Microcosm Film Project: Fall Update

by Michele Hoffman Trotter, SUST adjunct professor at Roosevelt University and director/co-producer of the Microcosm film project

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the Microcosm team pauses to reflect on how much has happened and how far we have come over the past year in creating our ninety-minute high-definition documentary on the microscopic universe in the ocean.

Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

The script is nearing completion thanks to our time over the summer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Lab.  The amazing scientists we met there gave us so many rich story lines that revolve around the incredibly important research work they are doing. In addition, Dr. Jonathan Trent spoke with us about some amazing ways we might use the microcosm to improve the future, and agreed to help out as a science advisor on our script.

We are also fortunate to have some incredibly talented interns with us this year.  Nicholas Garcia (School of the Art Institute in Chicago) and Kiera Ryon (Columbia College) have become masters in the lab and are diligently filming new batches of microorganisms weekly to incorporate into the film.  Rebecca Kennedy (SAIC) and Alex Eldridge (CC Alum) are creating epic animation shorts that will be incorporated to demystify some of the more complex scientific principles we want to relate in the film.  Once the film is complete, it is our hope to make these film shorts available to teachers free of charge for use in their classrooms.

RU student and SUST major Emily Rhea works in the chemistry lab at Columbia College on a Microcosm ocean acidification experiment, Nov. 2014 (photo: M. Hoffman)

RU student and SUST major Emily Rhea works in the chemistry lab at Columbia College on a Microcosm ocean acidification experiment, Nov. 2014 (photo: M. Hoffman)

As more and more carbon enters our ocean, the very chemistry of sea water is changing.  Last week we began trials on an experiment that will simulate the impacts of ocean acidification and its impact on various forms of marine life for the film under the direction of award winning chemistry professor Dr. Beatrix Budy of Columbia College. A new Microcosm intern, Emily Rhea (SUST major at Roosevelt University), joined the team on this exciting project.

Meanwhile, another SUST major and longtime Microcosm intern, Jordan Ewbank (who is studying abroad in Spain this fall semester), is working across continents and oceans remotely with Hawai’i Association for Marine Education and Research (HAMER) as an advancement officer.  In this role he has constructed and helped spearhead an Indiegogo campaign that will go live this December.  The campaign (which seeks to raise $75,000) will support a manta ray research initiative lead by Dr. Mark Deakos with a view to diagnosing and preventing the entanglement of imperiled mantas in fishing line.  One in ten Maui mantas suffers sever injury and even amputation due to such entanglements.

As you can see, things are coming together and the journey has been truly spectacular!  Because we are an independent film, the support we have received along the way is the only reason we have been able to keep production going.  To that end, we encourage you to shop Microcosm this holiday season with t-shirts (also available in kid sizes) and hoodies available for a short time through Booster, and through our art store on Etsy featuring photographic art prints on metal, jewelry and more.

BOOSTER (shirts and hoodies)the manta t-shirt design was hand drawn by Microcosm Director Michele Hoffman Trotter

https://www.booster.com/microcosmmanta
https://www.booster.com/themicrocosmfilm

ETSY STORE (VibrantSea)

https://www.etsy.com/shop/VibrantSea?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Posted in faculty, water, biodiversity, students, conservation, climate change, Roosevelt, ecology, science, education, arts | Leave a comment

SETF Activist Tom Shepherd Speaks at Roosevelt on Nov 19

Tom Shepherd of the SETF discusses environmental activism in the Calumet Region at the SETF storefront headquarters on Chicago's far South Side.

Tom Shepherd of the SETF discusses environmental activism in the Calumet Region at the SETF storefront headquarters on Chicago’s far South Side.

The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project at Roosevelt University continues its Fall Distinguished Environmental Organizer Series this Wednesday, Nov. 19th, 3:30 – 5 p.m., with a special presentation by Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. Mr. Shepherd will talk about his two decades-plus of grassroots activism on Chicago’s far South Side and the promotion of environmental justice in the industrial neighborhoods of the Calumet Region.

SETF celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and is one of Chicago’s most active and influential grassroots environmental citizen groups; it operates entirely as a volunteer organization. Their mission “is to inform and educate all members of the southeast Chicagoland community, including residents, businesses, and leaders, in areas related to the improvement of our neighborhood’s environment. We strive for sustainable development of residential facilities, environmentally friendly and green business practices, and preservation of natural areas that improve the quality of life in the Calumet region.”

RU students and faculty listen to Tom Shepherd describe the history of landfills while on a SETF recycling, waste, and pollution tour for SUST 240 Waste classes this fall (M. Bryson, Oct 2014)

RU students and faculty listen to Tom Shepherd describe the history of landfills while on a SETF recycling, waste, and pollution tour for SUST 240 Waste classes this fall (M. Bryson, Oct 2014)

Among SETF’s many activities is running “Toxics to Treasures” bus tours of the industrial areas and neighborhoods on Chicago’s far South Side that highlight the area’s many landfills, power plants, industrial facilities, polluted sites (including the infamous storage piles of petcoke along the Calumet River), historic landmarks, and natural features of what was once one of the most extensive and species-rich wetland areas in the eastern US.

Please join the Roosevelt community this Wednesday at 3:30pm for an interactive conversation with Tom Shepherd in the Spertus Lounge in RU’s National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave., room 244. Refreshments will be served!

For more information, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director of the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project (bbarratt@roosevelt.edu). See this flier (pdf) and the image below for future events through the Loundy Project’s “Just By Nature” series at Roosevelt this fall.

Just by Nature RU Lecture Series F14

Posted in cities, conservation, ecology, education, events, green design, planning, policy, pollution, presentations, Roosevelt, science, social justice, water | Leave a comment

Will County E-Waste Recycling Program’s Future Uncertain

In the article “Future of Will County Electronics Recycling Program in Jeopardy, Director Warns” published on 12 Nov 2014 in the Joliet Herald-News, reporter Lauren Leone-Cross details the fiscal challenges facing the hitherto effective drop-off program and uncovers the difficulties in matching manufacturers’ legally-mandated funding of the program with the demand for e-waste recycling.

That was the message Wednesday from Dean Olson, who heads up Will County’s Resource Recovery and Energy Division, during a county board Legislative and Policy Committee meeting.

Olsen characterized the issue as “urgent,” noting immediate action is needed during the state legislative veto session next week or during the lame-duck session in January.

Olson said the rising cost of recycling — coupled with low annual recycling goals set by state law for electronics manufacturers — is to blame. Once manufacturers meet those weight goals, they no longer have to pay recycling contractors to process items, he said.

In turn, recyclers across the state are asking local governments to foot the bill, as allowed by state law, Olson said. In Will County’s case, that would result in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in additional costs not budgeted, he said.

The law in question, which passed in 2012, banned certain electronic items from landfills and set recycling quotas for state manufacturers. The law was meant to fully pay for residential electronics recycling, but is failing to meet statewide demand as e-waste increases each year, Olson said.

The price to recycle glass has increased, too, Olson said.

This could result in the county’s contractor, Vintage Tech Recycling, halting free recycling services in the future, Olson said. If nothing is done, other collection programs statewide could close, as they have in DuPage County and west Cook County, he said.

“In some cases, sometime in late spring, all contracts will run out with manufacturers and there won’t be any money left,” Olson said.

Marta Keane, recycling program specialist for the county’s Land Use department, said in an email the 2012 state law was designed so that the cost to recycle electronics would be shared between manufacturers and local governments.

This year, nearly all electronics manufacturers met pre-established quotas for pounds of electronics to recycle before the end of the year, she said.

Olson said without manufacturers paying the recyclers, many are storing glass in warehouses because it’s too costly to get rid of.

Mark Kenzler, vice president and chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturers Association, said while the group is concerned about increasing the goals so manufacturers foot the entire bill, they’re “more than happy to have a conversation.”

“We’re certainly willing to have a discussion,” Kenzler said. “We’re concerned about the cost. Manufacturers, they like to plan. They likely have contracts already signed so you can’t just flip on a switch and double the cost of everything.”

Legislation in the works would increase goals and bar recyclers from asking local governments to foot the bill, Olson said.

Julie Curry, the county’s legislative liaison, told committee members Wednesday that such legislation would be a tough sell in Springfield due to manufacturers’ opposition.

“That’s a big road block,” Curry said.

A representative from Vintage Tech Recycling could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Posted in business, economics, Illinois, news, pollution, recycling, waste | Leave a comment

“The Humanities as the Foundation of Science”: RU Lecture by Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker this Thursday, Nov 13

GalileoShakespeareProject Montesq Forum F14Roosevelt University’s Montesquieu Forum will present a lecture by New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnik on “The Humanities as the Foundation of the Sciences” at 5 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 13 in the Auditorium Building’s seventh-floor Ganz Hall, 430 S. Michigan Ave., in downtown Chicago.

Gopnik is well known for his inventive and incisive essays as well as his books on modern life, especially as lived out in France where he was named a Knight of the Order of Arts & Letters by the French government in 2012.

Free and open to the public, the lecture is part of the Montesquieu Forum’s Galileo/Shakespeare Conference, which is celebrating the 450th anniversary of the births of Galileo and Shakespeare and continuing to reflect on the relationship between the humanities and the sciences.

A collaborative initiative by Roosevelt University and the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), the Galileo/Shakespeare conference continues on Friday, Nov. 14 with a series of lectures at IIT’s McCormick Tribune Campus Center Auditorium, 3201 South State Street, Chicago.  The lineup includes:

  • Victoria Kahn, the Katharine Bixby Hotchkis Chair in English at the University of California at Berkeley, who will lecture on “Thomas Hobbes: Revolution in the Making” at 9 a.m.;
  • David Wootton, the Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York, who will speak on “Galileo and the Scientific Revolution” at 10:30 a.m.;
  • Following a free lunch, Mary Nichols, professor of political science at Baylor University will speak on “Antony and Cleopatra’s ‘New Heaven, New Earth’” at 1 p.m.;
  • Benjamin Lynerd, Montesquieu Forum Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Political Thought, will discuss “Galileo, Shakespeare and the Atlantic Enlightenment” at 2:30 p.m.

A reception will follow the lecture series. For more information, contact Stuart Warner, RU associate professor of philosophy, at swarner@roosevelt.edu.

Posted in activities, education, events, history, humanities, presentations, Roosevelt, science | Leave a comment

IL Approves Rules and Sets Stage for Fracking on Heels of the Latest IPCC Report on Climate Change Impacts

By Mike Bryson, editor

Less than a week after the International Panel on Climate Change issued its latest summary report on global warming and its present and future impact upon the earth’s ecosystems and economies, a group of Illinois legislators called the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) approved a thrice-revised version IL’s fracking regulations — a key step forward in ushering oil and gas fracking operations into southern Illinois next year.

The irony of this timing was not lost on many observers, both within and beyond the state’s borders, who rue Illinois’ further commitment to extreme fossil fuel extraction methods in downstate rural communities and perhaps even the expansive Shawnee National Forest, even as climate scientists warn that increasing global greenhouse gas emissions pose an imminent threat to terrestrial and marine ecosystems, regional economies, the world’s biodiversity, and human health.

In this May 21, 2013 AP file photo, a protester attends a rally after a House committee hearing on fracking legislation at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SETH PERLMAN

In this May 21, 2013 AP file photo, a protester attends a rally after a House committee hearing on fracking legislation at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/SETH PERLMAN

The politics of fracking in Illinois have themselves been highly fractured, with government leaders and labor unions generally supporting it as an anticipated economic boom; oil and gas executives eager to establish operations and take part of the US fossil fuel boom; mainstream environmental (aka “Big Green”) organizations trying to ensure that when the seemingly inevitable fracking begins, it has to abide by stronger regulations than exist in other states; and a wide and active coalition of grassroots environmental groups and activists who insist that fracking is inherently unsafe, advocate an outright ban on its practice, and resent the compromises forged between Big Greens and the oil/gas industry prior to Illinois passing its fracking law back in the summer of 2013. A legislative push in the spring of 2013 to pass a bill banning fracking in IL failed to muster enough support to merit its introduction to the floor for a vote.

Packed house at the IDNR public hearing on fracking in Decatur, IL (photo: IL People's Action)

Packed house at the IDNR public hearing on fracking in Decatur, IL (photo: IL People’s Action)

As reported previously on this blog, once the IL General Assembly passed its law allowing fracking to occur within the state, the IL Department of Natural Resources was required to develop rules and regulations that would apply to and enforce the new law. These regulations went out for public comment in November of 2013 and generated an overwhelming and largely negative response during the public commenting period, including a state-record 30,000+ written comments and over 1,000 citizens attending several public hearings held across the state in late 2013. (The number of written comments alone exceeded, by far, all the previous written comments submitted to the IDNR in the agency’s entire history.) Many comments noted that the regulations watered down parts of the law and contained numerous deficiencies that would favor industry at the expense of environmental safety and human well-being.

In response to these comments and to its credit, the IDNR staff took several months to revise and in many cases improve or strengthen the regulations and released the 2nd version at the end of August 2014. These were then sent to the JCAR, an appointed committee of six Republicans and six Democrats from the IL General Assembly, who had until Nov. 15th to make a decision and presumably could consider public input in the process (though no public forums or well-publicized communications channels were provided for the public to do so).

In the meantime, fracking played a role in the recent gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn, who signed the fracking bill into law in 2013 but was still cast as a foot-dragger on the issue by eager oil and gas companies; and the eventually winner, Republican Bruce Rauner, who received hundreds of thousands of campaign donations from the oil and gas industry and who has pledged to vigorously support the start of fracking operations in the state. Meanwhile, fracking advocates who felt as though the IDNR’s revised regulations were too restrictive and cumbersome reportedly put pressure on the JCAR to approve — and possibly even revise — the rules.

One day after Quinn conceded defeat to Rauner, the JCAR announced that it had approved the IDNR regulations by a vote of 9-0, with one abstention. If any changes occurred to the IDNR publically-available document, they happened in closed-door meetings, a prospect which has sparked the ire of the state’s anti-fracking activists, including Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisians Against Fracturing our Environment. These recent proceedings are summarizing in this blistering commentary by environmental historian and journalist Jeff Biggers.

More will be revealed on Nov. 15th, the deadline for releasing the JCAR-approved rules and regulations, which will be published officially in the Illinois Register.

MikeBrysonMike Bryson edits the SUST at RU Blog and has been its primary contributor since June 2012. Along with Carl Zimring and Brad Hunt, he co-founded the Sustainability Studies program at Roosevelt during the 2009-2010 academic year. An Associate Professor of Humanities and Sustainability Studies at RU, Bryson’s courses include SUST 210 The Sustainable Future, 220 Water, 240 Waste, and 350 Service & Sustainability. 

 

Posted in climate change, energy, Illinois, news, policy, pollution, science | Leave a comment

Strategic Sustainability Planning at RU: Last Workshop Next Friday, Nov. 14

This semester, Roosevelt University began crafting its first five-year Strategic Sustainability plan with a series of workshops that kicked off in September, continued in October, and are wrapping up next week with the third and last planning session. These sessions have brought together faculty, students, administrators, and staff to work on common goals and mutual interests, and have featured great conversation (as well as some darn good lunches).

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

Goals within the plan being crafted by the Roosevelt community include (1) Expanding sustainability education across the curriculum; (2) Focusing university campus investments in energy savings, reduced carbon footprint, and better use of water; and (3) Investing in an independent Office of Sustainability to oversee projects.

A written comprehensive plan, criteria for project selection and assessment, and organizational structure/communication strategy is now on a fast-track to completion.  Join us on Nov. 14 from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. in WB 1017 as we work to complete the plan this fall (RSVP to Rebecca Quesnell at rquesnell@roosevelt.edu).

For more information on how you may participate in the process, whether at the last planning workshop or in the future, please contact RU sustainability coordinator Thomas Shelton (tshelton@roosevelt.edu).

Posted in activities, education, faculty, news, planning, Roosevelt, students

Chicago River Advocate John Quail Speaks at Roosevelt on Nov 5

The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project at Roosevelt University continues its Fall Distinguished Environmental Organizer Series next Wednesday, Nov. 5th, 4:30 – 6 p.m., with a special presentation entitled by John Quail, Director of Watershed Planning with the influential local environmental organization, Friends of the Chicago River (who have coordinated canoe trips for RU students since 2009). Quail’s talk is entitled “Chicago River: Common Thread, Common Future.”

John Quail of FCRQuail has been a staff member at Friends since 2000. In his role as the Director of Watershed Planning he coordinates Chicago River advocacy work in collaboration with Friends’ Executive Director. He also leads the development and implementation of Friends wetland and river corridor restoration projects, with a particular focus on promoting ecologically sound stormwater management practices at all scales. Prior to working with Friends, John was a staff member of the Washtenaw County (Michigan) Department of Public Works. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Please join the Roosevelt community for an interactive conversation with John Quail in the Spertus Lounge in RU’s National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave., room 244. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director of the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project (bbarratt@roosevelt.edu). See this flier (pdf) and the image below for future events through the Loundy Project’s “Just By Nature” series at Roosevelt this fall.

Just by Nature RU Lecture Series F14

Posted in cities, conservation, ecology, education, events, green design, planning, policy, pollution, presentations, Roosevelt, science, social justice, water