Register Now for Fall 2015 Classes at RU

SUST majors in Prof. Michele Hoffman's 220 Water class, pictured here with volunteer guides from Friends of the Chicago River, paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2014 (M. Hoffman)

SUST majors in Prof. Michele Hoffman’s 220 Water class, pictured here with volunteer guides from Friends of the Chicago River, paddled the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2014 (M. Hoffman)

Hey, Roosevelt students — do you still need to finish up your fall course schedule? Interested in learning more about sustainability, the environment, and social justice? You’re in luck!

Advising and registration are ongoing and spots are still available for the Fall 2015 Sustainability Studies offerings here at Roosevelt. If you’re a current RU student, (1) look over the Fall 2015 schedule using this coursefinder, (2) check your remaining course requirements on your curriculum checksheet, and (3) 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. Click on the links below for course previews!

The last workday for SUST 350 Service & Sustainability at Eden Place Nature Center, near 15 trees we planted that fall (photo: M. Bryson)

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Fall 2015:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (online, C. Jones)
SUST 220 Water (Chicago, W 9:30am-12pm, M. Hoffman)
SUST 230 Food (online, V. Gerberich)
SUST 240 Waste (Chicago, W 3-5:30pm, G. Pickren)
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (online, G. Pickren)
SUST 330 Biodiversity (Chicago @ Field Museum, Th 9am-1pm, J. Kerbis)
SUST 350 Service & Sustainability (Chicago, T 12-3pm, M. Bryson)

Yes, summer in Chicago is great for biking, playing softball, enjoying the lakefront, taking in concerts — but it’s a great time to get signed up for classes. For additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on Prof. Mike Bryson’s faculty website.

Hauling straw in the Eden Place Nature Center's pickup truck during a SUST 350 Service workday on Chicago's South Side, Fall 2014

Hauling straw in the Eden Place Nature Center’s pickup truck during a SUST 350 Service workday on Chicago’s South Side, Fall 2014

Posted in courses, education, faculty, Roosevelt, students

Big Workday on June 23 at the RU Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden

Garden Harvest as of June 11th, 2014, from the Wabash Building rooftop gardens at RU's Chicago Campus (over ten pounds in two weeks); pictured here are RU sustainability interns MaryBeth Radeck and Kevin Markowski

Garden Harvest as of June 11th, 2014, from the Wabash Building rooftop gardens at RU’s Chicago Campus (over ten pounds in two weeks); pictured here are RU sustainability interns MaryBeth Radeck and Kevin Markowski

The Roosevelt University Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden is having a big workday next Tuesday, June 23rd, from 10am-2pm. The garden is located on the 5th floor of Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash, and is managed this summer by Rebecca Quesnell, SUST alum (BA ’15) and Environmental Sustainability Associate in the RU Physical Resources department. All RU students, faculty, staff, and alumni and encouraged to show up for whatever time you can spare next Tuesday and help out!

What will be happening:

  • Pulling weeds and sending them to the pulper machine to be turned into compost
  • Thinning out plants
  • Reseeding if needed
  • Creating barriers to deter slugs away from the vegetable plants
  • Removing current piles of debris in order to lessen the ‘slug headquarters’
  • Creating markers for our vegetable plots (may happen inside or outside)

For questions, or to let Rebecca know you’ll attend for all or even just part of the workday, contact her at or 312-341-3602.

Posted in activities, agriculture, alumni, events, food, Roosevelt, students

Announced Closure of IL State Museums by Governor Rauner Threatens Both Nature and Culture

A message by the Illinois Environmental Council, which we feel is worthy to pass on to our readers.

Illinois’ State Museums provide important environmental education opportunities to thousands of visitors each year. Governor Rauner recently announced that these museums are targeted for closure in the next fiscal year. In addition to important environmental education visits, facilities such as the Dickson Mounds and Lockport Gallery provide important learning facilities for critical conservation areas such as Emiquon NWR and TNC Preserve and the I&M Canal. Closing these museums during peak tourism season, when children are on summer break, would be a huge loss for Illinois and its families.

Per this announcement, the Illinois State Museum headquarters in Springfield will be closed. The other branch facilities targeted for closure include Dickson Mounds in Lewistown (50,000 visitors last year); the Illinois Artisans Shop and Chicago Gallery in the Thompson Center (Chicago, 103,000 visitors); the Lockport Gallery in Lockport (14,000 visitors); and the Southern Illinois Art Gallery at Rend Lake (18,000 visitors).

ISM Springfield

  • Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments – An exhibition that explores 500 million years of environmental change in Illinois. Visitors see, hear, and touch our state’s natural history through hands-on interactive displays, audio and video effects, fossils, and more. The exhibit also teaches visitors how human actions affect the environment.
  • Peoples of the Past – Life-sized dioramas and artifacts bring to life Illinois’ rich Native American heritage.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum – Children learn more about the environment by crawling through a cave, digging for fossils, assembling a baby mastodon, or exploring collections of fossils, insects, and artifacts.
  • Hot Science Gallery: The Science of Extinction – planned to run from April through September.
  • Summer Film Fest: Growing Up Wild: Penguins on Parade – Attendees will learn about penguins and other birds who cannot fly. Scheduled for June.
  • Story Time at the Museum: “A Sunny” Story Time – The sun keeps us warm, gives light, helps plants grow, and so much more. Scheduled for June.
  • Super Saturdays at the Museum: Solar Powered – Attendees will learn about the power of the sun, how big the sun is, and how a solar distillery works. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: Kids Discover Bats – There are over 1,000 kinds of bats. Attendees will learn about bats and how they can help bats survive. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: Growing Up Wild: Puppy Dog Tales – Attendees will learn about dogs, wolves, foxes, Australian dingoes, coyotes, jackals, and other canines. Scheduled for June.
  • Summer Film Fest: The Magic School Bus In a Bee Hive – Teaches kids about bees and how they communicate with other bees. Scheduled for July.

ISM Dickson Mounds Museum

  • A National Historic Site and one of the major on-site archaeological museums in the United States.
  • The River Valley Gallery – Explores the character of the Illinois River and traces the interaction between the river and the people who have lived along it from the end of the Ice Age to the present day.
  • Nature Adventure Camp for Kids – Participants will hike, canoe, bird watch, collect water samples, and learn how ancient and historic people used the resources of the land to survive. Scheduled for June.
  • Nature Trek: Geology Tour – Attendees will learn about the geology of the Lewistown-Havana area, and how the Illinois River Valley was formed. Scheduled for June.
  • Nature Trek: Experience a Voyageur Canoe – Attendees will paddle a voyageur canoe and learn about history, geology, and biology as they paddle on Thompson Lake. Scheduled for July.
  • Dickson Mounds is part of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, which is one of many Illinois Scenic Byways that help draw visitors to Illinois.

ISM Chicago Gallery & Illinois Artisans, Chicago

  • Footprints Through Time: Artists Inspired by History – Prior to the modern “carbon footprints” concept, indigenous peoples embraced the concept of the interconnectivity of people and nature. This exhibition tells stories that broadly communicate the cultural and environmental landscape of Illinois.

ISM Lockport Gallery

  • Provides a jumping off point to explore the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal (opened 1848), a recreation trail, and a nature preserve.

Please consider taking action to tell the Governor and your state legislators to keep these museums open. 

Posted in economics, exhibits, humanities, Illinois, museums, news, parks and public land

RU Releases Groundbreaking Strategic Sustainability Plan

In celebration of the university’s official release of its first Strategic Sustainability Plan this summer, we reprint this 10 June 2015 RU news release by Laura Janota, Director of Public Relations at Roosevelt.

RU SustPlan Cover

Cover of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan

Green is no longer just Roosevelt University’s school color. Green is now a part of the University’s institutional DNA thanks to a new five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Developed by Roosevelt University students, administrators, faculty and staff, the plan positions the University as a leader in driving the most important transformation of higher education now happening, which is the greening of American colleges and universities, according to Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations and one of the plan’s leading organizers.

The plan has four areas of focus: climate and energy, education and outreach, waste and natural resources and economics and governance.

Among goals, it calls for reducing energy usage by 10 percent; the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and installation of refueling stations; expansion of the undergraduate Sustainability Studies program; connection of faculty and students across disciplines in sustainability innovation, research, educational outreach and service-learning opportunities; advancement of recycling and composting efforts by a student-led team; start-up of sustainable local food businesses at the University; expansion of community/rooftop gardening; raising awareness about water usage through a water conservation campaign; and creation of an Office of Sustainability, residing in the University’s Physical Resources division, which will manage Strategic Plan implementation, among other administrative tasks.

“This is a roadmap that documents what we have done so far and sets goals and priorities for making the University more sustainable in the future,” said Michael Bryson, professor of humanities and director of the University’s Sustainability Studies undergraduate degree program.

Since 2010, the University has been taking major steps to become greener. Highlights include: attaining green certification for more than half of all campus electricity; graduating 45 Sustainability Studies majors since 2011; creating service learning opportunities for students in sustainability with environmental organizations like Chicago Lights Urban Farm, Eden Place Nature Center, the Field Museum of Natural History and Friends of the Chicago River; recycling  100 percent of all e-waste; composting 50 percent of all food waste; restoration of significant campus grounds to prairie; and establishing community, rooftop  and other types of gardens at the University.

“People sometimes think that sustainability is just focused on building design and energy efficiency, but it is also about the kinds of academic courses we offer, the partnerships we forge in the community, as well as the practice of social justice,” said Bryson, who created a special course called The Sustainable Campus.  During the recent spring semester, 19 Roosevelt students took the course in which their major assignment was to collect base-line data for tracking the University’s progress in meeting its sustainability goals through use of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

Assessment using STARS was one of the recommendations for the plan made by Sustainability Studies student Mary Beth Radeck, who researched the status and landscape of sustainability planning at higher education institutions across the United States as part of a recent independent study course she took with Bryson in 2014.
“I not only found that it wasn’t the norm for universities to have formal sustainability plans, but also discovered that one of the best ways to make real progress in greening a university is to assess where the institution has been and where it is going,” said Radeck. “The STARS system is a reliable tool to help Roosevelt with assessment,” she said.

Radeck facilitated group planning for Roosevelt’s new Strategic Sustainability Plan and also wrote and presented the plan that has been approved by top Roosevelt administrators and endorsed by Roosevelt’s Faculty Senate, as well as reviewed by Roosevelt’s Board of Trustees.

Posted in education, news, planning, Roosevelt, students

Joliet’s Pilcher Park Hosts a BioBlitz for Scientists and Public on June 12 and 13

Scientists and citizens alike in Will County are gearing up for a “BioBlitz” to document the biodiversity in Pilcher Park, an urban woodland within the Hickory Creek watershed and the hidden gem of Joliet and Will County. During a BioBlitz, biologists gather at a site for a 24-hour period and collect as much data as they can, said Katie Zaban, Pilcher Park Nature Center manager. Pilcher Park will host such an event this coming weekend, June 12 and 13.
According to the Joliet Herald-News,

Visitors can watch the biologists in action. Katie Zaban [manager of the Pilcher Park Nature Center] notes that the BioBlitz is being held to draw attention to the park, which park officials plan to expand. “If people are interested and don’t know what lives in the park, this is a good event to go attend so they can realize, ‘Hey, this is what lives here and we want to protect these things,’ ” she said.

Also on June 12, the park district will host an open house at Pilcher Park to celebrate the addition of 80 acres there. The open house will start at 9 a.m. at the Pilcher Park Nature Center.

Zaban said Pilcher Park is significant because it was the site that started the Joliet Park District. She said the park has grown to 640 acres in size and has about 10 miles of hiking trails, along with a nature center and greenhouse.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources designated Pilcher Park as an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory site, including it in the category of “high-quality natural community and natural community restorations.” 

The BioBlitz is a result of a partnership between the Joliet Park District, Illinois Audubon Society, University of St. Francis and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

For more information on the BioBlitz, call 815-741-7277.

BioBlitz Schedule

• 3 p.m. June 12: Steve Pescitelli from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will sample and identify fish near the park center. He will also talk about Hickory Creek fish populations.

• 7:30 p.m. June 12: Juanita Armstrong, from the Forest Preserve District of Will County, will set up a mist net and catch bats in the forest. She will also check on the bats after it gets dark.

• 9 a.m. June 13: Siobhan Peacy, from Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and Rita Renwick, from the Illinois Audubon Society, will lead a hike through the woods and discuss the significance of Pilcher Park.

• 10 a.m. June 13: Joliet Park District naturalists will lead a pond study for children ages 7 and older.

• 11 a.m. June 13: Bill Bromer, from the University of St. Francis, will lead a crew sampling Hickory Creek for aquatic insects and crayfish.

Posted in biodiversity, conservation, ecology, events, parks and public land, suburbs, wildlife

Why We Need English Majors To Help Ensure a Sustainable Future

Here in the Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt, faculty requite a lot of writing from students in all the classes throughout the curriculum. That’s not just because our profs love reading and grading papers (though of course they do); rather, it stems from their conviction that critical thinking and clear writing go hand-in-hand, as well as the fact that the creation, advocacy, and marketing of progressive environmental policy depends upon excellent communication.

And that’s why we need English majors to join the sustainability movement, as well. Students who care about and study literature, and who dedicated themselves to honing the craft of writing, can make major contributions on behalf of water conservation, waste reduction, and climate change mitigation.

A great example of that is today’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition program, “Editing the Climate Talkers: Punctuation’s Effect on Earth’s Fate,” by Nell Greenfieldboyce. Give it a listen and get out your pencil!

Posted in climate change, education, humanities, news, policy

EPA Releases New Rules for Protecting US Waters

From the Thursday 28 May 2015 online edition of the NY Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday [27 May 2015] announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

The rule, which would apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, comes as part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

Industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are already preparing lawsuits to challenge the rule, and legal experts say the battle over control of the nation’s waters could end up before the Supreme Court, which in recent years has cast doubt on the government’s authority to regulate certain waterways.

Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. This summer, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of regulations intended to counter climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants.

Already, Republican lawmakers are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay both the climate and clean water rules.

In announcing the rule, Mr. Obama said, “One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution.”

“With today’s rule,” he added, “we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, called the rule “a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” adding, “House members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders” to reject the rule.

The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the United States, last spring. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.

The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.

E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.

The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” the E.P.A. administrator, Gina McCarthy, said in a written statement.

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers, which co-wrote the rule.

“This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations,” she added.

Environmentalists praised the rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.

“Our rivers, lakes and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.

Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.

“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent.”

Industry groups also warned that enforcement of the new rule would create a profusion of lawsuits and other legal red tape. If property owners fail to apply for permits to build, till, develop or perform other potentially polluting activities near water bodies, they can be sued by the E.P.A. Environmental advocates and even private citizens will also be able to bring lawsuits against landowners who might be in violation of the regulations.

The lobbying fight over the rule has generated a public relations battle on social media.

In its protest, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of it. But some legal experts say that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Science, Agriculture and Oversight committees sent letters to Ms. McCarthy demanding that the E.P.A. turn over documents relating to the development of the social media campaign.

Posted in agriculture, business, conservation, economics, news, policy, pollution, water