Regulating Pesticides: FIFRA

In the early 1900s, the United States officially began regulating the use of pesticides and other chemicals on crops in the US. They did this through what was named then the Insecticide Act of 1910 and has become known in later years as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This legislation came about with the hope of protecting the health of consumers as well as protecting the environment. A revision came about in the wake of World War II as many new chemicals were developed during this time. More of these chemicals were being used to kill pests on crops, chemicals that were not yet covered in these regulations. Prior to the 1970s, Congress was in charge of the act and the rules and regulations that were a part of it, but in 1972 they transferred control of this legislation to the US Environmental Protection Agency. This legislation established four key things in hopes of improving the health of consumers and the environment. FIrst it requires the registration with the EPA of any pesticide being used. This is to document the amounts and the effects of every chemical used on crops. Second, the EPA has whitelisted the list of usable pesticides. This means that they have selected only those that they believe to be the safest and farmers are only allowed to use chemicals from their list. Thirdly, the EPA created a new application process in order for a pesticide to be added to their list. This ensures that chemicals and their effects are thoroughly tested before they are used on consumer products. Finally, the regulation allows for the EPA to monitor and control not only which pesticides can be used but how they are used. It is important that this is done from a central authority so that no one farm is causing more harm to their product or the environment than another. I think that it is definitely good for chemicals to be regulated as adding too many pesticides in our food production can have terrible health impacts and these chemicals can also taint water supplies. We need people who know what they are doing to make sure that the food we eat is safe. Farmers who do not adhere to the regulations set forth by FIFRA are responsible for any harm caused by their crop. FIFRA is an important piece of legislation that is keeping consumers and the environment safe.





Urban Farming Innovations

Technological innovation projects are important in improving the sustainability of urban environments. A company called AeroFarms, which specializes in indoor farming techniques, has created the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. The farm is considered to be a technological innovation project that can produce around 1.7 million pounds of fresh greens each year and has the potential to feed over eighty-thousand people. This farm is located in Newark, New Jersey just miles from the New York City area, one of the most densely populated urban areas in the country. With the world population expected to exponentially rise and the world becoming increasingly urbanized, indoor farming technology is so crucial to urban areas such as New York. As these cities grow, less land will be used for farming but the demand for food from farming will rise with the population. Urban farming innovations such as this one are essential for sustaining the growing population of people and making the best use of space and resources. The technology is expensive to set up, but uses 95 percent less water than traditional farming practices and no pesticides or herbicides are used in the production of these plants. On top of this, these indoor farms have the potential to produce over twenty crop rotations each year while traditional farming can, at most, only produce three. Newark has implemented small-scale AeroFarms technology into area schools to spark interest and, of course, to grow sustainable and healthy greens for students. Using this technology means that the city of Newark is reducing the environmental and energy impact of food production, as well as making healthy food available to students from various socioeconomic backgrounds in their public school system. While the initial setup cost is high, this is an investment that will pay off in the long run as they begin to produce and export food from these farms. AeroFarms wants to bring this technology to places that need it the most and the obstacle that they are looking to overcome is the high startup cost. Perhaps as more people notice the success of these farms more investments will be made and the technology could become cheaper to implement in other parts of the world.


Quality Water


Water treatment and water quality are major concerns for people in urban centers all over the world. We often take it for granted, but the ability to walk into the kitchen, turn on the sink, and have access to “clean” free-flowing water is something that about a third of the world does not have. On top of this we also waste a lot of this water throughout our day. But is this water that we are so fortunate to have access to actually safe for us to use?

RTEmagicC_facts_780pop1.gif.gifWhen contaminants such as lead and chemicals enter a water supply, they can render it almost completely unusable. These pollutants enter water supplies such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs via acid rainfall, storm runoff, industrial wastewater, etc. There are many industries on the southside of Chicago and, thus, branches of the Chicago River have become polluted from the waste these plants emit. Tests have shown that there may be traces of lead in some Chicago water supplies as this water comes into contact with lead enroute to homes. “Almost 80 percent of Chicago properties are attached to lead service lines, which were connected to many homes built before the mid-1980s” according to a 2016 article published by Progress Illinois.

The same article argues that Chicago is not doing enough to test for lead in the city water. Chicago only tests about 50 residential homes for lead every
3 years. This is likely not enough to gauge the water quality for the city as a whole. Something that each home could do is invest in testing their own water for lead more frequently and, if dangerous levels are found, reporting it to the city to take action. The city is required to ensure that everyone has safe city water so having water that does not meet this standard should be an urgent matter for them to take care of.

7980072906_bef0baf82e_b.jpgIn an effort to reduce the effects of water pollution in general, ongoing efforts are being made to keep the Chicago River flowing south to the Mississippi rather than into Lake Michigan, a major source of fresh, usable, water for the city. But more action needs to be taken by industries who are polluting the river. Perhaps there are other methods to dispose of this contaminated water before it enters the river. Maybe an investment could be made in onsite water treatment to extract these contaminants before releasing them into the water supply. Whatever the case, more efforts–other than sending contaminated water south for other cities to deal with–need to be made. As we are so fortunate to have access to fresh usable water, we need to be taking more responsibility for sustaining and treating it in order to keep it in a usable state that is beneficial to our health and our environment.

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Making the Quad a Green Space

Project Timeline: 3 – 6 Weeks

Project Description:

The UIC quad is one of the most passed-through places on campus. Situated between Student Center East and the UIC Library, many students have to go through the quad, some multiple times each day, to get where they need to be. Students are familiar with this space as a vast slab of concrete right in the middle of East Campus and this view is appalling to some people. Efforts to revamp and update the space into a more beautiful space have been talked about for years. Recently there were two concepts proposed to completely update the quad, one of which involved adding a lot of green space. These were presented to students to vote on but both of these ideas will cost large amounts of money and take long amounts of time to fully complete. On top of this the maintenance and upkeep costs of keeping this new quad in a good condition add more time and money into the equation.

4f546101d288e068286670db70183f69.jpgSo while these concepts are being talked about and debated on, why can’t we do something small to improve the quad in its current condition? I believe something that can practically be done in a short amount of time at a low cost is converting some of the quad’s less populated areas into greenspace. The areas that I have selected will make better use of the space that is there without adding or removing space. The idea is to remove the concrete currently present in these areas and create areas of rich soil and fertilizer in which trees, grass, and other plants can be planted. One of the benefits of this project would be an improvement to the quad’s aesthetic which will give students a greater sense of pride in their school’s campus. Secondly, psychologists have conducted experiments to support their hypotheses that being in nature produces more productivity and adding this element to the UIC quad would add a little more “nature” to the campus environment. Perhaps a less noticeable impact but one of great important is that this would increase the air quality control in the quad. With more plants to absorb the carbon dioxide in the air and produce breathable oxygen this will both help filter out pollutants and provide better air for students to breathe.

Preliminary Project Budget: $4,000-6,000

This is a small project that will be a great improvement on our existing quad. A lot of the work could be done on a volunteer basis by those who might be interested. The only labor cost would be the cost of removing the concrete that was there so that soil could be put down. I talked to one of my friends who is an architecture student and she says that this can be done for 2 to 3 thousand dollars. She also told me that getting plants and soil for the space could cost anywhere within the same range. It should only take several weeks to implement but, of course, the plants will grow at their own pace.