Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Modest Proposal for Northerly Island: Illinois Microzones

A couple of weeks back, I went to a community meeting about plans to develop a park at Northerly Island. The City did a great job of gathering input from the hundreds of people who came out. For a full description of the plans presented, check out this post. (Despite the frustration voiced by the writer, the evening really did accomplish a lot!)

Proposal for development of Northerly Island in Chicago

The plan that got my attention called for a collection of several mini-environments on the park - the "Reef" Proposal (see image above). Why not feature some of the micro-zones that are particular to Illinois and Lake Michigan?

I've always been fascinated by the idea of microzones ever since my first visit to Monterey Bay in California. That's when I read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and learned about the real-life Doc Ricketts, the marine biologist who authored the pioneering work Between Pacific Tides. Ricketts was onto one of nature's amazing facts: with every little variation in environmental conditions, a unique population of creatures emerges to take advantage of those conditions.

I experience this first-hand this past summer, when I started to pay attention to the wildflowers in some of the parks near the lake. I was fascinated to find that the species that show up at Montrose are different that those down by North Pond, which are different than those down by McCormick Place!

Wouldn't it be great if people came from places far and wide to learn about our Lake Michigan biomes in a jewel-like park right in downtown Chicago?

Related posts

Cottonwoods! They serve to anchor the dune and create an environment in which a ridge can build up and more and more plants can take hold. (Good.) And then they take over everything. (Not so good.)

(See Cottonwoods!)

Chicago has a tremendous head start in being a place that is inspired by the beauty all around us to do the difficult things that are needed. And Chicago is so beautiful all summer long, there's no reason to leave the city. Think of all the carbon emissions save on car and jet travel!

(See "One Word: Wildflowers" on Zero Carbon Chicago)

Does "God" "care" that the ultimate outcome of the damage to the Earth's climate may lead to the end -- not of the Earth itself, nor of life on Earth, but of the existence of the human species on Earth?

(See Does "God" "care" about the climate crisis?)

One of the really interesting things about looking at how Rachel Carson used her writing to wake the world up -- particularly with her prophetic Silent Spring -- is that we can then go back to some of the earliest parts of the Bible and see them as living and urgent. And reading Silent Spring as well as Biblical stories like the account of The Flood points to the urgency of changes that need to be made here and now in the way we all live our lives.

(See Looking at Rachel Carson (at St. Luke's "School for Prophets") )