The benefits of trees, CSAs and funding the IDNR

December 2, 2012

Dr. Rex Bastian helps your trees recover from a tough 2012

One thing I’ve learned over my years as a gardener and a gardening radio show host is that there is no such thing as a “normal” growing year. No matter how you slice it, there’s always going to be some kind of weather anomaly that causes trouble, whether it’s cold, heat, storms, drought, flooding or some combination of the above.

That being said, 2012 will be remembered as a year where very little seemed to be “normal.” It started with an abnormally warm winter that turned into an off-the-charts string of 80 degree days in March. It was the warmest March in the contiguous 48 states in our history. That led to excessive heat in much of the country in spring and summer, accompanied by drought in a many areas, including the Midwest. Once again, we hit a new high, as July became the hottest month ever recorded in the United States.

The heat abated in some areas, but the drought has persisted, leading Illinois Extension and its counterpart at Purdue to create websites devoted to drought information.

If you’re a gardener, it’s relatively easy to see when your annuals and perennials take a hit from heat and lack of water. However, the average person isn’t always aware of the damage being done to trees, which often take much longer to respond to environmental changes. But if you’re a tree farmer, you know that it has not been a good year for your crops, and the effects could be around for awhile.

That’s why I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Rex Bastian from The Care of Trees back to the show. As you might know, The Care of Trees has been a loyal sponsor of The Mike Nowak Show ever since I started at Chicago’s Progressive Talk in 2008. Dr. Bastian is Vice President of Field Education and Development for TCOT and has a Ph. D. in Entomology from Iowa State University

And he knows his stuff. Get ready with your tree questions at 773/763-9278. We will discuss how this year’s amazing weather has affected your trees and the insects and diseases that can prey upon your trees. We’ll also tell you what to look for next spring, as your trees begin to leaf out after being subjected to all kinds of indignities in 2012.

Meanwhile, I asked Dr. Bastian to supply me with some of the websites he likes. Lo and behold, many of them are the ones I recommend to my listeners and readers. Great minds…oh, you know.

Trees Are Good – Website sponsored by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) that provides good information and links on proper tree care and Certified Arborists

Morton Arboretum Plant Health Care Report – Periodic updates during the growing season addressing current tree/landscape issues/concerns. Chicago area focus.

Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Information Services – Plant information, fact sheets, diagnostic services. Chicago area focus.

University of Illinois Home, Yard, and Garden Pest Newsletter –  Periodic updates during the growing season addressing current tree/landscape issues. State wide focus.

National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center – Short/long term estimation of future weather conditions.

Kim Marsin has a CSA for you (it might be hers)!

Speaking of being at the mercy of Mother Nature, there’s nothing like growing food to keep you humble. I know about it from a very small scale, but people like Kim Marsin and her partner Rachel Reklau at Sweet Home Organics know about it up close and personal.

They’re part of the new breed of organic farmers. You’ve heard me call them “commuter farmers” because they don’t live on the land that they cultivate…though rumor has it that they’re in the midst of moving closer to their operation at Primrose Farm, which is part of the St. Charles Park District.

And just yesterday (Saturday, December 1), they were doing a presentation on marketing to this year’s class of Stateline Farm Beginnings® students at Angelic Organics Learning Center. The program is a farmer-led training and support class designed to help people plan and launch sustainable farm businesses. Since 2005, graduates of the program have launched more than 35 new sustainable farms in our region.

I will finally get to meet Kim in person at the WCPT studios, after having spoken to her by phone perhaps a half dozen times on my show. She’s currently using her seemingly boundless energy to encourage folks to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, like the one at Sweet Home Organics.

The way it works, according to Local Harvest, a website that helps you track down CSAs in your area is that

a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

In addition to Local Harvest, Marsin recommends checking out Family’s CSA page with the caveat that the 2012 CSA data is still posted.

More funds for IDNR…will that help Starved Rock?

I received a message from Jennifer Walling at the Illinois Environmental Council yesterday:

I am very pleased to let you know that the funding bill for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources passed the Illinois Senate.  This bill passed 39 yes – 11 no.

Today’s roll call is available here. The Governor will have to sign the bill before it can become law.

Thank you to Representative Frank Mautino and Senator Toi Hutchinson, the sponsors of this bill in the House and Senate.  It’s a great day for conservation in Illinois thanks to these legislators, our array of advocates through Partners for Parks and Wildlife , the staff at IDNR, and all of the supporters and advocates who championed this legislation.

As anybody who has listened to my program lately knows, I have been frustrated by IDNR’s seemingly contradictory roles as protector of natural resources in Illinois but also as an agency that facilitates their havesting and sale.

The case in point is the proposed open pit frac sand mine outside the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park. IDNR says on its website that “Outdoor recreation opportunities such as boating, camping, fishing, hunting, picnicking, sightseeing, wildlife observation, swimming and trail use create a $3.2 billion annual economic impact in Illinois, supporting 33,000 jobs statewide.”

And yet, those very activities near Starved Rock State Park are under threat because of the proposed sand mine.

I hope Jennifer has good news about how the monies coming to IDNR will be good for our natural environment.

Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour comes to Chicago

What do the numbers 2, 565 and 2,795 have in common?

Before you reach for The Google and start typing “prime numbers” into the search engine, let me use two words: Global Warming. Here are two more words: Bill McKibben . He was one of the first people to raise the alarm about climate change, in his 1989 book, The End of Nature , and went on to found the group , which is based on the number of CO2 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere that many scientists claim is the safe limit for humanity. Unfortunately, we’re already up to 392 ppm…oops, our bad. And it gives you an idea of why McKibben speaks about the subject with a certain amount of urgency.

His latest attempt to cut through the clutter about Justin Bieber and fiscal cliff nonsense is something he calls the “Do the Math” tour, which arrived in Chicago on Wednesday evening on the way to completing its 21-city U.S. run in a little under a month. Lisa Albrecht and I (and a few hundred friends) watched McKibben and others take to the stage to impress upon his audiences that we’re already speeding toward an environmental cliff and, instead of putting on the breaks, we keep hitting the accelerator.

That’s where the numbers 2, 565 and 2,795 come in. The 2 stands for the the global temperature rise that would have “catastrophic” consequences for our planet. That won’t happen unless the world releases 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide that are stored in its fuel reserves. Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies already have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves and, at the current rate of consumption, they’ll get to the 565 mark in 16 years. Think those oil guys are interested in slowing down or switching to cleaner and sustainable energy sources? If you do, you haven’t been paying attention to the political debate in the past 30 years or so.

So forget the Mayan Calendar. The McKibben Calendar has the planet set to enter uncharted waters (and air) in 2028. Unless we do something right now.

McKibben’s strategy–and it makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard to this point–is to go on the offensive by encouraging individuals, churches, schools/universities and municipalities to disinvest in the oil companies. “we are asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change stop profiting from it.”, said McKibbon. The movement is laid out in the campaign Fossil Free, where you can find a campaign, start a campaign, download a disinvestment toolkit, sign up for updates and more.

Looks like we’d better get started. We’re already in way over our heads.