Tag Archives: Starved Rock State Park

Fighting for bees in Skokie

July 28, 2013

Are honey bees welcome in Skokie?

Before we start this conversation, I want to call your attention to some facts. The number of people in the U.S. who are killed each year by “bee” stings (and nobody bothers to differentiate among bees, paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets) is around 50. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Safety Council, and the World Health Organization (WHO). you are more likely to be killed by

  • lightning strikes
  • tornadoes
  • legal execution (thank you, Texas)
  • air travel accident
  • electrocution
  • bicycle accidents
  • guns (well, DUH, we’re the United States of Armed-merica)
  • falling down
  • falling off a ladder
  • inhaling your food

That’s the kind of perspective I try to hold onto when I hear that one municipality or another is set to enact a ban against beekeeping, especially in light of what seems like an epidemic of bee deaths world wide. In this case, it’s the Village of Skokie. A couple of weeks ago I was copied on an email that was making the rounds of environmentalists and like-minded folk. At the center of this controversy was Skokie resident and beekeeper Theo Watanabe, who wrote:

Skokie’s argument is that we have small lots, live close together, and bees may bother our neighbors.  There was not a focus on bees being dangerous, but more that they are a nuisance to neighbors.  They didn’t seem to ‘get’ that bees are already present everywhere and having a hive here or there is not going to change anything.

At that point, Watanabe wrote that there would be a hearing on July 15th, at 8pm at Skokie Village Hall, where the new ordinance would be read for the first time at the scheduled Board of Trustees meeting. They would also be allowing public comment.

According to the local media coverage, about 16 people testified, and all but two were in favor of home owners being able to keep honey bees on their property. Unfortunately, Dr. Catherine Counard, director of the Skokie Health Department, was less than enthusiastic about beekeeping in her remarks. According to the Skokie Patch, Counard

said the decline of honeybee populations in the country is spurring concern that many crops and foods may not get pollinated and thus not grow. However, she said hobby beekeepers don’t keep bees in great enough numbers to solve the problem.

She was also concerned about potential risks of bee stings to people, particularly people who are allergic to them. Based on Skokie’s population, she said 1,300 to 3,200 people could be allergic.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have (beehives) on small lots with a dense population,” she said, noting that they might be better suited to other towns which have larger lots or more space between homes, so that bees would not be so close to neighbors.

Regardless, Watanabe thought that a lot of good came out of the hearing and she is now focusing on a future Board of Trustees meeting.

I welcome her to the show today, along with Oak Park beekeeper Debbie Becker, who was involved in a similar controversy in that suburb a couple of years ago. She wrote to tell me that the new ordinance, with all its restrictions, makes it difficult and expensive to be a beekeeper in Oak Park. How? Here’s a list of hurdles that beekeepers must overcome:

• A permit is required, along with a $75 annual fee
• Inspection of the beeyard by a health-department worker
• Registration with the state department of agriculture
• Langstroth hives only
• A source of water on the property near the hive(s)
• Bee colonies must be monitored at least every other week during the active season
• Detailed maintenance records are to be kept and produced upon request
• Beekeeper has to own the property (renters need not apply). No hives on vacant property.
• The hives shall be at least five feet from all property lines
• No more than two hives per property
• A “flyway barrier”–a six-foot fence or dense shrubbery in front of the hive, with a 10-foot flyway between the hive and the barrier
• The rest of the beeyard is to be surrounded by a five-foot-tall barrier–fence or vegetation
• A latched gate with a sign stating, “Warning–Beehives on Property”
• The village now maintains a registry of people who have proven, with a doctor’s note, that they have bee-sting allergies. Beehives may not be established within 150 feet of any resident who has registered for this list.

My advice to beekeepers: be careful what you wish for.

Debra Shore and the Watershed Management Ordinance

It’s an understatement to say that we’ve had a rainy year in the Midwest…so far. But as this Illinois State Climatologist blog post notes, that can change in a hurry. But those of us in the media (and I must include myself, unfortunately) tend to speak of these things in apocalyptic terms, saying that this or that event was a “100-year storm.”

Leave it to Commissioner Debra Shore of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to set me straight. She sent out a newsletter with some interesting information, such as

When we refer to the 100-year storm, we mean there is one chance in a hundred (1%) that a storm of that magnitude will happen every year, not that such a storm will happen once every 100 years. A 25-year storm event means that there is one chance in 25 (4%) that such a storm will happen every year.

Well, heck, I didn’t know that. Here’s another myth that she destroys:

Another common misconception in some communities along the North Shore is that the Mayor of Wilmette (or someone else) has a magic key that unlocks the gate at the Wilmette Pumping Station to release stormwater from the North Shore Channel out to the lake. No one has such a key – it’s an urban legend. The gates are opened by agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers only when the water level in the North Shore Channel reaches capacity (about 4.5′ above the level of Lake Michigan). Opening the gates any earlier, as many mistakenly demand, would not only fail to provide any flooding relief, but also unnecessarily pollute our drinking water source.

She notes that this year’s flooding across Cook County (whether or not you call the events “100-year storms”) are a call for better stormwater management regulations. To that end, the MWRD has drafted a Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO) to establish uniform stormwater management regulations across Cook County.

Shore says the purpose of the WMO is to prevent flood damages that can result from upstream developments. Cook County is already two decades behind DuPage and Lake Counties, which have similar ordinances in place. You can read the draft ordinance for yourself by clicking on the link.

Then comes the important part, which is to submit your comments by email or postal mail by the August 9, 2013 deadline. You can also attend one of the three remaining public meetings in the next two weeks. All meetings are from 7 to 9 p.m.

Monday, August 5, 2013
Southwest Conference of Mayors
Chicago Ridge Village Hall
10455 S. Ridgeland Avenue, Chicago Ridge

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Northwest Municipal Conference
Mount Prospect Village Hall
50 S. Emerson Street, Mount Prospect

Thursday, August 8, 2013
South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association
1904 W. 174th Street, East Hazel Crest

Written comments may be submitted by either email or mail to the addresses below.


Catherine A. O’Connor
Director of Engineering
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
100 E. Erie Street
Chicago, IL 60611

It’s a pleasure to have MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore on my show again today.

I’m giving away 2 tix to the SETF “Down in the Dumps,” tour

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa Albrecht talked about being part of the Energy Solutions Ecotour, sponsored by the Southeast Environmental Task Force.,It went from coal plants to urban solar farms and everything else inbetween…and it was sold out!

Well, here we go again, on August 10, with the SETF Down in the Dumps Tour, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. As the SETF writes:

It may sound nasty, by it really is a fascinating trip through the southeast side by comfortable coach bus, visiting a variety o f past & present waste sites (of which there many!) located in our area of the city.

We’ll tour these operations and learn how Chicago deals with garbage, sewage and waste treatment in general. This unique narrated tour highlights the Southeast Side’s overabundance of treatment facilities – huge landfills, recycling centers, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District wastewater treatment plant and sludge drying fields, as well as several former notorious illegal dumps.

The tour originates and ends at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown at Randolph & Michigan The regular cost of $35.00 is reduced for “early bird” registrants to $25 –which includes lunch at Phil Stefani’s Pier 37 Restaurant. This picturesque location is at the famed Harborside International Golf Course on Lake Calumet -a remarkable facility built upon a former dump!

Register by July 31 by visiting setaskforce.blogspot.com — there you will find a PayPal option or call 773-646-0436.

Or…you just might win a couple ot tickets on today’s show. Tune in!

The Starved Rock battle continues…petition Governor Quinn

Though I haven’t talked about it on the air for while, the fight to keep an open pit frac sand mine outside of the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park continues. I was pleased to receive a message this week that contained a pdf created by Ottawa, Illinois resident Ashley Williams.

She calls it the Starved Rock Frac Sand Mine Fact Sheet, and it beautifully encapsulates the issue in a couple of short pages. This is a document that you might want to keep handy. She has also started a Move On.org petition called Governor Quinn: Stop the Mississippi Sand Frac Sand Mine Near Starved Rock! which already has more than 16,000 signatures on its way to 20,000. I signed it. I hope you will, too.

This Wednesday, Ashley Williams will be delivering petitions to Governor Pat Quinn at 1:00 p.m. at
The James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St, 16-100, Chicago, IL 60601. If you’re interested in joining her, show up in the Lobby of the Office of the Governor.

Fighting frac sand mines and bad horticultural science

March 3 , 2013

Starved Rock: the fight to preserve the state park continues

It was December 12, 2012 when the latest salvo was fired in the fight to preserve Starved Rock State Park from a frac sand mine. That’s when a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Openlands and Prairie Rivers Network stood up for Illinois citizens and filed suit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). They claimed that the agency’s November, 2012 decision to approve Phase I of the Mississippi Sand LLC mine that would be sited opposite the eastern entrance to the park was “arbitrary and capricious.”

I received word from Tracy Yang of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, who joins us on the show this morning, that Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, and Openlands have heard from the lawyers for IDNR and the lawyers for MS Sand. Both sets of opposing counsel replied with motions to dismiss the complaint. The lawyers for the environmental groups will respond no later than March 12, 2013.

Meanwhile, in 2013, the battle continues. LaSalle County seems hell-bent on approving as many frac sand mines as they possibly can. And now Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company has entered the picture.The company hopes to use their facility off Route 71, which is already used for transporting agricultural products, as the sand shipping terminal for the Mississippi Sand Mine.

On Monday, March 4, the City of Ottawa Planning Commission  will hold a public hearing in the Council City Chambers, 301 W Madison Street, Ottawa at 7 pm on the use of the ADM barge terminal for frac sand shipping. ADM is seeking annexation and zoning of the three parcels to “R” rural, and a conditional use to use the parcels for barge fleeting and shipping sand.

While this seems like a peripheral issue, it is yet another key part of the establishment of the Mississippi Sand operation. It’s also an opportunity for the public to show up and be heard–especially Ottawa residents, who have concerns about truck traffic and dust pollution.

Tracy Yang writes about several issues concerning the proposed sand mine:

Health Concerns
Recently, Dr. Crispin Pierce from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire conducted and published some research related to non-occupational health hazards associated with silica sand mining. Major points to consider are that Wisconsin DNR’s modeling program to predict PM 2.5 levels over a 24 hours period (Particulate Matter with diameter of 2.5 microns or less- the sizes that are known to cause silicosis) underestimates the maximum levels actually found. Freshly-fractured crystalline silica, such as that emitted during mining and processing, is significantly more toxic than “weathered” silica. There is also evidence that freshly-fractured silica causes more lung reactivity and inflammation than weathered (“aged”) silica: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nas/rdrp/appendices/chapter3/a3-70.pdf , http://www.sertox.com.ar/img/silicosis_article.pdf .

Currently, the federal government is considering new legislation to update the 1968 laws for occupational exposure to silica dust. Labor unions recognize that the current laws in place are dated and do not accurately protect workers. What does this say about the current understanding of risks related to non-occupational dust exposure, which were formulated at the same time?

It’s true, Illinois is currently examining 2 fracking bills (HB 2615 and HB 3086), discussed in our director’s latest blog posting here, but these are focused on fracking and do not cover sand mining safeguards.

Minnesota has recognized these concerns, and a few days ago a fracking sand moratorium bill passed in the state’s Senate Energy and Environment Committee. The measure would provide for a statewide study on the health and environmental impacts, and the creation of a regional oversight board to set mining standards. It also would authorize local governments to tax companies that mine, transport or process silica sand. This is a big step towards protecting human and environmental health (in MN)! Other governing bodies are starting to recognize the negative impacts of frac sand mining, I hope the Planning Commission can recognize that more study and discussion is needed here in the heart of the frac sand boom!

Tracy notes that on Thursday, March 14 she will be giving a lecture on frac sand mining and Starved Rock at Ottawa’s Reddick Library (1010 Canal St. Ottawa, IL  61350) from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Finally, you should be aware that you can have a real say in how our state conserves and protects our natural resources by attending the 2013 Conservation Congress. It’s a bi-annual event that allows citizens to become involved in a formal process to propose and advocate actions to protect and conserve the natural resources of the State of Illinois.

IDNR is currently prepar ing for the September 2013 Conservation Congress by hosting a series of discussions at forums around the state. The topic areas include water resources, outdoor recreation, fish conservation and fishing, hunting, recreational public access, state parks, mines and minerals and more.

Here’s where they will be held:

March 4, 5: Quad Cities. Western Illinois Campus 7-9 pm.
March 12, 13, 14: Chicago. South Shore Cultural Center, 7-9 pm.
March 21, 22: Belleville. Southwestern Illinois College, 7-9 pm.

If you’re wondering why you should show up, how about voicing your opinion about frac mining reform? Want to attend, but not sure what to say? Send an email to Tracy Yang (tracy.yang@sierraclub.org ) and she will send you a list of Sierra Club’s talking points to help you get started.

By the way, it’s not too late to write to Governor Pat Quinn and tell him what you think. We haven’t heard anything out of the Governor’s office. We haven’t heard anything from Mr. Environment on this issue, and it’s about time we did.

Wilmette goes green

I became aware of Go Green Wilmette when I saw show contributor Lisa Albrecht and her friend Drew Solomon do a Climate Reality presentation for them earlier this year. They made sure that I knew about GOING GREEN MATTERS, Sunday, March 10th from 1–5 pm at the Woman’s Club of Wilmette, 930 Greenleaf Avenue.

Margaret Martin-Heaton from Go Green Wilmette joins us this morning to say that there will be 100 exhibitorsand demonstrations on a wide variety of environmental topics. Whether you’re a green novice or an expert, there will be plenty of information. Topics include home energy conservation, renewable energy resources, green cleaning products, organic food choices, green landscaping, transportation, composting, growing your own food, and more.

You can visit the enlarged “Interactive Eco Zone” with displays for all ages, check out the expanded hybrid and electric car exhibit, view the nature photography exhibit and stop by the Go Green Cafe. Bring your batteries, electronics and Styrofoam for recycling. Free admission. For more information about Going Green Matters, visit www.goinggreenmatters.org.

The Garden Professors are in the house (so check your facts)

I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. She is Associate Professor at Washington State University I do know that I was at Gargantua Radio down the dial, and I had become aware of her Horticultural Myths column. In it, she rails against a lot of conventional horticultural wisdom, in articles that range from discussions on bone meal to invasive species to disinfecting pruning tools and, one of my favorties, landscape fabric. (Rule of thumb: It might be fabric but it ain’t landscaping.) She is also the author of The Informed Gardener and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again.

So I interviewed her on the big, 50,000-watt blow torch and tucked her name in my memory. A couple of years ago, when she came out with Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: good science – practical application, I invited her to be on my new show.

At about that time, I became aware of a guy named Jeff Gillman. He is Associate Professor, University of Minnesota He had written a book called The Truth About Garden Remedies. In it, he debunked a lot of conventional horticultural wisdom (hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here) by using–oddly enough–SCIENCE! Since then, he has authored or co-authored The Truth About Organic Gardening, Decoding Gardening Advice, and more.

Then, the strangest thing happened. The two of them teamed up with Dr. Bert Cregg, Associate Professor at Michigan State University and Dr. Holly Scoggins, Associate Professor at Virginia Tech to create something called The Garden Professors. Suddenly, truth in gardening was fashionable! What will they think of next?

Not only do they have a blog, they’re on Facebook, too. In fact, I think I caused a bit of a ruckus when, on an FB group called #GardenChat, I noted that Chalker-Scott and Gillman would be on the show today. Suddenly, there was a hot and heavy conversation about compost tea (really!) and the fur was flying!

It is with just a small amount of trepidation that I welcome both Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott and Jeff Gillman to The Mike Nowak Show. I’m girding my loins.

Sequestration hits home on my show

Cathy McGlynn, coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) is back on the show today, and in a weird way, is illustrating how the sequestration that started on Saturday affects real programs.

March 3rd through 9th is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. NIIPP was to have promoted that event as well as their green industry outreach efforts since the gardening season will be starting soon after.

One problem. Because of the mandated budget cuts, there is no money for the Awareness Week programs. If you click on the above link, you’ll see this message:


So much for fighting invasives, eh?

Actully, some things will continue. For instance, NIIPP will be at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show from March 9th to 17th.

And Cathy and I will talk today about a few ornamentals that you should be aware of…mainly because they are exotic invasives. It might shock you to learn that not only should you not be growing

Burning bush
Japanese barberry
Purple loosestrife
Japanese knotweed
Porcelain vine
Butterfly bush
Callery pear (Bradford Pear)

but you shouldn’t be able to buy them at garden centers and box stores. In fact, the City of Chicago has its own list of invasive plants and many states and regions have similar lists.

We’ll do our best to make you unhappy about your plant choices this morning.


Happy Holidays: Environmental Groups Take on IDNR

December 16, 2012

IDNR: “arbitrary and capricious decision” to approve Starved Rock mining permit – in other words, they’re being sued

It’s been exactly a year since I first got wind of the plan to site an open pit frac sand mine just outside the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County. I went back to look at the website entry I posted for December 18, 2011 and, at that time, the LaSalle County Board of Zoning Appeals had just met and unanimously approved the special use permit to allow Mississippi Sand LLC establish its operation on 350 acres of farmland on the south side of the Illinois River.

In the twelve months since that initial decision, the mine has come closer and closer to being a reality. The full county board voted to approve the action of the zoning board, and Mississippi Sand began the process of submitting permits to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Office of Mines and Minerals (OMM) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

Meanwhile, local and state activists began making their voices heard. Groups like the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, Openlands and Prairie Rivers Network led the charge, but other groups and individuals have worked tirelessly to get the word out to the general public that the very character of this beloved state park could possibly be changed forever–and for the worse. I have interviewed countless people on my program–those representing environmental groups, and residents who stand to be directly affected by this affront to the beauty of the area.

Three weeks ago, to the dismay of those involved in the battle, IDNR OMM approved Phase I of the Starved Rock mine. But the latest chapter in this struggle between industry and the environment was written this week when the Sierra Club , Prairie Rivers Network, and Openlands filed a complaint in Circuit Court in Springfield, Illinois demanding judicial review of that sand mining permit.

It reads in part:

Defendant Mississippi Sand, LLC…failed to comply with SMLCRA [Illinois Surface Mined Land Conservation and Reclamation Act] by submitting a Conservation and Reclamation Plan…a Reclamation Map and Affected Area Map with its application for a surface mining permit, which inaccurately and inadequately describe its proposed silica mining project adjacent to the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park…in LaSalle County. Defendants Michael Woods, Michael Falter. OMM (collectively the “OMM Defendants”) and IDNR violated SMLCRA in that they approved the flawed Reclamation Plan. Reclamation Map, and Affected Area Map, and, as evidenced by their written findings, failed to consider adequately all of the thirteen factors relating to the short and long-term impacts of the proposed mine as required by SMLCRA…As a result, OMM Defendants and IDNR made an arbitrary and capricious decision to approve the Mississippi Sand surface mining permit. [Empasis mine.]

The “thirteen factors” cited above include the short and long term impact of the proposed mining on vegetation, wildlife, fish, land use, land values, local tax base, the economy of the region and the State, employment opportunities, air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, noise pollution, and drainage, as required by the Surface Mined Land Conservation and Reclamation Act and its regulations.

The petition continues:

The actions and inactions of Agency Defendants will allow the degradation and destruction of private and public interests. The mine and its operations will injure the enjoyment and health of park users specifically and persons generally, as well as the healthfulness of properties near the proposed mine. Neighbors to Starved Rock, visitors to Starved Rock and wildlife will experience intermittent bursts of loud noise from explosive blasting at the mine site. Noise and air pollution will harm and directly disturb neighboring businesses including a nearby apiary. Aesthetic and health impacts on the park will likely reduce the number of visitors to the park and thereby harm businesses that rely on park visitors for revenue. Nearby properties may flood. Visitors to Starved Rock and neighbors may suffer from, and will fear harm from, carcinogenic respirable silica dust and other airborne pollutants from the proposed mine. Defendant Mississippi Sand will partially destroy and wholly alter the flow characteristics of Horseshoe Creek, which flows into Starved Rock. All of these impacts, and the community perception of such impacts, may reduce the value of nearby private property. Finally, Defendant Mississippi Sand may be unable to reclaim the mined land as its Reclamation Plan and Reclamation Map indicates and the law requires.

In one of the more interesting aspects of this action, the environmental parties bringing suit contend that the Office of Mines and Minerals violated the Illinois Surface Mined Land Conservation and Reclamation Act (SMLCRA) by “Failing to Consider Adequately its Statutorily-Required Factors.” However, they then turn around and declare that “SMLCRA Violates the Due Process Guarantee in the Illinois and United States Constitutions as it was Applied by the Agency Defendants in This Case.”

SMLCRA is unconstitutional to the extent that it is held to provide that no notice or predecisional hearing is required for the members and supporters of Plaintiffs whose protected property interests are placed at risk by the issuance of this permit.

A. Due Process requires that IDNR hold a hearing on a non-coal surface mining permit application at the request of persons whose property interests will be jeopardized by the permitted activity.
B. Due Process requires IDNR to consider comments on a non-coal surface mining permit submitted by persons whose property interests will be jeopardized by the permitted activity.
C. Therefore, if SMLCRA is held to allow IDNR to issue permits for activities that endanger protected property interests while denying those whose interests are at stake any opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time, in a meaningful manner, SMLCRA violates the Due Process Clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions.

Finally, the plaintiffs charge that IDNR Defendants’ Violated the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act by Failing to Fulfill Consultation Requirements.In the end, the suit seeks to void the permit; “providing such further and additional relief as this Court deems just and proper.”

Today, I’m pleased to have Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, return to the show to talk about the law suit and where we go from here. From an article in the NewsTribune out of LaSalle, Illinois:

Tony Giordano, president of Mississippi Sand, LLC, said the sand mine project was ready to begin next spring but now that a lawsuit has been filed it could delay the project for as long as a year.

“This has been the most scrutinized sand mine in the state of Illinois,” Giordano said. “It’s frustrating. This lawsuit has little merit. There are multiple state agencies that have examined mines and given us permits. In the end, we’ll get our permits and have to look at that time what the market will bare [sic].”

Or maybe the project will be scuttled entirely. ‘Tis a consumation devoutly to be wished.

If you want your voice to be heard, there’s still time. Here’s how you can contact Governor Pat Quinn. He’s been awfully silent on this issue. Makes me nervous.

Lisa, Sarah and Mike offer great books for holiday gifts… Part Deux

Last week we interviewed a few authors of books that we thought would make good holiday gifts. However, as you know, my show is only two hours long, which means that a number of good books didn’t get discussed.

So welcome to the second part of our discussion. Let’s start with some books recommended by Lisa Albrecht, who really got short shrift last week. My apologies, Lisa. Take it away:

Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy — and Our Planet — from Dirty Energy by Danny Kennedy
Obviously I am biased but this is my favorite. Danny Kennedy likens the move toward solar to the Industrial Revolution, hence the name. He predicts a “Solar Assent” as we move from dirty energy to clean sources that each of us can own individually. My favorite part – each chapter has a section called “What You Can Do as a Rooftop Revolutionary”. I like action and often I am inspired by a book or message but lack a “next step”. Danny not only offers them but his website includes the links and back ground that you need to join the revolution.

Power Trip, The Story of America’s Love Affair With Energy by Amanda Little
I recently met Amanda Little, who shared her exploration of the energy industry first hand, including a journey to the top of an oil rig and the catacombs of NY tunnels. Although I am not finished, the book reads like a Lonely Planet of the energy industry and is engaging adventure, painting pictures of technology few get to see firsthand. Sectioned into two parts, the first reveals the evolution of oil/energy over the last century. The second discusses new possibilities, offering hope and vision.

Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It by Osha Gray Davidson
As a solar professional, Germany is revered as the Meca of Clean Energy, both a source of shame and inspiration as an entire country with the sunshine of Alaska successfully shifts to renewable energy. Osha Gray Davidson visited Germany this summer to witness the success and tell the story of Germany’s desire to break up with dirty energy after Chernobyl in 1986 and the movement that is known as Energiewend or “energy change”. He explores the social climate that has driven their success and a nationwide commitment toward a cleaner, self-reliant future and how we might be able to do the same in the US.

Meanwhile, a couple of other selections popped up on my radar screen, thanks to the good folks at The Mountaineers Books.

On Arctic Ground: Tracking Time Through Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve by Debbie S. Miller
What if I told you that there is a tract of U.S. land that is larger than the state of Maine and that is largely untouched by our all-too-greasy-hands? Well, it does exist in Alaska (where else?) and it has the unfortunate name of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska. Yup, what might be the most pristine place left on the planet (with the possible exception of Antarctica (and who wants to go there besides me?) is ready to be exploited by the people who have turned exploitation into a science (yes, I’m talking about us…as in U.S.!) Debbie Miller has explored just a fraction of this territory and in this very cool and important book–made even cooler by the fabulous photographs– explains why we might want to preserve this area instead of milking it dry for its oil and gas.

Cairns: Messengers in Stone by David B. Williams
What do I know about cairns? Pretty much nothing. And what do YOU know about them? I’m guessing the same. Which is why we need David Williams to tell us about what are essentially piles of rocks that have meaning. For thousands of years cairns have been used by people to connect to the landscape and communicate with others, and are often an essential guide to travelers. Cairns, among other things, can indicate a trail, mark a grave, serve as an altar or shrine, reveal property boundaries or sacred hunting grounds, and even predict astronomical activity. Who knew? (Apparently, David did.)

Books recommended by Ron Wolford at Illinois Extension

Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia

Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest – University of Illinois

Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers – The American Horticulture Society

Crockett’s Victory Garden

Step-by-Step Gardening Techniques Illustrated