Tag Archives: Rick DiMaio

Weather, climate, safe household cleaners, enviro films and working in Angola

February 24, 2013

In studio: the man, the M.A., the meteorologist…Rick DiMaio!

You spoke and I listened.

What I mean is that I get emails and Facebook messages and Tweets about the show meteorologist Rick DiMaio. And most of those folks tell me that they can’t get enough of the Rickster. In fact, they often chide me that I don’t give him enough time on the show! Geez, kids, he already gets more air time than they give Tom Skilling at WGN-TV! I can’t turn over my whole program to him!

Well, I suppose I could, but then it would have to be called The Rick DiMaio Show and I’m certainly not going to let that happen.

But I did invite him to the WCPT studios, where he has yet to make an appearance, and…he said “yes!” Go figure.

So get your meteorological and climate change questions ready this morning, because the first hour of the show is devoted to those issues. Some of the things we might cover:

Of course, in addition to his radio and TV appearances, Rick teaches at a number of colleges and universities in the Chicago area. So I’ll ask him about what is in his current lesson plans and what his students think about the connection–and the difference–between weather and climate change.

I hope you can join us.

Forward on Climate Rally–a post mortem

As you might know, show contributor Lisa Albrecht and I were in Washington, D.C. last week for the Forward on Climate Rally and march to the White House. 350.org is crowing about the great media coverage of the event.

Of course, The Mike Nowak Show covered it live from the National Mall (the only live radio coverage, as far as I can tell), and you can hear the podcast of that show here.

Lisa and I will take a few minutes this morning to talk about our reactions to this important gathering of environmentally minded people. By the way, if you want to know what’s at stake, you might consider reading this article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. about why he decided to get arrested at the White House a few days before the rally.

But the environmental community is not exactly one big happy family. I’m not exactly thrilled with the way the event was promoted, despite what organizers call great media coverage. Grist has a few choice words about how large a tent has actually been raised for this issue. Of course, President Barack Obama didn’t do himself any favors by choosing to play golf in Florida with Tiger Woods (no big deal) and two Big Oil executives (HUGE deal) on the same day that 35,000 people were marching to his Washington home to express their displeasure with the idea of pumping even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

How to clean your house…without poisoning the environment

In the past few weeks, show contributor Rob Kartholl have been talking about the “Big Commie Garden Fabcon,” otherwise known and Connecting Chicago Community Gardeners, which was held yesterday at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

In a word, Wow!

More than 200 community gardeners packed the facility for a day-long conversation about how Chicago community gardeners can create and sustain the projects in their neighborhoods. I was proud to be part of this ground-breaking event, which I hope will lead to a permanent community gardening organization in Chicago.

One of the attendees was Qae-Dah Muhammad, who is with the Ashe Park Community Garden on the City’s south side along the lake.

On Saturday, March 9 at the South Shore Library, Qae-Dah will conduct a workshop designed to inspire people to do their Spring cleaning with non-toxic household cleaners that they can mix themselves. She will explain why they should consider doing this, and present some of the health and economic benefits.

In her own words, “I’m aiming to take the initiative & inspire people who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to try something different — not new — but different and safer. After learning about some of the toxic chemicals that can hide out in household cleaners, we’ll mix up our own cleaners from safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.”

Today, Qae-Dah is on my program, along with her mentor in this crusade–Cassidy Randall from Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE). They wiill discuss the organization’s role in lobbying our legislators for policies to protect us from toxic chemicals, and demanding that the manufacturers who produce hazardous consumer products become more environmentally friendly. They’ll also discuss the impact that toxic chemicals can have on the health of infants, women, the elderly, and our eco-systems.

The One Earth Film Festival is next weekend

Last year I interviewed Ana Garcia Doyle about the inaugural One Earth Film Festival, created by Green Community Connections, which took place April 27-29, 2012 in Oak Park & River Forest. More than 500 people attended 30+ screenings of compelling environmental films. This great event is back this year, along with its mission to create opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement.

Among the films that will be shown this year are “Chasing Ice,” “Genetic Roulette,” “Soul Food Junkies,” and, a new feature, the “One Earth . . . Our Earth!” Young Filmmakers Contest for students from upper elementary school through college.

I’m pleased to have Ana back with me, along with Léa Kichler, winner of the High School category. Lea’s film is called “Let’s Talk About Water.” You can view it  here.

Our man in Angola, David J. Zaber

David J. Zaber is the kind of guy who makes me humble. If you go to his Facebook page, you will see that he is an

“environmental scientist with expertise in natural resource assessment, planning, and management, regulatory policy, and science education. Award-winning science educator with research experience in field ecology, environmental and ecotoxicology, and landscape ecology. Author and/or co-author of numerous scientific articles and other publications. Background working with diverse groups including private business, governmental agencies (including Native American tribes), non-governmental organizations, and individuals on a range of natural resource issues.”

He is also a fan of my show, and for that, I’m grateful. He was recently sent to the country of Angola to do some social and environmental work. Here’s a report he sent to me:

There is so much to talk about but what continues to amaze me is the wonderful and happy and friendly people who persist in the face of the worst grinding poverty I have ever seen. The Agronomy station is 2000 acres of land with a large section of old growth Miombo woodland ecosystem. Low tree diversity but amazing bird and insect diversity and plants too. The soils are super acidic so there is problems with nutrient uptake etc. I’ve been teaching water quality and advising on lower risk pesticides and IPM. For example, they are doing research on potatoes but have problems with mildews and white flies. When I went to the potato section, I immediately saw the problem: plastic containers for individual plants that do not drain readily. Since potatoes need to drain each day, this is what is causing the mildew problems. I suggested they experiment with soil amendments that facilitate drainage to alleviate the problem and to allow birds into the facility for predation.

My main task, however, is to set up the station’s water quality monitoring program for human health and environmental protection. Huambo province is in the middle of the country on a plateau referred to as the “alta plana” and this is where the major rivers of the nation begin. The spring is the headwaters of the Cunene River, one of the most pristine rivers in the nation. We have now established permanent site markings for their long-term monitoring program and I’m teaching several technicians basic water quality sampling techniques and habitat assessment (benthic invertebrates). I am also providing guidance on protection of the spring orifice where people get their water but trample the shit out of the place. We’ve discussed placing a small access “bridge” (one flattened log) in a location that would provide safe access while protecting the spring pool and riparian zone for downstream users. I have now seen my first shade grown coffee tree, the biggest avocado tree I’ve ever seen, and several other fruit trees. I’ve also met the man who single-handedly saved the station from total destruction during the war but there is serious damage remaining.

Malaria is rampant here for several reasons -which DO NOT include the banning of DDT as the detestable right-wingers claim. First, I have not seen one screen (opps the electricity just went out in the city so I had to go start the diesel generator using leaded fuels….argh) on any window anywhere yet. Second, pooling polluted water during the rainy season (now) provides perfect habitat for Aedes egypti, the mosquito that carries the malaria disease) and these pools are everywhere since the entire infrastructure was destroyed and the sidewalks are torn up, sewers don’t work, etc. Third, they plant corn directly next to their homes and the mosquito eats corn pollen so they thrive in the degraded habitat that has no natural predators. I’ve explained to the station how Zygopterans (dragonflies) are critical for predation in small pools and we’ve seen several species at the spring albeit depleted in numbers. They quickly understood. Moreover, very few people have bed nets. Finally, the pesticides they are using in the urban areas are often ones banned in the USA. The one I quickly noticed was spray cans containing DDVP or Vapona. This is a Shell product (go figure) that used to be in the Shell No-Pest strips. It was banned because DDVP vaporizes and settles on cold surfaces with residues remaining for years and is metabolized to vinyl chloride if it doesn’t kill you first. It is a strong human carcinogen (one of the few organophosphate that do cause cancer) and toxic to the fetus. I have warned people about it and suggested alternatives. So, next time some a__hole blames Rachel Carson for millions of malaria deaths, I’m gonna……

Huambo province, despite extremely acidic soils, was once the breadbasket for Angola but now the production is much lower. That’s the main goal of the station: to help production in the face of these challenges and to provides services to help determine the safety of water supplies for human consumption and agriculture use (I’m addiing in environmental protection too). Entire families work at the station yet 8 people have been killed over the past few years from cobras (snakes). Im not sure what type but the research team immediately understood why I take a long stick with me and beat the brush before I tread.

Women appear to do much of the very hard physical work everywhere I’ve been and they are treated as second class citizens. Thus, I’ve made a point to ensure that women are not doing all the lugging of our “equipment” which the men appear willing to allow. They’ve laughed at me but get it when I insist they share the loads. I love these people.

There is so much more to say but I’ll leave it at that. I’m going to the country tomorrow to see a national park and hopefully see the national symbol: Hippotragus niger variani – the Giant Black Sable Antelope. As with virtually all the big animals (Angola used to be one of the best places to see them) have been poached out of existence during the war, there is a desperate attempt to save them that appears to be working. (ok, I did write more!)

We can discuss anything you think the listeners would be interested in. I promise I won’t speak in my terrible broken Portuguese (which is getting better now that I’m immersed in it).

I’m speechless. And I don’t even speak Portuguese. David joins me on the show today to talk about his experiences in Angola.

It’s a Wonderful Slice

December 23, 2012

“It’s a Wonderful Slice 2012″…with an all-star cast!

It’s that time of year again (and aren’t we glad that the holiday season comes only once a year?), which means that I trot out my annual dismantling of one of the great holiday film classics, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I started this strange tradition about 21 years ago, when I was still working for Gargantua Radio down the dial (sometimes known as WGN). This was when Republic Pictures, the original copyright owner and producer of Wonderful Life, neglected to renew the 1946 copyright in 1974. Slate has the basic story here. This Wikipedia entry covers it in more detail.

At any rate, it seemed to me that folks might like to hear the movie on radio, especially since it wasn’t going to cost the station a nickel. However, I doubted that listeners would be willing to sit through all two hours and ten minutes without visuals. So I recorded the sound track and cut it down to exactly ten minutes and thirty seconds. I tried to get it to under ten minutes, but that’s something I suspect not even God could do.

The ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” aired on Gargantua Radio for several years. Then something unfortunate happened. According to Slate:

Republic regained control of the lucrative property in 1993 by flexing a new Supreme Court ruling that determined that the holder of a copyright to a story from which a movie was made had certain property rights over the movie itself. Since Republic still owned the copyrighted story behind It’s a Wonderful Life and had also purchased exclusive rights to the movie’s copyrighted music, it was able to essentially yank the movie out of the public domain: It claimed that since Wonderful Life relied on these copyrighted works, the film could no longer be shown without the studio’s blessing. (Technically, the film itself is not copyrighted. One could hypothetically replace the music, rearrange the footage, and sell or show the new product–but no one has done this.) In 1994, Republic * signed a “long-term” deal granting NBC exclusive rights to broadcast the movie, and the network typically does so between one and three times a year.

So there I was, with a brilliant (if I say so myself) ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with no venue. Unless…

Eureka! I knew what to do–memorize not only the script, but also the voices and their inflections (after all, I had everything on tape–and in those days, it really was tape), add some blocking and schtick and Voila: “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

Since that time, I have performed the piece on stages, in living rooms, in bars, in Savings and Loans (yes, really), outdoors, indoors and just about any place large than a postage stamp. I have done it on radio numerous times, as well as on video.

And so I present the 2012 version, with a great cast of folks from Chicago’s Progressive Talk, AM & FM. Here’s the cast, with the “actors” listed first, followed by their roles:

Ron Cowgill (host of WCPT’s Mighty House) – Uncle Billy
Mike Sanders (host of WCPT’s OurTown) – God, Bert, Ernie, Martini, Truck Driver, Harry
Lisa Albrecht – Mary
Sarah Batka – Violet, Mrs. Bailey, Janey (she even “plays” the piano!), Zuzu
Dennis Schetter – St. Joseph, Man #1, Man #2, Mean Man, and probably some other character that I’ve lost track of

If you don’t catch it live during the 10:00 a.m. hour on Sunday’s show, you can always listen on my podcast page.

Rick DiMaio gets his Masters…Congratulations!

After last Sunday’s show, I grabbed my stuff, quickly headed out of the station and made my way to Chez Rick DiMaio, where a number of us gathered to surprise my excellent meteorologist on the completion of his M.S. Degree in Meteorology (what else?) from Nothern Illinois University. You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a room full of meteorologists waxing poetic on various weather phenomena.

As Rick stated on the air last week, he didn’t exactly count on finishing his degree 30 years after getting his bachelor’s…but I guess that’s life. Anyway, I was happy to be a part of the surprise celebration at Rick’s apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.

Seriously, I can’t thank Rick enough for having shared his weather wisdom with me and my listeners for almost five years now. In my opinion, he’s the best in the business in Chicago, and I wish him much, much success and happiness in the years to come.

Surviving and exploiting the sun’s energy

July 8, 2012

A break in the heat but not in the drought

It’s nice to be able to sit on the back porch again without melting into a puddle. Not only did we see the first 100 degree day in seven years in Chicago–we saw three of them in a row. Does that mean that we’ll go another 21 years before we hit the century mark again? Um…do the words “climate change” ring a bell?

Of course, as meteorologist Rick DiMaio says, it’s important to gather the data and look at what it means after the event. On the other hand, 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the U.S. in the month of June, leading some people to point out that the events we’ve been seeing in America are exactly the kinds of things that have been predicted by climate change models.

Regardless of whether or not our 2012 weather events have been caused by climate change or are just freakish weather, there’s no doubt that we are in the middle of a very dry period–not just in Illinois but in all of the lower 48 states. An analysis compiled by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows 27 of the 48 states (56%) in some stage of drought.

Which brings us to what all of this heat and lack of water are doing to your trees, shrubs and perennials. Plant Information Specialist Doris Taylor from the Morton Arboretum stops by today to tell us what she’s been seeing in the Plant Clinic and what advice she has for gardeners and homeowners.

Meanwhile, my buddy Dan Kosta from Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale offers some watering tips:

1. Water EARLY in the morning, before the sun is strong.

2. Evening watering is okay when it’s hot. The foliage will dry quickly on hot days and the plants can absorb the water all night without the stress of the sun.

3. If a plant is wilted, water it, no matter what time it is.

4. Always water thoroughly. Water should freely run out of the drainage holes. You need to give about the same amount of water as if the pot were empty and you were filling the pot with water.

5. Check that the soil is absorbing the water. Dig in a little to see that the soil is wet and not still dry. If the soil stays dry. water it generously with lukewarm water.

6. Do not worry about droplets of water on the leaves causing burning. It doesn’t happen. The droplet may form a sort of lens but the focal length ( the distance to where the light is focused to a pinpoint) is well beyond the leaf surface.

7. Do not fertilize when i’ts over about 85. Plants stop growing at that point and will not use the fertilizer. It can then build up in the soil and burn the root hairs which are the parts that absorb the water for the plant.

8. Do not spray insecticides or fungicides when it’s over 85.They will become phytotoxic and harm the plant. Curling or burning of the foliage is the usual symptom.

9. I’ts good to mist the foliage in the heat of the afternoon. It will cool the leaves and make them more active. Between 2 pm and 4 pm is good.

10. One inch of water per week is best for most plants (1/4 inch per week for lawns). Apply this all at one time. Check to see how long it takes your sprinkler to deliver one inch of water (approximately an empty tuna fish can ) and set it to run that long once a week. Several light waterings over the course of a week keep the roots near the surface, and the plants are less resistant to drought and stress.

Energizing our legislators to support solar power

Last week’s show featured a Who’s Who of environmental leaders in Illinois, includin Jack Darin of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, Max Muller from Environment Illinois, Jennifer Walling of The Illinois Environmental Council and Tom Shepherd from Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF). I was fortunate enough to have them in studio to discuss a slew of enviornmental bills–good, bad and ugly–that came out of the recently concluded legislative session in Springfield.

A couple of those bills had to do with the road that we as a state are going to travel–will we continue to pollute our air and water by extracting fossil fuels or will we finally make the move to renewable energy, like solar power? It seems like a no-brainer but, unfortunately, many of our legislators just don’t get it, perhaps because there is so much coal money floating around in Springfield. Well, folks, that’s why we have elections. If you don’t like who’s in there now, get rid of them.

That’s basically the idea behind the Clean Energy Illinois PAC (CEI), a newly formed political PAC, has been designed to fund election efforts for Illinois candidates that support local clean energy legislation. Once this objective is achieved, the CEI PAC will work on implementing legislation to ensure a robust future for renewable energy in Illinois, benefiting individuals and the community, at large while creating jobs and revenue in the state.

To that end, the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is hosting a Solar Drinks event this Tuesday, July 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Emmett’s Ale House, 5200 Main Street in Downers Grove, Illinois. The event is free to ISEA members and $5.00 for others.

Featured speakers are Sarah Wochos & Barry Matchett. Among the issues to be covered:

  • The Solar & Wind Energy Rebate Program
  • Distributed generation REC procurement
  • Solar Installer Certification
  • The effect of municipal aggregation on the Illinois RPS

That first bullet point is in reference to one of the “ugly” things that came out of Springfield in May. A last minute addition to the Illinois budget saw $3.7 million swept from the Renewable Energy Resources Fund (managed by DCEO) to go to the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN).  This is a loss of 75% of DCEO’s renewable energy funding, which makes continuing the solar & wind energy rebate program unlikely.

Like I said, it’s all about elections. Lisa Albrecht, renewable energy specialist with Solar Service Inc., returns to the show this morning to talk about the future of solar power in Illinois. To contribute to the Clean Energy PAC, go to their website, or follow their group on Facebook.

Abby Goldberg visits the governor

As I mentioned earlier, there were good, bad and ugly environmental bills that came out of Springfield in their legislative session.

One of the “ugly” bills that we discussed was SB 3442, The Statewide Plastic Bag Recycling Bill. While the bill was written ostensibly to require plastic bag manufacturers to set up collection and recycling programs, pay fees and register with the state, it would also–with the exception of Chicago–prohibit Illinois communities from passing stronger laws, even if they wanted to tax or ban plastic bags altogether. If enacted, this would be the most restrictive law in the country banning municipal plastic bag reduction programs. While this bill purports to create a statewide recycling program for bags and film, would only increase plastic bag and film recycling by only one tenth of one percent [.1%].

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the bill being signed…it might not be. Abby Goldberg, a 12-year-old girl from Grayslake, Illinois started a petition on Change.org to get the governor to veto the bill and more than 155,000 people signed on. That encouraged Max Muller to invite her to bring her petitions to a news conference at James R. Thompson Center in Chicago on July 3. There, she stood alongside represenatives of various environmental groups (I was there as president of the Chicago Recycling Coalition), and even the Mayor of Champaign, Illinois, Don Gerard.

Remarkably, the event was covered by just about every media outlet in town (they were covering the environment so it must have been a slow news day). And then something even more remarkable happened. We all got word that Governor Pat Quinn would be coming out of his office to personally accept Abby’s petitions. Which he did. He even carried the sacks full of paper back into his office…by himself!

Does it mean that he will veto the bill or strip out the provisions that prohibit municipalities from enforcing plastic bag taxes or bans? We don’t know. But it was a good sign. You can still call The Gov and tell him to veto this bill. The number in Chicago is 312-814-2121.

Meanwhile, another one of the “ugly” bills that we discussed was SB 3766, The Leucadia Coal Gasification Bill. This bill, which is also sitting on Governor Quinn’s desk, would guarantee funding for the plant at on Chicago’s Southeast Side115th Street & Burley Avenue. As you can imagine, SETF is dead set against this bill and wants the governor to issue a veto because of pollution concerns for this already over-polluted area. Not only that, but the bill would force customers of Nicor Gas and Ameren to pay 95 percent of the cost to build and operate a $3 billion coal-to-gas plant and be stuck with that cost for 30 years. No wonder that even the Chicago Tribune wants the governor to issue a veto.

The SETF has planned a rally for Tuesday, July 10 at noon at the Thompson Center to get Governor Quinn to veto SB 3766. For south siders, there will be bus rides from two departure points: 1) The Zone (11731 S. Avenue O) and 2) Altgeld Gardens @ UpTop Store (13116 S. Ellis Ave.) Pick-up is at 10:00 a.m. and you will return by 1:00 p.m. To reserve a seat on the bus, call 773-819-5239. Of course, if you can’t attend, you can always call the Governor about this issue, too. The number again is 312-814-2121/