What’s up with the Earth’s plants?

LEAF OF ABSENCE: They’re the foundation of life on Earth, but more than a fifth of all plant species now face the threat of extinction, according to a new study by the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London. The study marks the most comprehensive health checkup yet for the roughly 380,000 known plant species, and finds that 22 percent of them should be classified as “threatened,” while another 33 percent are too poorly understood to be assessed. The greatest danger to plants by far is humans, the researchers report: Human activities such as agriculture, logging and livestock rearing account for 81 percent of the vanishing plants, according to the study, while natural threats are to blame for 19 percent. Habitat loss is the overarching problem in all ecosystems, but especially in tropical rain forests like those in Indonesia or Brazil, where the die-offs are happening fastest. The “Sampled Red List Index for Plants” aims to be the most accurate look at plant health ever conducted by examining thousands of species from all five major plant groups, whereas previous attempts have focused only on the most threatened plants or on certain regions. One often overlooked issue in losing plants is that they provide the blueprints for many modern medicines, and botanists worry that valuable medicinal information could be lost. Humans have also come to depend on a surprisingly small range of crop plants in recent centuries: 80 percent of calories eaten worldwide come from just 12 different species, the report estimates. But the scale of the problem leads the study’s authors to worry even about sustaining plants as the cornerstone of life. “We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear – plants are the basis of all life on Earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel,” says Kew director Stephen Hopper. “Every breath we take involves interacting with plants. They’re what we all depend on.” (Sources: CNN, BBC News, Nature News, Kew)

unedited re-post from MNN Daily Brief, e-news September 29, 2010

E-Waste Recycling in OAK LAWN!!

Oak Lawn E-Waste Facility Grand Opening

The Village of Oak Lawn, to further our commitment to making our Village GREENER, is now operating a permanent Electronic Recycling collection program for our community. All residents are welcome to participate by recycling old, broken and no longer wanted or needed electronics.

The collection site is located at the Village of Oak Lawn Public Works Garage located at 5532 W. 98th Street.
Electronic-Waste Recycling Facility Grand Opening
Saturday, October 9, 2010.

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, 2 PM to 4 PM
The 2nd Saturday of each month, 10 AM to 12 PM.

Visit our website for items accepted and drop-off instruction.

Location: 5532 98th Street, Oak Lawn, IL 60453
URL: http://www.oaklawn-il.gov/Left-Menu/Green-Team.aspx
Date: Saturday, October 9, 2010
Time: 10:00am-12:00pm CDT

Our Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades

Solar Bill Signing

(re-post from September Prairie State Protector eNews, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club)

Illinois’ future got brighter August 17, 2010, when Governor Quinn signed our solar bills HB 6202 and HB 5429 into law. House Bill 6202 requires Illinois’ regulated utilities to start buying some electricity from solar power plants starting in 2012, with steadily increasing amounts until 2015, when 6% of renewable energy purchases must come from solar power plants. By creating a stable market solar industries will be willing to invest in Illinois and as a result 5000 new jobs are expected to be created in the state.

House Bill 5429 or the Solar Bill of Rights removes barriers by homeowner and condo associations to placing solar panels on your roof. Removing those barriers is key to the future of solar, as installing small units on homes, businesses and reducing electricity losses through transmission are the areas for the greatest potential growth in the solar sector.

Illinois Sierrans pulled out all the stops to help get these bills passed. You visited and called legislators or took action through previous Prairie State Protectors. Consequently, we are one step closer to transitioning from the dirty fuels of the past. Thank you for being part of this victory for Illinois’ energy future.

$5 Screening of Carbon Nation at Columbia College

Dawn Countryman, a friend and colleague of mine in the biology department, viewed a screening of Carbon Nation this summer at Millenium Park in Chicago.  She said it is an excellent film about climate change and is different in that it focuses on the positive solutions rather than the gloom and doom.  Columbia College is having a screening of the film on Friday, October 15th at 7:00pm and tickets are only $5 at the door.  Columbia College is located at 1104 South Wabash, Chicago, IL 60605.  The film will be screened on the 8th floor at the Film Row Cinema.

Here is a little blurb about the film: “Carbon Nation is a documentary film about climate change solutions. Even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don’t buy it at all, this is still a compelling and relevant film that illustrates how solutions to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues. We meet a host of entertaining and endearing characters along the way.”

Philippe Cousteau Keynote at GreenTown Chicago

You know when you play that game where you name the five people from any time, any place, real or fiction that you could invite to a dinner party?  Well, Jacques Cousteau definitely has a seat at my table.  He is one of my heroes and inspirations in life.  I find inspiring that generations of his family are living his legacy of exploration and conservation of the ocean.

His grandson, Philippe, will be the keynote speaker at the GreenTown Chicago Conference on October 14th, with pre-conference sessions on October 13th.  This conference is attended by: Mayors, Elected Officals, City Managers, Public Works Directors, Park District Directors, School District Representatives, College and University Leaders and Students, Economic Development Directors, Zoning and Code Officials, Engineers, Planners, Architects, Landscape Architects, Developers, Builders / Remodelers, and Community Stakeholders.  Check out more information at:  https://www.greentownconference.com.

Is It Fair For Us to Be A Significant Cause of Climate Change?

This week in class, my students calculated their ecological footprints (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/personal_footprint/).  The outcome determines how many earths would be needed if everyone lived the same lifestyle as you did.  As a class average, we needed 5.6 earths.  Well, we really only have one right?  We did an activity to reflect on our footprints and one of the questions the students had to answer was: Do you think it is fair that we add extremely more tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere than people in less developed countries? I was shocked that about a third of the answers were “Yes”.  The perspective was that since we developed the technology, we have the right to live the way we do and that we need to keep living our lifestyles they way we live them; we are used to a standard of living.  This made me very perplexed.  I asked the students about our moral obligations to others and then they started to understand that maybe we don’t have the right.  I also asked them if we “need” to live the way we do or is it that we “want” to.  I was very proud of my students for being open and honest about their thoughts.  This is a very sticky question.  In the past, students have said what they thought I wanted them to hear, but this group was open and honest.  I believe that is where we all start to grow.  It was a great teaching and leaning day for me.

I found this overview of the big carbon emitters in the world on NPR.  “Right now, 10 countries — including the U.S., China and Russia — are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter (China ranks no. 1), sending around 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year. That’s the equivalent to a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from 1.1 billion average passenger vehicles. Below, a look at today’s big CO2 emitters — and projected emissions giants in 2030.”  For more information complete with maps and graphs, check out: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121240453.