October 23, 2016 – Moms Clean Air Force; Pharmaceutical Disposal

This morning on The Mike Nowak Show, Peggy Malecki and I welcome a couple of women who are working to protect out clean air and water from different vantage points. Kelly Nichols is on the activist side, serving as the Illinois Field Organizer for the national non-profit, Moms Clean Air Force. Debra Shore is a commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, whose job is to help maintain the quality of our water.  Today she follows up on a pending Cook County ordinance that would regulate the the disposal of pharmaceuticals in our water.

Moms working to protect our air

I met Kelly Nichols from Moms Clean Air Force  in September at a town hall organized by the Illinois Environmental Council at the Chicago Botanic Garden to discuss state environmental issues. I was speaking on behalf of the Illinois Recycling Association about why the current Illinois e-waste bill isn’t working (something we will cover on the program soon). Kelly spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the connection between clean energy and clean air, and I knew that she would be a great fit for my program.

iec-town-hall-9-21-16Mike, Kelly Nichols (center in blue) and a bunch of environmental heavy hitters at the IEC Town Hall at the Chicago Botanic Garden

In an election season when not one question about climate changes was asked in any presidential or vice-presidential debate, Kelly wants to remind people that, whether or not the candidates talk about it, once they get into office, their decisions affect our clean air. That’s why it’s so important to vote.

It might surprise you to know, Kelly says,  that many counties in Illinois have grades of C, D, or F in air quality (based on particulates in the air, and also on levels of ozone), as reported by the American Lung Association.

And, in addition to working on getting out the vote this year, Kelly and Moms Clean Air Force also work on issues like America’s Clean Power Plan, methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, toxic chemicals in the home, smog, and ozone.

Got drugs? Don’t flush them down!

If you take a look in your own medicine cabinet it probably won’t surprise you that estimates put the amount of leftover and expired medications in American homes that go unused at 30 to 40 percent. What probably will surprise you is that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that unused drugs be flush down the toilet. Whaaaa??

Commissioner Debra Shore of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) said this year in the Chicago Monitor that “Salmon in Puget Sound would not pass a drug test.”  That problem is directly related to the amount of pharmaceuticals that Americans dump into our lakes, streams and, yes, sounds.

mike-and-debra-shoreMike and MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore

In January of this year, more than than 100 organizations and individuals sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, urging the agency to end its “flush list.” The same group of environmental and health organizations, state legislators, and other stakeholders noted that the FDA needs to work with other federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to mandate a single national disposal system for pharmaceuticals. A federally endorsed take-back program is one of the suggested solutions.

Further complicating things is the fact that state local regulations don’t necessarily gibe with federal laws, either. Finally,  according to WasteDIVE,  only one percent of pharmaceutical companies currently offer take back programs, even though the cost of that has been estimated at about one cent per medication.

Which brings us to Illinois, where the Cook County Board of Commissioners is considering an ordinance to regulate the disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.  Commissioner Shore recently sent out a newsletter that stated:

This measure will build upon and expand an existing collection program administered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, to eliminate “collection deserts” in Cook County and to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay a modest fee to support the free and accessible collection of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals for all County residents.

The fee seems reasonable.
The good it would do is undeniable.
There’s only one problem.
The pharmaceutical industry is against it.

Sigh. Here we go again.

Commissioner Debra Shore was on this program in April to talk about the same ordinance. As you should know, nothing comes easy in politics…especially where it concerns environmental matters. It’s great to have her back in the Que4 Radio studio this morning.

October 16, 2016 – 30 Days of Doing; Friending 69,000 Acres

This morning on The Mike Nowak Show, Peggy Malecki and I go from food to field in the course of a couple of hours, while welcoming some old friends of the program. We start with LaManda Joy, Breanne Heath and Christina Bello from the Peterson Garden Project, who are here to explain what their “30 Days of Doing” is all about. Then Benjamin Cox of Friends of the Forest Preserves stops by to sing the praises of “our awesome conservation corps programs,” just part of the way that the organization protects, restores and promotes the world’s first and now largest forest preserve district

A whole lot of doing in 30 days

If you’re a gardener, you think of this as the time of year when things are winding down. Sure, there’s always work to do–harvesting, soil preparation, late season growing–but this is when, traditionally, you take your foot off the gas pedal, if only a little bit.

Not the Peterson Garden Project, however. As I write this, it is October 15, the first day of their 30 Days of Doing. , which, as they describe it “involves you and our entire community in a month of gardening, learning, celebrating, cooking, and giving together, to create a vibrant local food system and alleviate hunger at home.” Today, for example, was the Grewbie 102 Demo, which allowed “grewbies”  (beginning gardeners) to learn how to put their gardens to bed for the winter.

Sunday, October 16 features an intergenerational cooking class called Sundays with Seniors at the PGP Community Cooking School on the 2nd Floor inside the Broadway Armory Park, 5917 North Broadway Street in Chicago.

Here’s the full calendar of events. It includes HomeGrown–An Underground Harvest Feast on November 10,  a Community Gardens Take Action Against Hunger symposium on November 12 and a whole lot more. If you want to contribute to the 30 Days of Doing, click here.

breanne-pgpBreanne Heath at Peterson Garden Project plant sale

To explain it all–and to talk about their classes, the garden gleanings,  Grow2Give and other programs (whew!)–we welcome LaManda Joy, PGP founder and Executive Director; Breanne Heath, Program Manager of Gardens and Education; and Christina Bello, Program Manager of the Community Cooking School.

Being good friends to our forest preserves

The Cook County Forest Preserve District is pretty special in a number of ways. It was the first such entity in the world, and celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2015. At 69,000 acres, it is also the largest forest preserve district on the planet.

Here are just some of the features that are found within the Cook County Forest Preserve boundaries

6 nature centers
1 wildlife research facilities
311 picnic groves
40 managed lakes and ponds
2 youth camps
7major waterways
3 aquatic centers
10 golf courses
300 miles of marked trails

Not bad for something that is basically in an urban setting.

fotfp-photo-contest-winner2015 FOTFP Photo Contest Winner “People in the Preserves”
– An early spring day, Galloping Hill Prairie in the Spring Creek
forest preserve near Barrington, Jim Root

But That was also part of the problem. For many years–in some cases decades–the Cook County Forest Preserves were neglected, when they weren’t subjected to abuse.  It wasn’t until 1998 that concerned citizens said, “Enough” and formed Friends of the Forest Preserves., whose mission was do undo some of the harm that had been perpetrated on the land and to preserve the…uh…preserves.

Today I welcome President and CEO Benjamin Cox back to the show to talk about the direction of FOTFP.  One of the things he’s proudest of is the Conservation Corps:

Our Conservation Corps programs are among the most important work we do. We recruit high school students, young adults and adults, often from low-income neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago to not only learn about conservation, but also to gain vital leadership and teamwork skills that can be used in future careers. Friends’ Corps members plant seeds as well as remove the invasive species that are the cancer of our ecosystems. They earn stipends while restoring woods and prairies and learn about careers in the conservation field. All while gaining essential skills like job readiness and financial literacy. And, maybe most importantly, they are the next generation of front line advocates for the forest preserves and nature.

There are a lot of other initiatives, and there’s always a road or two that threatens to take a chunk out of forest preserve lands. That’s why it’s good to periodically get a “State of the Forest Preserves” report from Benjamin Cox.

October 9, 2016 – Fall Gardening; Chicago Living Corridors

We’re already a couple of weeks into the fall season, so it seems like a good time to talk about the kinds of things you should be doing in your yard and garden. This morning on The Mike Nowak Show, we welcome Mark Wise from Greenwise Organic Lawn Care to talk about what you should–and shouldn’t–be doing at this time of year.  Holly and Joey Baird from The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener help you get the most out of the remaining growing days.  Then Pamela Todd and Arthur Smith introduce a new group called Chicago Living Corridors, which is engaging private landowners to restore wildlife habitat on their own property.

And now for something completely different

Some of you know that Kathleen Thompson and I have lived with a lot of violence in our Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago since we moved here sixteen years ago. It hasn’t been directed at us but at the children and young people and, although it’s better on our block now, there’s still a lot of danger out there, as we’ve all seen recently.

That’s why, to start the show, I’ll be talking to Kathleen about a Crowdrise fundraiser that she’s put together to support a program developed by conflict resolution specialist Andra Medea, who trains people to de-escalate violent situations. Medea has worked with police, mental health workers, teachers and a lot of other groups and has been very effective.

She’s written three books on dealing with conflict, most recently Safe Within These Walls, which deals with preventing violence in schools. Now she’s working with the NAACP Chicago South Side Branch on a program that would take her training methods directly into middle schools and high schools. This is not a touchy-feeling sensitivity training kind of thing. Medea actually trains people to control their bodies and their minds in a potentially violent situation so that they have a much better chance of coming out of it in one piece.

We hope you’ll consider contributing to this worthy cause.

Where are all the natural lawn care companies around Chicago?

Mark Wise doesn’t know it, but that’s a question that he’s going to have to answer this morning. It’s a question I’ve asked for, oh, about twenty years, and I’ve never really gotten a satisfactory answer.

By the way, Mark Wise is the founder and owner of Greenwise Organic Lawn Care which has provided “organic lawn care, sustainable landscape design and installation, eco-friendly landscape maintenance, sustainable horticultural and arbor care, and eco-friendly snow removal services” since 2007.

dandelion-lawnHey! You got a problem with this?

They recently provided one of their services for show co-host Peggy Malecki at her home in Highland Park. Peggy has had some issues with drainage, so the Greenwise crew came in to install a Flo-Well® to address the problem (at least that’s what Peggy thinks it is.)

At any rate, Peggy and I got to talking about natural lawn and garden care and the fact that we’re heading to the end of the growing season and we decided to bring Mark on the show to give some tips for fall season lawn and garden care. You’re always welcome to call us at 312-985-7834 with your questions.

Fall veggie gardening with Holly and Joey Baird

And while we’re on the subject of what to do you in your yard at this time of year, we certainly can’t ignore the vegetable garden. That’s why we’re also talking to Holly and Joey Baird, who collectively are known as The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener. They have an extensive video, audio and web-based empire, including a bi-weekly podcast for which I do an environmental report.

wisconsin-veggie-podcastYup, that’s me in the lower left hand corner.

If you’re thinking about what you need to do at this time of year to make the most of your vegetable garden, you should consider looking at this video that Holly and Joey created last year. It’s called Harvesting 2nd Year Kale, Mulching with Leaves and More.  What I like about it is that they show how almost any organic matter can be used to improve your soil.

This is also canning season, which means that you might want to watch this video,  Canning What You Grow. In it, Holly and Joey can zucchini pineapple (mock pineapple), corn and potatoes. I’m not exactly sure why you should can potatoes, but I’m the novice here.

Anyway, it’s a pleasure to have them back on the program this morning. You’re going to learn a lot.

Suppose you had 100 million dollars to change the world…

In May of last year, I attended a conference sponsored by the  West Cook Wild Ones .  It featured entomologist Doug Tallamy, whose work and writings have–there’s no other way to put it–started a movement to create  what he calls a “Back Yard National Park” made up of restored wildlife habitat on private property and linked by habitat corridors.

I was invited, along with about 30 to 40 pretty amazing environmentalists from the Chicago area, to sit in a room and talk about the idea of how habitat–even on private property–could not only be preserved, but improved.

Fast forward to 2016, and an organization called Chicago Living Corridors has been launched as a not-for-profit organization  dedicated to precisely what the original gathering at Dominican University in River Forest was seeking. But now the group is seeking something more.

100 million dollars.

That’s the award of a new competition launched by the MacArthur Foundation (you know, the people who award “genius grants” and who have skipped over me every single year).  They will hand over  $100 million to a single proposal designed to help solve a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet.  Whew!

It’s called 100&Change, and although the deadline is passed, it was  open to organizations working in any field of endeavor anywhere in the observable universe. Could Chicago Living Corridors walk off with that much cash? Who knows?

But that’s why I have Pamela Todd and Arthur Smith, two of the founding members of CLC on the show today. They will explain the purpose of the organization and the outrageously audacious idea that $100 million might actually be spent on the environment of planet Earth.

pam-and-arthurPamela Todd and Arthur Smith of Chicago Living Corridors

Their goal is to create something called  The Living Land Bank. Here’s how it would work:

  • This online marketplace blends crowdfunding, sophisticated smart contracts and powerful blockchain technology that insures transparency and trust.
  • The marketplace incentivizes landowners to manage their land sustainably.
  • Anyone can use the marketplace: people, agencies, nonprofits or other entities who want to restore specific ecosystem services, such as managing water, storing carbon, pollinating crops, saving endangered species, etc.
  • Restoring the land to work for us is often less expensive than traditional engineered solutions.
  • Once we demonstrate that the system produces verified environmental results, other places around the world can use it.

Will it happen? Stay tuned.


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