The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving ahead with
recommendations to expand locks on the Mississippi River despite
an earlier report that found the Corps’ calculations in making a similar
plan were wrong. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving ahead with recommendations to expand
the Mississippi River despite an earlier report that found the Corps’ calculations
in making a
similar plan were wrong. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Corps of Engineers proposes spending 8.3 billion dollars to expand navigation
heavier barge traffic and restore the ecosystem of the upper Mississippi River. The
Research Council was highly critical of an earlier plan, saying the Corps’
projections of greater
traffic on the river were flawed. In a statement, the Corps says this new plan
balances the need
for economic growth and environmental sustainability.
Environmentalists say it’s still wrong. Melissa Samet is with the group American
“The Corps has done a great disservice to the nation by recommending this project.
other needs. It’s a significant amount of money. The recommendation is based on
science and unsound economics. And that’s just not the way a federal agency should
It’s certainly not serving the American people.”
Critics say they expect the Corps of Engineers to lobby Congress hard for funding
of the locks and not as hard for the environmental restoration.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Opinions vary on Cheney's environmental policy. Some say he's done well, some say he hasn't done enough. (Photo courtesy of
The political campaigns have been preoccupied with war, jobs, and health care. There’s been little mention of another issue that some Americans also find very important: the environment. As part of a series of profiles on the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ records on the environment, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham looks at Vice President Dick Cheney:
The political campaigns have been preoccupied with war, jobs, and health care. There’s been
little mention of another issue that some Americans also find very important: the environment.
As part of a series of profiles on the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ records
on the environment, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham looks at Vice President
This fall, during a campaign stop, Vice President Cheney was asked about his concerns and
philosophy on the preservation, conservation, and sustainability of water and natural resources.
The Vice President told his audience that he shared their concerns about the environment.
“Anybody who spends any time on waters, fishing, as I do – steelhead in northern British Columbia
when I get a chance and for trout in Wyoming and various places – it’s a fantastic resource. And
we really have an obligation to try to improve it and pass it on to the next generation in better
shape than we found it. I think we’re doing, as a general proposition, we’re doing pretty well.
Better than we used to.”
But most environmental groups are concerned Vice President Cheney is leading the effort to roll
back many environmental protections. Group after group is critical of the Vice President’s
“Cheney’s role has really been to be the front guy to fight for the industry’s agenda.”
Greg Wetstone directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. Wetstone says Cheney
has become an easy target for criticism by the environmental movement. Wetstone says it’s clear
that Dick Cheney has wielded more power than most vice presidents have in the past.
“Well, the Vice President has clearly played a huge role in shaping this administration’s
policies on the environment and especially energy policy. It was Vice President Cheney who
led the Energy Task Force that met secretly with top industry lobbyists and shaped the policies
that were proposed by this administration while shutting out the advocates for a cleaner
environment. The polluters basically all but held the pen in crafting this administration’s
The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Bush White House, calling for the release of
documents related to the secret meetings. The courts ordered some documents to be released.
And the environmentalists say those papers confirmed the role of gas and oil industry lobbyists
in drafting the Bush energy policy.
Chris Horner says he took part in some of those meetings. Horner is a Senior Fellow at the
free-market think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He says the Vice President
worked hard to include environmentally friendly approaches when drafting the policy for energy.
“He pushed heavily in his energy plan for windmills, solar panel, transition to gas even more.
He didn’t just consult with free-market groups like ours. The reportage notwithstanding, I went
in several times to meet with these people and I passed very hard left-leaning groups on the way,
in the waiting room on the way out. The administration met with greens. They met with
free-marketers. They met with everyone.”
But the environmental groups argue the gas and oil industry had too much influence on the plan
that is supposed to regulate them.
The League of Conservation Voters has given the Bush administration failing marks for its
handling of environmental issues. Betsey Loyless is the group’s vice president of policy. She
says the energy task force is a good example of how Vice President Cheney contributed to what
her group sees as failure.
“We have an energy bill that wants to open sensitive public lands to drilling. That’s part of
the Cheney philosophy. We have a secret energy task force that wants to subsidize, at the
taxpayers’ expense, the coal, oil, and gas industry. That’s at Cheney’s behest. I mean,
Cheney has been the real leader.”
Vice President Cheney’s defenders say he’s only being realistic and practical. They say the
nation’s energy security should not be put at risk because of a few environmental extremists.
While Cheney is villified by the environmentalists, it doesn’t appear that all voters view him
in quite the same terms.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
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.
It takes a lot of water and a lot of grain to brew a good beer. And once that beer is made, there’s a lot of spent material and water left over. This excess is usually just considered waste. But two guys in the Great Lakes region decided to start a brewery that would focus on reducing pollution and waste and then re-using whatever was left over. They wanted to show how helping the earth could also help business. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie MacDowell reports:
It takes a lot of water and a lot of grain to brew a good beer. And once
that beer is made, there’s a lot of spent material and water left over. This
excess is usually just considered waste. But two guys in the Great Lakes
region decided to start a brewery that would focus on reducing pollution
and waste and then re-using whatever was left over. They wanted to
show how helping the earth could also help business. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie MacDowell reports:
(ambient pub noise)
It’s a busy summer night at The Leopold Brother’s of Ann Arbor
Brewery. People have shown up to unwind after a long week. Some are
here to listen to the live band. Others to play a rowdy game of Pictionary
in the beer garden.
But mostly, people are here to drink the beer.
Brothers Scott and Todd Leopold own and run the brewery. A family resemblance is
obvious between the brothers.
But their roles in the business are totally different. Todd Leopold brews the beer. He’s a
big, friendly guy who seems at home in a comfortable-looking pair of old
overalls. Todd went to the Siebel brewing school in Chicago and got hands-on
training in four different German breweries. He uses techniques he learned over there in
his own facility.
His brother Scott Leopold is an environmental engineer, educated at
Northwestern and Stanford. Scott spent years helping big companies
save money by using environmentally sustainable business techniques.
But four years ago he decided to put his money where his mouth was.
One night, at a bar in Colorado, the two brothers came up with the idea
to combine their talents and start the world’s first zero-pollution brewery.
They wanted to build the model, then show people that it could really work.
Their idea was met with some skepticism by family and friends. Simply put, they
thought Scott and Todd were nuts. And Scott says they weren’t all wrong.
“Most of the entrepreneurs who are out there will tell you if they knew what they were
getting into before they got into it…they probably wouldn’t have done
it. We might not be alone in that.”
But so far the idealistic business venture has proved to be a success. Scott and
Todd have reduced the volume of a typical brewery’s waste by 90 percent.
To accomplish this, Scott and Todd designed a brewery where every detail was taken into
account to conserve resources.
“What we wanted to do was put science ahead of marketing…to ensure that anyone could
look within our production processes to ensure that it would stand up to the rigors of
science within the environmental engineering world.”
(ambient sound of brewery)
In the brewhouse, stainless steel machines gleam like they’ve just been washed. They’re
not brewing today… that only happens about once a week. But the factory computer is on
and its small, colorful graphics are showing everything that’s happening in the facility.
The computer helps cut down on the brewery’s waste by tracking and regulating all
energy and water use. So there’s always an accurate record of what was
produced versus how much of the raw materials and energy was consumed.
Todd Leopold says this helps him brew better beer.
“When you know everything that’s going in and everything that’s going out, if suddenly
that changes or there’s a spike you know there’s a problem and you’re able to track it
down. So it’s really helped me run a much tighter ship.”
All the other devices in the brewhouse are specially tailored to reduce waste. In fact,
they’re so efficient that Leopold Brothers generates 25 percent less solid waste residue
and buys 25 percent less grain than most small breweries.
That means they’re saving money.
Scott Leopold says their profit margins are nearly a quarter higher than they would have
been if they hadn’t made the investment in better equipment early on. But even with all
the complex equipment, there’s still some spent grain and water left over.
It’s all put to good use. The used organic malt and hops make great food for
animals at organic farms. Excess water from the brewing process is used in the
greenhouse in the back.
Pots of basil for the menu and moonflowers for the beer garden grow in there.
Conservation even extends beyond the brewhouse to the brewery’s decor.
Fat vinyl green tubes with zippers up the sides snake across the ceiling. They’re part of a
more energy-efficient heating and cooling system. And old doors hammered together
make up the bar.
The Leopold Brothers pay the same attention to detail when it comes to marketing their
product. The labels are made from vegetable-based inks. And they use recyclable
cardboard boxes as packaging.
But the brothers want to have an impact on brewing beyond just their own facility.
Todd says they have to start off small.
“We’d love to see the larger, world class…well, not world class, but world size breweries
that distribute their beer internationally to adopt some of the things that we do. It’s just
very difficult to infiltrate the corporate culture as opposed to where there’s one or
two owners. You sit down with them, have a beer, and say this is how you need to do
things. It’s much easier to have an impact on that level, I believe.”
Scott and Todd Leopold say the big breweries have adopted some conservation
techniques simply to save money…but they still generate a lot of waste water.
Scott thinks they could reduce the amount by introducing new machinery and changing
their cleaning techniques.
But U.S. Environmental Protection Agency environmental scientist Erik Hardin says the
big breweries will have to be shown that trying more new things will help the bottom
“With most any big business, pollution prevention steps seem to be incorporated after the
people in charge have been convinced thoroughly that these things can actually save them
And the Leopold Brothers say that is the exact mission of their brewery …to show, by
example, that sustainability means profitability.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Annie
For universities across the Midwest energy costs are becoming a huge expense. Schools are increasingly reliant on technology and many are adding new research facilities. With that growth has come an increased demand for electricity, and at a number of schools around the region, aging power plants can’t keep up with that demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports on this growing problem:
For universities across the Midwest, energy costs are becoming a huge expense. Schools are increasingly reliant on technology and many are adding new research facilities. With that growth, has come an increased demand for electricity. And at a number of schools around the region, aging power plants can’t keep up with that demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports on this growing problem:
Jeff Bazzi is a freshman at Michigan State University. He shares a dorm room on campus with three other students. They use a lot of electricity.
In this one dorm room, there are four computers, two stereos, two televisions, three refrigerators, three fans, one microwave and four alarm clocks. Jeff Bazzi says even though he doesn’t get an electricity bill from the university every month, he’s aware of the amount of energy he uses.
“I know if I was at home my mom would yell at me for wasting electricity, running her bill up. So I still try to conserve. I don’t leave lights on around me and leave the TV on and all that, I try to conserve.”
that’s exactly what the university wants Bazzi and other students, faculty and staff to do…conserve. Last year, Michigan State launched an energy conservation campaign to promote ways to reduce electricity consumption. University officials say small changes on everyone’s part, such as turning off lights and computers, can collectively result in lower energy costs. Terry Link is the director of MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability. He says just a five-percent reduction in electricity demand could save the university one million dollars a year.
“What we need to do is create that environment so that people become more aware that what they’re doing has an effect, it has a cost. It’s not immediate to their wallet, but it has other kinds of costs. And then to give them tools, examples, of how, if they feel they should do something to reduce that, what they can do.”
University officials say energy conservation is especially important now, as MSU struggles with a much tighter budget this year. Also, saving energy could delay a much larger problem. In the not-too-distant future, Michigan State’s power will no longer be able to provide enough electricity for campus. Bob Ellerhorst is the power plant director.
“Our universities are really becoming research-oriented, supported by a lot of high technology stuff. All of it takes electricity, a lot of it requires supplemental air conditioning.”
(Power plant sound up/under)
Michigan State’s power plant can make 55 megawatts of electricity, and during the hottest days of the summer, the campus uses all 55 megawatts. Over the next 15 years, MSU officials project the school will need at least 20 more megawatts of power. Schools throughout the Midwest are facing similar situations, as the demand for power on campus becomes too great for their aging power plants. Many are expanding their plants to meet demand. The University of Illinois is spending 60-million dollars on two new gas-fired turbines, Minnesota’s expansion will cost a-hundred-million dollars and the University of Wisconsin is building a brand-new power plant at a cost of 200-million dollars. Some schools, including Michigan State, are also considering buying more power from their local utility companies. But MSU power plant director Bob Ellerhorst says that electricity is almost twice as expensive as power produced on campus and isn’t nearly as reliable.
“Campus didn’t have a single outage, we had a lot of equipment failures in the plant that we just deal with. The campus has not had an interruption to service in over 36 months. I think that’s a lot longer than you’ve had to reset your clock at home.”
Michigan State is also looking into whether alternative sources of energy, such as wind and fuel cells, could play a part in a long-term solution. But in the meantime, they’re hoping students and faculty will begin conserving energy to help reduce demand and cost.
(Sounds of dorm up/under)
But that could be a challenge, from the looks of things at dorms and buildings on college campuses throughout the Midwest…where more electricity is being used than ever before.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.
Principles of sustainable design, or “green building” have been around for years. These are designs that, among other things, reduce energy use and create more comfortable working environments. Yet they are often dismissed as costly, impractical, and experimental. But green design has come a long way in recent years. The construction cost of an environmentally-friendly office building today is comparable with the cost of more traditional methods, and the maintenance costs are often much lower. Architects and builders across Pennsylvania have learned that, and the result has been a major shift in how buildings are constructed. And the lessons learned there could eventually make their way across the entire Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Brad Linder reports:
Principles of sustainable design, or “green building” have been around for years. These are designs that, among other things, reduce energy use and create more comfortable working environments. Yet they are often dismissed as costly, impractical, and experimental. But green design has come a long way in recent years. The construction cost of an environmentally friendly office building today is comparable with the cost of more traditional methods, and the maintenance costs are often much lower. Architects and builders across Pennsylvania have learned that, and the result has been a major shift in how buildings are constructed. And the lessons learned there could eventually make their way across the entire Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Brad Linder reports:
The Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum Marsh lies just around the corner from the Philadelphia International Airport. The refuge is also home to the Cusano Environmental Education Center, celebrating its first anniversary as what many consider to be the city’s greenest building.
The Center’s heating and cooling relies on a geothermal system. About five hundred feet below the Cusano Center, the temperature remains near 50 degrees all year round. Deep wells reach into the ground to borrow heat in the winter, and cool air in the summer.
(Natural sound marsh machine)
The Center also makes use of a “marsh machine,” to clean and recycle wastewater. Refuge Manager Dick Nugent says the machine uses natural processes to filter water through a “constructed wetland” of PVC pipes, gravel, and marsh plants. Nugent says the city water department delivers drinking water, but the marsh machine has a more important use.
“We wanted this here as an environmental education tool. It isn’t as if we needed it for the functionality of this building. The message to take home is that marshes serve a very important function.”
Cyrus Baym is a volunteer coordinator at the Cusano Center. He says people come expecting to learn about nature, but wind up getting something special out of the building.
“The people that are coming in, they see this fabulous building, a lot of space, a lot of glass, and then when you start explaining along with the exhibits the sustainable design features, the use of recycled materials, passive solar windows their eyes get even bigger. They get more excited and want to implement it in their own house.”
Refuge Manager Dick Nugent says there was some additional cost to innovations like the geothermal system and the southern wall of the building, which is made mostly of glass windows. But in the long run, many of those additions will wind up saving money on electricity and heating. And the overall goal isn’t to be frugal, but to teach.
On the other side of the state, another approach toward sustainable design is taking hold.
Pittsburgh is currently home to one-quarter of the nation’s buildings that have been certified as green by the U.S. Green Building Council. The non-profit national industry group represents design, construction, and environmental interests. The council also administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, which judges the overall environmental performance of buildings.
Unlike the Cusano Center in Philadelphia, many of Pittsburgh’s green buildings weren’t designed to be educational tools. The PNC Firstside Center in Downtown Pittsburgh provides workspace for 1800 employees in the bank’s technology and processing divisions.
Elmer Burger was one of the principle architects for the building. He says designing the largest LEED certified building in the country made sense for the project. The large floor space improved communication within business departments, and also allowed for extensive use of natural light.
“With a large floor plate, we had an opportunity to make the ceilings higher and bring daylight further into the building. So you can be as far as 125 feet away from the outside wall and still have daylight in a view.”
Burger says the building’s large windows give employees a view of the Monongahela River, and also save money by reducing the need for artificial light.
Rebecca Flora is director of Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance, a non-profit group working to encourage and facilitate environmentally friendly design in the city. She says some non-profit groups are interested in green buildings for ideological reasons, but also wind up getting long-term economic benefits.
“The life cycle value of doing a green building is actually quite significant in some cases. I know with Conservation Consultants, their building actually uses 60% less energy than a traditional building, which can have huge implications in terms of the small operating budgets that many non-profits have to work with.”
Flora says saving money is one of the main factors in getting major institutions like PNC to build green
“The myth that is out there is that green buildings cost more, and that’s one that we’re constantly trying to educate people around in that you get what you pay for. We’re trying to educate people around the fact that green building also adds value, and how do we equate that value with increased bottom line is a real key issue for most people.”
Flora says it’s important to convince clients, and not just architects of the benefits of green design. She says if the demand for LEED certified buildings increases, sustainable design techniques will become more common.
A number of other commercial and non-profit institutions in the city have also chosen green design. Both the Alcoa Corporate Center, and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank are green buildings. And the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center is the first convention center in the country to earn LEED certification
With so many high profile green projects, sustainable design is starting to look like common sense to many architects and their clients. Elmer Burger says the success of the PNC Firstside Center has led the company to adopt a new policy. All of their new corporate buildings will be designed to meet LEED requirements.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Brad Linder.
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.
It’s not uncommon to hear reports of stock prices, inflation, and GNP numbers with most news broadcasts these days. As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Terry Link argues, maybe it’s time for the media to give similar regular reports of environmental indicators to increase our mindfulness of our environmental health:
It is not an infrequent occurrence to hear reports of stock prices, inflation, and GNP numbers with most news broadcasts these days. As Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Terry Link argues, maybe it’s time for the media to give similar regular reports of environmental indicators to increase our mindfulness of our environmental health.
There’s an old adage that you are what you measure. So by that standard, how do we appear? Look at what the media tell us…
“The Dow Jones tumbled 170 points on heavy trading of more than 1 billion shares.” “Consumer confidence is lagging, dropping 0.2 percent from last month’s figure.”
“Wholesale prices rose 2.3 percent for the month, hinting that demand for products may once again signal a rebound in the economy.”
You get the picture.”
Given the standard then that you are what you measure, it should be no surprise that we have become simply homo economus.
By constantly trying to measure wealth by GNP and stock prices, we idolize consumption while we devalue much of what gives life its true meaning; namely our connections to each other and with the marvelous and mysterious spinning sphere that provides us with life.
So I believe it’s way past time to give us equivalent daily reports on the health of our biosphere.
Why not report on the spread or decline of disease in humans, animals and plants? Or give regular updates on receding glaciers, severity of storms. Or increased rider ship on mass transit and its affect on reducing pollution? A daily report might sound like this:
“Energy consumption was up briskly in June. But on a bright note the percentage of power generated from renewable resources climbed 25% faster than the overall increase. This has resulted in an overall drop in greenhouse gas emissions despite the rise in overall consumption”
How about we start reporting not only agricultural production but also the inputs –Michigan saw its consumption of lettuce produced locally climb by 19% from last year, as local growers were more effective in marketing locally grown food. This boost in the state economy is welcomed. The diminished transportation need of locally produced food has other advantages for state residents. The reduction of air pollution, traffic congestion, and noise with a simultaneous increase in the freshness of produce is even a bigger benefit for consumers
We must understand that the condition of our air, land and water is more important than fluctuations in our stock portfolios. Making environmental information more prominent and regularly available as we do with stock prices and business reports is a step toward crucial mindfulness.
We might even copy a Wall Street/business reporting model and highlight a socially and environmentally responsible firm or organization that is developing products, services, or processes that help build more sustainable communities.
We need all the hope we can find. We need to nourish the entrepreneurial spirit towards community solutions. And we need the mass media to give more of its news hole to report daily on the indicators of total community health, not simply the financial numbers. We ignore our environment at the peril of our children and grandchildren. By offering regular daily doses of the health of our planet, the media will be a more responsible partner in its recovery. By making visible more measures of what we value we just may nurture a transformation to a more sustainable society.
College campuses were once thought to be hotbeds for environmental activism. Now rather than activism, many people see universities as the primary location for both research and courses on the environment, as well as projects that show how a large institution can be environmentally sensitive. But a new report is giving mixed reviews of U.S. college’s environmental efforts. In the first of a two-part series, The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl explores the issues of greening a college campus:
College campuses were once thought to be hotbeds for environmental activism. Now rather than activism, many people see Universities as the primary location for both research and courses on the environment, as well as projects to show how a large institution can be environmentally sensitive. But a new report is giving mixed reviews of U-S college’s environmental efforts. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
(Ambient sound – physical plant)
This coal-fired power plant is the primary source of power at Ball State University in Munice, Indiana. Like many college campuses, Ball State relies on this less than clean source of energy to power dozens of buildings for thousands of students and faculty. But unlike many other schools, Ball State has a team of people working on ways to clean up this plant. Team members are also working on other environmental problems the school faces. John Vann is Ball State’s Green Initiatives Coordinator. That’s a new position at the school this year. He says his title has already made things easier for those in the campus community who are looking to improve the environment.
“If I were just another faculty member that said, ya know you should really program your computer to shut down the monitor, it doesn’t carry the same weight if I am dealing with a Dean or with someone else that having this position does. So that really helps to facilitate my implementation of the initiatives.”
Vann’s position is not common among colleges and universities. A new report by the National Wildlife Federation shows that less than ten percent of campuses have a position similar to his. That’s one finding in the wide-ranging survey that looked at about a thousand campuses across the country. The Federation developed a report card to assess how well schools are doing in several areas. The NWF is giving schools a C minus for Transportation issues, largely because schools tend to buy large gas guzzling cars for faculty to use on road trips, and inefficient trucks for campus work fleets. The report card also includes a B minus for landscaping efforts. The report says most campuses are still using massive amount of pesticides and fertilizers to create those flowerbeds of school colors found around campus. Few are using native plants that require less water and fewer chemicals. Kathy Cacciola is the Campus Ecology Coordinator for NWF. She says things are not completely bleak. Schools are receiving A’s in some important areas.
“Energy conservation measures and efficiency upgrades are a key area where there has been improved environmental performance, with 81 percent of colleges and universities instituting lighting efficiency upgrades and 20 percent having plans to do more. That really demonstrates that higher education institutions have taken the lead on really making advances toward a sustainable future.”
But Cacciola points out that cost savings are likely the motivating factor for those areas of improvement. With high-energy prices, a campus wide program to purchase more efficient lighting, for instance, is often more about money than about the environment. She says in other areas where the financial benefit may not be so great, campuses did not do as well.
The National Wildlife Federation hopes the study will encourage colleges to take a closer look at their environmental practices. Tom Lowe agrees. He’s a Dean and assistant Provost at Ball State. He says there is many things colleges should be doing to improve their sustainability. He says one example would be to use more of the multi-million dollar budgets of colleges to buy recycled and environmentally sensitive items.
“And if we could just direct a small portion of those purchases toward sound environmental items, we could stimulate a market in those items, plus we could enable small businesses what are starting up producing those items to make a profit.”
Lowe says colleges have a responsibility to lead the way for other large institutions such as corporations and medical facilities. He says campuses can be showcases for how to be environmentally friendly in an economically practical way. The report from the National Wildlife Federation shows some campuses are already on that track. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
A new report is giving mixed reviews to the environmental efforts on college campuses. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl has more:
A new report is giving mixed reviews to the environmental efforts on college campuses. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
The report card from the National Wildlife Federation gives A’s to schools for their work on energy efficiency and water conservation. But the schools receive B’s and C’s for poor landscaping practices and transportation issues. Tom Lowe is a Dean at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He says campuses must be models for environmental improvements, especially those that can save money in the long run.
“For a corporation, the idea that you could make money by greater environmental stewardship is sort of counter to what they traditionally think. So we have to be the model for that to demonstrate that it is possible.”
The report also shows schools are doing a good job at recycling, but a poor job in making sure they buy recycled products. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.