A team of scientists has found fossils that connect a six-million year gap in the chain of human evolution. The GLRC’s Tana Weingartner reports:
A team of scientists has found fossils that connect a six-million year gap
in the chain of human evolution. The GLRC’s Tana Weingartner reports:
Scientists found fossils of the species Australopithecus Anamensis in
Ethiopia. The fossils are just over four million years old. Researchers
say the fossils are a clear link between two previously known species of
Dr. William Hart is a team member and a Professor of Geology at Miami
University in Ohio.
“It really shows us evidence of the way early humans evolved in terms of
characteristics of their teeth, as eating habits changed. How other aspects
of their anatomy evolved through time. This is the first time we’ve had
that kind of a snapshot really.”
Similar fossils were first found in Kenya in the 1990’s, but Hart says this
find is special because the fossils are sandwiched between fossils from
the other two species.
Activists who strike out in the name of the environment or animal rights could find themselves labeled terrorists under a new law. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
Activists who strike out in the name of the environment or animal rights
could find themselves labeled terrorists under a new law. The GLRC’s
Lester Graham reports:
State governments and activists across the nation will be watching this
so-called ‘eco-terrorism’ law when it goes into effect in Pennsylvania.
You’re considered an eco-terrorist if you’re involved in civil
disobedience against firms that extract resources, do agricultural research
or animal experimentation. The law also increases penalties for crimes
such as trespassing and vandalism.
Larry Frankel is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says the
new law tosses around the term terrorist too loosely…
“It not only is unfairly targeting some people as terrorists, it’s really
cheapening the use of the term ‘terrorism’ and it’s going to become at
some point– the government’s going to be crying ‘Wolf,’ calling
everything they don’t like ‘terrorism.’”
The law is in response to activists who’ve destroyed labs and property.
Frankel thinks the law will actually incite those who’ve used such tactics
to go even further.
Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson wants China to relax its restrictions on motorcycle use in big cities. The company says that’s the only way its new dealership will be successful in the country long-term. The GLRC’s Christina Shockley reports:
Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson wants China to relax its restrictions
on motorcycle use in big cities. The company says that’s the only way its
new dealership will be successful in the country long-term. The GLRC’s
Christina Shockley reports:
Sound of motorcycle)
Harley-Davidson has opened a new dealership in Beijing hoping to sell
its motorcycles in China, but China limits motorcycle use and ownership
in big cities because of safety concerns and environmental issues.
Tim Hoelter is a vice-president with Harley-Davidson. He says the
company hopes the restrictions will change, over time.
“We of course are hopeful that working with our government partners in
Washington, and working cooperatively with the Chinese ministries to
understand the basis for these bans that over time we can overcome
Hoelter says the company has been successful in changing bans in other
countries, including Japan… by working with the foreign and U.S
More and more state governments are saying the federal government’s guidelines for reducing mercury emissions from power plants don’t go far enough fast enough. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
More and more state governments are saying the federal government’s
guidelines for reducing mercury emissions from power plants don’t go far
enough fast enough. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage in fetuses and small
children. More than 20 states are planning to cut mercury emissions beyond the
Zoe Lipman is with the National Wildlife Federation. She says many
states are taking action because they feel the federal rule is not protecting
“Originally you saw movement in the eastern states and now you’re
seeing movement in many of the heavy coal burning states – PA, MI,
even Indiana is still considering stronger than federal rules, IL – we’re
really seeing change in the core fossil fuel burning part of the country.”
Lipman says mercury reduction technology for power plants has become
cheaper in recent years, but utility companies say they’re still concerned
about the expense and meeting the states’ shorter time frames.
Some of the large state asylums for the mentally ill built in the late 1800s were designed with the idea that natural beauty has a healing effect. And architects designed the buildings to be majestic… not just institutional looking. In the decades since the asylums closed, their stately grounds remain valuable. But many of the fine buildings either have been torn down or are facing demolition. Some are being partially renovated for new uses. The GLRC’s Bob Allen reports on one of the very few in the country that’s being fully restored:
Some of the large state asylums for the mentally ill built in the late 1800s
were designed with the idea that natural beauty has a healing effect. And
architects designed the buildings to be majestic… not just institutional
looking. In the decades since the asylums closed, their stately grounds
remain valuable. But many of the fine buildings either have been torn
down or are facing demolition. Some are being partially renovated for
new uses. The GLRC’s Bob Allen reports on one of the very few in the
country that’s being fully restored:
Gently winding roads guide you through views of century-old trees and
rolling lawns that make up the surroundings of this old asylum. Open
meadows are remnants of the farm where residents raised all their own
food. The physical labor and park-like setting contributed to their
Ray Minervini loves the surroundings… but he says the buildings
themselves added a healing dimension.
“If you stand on the front lawn of this building you don’t have to be a
student of architecture to appreciate that it’s a thing of beauty. I mean the
proportions of the building, the size of the windows, the pitch of the roof,
the height of the spires. It’s the way that we used to construct buildings. We
don’t do that anymore.”
The four story brick and stone structures soar above the trees. Developer
Ray Minervini says they were built to last 500 years or more.
He thinks they deserve to be preserved as much as the natural
“The brick you’re looking at here were laid 121 years ago. The stone
foundations, you can see about 4 and a half feet of limestone, they
actually laid stone into the ground as opposed to concrete.
Those stone walls are 2 and a half feet thick.”
But across the country many of these large state mental hospitals have
fallen into ruin and are being demolished.
Kate Allen is graduate student in the architecture program at Columbia
University in New York City. She studies asylums designed according
to the plan of psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride. He adapted principles of
care from the Quakers. They include plenty of light and fresh air in a
clean idyllic setting.
Allen has found records for 64 asylums built in the Kirkbride style.
Twenty of them have been torn down. Of those remaining she considers
a dozen under threat right now, and she thinks the Minervini Group in
Michigan offers the only existing model for renovating an entire site.
“Not only are they preserving the smaller structures and the Kirkbride
core, but through the historic easement, the landscape it can’t be
encroached on with development. It gives you that feeling that it was a
But the Northern Michigan Asylum barely escaped destruction. After the
hospital closed it sat vacant for nearly a quarter century. Gaping holes in
the roof caused a lot of water damage. An outside developer wanted to
demolish and build new, but a hometown group stepped in and blocked
the wrecking ball. Then along came Ray Minervini with his vision for a
mix of new uses in the historic buildings.
Raymond Minervini is Ray’s son and business partner. He works on
marketing the project, and he says the people who believe in the vision
and are willing to invest in it are making it happen.
“And in a way they’re co-developers too because they’re stepping
forward with their capital to purchase space or lease space to establish a
business or create a home. That’s what makes the preservation possible.
Otherwise this is just a building waiting to fall down.”
The Minervini Group has been working on the redevelopment for nearly
six years. It’s a huge enterprise.
The core of the old state hospital and surrounding buildings represent a
million square feet for redevelopment, and Ray Minervini says that
translates into a 200 to 300 million dollar project… but it’s going
forward without a lot of fanfare.
“We’re doing it in phases, one section at a time, so it doesn’t appear so
big. We are under the radar screen, but collectively when you look at the
whole site and realize what that equates to it’s the largest rehab project
for sure in the Midwest.”
The Minervini Group has completed the first segment of what they call
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Already built and fully
occupied are business and condo spaces plus a restaurant and art gallery.
Ray Minervini says there’s still a long way to go, but with lights on and
people in the building there’s a growing sense the place is coming back
Cities throughout the country are spending millions of dollars to rebuild aging sewer systems. But in some communities, a trend called “low-impact design” is making these projects more affordable for taxpayers, and better for nature. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Cities throughout the country are spending millions of dollars to rebuild
aging sewer systems. But in some communities, a trend called “low-
impact design” is making these projects more affordable for taxpayers,
and better for nature. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Low-impact design focuses on restoring natural ways to manage storm
water, instead of building sewer systems that send polluted water straight
to rivers and streams.
Rain gardens are one feature of low-impact design. They’re bowl-
shaped gardens planted with native flowers and grasses. Water collects
in the gardens and becomes cleaner as it seeps through the soil.
Pat Lindemann is a county drain commissioner in Michigan. He’s using
low-impact design to deal with flooding problems, and to clean up local
“If we can take neighborhood by neighborhood, one rain garden at a
time, one constructed wetland at a time, manage our storm water, polish
it, clean it, discharge it at a lower rate, our rivers will start to recover.”
Lindemann says he’s done two low-impact design projects at half the
cost of rebuilding drainage systems with concrete pipes, curbs and
Pat Lindemann is the drain commissioner for Ingham County, Michigan. He uses “low-impact design” in drainage reconstruction projects. Behind Lindemann, work crews are digging one of several rain gardens that will be installed in this suburban neighborhood. Rain gardens serve as retention areas for storm water, and are a natural filter for pollution. (Photo by Erin Toner)
Homeowners in this Lansing, Michigan, neighborhood used to have flooded basements after heavy rains. Now, storm water is trapped and cleaned in a series of retention ponds. The wetland area also serves as a neighborhood park. (Photo by Erin Toner)
In the middle of Lansing, Michigan, wetlands were built to manage storm water. The project was half the cost of installing concrete pipes from the neighborhood to the river. (Photo by Erin Toner)
Many communities throughout the country are rebuilding their sewer systems to comply with federal pollution regulations. Nationwide, the work is costing taxpayers billions of dollars. But in some communities, a concept called “low-impact” design is making the projects cheaper and better for the environment. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Many communities throughout the country are rebuilding their sewer
systems to comply with federal pollution regulations. Nationwide, the
work is costing taxpayers billions of dollars. But in some communities, a
concept called “low-impact” design is making the projects cheaper and
better for the environment. The GLRC’s Erin Toner reports:
Dump trucks, black plastic pipes and huge piles of dirt line the streets of
this suburban neighborhood. It was built on very flat land and water
doesn’t run off. It used to be covered in ponds of wetlands. Now, that’s
causing big problems for people who live here. Their basements are
nearly always flooded and after it rains, they have pools of water in their
backyards for weeks, or months. Many run sump pumps all day and all
Jesse Ramos lives in a white ranch house in the neighborhood.
“Actually, this past couple of months I’ve had a lot of problems with
water in my basement. I’ve actually already been through one sump
pump and I’ve went out and purchased another, just so I could keep up
with that. Right now that it hasn’t rained I’m okay. So, I’m a little
nervous when it starts to rain.”
Fixing these problems the traditional way – with concrete pipes, curbs
and gutters – would have cost 20 million dollars, and it would have
sent polluted storm water straight to the river, but Pat Lindemann wanted
to do the project differently. He wanted to save people money and clean
up the environment. Lindemann often sounds more like the head of a big
environmental group, than what he actually is – the county drain
commissioner for this neighborhood near Lansing, Michigan.
“A lot of people argue that if I own the wetland, I should be able to
destroy it, but you shouldn’t because… what you do on your property
affects the river, every time you over fertilize your lawn, every time you
do not pick up your domestic pet waste… this country has such a vast
amount of beautiful resources, and for 150 years, we’ve done everything
that we could to beat up on it.”
In Jesse Ramos’ neighborhood, Lindemann’s using low-impact design to
rebuild the drain system. It’s costing half as much as concrete curbs and
“In the case of low-impact design, we force the water to go through soils,
to interact with plant roots, to stay on the land slightly longer and
become treated before it leaves to make its way to the river.”
The main way that happens is through rain gardens, one of the main
features of low-impact design. They’re bowl-shaped gardens planted
with native flowers and grasses. Native plants have long roots that draw
water deep into the ground and provide a natural filter for pollution.
Rain water collects in the gardens and becomes cleaner before eventually
reaching the pipe that takes it to the river.
Lindemann’s installing more than seven acres of gardens in the
neighborhood. He says people will have a few hours of standing water in
rain gardens, instead of weeks of water in their backyards.
Jesse Ramos is hearing this good news for the first time today…
“…now you’ll be flooded for about an hour and a half…an hour and a
half…that’s wonderful…and it’s pretty flowers…”
There’s another low-impact design project across town. Drainage
problems were causing backups in peoples’ homes. So, Drain
Commissioner Pat Lindemann built 20 acres of wetlands – right in the
middle of the city.
“It dawned on me, why take the water anywhere, why not just keep it. If
I can find a place to store it, put it and manipulate it, and not take it
anywhere, than I could manage it.”
This site is technically a series of retention ponds, but it’s really more
like a park. A paved walking path weaves around ponds and trees and
over bridges. It’s a place you’d bring school kids to learn about frogs
and birds and about being good to the environment.
This low-impact design project, like the one in Jesse Ramos’
neighborhood, was about half the cost of installing new concrete pipes
from the neighborhood to the river.
Low-impact design projects are happening all over – in Chicago and
Seattle, to more rural communities, and they’re likely to become more
common as cities consider how to cut non-point source pollution – the
leading cause of poor water quality. Non-point source pollution is a lot
of things – the fertilizer we use on our lawns or bacteria from animal
Pat Lindemann says his philosophy is that our dirty rivers will recover if
we start developing the land or rebuilding it the right way – one rain
garden or wetland at a time.
Trash containers of the future might contain an information chip that encourages people to recycle. A manufacturing company says the technology could change the way cities administer their trash programs.
The GLRC’s Kaomi Goetz reports:
Trash containers of the future might contain an information chip that
encourages people to recycle. A manufacturing company says the
technology could change the way cities administer their trash
programs. The GLRC’s Kaomi Goetz reports:
The way it works is recycling containers are embedded with a chip
that can register the weight of the contents as they’re dumped into the
truck. The information is then tracked to the homeowner and
tabulated to their online account.
Cascade Engineering of Grand Rapids is making the containers.
Spokesman John Kowalski says assessing by weight is part of a
new trend in the solid waste industry.
“Landfill rates are just sky-rocketing, so we’re trying to do anything
we can do to reduce that cost, but also help the environment.
Anything we can do to increase recycling is good for everybody.”
So far, the technology is being used as part of a pilot recycling
rewards program in Philadelphia. It offers discount coupons for
coffee and groceries based on the amount of recycling.
The company says the technology can also be used by cities to
charge for trash removal based on weight, which it says could also
A study shows that the number of biotechnology jobs continues to increase across the nation. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
A study shows that the number of biotechnology jobs continues to
increase across the nation. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach
The study classifies certain jobs in agriculture, pharmaceuticals,
medical labs and medical equipment as biotech employment. The
report says collectively those areas added about 16,000 jobs
across the U.S between 2001 and 2004.
Walt Plosila of the Battelle Memorial Institute authored the study
for a biotech industry group. He says it’s no wonder that many
states are competing for biotech companies.
“These are overall very profitable enterprises… some of the best
well paying jobs in the country and in the last four years, these
jobs have had an average inflation adjusted increase of wages of
over six percent compared to the country which is less than one
and a half percent.”
But some people remain opposed to what biotech is doing in areas
such as genetically modified crops and stem cells research.
The Environmental Protection Agency is reporting that the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment is down. But critics say the agency’s positive spin on the report is deceptive. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency is reporting that the amount of
toxic chemicals released into the environment is down. But, critics
say the agency’s positive spin on the report is deceptive. The GLRC’s
Lester Graham reports:
The EPA reports that toxic chemical releases from industries went down
by four percent from 2003 to 2004. The EPA noted that dioxin releases
were down… mercury pollution was down… and PCB releases went down
A spokesman for the environmental group the National Environmental
Trust says the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory report is misleading.
The group says changes in the definition of what’s toxic in the mining
industry made it look as though there were fewer toxic releases overall.
The EPA plans to make more changes in future reports on toxic
releases. It’s proposed that companies only report every other year
instead of annually and exempts some plants that are required to
report now. Some members of Congress have asked the Government
Accountability Office to investigate the changes.