All posts by aarondorman2020

Hyderabad, India, captures a nexus of ancient and modern culture

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

I traveled to India for the first time in my life for an all-too-brief three weeks’ of learning how farmers are adapting to increasing drought in the central province of Telangana with water conserving greenhouses.

Hyderabad and environs are about as far inland as can be at this latitude.  But in the heart of the city, the human-made Hussain Sagar Lake serves as a community hub. The lake is surrounded by parks and temples, and you can take a ferry to a statue of the Buddha in the middle of the lake.

Hussain Sagar Lake at sunset. Aaron Dorman/Medill

My first day in Hyderabad, I walked along the beautiful lake’s east side. It’s cut off from the rest of the city by an elevated highway, the “Tank Bund,” and layered with litter and trash along the banks. Near the hotel where I stayed, a family of feral pigs picked at garbage on a dry river bed that feeds into the lake.

Fruit vendor along the Take Bund in Hyderabad. Aaron Dorman/Medill.
A temple on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

A province  conservation group has put up signs asking people to keep the lake shore clean and trash free. The group established  a row of planters filled with palm trees to beautify this portion of the waterfront. On the other side, fruit vendors and cane juice stalls offer respite from the 95-degree weather. A cold bottle of water will only set you back 20 rupees, or about 30 cents USD.

Swastika graffiti is a common site in Hyderabad; here it is a symbol for peace. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

Visitors should come prepared for the high volume of swastika graffiti and understand that it means “all is well” in its use by Hindus and Buddhists long before Nazi Germany adopted the symbol. Here, the former meaning persists. Tthe swastika also has been used as a symbol for the sun dating back millennia.

Elaborate mosques and temples line the other side of the Tank Bund.  Some of these structures are ages old, such as the one across the street from my temporary home in Secunderabad.

My first friend in India, the stray who has discovered that the Kheyti staff will give him food and water. Aaron Dorman/Medill.

Meanwhile, at the Kheyti Project office where I am embedded as a reporter, a street dog has discovered that benevolent humans there will feed him. He and I have become friends. Kheyti’s work here involves providing farmers with efficient greenhouses that help them grow crops in this drought-ridden area, providing harvests and easing poverty.

Kheyti has installed nearly 100 greenhouses already and project founders hope to have as many as 1,000 in place by the end of the year. My reporting will focus on the moving target of sustainable farming as climate change threatens the farmers’ crops and livelihood within coming decades – or even sooner.

A Hindu Temple in downtown Hyderabad. (Aaron Dorman/Medill)

Evanston Adopts Climate Action and Resiliency Plan

Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Evanston  became the first Chicago-area city in almost a decade to adopt a formal climate action plan with an effective transition to renewable energy and resiliency to climate change.

The Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, approved unanimously by the City Council last week, calls for the city to meet 100 percent of electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030, to reduce waste by 75 percent by 2035, and to reduce vehicle miles that cars travel in town by 35 percent that same year.

The plan was the culmination of over a year’s worth of discussion and coordination between the city government and the working group of 17 local residents who had been tasked with putting the document together. Kumar Jensen, Evanston’s sustainability coordinator, helped serve as liaison between them and the municipal government.

The plan passed the Human Services Committee 5-0 the week before.

“From our residents, to our businesses, to our schools and hospitals, Evanston is united in its efforts to mitigate the far-reaching effects of climate change through bold and immediate action,” said Mayor Stephen Hagerty in a press release. “While Evanston will likely undergo many changes on the way to 2050, this plan ensures that our longstanding commitment to climate action will remain.”

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Chicago coalition gets ready for 100 percent renewable energy: A Q & A with Sierra Club Illinois’ Kyra Woods

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Kyra Woods intends to help move Chicago towards running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. She is in charge of the Sierra Club’s  “Ready for 100” commitment in the Illinois chapter to help the city do just that.

As part of a kick-off event on Tuesday at Uptake in the North Loop, Woods introduced a number of environmental and community groups  committed to being part of the “Ready for 100” collective.

Across the Midwest  St. Louis, Minneapolis, Madison and other cities have committed to “Ready for 100,” according to the Sierra Club.

This week Medill Reports spoke to Woods about the project, and how she plans to move the initiative forward.

Woods is an environmental engineer and a Chicago native who joined the Sierra Club in Illinois in 2018.

Medill Reports: Do you have any reaction to the Evanston City Council’s vote on Monday to pass a new Climate Action and Resiliency Plan?

Kyra Woods: That was very exciting! Evanston is the first city in Illinois to formally make this commitment. Chicago does not have a resiliency plan currently – we need an updated one. [Chicago released a Climate Action Plan in 2008, with a few progress reports since that time]. Hopefully ours is on the way. Definitely, within the environmental community, there is a lot of advocacy for an updated plan, just given the period of time we are in right now.

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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists brings Jerry Brown into the fold but no clock change yet

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Amid the slate of world crises discussed at the annual meeting of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, one note of good news: Pakistan and India are unlikely to engage each other in nuclear warfare, according to a nuclear policy expert.

But in other arenas, Bulletin editor-in-chief John Mecklin characterized our era as the most dangerous period since the early fifties—the last time the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight, where the hands rest ominously for now. The Bulletin will announce any change to those hands in January.

“Last year was a huge year for us,” Mecklin said at the meeting in November. “With the help of Donald Trump, who said something horrifying about every 10 minutes all year long, we had a big traffic spike.”

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Did Sean Casten run as an environmentalist? Yes. Is that why he won? Maybe.

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Sean Casten was driven to run, and eventually win, the election in Illinois’ sixth congressional district, for one simple reason: Peter Roskam wasn’t listening to his constituents about the environment.

Potentially carcinogenic air pollutants from a commercial sterilization plant in Willowbrook, declining water supplies and weather extremes causing floods due to climate change are growing concerns in the 6th district of Illinois. The district represents a diverse cross-section of affluent and struggling families across a swath of the western and northwestern suburbs between Downers Grove and Lake Zurich.

Casten said the gap between his passion for the environment, and Roskam’s obstinacy  became clear during a past business meeting about the renewal of solar tax credits.

“[Roskam] led off the meeting by telling us he was not open to new information or facts” about the economic opportunities for renewable, says Casten, who owns a renewable energy company in Westmont that helps businesses recover waste energy and turn it into electricity.  “I asked what he liked about the current status quo – and specifically what outcome he thought we would achieve if we did not ‘pick winners.’  His only response was to say that the meeting was over.”

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Bloomberg and Brown bolster a business-friendly climate for climate change solutions

By Aaron Dorman
Medill Reports

Looking up at the Salesforce Tower, now the tallest building in San Francisco. Salesforce was one of the sponsors of the Global Climate Action Summit. Photo by Aaron Dorman.

“Fighting climate change and growing the economy go hand in hand,” Michael Bloomberg insisted at the Global Climate Action Summit this fall.

Al Gore, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Harrison Ford repeated this message throughout the main and affiliate events that gathered  hundreds of regional politicians, business leaders and environmental advocates to the summit at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

Bloomberg and Brown co-chaired the summit, billed as a way for cities and non-state actors to form coalitions with each other and the private sector to forge a path to carbon draw down and a renewable economy. Ford and other celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, delivered powerful speeches. Gore rallied the troops.

But they weren’t the only stars. Corporate behemoths such as PepsiCo and dozens of others rolled out sustainability plans to combat climate change. Continue reading