Three good spots that would make good carbon sinks in the South Loop

Three good spots that would make good carbon sinks in the South Loop
Grant Park during Lollapalooza/photo, Chicago Tribune

My friend Charlotte, who has written several books on the topic of native plants is on a roll lately, suggesting to everyone from Wilmette officials to the University of Chicago powers that be that if nothing else, some of their owned and ill-used land be turned into carbon sinks.

She suggests that they return their land to the “original swamp white oak and marsh wetland state.”  Land that stores the carbon from the atmosphere that causes global warming.  Not to mention providing reproduction opportunities for many of Illinois’ 100 butterfly species by giving them a place to lay eggs, as well as providing stopover sites for migrating birds to rest, eat, and breed.

She even contacted the Sierra Club, admonishing them for missing the boat by seeking only to decrease future carbon emissions when they should also be seeking to capture and sequester the carbon already in the atmosphere, “preferably in a wetland but it could be a combination wetland, prairie and woodland,” she wrote, to offset the “relentless expulsion into the air of pollutants from gas powered lawn equipment such as mowers and leaf blowers and edgers–all of which cause the global climate change that everyone piously says they are opposed to, but prefer doing nothing to actually offset or stop it.”

She got me thinking.

What would make a good carbon sink in the South Loop?  We have lots of vehicular traffic, not to mention lots of leaf blowers, gas-powered mowers and edgers.  Where could we capture and store our carbon?

I came up with three places:

First, the 62 acres we all call Rezkoville, stretching southwest from Rosevelt and Clark.  There have been plans for inserting infrastructure and creating everything from a football stadium to a huge mixed use development to the new Amazon headquarters through the years; I even suggested a while back making it a forest preserve for downtown residents and visitors.  So far, nothing has happened.  So why not make it a 62-acre carbon sink? We might end up having the cleanest downtown air in the country.

Next, how about turning Grant Park into a carbon sink?  At least the South Loop portion that stretches from Jackson to Roosevelt–which spends its time after Lollapalooza every year being reconstructed and littered with equipment and materials.  Until it’s time to prepare once again for Lollapalooza being constructed, when it becomes littered with equipment and materials for that.  Basically, if you take winter out of the picture, when the park is full of snow and ice, the south end of Grant Park is given over to putting that massive and destructive music festival up.  And taking it down.

And lastly, how about all the empty lots throughout the South Loop that greedy landowners have let grow into ugly patches of concrete and weeds, waiting for the right price from a TIF-holder who wants to build yet another glassy high-rise?  I have advocated we invite developers from older, quainter neighborhoods who drive residents there crazy by building large, out of character homes and condos.  What’s big for them is perfect scale for us.  So far, nothing.

So how about carbon sinks?

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