The Great Lakes region has been invaded by another non-native species. But this one may be more beneficial than it is a nuisance. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports on the Asian ladybird beetle:
The Great Lakes region has been invaded by another non-native species. But this one may be more beneficial than it is a nuisance. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports on the Asian ladybird beetle.
They’re everywhere, it seems: landing on us and pacing up and down the windows of our homes. The ladybug look-alikes were first introduced in the South. And they’ve since moved north. Tom Ellis is an entomologist at Michigan State University.
“All throughout the year they’ve been doing good things. They’ve been feeding on insects that suck plant juices and damage plants, especially plants of agricultural interest, and during the fall they migrate into areas where’re they’re looking for cavities to hibernate in, and as people see, they do this in large numbers.”
The bugs main prey is aphids and last year’s healthy aphid population means a lot of beetles too. The beetles are probably here to stay and there may be even more of them next year. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.
Two animal rights activists who recently shot footage of chickens at two of Ohio’s largest egg farms are not getting what they bargained for. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jo Ingles has more:
Two animal rights activists who recently shot footage of chickens at two of Ohio’s largest egg farms are not getting what they bargained for. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jo Ingles reports.
(sound of chickens)
These chickens are shown in cramped cages….often featherless from abuse…in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The activists say they had hoped the sight of this would spark an all out investigation into the way the farms treat their livestock. But it’s done something else. The head of the Ohio Livestock Coalition wants to know why the activists were able to trespass onto the farms to get this footage….especially these days when food security is a major concern.
“It’s an example of how a bio terrorist might try to introduce something to the livestock.”
Dave White is backing a plan that the Ohio senate has already approved. It increases penalties for trespassing onto and vandalizing farms. The bill is expected to pass the Ohio house the first of next year. Meanwhile, the activists are trying to get lawmakers to take an equal interest in the well being of the hens at Ohio’s major egg farms.
The Canadian Parliament has voted down a bill that would have required labeling for genetically modified foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
The Canadian Parliament has voted down a bill that would have required labelling for genetically modified foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly
The proposal called for labeling food when at least one percent of its ingredients have been genetically modified. Opinion polls have indicated that a large majority of
Canadians support the labeling. But farmers and food industry lobbyists fought the
bill. Holly Penfound of Greenpeace Canada is disappointed
with the defeat. But she says her group will now focus on convincing
companies to label voluntarily.
“We’re going to see more and more companies just gradually realize that they can be leaders in this or they can be followers and the ones who are going to be leaders are going to be in the best economic position in their marketplace.”
Several bills related to genetically modified foods have been introduced in the U.S. but mandatory labeling has yet to come to a vote. For The Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Researchers from five universities will study the effects pollutants have had on children in immigrant communities. The study is the main focus of a new children’s environmental health center. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Rogers has more:
Researchers from five universities will study the effects two pollutants have had on children in immigrant communities. The
study is the main focus of a new children’s environmental health center. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Rogers reports.
Experts have long worried about PCB and mercury levels in fish caught in the Fox River, around Appleton and Green Bay, Wisconsin. The fish is a staple for Laotian and Hmong refugees in the area.
University of Illinois veterinary biologist Susan Schantz will head up a new project that will go beyond studying the health effects.
“We will also be working with the families to try to reduce exposure to the contaminants, be using educational tools to inform them about where it’s safe to fish, what types of fish are safe to eat, and even how they can prepare the fish when they’re cooking it to reduce their exposure to the chemicals in the fish.”
The Friends Environmental Health Center is one of four new children’s health research centers to be funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Not too long ago, the fall harvest season was celebrated for its bounty of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the globalization of our food system, we can now buy fresh produce 365 days of the year. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says the end result is that most of us have no idea where our food actually comes from:
Not too long ago, the fall harvest season was celebrated for its
bounty of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the
globalization of our food system we can now buy fresh produce 365
days of the year. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne
Elston says the end result is that most of us have no idea where our
food actually comes from.
As a kid I grew up near the Okanagan Valley near Canada’s west coast.
The area was famous for its fruit trees. During harvest time, my
parents would stop at a roadside stand and buy a basket of cherries
and put then in the back seat for my sister and I to entertain
ourselves with. The first thing we’d do is look for double hung
cherries to hang over our ears like drop earrings. Then we’d bite one
of the cherries and use the sweet juice to paint our lips and cheeks.
We’d throw back our heads and do our very best Marilyn Monroe
impression before diving into the remaining fruit. We’d fill our
mouths to the point of bursting, and then spit the pits at each
other, giggling and laughing in a fit of harvest bliss.
This delicious ritual remains carefully etched in my mind because
it’s so rare today. My kids can eat fresh fruits and vegetables from
around the world on virtually any day of the year. They’ve already
tasted things that I didn’t even know existed when I was a kid –
kiwis from New Zealand, exotic star fruits and Jamaican plantain for
On the surface, this seems like a good thing. Thanks to international
trade and modern storage technologies, we are no longer restricted by
local growing seasons and soil conditions. But in having so much,
we’ve actually lost sight of the process of growing food. Most of us
are about three generations away from having to go to the henhouse to
pick up the eggs on the family farm. And if our ancestors didn’t
actually grow their own food, they purchased it from a neighbor who
Today instead of going out in the back garden and picking a tomato
for dinner, the tomato that ends up on your supper plate may have
traveled thousands of miles by truck. It’s then delivered to a
distribution center, shipped by yet another vehicle to your local
supermarket, and then given a ride home in the back of the family
van. This idea of being removed from our food source is something
Distancing not only adds to the cost of food, but it also places a
heavy toll on the environment. Trucking fresh produce across vast
distances burns a whole lot of fossil fuel – a major contributor to
both global warming and smog. Some of the countries that we import
produce from don’t have the same strict guidelines that we do about
pesticides. The result is that along with fruits and vegetables, in
some cases we’re also importing chemicals such as DDT that we banned
And then there’s the produce itself. Although it’s technically fresh,
it has to be picked long before it’s ripe in order to survive the
journey. Then it spends several days – or perhaps even weeks – before
it shows up on store shelves. Sure it looks great, but for those of
us who have experienced the taste of freshly picked fruit, it’s not
even in the same ballpark.
Which is perhaps why cherry is now my least favorite flavor. It’s so
far removed from the delicious cherries of my childhood, that I’d
rather not taste it.
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But, at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Since the attacks, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, has been traveling the country, assuring groups that water supplies are safe from terrorism. Speaking recently to a group of journalists, Whitman explained that security at water utilities has been increased and that water is now tested more frequently. And she said that given the size of most reservoirs, it would take a very large amount of any chemical or biological contaminant before any such attack would have an effect.
“It would be extremely difficult for someone to perform this kind of act, taking a truckload –and that’s what it would be, a tanker truckload– up to a reservoir and dumping it in, given the heightened security we have today. And that’s a security that’s not just being provided by the water companies, which it is, but it’s also citizen heightened security, believe me. People are calling in all the time when they see things that they think they shouldn’t be seeing near water supply systems.”
But, Whitman’s view is not shared by a number of experts in the field of terrorism prevention. Jim Snyder is a professor at the University of Michigan. He was a member of a team of experts that worked with the Defense Department to determine possible threats against public water supplies.
“There are a number of contaminants, several bio-toxins and a large number of chemicals that are more or less readily available that could be put into, let’s say, a ten-million gallon reservoir which could in amounts something between a backpack and a pickup truck could achieve a lethal dose of 50-percent. That is, 50-percent of the people who drank one cup would die.”
And Snyder adds, water contamination wouldn’t have to be lethal, just contaminated enough that it caused panic and made the water unusable. Snyder also points out that the tests that production chemists run on water would not detect the kind of contaminants terrorists would use. The first clue something was wrong would be sick or dead people.
EPA Administrator Whitman concedes that there are some contaminants that would not be filtered out or killed by disinfectants used in water treatment. but she says water systems across the U-S are prepared for most kinds of attacks.
“The vast majority of contaminants about which we’re worried, we know how to treat. We know what steps to take. And those where we’re not sure of what we need to do, we’re working with the CDC to develop a protocol to respond. And we’re sharing that information as we get it with the water companies to make sure even those small ones know what to look for and how to treat it if they find it.”
Besides the Center for Disease Control, the EPA is working with the FBI and the water utilities to prepare for the worst, while telling the public that there’s little to worry about. The EPA could have helped those water systems prepare earlier. The terrorism prevention team Jim Snyder sat on drafted a manual for water system operators, outlining security measures that could be taken. The EPA buried that manual in part because the agency didn’t want to unnecessarily alarm the public.
The water utility industry is working with the EPA to try to calm any fears the consumers might have. The American Water Works Association has held joint news conferences with Administrator Whitman, echoing the statement that poisons would be diluted or that it would take a tanker of contaminants to cause a problem. Pam Krider is a spokesperson for the American Water Works Association.
“When you get into a specific discussion about types of chemicals or quantities of chemicals, whether it’s a backpack or whether it’s a tanker, I mean, those are not as useful as discussing what are the processes that a utility has in place for monitoring what is and is not in its water, ensuring that they can provide safe, clean drinking water to the consumers within their city.”
So, the American Water Works Association is encouraging water utilities to step up testing water and quietly meet with emergency planners to prepare for the worst..
“What we have been discussing is the need for every utility to work very closely with local officials, to have a crisis preparedness and response plan in place, to have back-up systems in place, and most important, to engage their local community in keeping an eye out on the different reservoirs, storage tanks and treatment facilities and reporting any kind of suspicious activity that they might see both to the utility as well as to the police department.”
Water terrorism prevention expert Jim Snyder says simple things such as locking gates and posting security guards go a long way to discourage would-be terrorists from attacking a water treatment plant, storage tanks, wells or a reservoir. However, he notes. there’s little that can be done to stop a determined terrorist from contaminating a public water supply. And it seems that’s a message the EPA and the water utilities don’t want to talk about because it might worry the public.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
New construction continues to spread into the countryside.
A new study looks at the quality of life in these suburban
People who move to the suburbs often say they’re escaping the stress of the city. But researchers are finding the suburbs cause a lot of stress for residents too, and the difference doesn’t seem to be as much about where you live as it is about how you live. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
People who move to the suburbs often say they’re escaping the stress of the city. But researchers are finding the suburbs cause a lot of stress for residents too. And, the difference doesn’t seem to be as much about where you live as it is about how you live. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Ahhh, living in the suburbs, quiet tree lined streets, green lawns, and in the distance a glimpse of undisturbed woods along a creek or maybe farmland rolling off to the horizon. Across the Great Lakes region, the suburbs are picture perfect. Well, maybe not quite perfect.
A group of researchers has been spending a lot of time in the sprawling Chicago suburbs to see what draws people to the area, what they like, don’t like, from where they move and whether they intend to stay where they are, in the ‘burbs. What they’ve found is that living in the suburbs is not quite as stark or as bleak or as sterile as some of the popular press portrays it. But at the same time it’s not as blissful as the images in the brochures printed up by developers.
Charles Cappell is a sociologist at the Social Services Research Institute at Northern Illinois University. Since 1991 he’s been conducting surveys of people living in the suburbs. Mostly it’s been about why they live there. Usually the participants talk about their children, safety for their kids, nice schools, and nice green space for the family. But, recently Cappell and his team have been probing a little more deeply.
“In subsequent surveys, in 2000 for example, we did measure stress and we do know that suburbanites experience stress. They’re stressed from the demands of suburban life, some of the friction. But, in general, they report a fairly good quality of life.”
Of course, part of that quality of life is due to the surroundings. But after moving to the suburbs many people miss some of the more urban conveniences. And so as the housing developments sprout, the retailers are paving parking lots right behind them.
“This is one of the contradictions of suburban life: they value the quiet, green, suburban lawns and openness, and they crave the convenience of the shopping malls.”
But with that convenience comes the inconvenience of congested traffic on roads not designed to carry such huge volumes. While cities and counties spend untold millions of dollars widening old roads and building new ones, the suburbanites cope with the stresses of back-ups.
Rich Green is a geographer at Northern Illinois. He’s watched as the suburbs have spiraled out away from Chicago, causing an intricate and massive spider web of new roadways. Still, some politicians are calling for more and bigger roads in the suburbs. U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is calling for an interstate to be built in his district that will create a new outer-belt for the Chicago metro area, some nearly 50 miles away from downtown. But Green says the Interstates in the Chicago area have simply created corridors of development. Instead of relieving traffic, some experts say the interstates around Chicago have simply given sprawl better access.
“Clearly, building these interstates hasn’t corrected some of the problems that people were hoping for. Usually, if you expand a highway, you bring more people.”
Traffic hassles are not the only stress suburbanites face. In fact, the more serious stressors have to do with the cost of living there. During the heady days of the stock market boom, people started building bigger and better houses out on one acre lots on the fringes of the ‘burbs. Now, because of the poor performance of the markets, those houses –sometimes derogatorily called ‘McMansions’– are extravagances that some suburbanites are struggling to afford. But if they want to live in the new Chicago suburbs, they don’t have much choice. Prices have skyrocketed and there’s very little in the way of affordable housing being built.
Dick Esseks is a retired professor who’s been doing research for the American Farmland Trust. The Trust is concerned about the loss of farmland due to development. Esseks says many of those who moved to the suburbs did so when times were good, but with the downturn in the economy, some of those people face forced early retirement.
“When they go from full-time workers to pensioned workers, can they find housing in the same community, stay in the same church, stay in the same synagogue, stay in other associations?”
Esseks says because many of the municipalities require large lots, have very high standards for construction, and agree to annex large subdivisions of ‘McMansions,’ they leave behind the chances for more affordable housing. Only the very well off can afford to live in many of the suburbs.
Still, even with the weight of big mortgages hanging over their heads, bad traffic congestion, and other stresses, researchers have found suburbanites seem to cope better on average than their counterparts in the city. Sociologist Charles Cappell says there’s a reason for that, and it has to do with who lives in the suburbs. Cappell says it’s established that married people and people with families tend to deal with stress better than single people. Older people are less stressed than young people, and the suburbs have a much greater ratio of traditional families with middle-aged parents than in the city.
“Some of the differences between quality of life between urban and suburban experiences can be attributed to the fact that urban places are more stressful or there are higher levels of stress because of these reasons. There’s more single people. They’re younger. But, the sources of stress, environmentally, may be different, but I think the bigger indicators of stress are your kind of social environment, your psychological space, how you cope, what kind of support you have and families in spite of their increased burdens on time, really do offer emotional support.”
So, people in the ‘burbs’, generally speaking, have a better support structure at home, and usually have the means to pay for a more comfortable, less stressful life to begin with. Cappell says getting out of the city and into the suburbs is not the answer to a stress-free life, but it just so happens there are a lot of people who live in the suburbs who are better able to cope with life’s stress.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Automotive analysts say a new arrangement between Ford and the EPA may signal a significant change in the car company’s relationship with the government. Ford and the EPA are teaming up to create a new hybrid engine that is expected to be more efficient than current hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell has more:
Automotive analysts say a new arrangement between Ford and the EPA may signal a significant change in the car companies’ relationship with the government. Ford and the EPA are teaming up to create a new hybrid engine that is expected to be more efficient than current hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell reports.
One of the drawbacks to current hybrid vehicles is the electric batteries—they’re heavy and they’re expensive. But Ford and the EPA are working on a new model that uses pressurized liquid to store energy instead of batteries. Michael Flynn of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute says this arrangement shows a departure from the contentious relationship the government and car companies have had in the past.
“There are problems and rather than hollering at each other, pointing fingers, trying to figure out who’s to blame and therefore, who gets hung out to dry, it makes much more sense to try to jointly resolve the problems.”
The EPA actually holds the patent for the pressurized liquid technology. Both Ford and the EPA say it should be available to the public in about ten years—possibly in an SUV. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Matt Shafer Powell.
The largest meatpacker in the world has agreed to pay millions of dollars in penalties because of pollution at its plants. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The largest meatpacker in the world has agreed to pay millions of dollars in penalties because of pollution at its plants. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Iowa Beef Packers, known as IBP Incorporated, has agreed to pay more than four million dollars in penalties and make ten million dollars in pollution prevention improvements at several of its plants. That agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among a number of violations at several plants, the EPA had charged that IBP was releasing large quantities of ammonia into the Missouri River and one of its plants emitted 19 times the maximum amount of the pollutant, hydrogen sulfide, from its smokestacks. Besides paying the penalties, IBP will upgrade its wastewater treatment facilities and install required air pollution control equipment. In a release, IBP states that it doesn’t “agree with the nature and extend to the claims made in the federal government’s lawsuit.” but it’s glad to put the matter behind it. IBP was recently acquired by Tyson Foods. Government officials say with the settlement, they hope IBP will now be a better neighbor. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
As fall bird migration nears its end, scientists in Chicago are seeing what they say is an encouraging trend. Fewer migrating birds are hitting the windows of tall high-rises. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jesse Hardman has more:
As fall bird migration nears its end…scientists in Chicago are seeing what they say is an encouraging trend. Fewer migrating birds are hitting the windows of tall high-rises. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jesse Hardman has more.
Scientists at Chicago’s field museum say an estimated one hundred million birds die every year after hitting windows. They say many of those deaths come during annual migrations. Bird expert Dave Willard says he’s been patrolling Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center for twenty years…collecting winged casualties of fall migration.
Willard says those numbers are starting to go down.
“In 1996 we might have picked up anywhere between five hundred and one thousand birds in the fall, this fall it will be probably under fifty.”
Willard and his colleagues suggest bright light confuses night migrators who use the stars and moon to navigate. He says this year’s drop in death is a direct result of a city initiative asking buildings to pull window shades and dim lights at night. Willard says other Great Lakes cities like Toronto are trying similar programs.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium I’m Jesse Hardman.