Within hours of renowned climate scientists announcing a staggering milestone in carbon dioxide emissions, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn rolled out the booster wagons for Big Coal and celebrated his state's five-fold increase in record coal exports.
Gov. Quinn, once hailed by the Sierra Club as "the clear choice for Illinois voters who want to move to a clean energy economy and protect our drinking water and wild places," despite the fact that he had received huge contributions from the coal industry, declared:
"Illinois coal is in high demand overseas and we have the resources and infrastructure to take advantage of this opportunity for economic growth," Gov. Quinn said. "Our rail lines and river ports, which we continue to improve under the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, give us a unique export advantage over other states in the region."
Never mind that CO2 emissions will reach an alarming 400 parts-per-million (ppm) for the first time in 3 million years.
Never mind that last year's historic drought and climate destabilization had nearly brought the Mississippi River to a standstill.
Never mind that Illinois' own rogue coal industry and state regulatory agencies have failed to protect coal miners, waterways and watersheds, farms and forests, and communities from deadly and costly toxic pollution.
Never mind that the job-robbing union-busting heavily-mechanized economic-diversification-blocking coal industry has left Illinois' historic coal mining counties at the bottom of the charts in entrenched poverty, hopeless unemployment and ruin.
As Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Assistant Director Dan Seals said, "It is truly an unbelievable achievement."
As a historian, I do give Gov. Quinn credit for following in the great tradition of coal exports in Illinois. In 1810, a black slave named Peter Boon shoveled and loaded the outcroppings of coal along the south bank of the Big Muddy River in Jackson County, Illinois. Pushing off toward the Mississippi River in their flatboat, William Boon, a captain in the mounted rangers, and his slave Peter transported the first commercial barge of coal in the heartland.
In effect, Illinois' coal industry was launched with legal slavery—not that Gov. Quinn's notoriously shameless "Coal Education Curriculum" teaches that to Illinois students and teachers, as part of the state coal marketing slush fund.
Despite Peter Boon's presence on the slave schedules, virtually every history book and modern news report of this historic event failed to recognize his enslavement, or the fact that William Boon purchased a "voluntarily indentured" servant as late as 1822. One text geared toward children referred to Peter as Boon's African American friend. As a former lead miner from Kentucky and Missouri, Boon engineered the first commercial slope mine in Illinois.
He and his slave embarked on six epic voyages down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where they were paid in European currency for coal and loads of forest and farm products. Boon's efforts attracted attention. As the first state legislator from southwestern Illinois, he also played a role in shaping the laws that allowed for slave labor to assist his work. He would also set the precedent for the entrepreneurial coal foundations in government office—effectively, the first coal lobby in cahoots with the statewide government.
And the coal ships move on.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.