“We talk about agribusiness and corporate farming as something to be regretted,” muses environmental historian William Cronon in Illinois Issues (April). “If those farmers have the option of selling their land to a developer or selling to a neighbor with four farms–that [neighbor] is a corporate farmer–I’d have to say I’d rather have [the latter] going on than suburban tract development. Making our peace with some increase in the scale of individual farms is one of the ways to protect the agricultural countryside from urban sprawl.”
Need to know. The 15-year-old Chicago-based Information Technology Resource Center notes in a recent report that last year, for the second year in a row, database courses were the most popular offering in its hands-on training for nonprofits, surpassing even word processing.
“Adults, starting at age 17, are generally in no better position [than children] to defend themselves against the aggressive interrogation techniques of the Chicago Police,” writes Katherine Walz, director of First Defense Legal Aid, in the group’s newsletter “Miranda” (Fall/Winter). “Suspects who ask for counsel are told that they have to talk first and then will be able to talk to a lawyer after they go to court and have been charged with a crime. Chicago Police do not have to advise suspects asking for counsel that FDLA could represent them. This gap allows for rogue interrogation techniques, police brutality, and blatant deception by police.”
Gone with the (global) wind. Judith Crown, managing editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, spoke at a recent meeting of the North Business & Industrial Council and pointed out that in 1997 and ’98 globalization and consolidation cost Chicago the corporate headquarters of several of its biggest companies, including “great names” such as Amoco, Inland Steel, Illinois Central, Ameritech, Morton International, and Waste Management (“Network,” April). And the city may lose more. “We have chronic underperformers,” she said, “like Sears, Roebuck and Bank One.”
“A three-network, one-month-long sample from 1997 revealed that 74% of [news] stories showed the doings of Whites exclusively, and in most of the rest, Whites were the dominant actors,” writes Robert Entman in “Race and the Media: A Decade of Research,” a paper prepared for the Human Relations Foundation of Chicago (September 27). “We see here the outlines of the way media help construct the prototypical Black person….He or she is an entertainer, sports figure, or object of discrimination. Looking at the data in a different way, we found that Black experts (defined as scientists, professors, think tank personnel and the like, professional persons unaffiliated with government) spoke 14 times. In comparison, White non-governmental professionals made 496 assertions.”
Market environmentalism in a left-wing magazine–in the letters column, anyway. Jay Stein in a letter to In These Times (March 20): “In the mid-’70s when environmentalists, myself included, selected renewable energy as ‘the answer to our energy problems,’ we believed that the cost of fossil fuels would continue to escalate to the point that solar energy technologies would look like a bargain. We were wrong.” He suggests that environmentalists should instead enunciate principles for coexisting with nature. “A useful principle might be that no one should have the right to freely use the public atmosphere to dispose of harmful combustion by-products. Based on that principle, government might then enact taxes on combustion by-products or ban them altogether. Entrepreneurs could then be relied on to do what they do best: produce a variety of technologies that take advantage of the government’s laws. This approach has got to be better than picking a technology based on its idealized attributes and then forcing people to buy it.”