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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The truth about what happens when you recycle the wrong stuff in Chicago

Posted By on 07.13.17 at 12:15 PM

Some Blue Cart Residential Recycling Program participants will receive an "oops tag" on their cart if the contents include non-recyclables. - DEPARTMENT OF STREETS AND SANITATION
  • Department of Streets and Sanitation
  • Some Blue Cart Residential Recycling Program participants will receive an "oops tag" on their cart if the contents include non-recyclables.

Here's the deal: Do not put plastic bags, food, wood, clothing, cords, hoses, propane tanks, or construction waste into your recycling cart. And this warning goes out to my neighbors: Don't put cat litter in there either!

In an attempt to address confusion about what can and can't be recycled, Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation is testing a new, more streamlined public information campaign in hopes of boosting the city's dismal recycling rate; less than 10 percent of Chicago's waste is currently diverted from landfills. In a pilot program rolled out along several routes on the south and southwest sides, which have some of the lowest recycling rates in the city, Blue Cart Residential Recycling Program participants are receiving mailers with instructions on proper recycling and "oops tags" on their carts if items that can't be recycled are discovered by haulers. The contents of the contaminated cart will be picked up by garbage collectors and sent to the landfill instead of one of the area's three recycling facilities. 

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

A radical collective of southeast-side girls is challenging the status quo and working to build a better world

Posted By and on 05.18.17 at 01:21 PM

Rebel Bell Natalia Ortega, 13, with her mother and mentor, Leticia Ortega - MICHELLE KANAAR
  • Michelle Kanaar
  • Rebel Bell Natalia Ortega, 13, with her mother and mentor, Leticia Ortega

On a recent Saturday morning in Veterans Park on the far southeast side, Olga Bautista crouched on the bocce court drawing lines in the sand with a stick. Eighteen girls, ranging in age from three to 18, sat on a bench, watching. "This is Torrance Avenue," she said, pointing at the line down the middle, "and this is 95th, and over here's 100th. That's South Deering, and there's Jeffery Manor. I grew up over there." She gestured to the area south of 100th Street.

"The people in these neighborhoods used to work in the steel mills," she continued. "There were more steel mills here than anywhere else in the United States. Then the steel mills closed and people lost their jobs. They had to move in with their families. How many of you have had to live with other people besides your family?"

About half the girls raised their hands.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

The liminal camera returns to Chicago with two new exhibits

Posted By on 05.15.15 at 01:30 PM

  • courtesy of Metabolic Studio
Most pinhole cameras are made out of shoe boxes. But Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen, and Tristan Duke's pinhole camera is a shipping crate. Since 2010 the three artists, all part of the optics team at LA's Metabolic Studio, which uses "devices of wonder" to investigate energy sources, have been traveling the globe with this "liminal camera" in order to document the ways people use water resources.

Last October they were in Chicago working on a series of photographs of local waterways and water usage. Those photos, most of them black and white and averaging four by eight feet, are now on display at the DePaul Art Museum.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Lemurs, elephant birds, and bats: The Field Museum resurrects Madagascar

Posted By on 08.29.14 at 04:00 PM

A giant lemur in Ampasambazimba, Madagascar, with elephant birds
  • Velizar Simeonovski
  • A giant lemur in Ampasambazimba, Madagascar, approximately 2,000 years ago, with elephant birds
One terrible day about 3,700 years ago, a herd of dwarf hippos stopped to drink at the Betsiboka River in northern Madagascar. They got swept up in the current and pulled into the Anjohibe cave. The Anjohibe is underground and is very, very dark. The hippos panicked. In their rush to escape, they ran into stalactites and stalagmites and trampled each other and also the bats that were living inside the cave. The scene must have been mayhem. The hippos never found their way out. Now, thousands of years later, their bones remain on the cave floor. In the meantime, the dwarf hippos became extinct.

The chaotic scene inside Anjohibe is one of several that have been re-created by artist Velizar Simeonovski, Field Museum scientist Steve Goodman, and SUNY Stony Brook professor Bill Jungers in the Field's new exhibit, "Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island's Past," and an accompanying book.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

The politics behind Chicago's garbage bins

Posted By on 06.27.14 at 02:01 PM

  • Chris Wronski
The City Council took up an ordinance Wednesday that few aldermen know much about, except that it's likely to raise the cost of living in Chicago for apartment and condo dwellers. Those who know more aren't talking. The council passed it anyway.

The measure concerns one of the least sexy issues imaginable: how the city regulates and taxes Dumpsters owned by private waste haulers. But the way it became law offers a snapshot of how policies are often forged at City Hall.

"I think we've seen time and time again that when we approve things blindly, and then the actual numbers come in, we end up being like, 'Oh my!'" said Leslie Hairston (Fifth Ward), one of the few aldermen to vote against the measure.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

There's an important lesson in From Billions to None, a new documentary about the extinct passenger pigeon

Posted By on 06.11.14 at 03:15 PM

Martha in her final resting place: the Smithsonian Institution
  • Martha in her final resting place: the Smithsonian Institution
2014 is the year of the passenger pigeon. Not that any passenger pigeons are around to appreciate this fact: the last one, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo exactly a century ago, on September 1, 1914. What makes the extinction of the passenger pigeon particularly tragic is that less than 50 years before Martha's death, there were millions, even billions, of passenger pigeons in North America. They were so numerous that a flock flying overhead could darken the skies and the beating of their wings could cause changes in the atmosphere, like weather. Today the passenger pigeon is an object lesson in the damage human greed has done.

Last night a new documentary, From Billions to None, about the life and death of the passenger pigeon, premiered at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The film was funded largely through an IndieGoGo campaign and will air on PBS this fall. Its director, David Mrazek, and star (and coproducer), Joel Greenberg, were on hand to answer questions.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Berenbaum and the case for tolerating bugs (even the annoying ones)

Posted By on 05.29.14 at 10:00 AM

May Berenbaum
  • May Berenbaum
In another month or so the humid air will start rolling in and we won't be able to go outside after dark without getting bitten up by mosquitoes. Then we won't be able to sleep because of the flies that slip through our window screens and buzz around all night long. There will be clouds of midges attempting to fly up our noses and ants marching through our kitchens. Not to mention our old friends, the roaches. We will be declaring war on insects and using every means at our disposal—swatters, citronella, toxic chemicals—to annihilate them. Except the pretty ones, like butterflies.

But wait! Not so fast! May Berenbaum, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois (and also the organizer of the university's annual Insect Fear Film Festival and the inspiration for the Bambi Berenbaum character on The X-Files), believes that insects are useful, and even helpful, to us in ways our little human minds can't comprehend yet. She'll be here this weekend to give the keynote address at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's Why Prevent Extinction? conference, but earlier this week she took some time for a chat over the phone about our friends, the bugs.

"Maybe it's not scientific to quote Joni Mitchell," Berenbaum says, "but you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gefilte fish is an endangered species this Passover

Posted By on 04.10.14 at 10:23 AM

A platter of homemade gefilte fish.
Tuesday Monday night marks the beginning of Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus from Egypt with a superlong meal interspersed with responsive readings and songs and the consumption of large quantities of Manischewitz wine. The Passover menu consists of a number of symbolic foods that represent various stages of the epic journey from slavery to freedom, but in most households, the most sacred of all is gefilte fish.

Gefilte fish are actually fish balls, usually made from a mixture of ground whitefish and pike or carp, traditionally eaten cold with a garnish of horseradish. If this sounds disgusting, it's because it is, particularly if your fish comes with little globules of fish jelly clinging to it, but it's the sort of disgusting thing that is considered a delicacy, particularly if your family is descended from eastern European Jews who fled the czar, the Cossacks, and the pogroms, often with little more than the gefilte fish recipe. These recipes are sacred, held close and carefully passed from generation to generation. (My own family's comes from my maternal great-grandmother, who only relinquished it mere months before she died. Every Passover, someone marvels at what a close call we had.) They cannot be altered.

But this year, thanks to the cold, cold winter, Lake Superior is still frozen, and there's a severe shortage of whitefish. And Passover is less than a week away.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

'Nature's Struggle' shows what human greed has done to Chicago

Posted By on 03.25.14 at 03:47 PM

A few of the animals that once lived in Chicago but no longer do.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • A few of the animals that once lived in Chicago but no longer do.
It's hard to imagine now what Chicago looked like 200 years ago. Aside from the lake and the river, nothing that's here now was there then. Instead, there was just an enormous swath of prairie.

"Nature's Struggle," a new exhibit that opened Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, attempts to re-create, through video, sound effects, and a multicultural trio of child characters, what it was like to live on this piece of land in 1820, 1905, and 2014. At the beginning of the exhibit, you can look up at the video skylight and see nothing but birds flying overhead. You can hear them, too. By 2014, the sky is mostly blue and empty and you can't hear much besides traffic.

"The exhibit shows how perceptions of nature have changed," says Steve Sullivan, the museum's curator of urban ecology. "It's gone from utilitarian to aesthetic."

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A taxonomy of snow

Posted By on 03.04.14 at 03:38 PM

Its like the Great Barrier Reef, only its on a street in Rogers Park and there are no fish.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • It's like the Great Barrier Reef, only it's on a street in Rogers Park and there are no fish.
It's March. We're all still wearing our snow boots and long underwear, which are starting to get a little rank by now. There's not enough booze, Girl Scout cookies, or even paczki in this whole stupid world to compensate for this shitty, shitty winter. But if you still have a molecule of optimism left inside of you, try to see last weekend's snowstorm not as another opportunity to pretend you're living in Siberia (you are a political prisoner, you have been sent to the gulag, your continued survival is a triumph of the human spirit, etc) but as a chance to get to know snow in all its multifarious forms. Hey, it's not often that you get to see dirty, month-old snow and fresh, new snow all at once. Plus, temperatures this week have soared all the way into the 20s, which means prime snow-spotting weather!

Herewith a guide to all the exciting different kinds of snow that may be piled up on your very own curb:

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