tried to make sure that if a development destroyed wetlands, the developer had to create an equal amount of wetlands somewhere else. The goal was ‘no net loss of wetlands.’ Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has changed its policy through a newly issued guidance letter. Developers will only have to preserve existing wetlands somewhere else. or establish buffer strips along a waterway instead of creating replacement wetlands. Robin Mann is with the Sierra Club.
“Despite the fact that the Corps is denying it, we see this guidance letter as really, basically abandoning that national goal, that policy of ‘no net loss.’
Even with the ‘no net loss’ policy in place, an average of 58-thousand acres of wetland was lost each year. The environmental groups say a lot more wetlands will disappear because of the Army Corps of Engineers new policy. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Some public health experts are concerned that a changing global climate, along with increases in carbon dioxide emissions, might be contributing to a sudden rise in the number of asthma cases. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:
Some public health experts are concerned that a changing global climate, along with increases in carbon dioxide emissions, might be contributing to a sudden rise in the number of asthma cases. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Worldwide, the level of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere has risen. So scientists have been studying what might happen to plants if the C-O-two level continues to rise. One study indicates the increase in C-O-two levels makes conditions more favorable for weedy species… such as ragweed, which aggravates asthma. Paul Epstein is with the Harvard Medical School and has been working with the study.
“The ragweed pollen counts go up so that doubling of asthma in the last several decades may be partially accountable just by the rise in CO-2 as well as, perhaps, prolongation of seasons and the early arrival of spring and the late arrival of fall.”
Epstein says it appears the air pollution that is believed to be causing global climate change and triggers asthma could be compounding the problem by indirectly contributing to the increase in pollen allergens. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Chicago is the first major city in the U.S. to commit to a carbon emissions trading system. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Chicago is the first major city in the U.S. to commit to a carbon emissions trading system. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has announced that the municipality would join two-dozen private companies that have signed on with the Chicago Climate Exchange. The exchange will create a market in carbon dioxide emissions futures. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Daley is recommending the city take a new approach to energy; replacing the bulbs in traffic signals with new longer-lasting, brighter, but more energy efficient bulbs. He also wants the city to put in more energy efficient boilers, and increase the use of cleaner-burning alternative fuels in the city’s fleet of cars and equipment. The city will be able to trade any savings in carbon emissions for shares in carbon futures, supplementing city coffers. The mayor admonished business leaders to find creative solutions to energy and environmental problems, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. Although the city government buildings and cars make up only a small fraction of the city’s pollution sources, the mayor’s initiative is expected to be an example for the private sector. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Michael Delp muses over the notions of home and possessions only to find that home is not necessarily about what you own:
Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Michael Delp muses over the notions of home and possessions only to find that home is not necessarily about what you own.
For years I’ve lingered around home most of the time. Given the choice to go to Paris or South America, I’d opt to stay home. In fact, at 52, my notions of home seem to go much farther than the actual structure, wandering into the considerations of rooms, smells and the plethora of information which signals I am in friendly territory. Over the years, I have sometimes confused a sense of home with the accumulation of possessions. I have accrued massive collections of objects and artifacts, which fill my home and storage shed.
Lately though, I seem to be heading for a definition of home which is marked by the ideas of simplicity and forgiveness. Home for me now is a refuge from the noise of this culture disintegrating around me. Sadly, confusingly, I carry the psychic shrapnel of living in an acquisitive age. My home is a temple to the power of credit.
However, there is hope. Almost every six months I grow tired of all my things. I imagine myself dancing out of my life, giving all my worldly belongings gladly into the arms of my friends, stepping out the door one last time, naked.
When I really drift down inside my darker self and think about home, I think of my friends Nancy and Dave Lemmen who literally lost everything they owned in a forest fire eight years ago in Grayling, Michigan.
I was there the day after and stood with them in the smoke and chaos of what was once their home. In the darkest reaches of my heart I see us sifting through the layers of debris in the garage finding the charred bodies of their three dogs. I knew their grief and seem to carry it now in my bone marrow. And I use this grief, this charred knowledge to help me jettison the “stuff” of my life, to help me re-define my own life in terms of home.
Now, a powerful organizing force in my life is that I know what it’s like to sift through the ashes of home, bring the smell of memory up out of the blackened ground. And I know everyday what it means to run my hands through my wife’s hair, my daughter’s braids, then down over the soft fur over a dog’s ears.
For what it’s worth, I haven’t given enough away lately and I’m reminded daily that Dave Lemmen once told me before he died of cancer how happy he was thinking of the things from his life he gave away before the fire.
Now in my imagination it seems I am always tending a fire. I still have fits of simplicity, I call them, probably some dire chemical reaction to owning too much stuff: mostly fly rods and high-tech jackets, and enough fishing gear for a theme park. So I stroke a fantasy fire. I imagine going down to the beach some black night carrying everything I own. I know I should give it all away, but in the fantasy I need the purge. I’ll douse the pile with gas, touch it off, wander back upstairs, then gather my wife, my daughter and the dog at the window. I’ll sift my hands through their hair and then settle back to watch my life burn down to simple again.
Michael Delp is an author and poet who teaches creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.
Those worried about food safety say it’s time for a uniform animal identification system – one that could rapidly isolate animals suspected of carrying contagious diseases. Wisconsin agriculture officials have taken the lead on this type of preventative action but will need the help of all the Great Lakes states to make it work. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner has more:
Those worried about food safety say it’s time for a uniform animal identification system, one that could rapidly isolate animals suspected of carrying contagious diseases. Wisconsin AG officials have taken the lead on this type of preventive action but will need the help of all the Great Lakes States to make it work. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Jo Wagner has more.
There’s growing consensus among agricultural officials that some type of universal animal identifier is needed to trace animals from birth to the marketplace. Especially in light of recent occurrences of “mad cow” and “foot and mouth” diseases in live animals overseas and the nasty form of e coli in meat products here. Wisconsin secretary of agriculture, Jim Harsdorf says the ID system started in Europe. Now it’s moved to Canada, where it’s mandatory, and Harsdorf says Holland has a central database containing information on all the nation’s animals.
“It’s housed in one location and the producers within 48 hours have an animal ID’d after it’s born and that animal ID stays with it for life.”
Federal officials in the United States have been slow to implement such a system though, so Harsdorf says state officials are working to come up with one. It might be tied to different identification networks that farmers already use to keep production and reproduction records, herd health, vaccinations and the location of cattle that are sold, or it could be a totally new system that keeps some or all of those records on one central computer database managed by state, private or non-profit organizations.
Wisconsin state veterinarian Clarence Siroky says public feedback surprised them. State officials were expecting farmers to want only a voluntary system but what they found at public meetings was that producers want a more comprehensive mandatory system nationwide
“We move cattle all over the United States rapidly…we can have one cow at least touch 27 other states within a week…one pig can touch 19 other states within 24 hours.”
For those reasons, Siroky says, all animals will have to be included, not only cows, but sheep, horses and pigs. In England for example, cows are identified, but sheep are not, and he says sheep were implicated in the rapid spread of foot and mouth disease there.
That concerns Ted Johnson. He’s a Wisconsin dairy farmer who likes the idea of a universal identification system because it would quickly pinpoint the location of animals that might have come in contact with a disease.
“If in the event of an outbreak of some highly contagious disease, it could be stopped very quickly and we wouldn’t have to have wholesale slaughtering of cattle.”
Still Johnson says many farmers are concerned about how much the ID would cost, who would maintain the records, and who would have access to them.
“The worst case scenario would be if that information is released and there is some doubt about the information or if the information is used in an incorrect manner, the perception can be there’s a problem on individual farms.”
State veterinarian Clarence Siroky says that’s why input from farmers, processors, privacy advocates and consumers is important as the technology is developing.
Still to be decided is the type of animal ID that would be used. Siroky says it could be a tag placed on the animal’s ear. However, some animals already have so many different ear tags, he says one ear can look like a Christmas tree. Other possibilities include a computer chip or other type of recyclables monitor placed inside an animal.
Meanwhile, AG secretary Harsdorf says the records included in a computerized type of system could be very beneficial to consumers at the supermarket.
“At some point in time, you’re gonna have the ability to go through a grocery store and see up on a screen when you buy that package where it came from, a picture of the operation — it’s almost mind boggling to see what could happen down the road.”
Still, farmer Ted Johnson worries all the talk right now about the need for animal identification might create a consumer backlash.
“I feel as a producer our food supply is very safe. I don’t want the perception to be that an animal ID program is being instituted because we have a problem.”
But a potential problem without plans to deal with it could create havoc for the agricultural industry, and so far veterinarian Siroky doesn’t know when a system with wide support might be in place. He does say animal health officials are on high alert for the appearance of any contagious diseases. At the same time, he says even if Wisconsin comes up with a proactive plan, unless other states adopt a similar identification method, any tracking system would have limited effectiveness. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Jo Wagner.