Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The Asian long horned beetle attacks maples and elms. The bug first appeared in 1996, after wood crates infested with the beetle were shipped to New York from China. A second infestation appeared in the Chicago area in 1998. Stan Smith is a manager of the tree nursery program for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He says the Asian long horned beetle might be under control around Chicago.
“Our population, we feel, is small enough that it might be getting to the point where it might not be able to reproduce very well. Hopefully within four to five years we’ll have everything pretty well cleaned up. At least that’s what we think can happen.”
The beetle is more widespread in New York, but fortunately the insect can’t fly very far. That means it can’t spread quickly, giving foresters a better chance at eliminating the pest.
The fast food and beverage industries spend billions of dollars annually to create an image for their products. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that some of that money would be better spent educating the public about what to do with the leftovers:
The fast food and beverage industries spend billions of dollars annually to create an image for their products. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says that some of that money would be better spent educating the public about what to do with the leftovers.
I was walking my dog the other day when she found a real treat right in the middle of the road. Some clown had pitched the remains of a Burger King dinner out their car window – fries, burger, napkins, and drink container – the works. And while Jessie couldn’t wait to roll around in the smashed French fries and burger bits, I was wishing I could find the rightful owner and return it.
Since I couldn’t hope to find the culprit, I decided to do the next best thing. I called the nearest Burger King restaurant and asked to speak to the manager. I told her that I had found something that belonged to her store, and asked if someone could please come and pick it up. She wondered exactly what it was, so I told her.
She said, “Just because our name’s on it, doesn’t mean that it’s our responsibility.”
I am quite sure that the employee who made that statement had no idea how profound it really was. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of the garbage that makes its way into ditches along our roads is either fast food leftovers or beverage containers. The cheap, disposal nature of carryout packaging has made the entire fast food industry possible. The same can be said for the soft drink industry. They both benefit from the disposability of these items, and yet they appear to bear no responsibility for them.
More importantly, they don’t seem to care. And that’s what I find so interesting. The fast food and soft drink industries spend billions of dollars every year on advertising and promotion. They aren’t just selling products – they engage some of the brightest minds in advertising to help sell an image. What’s so astounding is that none of these marketing geniuses has made the connection between that carefully crafted image and what happens to it when it ends up squashed in a ditch or smeared all over the road. It strikes me that this is really bad public relations.
I understand that the very nature of fast food makes a certain amount of disposable packaging necessary. It’s also understood that it isn’t Burger King or McDonalds or Coca-Cola that’s pitching all this trash in the ditch. But the truth is that they aren’t doing much to discourage it, either. And maybe that’s the point.
The whole convenience food industry needs to work on educating the public about responsibly disposing of their packaging. Rather than packing food into bags at the drive-thru window or take-out counter, fast food restaurants should use litterbags instead. Maybe then consumers would actually think before they roll down the window and pitch.
Somewhere along the line both the fast food restaurants and the consumers have accepted the idea that a tremendous amount of garbage and littering is the price we have to pay for all that convenience. It’s time to re-visit that perception.
From here on, when I see a squashed coffee cup, a flattened Coke can or Big Mac wrapper in the street, I think I’ll be calling the advertised owners and asking them to come and pick up their stuff.
Tall Ships cross the starting line in one of the many races over the waters
of the Great Lakes. Photo by Todd Jarrell
This summer, tall ships are plying the Great Lakes, offering millions of people on-board tours and the spectacle of the Parades of Sail. But most people don’t sail, and certainly not on tall ships. Most have no idea how a sailboat sails. So, what is the fascination with these ships? The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Todd Jarrell has spent several years sailing the world on the tall ships, and he offers some personal perspective:
This summer the tall ships are plying the Great Lakes offering millions of people on-board tours and the spectacle of the Parades of Sail. But most people don’t sail, and certainly not on tall ships. Most have no idea how a sailboat sails. So, what is the fascination with these ships? What is it that they come to see? Writer and adventurer Todd Jarrell has spent several years sailing the world on the tall ships, and he offers some personal perspective.
With their canvas palisades and pennants flying, today’s tall ships are every bit as grand and romantic as their ancestors, perhaps more so for their rarity. One’s imagination follows them to sea; envisioning sun-drenched decks and star spangled night watches.
One sees the crews lay aloft on towering masts to loose billowing sails as deckhands work in concert below. One expects the cobwebs of a sedentary life or the stresses of the workaday world to be swept away on the freshening breeze. Truly, it is difficult to find in our world of instantaneous gratification, more fitting symbols of a straightforward way of life.
To the novice the attraction to a tall ship is a kind of infatuation, a friendship, but to some it becomes a love, founded in sweat and bound in mutual trust. The sailor’s term, “One hand for yourself and one hand for the ship,” describes this symbiosis: each does their part to keep both above the waves.
The wind ships, once mankind’s most vital vehicles, were the far-ranging satellites of the Age of Discovery. It was the tall ships that carried the conquerors, colonists and zealots, as they crossed the hemispheres, their chart lines stitching the known world to the new.
Their determination is humbling – however suspect their motives may be – as many sailed for glory, certain Providence was at their side, and with the promise of riches before them like a golden carrot at the end of every jib boom. They claimed the riches and real estate – even the souls – of lands they considered “new” and “undiscovered.”
Religions, foods and philosophies all were carried to a world that was, like a child, only beginning to comprehend its own size, shape and cultural complexities.
Today the tall ships are icons of that adventurous time and, worldwide, festivals swarm with those who bask in their grandeur. Strolling the decks of their own imaginations people visit a common heritage, seeking a sense of connectedness, a tangible link to their histories and ancestors for surely all were touched by the ships – the pilgrims, the immigrants, the natives, the slaves. The masts and yards tower and sprout as upturned roots of a collective family tree.
The mission of the ships has forever changed; the heart of the fleet no longer beats to the drum of war but pulses still in the veins of the adventurer. By one sea skipper’s estimation, more people have in the last forty years orbited earth in space than have circumnavigated in a traditional tall ship. But the arcane arts of the sea are still preserved in sail-training programs for young men and women and it is an undeniably expansive experience – if not an easy one.
Witnessed from shore, the stately vessels set out to sea with ease, but from on deck, one appreciates fully the learning curve of the tall ship trainee – a curve as near vertical as the masts themselves. Here one sees the blistered hands and homesickness, the dismal days spent in wet weather gear and the bleariness of crew for whom a good night’s sleep seems the stuff of a long ago life. Here are 4am wake up calls to crawl from a warm rack to work on a dark, rolling deck in a stinging cold rain – and much worse.
Far from the familiar, trainees must plumb themselves for unknown depths of character.
The distance many journey cannot be calculated in nautical miles, nor by latitude and longitude, for the vanishing point of well-developed confidence and curiosity is far beyond measure.
So when the crowds call on these vessels, when they line the shores awaiting the whimsy wind to carry the ships past, it has nothing to do with blockbuster entertainment or bang for the buck. Rather it’s that people somehow sense that here is found a promising future in the past.
Karner Blue butterflies depend on wild lupine for survival.
Lupine is the only plant Karner Blue caterpillars will eat.
Photo by Ann B. Swengel, courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Once, a postage-stamp-sized butterfly known as the Karner Blue was found all across the Great Lakes states, from Minnesota to New York. Today its population has declined by 99 percent. The Karner Blue’s last stronghold is in Wisconsin, where an unprecedented state-wide effort is underway to save it. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Losure reports:
It appears that fish native to the Great Lakes are beginning to prey on some of the alien species that have invaded the lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
It appears that fish native to the Great Lakes are beginning to prey on some of the alien species that have invaded the lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Aquatic Species from Europe and elsewhere have hitchhiked to the Great Lakes in the ballasts of cargo ships for many years. A lot of them have upset the natural ecosystems of the lakes. Lately, though, some native fish are taking advantage of the invaders. Nicholas Mandrak is a researcher at Youngstown State University. He says a Great Lakes minnow that was once thought to have died out has recently re-emerged.
“And they’re eating zebra mussels. So, it looks like the increase
in silver chub is related to zebra mussels, so we finally found a native
fish that is benefiting from the zebra mussel.”
Other researchers say small mouth bass are beginning to prey on another invasive species, the round goby, which eats the eggs and larvae of fish native to the Great Lakes. The researchers say the benefits don’t outweigh the negative affects on native species. But it evens the score a little. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Scientists have hit a roadblock in the effort to create jet fuel that uses soybean by-products. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
Scientists have hit a roadblock in the effort to create jet fuel that uses soybean by products. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
Researchers at the USDA lab in Peoria, Illinois say they are ready to test a jet fuel that is made partially from soybeans. But while scientists say the new fuel will decrease engine emissions, so far no jet manufacturer is willing to take on the cost of testing the fuel. Bob Dunn is the head researcher on the project. He says eventually, government regulations will force companies to give the new fuel a try.
“If somebody says ‘We can’t let you fly this aircraft into this certain region because of the air quality issues’ than the company has to come up with an alternative aircraft or they are going to lose some business in that area.”
Dunn says in the mean time, his lab is working with the Armed Forces to try to find a way to complete a test of the fuel in jets. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
In the next few years, homeowners across the Great Lakes region could get a new, environmentally friendly way to power their homes – thanks to an automaker. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:
In the next few years, homeowners across the Great Lakes region could get a new, environmentally friendly way to power their homes – thanks to an automaker. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, Bill Poorman reports.
General Motors has announced that it’s going to begin selling fuel cell power plants for use in homes or in offices in the next two or three years. Daniel O’ Connel is a staff engineer with GM’s fuel cell program. He unveiled the new system at a recent automotive conference.
“The unit we demonstrated this morning is a 5 kilowatts. That would be about enough to provide for an average home. The unit we showed this morning was about the size of a conventional refrigerator.”
All of Detroit’s automakers are working on fuel cell systems for their vehicles, not for homes. They are considered something like a Holy Grail that will let car companies escape environmental criticism. When they’re perfected, fuel cells will take in hydrogen from some source – perhaps methane, natural gas, or even everyday gasoline. Through a chemical process, they will produce electricity, and the main waste product is water.
But fuel cells have been a long time coming. Automakers are working to reduce the weight, size, and cost of the systems so that they can be put into cars. Auto analyst Paul Eisenstein of the car web site thecarconnection.com says that car companies moving into the home seems unusual at first. But it has some basic business reasons behind it.
“The automakers are hoping that they can use the home fuel cell technology to learn a lot about it, and to get it into mass production, and lower the costs of on-the-road or mobile fuel cells, as well.”
Plus, Eisenstein says, the move could help speed up research into fuel cells for all applications.
“This way they might be able to go to market much sooner and develop a revenue source that could fund further fuel cell development efforts.”
But GM still has to put a lot of pieces into place before it starts selling home fuel cell units. GM’s Daniel O’Connel says the company is still looking for the best way to jump into an unfamiliar business.
“Currently GM does not have the distribution network to set up a non-automotive applications, so we’re looking for partners to help us out in that arena.”
Of course, the ultimate goal for GM is to be the first company to mass produce affordable fuel cell powered cars and trucks. But the timeline for that is a bit longer. Most automakers believe it could be up to a decade before the cars are ready. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Poorman.
Alewives washed up on Lake Michigan
shores after the invaders' populations exploded, then crashed.
Researchers have a difficult time predicting how invasive species
will affect the balance of nature in the Great Lakes.
Ever since the Great Lakes were opened to shipping, exotic species of aquatic animals have invaded the lakes. Nearly always it’s been bad news for the region’s native fish and wildlife. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the latest effects of the invaders:
Ever since the Great Lakes were opened to shipping, exotic species of aquatic animals have invaded the lakes. Nearly always it’s been bad news for the region’s native fish and wildlife. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the latest effects of the invaders.
Some of the exotic species that have caused major problems in the Great
Lakes have been around since the 1940’s and ’50s. For example, the sea lamprey found its way into the lakes through manmade channels. It’s a parasite that attacks lake trout and other large game fish. It devastated the lake trout fisheries. Only recently have efforts gotten the lamprey under control. It’s still out there, but it’s not decimating the lake trout population as it once was.
More recently, a big concern has been the zebra mussel. It hitchhiked its way to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of cargo ships. In the last couple of decades the zebra mussel has caused major changes in all the lakes except for Superior where it seems limited to the shallow and warmer bays.
David Jude is a researcher with the University of Michigan’s Center for
Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences. He says the huge numbers of zebra mussels siphon through lake water like a giant network of filters. There are so many of them that water in the lakes is actually clearer.
“I think people tend to hear about the water clarity increases. ‘Ah, the water’s clearer,’ you know, ‘That’s great!’ But it’s not great, because there’s a lot of things going on in the water column.”
Things such as, algae converting the sun’s energy into more phytoplankton.
Small fish and tiny invertebrate animals called zooplankton eat the phytoplankton and then they become food for fish. But, the zebra mussels filter out a lot of the phytoplankton, stealing food from the native zooplankton.
David Jude says a couple of other invaders are also causing havoc at the base of the food chain in the Great Lakes. Instead of eating just the green phytoplankton, zooplankton invaders from the Black and Caspian Seas also eat their North American cousins.
“These are predators. And they feed on the zooplankton, our native zooplankton that is out there already. So, not only do we have the impact of zebra mussels removing algae which is a food for these zooplankton, now we’ve got two predators that have been introduced and both of those will eat zooplankton which would have been food for fish to eat.”
Besides the zooplankton floating around in the water column, a major food source for fish is in the sediment at the bottom of the lakes, and it’s disappearing. James Kitchell is with the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He says many different kinds of fish depend on a little creature called diaporeia, which have become scarce in many areas.
“It appears to correlate in general with an increases in zebra mussels. So, there’s the prospect that diaporeia is literally starving to death as a consequence of zebra mussels eating the available food, but when you look at the diaporeia, they appear to be healthy. They’re not skinny and look to be starving. So that doesn’t explain it.”
It’s a big concern because a lot of fish that anglers like, such as yellow perch, depend on diaporeia for food.
Besides the zebra mussels and the two zooplankton predators, a fourth invader is causing problems. Populations of the round goby, an ugly, aggressive feeding little fish from Eastern Europe, have exploded in the Great Lakes. The round goby scours the bottom, eating the eggs and larvae of native fish. The University of Michigan’s David Jude says as big of a problem as the invasive fish has been over the last several years. The round goby’s future might soon be curtailed a bit.
“We did SCUBA dives in Lake Erie, for example, we’d turn over rocks. Round gobys would tear out from under the rocks and we’d have small mouth bass following us around and they would ignore the round gobys. They didn’t know how to catch a round goby. But, because there’s so many round gobys now, they had to learn how to eat them or die. So, the predators are definitely learning how to eat round gobys.”
Other native fish are beginning to eat the exotics. The silver chub, which once nearly disappeared from the Great Lakes, is making a bit of a comeback feasting on zebra mussels. With each invader, the lakes ecosystems go through upheaval, and then find a new balance. But make no mistake. It’s a different balance. Nicholas Mandrak is a researcher at Youngstown State University. He says exotic species invading the Great Lakes will mean continued changes, and for people who fish the lakes, not many of the changes will be good.
“You’re not going to be able to catch as many species that you’re used to catching. You know, the native species are going to decline. The walleye are going to decline. So, I think the bottom line is the recreational and commercial fisheries are going to change in a manner that is negative to most people.”
Researchers, though, have learned to be careful about predicting how invasive species will affect the lakes. They’re often surprised by the intricacies of the food web and the ecosystems that support it. Throwing an exotic invader into the mix makes it that much more unpredictable, and it will likely get worse. Mandrak says they’ve been studying how global warming might affect the lakes. One scenario suggests 30 to 40 new exotic species from the South will make their way through manmade canals as temperatures rise. For the biologists, it’s a worrisome concept. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Bush Administration wants authority over states to approve putting new power transmission lines where they’re needed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… some governors don’t think that’s necessary:
The Bush Administration wants authority over states to approve putting new power transmission lines where they’re needed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports some governors don’t think that’s necessary.
Right now, states have the right to approve where power lines are built. But energy secretary Spencer Abraham recently told governors if the states didn’t cooperate with the Bush Energy Plan to put up more power transmission lines, the President would ask Congress for federal eminent domain powers. That would give the administration the power to condemn land and take it over. Reports say many of the governors are resistant to the plan, saying the authority to site new power lines should be kept at state and local levels. But some governors agree that if states balk, the federal authority should be granted. The Bush Energy Plan calls for more power lines to eliminate so-called bottlenecks in the nation’s power grid.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Although the Senate is not expected to follow the lead, the bill’s passage in the House demonstrates the fragile and often complex alliances that come together – and fall apart – when passions run deep. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King suspects that it might just be time to re-examine old political friendships:
The House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Although the Senate is not expected to follow the lead, the bill’s passage in the House demonstrates the fragile and often complex alliances that come together – and fall apart — when passions run deep. Great Lakes Radio commentator, Julia King, suspects that it might just be time to re-examine old political friendships.
Labor unions have a proud history of righting some of the many wrongs inherent in capitalism. One of those “wrongs” is the tendency to put the pursuit of economic gain ahead of almost everything else. Labor unions have worked tirelessly in this country — and throughout the world — to shift attitudes about working conditions and living wages and to create a balance between profit margins and social justice. For this, they should be applauded.
But recently they took a giant step backwards when unions lobbied heavily in favor of (and helped to pass) a House bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. The Teamsters say that the drilling will create some 700,000 domestic jobs. A lobbyist for the Teamsters was quoted as saying, “What environmentalists fail to realize is that we are not an environmental organization… Our responsibility is to grow the work force.” And for some key Democrat players, such as Representative Dick Gephart, environmental concerns eroded under the pressures of long-held loyalties to working class Americans.
But by supporting Bush’s energy plan, labor will undercut not only the environment, but it’s own hard-won credibility. Labor will cease to be a voice for progress, and instead become a voice of conspicuous self-interest. For unions, pitting economics against the environment is a dangerous game: if decisions are made based on jobs and dollars without attention to broader social concerns, then we’re back where we started — a place where profits trump everything, including the needs of the working class.
From coalmines to vineyards, labor leaders have shown the world – usually with great resistance from business owners — that businesses can thrive even when they respect their workers. The economic sky doesn’t fall when employees are given their fair share. Yet now the Teamsters are using the same tactics that businesses have used for years. They want to add up the dollars in the Arctic Refuge and declare the equation complete without regard to the broader implications.
Under any scenario, the oil that’s in the refuge is finite. Any jobs that are created by the drilling will eventually disappear because the practice is not sustainable. Instead of clinging to Old Guard energy policies in an effort to squeeze the last pennies out of a dying industry, unions would be wise to use their considerable political clout to help usher in a new era of clean, sustainable energy production. And if organized labor is unable to support wise, long-term energy plans, it’s time for politicians to question NOT good environmental policy, but their loyalties to labor.