Thursday, December 22, 2011

From Prairie State Protector

storms_grandchildrenDecember 2011 Book Review

Storms of My Grandchildren
By James Hansen

Reviewed by: Jeff Gahris, Glen Ellyn Cool Cities Coalition (630) 853-5505

James Hansen, as you might recall, is the climate scientist at NASA who accused the Bush Administration of muzzling the work of climate science a few years ago.  In his latest book, he gives us his perspective on what happened with climate change politics in America and abroad, and why positive action on the issue does not seem imminent.  What is important about Hansen’s book is this:  he argues how climate change is a much bigger problem than we generally realize, and that it will have enormous impacts in the near future.  He is also part of a small but growing group of scientists who have a sense of urgency and are willing to engage in politics.

 A large part of Storms of My Grandchildren covers the science itself.  A major point he makes is that we are well served by looking at the natural history of the planet to see what climate change has occurred in the past.  For example, we have good information about how carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere changed over time, and we know how that correlates with past changes in the earth’s temperature, and how that affects the rise of sea levels as the ice sheets melt.  Another major point is how human impacts are having an “explosive” warming effect (in terms of geologic time) that greatly exceed the “forcings” of earth’s natural cycles.  The implication here is we could be on the verge of a tipping point, after which the ice sheets will collapse, coinciding with an abrupt and catastrophic global warming.  He covers well the issue of what “dangerous” climate change means, and explains how he arrived at the goal of keeping the carbon dioxide concentration under 350 parts per million to avoid the really bad effects.
About the Reviewer:
"As a scientist Jeff Gahris has an insider's appreciation of the dilemma Hansen found himself in - identifying an alarming environmental issue, not being heard in the policy sector and having to widen his talents to include advocacy within the realm of politics." Lonnie Morris
This is not a doom and gloom book; he does offer solutions.  He starts by saying we must phase out our dependence on fossil fuels immediately, especially coal.  He decries the popular “cap and trade” as a shell game involving “offsets,” popular because politicians and big business will allow it.  Hansen instead promotes the simpler and honest “fee and dividend” approach to encourage an efficient transition away from coal.  He suggests we assess a substantial fee on fossil fuels and then redistribute the money equally to the public.  Unfortunately he glosses over the details; for example, how does the business sector participate?

He also suggests we need to expand the use of nuclear energy, particularly a move toward fast-breeder reactors.  This, I submit, will not be popular in the environmental community, but he is advancing a discussion about better technologies to address the problems with nuclear energy.

Hansen is raising issues and offering solutions that will not be politically popular.  In my opinion, what he is saying is that we have no choice but to move forward decisively with real solutions that work – or else there will be hell to pay.  This book is a compelling call to action.  Appropriately, he dedicates his book to his grandchildren Sophie, Connor, and Jake, who will inherit the results of the moral decisions we make today.

Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (December 21, 2010), ISBN-10: 1608195023, ISBN-13: 978-1608195022 , 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches, 336 pages, paperback

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A warning from the International Energy Agency

Things seem relatively safe and secure in Glen Ellyn, but we should be mindful of the recent warning from the International Energy Agency.  Climate change will hit us hard if we ignore it.  There are things people can do as political activists that can make a difference.  The focus of this blog, however, is local as we look to maintain and enhance Glen Ellyn as a desirable community.

Some positive things we can do now include working with new ComEd and Nicor energy efficiency programs, and buying green power.  Due to recent changes in Illinois law, we can now sign up for alternative sources of electricity.  Take note of the flyers arriving in your mail box.  Meanwhile, many communities are signing up for the community aggregation of electricity.  Oak Park recently took the bold step of voting to buy 100 percent green electricity on a city-wide basis.  Yes, Oak Park is doing it without paying an extra cent, but the most compeling reason relates to what the IEA and others are saying about our future.  There is nothing hold us back from acting locally in a powerful way, except us!

More posts to come about how this will work. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Habitat and ComEd

DuPage Habitat for Humanity and ComEd have been working together to build energy-efficient and sustainable housing.  Community initiatives like this combined with new opportunities to purchase "green" electricity will help move us to where we need to be in the 21st century.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Moving Planet DuPage

Join us this Saturday, September 24 for a major environmental event in Villa Park. Moving Planet is a day of celebrating biking and walking as ways of moving past fossil fuel for a cool and clean planet. Bicycle riders and walkers from around the county will travel to Rugaard Gazebo in Villa Park for music, food, speakers and a group photo at 1:45 pm. Riders can stop at stations along the Illinois Prairie Path in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lombard and Elmhurst to pick up streamers for their handle bars and numbers for their jerseys as we shoot for 350 bikers and riders supporting alternative transportation.

Glen Ellyn Cool Cities supports Moving Planet, which is sponsored by and the Sierra Club.
More information is available at the Moving Planet DuPage web page.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is it getting hotter in Glen Ellyn?

Is it getting hotter?  In a word, "yes," but the heat predicted for this week is by no means a record.  There is a strong history of heat waves in the Midwest.  NOAA has an interesting analysis at 

It may be getting stormier also; at least precipitation is on the increase.  Last week's derecho windstorm that pummeled the Chicago region, like the current heat wave, has had precedent.  Still, there is concern that violent storms are becoming more common.  A recent  survey suggests Americans have noticed this, and are becoming more concerned. See

We seem to have more heat and humidity in northern Illinois, which can trigger heavier rains; but we must be aware that these ingedients alone do not create severe weather.  We also need  atmospheric instability and other complex factors, which may or may not be influenced by climate change.  There is one thing we can be sure of - as the heat indices approach 110 degrees this week, we can appreciate the value of a strong and healthy urban forest.  Without shelter from the sun, it feels like an oven outside.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Informal meeting on Glenbard West Memorial Field

On June 23 (this Thursday) there will be an informal Cool Cities meeting to learn about the lighting proposal for Memorial Field in Glen Ellyn. Panera Bread (Glen Ellyn), 7:30 p.m. This is open dialog about a divisive issue in our community. All viewpoints welcomed! Find more information at and

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Moving Planet on the Prairie Path

Our next big project is to help make the Moving Planet on the Prairie Path event a huge success.  Bill McKibben's "" group has launched a worldwide Moving Planet event on Saturday, September 24.  Locally, we plan to have bikers, walkers, and others to move along the Prairie Path under "people power" to promote a carbon-free future.  The Prairie Path activity will end with a large celebration in Villa Park. This is still in the early stages of planning.  Please check for updates by searching for the Villa Park location at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ComEd's Energy Challenge debuts in Glen Ellyn

Green Group Brings the Energy Challenge to the Taste

This weekend, the 30th annual Taste of Glen Ellyn will feature a new local organization, GreenGroup, with a booth that will offer something to interest everyone. Get involved with hands-on product demos and a ComEd contest with cash prizes to encourage families to REALLY think green about their homes.

GreenGroup's booth at the Taste of Glen Ellyn will kick-off a new ComEd community program where electric customers can sign up to commit to a percent reduction in their electricity usage versus the same period of the previous summer. Non-ComEd energy supply customers can also participate. The project starts June 1 to cover the peak-season summer months for residential energy consumption. The top 10 households with the greatest reduction (and that meet their reduction targets) win prizes at the program's conclusion in September. Prizes include ten $500 gift cards to local home improvement retailers. Saving energy dollars and becoming more energy efficient has never been more fun!

The booth will also be filled with interesting, educational, green home-improvement products such as a solar-powered electricity generator, a rain barrel, carpet made from pop bottles, a living green roof tile, and landscaping plants that need almost no water. GreenGroup members will be on hand to answer questions. GreenGroup, founded by Glen Ellyn resident Paul Isaac, is a group of local professionals who meet monthly to discuss sustainability issues related to their careers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Program on "The Historic Landscape"

Presentation by Barbara Geiger, Landscape Historian

On May 14, 2011, the Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation scheduled a program on Preserving Historic Landscapes. This was an engaging presentation. By covering topics such as preservation theory and research methodology, Barbara Geiger, a landscape historian, presented the challenge of preserving or restoring unique historic landscapes. She made it clear that individual groups seeking to restore a landscape surrounding an historic building must determine the specific time period of interest. A home of historic value may have had an original landscape typical of the period in which it was built. Over the years, the landscape was likely modified to satisfy the tastes of a subsequent time period. If the original owner of the home was a famous person, restoration may best be focused on that time period. This helps an individual or group make decisions about how to restore the landscape. The audience learned that a home built in the Victorian era, for instance, rarely had foundation plantings, nor high-maintenance gardens that were viewed as impractical to the people of the day. Additionally, such homes did not have the immaculate lawns of grass that we think of today.

Ms. Geiger, being interested in historic landscapes, did not always focus on the same issues that modern homeowners might. For example, although many old homes had large trees adjacent to them, she did not advocate that this was necessarily desirable. Early American homebuilders, she argued, made mistakes about the placement of large trees, leading to potential damage to the structure from falling trees and branches. Ms. Geiger seemingly did not suggest that historic landscapes were designed for comfort and energy efficiency. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but it is important to know what motivated people in bygone eras when buildings and surrounding landscapes were designed and constructed. It is also revealing to know that they sometimes made mistakes, even as we continue to do so today in a time when climate change and rising energy costs make landscape design more challenging.

Bio from Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation Web site: Barbara Geiger did her graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in historic landscape research and preservation. She has served on the Wilmette Historic Preservation Commission, the Fund and Easement Committee of Landmarks Illinois, the Frances Willard House board, and other organizations, as well as professional consulting on landscape restoration projects. She has taught landscape history and preservation at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Chicago Botanic Garden for 8 years; she also teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

- Jeff Gahris

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Glen Ellyn Earth Day celebration - report

Various local environmental groups attended, and created plenty of warth and excitement as we shared our stories about what we do to improve the environment.  Pictured - Jodi Trendler and Kenneth King of Naperville Green Drinks.

Barb Perry of the First Presbyterian Church Earthlings wrote the following:

- Sierra Club River Prairie Group: Connie Schmidt encouraged membership. Political action.

Cool Cities: Jeff Gahris. A part of Sierra Club. Initiative started by Mayor of Seattle.
o Look into Blue Star Energy.
o Watt meters can be checked out at the library to see how much power our appliances are sucking.
o Average home uses 10,900 kWh/year (in the past year we used 11,854)

- Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation: Linda Gilbert. A lot about the tree ordinance.

- Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission. More about the tree ordinance. Go to website for schedule of events.

- Glenbard West Eco Club. Very active and energetic group. I didn’t know there were solar ipod chargers.

- Ben Lowe. Now works for Evangelical Environmental Network. Talked about starting a community garden in his apartment complex on Roosevelt and Main Street.

- Green Group. Small group in Glen Ellyn that meets monthly at PPK Architects. Will have a booth at the Taste of Glen Ellyn this year where you can enter an energy challenge with ComEd to see who can reduce their energy the most over the summer.

- Green Drinks in Naperville uses social networking to communicate.
o Also mentioned meetup.

- Earthlings: Barb Perry (pictured) shared the group’s mission and activities, including Creation Care Sunday (beehouses, rain barrels and battery collection), our Facebook page and our desire to help the poor.

- SCARCE showed a lead-free garden hose sold at Ace Hardware, passed out cards to check to see if your toilet leaks and said that we will all have to reduce our water usage by 15% by 2025.

- Green Festival is May 14 and 15 at McCormick Place

Thanks to Bethany Licht – circulation manager – for putting this all together.--Barb Perry

Glen Ellyn Cool Cities Coalition also thanks Bruce Blake of the Sierra Club for contacting all of the presenters and handling much of the logistics.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Earth Day festival in nearby Carol Stream

There is so many things going on this Spring for adults and the kids alike.  Carol Stream is hitting it off big by combining Earth Day with a farmer's market.  Growing food locally is good for the Earth's climate, and is a more exciting and healthy addition to our diet.  And what farmers can grow locally can also be grown in our backyards.  Few things match the joy of watching things sprout and grow, and then eating them!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cool Cities part of Earth Day program at the library

Monday, April 18, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Join us in the Main Meeting Room to celebrate Earth Day. The Sierra Club-River Prairie Group and many other civic, religious and environmental groups will present how they practice Earth Day every day. Groups presenting include: Glen Ellyn Cool Cities Coalition, Friends of the Great Western Trail, It's Our Earth, The Green Group, Naperville for Clean Energy and Conservation, Green Drinks (Naperville & Wheaton/DuPage), Naperville Area Sustainability Meet Up Group, First Presbyterian church: Glen Ellyn's Earthlings Group, Ben Lowe (environmental author & past candidate for Congress), Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission, Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation, Glenbard West's Eco Club, SCARCE

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Call for speakers for back yard gardening symposium

Glen Ellyn Cool Cities is building an exciting symposium, and is looking for local speakers and poster presentations for a home gardening and local food.  We will be happy to include high school students.  This event will be scheduled in May.  Look here and on Facebook for updates.

Upcoming eco-events

April 9 - Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, sponsored by the Wheaton Franciscans, "Where on Earth are we going? And what can we do about it?" -

 April 13 - Earth Day Party -

April 16 - League of Women Voters of Wheaton announces their April program collaborating with A Rocha of Wheaton College, a student chapter of an international conservation group, "TAR CREEK" -

April 17 - Lombard's Helen Plum Library and the SIerra Club continue the Green Readin' book discussion series. On April 17, the group will discuss Bill McKibben's "Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet" -

April 22 - EARTH DAY -

April 23 - Glen Ellyn Park District restoration work day at Churchill Park on St. Charles, just east of Bloomingdale Road -

April 30 - Glen Ellyn Recycling Extravaganza -
Prairie Path cleanup - Great Western Trails cleanup,

May 1 - Green Earth Fair, Naperville - McDonald Farm, 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville. Native plants are for sale at this event, which features many other activities: presentations, vendor booths, etc. (I thank First Presbyterian Earthlings for the details)

May 7 - Village of Glen Ellyn's "Less is More" landscaping seminar and tour -

May 14-15 - Green Festival Chicago, now at McCormick Place-

Friday, April 1, 2011

Village of Glen Ellyn Upcoming Events

Less is More Landscaping...Seminar and Walking Tour

If you’d like to spend more time enjoying your yard and less time working on it, don’t miss the Village of Glen Ellyn’s Native Landscaping Seminar and Walking Tour from 9:15 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 7. The seminar will start at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St., Glen Ellyn.  Keynote speaker, Jack Pizzo, president of Pizzo & Associates, Ltd., an award-winning firm, will help residents understand how to incorporate sustainable practices into their landscape. A presentation on the basics of ecology and the ecology of the Chicago region will precede the landscape discussion. The event will begin with a formal presentation followed by an outdoor discussion of landscape issues. Attendees will learn about what native plants to use in their landscapes and where to use them. We will discuss rain gardens, butterfly gardens, low maintenance gardens and low maintenance lawn grasses. A list of plants will be handed out.  Reservations are not required (but encouraged) for the event which is being sponsored by the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission and the Village Public Works Department. Please call the Public Works Department for more information at 630-469-6756.

The 2011 Recycling Extravaganza

This perennial favorite will be held on Saturday, April 30 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Duane/Lorraine Commuter Parking Lot just west of the Library Parking Lot. Bring unwanted, recyclable items to this event, which is organized by the Village of Glen Ellyn and the Environmental Commission. Various local organizations will be on hand for this event, which this year will also include electronics.  For more information about this event, please see the below flyers, or contact Kristen Schrader, Staff Liaison to the Environmental Commission at 630-469-5000.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Glen Ellyn Cool Cities video

In conjunction with the Glen Ellyn League of Women's Voters, we have developed a video promoting the Glen Ellyn Cool Cities Coalition.  This video highlights local businesses, nonprofits, school groups, and a church group.  Watch presentations in support local environmental initiatives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Earth Hour in Batavia, Illinois

We are frequently asked to give up something to protect the environment.  Or at least, that's the way it seems. Earth Hour is a special way for many of us to stop, take a deep breath, and just enjoy ourselves, family, and friends.  Yes, some new ways to celebrate is in order, and Batavia knows how to do it. 

Batavia's Earth Hour is this Saturday, March 28.  For details, see

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 21 Program at Glen Ellyn Public Library

The Glen Ellyn Cool Cities Coalition is sponsoring an informative public program on residential energy conservation. The program will feature a panel of local experts sharing their knowledge about home energy audits, improving heating and air conditioning, and personal experiences at reducing energy waste. Homeowners who desire greater comfort and energy savings throughout the seasons are invited. We look forward to hearing input and questions from the audience in a relaxed and informal setting. Featured presenters include Paul Isaac of Forward Energy, and Micah Schoenherr of DMM Comfort. We will also share information about local “green” groups in Glen Ellyn.

The program will be held at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane Street, at 7:00 PM, Monday, March 21, 2011. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Blind Spot" film review

The "Just Views" discussion group viewing of the "Blind Spot" found the film to be depressing, and reacted strongly to it. For an hour and a half, we saw a series of interviews of experts who opined about how America (and the world for that matter) is heading for an economic train wreck because we refuse to conserve oil. No one fully disagreed with the basic premise of the film that the era of cheap oil is ending, but we expected some discussion in the film about needed solutions to the problem. We stayed until late into the evening hours hashing out solutions of our own. Some of us wanted to nibble at the edges, while others wanted to discuss how social communities can restructure themselves in fundamental ways. At least we started some dialog. Imagine a community like Glen Ellyn facing $10 per gallon gasoline. Such a scenario would cause huge economic headaches, but the clouds may have a silver lining. If fuel costs are high enough, the world economy would contract, but local economies might step up. This suggests a vital role for Glen Ellyn's business district as it adapts to provide essential goods and services that it does not provide now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"JUST VIEWS" Free Film Viewing and Discussion Program

The DuPage Peace through Justice Coalition & Sierra Club River Prairie Group present a Just Views program, at the DuPage Unitarian Church.

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:20 pm: "Running Out of Oil"

The documentary film Blind Spot, directed by Adolfo Doring, probes the current oil and energy crisis which we are facing. Through wishful thinking, indulgence, neglect, and/or ignorance, we have put ourselves at a crossroad and face future environmental and economic collapse. US fossil fuel production has declined and financial and environmental costs to extract oil have increased. This trend is occurring and impacting the world as a whole. Our film features interviews with leading scientists, economists, and environmental advocates. These experts challenge us to actively seek out energy alternatives other than fossil fuels and to transition to a slower-paced, low-energy, sustainable society. For more information and to purchase the dvd, the website is

Resource persons joining us for the viewing and discussion following include Issam Dairanieh, alternative energy sources scientist with a major international petroleum energy corporation, Lonnie Morris, Executive Chair of the Sierra Club - DuPage County River Prairie Group, and Mike Durschmid and associates, activists for climate justice dealing with fossil fuels. All points of view and active audience participation are welcome.

Just Views programs start at 7:20 pm, are sponsored by the DuPage Peace through Justice Coalition and are held in Naperville IL at the Unitarian Church at 4 S 535 Old Naperville Road (630/505-9408).

Directions: Go (south of Route 88) to the corner of Naperville Road and Diehl. Proceed one block east along Diehl, then turn left/north. Enter the Unitarian Church ahead on your right.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter weather and climate change

The horrific onslought of winter weather this year in some areas has left many wondering whether climate change is real. Despite the extreme weather events, the earth has in fact been warming up as a whole. There are some other blogs that have a history of covering this point well, including Jeff Master's WunderBlog

Two things that fuel winter storms - temperature and moisture - may matter the most. It seems likely that climate change could cause a change in storm tracks and access to more of the abundant moisture that the storms need. Still, when we look at Chicago's records, winter storms have impacted Chicago for a long time. Here are the top ten storms according to NOAA, not counting today's storm, which is now third largest at about 20 inches:

1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967
2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999
3. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930
4. 18.8 inches Jan 13-14, 1979
5. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931
6. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929
7. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939
8. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918
9. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970
10. 14.0 inches Jan 18-20, 1886

Some analysts say that meteorological records do not show an impact from climate change. Perhaps the trends over the last few years will change that assessment.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More on the Illinois Solar Tour

See an article about the local solar energy scene in the Dupage Sierran newsletter published by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Taking Electricity for Granted

We have become so accustomed to limitless electrical power at low cost that we no longer think seriously about conserving it. Even as CFL and LED lighting technology are marketed as "green" products, we keep looking for new and creative uses for electricity requiring greater production and transmission over long distances on demand. Although we can only store small amounts of it, we expect electrical power to be there when we want it.

A recent study by NASA year highlghted our vulnerability to solar flare activity, which causes "space weather." The sun is starting to become more active, possibly reaching a peak of solar flare activity in 2012. This normally concerns astronauts and astronomers, but another group is concerned: our electric utility industry. When a solar storm bathes the earth in plasma radiation, the earth's magnetic field is disrupted, causing auroras. A large storm in 1989 caused Quebec's power grid to crash. A really big one in 1859 disrupted the U.S. telegraph system over a period of days. What might happen should another superstorm like the 1859 event stike today with our high dependence on electricity and electronic communications? Check out the latest Sky and Telescope magazine for the full story.

A superstorm may never happen anytime soon, or the effects may be minimized by utility industry efforts to harden the grid, but we should never take electricity for granted the way we do.

photo by NASA