Tag Archives: Ecology

WHAT WILL BE CHICAGO’S LEGACY ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

By Kyle Burkybile

Reposted from DoGood4Chi

 

 

Humans have been able to eradicate diseases that threatened to wipe us off the planet. Most of us have supercomputers that fit in our pocket and allow us to contact friends and family across the globe in just seconds. We are able to see and document planets, stars, and galaxies that are billions of light years away. We have accomplished extraordinary things in our relatively short time on this planet. As a species, we have been able to conquer and reshape our physical surroundings for hundreds of years, often using fossil fuels to power our tools and machines. That, combined with the seemingly endless natural resources available within U.S. borders has helped us to become the richest country in the history of the world. Why then is the issue of climate change different than any other challenge we’ve faced before as a species?

The distinction this time around is we are creating such an elegant chaos that humanity will not be able to counteract the effects generated by the planet’s warming of even a few more degrees. We’re dealing with centuries of consequences compounding upon themselves and quickening their pace just as we’re fully understanding our own impact in the equation. Climate change is going to touch every single person on this planet. Even in Chicago, which is positioned next to the largest freshwater resources in the world, we are battling for our water security. Invasive aquatic species such as Asian Carp have the potential to devastate our lake ecosystem, microplastics have contaminated 94.4% of all tap water samples tested in the US as recently as September of 2017, and an aging citywide water distribution system has been leaking lead into our water supply. Can you say with certainty that you personally will never have to deal with rising prices for water that is safe enough to drink? If you answered yes, would you be willing to bet your or your children’s lives on it?

With all that said and even assuming a worse case scenario, climate change will not be what destroys our planet. With a >99.9% certainty, Earth will outlast us and a percentage of its species would adapt and thrive in the worsening conditions we could see in 5, 50, 500, or even 5,000 years without massive climate change interventions. Our planet has weathered ice ages, meteorites striking and covering entire continents in shadow & clouds of ash, and other periods of extreme changes before, yet life has found a way. Most scientists agree, the Earth will be swallowed into the sun when it reaches the next stage in a star’s life cycle and turns into a red giant, generally expected to happen within the next 5 to 7.5 billion years. Personally, it would be easier for me to bet on humanity finding a way to colonize other planets beyond our solar system if we had that much time to innovate in the type of technology advancements that would allow us to terraform another life-supporting planet. However, humans may not even make it another 100 years if we continue to ignore the warning signs that over 97% of climate scientists, whose entire job is to analyze any and all information available on the subject, have been raising for decades.

It is becoming harder to grow staple crops in large swaths of historically fertile land because of excessively hot temperatures during growing seasons. We are sapping our freshwater resources so fast that major cities are on the verge of running out of water entirely. The refugee crisis is worsening with every day, as millions of people are being displaced from their ancestral homes by civil wars and infighting over dwindling resources. Natural disasters caused a total of $306 billion in damages during 2017 alone, the highest total in U.S. history. This is only a handful of examples that don’t even get into the extinction of species and how their losses affect the global food web, increased disease rates due to conditions where mosquito-borne illnesses thrive and smog-filled cities where residents are forced to wear oxygen masks to even go outside, or lost arable land and potential for food production as we see entire islands being swallowed up in the ocean. Not to beat a dead horse, but the point is this – you have to try not to see the writing on the wall and ignore the inescapable reality of climate change and its consequences.

It’s easy to paint a very bleak picture of our future, especially if we don’t act collectively and immediately to mitigate the effects of climate change. In the past year alone, huge strides have been made in the fossil fuel divestment revolution. New York has joined the growing movement recognizing the danger of continuing to operate an economy based on fossil fuel consumption. Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York have announced that they plan on divesting almost $400 billion in state budget and pensions away from fossil fuels and reinvesting in clean energy tech. Illinois began implementing the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which is a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that positions our state as a leader in the Midwest. The bill requires electric utilities to become more efficient, funds job training in the renewable energy sector, lowers consumers’ utility bills, increases access to financing options, and creates incentives for billions of dollars in green energy investments. Chicago even hosted the 1st annual North American Climate Summit, which had mayors from dozens of North American cities in attendance at the Chicago History Museum. Their objective was to discuss how cities that are committed to the ideas of the Paris Agreement, which President Trump pulled the US out of in June, could continue operating toward those goals. Why then, is Chicago not actually joining the rising tide of the green revolution by committing to 100% fossil fuel divestment with a clear and firm deadline right now?

Mayor Emmanuel and his sustainability department have already publicly committed to running all of the City’s public buildings on 100% renewable energy by 2025. This pledge is an encouraging promise from the City; however public buildings represent only 8% of  Chicago’s total energy usage. Additionally, the amount of our City’s operational budget still tied up in fossil fuels is less than one percent. But that <1% represents upward of $80 million dollars, and another $330 million goes through the City’s largest pension funds. We could be in a lot worse shape, but even more aggressive action is needed in order to send a message to both fossil fuel companies and our own federal government. Over 60 U.S. cities and municipalities have already made the 100% Fossil Free pledge, and Chicago needs to join that group immediately. Mayor Emmanuel himself has been quoted saying, “I want Chicago to be the greenest city in the world, and I am committed to fostering opportunities for Chicagoans to make sustainability a part of their lives and their experience in the city.”  It’s time for him to follow through on those words and commit to divesting Chicago completely away from fossil fuels. I urge you to make this issue an important factor in your voting choices both in this election cycle, and all those in the future. Chicago’s mayoral elections are coming up in 2019. Let’s hold Rahm (or whomever leads the Second City in one year’s time) accountable to leave a legacy of climate change activism to be proud of for future generations.

Even conservative estimates of fossil fuel reserves remaining on Earth gives us under 100 years left at our current pace of consumption. Since the beginning of 2017, the percentage of financial experts who believe a theoretical carbon bubble will burst within the next 5 years has doubled, leaving personal and governmental investments in those industries severely devalued. Even some of the largest fossil fuel companies have begun joining the movement, although their motives are most likely motivated more so by public opinion than their consciences. Knowing what the impending future holds for fossil fuels, doesn’t it make fiscal sense for Chicago to go all in on the type of technologies that our future economy will be based on, rather than ones we will soon have to leave behind? For a city that continuously has to raise property taxes and is losing residents by the thousands in recent years, this seems like a no-brainer.

The case for fossil fuel divestment has made moral sense for quite some time now. It has become increasingly clear to anyone paying close attention that now it makes economic sense, as well.

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Filed under Climate Change, Divestment, economics

Beasts at Bedtime in Chicago Review of Books

‘Beasts at Bedtime’ Explores Environmental Themes in Children’s Lit

Liam Heneghan’s Beasts at Bedtime: Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children’s Literature conjures a world of natural magic and wonder. Animals are more than animals, trees are more than trees, the moon and the stars draw close, and they are all mysteriously intertwined.

This marvelous book is an introduction to environmental themes in children’s literature as well as a model of literary criticism accessible to a broad audience—because it must be. Such work must be accessible, because environmental issues are so critical and the need for increased environmental literacy so urgent. The genius of the work, however, is Heneghan’s ability to speak from a wide variety of experiences and perspectives with one exceptionally lively, congenial, and coherent voice. On the surface we encounter a scientist, teacher, and father; but in the depths we see flashes of a child, animal, and sprite.

Read more here.

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Filed under Animals, Environment, Literature

Create/Engage, Inspire/Provoke, Think/Change

 

 

The DePaul University Institute for Nature and Culture is excited to invite you to a panel discussion with four activists/artists/ecologists who are engaged in crucial struggles for our planetary future and provide models of hope in these arduous times.

Tuesday May 15th 2018, 7 – 9 pm
DePaul University, McGowan South,
1110 W Belden Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (Room TBA)

 

Taylor Brorby is an essayist, poet, and memoirist whose work centers on hydraulic fracking and climate change in western North Dakota.

Lucas Foglia’s photographs challenge the concept that humans and nature operate in opposition, while simultaneously highlighting the relentlessly uneasy, absurdly comedic integrations of our technologies in the natural world.*

Shannon Heffernan is a reporter with WBEZ. She has covered environmental news and criminal justice issues. She also reports on poverty, labor, and climate change.

Nat Mengist cultivates equitable, land-conscious partnerships through training in garden education, nonprofit leadership, and post-humanities scholarship.

Sponsored by the DePaul Institute for Nature and Culture.

Contact: rhonold@depaul.edu

*Foglia’s third book, Human Nature, was just published by Nazraeli Press. His next solo exhibition opens July 19 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. (Images beneath title by Lucas Foglia.)

 

 

 

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by | May 3, 2018 · 14:07

Entangled

By Joshua Mason at Fieldwork Studios and Not So Solid Earth

 

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Filed under Animals, Art, Jeff VanderMeer, photography

How cities are driving animal evolution

Reposted from WHYY

 

Guest: Menno Schilthuizen

Our fast-paced crowded cities aren’t just impacting our lives, they are shaping animal evolution, even accelerating it. To survive the noise, smog, traffic, light and heat of our urban jungles, wildlife has had to quickly adapt. In his new book, Darwin Comes to Town, evolutionary biologist MENNO SCHILTHUIZEN explains how cities are driving natural selection in animals all around the world, including in mosquitoes in London, spiders in Vienna, and mice in New York.

Thanks again and always to Dirk Felleman at Synthetic Zero

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Filed under Animals, Urban Ecology

End Plastic Pollution: Million Acts of Blue

plastic_beach

From GREENPEACE Canada, Million Acts of Blue, Plastic-free Future Toolkit.


Key facts and information

 

What’s the current state of the plastic pollution crisis?

  • About 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s – the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales. [1]
  • Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled, 12% has been burned and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or the environment.[2]
  • In Canada, about 3 million tonnes of waste plastic is generated each year and only 10-12% is recycled.[3]
  • Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year.[4]
  • The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the oceans every minute.[5]
  • There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans[6] – enough to circle the Earth over 400 times.[7]
  • Countries like Canada, the US and the UK export plastic waste to various countries in Asia and Africa8-10, offloading their trash problem to other communities.
  • Almost 10,000 tonnes of plastic enters the Great Lakes each year.[11]

 

Who is most impacted by plastic pollution?

 

Who’s to blame for this problem?

  • Annual plastic production has skyrocketed since the early 1950s, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015. This does not include synthetic fibers used in clothing, rope and other products which accounted for 61 million tonnes in 2016. It is expected that plastic production will continue to increase, likely doubling by 2025..[19]
  • Drink companies alone produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles annually.[22]
  • Well known coffee company Starbucks produces 4 billion coffee cups each year.[23]
  • Tim Hortons sells 2 billion cups of coffee a year and most are sold in throwaway cups.[24]
  • Tens of billions of bags of chips are sold each year by companies like Pepsi Co.[25]
  • 500 million straws are produced each day in the United States alone, that’s over a straw a day for each American![26]

 

What are real solutions?

  • Government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. Legislative reuse targets.
  • Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire life cycle and true costs of their products.
  • Government and corporate investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging.
  • Corporate phase out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.
  • A shift in dominant public mindsets away from our throwaway culture focused on convenience being equal to disposal, toward a vision of healthy, sustainable and more connected communities.

What are false solutions?

  • Bioplastics – not as green as they seem, approach with caution. Though companies often market them under the same umbrella, a product is not necessarily biodegradable and may require very specific conditions to break down. They also do not solve the litter or throwaway culture problem.[27]
  • Incineration – creates other pollution and does not address the overproduction problem.[28]
  • Focusing on end of life like recycling or disposal – we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis.[29]
  • Clean up – while clean up efforts help reduce litter problems, they do not address the source of the problem and ignore the unseen plastic pollution – microplastics.[30]
  • Throwaway alternatives – replacing one single-use item with another does not necessarily solve the problem or help to address our throwaway culture.

 

Who is championing solutions?

  • Around the world, various cities, countries and regions are banning or proposing bans on different single-use plastics like Morocco’s bag ban[31], Seattle, U.S.’s straw ban[32], and the City of Vancouver, Canada’s proposed coffee cup and styrofoam container ban.[33]
  • More than 30 countries have either regional or country-wide bans on plastic bags, and dozens more have levied fees or taxes on disposable bags.[34]
  • UK retailer Iceland committed to go plastic free for all of its own brand products.[35]
  • Zero waste supermarkets are popping up in various cities in countries including the UK, Germany, Canada, the United States, Mexico, South Africa and more.

 

REFERENCES

[1] http://www.fao.org/3/a-­‐i7677e.pdf

[2] http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full

[3]http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/subjects/environment/pollution_and_waste?subject_levels=3425%2C1762&pubyear=2017&HPA=1

[4] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768

[5] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

[6]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/full-scale-plastic-worlds-oceans-revealed-first-time-pollution

[7] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913

[8] Statistics Canada, Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database. Accessed September 2017.

[9]https://www.recyclinginternational.com/recycling-news/8574/plastic-and-rubber/united-states/us-plastic-scrap-exports-jump-higher-2014

[10]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/02/rubbish-already-building-up-at-uk-recycling-plants-due-to-china-import-ban

[11]Rochester Institute of Technology. (2016, December 19). Researchers estimate 10,000 metric tons of plastic enter Great Lakes every year: Study inventories movement of plastic and microplastic debris throughout lake system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 9, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219151752.htm

[12]Gall and Thompson, 2015; Kühn et al., 2015

[13] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/38/11899.full.pdf

[14] http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/03/17/turtles-marine-plastic_n_9455496.html

[15]S. Baulch, C. Perry / Marine Pollution Bulletin 80 (2014) 210–221

[16]http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/seabirds-in-high-arctic-ingesting-more-plastic-researcher-says-1.2661580

[17] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0051

[18]https://www.iswa.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Calendar_2011_03_AMERICANA/Science-2015-Jambeck-768-71__2_.pdf

[19]http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7677e.pdf

[20]https://www.livescience.com/59110-remote-henderson-island-most-polluted.html

[21]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/26/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge

[22] http://pmmi.files.cms-plus.com/AnnualMeeting/2015/Margulies.pdf

[23] https://globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/9265e80751db48398b88bdf09821cc56.pdf

[24]https://globalnews.ca/news/2506654/11-things-you-didnt-know-about-tim-hortons/

[25]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_chip

[26] https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

[27]https://environmentalcritique.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/52463-5gyresbanlist2018.pdf

[28]http://www.no-burn.org/burning-plastic-incineration-causes-air-pollution-dioxin-emissions-cost-overruns/

[29]http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782

[30]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411978/Assessing_the_impact_of_exposure_to_microplastics_in_fish_summary.pdf

[31]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/green-morocco-bans-plastic-bags-160701141919913.html

[32]https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/the-last-straw-seattle-will-say-goodbye-to-plastic-straws-utensils-with-upcoming-ban/

[33]http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-considering-ban-on-disposable-coffee-cups-plastic-bags-1.3436086

[34]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_lightweight_plastic_bags#Morocco

[35]http://about.iceland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Iceland-aims-to-be-plastic-free-across-own-label-range-by-2023-16.1.18.pdf

 

 

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Filed under Animals, commons, Environment

Heneghan Book Launch Event and Reception: Wednesday May 2nd

RSVP for reception so we can order enough food.  However, everyone is welcome to attend the event, whether or not they RSVP.

1 Comment

by | April 2, 2018 · 15:34