Nature and the environment

Here you will find articles and reports about Illinois natural systems, ecological change, mined land restoration, pollution, soil erosion, toxics pollution, ecosystem restoration, and climate and weather as published mainly in Nature of Illinois, Illinois Issues. Chicago’s Reader, and state government reports.

 

I came of age at the same time as the federal and state environmental protections agencies. The environment was a new issue in Illinois, but not a new problem. For decades, its farmers had poisoned streams with farm chemicals and clogged lakes with eroded soil, acidic rain from the burning of Illinois coal was killing forests in the northeast U.S., prime soils were being built on or washed away, and the ecosystem for which the Prairie State was named so ravaged that they scarcely existed in its original form.

 

In my off hours I poked around in the backwaters of Lake Springfield, an artificial reservoir built in the 1930s. When I discovered the place, the ponds were dotted with muskrat lodges, deer fed at water’s edge, fish frolicked, and egrets nested in the trees. An orgy of corn planting in the fields upstream of the lake caused the backwaters to fill with sediment within a very few years. The lodges disappeared and the waters on which I floated in a kayak became mud much of the year. Such damage, I felt, was not wrong so much as it was stupid, and when I could, I explained why I thought so in journals where explaining was appropriate and I ranted about it in journals where ranting was allowed. 

An old pal once said that if he lived in Montana, he'd die for the environment, but Illinois was not worth it. A lot of Illinoisans don't agree, and the state has made hard-earned advances on every front thanks to them.

Click on the title for the full article.

To leave an article and return to this page, click on your browser's back button or on "Nature and the environment" in the Topics menu

Coming Into the Prairie

A biography of Illinois's signature ecosystem

Reader January 28, 1983

Currents of History

Illinois River books by Gray and Masters

Reader April 13, 1990

Green Streets

Chicago tries to learn to love trees

Reader  January 19, 1990

Cougars in Illinois?

Are the big cats back in Illinois?

Illinois Issues July/August 2004

Nature in a Sorry State

Yes, a state report about Illinois's natural systems

Reader  July 29, 1988

Romancing the Prairie

Nature and nativism in the prairie restoration movement

Illinois Issues  July/August 2007

On the Beach

How to stop Lake Michigan from eating Chicago

Reader May 22, 1987

Prophet of the Prairie

Jens Jensen's prairiescapes

Landscape Architecture  April 1992

Waves of Change

Illinois's unnatural Illinois natural systems

Illinois Department of Natural Resources  1994

Mined Land Reclamation

A two-parter about what to do after the coal's gone

Illinois Issues  December 1984

Touring Springfield As It Was 150 Years Ago

The Town Branch of Spring Creek, rediscovered

Illinois Times  December 24, 1976

 . . . And a Shovel

Illinois—the land of brown-water rafting

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 30, 1983

Ground to Gumbo

The devastation of Gulf fisheries by Illinois farm runoff

Illinois Issues July/August 2006

Return of the Bastard Toadflax

Putting the prairie back into the Prairie State

Illinois Issues  April 1996

Corn, Coal, Corn 

Can a corn field have a life after strip mining?

Illinois Issues  July 1980

Dead Horses

On the open burning of trees leaves

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 6, 1990

Pointing the Way

Supply and demand and municipal water

"Prejudices" Illinois Times  November 10, 1988

Pollution Paradigms

A new approach to environmental protection?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 27, 1992

Pumping Out Iowa

How cities flood themselves

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 21, 1993

Reclaim the Prairie

Recreating a paradise of weeds in Illinois

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 15, 1992

Muddying the Waters

Lake Springfield pollution

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 29, 1991

Nature's Metropolis

Chicago's economic and environmental past, synthesized

Illinois Times  December 11, 1991

Patrimony

Turning Illinois’s poor ­counties into bucolic Disneylands

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 26, 1983

Where Has All the Flora Gone?
Cataloging and protecting Illinois's endangered plants

Reader  April 15, 1988

It's Not the Heat, It's the Corn     

Are row crops making summers unbearable?    

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 12     

Going Against the Flow

Need Springfield gag on stormwater?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  August 11, 2011

Agency Problems

The dilemmas of public power on a warming planet      

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 27, 2017      

Wet Dream

Why not a Y block wetland?    

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  September 4, 2014

Waste Not. Why Not?   

Is recycling food waste a fad or the future?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  October 9, 2014

Noise about Noise

Noisy boom cars are confusing Springfield aldermen

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  May 20, 2010

 

What Would Willis Do?

Will CWLP not have to clean up its act?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  October 5, 2017

They’re B-a-a-a-c-k

A cougar is spotted in Morgan County

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  November 8, 2012

Gwyneth Knows

Can fishy fads rid the Illinois of silver carp?       

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 7, 2014

The Bird and I  

Our feathered friends are trying to tell us something       

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  January 29, 2015          

 

Demanding Answers

Does water conservation add up for Springfield?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  February 21, 2014

Land of Drinkin’

Should Illinois make more of its liquid assets?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  May 14, 2015               

 

Immigrants Behaving Badly

Is a bad tree worse than no tree at all?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 24, 2014    

The Blossomy Haw, Remembered

Natural beauty and politics

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times    June 9, 2016

A Day in the Life of the Havana River Research Laboratory

Public science on the Illinois River

The Nature of Illinois  Fall 1988

Illinois in Camera

Visions of an unseen nature 

Nature of Illinois  Winter 1989

Water Resources of Illinois:

The Challenge of Abundance

Illinois Issues

June-November 1982 

In 1982 I was invited by Illinois Issues to do a major series of six articles about all aspects water in Illinois—the resource, how it is used, the problems posed by nature and human pollution. They were big pieces, and money to write came from grants, the principal donor being the Joyce Foundation.

 

The articles were well-received by experts in the field, which was gratifying. The magazine bundled the completed articles into a report titled "Water Resources in Illinois: The Challenge of Abundance,” which I borrow here.

Note: The collected version included a bibliography and a preface by Donald Vonnahme, Chairman of Illinois State Water Plan Task Force. They are here omitted.

Dune

The nature of Illinois Beach State Park

Nature of Illinois  Fall 1989

Guilty Consciences
The fantasy of the innocent Native American Eden

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 19, 1994

Flat Land into Landscapes    
Scenic paintings of the central Illinois landscape. Really.    "Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 29, 2012 

How Chicago Became the Gateway to the West

A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis

Chicago Enterprise  October 1991

Illinois Eco-Regions

Reports from the Critical Trends Assessment Program

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

1999

Bat Fan

Why Illinois bats are good bats

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 22, 1989

Brick By Brick

Lake Michigan mugs the well-off, who complain

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  March 19, 1987

Rush to Judgment

Does Illinois export acid rain?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1984

Where Has All the Soil Gone?

Why soil loss in Illinois is a bad thing

The Ecologist (UK)  No. 5/6, 1984

Damning the Coal Company

Trading coal today for corn forever

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 18, 1980

A Park that Needs Protection from People

Springfield’s Carpenter Park under threat

Illinois Times  September 15, 1978

Kitchen Table Colloquies

Neighbors chat about saving the Sangamon basin

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  June 13, 1980

Who Is Protecting Carpenter Park?

Against government, nature doesn't stand a chance

Illinois Times  August 27, 1981

Report from Illinois's Sand Country

Cactus? In mid-Illinois corn country? You bet.

Illinois Times  November 10, 1978

The Natural History of an Unnatural Lake

Lake Springfield, this is your life

Illinois Times  May 27, 1977

Biography of the Carp

They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

Illinois Times  May 27, 1977

Is It Time to Build Lake II?
After 30 years, Springfield still doesn’t know

Illinois Times  August 18, 1988

The Sangamon

The life and times of Lincoln's river

Illinois Times  June 4 and June 11, 1976

Fossil Hunter for the State

Vertebrate paleontologist Richard Leary

Illinois Times  February 3, 1978

The Science of Budgeting

The State of Illinois flunks its science test 

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 20, 1992

Emotionalist

David Brower at the kitchen table

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 27, 1981

Fury Like Armageddon    
The Midwest faces the prospect of the Big One
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 8, 2010

Blue Bin Blues

Springfield recycles excuses about waste disposal

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 2, 1992

Disharmony

Civic ugliness as economic development issue

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 5, 1983

Draconian Measures

Garbage in—then what?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 16, 1988

Conservation, Carpenter, and Cadigan

When foxes run the chicken coop

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 31, 1983

Green Engineering

Soft alternatives to soft-headed flood control

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 29, 1993

“A Little More Dirt in Your Lungs”

An Illinois governor preaches pollution

Illinois Times  August 3, 1979

“No Peace and Quiet”

Coal companies plow up central Illinois

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 25, 1980

Muddying the Waters

Garbage in, drinking water out

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 27, 1991

$164 a Ton

Not all gas emitted by CWLP comes out its chimneys

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 20, 1983

Land of Drinkin’

Should Illinois make more of its liquid assets?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 14, 2015

It's Not the Heat, It's the Corn

Are row crops making summers unbearable?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 12, 2011

Egypt

Illinois's own Southland, introduced

Nature of Illinois  Spring/Summer 1988

Quackscam and Cockatiels

Libertarians limber up their guns along the Illinois

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  January 2, 1981

Paving Over Oxfordshire

The demise of the Illinois countryside

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 10, 1979

Click on the title for the full article.

To leave an article and return to this page, click on your browser's back button or on "Nature and the environment" in the Topics menu

SITES

OF INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

[STILL A-BUILDING]

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of

solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study

. . . an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy

the book

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated