A little exposure to natural outdoor areas might go a long way toward easing the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder in kids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Rogers has more:
A little exposure to natural outdoor areas might go a long way toward
easing the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder in kids.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Rogers has more:
Previous studies linking the outdoors to relaxation prompted University
of Illinois researchers to survey the parents of more than 400 children
diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers asked parents to monitor
their kids’ behavior and performance after play or study periods
indoors, outdoors in an urban setting like a parking lot, and outdoors
in greener areas.
Francis Kuo co-authored the study. She says the natural settings
seemed to improve symptoms.
“This doesn’t have to be something spectacularly natural. Just getting
your kid out in a green, tree-lined street would be good, or in the
backyard, or even the neighborhood park. You don’t have to take them
to Yosemite for these benefits.”
The study didn’t make any conclusions about whether nature could take
the place of medication, but Kuo says there’s a real potential that it
could at least help kids who don’t tolerate drug treatment well. The
study appears in The American Journal of Public Health.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tom Rogers.
Apples have become just part of the attraction to going to the orchard. Most offer carnival-like attractions to draw big crowds. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Apples don't sell for much in the wholesale market, so some orchards try to draw crowds to sell retail. (Photo by Melissa Ingells)
Kids still take part in the harvest, but the big thrill seems to be the circus-like atmosphere of rides and games. (Photo by Lester Graham)
The fall season brings with it celebrations of the harvest. Pumpkins and gourds show up at the grocery store. And for many families, fall means a trip to the apple orchard. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham observes that often that traditional celebration of the harvest just ain’t what it used to be:
The fall season brings with it celebrations of the harvest. Pumpkins and gourds show up at the
grocery store. And for many families, fall means a trip to the apple orchard. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham observes that often that traditional celebration of the harvest just ain’t
what it used to be:
When I was a kid, autumn meant going to the apple orchard. There was a old barn there. I don’t
think it had ever been painted and the wood planks were weathered gray.
The barn smelled of apples, of course, but not just the fresh ones. There was also the sweet-sour
smell of apples fermenting on the dirt floor, rejects that didn’t make it to the bushel baskets for sale.
Bees were always hovering over the bruised and brown skin of the slightly rotting fruit.
After my Dad paid the old guy who owned the orchard I would ask for one of the newly picked
apples. That first bite of the hard, sweet little apple would bring such a rush of flavor reminding me
of the autumn before. This was harvest, the essence of fall for me. This was the celebration, the
taste of that apple. Today, it’s a different story.
(sound of train and crowds)
Today, a trip to the apple orchard is much like a trip to a carnival. A little train circles the orchard,
kids crawl through a rainbow-colored inflatable worm, there’s a corral of little tractors that the kids
pedal in circles, draft horses draw wagons through the fruit trees, and, oh, yeah, the orchard sells
I wondered if some of the folks my age or thereabouts longed for the simpler times when
celebrating fall meant that first bite of apple. I wondered if they thought the kids today,
mesmerized by gimmicks, games and glitz might be missing something.
“Well, when we were little, we didn’t have anything even like this. It was just the apple cider and
the doughnut. So, now you have this wonderful place with the pumpkins and the train rides and the
skeletons and the doughnuts and all the fun things to bring the grandkids and the kids too. I think
it’s a lot more fun now and they appreciate it more. We do this as a family, so it’s being together
as a family.”
“Well I think its good for the kids who live in the city to get out and walk around and get some
fresh air out here in the country.”
“I mean with our grandchildren, I mean it’s just been beautiful. The atmosphere is nice and I mean
it’s just lovely. That’s all I can say.”
Well, okay, so, I guess the visitors to a place like this would be enthusiastic or they wouldn’t be
here, right? But, what about the owners? I mean, here they are, growing a good product, working
through the year to produce this fruit and they’ve had to resort to this circus to get people to come
in? What’s wrong with just selling apples?
I figured Michael Beck, one of the owners of this orchard would understand what I was asking
“Our return on fruit in the wholesale sector was horrendous and it’s still is horrendous for other
growers. So we wanted a way to actually profit from our fruit and selling retail, and doing fun
things for people at a farm was the best way to get that crop moved.”
LG: “Now, to a person, everyone I’ve asked thinks this is great and so much better than when they
were kids. But, I’m wondering, you know, for me, the apple was the big celebration. And a little
bit of cider, maybe if you’re really lucky a caramel apple. Do you think the kids today are so
wrapped up in the carnival aspect that they miss that kind of celebration of the harvest?”
“Well, I don’t know. We sure do sell a lot of cider and caramel apples and apples and I see a lot of
families taking home apple products. And, I think they still get the enjoyment of the good food plus
we offer that fun atmosphere.”
Alright, so he’s still selling apples, and he’s making a buck. That’s admirable considering the
competition of imported apples. But surely there’s someone who remembers the simpler days of
being happy just because of the taste of that crisp bite of apple. Somewhere.
I did find someone, finally. Tom Kilgore was standing, waiting for the return of the train. He sort
of had that look of someone who was, well, trying to be patient. You know, a parent or a
grandparent who was sacrificing a beautiful day to make someone else happy.
“People like fresh apples, so they’ll go to an orchard and get the fresh apples without this stuff.”
“So, you could take it or leave it?”
“I could leave it, yeah. I came because of the grandkids, so, that’s the only reason I’m here.”
Kilgore says back home he just goes to a quiet little orchard to buy his apples and maybe sip some
cider. But, you know, as I was strolling around the grounds reading the signs that directed RV
traffic – RVs! At an apple orchard. As I was looking around, it dawned on me. For most of the
people here, this was more about family than it was about fruit. Maybe the carnival atmosphere of
today’s apple orchard will be the precious memories of autumn for these kids when they’re my age.
For me, (sound of apple crunch), I’ll stick with that first bite of apple.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Wheels are turning both in young minds and innovative transportation. Both could
help revive the Rust Belt. (Photo by Max Eggeling)
The loss of traditional manufacturing jobs has hit Great Lakes states hard in recent years. But some business owners believe they are on the cusp of creating a new type of manufacturing base. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant spent some time in one community that’s discussing how new businesses can provide a foundation for the future:
The loss of traditional manufacturing jobs has hit Great Lakes states hard in recent
years. But some business owners believe they are on the cusp of creating a new type of
manufacturing base. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant spent some time in
one community that’s discussing how new businesses can provide a foundation for the
Not long ago, there were lots of good-paying factory jobs in northeast Ohio. But the state
has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the past four years. Some business people and
academics are trying to shape a new economy for the region. Their efforts could be
symbolized by a little bird…
“I need a Sparrow, I need it…”
A sparrow is an electrically charged three-wheel motorcycle that’s fully covered in steel.
It looks like a tear drop… or maybe a gym shoe. David Ackerman isn’t sure if he’d pick
one in bright orange…
“…but look, there it goes, look at it go! Is that the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen? I
love it! It’s like something out of “sleeper.” But it’s very sleek and cool and futuristic…
Does it really go 70? Yeah, it goes 70….”
While Ohio and other Midwestern states might have a tough time competing globally in
the steel market, some economists believe innovative transportation is one way Ohio
could build a foundation for a new economy. The state has put millions of dollars into
fuel cell research, Honda is building hybrid cars in central Ohio, and newer companies
are working to make auto engines cleaner and more efficient.
Some of those business owners gathered with people from the community to discuss how
transportation technology could be part of the region’s future. Bob Chalfant of a
company called Comsense spoke on the panel. He says the technology they’re
developing could have a huge impact…
“…the benefits to Cleveland are jobs. We figure the total market for pressure sensors for
combustion applications is about 2.2 billion dollars.”
Chalfant’s company expects to create 2,000 jobs in Cleveland. But if businesses like
Comsense are going to girder the area’s new economy, they’re going to need educated
employees for their high tech manufacturing jobs. The problem is, many young educated
folks are leaving the Midwest.
Meredith Matthews is a public school teacher in inner city Cleveland. She says they’re
trying to train students for these kinds of jobs, but they need direction from these new
“I teach in the third world known as the Cleveland Public Schools. I’m introducing
myself, so that if anybody needs kids, we got ’em. If you want to stop by and talk to me,
I’ll show you how to get kids, I’ll show you how to get in the door.”
Local universities and community colleges already have some research and training in
fuel cell technology. But mechanic Phil Lane looks at Cleveland’s poverty rate, the
highest among all big cities in the nation, and wants these companies to start training kids
“We need to grab kids in the second and third grade, particularly in the very bad
neighborhoods, before the neighborhood can get to the kid. That’s what we really need to
Lane says training poor children early would provide a real foundation for a new
economy in Cleveland. Many communities that have lost their job base are starting
similar conversations and searching for ways to fit in to the global marketplace.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.
Heavy cleanup crews from the Genesee County Land Bank use chain saws, wood chippers, tractors and brute force to move piles of debris on the lot of an abandoned house on the north side of Flint, Michigan. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
Up until three years ago, rundown homes and abandoned lots were multiplying in the city. With the creation of the Land Bank, some people believe the city's image is beginning to turn around for the better. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
A next door neighbor to the abandoned house visits the cleanup crew. She has had to bear the eyesore and health risk next door for several years. The Land Bank currently has custody of about 2,800 properties like this in and around Flint. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
One community is fighting its problems of abandoned lands and unpaid property taxes. Those problems have led to a decaying inner city and increased suburban sprawl. The new tool the community is using is called a “land bank.” It uses a unique approach to try to fix up properties that otherwise often would be left to deteriorate. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris McCarus reports:
One community is fighting its problems of abandoned lands and unpaid property taxes.
They’ve led to a decaying inner city and increased suburban sprawl. The new tool the
community is using is called a “land bank.” It uses a unique approach to try to fix up
properties that otherwise often would be left to deteriorate. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Chris McCarus reports:
(sound of work crews operating wood chipper)
Cleanup crews are sending downed branches through a wood chipper on a vacant lot.
They’re also removing tires, used diapers, car seats, sinks, old clothes and dead animal carcasses.
The workers are from the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Michigan. They’re trying to
make abandoned property useful again. Dan Kildee is the Genesee County Treasurer and the brains
behind the land bank. He thinks this new approach can recover unpaid property tax money and help
improve the Flint Metro area.
“The community gets to make a judgment on what we think we should do with this land. We get
to take a deep breath.”
Empty lots and rundown homes have been multiplying for a generation. That’s left the city of
Flint in a terrible economic state. But the land bank is beginning to change things.
Until just three years ago, Michigan was like most other states. No one had come up with
a solution. The state would auction off a city’s tax liens. Then conflict between the tax
lien buyer and the property owner could go on for up to seven years. In the meantime,
properties were left to neglect and often vandalized.
Under this new program, the treasurer’s office forecloses on a property and hands it over
to the land bank, which acts as the property manager. The land bank might then demolish
a house; it might throw out the owner and let a tenant buy it; or it might auction it off
to the highest bidder. A private investor can’t just buy a tax lien. He has to buy the
property along with it and take care of it.
The land bank is financed in two main ways: through fees on back taxes and through sales
of the few nicer homes or buildings the land bank acquires that bring in relatively big
profits. Treasurer Dan Kildee says it makes sense to take that revenue to fix up old
properties and sell them to people who deserve them.
“There is no system in the United States that pulls together these tools. Both the
ability to quickly assemble property into single ownership of the county, the tools
to manage it and the financing tools to develop that property.”
The land bank program hopes to change the perception of Flint. As thousands of abandoned
homes, stores and vacant lots become eyesores, people and their money go other places,
usually to build more sprawling suburbs. The perception that people are abandoning the
inner city then speeds up that abandonment. Many people who can afford to leave the city do.
And those who can’t afford to move are left behind.
According to data gathered by the research group Public Sector Consultants, Flint has the
state’s highest unemployment and crime rates and the lowest student test scores.
Art Potter is the land bank’s director. He thinks the downward spiral can be stopped.
When it is, those folks in the central city won’t have to suffer for still living there.
“Even though the City of Flint has lost 70,000 people in the last 30 years, the people who
are still here deserve to have a nice environment to live in. So our immediate goal is to
get control and to clean these properties now.”
Urban planning experts are watching the land bank approach. Michigan State
University’s Rex LaMore says Flint is typical of Midwestern cities whose manufacturing
base has shrunk. Private owners large and small have left unproductive property behind.
As the land bank steps in, LaMore says it’s likely to succeed and become an example that
other municipalities can follow.
“They can begin to maybe envision a city of the 21st century that will be different than
the cities of the 20th century or the 19th century that we see around the United States.
A city that reflects a more livable environment. So its an exciting opportunity. I think
we have the vision; the challenge is can we generate the resources? And the land bank model
does provide some opportunity to do that.”
But the land bank is meeting obstacles. For example, the new mayor of Flint who took over
in July canceled the city’s existing contracts. A conservative businessman, the mayor is
suspicious of the city’s past deals. They included one with the land bank to demolish 57
homes. This has slowed the land bank’s progress. Its officials are disappointed but they’re
still working with the mayor to get the money released.
(sound of kids chatting, then lawn mower starts up)
The weeds grow rampant in a neighborhood with broken up pavement and sometimes
no houses on an entire block. It’s open and in an odd way, peaceful. Like a
century-old farm. It’s as if the land has expelled the people who invaded with their bricks,
steel and concrete.
In the middle of all the vacant lots, Katherine Alymo sees possibilities.
“I’ve bought a number of properties in the auctions from the land bank and also got a side
lot acquisition from them for my house. My driveway wasn’t attached to my house when I
bought it. And it was this huge long process to try to get it from them. But they sold it
to me for a dollar. Finally.”
And since then, she’s hired people to fix the floors, paint walls and mow the lawns.
She’s also finding buyers for her properties who want to invest in the city as she has.
Together, they say they needed some help and the land bank is making that possible.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chris McCarus.
Midwest states and Canadian provinces are conducting public forums this fall on a plan to control large-scale water withdrawals from the Great Lakes Basin. The plan is known as Annex 2001. And as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports… it’s already proving to be controversial:
Midwest states and Canadian provinces are conducting public forums this
fall on a plan to control large-scale water withdrawals from the Great
Lakes Basin. The plan is known as Annex 2001. And as the Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports… it’s already proving to
The Great Lakes governors and Canadian provincial leaders have drafted
a plan setting standards for new water withdrawal requests. Thirsty
companies and communities outside the basin are expected to look at the
five lakes with increasing frequency. Environmental groups largely
like the proposal… though some want it made stronger.
But George Kuper of the Council of Great Lakes Industries says the plan
is too restrictive. At a regional hearing in Chicago, Kuper said
states and provinces that are competing to attract businesses could
block a diversion request.
“Regional review as now proposed would erode the ability of individual
governors and premiers to attract new jobs to their respective
jurisdictions. That’s a problem.”
In addition to the state meetings taking place, another regional
hearing is scheduled for September 20th in Toronto.
Many governments need to approve the Annex 2001 plan and the process is
expected to take a few years.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.
Superfast muscles help this bird sing. (Photo by Brian Peterson)
Scientists have come one step closer to understanding how birds create their songs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams explains:
Scientists have come one step closer to understanding how birds
create their songs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca
That’s a cooing ring dove. And this is a recording of special muscles
the dove’s using to control its song: (sound of muscle activity).
Those muscles are called aerobic superfast muscles. It’s a type of
muscle that has been found in rattlesnakes and some fish. The
muscles were just discovered in birds for the first time.
The research was published in the journal Nature. Coen
Elemans is the lead researcher. He says a unique quality of the dove’s
song led him to investigate it further.
“And we found that some of these doves have a trill in their song, they
make a sound something like (mimics dove song). And during this
short trill, you get elements that are so short, sometimes ten or nine
milliseconds, that I was wondering, how can this be done? This is so
fast that normal locomotory muscles you find in vertebrates cannot do the job.”
Elemans says this discovery could be just the beginning. He says
songbirds have more complex vocal systems than doves… so
songbirds could be using even faster muscles.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.
When "opportunities for wilderness" knock, will Congress answer? (Photo by Jake Levin)
The Bush Administration is recommending wilderness protection for a group of 21 islands in Lake Superior. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
The Bush Administration is recommending wilderness protection for a group of 21 islands
in Lake Superior. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports from
This is the first time Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson visited the Apostle Islands
National Lakeshore off the coast of Wisconsin. If Congress goes along with the
Administration’s recommendation, his next visit won’t see much change because much
of the park is already operating as a wilderness area. Manson says critics are wrong
when they say the Bush Administration isn’t protecting wilderness.
“Ultimately, it is up to the Congress to designate wilderness. There are a number of
wilderness proposals pending before the Congress that have been in limbo for a number
of years and Congress has failed to act on them.”
The proposal would keep 80% of the islands a wilderness area… with motorboat access
to the islands, but no motor vehicles allowed on the 21-island group. That’s not enough,
according to Sean Wherley. He’s with the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
He says it’s political grandstanding for a battleground state.
“The fact that now it’s lining up behind a non-controversial piece on the Apostles is
disingenuous and misleading at best. It’s very troubling because they have passed on
opportunities for wilderness across the country.”
So far this Congress hasn’t passed any wilderness designations. If that holds true, it will be
only the second Congress not to do that since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.
A new study indicates preschoolers are eating more fruits and veggies... but often, they're also consuming too many calories by drinking lots of juice. (Photo by Tommy Johansen)
Preschool kids are eating more fruits and vegetables than they were twenty years ago, according to a new study of preschoolers’ diets. But they’re also eating more calories and more sugar. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
Preschool kids are eating more fruits and vegetables than they were twenty years ago,
according to a new study of preschoolers’ diets. But they’re also eating more calories and
more sugar. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
Penn State University researcher Sibylle Kranz says years of public health messages about
the benefits of fruits and vegetables appear to have paid off. She says preschool children
are indeed eating significantly more fruits, vegetables and grains than they were in 1977
when her study began.
But they’re also eating about 200 more calories a day, and a lot of those calories are
coming in the form of juice. Kranz says health officials may need to tweak their message
so parents know just how much juice a day is okay for their two to five year olds.
“Children should not consume more than six ounces of fruit juice – and this is, we’re
talking about 100% fruit juice.”
Kranz says kids who drink more than six ounces of juice a day could run the risk of
becoming overweight. And she says the juice is probably replacing more nutritious foods
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.
Although a well-manicured lawn offers certain benefits... not everyone thinks it's worth the effort. (Photo by Ed Herrmann)
Some people still prefer a more natural look. (Photo by Ed
One of the great rituals in suburban America is mowing the lawn. A manicured lawn seems to say that the house is well cared for, that it belongs to the neighborhood. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Ed Herrmann wonders whether this obsession for the perfect lawn is worth the effort:
One of the great rituals in suburban America is mowing the lawn. A
manicured lawn seems to say that the house is well cared for, that it belongs
to the neighborhood. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Ed
Herrmann wonders whether this obsession with the perfect lawn is worth the
(sound of evening insects)
It’s a late summer evening and at last I can go outside and enjoy the
sounds of the neighborhood. There’s a little breeze, the air is cooler. The
chorus of insects is soothing, gentle but insistent, an ancient throbbing
resonance. Much better than during the day…
(roar of lawn machines)
Summer days in the suburbs are the time of assault, when people attack their
lawns with powerful weapons from the chemical and manufacturing
industries. Anyone who uses the words “quiet” and “suburbs” in the same
sentence has never been to a suburb, at least not in summer.
It takes a lot of noise to maintain a lawn. Besides the mower, you’ve got edgers, trimmers,
leaf blowers, weed whackers, core aerators, little tractors, big tractors, slitting
machines. I don’t know whatever happened to rakes and hand clippers. One
thing’s for sure. This quest for lawn perfection wouldn’t be possible without
the industrial revolution.
So where did we get the idea that a house should be surrounded by a field of
uniform grass kept at the same height?
Well, with apologies to the Queen, I’m afraid we must blame the British. It
seems that, along with our language, our imperial ambitions and our
ambivalent morals, America also gets its notion of what a lawn should look
like from the English. Of course, the estates of the English aristocracy were
tended by a staff of gardeners. England also has a milder climate, and the
grass that looks so nice there doesn’t do as well in North America. In the
1930’s the USDA came up with a blend of imported grasses that would
tolerate our climate. Since these grasses are not native, they need help, and
that calls for fertilizers, pesticides and lots of extra water. Since normal
people can’t afford gardeners who trim by hand, that means lawn machines.
American industry to the rescue.
(mower starts up, fades under next sentence)
A quick Google tells me that today we have 40 million lawn mowers in use.
Each emits 11 times the pollution of a new car, and lawn mowers contribute
five percent of the nation’s air pollution. Plus more than 70 million pounds of
pesticides are used each year and over half of our residential water is used
for landscaping. Don’t you love those automatic sprinklers that come on in the
rain? Add to that all the time that people spend mowing and edging. Of
course the two billion dollar lawn care industry is thrilled about all this
enthusiasm, but I gotta ask, “Is it worth it?”
Call me old fashioned, but I actually prefer the looks of a meadow with mixed
wildflowers and grasses to the lawn that looks like a pool table. My own lawn
is somewhere between. It’s mowed, but it’s what you might call multicultural.
There are at least five different kinds of grass with different colors and
thicknesses, plus clover, dandelions, mushrooms, a few pinecones, and a
rabbit hole or two. There’s also some kind of nasty weed with thorns, but even
that has nice purple flowers if it gets big enough.
Clover, by the way, used to be added to grass seed because it adds nitrogen to
the soil. Now we just buy a bag of nitrogen fertilizer, so who needs clover?
And what’s wrong with
dandelions? You can eat them, some people even make wine out of them,
they have happy yellow flowers; yet to most people they indicate your yard is
out of control. So I’m down on my hands and knees pulling dandelions. I’m
not sure why, but I hope it keeps the neighbors happy.
One thing I won’t give in to, though, is the chemical spraying trucks, painted
green of course, that roll through the neighborhood.
I can only hold my breath. (sound of trucks and mowers) Try not to listen. And
wait for the evening. (evening insects)
(air conditioner starts up)
Although, with all these air conditioners, even the night’s not too quiet.
But that’s another story.
Host tag: “Ed Herrmann is an outdoor enthusiast living in the
suburbs of Detroit.”
A Conesville, OH smokestack. The Cuyahoga Valley Initiative has found a way to turn potential pollutants into money. (Photo by Kenn Kiser)
The Rust Belt regions of the United States are looking at new ways to make industrial prosperity and environmental recovery work hand-in-hand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports on an effort that could be a model for industrial areas throughout the nation:
The Rust Belt regions of the United States are looking at new ways to make industrial
prosperity and environmental recovery work hand-in-hand. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports on an effort that could be a model for industrial
areas throughout the nation:
(sound of birds)
This area of Cleveland near the Cuyahoga River is where John D. Rockefeller first set up
his Standard Oil empire. The Cuyahoga is infamous for being the river that caught fire in
1969 and it became a symbol of the nation’s pollution problem.
Cleveland businesses and industries still live with that legacy. But through a new effort
called the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative, they’re trying to overcome it – although on the
surface it doesn’t look like there’s much happening.
Today, smoke stacks from steel plants still tower above head … below, like a jumble of
twisted licorice sticks, railroad tracks run through the meadows alongside the Cuyahoga.
Silos and old brick buildings line the banks of the river.
For Paul Alsenas, it’s an amazing place — not so much for what it has now, but for what it
can become. Alsensas is the director of planning for Cuyahoga County, the lead
organizer of the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative. The idea of the initiative is not to abandon
industry, he says, but to incorporate environmental and social principals into industry,
which could attract new businesses.
One of the more progressive aspects of the Initiative is something called “industrial
symbiosis.” Alsenas says industrial symbiosis works like natural ecology…
“An ecology of industry where nutrients flow from one form of life to another and make
it tremendously efficient and so therefore we have a competitive advantage. The
Cuyahoga Valley Initiative is not just about sustainability; it’s also whole systems
thinking, it’s also competitive strategy.”
Here’s how it works: waste from one company—a chemical by-product perhaps—is
used by a neighboring company to create its product. And that company’s product is then
sold to another company within the valley—and so on.
Alsenas says it’s already started: some companies located in the Cuyahoga Valley have
been sniffing out opportunities for sharing resources before anyone heard of the
Cuyahoga Valley Initiative. Joe Turgeon, CEO and co-owner of Zaclon, a chemical
manufacturer in the valley, says the Initiative sped things up.
“We pull all the members together and say, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got, this is what you’ve
got; here are some of the materials I need, here are some of the assets I have.’ And an
asset can be anything from a truck scale to a rail siding to by-product energy to
Zaclon and its neighbor General Environmental Management have already begun their
symbiotic relationship. GEM now buys a Zaclon by-product, sulfuric acid, and in turn
Zaclon purchases a GEM byproduct. GEM president Eric Loftquist says the benefits go
beyond simply saving his company money.
“You know, we do business all over the country… but when you look around you see that
for every dollar you keep in this county, that generates taxes, generates jobs and the
benefits just keep rolling down. So you always want to look within.”
Loftquist says the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative encourages that effort. He says it’s
remarkable that it’s all coming together at the right time and with the right stakeholders.
It brings businesses together with government and area non-profits—including some
environmental groups—in a way not thought possible by industry and environmentalists
in the past.
Catherine Greener is with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit think tank that
studied the Cuyahoga Valley and is helping to get the initiative off the ground. She says
this area of the river—known as the regenerative zone could put Cleveland on the world’s
radar as a new business model.
“Cleveland has been known for being one of the seats of the industrial revolution and
what we’re seeing is a new industrial model that can emerge. How can you create
manufacturing jobs, industry jobs without jeopardizing the health and welfare of all the
people involved and also, to overuse a word, to ‘green’ the area around it?”
Greener says industrial symbiosis is a workable, practical solution because it makes
business sense… not just environmental sense…
“Sometimes I think about it as finding money in your pocket after you’ve washed your
pants. It’s always a bonus and you’ve always had it. And the resources that you have
here you’re just reinvesting in them and finding them and looking at them differently.”
The participants agree that “industrial symbiosis” won’t solve all the waste problems, but
it’s one part of a movement that’s making industrial cities re-think their relationship with
business and the environment.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Shula Neuman.