Spring 2015 Registration at RU Is Underway!

Advising and registration are now ongoing (since Nov 1st) for the Spring 2015 semester at Roosevelt. If you’re an RU student, look over the Spring 2015 schedule using this coursefinder, check your remaining course requirements on your curriculum checksheet, and email or call your assigned academic advisor with your planned schedule and any questions you have about your upcoming classes. Your advisor will provide you with an RU Access registration code so you can register.

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Spring 2015:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (Chicago, M 1-3:30pm, Bryson)
SUST 220 Water (online, Jones)
SUST 230 Food (Chicago, T 6-8:30pm, Gerberich)
SUST 240 Waste (online, Bryson)
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (Chicago, W 6-8:30pm)
SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics (online, Hoffman)
SUST 390 Sustainable Campus (Chicago, W 3-5:3pm, Bryson)

November is a super busy time of the academic year, but don’t neglect getting in touch with your advisor! It’s the best time to get signed up for classes. And for additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on Prof. Mike Bryson’s faculty website.

Posted in courses, education, faculty, Roosevelt, students | Leave a comment

Illiana Tollway Project Meets Widespread Criticism in IL

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4th elections and in its wake, a spate of editorials by many of IL’s leading newspapers (as collected here by the Environmental Law and Policy Center) have criticized the project as wasteful, unnecessary, and/or unwarranted. On this blog, we have followed the politics of and citizen opposition to the controversial roadway, which is located in the same area — eastern Will County — and linked in spirit to the ill-fated Peotone Airport project. Both the road and the airport would have major impacts on land use, agriculture, open space, and rural communities in this part of Chicago’s south suburban region.

Today we re-post this commentary by Chicago environmental journalist and radio host Mike Nowak, who is featuring a segment about the Illinana on his show this morning on WCPT. Nowak’s pre-show analysis contains a wealth of news updates and resource links that collectively address the status of the Illiana project in the context of changing IL politics. 

What Does a New Governor Mean for the Fate of the Illiniana Tollway?

(By Mike Nowak)

Well, there’s a new sheriff, er, governor in town, er, Illinois but it’s still unclear if the new sheriff, er, governor, will approve the $1.2 billion boondoggle known as the Illiana Tollway. I wish people would stop calling it an “expressway,” because it is literally a tollway, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will ultimately cost the state and the people who use it a lot of money if it is built. That doesn’t even take into consideration the environmental damage it will do to Illinois, which is considerable.

I stood in the back of the room with a lot of people on October 8 and 9 of this year and basically watched the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) punch itself in the face. The board voted once again, as they had done a year before, to block the road from I-65 in Indiana to more-or-less I-55 in Illinois. . . . Unfortunately, the very next day, the MPO Policy Committee of CMAP decided (also for a second time) to ignore the recommendation of the CMAP board and approve the Illiana Tollway. POW! OUCH!

Those split decisions seem to throw the regional GO TO 2040 plan under the bus, with environmental groups threatening lawsuits, the ultimate disposition of the tollway left in doubt and the credibility of CMAP itself undermined by the process. Then, of course, Bruce Rauner defeated Pat Quinn in the gubernatorial race and everything changed.

Or did it?

Quinn and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) have lobbied hard for what many people are calling the “highway to nowhere.” So where does Rauner stand on this issue? He was pretty coy about it during his campaign–which was pretty much his strategy on every issue. In response to that, here’s what the Chicago Tribune says in a piece titled Memo to Bruce Rauner: Kill the Illiana Expressway, that came out just last week:

Back in September, when you and Gov. Pat Quinn met with us to talk about the Nov. 4 election, we asked whether the Illiana Expressway would be built if you were elected governor.

The question should have been right in your wheelhouse, given that your campaign was all about fiscal responsibility and the Illiana promises to be a money-sucking fiasco. “Don’t know,” you said. “Have to see the studies.”

Have you had a chance to look at them yet?

In a few short weeks, you’ll be governor of Illinois. Deciding whether to go forward with the Illiana should be one of your first and easiest calls. But there’s no need for your transition team to spend a lot of time on research. Give us three minutes.

First, the upside: There is no upside.

Yikes. And they’re not the only ones against this project. As I wrote on October 5, when you have ententies as disparate the Chicago Tribune, Openlands, Crain’s Chicago Business, Progress Illinois and Illinois PIRG all saying that this is a bad idea . . . well, it might actually be a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Now Will County residents themselves are calling on the Illinois General Assembly to turn down any legislation that would fund or advance the tollway. And that, surprisingly, includes some local officials, including Judy Ogalla, Will County Board member from District 1, and Symerton Mayor Eli Geiss.

Ogalla states,

The Illinois Dept. of Transportation’s (IDOT) own study shows that the tolls would need to be much higher than any of those on existing toll roads today, consequently not attracting the traffic necessary to recoup the costs to build the road. This is a dangerous way to handle limited tax infrastructure dollars and puts the Illinois taxpayer at risk of paying of a toll road that in the end would not eliminate local traffic congestion due to the proposed location of the road being so much farther south of most areas where the traffic is generated.

Geiss concurs, saying,

The Village of Symerton is opposed to the building of the Illiana highway. It will totally disrupt our way of life. Many of the residents of our village have lived here for generations. This project will not provide long term jobs and the state of Illinois doesn’t have the money to fund it.

Leading the charge against this project are groups like Openlands, whose CEO and President Jerry Adelmann says,

Not only would the Illiana Tollway negatively impact or destroy natural areas, farmland, and open space, it runs counter to every conceivable concept of sound regional planning. Absurd projects such as this should be the stuff of Illinois’ past. It’s time to put an end to the Illiana.

Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, chimes in:

The Illiana Expressway would pave over some of the best farmland in the world, pollute the Kankakee River watershed, and threaten the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Leaders from around the region have expressed concern that the Illiana project would siphon dollars from other transportation projects and undermine planning for a strong Chicago region.


Posted in agriculture, economics, Illinois, news, planning, suburbs, transportation | Leave a comment

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


ETSY STORE (VibrantSea)


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

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.

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