Transportation experts say new toll lanes are needed to relieve traffic congestion around major cities. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Transportation experts say new toll lanes are needed to relieve traffic congestion around
major cities. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham:
The experts say it would be a market-based solution. If you want to avoid heavy traffic,
you can pull your car into a voluntary toll lane and pay for the privilege of going faster.
Rob Atkinson is with Progressive Policy Institute, and is one of the experts who testified
before a congressional committee about the idea.
“You would expand those highways and add a couple lanes in each direction, but those
lanes would be tolled. So if you don’t want to pay the toll, you can just stay in the regular
lanes and actually you’d be a lot better off because there’d be people who would move from
those lanes – the free lanes – over to the tolled lanes. So it’s sort of one of those win-win
Atkinson says gasoline taxes and other fees don’t pay the full cost of roads, so an alternative
such as voluntary toll lanes would help get closer to paying the actual cost of commuting.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
President Bush has declared that the war in Iraq is over. But from the vantage point of his garden, recent National Guard retiree and Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Tom Springer, wonders what the lasting harvest of this conflict will be:
President Bush has declared that the war in Iraq is over. But from the vantage point of his
garden, recent National Guard retiree and Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Tom
Springer, wonders what the lasting harvest of this conflict will be:
When I retired from the Army National Guard last December, I was looking forward to having
more free time. To commemorate my 22 years of service, I decided to plant my biggest vegetable
But even with more leisure time, I still hate to pull weeds. So I’ve covered my garden with
newspapers and straw. After the fall rains, I’ll till this organic matter back into the soil to prepare
for another growing season.
However, my usually peaceful garden conceals a litany of troubles. That’s because the
newspapers I’m using for a weed barrier read like an almanac of the recent war. Beneath my
cherry tomatoes, there’s breaking news of the early fights for Umm Qasr and Basra. Under the
green peppers, I can follow the 7th Marines on their river campaign up the Tigris and Euphrates.
Near my Spanish onions – and I’m sure the Spanish prime minister would approve – Saddam’s
statue falls to a cheering crowd in Baghdad.
Yet this guns-and-butter irony is a bit unsettling. Like many Americans, I am still ambivalent
about the war. Initially, I was against it. Then once it began, I believed the best course was to
win decisively. And as a veteran, I deeply respect the American men and women who so ably
proved themselves in Iraq.
Regardless of your viewpoint, on this much we can agree: Those who fought the war have seen
horrors and faced dangers that we civilians can scarcely imagine. Here, at home, the war may
already be old news. But for our returning veterans, its impact will last a lifetime.
I think about that as I read my garden newspapers. I think about how the sun and rain will
transform this violent news into food for the plants and nourishment for my body. And I think
about the life-changing nature of war – how it leaves some people broken, but gives others a new
sense of purpose and vocation.
Without question, our veterans deserve all the parades, yellow ribbons and happy homecomings
we can give them. But after the brass bands die down, I hope our newest heroes find something
equally valuable. I hope they find quiet, blissful places where they can heal their jangled nerves.
I hope they find a peaceful garden, where the fears and angers of war will melt away beneath the
cloudless skies of summer.
Tom Springer is a freelance writer from Three Rivers, Michigan.
A pile of food waste awaits processing at a Duluth, Minnesota composting site. A wide variety of materials arrive each day - anything from unused frozen dinners to sheet rock to bird droppings from a nearby zoo. Photo by Stephanie Hemphill.
Lots of people have a compost pile in the backyard. They throw their grass clippings and kitchen scraps in a pile and let it sit. Eventually it turns into rich black stuff that can be spread on the garden. Many cities around the Great Lakes collect residents’ yard waste and turn it into compost on a bigger scale. In Duluth, Minnesota, they’ve taken it a step further. An industrial-sized compost operation uses some surprising ingredients. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Lots of people have a compost pile in the back yard. They throw their grass clippings and
kitchen scraps in a pile and let it sit. Eventually it turns into rich black stuff that can be spread
on the garden. Many cities around the Great Lakes collect residents’ yard waste and turn it into
compost on a bigger scale. In Duluth Minnesota, they’ve taken it a step further. An industrial-
sized compost operation uses some surprising ingredients. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Stephanie Hemphill reports:
There’s a steady stream of cars and pickups as people drop off leaves and branches. They’re
piling up their yard waste at the compost site of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in
Duluth, Minnesota. The Sanitary District takes care of the trash for Duluth and nearby towns.
At the back, four rows of future compost are cooking in the sun. They’re about 6 feet tall and
half a block long. They were mixed by a master chef of compost, Charlie Hitchcock. He’s about
to cook up a new batch. Today’s mix starts with biodegradable bags of kitchen scraps from
“It’s a small load today, but it’s food waste and there’s animal hair that’s thrown in from some of
the pet grooming places. A lot of protein and nitrogen in that, I guess.”
Hitchcock consults a laptop computer to create his recipe. He plugs in the weight of the food
waste. The computer program tells him the right proportions of wood chips and leaves to mix in.
It’s aiming for the ideal combination of carbon and nitrogen. Most loads are about half wood
“Because it aerates it pretty good. And then I just keep punching a number in on the leaves until
I get between a 25-to-1 to a 35-to-1 on a C-N-N ratio, carbon to nitrogen.”
The key ingredient that’s loaded in Hitchcock’s mixture is different every day. That’s because the
sanitary district is always trying to divert stuff that would normally go to the landfill. Lately
they’ve been going after some of the garbage itself, not just yard waste. And sometimes that
garbage comes from some exotic places.
(bird sounds from zoo)
Dave Homstad takes care of the birds at the Lake Superior Zoo. He’s giving the parrots some
He slides out the bottom of the cage and whisks sawdust and bird droppings into a black plastic
“The composting stuff goes into a black bag, so that we can keep them separate. And then
anything that can be composted goes in here and then eventually into a dumpster for that
The dumpster gets filled with uneaten food, animal bedding, like straw and sawdust, and animal
dung. At the composting site, the dumpster-load from the zoo might be mixed with scraps from a
coffee shop. A commercial fishing operation brings fish guts. Even sheetrock is ground up to
become compost. The latest addition is waste grain from the elevators on Duluth’s lakefront.
(train sound at elevator)
The Cargill elevator handles 50 million bushels of grain every year.
Roger Juhl manages the operation. He says there’s some spillage when railroad cars have to be
changed from one type of grain to another.
“So we have to clean them out and dump them onto the tracks, and then pick them up and put
them in the dumpster. And that’s where they’ll go to this recycling center.”
Juhl says he’ll probably save some money. He’ll still have to pay the hauler to take the grain
away, but he won’t have to pay for dumping it in the landfill. What’s even better, Juhl says he’ll
be doing something good for the environment.
“Hopefully it’ll be useful for something.”
It’s put to use, all right, in Charlie Hitchcock’s compost mixer.
(compost sound back up)
The mixer’s been turning for 15 or 20 minutes. Hitchcock peers into the barrel. The ingredients
look like chunky dirt, and smell like day-old garbage. He reaches in for a handful.
“I do the squeeze test on it. If you get it packed tight without moisture coming from it, it’s within
the 50% range, which is good.”
Hitchcock is learning how to turn an amazing variety of stuff into compost. Some days he gets a
load of spoiled vegetables from a grocery store. Other times it’ll be outdated frozen dinners.
“When I get a lot of wet pasta, I use some sheetrock and mostly grindings. That’s shredded up
tree branches and limbs that we have. I don’t put leaves in it because the pasta’s so wet, it gets
After six months in a pile, the compost is ready for customers, like Suzanna Didier.
“I mean, I’m glad they’ve figured out a way for us to decrease the amount of garbage that goes
into the stream, into the waste stream, because obviously that needs to be slowed down a bit. So,
It’s an expensive operation that doesn’t pay for itself. Officials hope to recoup half their costs by
selling compost. As they get more raw materials, it’ll become more cost effective. Someday,
they hope everyone in Duluth will send their kitchen waste for composting.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
Artist Ladislav Hanka's fascination with fish
fuels his work. Photo by Tamar Charney.
The salmon, bass, and other species of fish that swim in the lakes, rivers, and streams of the Great Lakes region provide food for all kinds of creatures, including people. And for the many recreational fishermen, they’re sport. But the life that fish lead is also inspiration for artists. In cooperation with Public Radio International’s program Studio 360, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney paid a visit to artist Ladislav Hanka. His etchings explore cycles of life, death, and regeneration in nature and more often than not, depict fish:
The salmon, bass, and other species of fish that swim in the lakes, rivers, and streams of the Great
Lakes region provide food for all kinds of creatures, including people. And for the many
recreational fisherman, they’re sport. But the life that fish lead is also inspiration for artists. In
cooperation with Public Radio International’s program Studio 360, The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Tamar Charney paid a visit to artist Ladislav Hanka. His etchings explore cycles of
life, death, and regeneration in nature and more often than not, depict fish:
Ladislav Hanka asks people to take a look at life from a different angle. He does this in his art,
and he does this in real life as I found out when I asked him how old he was when he started
“I’ll show you. (footsteps) We’re going to make a little expedition under my kitchen table. So
get on your back, slide under the table with me here, and look up, and there you see some of the
first drawings I ever did. They’re nothing. They are just chicken scratch, but it’s kind of neat.”
Now that he’s an adult, the kitchen is the only room in his house in that isn’t an art studio.
Ladislav Hanka works where you’d expect the living room to be. But there’s no sofa here. Just
lots of counter space, storage drawers, and the press he uses to print his etchings. The corner
where he sketches is cluttered with cans of colored pencils, sheets of paper, and stuff you sure
won’t find at an art supply store.
“Now here is a vat of pickled fish.”
There’s trout, pickerel, a goldfish and other slimy brown creatures in a smelly preservative. He’ll
draw them and at times even dissect them. But when the lakes and streams aren’t frozen, he puts
the bucket away and heads outside for inspiration. He spends a lot of his time hanging out along
rivers fly fishing and sketching.
“I’ll sometimes put on waders, the fishing gear, and take a sketchbook out and just wade around up
to my chest in the water and sit in the lilies on the edge with a sketchbook.”
He uses the sketches as the basis for etchings. They’re inspired by what he observes outside and
from what he learned in school when he studied zoology. Ladislav Hanka’s etchings are very
detailed, but they’re not what you’d see if you just looked outside. There’s very little, if any color,
just warm tones of black ink on creamy paper. Some are landscapes with tangles of tree roots,
dirt, and rocks. Others are underground or underwater scenes with fish, birds, and bugs,
sometimes in various stages of decay.
“It’s a 14-by-18 plate size – it’s an etching. And there’s a moon, a full moon, shining in a very dark
background, very organic sorts of textures with a feeling of some sticks and roots and unclear
exactly what it is.”
At the bottom of the image lurking in the dark quiet shadows are fish called burbots.
“There’s a skeletal element to this burbot. The head is more defined than the rest of the body. And
it’s obviously moving among the sticks and up the light source and through various little bones
and skeletons. The intent is it is something inevitable, that it has to go up to the moon. And the
interesting thing with the burbots are that they do, indeed, spawn at night. They spawn in the
middle of winter. So there’s something I find very compelling about this drama, this ancient
drama, that keeps recurring and happening every year under the ice, in the cold, and under the
moonlit night. There’s a romance about it. I keep going back to spawning cycles.”
Watching salmon spawn has become his yearly ritual. Every fall he sits on the bank of a nearby
creek to watch Great Lakes salmon spawn. Salmon return to the place where they were born to
create the next generation in the moments before they die.
“It’s a forgotten little place that I think once used to be an industrial waste sight almost. A bunch
of 55 gallon drums and tires and poison ivy and all kinds of stuff. There are the salmon coming
up stream, among the logs, and the tires, and spawning. It’s this grotesque and beautiful things all
at once. It’s a spectacle, a ballet, death dancing lightly among them and picking over them, and
there they are, trying to spawn before they die, before the energy seeps out of their system.
Eternal cycles, I guess that’s what it’s about. We’re so used to thinking as in human terms, of a
linear way of thought – you evolve, society evolves, everything goes forward in one direction.
And yet the fact is every one of us lives life much more cyclically than we really admit to
ourselves, and we are disgustingly like our parents and like their parents, and like our great-
grandparents and you repeat the stupid things you can’t stomach in your parents, and there you are
repeating the same things years later. There’s something cyclical about it, but it is also beautiful.”
But why you keep coming back to fish?
“Why do I keep coming back to fish? Well, maybe there is something in all of us that wants to
migrate upstream and return to the source – the going home business, whatever home might ever
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has launched what it calls “a comprehensive campaign to attack Americans’ sedentary habits.” The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has launched what it calls “a comprehensive campaign to
attack Americans’ sedentary habits.” The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
Those involved in the ambitious campaign say they want to change the mindset of a country
which has engineered physical activity out of daily life – with the result that 60% of Americans
are now either overweight or obese. The campaign will help redesign communities originally
designed for the car, so people can walk or bike to destinations. But there’s a right way and a
wrong way to go about that redesign, according to public health expert Rich Killingsworth.
“Many communities are simply just putting in the facility of a sidewalk and forgetting about where it’s connected to and who it’s
connected to and who will it be used by.”
Killingsworth says another pitfall is people aren’t in the habit of biking or walking where they
want to go, which means they may not automatically use the new greenways, bike paths or
sidewalks. So the Foundation is also funding community public health campaigns to encourage people to become more active.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.
We hear all the time about invasive species in the Great Lakes region. But many people have no idea what Eurasian Ruffe, Round Goby, or European Frogbit look like and even less of an idea about what to do about the problem. But environmental education groups are trying to change that. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:
We hear all the time about invasive species in the Great Lakes region. But many people have no
idea what Eurasian ruffe, Round Goby, or European frogbit look like and even less of an idea
about what to do about the problem. But environmental education groups are trying to change
that. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:
Doug Jensen runs the Aquatic Invasive Species Information Center for the University of
Minnesota Sea Grant Program. He’s created a series of nine cards to help people identify exotic
species that are causing problems in the lakes.
“The front cover of the card is high quality photo of the aquatic plant, fish or invertebrate species
and it folds open and the inside of card has text which describes what the problem is how the
species is spreading and what people can do to take action and prevent the spread.”
Jenson hopes people will keep the ID cards in their tackle boxes, glove compartments, and aboard
their boats. Over 3.2 million of them have been printed including a French language version for
Quebec. They’ll be distributed through bait shops, marinas, environmental education
organizations, and resource management offices throughout the Great Lakes
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.
The Attorney General in New York has recently led the fight against any softening of laws on air pollution. He’s even taken on the administration in Washington. Now he’s setting his sights across the border where pollution from Canada is affecting his state. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
The Attorney General in New York has recently led the fight against any softening of laws on air
pollution. He’s even taken on the administration in Washington. Now he’s setting his sights
across the border where pollution from Canada is affecting his state. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports:
New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has taken on the White House and big air polluters in
the U.S. Now he’s filing a complaint with the Environmental Commission set up under NAFTA.
He wants the commission to look into whether coal fired generating plants in Ontario violate any
That move is not sitting well with authorities across the border. Canada’s environment minister,
David Anderson, says he welcomes the challenge, but says Spitzer should be cleaning up his own
“His plants in New York aren’t little innocent neighborhood Dairy Queens. These are major
emitters of pollution.”
Ontario’s environment minister, Chris Stockwell, admits that Ontario doesn’t have a perfect
record, but he, too, says Spitzer shouldn’t be doing any finger pointing.
“The Americans have states where 90% of their energy is coal. Now who’s embarrassed,
Americans or Canadians?”
Ontario has pledged to shut down its coal-fired generators by 2015.
But that isn’t soon enough for Spitzer. If he proves his case, the environmental commission could
impose penalties against the province.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Dan Karpenchuk.
A survey of automobile drivers found many people complaining about higher than expected fuel consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A survey of automobile drivers found many people complaining about higher than expected fuel
consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The JD Power and Associates 2003 Initial Quality Study found that one of the top complaints of
drivers was fuel consumption. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was the number one complaint about
the massive military-modeled Hummer H2. But it was also a complaint about the hybrid models
such as the Toyota Prius, one of the most fuel efficient cars on the road. A JD Power and
Associates spokesperson didn’t want to be recorded, but in a statement indicated that drivers were
probably more aware of fuel consumption because of higher gasoline prices this past year. He
suggested the complaints about the hybrid and other compact cars likely came because drivers
found the cars didn’t always get the kind of mileage suggested by the Environmental Protection
Agency window sticker. That’s been the case in past years, but this year more drivers noticed the
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The U.S. EPA recently threatened to pull out of a proposed national electronics recycling initiative. A meeting in Chicago this week will try to sort out some of the disputes between the negotiating parties. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach explains:
The U.S. EPA recently threatened to pull out of a proposed national electronics recycling
initiative. A meeting in Chicago this week will try to sort out some of the disputes between the
negotiating parties. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach explains:
The ‘National Electronics Product Stewardship’ initiative is trying to maximize the collection,
reuse, and recycling of used devices like old computers. The nearly four dozen stakeholders of
the group are debating four different ways to foot the bill. But the EPA recently said it would
pull the plug on the initiative if the members don’t reach a financing agreement soon.
Garth Hickle is with the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. He advises some group
members and he’s optimistic about a potential deal. Hickle says computer manufacturers that
want a level playing field realize some states are looking at writing their own laws.
“So I think the whole notion of trying to go forward with a national federal approach rather than
an individual state approach has a little more traction than it did.”
Hickle hopes an electronics recycling subcommittee will soon narrow the number of financing
options, so the EPA stays on board.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach reporting.
An insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has already destroyed thousands of ash trees in Ontario and Michigan…and in February, it was discovered invading the northwest corner of Ohio. Agriculture officials there are trying to contain the bug before it spreads to still more states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
An insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has already destroyed thousands of ash trees in Ontario
and Michigan…and in February, it was discovered invading the northwest corner of Ohio.
Agriculture officials there are trying to contain the bug before it spreads to still more states.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
At stake across the Great Lakes region: millions of dollars of wood that’s used for furniture,
cabinets, flooring, and baseball bats. That’s why Ohio agriculture officials have quarantined an
area around Toledo, banning residents from transporting ash wood out of the area. They’ve also
sprayed pesticide on nearby un-infected trees and taken even more drastic action among the 4,000
trees the beetles had already struck.
David Shlike works for the Ohio Agriculture Department.
“At ground zero, out a quarter of a mile, we cut everything, took it down. And had to chip it. We
hauled these chips to Michigan, and they were incinerated. It’s just a devastating pest and that
pest is going to be hatching out here anytime now between the 1st of May and the 15th of May,
and we were trying to take away its food source.”
It will be a few more months before it’s clear whether or not Ohio’s action has stopped the bugs’
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.