Publications

June 12, 2019

Our Wet, Wet, Wet, Wet, Hot, Wet World

By now many of you may have heard that the month of May was the wettest on record for northern Illinois since we started measuring rainfall in 1871, outstripping the prior record May for rainfall, which occurred just last year.
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May 24, 2019

My Turn

It’s been 12 years since I joined the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and you’ve watched me, and buoyed me up, on my remarkable journey. Consider just a few of the achievements I’ve had a hand in...
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April 22, 2019

What Do We Owe Mother Nature?

What do we owe Mother Nature? How do we thank Mother Earth? How do we thank the atmosphere for sheltering us with life-sustaining oxygen? How do we thank the lake for its abundance of fresh water? How do we sing back to songbirds, give a throaty chorus to frogs, flutter with butterflies, buzz with bees, and tilt our faces in gratitude to the warmth of the sun?
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March 22, 2019

Sewage Treatment as Freedom

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana—yes, that Mayor Pete who’s been garnering a lot of positive press recently—got me thinking about sewage treatment in a new way.
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December 12, 2018

Tragedy of the Commons, 50 Years On

Fifty years ago, a professor of biology at UC Santa Barbara named Garrett Hardin published an essay in Science magazine called “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In his essay, Hardin invites us to consider a pasture shared by numerous herdsmen as a commons. Each herdsman grazes as many cattle as possible in this shared space to maximize the benefit to him and his family, but the numbers are kept in check by disease, poaching, disputes and so forth.
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November 19, 2018

You Didn’t Think I’d Forget Did You? It’s World Toilet Day!!

Sometimes I try to imagine what living in Chicago must have been like in the 1880s, a crowded city teeming with half a million people — and no sewage treatment. Sewer pipes had been laid two decades earlier by raising buildings and streets, but the pipes conveyed sewage directly into the river. Conjure, if you will, the stench of waste clogging a sluggish, slow-moving prairie stream busy with commercial vessels and barges, receptacle for tannery chemicals and stockyard carcasses.
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