The Sierra Club is suing the U.S. Forest Service to block logging of aspen in national forests in three Great Lakes states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
The Sierra Club is suing the U.S. Forest Service to block logging of aspen on national forests in three Great Lakes states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports.
The lawsuit asks a federal court to force the Forest Service to stop cutting aspen on its land in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The Sierra Club’s Anne Woiwode says the Forest Service favors aspen production at the expense of a healthy forest, and a healthy economy.
“When they choose to keep aspen at very high levels, they choose not to bring back forests that may be of greater economic value, may actually produce many more jobs than aspen does for the amount of wood produced.”
Woiwode says clear cutting aspen prevents white pine and hardwood forests from growing back.
The Forest Service says it manages forests for a variety of types and ages of trees, and doesn’t try to encourage aspen where it would not grow naturally.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill in Duluth.
Enter the keyword “sustainability” into any Internet search and dozens of web pages instantly appear – filled with words used to describe the ambiguous theory. Conservation, egalitarianism, and biodiversity to name just a few. But what does the environmental buzzword really mean? The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak was at a recent forum on sustainability in search of a definition, and she spoke with some of the world’s leading ecologists:
Enter the keyword “sustainability” into any Internet search and dozens of web pages instantly appear – filled with words used to describe the ambiguous theory. Conservation, egalitarianism, and biodiversity to name just a few. But what does the environmental buzzword really mean? The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak was at a recent forum on sustainability in search of a definition. And she spoke with some of the world’s leading ecologists.
The impressive line-up of speakers included such notables as Jane Goodall, David Suzuki and Paul Hawken, people who certainly need no introduction with environmentalists, and for good reason. These three experts on ecology have more than a century of combined experience. Yet, when asked to define the subject they were invited to talk about – sustainability – their responses were well…less than definitive.
Paul Hawken is a best-selling author on corporate environmental reform, who isn’t usually uncertain with words -especially crucial words about the environment. But Hawken was quick to admit there are simply too many ways to describe sustainability. And, he says even the most commonly used definition falls short.
“As you can tell from my reciting of it, it’s not a definition I warm to at all – because it’s not a definition you wake up in the morning and say, ‘uh, man, I’m so happy to be alive, and what I’m going to do today, is to meet the needs of the current generation in a way that doesn’t compromise future generations. It’s so flat, and non-dynamic.”
Hawken says that sustainability, by its very nature, is a multi-dimensional concept. Which resources get used, and how much, from where, to produce what goods and services, for which people, and then what to do with the waste – and how do we fix what we’ve already ruined? Hawken says the answers to these tough questions require a broad understanding. And he says, in an increasingly more specialized world that makes a clear definition much more difficult to nail down.
“Most of us have been, or are educated, in schools that ask us to specialize and to really focus on one area of knowledge. Sustainability really cuts across all denims – from not just economy and ecology, but biology, sociology, psychology, forestry, geology, chemistry, physics…In a sense to really be conversant in sustainability you have to have a working knowledge of a lot of different subjects.”
Milling about the convention floor we find David Sukuzi, perhaps the most conversant proponent of sustainability. The award winning geneticist and broadcaster stops occasionally, chatting casually about bio diversity, reductionism, or maybe genetic polymorphism. But then, Suzuki is well known for easily making such complex science understandable. So, how does Suzuki define sustainability?
“I don’t know what sustainability means. We’ve changed the world so much that we can’t rely on nature’s abundance and productivity. We’ve already added thirty percent more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than existed two hundred years ago. We have no idea what that’s going to do. So, we don’t know what is going to compromise or not compromise. We know that we are trashing the natural world on which we ultimately depend.”
Any hope for a definition would seem to be lost. As would be any hope for sustainability itself. But Suzuki says, although there are big question marks, sustainability is the only option.
“We’ve got to pull back. We’ve got to protect as much wild nature as we can where it exists – and keep our fingers crossed.”
Jane Goodall is known for her monumental faith in nature. Forty years of research has earned her a reputation for an unfaltering commitment to social and environmental causes. Goodall admits that as the indigenous peoples of the world have vanished, so too, she says, has the true definition of sustainability – “to make only what is needed to sustain life.” But Goodall says we must not give up on that principle.
“That’s very dangerous for us, if we’re thinking about a sustainable world and a world that will be there for our grandchildren. We mustn’t let up. We must continue to work for the things, which we think, are important. If we have the ability to influence some little area of the community and the environment around us, then that is what we must do.”
And all the experts agree. They say that “urgency” is now the most important word in any definition of sustainability. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak.
Landscape Manager Jeff Culbertson sprays a Scots pine with thief repellant containing fox urine. The smell isn't too noticeable outdoors... but when a thief drags a conifer indoors, the repellant heats up and makes for a memorable Christmas. Photo by Nanci Ann McIntosh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Evergreen trees grace forests, campuses, and lawns around the region. Much to the dismay of landscapers and gardeners, some of those trees disappear this time of year, stolen by someone who may not quite get the idea of Christmas cheer. But some universities have found a way to fight tree rustlers. It involves a foul-smelling concoction that makes thieves regret taking a tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has the recipe for this nasty, yet effective repellant:
Evergreen trees grace forests, campuses, and lawns around the region. And much to the dismay of landscapers and gardeners, some of those trees disappear this time of year, stolen by someone who may not quite get the idea of Christmas cheer. But some universities have found a way to fight tree-rustlers. It involves a foul-smelling concoction that makes thieves regret taking a tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has the recipe for this nasty, yet effective repellant:
About fifteen years ago, landscape managers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had a big problem. Tree thieves were cutting down the best conifers on campus. And the landscapers were getting calls from local residents, whose trees were also disappearing. Dennis Adams is a forester at the University of Nebraska.
“It’d be, you know, trees that have good Christmas tree form, so blue spruce, concolor fir, some of the pines – white pine, scotch pine.”
Some thieves were easy to track. Jeff Culbertson is a landscape manager at the university. He says students were stealing trees during Thanksgiving break… and they weren’t always perfect criminals…
“We’ve had instances where the students, I guess didn’t do a good job or didn’t think anybody cared, but you could find the dragged marks of the tree through the snow to their fraternity or dormitory or something like that so in those cases I think it was pretty easy for them to figure out where the tree went.”
Campus trees are worth hundreds of dollars, so the university was eager to find a solution. Dennis Adams discovered a solution… literally. He found the recipe in an old magazine… 1 part glycerine, 10 parts water, and 2 parts… fox urine.
Jeff Culbertson says the fox urine makes Christmas tree thieves think twice…
“It doesn’t really smell like skunk. Maybe like an extremely strong cat urine sort of smell. Or dog, something that’s very concentrated. But you know normally you’re not going to smell that. So it’s pretty pungent.”
Culbertson says since the University of Nebraska began spraying conifers in the 80s, they haven’t lost many trees. He sprays 50 to 100 Christmas-tree size evergreens each year. He used to wear a plastic spray suit, but now he just keeps the wind at his back.
“When I do the fox urine, I don’t have many volunteers that want to help me with that. So I take on upon myself to do it. They mostly stand away from me, and they probably don’t talk to me too much that day either.”
Culbertson says there is one problem with this technique… when it’s cold out, you don’t notice the smell. So he started adding a dye… he sprays blue or red stripes on the trees where he sprays the fox urine. He says it makes the trees that much less attractive, and serves as a warning. And each year, the university lets the local papers know they’re spraying fox urine again.
But if a thief still chops down a tree and drags it into his house … Culbertson says he won’t likely do it again.
“It would be a smell that you’d have a hard time getting rid of.”
Culbertson recommends the method to anyone with a lot of trees to protect. He says the repellant is pretty affordable, and normally wears off after the Christmas season. Most of the supplies, sometimes even fox urine, can be bought at a garden store.
“I use a small, 3 gallon bottle sprayer, typical sort of garden sprayer people would purchase at the hardware store, garden center… And I try to use hot water. The glycerin is very syrupy kind of like corn syrup. So it helps to loosen it up, heat it up and make it less thick. I mix it up, take it out, and just spray the trees by hand.”
Both Jeff Culbertson and Dennis Adams think thieves are just looking for a cheap tree. But Adams still finds the thefts a little unbelievable.
“I think people have to be pretty desperate to steal a tree for Christmas. That seems like it’s kind of in the anti-Christmas spirit to steal.” (Laughs)
Other campus managers, meanwhile…have cooked up their own people repellant. The University of Idaho adds a few ounces of skunk scent. It makes their mix even more memorable.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.
A Great Lakes state is reporting positive results from a program designed to keep a major cause of water pollution out of water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
A Great Lakes State is reporting positive results from a program designed to keep a major cause of water pollution out of water supplies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
Each fall, many farmers apply nitrogen-based fertilizers to their fields. If the chemicals are used when it is still warm, they can convert into nitrates that can contaminate rivers, lakes, and water supplies. The Illinois Farm Bureau launched an educational campaign this year to teach farmers when to apply such fertilizers to keep pollutants out of the water. Bob Hoeft is an agronomist with the University of Illinois. He says the program made a real difference with farmers:
“They either didn’t know or hadn’t really thought about the potential for this loss to occur. We’ve had this information out there for a long time, but obviously didn’t reach as many people as we did this year.”
Hoeft says statewide, there was only one report of early application of nitrogen fertilizers. He says other states have already contacted him to find out more about Illinois’ campaign. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
Canadians are looking at new measures to ban the export of water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:
Canadians are looking at new measures to ban the export of water. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
If it’s passed, legislation in Quebec would prevent the export of water from that province. In a report in the newspaper Le Journal de Quebec, the Environment Minister noted that the North American Free Trade Agreement already bans shipment of water by tank, but since the term “tank” is not defined in NAFTA, the Minister feels Quebec should define clear policy. Under the measure, Quebec would still allow the sale of water bottled in containers of less than 20 liters, about the size of a water cooler jug. It would not allow any large vessels or trucks to carry water away and would also ban piping the water out of the province. Canada has been especially sensitive to water issues since President George Bush suggested earlier this year Great Lakes water could be shipped to more arid parts of the U.S. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Long-term climate projections predict conditions will be to at least temporarily stop the decline in Great Lakes water levels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie are all at their lowest levels in 35 years. But, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -or NOAA– say its climate outlooks for this winter indicate there’ll be a normal amount of precipitation and well below normal temperatures. Cold weather means more ice cover on the lakes, and that prevents some evaporation. Cynthia Sellinger is a hydrologist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.
“So NOAA’s forecast, saying that we’ll have below normal temperatures means that we may have a decent ice cover and we may not have winter evaporation. So, if that happens and if we get a decent snow pack, we may not decline anymore.”
But, the experts say it’s still too early to say whether climate will change enough to reverse the lower water level trend on the Great Lakes. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Scientists who monitor pollutants in rain and snow in the U.S. are offering their monitoring network to be used in the event of a wide scale bioterrorist attack. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein has more:
Scientists who monitor pollutants in rain and snow in the U.S. and Great Lakes are offering their monitoring network to be used in the event of a wide scale bioterrorist attack. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein has more.
The National Atmospheric Deposition Program is best known for its early detection of acid rain in the 1970s. It has a network of over 200 sites that measure chemicals like sulfur dioxides and mercury in precipitation. But coordinator Van Bowersox says the network could also be used in the case of an environmental emergency to trace things like anthrax spore.
“To help track perhaps the source of the material or perhaps just how wide dispersed the material may be. So this would be, for example, for a widespread release of a bioterrorism agent over a broad area.”
Bowersox says the samples of such agents would be sent to a special laboratory for analysis.
The idea wouldn’t be an unprecedented use for the network. The NADP surveyed the nation’s atmosphere for nucleotides following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It also measured the amount of particles in the air after the eruption of Mount St. Helens.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
A test well being dug in preparation for the construction of the Ice Mountain bottling plant. Perrier hopes to have the plant up and running by next spring. Photo by Patrick Owen/MLUI.
Is Great Lakes water for sale? That’s the issue on the table in Michigan right now, where the Perrier Group of America has begun construction on a 100 million dollar water bottling operation. Last year, government officials in Wisconsin rejected a similar proposal from Perrier. The Michigan plan has sparked local opposition and more. The start of the plant’s construction has given birth to concerns about whether groundwater in Great Lakes states should be considered part of the Great Lakes water basin. And if it is, some question whether it should be for sale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell reports:
Is Great Lakes water for sale? That’s the issue on the table in Michigan right now, where the Perrier Group of America has begun construction on a 100 million dollar water bottling operation. Last year, government officials in Wisconsin rejected a similar proposal from Perrier. The Michigan plan has sparked local opposition and more. The start of the plant’s construction has given birth to concerns about whether groundwater in Great Lakes states should be considered part of the Great Lakes water basin. And if it is, some question whether it should be for sale. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell reports.
Eight Mile Road in rural Mecosta County, Michigan is one of the area’s busier roads, one of the few ways to get to the interstate. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland. And at its peak, you can see the Little Muskegon River Valley as it stretches for miles across this point where Michigan becomes Northern Michigan.
(sound of construction)
When Perrier Group Project Manager Brendan O’Rourke saw this stretch of Eight Mile Road, he knew that it would be the perfect place for Perrier’s new Ice Mountain spring water bottling operation.
“Clearly, it’s a beautiful place to live and work, it has abundant natural spring water, the highway system allows for easy access to the marketplace, there’s an available work force and there’s high quality spring water.”
But local resident Terry Swier rarely uses Eight Mile Road anymore. She says it upsets her too much to see the walls of the Perrier plant rising out of what was once a cornfield. Swier is president of the group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, a group that formed out of citizen opposition to the plant. Since December, Swier says her group has attracted more than 12-hundred local residents. Most of them are concerned about how local streams, rivers and lakes will be affected by an operation that plans to pump more than 700-thousand gallons of water a day from the ground. But despite her efforts to stop the plant’s construction, work has continued and the plant should be ready to begin operation next Spring.
“It’s just very frustrating how they have the arrogance to say that ‘we can proceed.’ It’s like not even paying attention to the people who are here in the area.”
Perrier officials insist the company has made every effort to listen to local residents and address their concerns. They say they’ve done studies that show the environmental impact will be minimal. And they say the extra 600-thousand dollars a year in tax revenue the plant will generate will go a long way in Mecosta County. Local government officials agree. But Mecosta Township Supervisor John Boyd says he’s more excited by the possibility that Perrier may bring up to 200 new jobs to the area.
“I’ve been to meetings and they say ‘Well, what’s the tax base, what’d you gain on the tax base?’ and I say ‘Hell, I ain’t even looked at it’, because basically, we’re looking for good jobs that sustain people, that will let our kids stay here, stay in the community, and last, we’re looking for a business that will be here tomorrow when we’re gone.”
But construction of the plant and local opposition to it are only the starting points for an issue that has reached far beyond the farmlands of Mecosta County. That’s because the natural springs that lie beneath the ground there feed into the Little Muskegon River, which in turn, feeds into Lake Michigan. Of primary concern to critics is a federal law that requires the approval of all eight Great Lakes governors for any water diversion from the Great Lakes basin. In September, Michigan’s attorney general concluded that the groundwater in Mecosta County should indeed be considered Great Lakes water, and its sale should be approved by the governors. Michigan’s Governor John Engler, though, disagrees on both points and has even offered Perrier nearly ten million dollars in tax breaks. That’s something that frustrates Keith Schneider, of the Michigan Land Use Institute.
“If states are approving diversions of Great Lakes water, they need to consult each other. And the reason they need to consult each other is because we sit on the largest source of fresh water on the planet and this resource is getting ever more valuable. I mean we’re essentially the Saudi Arabia of water here.”
If it’s proven nothing else, the controversy over the Perrier plant has exposed the lack of solid, enforceable groundwater policy throughout the Great Lakes. But in Michigan, that may be changing. In the state capitol of Lansing, various legislative and environmental groups have already begun to unveil their own water control packages—they include everything from the abolishment of tax breaks for companies that bottle water to mandatory assurances that local water quality won’t be sacrificed by those companies. And some groups are calling for a law that would require companies that sell water to pay royalties in the same way that oil and gas companies do now. If it’s ever passed, such a royalty would put a definitive value on water as a natural resource. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Matt Shafer Powell in Mecosta County, Michigan.
In times of crisis and sadness, many people find solace in America's wild places (above: Lake Superior coastline). Photo courtesy of Dave Hansen.
It’s been three months since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Many people find they’re still trying to come to terms with their feelings about the attacks. Some people, though, have found solace in a walk through nature. For them, wild places have become a respite from the chaos of emotions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
It’s been three months since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. Many people find they’re still trying to come to terms with their feelings about the attacks. For some though, they’ve found solace in a walk through nature. For them wild places have become a respite from the chaos of emotions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The September 11th attacks left many people bewildered. How could it happen? Why did so many people have to die? People question their own safety. They worry about the safety of their family and their friends, the disturbing images of the planes crashing, the buildings collapsing, and the threats of bio-terrorism since then. They’re all hard to comprehend. The terrorism has been such a shock, that some people found they need space to think, to try to wrap their heads around what had happened.
Often that space, it turns out, is green. In New York, almost immediately after the attacks, many people found themselves drawn to the Gateway National Recreation Area not far from Manhattan where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had stood. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton says people went there, searching for a break from the intensity of the events.
“After the attacks, the number of people flocking to Gateway skyrocketed. Park employees say visitors told them that they wanted a place to get away from the television, to be alone, and even to cry.”
People around the nation did much the same thing. Many other parks have been reporting higher numbers of visitors. Park staff say people tell them they feel drawn to the peaceful settings; Many of them heading into nature just to escape the scenes repeated over and over again on television.
Richard Nelson is a writer in Alaska. He says he’s not surprised people are returning to parks and places outdoors. In the days following September 11th, he wrote an article for Orion-on-line-dot-org about his own need to go to nature. In it, he wrote the only way he had found release from “the almost unbearable weight of grief and fear is to take myself out into the wild places, where I can find the embrace of peace, where I can see that the world goes on as always.” Nelson says when the human world looks ugly, nature has a way of reminding people that there’s still beauty.
“I can’t do away with that grief I feel about the enormous losses of September 11th. I can’t eliminate that from myself. But, I can balance it against this great bright sanity of the earth itself. This is why I think we need these wild places, why they are so vital for us is because it’s where we find balance.”
For some people the balance means finding deeper meaning in nature, reveling in the survival of an old tree that’s been around longer than the memories of past horrors, but still stands unbowed, or discovering a tiny flower that’s bloomed despite a hard freeze and winter’s onslaught.
Of course, finding that respite in nature is not unique to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Long before the attacks, writer Wendell Berry wrote a poem entitled “The Peace of Wild Things.” In it he expresses that comfort that many people recently have found again.
“When despair in the world grows for me
And I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”
To a psychologist, finding this freedom in places that seem constant and reliable is a perfectly natural reaction. Shannon Lynch is a clinical psychologist at Western Illinois University. She says while some people might be drawn to other people for comfort and understanding…others will be drawn to green spaces for reassurance.
“When you choose to go and be outside or you choose to go somewhere so you can feel ‘real,’ I’d say you’re coping. You’re reminding yourself that even in this time, there are places that you can feel safe, that you can feel connected, that you can be in green space to feel at peace. We might go out and be in green space to remind ourselves that we’re good adventurers and we get through tough times, that we’re survivors. There are lots of reasons. This idea that you’re real, that your surroundings are real and that they’re predictable. That you’re going to go on a hike and you can know what’s going to happen there.”
It can give people the right atmosphere and the time to help them deal with the feelings and the emotions that might have disturbed them since the attacks.
For writer Richard Nelson, the constant rhythm of nature helps remind him that not everything in life has been marred by mankind’s violence.
“Wild places are where I find my peace and solace and relief from the sort of pressures and the darkness of the news. It seems to me whenever I go to someplace wild I’m able to absorb myself in positive and beautiful things. When I go out to the meadows or to the seacoast or to the meadows somewhere. I. I don’t know, it just…everything else seems to fade into some kind of irrelevance. And, I feel as if my damaged soul gets healed when I’m out there.”
Nelson stresses that he’s not saying a walk in the park will solve the world’s problems or your own feelings about them. But, he says, the nature found there might just be enough of a reminder that life endures, for many people to find a way to rekindle their hope for mankind. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.