Environmental Issues Addressed on Chicago’s Southeast Side

A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters has given supporting evidence that “environmental racism” is a conceptualized reality created by the biggest polluters in the U.S. — factories, warehouses and other facilities that house toxic waste are overwhelmingly located in poor, non-white neighborhoods. Historically, this has also been true for many urban areas around the globe. The issue of environmentally overburdening communities is one that many communities have unjustly had to face because of the percentage of people who are considered to be low-income individuals. In Chicago, much has been said and done by local groups to alleviate the pressures of living in a community where the quality of air, water and resources is not always up to a livable standard.

“Through partnerships with advocacy groups, industry, other agencies and individual residents, EPA has empowered the environmentally overburdened communities in Southeast Chicago to achieve significant environmental benefits in a short timeframe, while building the infrastucture that will ensure the area’s continued progress.”

In collaboration with Illinois EPA and the City of Chicago’s Department of Public Health, over 70 companies were investigated for Clean Air Act compliance since 2014 on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Most notably, the U.S. EPA inspected over 25 reported sites in direct response to listening to affected communities about their concerns, including exposure to petcoke dust. Of the several resultant enforcement cases, three enforcement actions, in particular, resulted in dramatic air quality improvements for the community.

For an inside look at how Chicago has dealt with the issue of soot pollution and other local environmental concerns, check out this article from the Chicago Tribune that was published back in 2015: The Problem with Soot

Benzkofer, Stephan. “For Much of Its History, Chicago Covered by Smoke, Soot.”Chicagotribune.com, 5 June 2015, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/history/ct-dirty-air-pollution-environment-chicago-flashback-per-0607-jm-20150605-story.html.

EPA. “Environmental Issues in Chicago’s Little Village & Pilsen Neighborhoods.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 29 Jan. 2018, http://www.epa.gov/il/environmental-issues-chicagos-little-village-pilsen-neighborhoods.

Nina J. Egbon is a member of the student Communications Team in ACP/SUST 250 “The Sustainable University” class at Roosevelt University in Chicago. This spring 2018 semester, the Communications Team is writing for and editing the RU Green Campus blog and social media channels.

Nina

 

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Enroll in RU’s Social Justice Summer Institute, May 29-June 4

Sustainability Studies @ Roosevelt University


Hey, Roosevelt students!
If you are interested in a one-of-a-kind experiential learning summer course, please consider this one-week course (pdf) that addresses the school to prison pipeline. Please reach out to Dr. Heather Dalmage for more information: hdalmage@roosevelt.edu or 312.341.3692

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Summer Sustainability: Innovative Experiential Learning Classes

Hey, Roosevelt students! Looking for a different kind of summer course experience? Want to earn credit by getting outside, breathing fresh air, noticing the world around you, and getting your hands dirty for a good cause?

If so, check out the line-up of Sustainability Studies summer courses, which still have seats open. Ramble all over the city and suburbs exploring Chicago’s many ecosystems in SUST 360 Writing Urban Nature (all outside, all in one week!) or become an vertical urban farmer in SUST 390 Rooftop Garden (blue sky, clean dirt, good food a-growin’). These are not your garden variety college classes (yeah, pun intended).

More course/registration info here on the SUST blog.

SUST 360 WUN Poster Summer 2018

Posted in Courses, Students

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – The Damaging Effects on Our Ecosystem

In 2016, a research flight which was supposed to be conducing an oceanic survey on whales and dolphins, found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known globally as the “great Pacific garbage patch”. Located between Hawaii and California, this trash vortex has been known for some time by scientists and marine biologists who study aquatic life. A good educated guess would conclude that this accumulated trash was the result of humans dumping their garbage in the ocean while fishing or transporting materials to waste dumps. An aerial survey done in 2016 found that the garbage patch was far worse than previously thought because a larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded human waste was discovered.

It goes with out saying that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is incredibly problematic for a number of reasons. It’s a well-known fact that for decades, humans have managed to dump tons of garbage into oceans around the world. There are reportedly 5 oceanic garbage patches around the globe (the others can be found in the Indian and Atlantic oceans). One of the most problematic issues of this grand-scale pollution is that most plastics take thousands of years to decay. As a result, fish and wildlife are becoming sick from the toxins they ingest via the plastics they consume which means that a.) our food chain is being poisoned and b.) human health is being threatened.

Image result for the great pacific garbage patch

In the most polluted places in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the mass of plastic exceeds the amount of plankton 6 times over according to Nature.com. This is obviously, therefore, a devastating issue that needs to be discussed more in schools and communities around the world so that more people can become aware of the dangers of using plastic materials that are not biodegradable or easy to get rid of. If more people were made aware of where plastic could end up and the affects it has on our global ecosystem, less trash would be accumulating off of our coasts.

For more on this, click on the link below:

The Guardian – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch 2016

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can prevent garbage and non-biodegradable waste from entering our water supply, contact the organization Ocean Clean-Up. They’re currently heading the efforts to reduce the size of all oceanic garbage patches…and, of course, they can not do it alone.

Til next time,

Nina

Nina Osagie-Egbon is a member of the student Communications Team in ACP/SUST 250 “The Sustainable University” class at Roosevelt University in Chicago. This spring 2018 semester, the Communications Team is writing for and editing the RU Green Campus blog and social media channels.

 

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Impact of Global Warming- Loss of Coral Life in The Great Barrier Reef

In the past couple of days, national and international news sources have been reporting that global warming is causing irreversible damage to important ecosystems like the renowned and highly regarded Great Barrier Reef. Known as the world’s largest coral reef system with over 2,900 individual reefs, The Great Barrier Reef has reportedly lost half of its coral since 2016 according to The Atlantic. Located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, “The Great Barrier Reef “is well-known for being the world’s largest single structure made by living organisms and due to to its size, it can actually be seen from outer space. As a coral system, the Great Barrier Reef supports a wide diversity of marine life – including sharks, turtles, crustaceans and many types of algae.

However, in most recent years, damage to the reef has reduced the size of this natural coral system and has also radically altered the mix of its marine species according to scientists. In a New York Times article published earlier today, researchers have noted that nearly one-third of the reef’s coral were killed when ocean temperatures spiked in 2016, as a result of global warming. The underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef was so severe that scientists have reported that the natural wonder will probably never look the same again. Once labelled by CNN as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef’s entire ecological identity has changed forever due to the conclusion that losses in certain species has irreversibly damaged the make-up of this extraordinary ecosystem.

The director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University, Terry P. Hughes,  is also the lead author of a study currently being done on the deteriorating state of the Great Barrier Reef. Hughes has reported that in 2016 alone, “about 30 % of the Great  Barrier Reef’s corals were lost, with the most severe damage in the isolated northern sector”. Last year another ocean heat, took another 20% of the corals, according to Hughes.

 The back to back record-breaking marine heat wave is an “unprecedented” event in the reefs recorded history according to researchers and scientists studying the effects of global warming on coral reefs. The higher temperatures create a dilemma for the reefs because the excessive heat results in a massive coral bleaching event, according to Scientific American. “Healthy corals have a symbiotic relationship with tiny algae, which live inside them and give them bright colors. But when corals experience heat stress, they expel their algae, turning a bleached white color in the process.”

Although bleaching isn’t necessarily a death sentence for corals, extremely warm periods can kills reefs before their algae can get a chance to regrow and recover. Researchers have concluded by examining the Great Barrier Reef, that some coral species are better at “weathering heat stress” than others. Surveys done on the The Great Barrier Reef have suggested that many areas have seen a decline in fast-growing species, such as staghorn and tabular corals, with slower-growing, simpler species being left behind. Researchers have stated that this is a perfect example of natural-selection at work.

As a reef structure that is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, the conclusions being drawn about the Great Barrier Reef presents both good and bad news. On one hand, the survival of “slower-growing , hardier coral species” suggests that there’s still a future for the reef, although it may look different from what it was in the 20th century. On the other hand, many of the surviving corals are much simpler due to their physical structure compared to their “faster-growing” counterparts, which were notable for their “complex, branching 3-D designs.

Image result for  3D design great barrier reefs

-Sample image of healthy coral structure, source unknown 

As a World Heritage Site since 1981, The Great Barrier Reef is in danger of never fully recovering from the recent rise in global temperatures that has shown to have a negative impact on ecosystems around the globe. According to researchers, prospects for a full recovery are slim. “Even if some of the faster-growing species started to make a comeback, it would still take at least a decade for them to return to their previous levels,” says sources quoted in Scientific America’s most recent article on the future of the Great Barrier Reef. According to many in the scientific community in Australia and around the globe, it’s more likely that more heat waves will occur in the meantime, causing more damage before the reef has fully rebuilt itself.  With an area of 134,634 mi², the future of the Great Barrier Reef relies on the global response to climate change and on the research used to discern the best course of action for saving one of Earth’s most beloved seven natural wonders.

Til next time,

Nina

Nina Osagie-Egbon is a member of the student Communications Team in ACP/SUST 250 “The Sustainable University” class at Roosevelt University in Chicago. This spring 2018 semester, the Communications Team is writing for and editing the RU Green Campus blog and social media channels.

Sources:

Harvey, Chelsea. “Recent Ocean Heat Waves Have ‘Forever’ Altered Great Barrier Reef.” Scientific American, 19 Apr. 2018, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/recent-ocean-heat-waves-have-forever-altered-great-barrier-reef/

Mooney, Chris. “Global Warming Has Changed the Great Barrier Reef ‘Forever,’ Scientists Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/04/18/global-warming-has-changed-the-great-barrier-reef-forever-scientists-say/

Williams, Jacqueline. “Damage to Great Barrier Reef From Global Warming Is Irreversible, Scientists Say.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Apr. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/world/australia/australia-barrier-reef.html.

 Meyer, Robinson. “Since 2016, Half of All Coral in the Great Barrier Reef Has Died.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 Apr. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/since-2016-half-the-coral-in-the-great-barrier-reef-has-perished/558302/.

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“Sustainable” Film Screening Today @RooseveltU at 4:30pm

The Sustainability Studies Program @RooseveltU is hosting a film screening, followed by a panel discussion, in honor of #RUEarth Month2018 today, April 18 from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Chicago Campus, Wabash Building, Room 317. All members of the Roosevelt community and the public are invited to see and discuss the film Sustainable: A Documentary on the Local Food Movement in America. The event Features a faculty panel discussion with professors Jeannine Love (POS) and Vicki Gerberich (SUST), with Graham Pickren (SUST) moderating.

This film won the 2016 Accolade Global Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Achievement. It reveals a vital investigation of the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system from the agricultural issues we face – soil loss, water depletion, climate change, pesticides, and more – to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it.

For more information, contact Professor Graham Pickren at gpickren@roosevelt.edu. And check out these other cool #RUEarthMonth2018 events planned at Roosevelt!

Posted in Events, food, Students

WB Residence Hall Greencycle Event Today at 4pm (& More Earth Month Events)

Students, do something sustainable with your extra/unwanted stuff! As our Residence Hall move-out day approaches, many students may have clothing and other things that they don’t use or need anymore. Instead of throwing these things away and adding to landfill waste, students may donate those things at the upcoming RU Greencycle Event, sponsored by the Residence Life project team of ACP/SUST 250 The Sustainable University and the WCC.

Drop-off bins will be installed for students to leave their donations on the WB 14th floor. No work or fees are required! Students participating are encouraged to sift through donations and take clothing or objects for reuse. Any leftover objects will be donated to a shelter.

Contact RA Claire Wilson (residencelife2018@yahoo.com) for more info and if you’d like to participate by staffing a donation table.

More Earth Month 2018 Events @RooseveltU

Wed 4/18 — Film Screening of Sustainable: A Documentary on the Local Food Movement in America: film + panel discussion, 4:30-6pm in WB 317. Contact Prof. Graham Pickren (gpickren@roosevelt.edu) for more info.

Thurs 4/19 — Guerilla Gardening: Make Your Own Seed Bomb! (10am-2pm AUD Fainman Lounge), sponsored by the student organization RU Green. Students can come to our table setup to make their own “seed bombs” — a combination of clay, compost, and native seeds. They can be thrown into yards or neglected areas to transform them into flowering wonderlands. Contact Yessenia Balcazar (ybalcazar@mail.roosevelt.edu) for more info.

Fri 4/20 — Undergraduate Science and Math Symposium (8:30am-4pm, WB 4th & 6th floors): RU’s annual showcase of student research in biology, chemistry, and math. Unbelievably fun as well as intellectually edifying! Free lunch with advance registration by 4/6.

Sat/Sun 4/21 and 4/22 — Earth Day Events throughout Chicago, sponsored by the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) and other organizations. Check out the many events listed here by C3 as well as these by the Cook County Forest Preserves.

Mon 4/23 — SUST Student Symposium (WB 616 and 1315): Features ten team presentations by RU undergraduate students in ACP/SUST 250 The Sustainable University. From 2:00-4:45pm in WB 616, teams will describe their work on campus sustainability projects on bottled water policy, environmental communication, curriculum, purchasing, residence life, rooftop gardening, signage, transportation, and video production. Then at 5pm, we’ll head upstairs to WB 1315 for light refreshments and three individual presentations by senior SUST majors doing internships and independent study research this semester. RSVP to Prof. Mike Bryson (mbryson@roosevelt.edu).

Wed 4/25 — Careers in Sustainability (4:30-6pm, WB 1315): current students from all majors are invited to this first-ever interactive event in which a panel of alumni from RU’s Sustainability Studies program will discuss their current jobs, career pathways, and the impact of their RU education, as well as answer questions from the audience. Light refreshments provided; RSVP to Prof. Mike Bryson (mbryson@roosevelt.edu).

Thurs 4/26 — RU Green End-of-Year Meeting/Party (time/location TBA): Contact RU Green president Yessenia Balcazar (ybalcazar@mail.roosevelt.edu) for more info.

Posted in Chicago, Courses, Events, Recycling, Service, Students, waste

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