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ECO Youth Training Session

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation: – See more at: http://wethepeoplemedia.org/#sthash.fs2zRza6.dpuf
Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation: – See more at: http://wethepeoplemedia.org/#sthash.fs2zRza6.dpuf

Editor’s Note: The video above was filmed by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation:

This summer, the Eco Youth reporters really built up our writing and reporting skills as we learned about the issues with managing our environment. Click above to peek in on one of our meetings from this July to learn how we did it!

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Eco Youth Reporters Visit Starved Rock

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following photographs were taken during a fact-finding trip to Starved Rock State Park by the Eco Youth Reporters. The Eco Youths Reporting program was conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and was generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation:

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My First Kayaking Trip

by Jasmine Hunt 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation:

On a sunny day in early August, my journalism class and I went on a kayaking trip in the Chicago River. I haven’t been swimming all summer and I am not an experienced swimmer, to say the least, so it was all fun and games until I actually sat in the kayak and the water started to rock my boat.

Noah Stein with Chicago River Canoe and Kayak was our instructor and showed us the correct paddling form and motion. My colleagues and I signed a release form that acknowledged all the dangers, saying the facility would not be held responsible if we acquired any injuries.

Everyone put on their life jackets and had a paddling tutorial. Each person helped one another with taking the kayaks down to the dock to put them out on the water. There were the single-person kayaks and two-person ones. I was in a kayak by myself. Noah held on the side of it as I prepared to enter. The water was hitting the side and I began to rock. You have to get used to the motion.

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A River Adventure

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

I can’t swim and I’m afraid of water, so I never would have imagined in a million years that I would ever go kayaking. But right before school began, I got a chance to try it with my fellow Eco Youth Reporters. And it was one of the most rejuvenating experiences in my life.

Our tour guide was Noah Stein with the company Chicago River Canoe and Kayak. He was wonderful and completely understanding but he was really serious about safety and the risks of being on the water. I was sort of reluctant to get in a kayak by myself, so Noah decided it was in my best interest to partner up with Alisha Jacobs, which was a great idea.

Noah went over all the important logistics about kayaking. We had to first pick out single or double kayaks. After we had done that, Noah helped each of us change the gears in the boat for our own comfort. For the ones who were in double boats, we had to decide if we wanted to be a front paddler or a back paddler and gear changer. At first, I thought I wanted to be in the back paddling and changing gears. Then Noah explained that experienced kayakers usually sat in the back because it would be difficult for a beginner to focus on paddling and changing gears. So I was switched to the front.

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Asian Carp is a Man-Made Issue

by Jasmine Hunt 

Notre Dame’s environmental scientist Chris Jerde discusses invasive species with the Eco Youth Reporters. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Asian carp was seen as a quick and easy solution to help clean up some fish farm ponds near the Mississippi River. But as they have made their way toward the Great Lakes, they created a whole different issue. The Asian carp has a giant appetite: It eats everything, which means that it changed the food chain and natural rhythm of the rivers and lakes.

Asian carp has been around for awhile. With large mouths and the ability to filter feed, the carp were originally brought from China to clean up the lakes that serve as fish farms in Arkansas. The Arkansas floods in the 1970s caused the fish farms to break open and the Asian carp got into the Mississippi River. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1970 and people were focused on improving the water quality. So people knew Asian carp could be a problem. Asian Carp are found all over the world and there are many in Canada’s water sheds. 

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Chasing the “Blue Whale of Freshwater”

by Alicia Jacobs 

The Eco Youth Reporters pose during their tour of Notre Dame. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

“The blue whale of freshwater” – that’s how Chris Jerde, research assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, describes Asian carp. Among the 185 invasive species in the Great Lakes, Asian carp has been the biggest problem. The various species of Asian carp open their mouths and eat “anything” in their path, as Jerde said, growing up to 100 pounds and leaving everything else behind to starve or just barely survive.

But no one can seem to find Asian carp.

That’s where Jerde’s eDNA test comes in. As Jerde showed us atthe Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility on a bright, hot, empty yet peaceful spot at St. Patrick’s Park, the eDNA test begins by filtering water through something that looks like a coffee filter. It sorts out the rocks and other things in the water, giving him a pure sample of organic particles. The eDNA test looks for DNA from fish and other organisms that he can trace. You can trace the DNA if an Asian carp has been in the water, even if you can’t physically find the fish.

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Frack Attack in Illinois

by Tyreshia Black 

Anti-fracking activists in Boulder, Colo., during a recent protest. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation. – See more at: http://wethepeoplemedia.org/#sthash.4O2DVbp7.dpuf

The Illinois legislature passed a bill the last week of May that would regulate fracking, the controversial practice for getting natural gas and oil by injecting water and chemicals into shale formations. The bill is being called the strictest package of fracking regulations in the nation. But many people disagree with it. That’s because they think there should be a moratorium or ban on fracking. The bill will become law if Gov. Pat Quinn signs it. Right now there is no fracking in Illinois. But if the bill passes, fracking is expected to start. The bill does have some safeguards but critics say that fracking can never be safe.

Industry, of course, is all for the fracking in Illinois. They say it will bring jobs and needed energy. But concerned activists like Annette McMichael and Beverly Walter disagree with the idea of fracking because they are worried it will cause serious pollution of our drinking water and air. They are backing a proposed bill that would put a moratorium on fracking, which would mean no fracking for the next two years, while more studies are done. That bill was introduced in the state General Assembly by state Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

McMichael is a member of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE). She has had personal encounters with industry representatives near her home.

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The Altgeld Gardens Farmers Market: A Personal Perspective

by Manquaze Allen 

Step through this door to visit Altgeld Gardens’ new farmers market. Photo by Manquaze Allen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

Marguerite Jacobs is the founder of Altgeld Gardens’ new farmers market located at 939 East 130th Place. Mrs. Jacobs, who happens to be my mother, gets her fresh produce and supplies from Pembroke, Illinois. Vegetables, peanuts and fruit are sold at the market for a low price. The food is freshly grown, so there are no chemicals in her vegetables and fruit. Here are a few items that Mrs. Jacobs sells: potatoes, onions, peppers, oranges, carrots and much more.

“Altgeld is a food dessert community. I feel that the younger kids are exposed to so much fat foods and not enough healthy products. The farmers market will give the kids good choices to eat,” said Mrs. Jacobs. She spent much of the time preparing to open the market at Altgeld in June of 2012. Now she is selling her produce and in 10 months her goal is to start selling meat.

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Pilsen Gets Environmental Justice

by Jasmine Hunt 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Dvorak Park is a very grassy, wide expanse of trees and benches, a playground for young children with an outdoor pool located in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is home to many Mexican immigrants. Rising above the park is the tall, light-colored brick smokestack of the Fisk coal power plant. Next to the smokestack is the red brick building where coal was burned to produce electricity for 109 years.
Since 1903, the plant has provided power for Chicago. And for many years, it was the number one source of pollution in the city, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune.
Jerry Mead-Lucero is a founding member and organizer of the group Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reformation Organization (PERRO). We met with Mead-Lucero in August 2012 on the day after the Fisk power plant had been closed and the Crawford coal-burning power plant a few miles away in the Little Village neighborhood was scheduled to close the next week.
There have been 55 premature deaths each year linked to the power plant, along with hundreds of asthma attacks and people hospitalized because of pollution from the plant, according to a study by a scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001. Respiratory issues are frequently caused by coal, fly ash, soot, mercury, lead (which is a neurotoxin) and other particles emitted from the coal plant, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »

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Chicagoans Will Fish, Contamination or Not

by Tyreshia Black 

 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Contaminated fish, sediment and water can be dangerous to one’s health but that doesn’t keep hungry Chicagoans away from the water at Canal Park and the Canal Port River Walk on Ashland Avenue south of Cermak Avenue in the Pilsen neighborhood.

In years past, factories and slaughterhouses used to dump waste in the Chicago River and the canals which connect to it. That contaminated the water and the fish. Pilsen’s coal plant, Fisk, contributes contamination to the water also. It releases lead, mercury, and other contaminants into the air which fall into the river.

Since President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in the early 1970s, factories can’t dump waste right into the river and there are limits on what plants and factories can emit into the air. But there is still a strong possibility of water contamination in the Chicago River because the City of Chicago discharges its sewage into the river, about 1.2 billion gallons every day. The sewage and other industrial waste is only partially treated. Starting in 2014, it will be disinfected to kill viruses and bacteria but right now, that is not done. In 2011, the national group American Rivers named the Chicago River one of the country’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers.

And yet people still fish there. We visited the area where the Chicago River meets the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Canal Park on a muggy afternoon in early August. Near a grove of huge trees, I met Scott, a 34-year-old man who asked his last name not be used and who regularly fishes in the shallow, calm water flowing through this spot. I asked him some questions about river contamination and previous factory dumps.

“I’m not for sure if it’s contaminated but I love coming here for the scenery and I love fishing,” said Scott.

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