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.
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.
This first report in the "Your Choice; Your Planet" series looks at the difficulties of being a "green" consumer.
Most of us are conflicted when it comes to the environment. Polls show the majority of us consider ourselves to be environmentally-friendly. But, our day-to-day decisions often don’t measure up to an earth-friendly lifestyle. Part of the reason is that there’s lots of confusion about what’s best for the environment. Another reason is that being earth-friendly is pretty darned inconvenient. In the first report of an ongoing series we’re calling ‘Your Choice; Your Planet,’ the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham explores the dilemmas we face when we attempt to do right by the environment:
Most of us are conflicted when it comes to the environment. Polls show the majority of
us consider ourselves to be environmentally friendly. But, our day-to-day decisions often
don’t measure up to an earth-friendly lifestyle. Part of the reason is that there’s lots of
confusion about what’s best for the environment… Another reason is that being earth-friendly is pretty darned inconvenient. In the first report of an ongoing series we’re
calling ‘Your Choice; Your Planet,’ the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
explores the dilemmas we face when we attempt to do right by the environment:
It’s tough, trying to be green, or earth-friendly or whatever you want to call it. I mean…
most of us aren’t interested in always trying to find the eco-friendly clothes or trying to
figure out the differences between the “all natural” and the “100-percent real” juice. And
then there’s stuff. There’s all kinds of stuff we need… alright… maybe we don’t NEED
it… but – hey – everybody else has one. Why shouldn’t ?
There’s a gap between being a flower-sniffing, hemp-wearing, tree hugger… and a
regular person trying to be a bit more environmentally friendly. The Executive Director
of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, says if you’re struggling with that gap… you’re not
“We haven’t solved the problem of linking up our values and our consumption. Most of
us consume out of habit and convenience. We don’t consume out of our deepest values.”
So… we BELIEVE that we ought to save the earth for future generations. And most of
us have a few habits that make us feel a little better about ourselves. Maybe we bring a
coffee mug to work instead of using Styrofoam cups. Or we might take the bus or the
commuter train once in a while, you know, to save the earth from our bit of car exhaust.
But the real challenge comes when we start buying stuff. You know… like groceries,
and cars, and appliances. Stuff. Joel Makower is the founder of GreenBiz-dot-com. It’s
website that bills itself as a “The Resource Center on Business, the Environment and the
Bottom Line.” He says the big impact on the environment takes place in how we spend
“I think consumers know intuitively that every time they open their wallet they cast a
vote for or against the environment. But, doing that’s a very complicated matter.”
(grocery store sound up)
It’s complicated because even if you walk into a store determined to buy only the
products that are the most environmentally friendly… you’re bombarded with conflicting
claims. Say you’re looking for trash bags. Are the bags claiming to be made of 80-
percent recycled plastic any better than the ones over here called ‘enviro-bags?’ I don’t
know. And that’s the problem. Most of the time we really don’t know which products
are the safest for the environment. And don’t even get me started on the whole paper or
plastic grocery bag question.
Joel Makower says we care, but we’re confused.
“There’s a huge gap between green concern and green consumerism. And that’s
Makower says companies don’t know how to market their products’ environmental
attributes and when they do try, he says, they often do it poorly or misleadingly. And
we’re afraid to try new things… not knowing if we’re being suckered into a poorly
performing product that SAYS it’s more environmentally friendly.
So, often, rather than deal with all that confusion… or instead of spending hours and
hours researching everything we buy…. we figure… “Well, it can’t be that bad; can it?”
Charles Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University. He says, really, there’s
only so much you can ask of us…
“Keep in mind that people can’t be expected to become saints just because they’re
interested in the environment.”
He says most of us see being environmentally friendly something like extra credit… or
something we do when we’re better off financially… kind of like a luxury item that we
can feel good about. Ballard says most of the time we’re more distracted by the glitz and
glamour we see on TV or read about in magazines and want just a little bit of that good
life for ourselves…
“What we have is a situation where immediate gratification, where grabbing for all the
gusto you can right now is the thing that’s driving our decisions.”
And when you’re going for the gusto… you tend to forget about the environmental cost
of your lifestyle. We buy the wrong things… and we buy too many things. We just plain
consume too much. But, then… sometimes our conscience starts eating at us… and
before you know it, we’re being a little more careful about recycling at work… or some
other little contribution to the earth’s well being.
The Sierra Club’s Carl Pope says environmentalists… or those of us who like to think of
ourselves that way… keep trying to do better…
“The American people’s values and ideals are ahead of their own habits. That’s actually
why we have religions, is because people want to be better than they are. And one of the
reasons we have an environmental movement, I think, is because Americans want to be
better than we are.”
And so… we sin in all of our consumption… and then make restitution by trying to be
better, more earth-friendly consumers. The problem is… as one writer put it… you can’t
really buy your way out of consumption. When you get right down to it…. you really
just have to buy less. That’s a tough one.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.