April 2009 Archives
Concern about the H1N1 influenza strain known as swine flu has been steadily mounting over the last week. Confirmed cases had been mostly limited to California, Texas, and New York, but on Tuesday afternoon a Chicago student at Kilmer Elementary in Rogers Park was diagnosed with the infection. Kimberly Goff-Crews, Dean of Students in the University, reports that two hospital staff may be infected but are recovering at home. Several probable cases have been reported elsewhere in the city, in the suburbs, and in collar counties. What does this mean and what should Chicagoans be doing about it? According to the Center for Disease Control, normal hygiene practices should provide protection against infection, and individuals who believe they may be infected should seek medical treatment if symptoms become severe. In short, thinking of the outbreak like a particularly nasty strain of seasonal flu might well be better than the simmering panic beginning to erupt from various quarters.
Overblown or not, the situation has opened up some interesting discussions about public health. The Big Money asks some interesting questions about the economic and business side effects of the outbreak, and Amanda Marcotte explores the links between factory farms and human health.
The University campus is bustling with Earth Week activity. Many of these events challenge the traditional boundaries of environmentalism, expanding the definition of sustainability. One such event was Monday night's "Sustainable Sex: An Information Orgy." This exploration of queer- and eco-friendly sex practices explored "green sex," touching on topics as varied as vegan lube, organic aphrodisiacs, and eco-safe sex toys. Third year Dave Klein attended the event and said he appreciated "the creative approach to integrating environmentalism into a facet of life where it usually isn't a concern."
Coming up on Thursday, students from Green Campus Initiative have organized a vermiculture workshop. Attendees will learn how to maintain a self-sufficient compost bin that's a perfect fit for students who have small kitchens and a potted plant or two.
Thursday evening, the Feminist Majority will lead an Alternative Menstrual Products teach-in, sharing information about products like the Diva Cup, Luna Pads, sea sponges, and other reusable, healthy alternatives to disposable tampons and pads.
What is common to all of these events (aside from the fact that my mother would be aghast at any of them) is an imaginative approach to taking personal responsibility for environmental consciousness. Check out the Chicago Studies Calendar for more events!
The International Olympics Committee is in town, conducting what news media are calling the most thorough tour of the city since the Blues Brothers blew through. City officials led the IOC through proposed venues for the 2016 Olympics from the Loop to Washington Park, while the committee judged the city's viability as a potential host to the games.
No Games Chicago, a city-wide group organizing against the Olympic bid, has other plans for what the IOC will see, however; this includes the anti-games protest they hosted in Federal Plaza last Thursday. University of Chicago students and other members of the South Side community turned out at the protest to voice their worries over how the 2016 Olympics would effect Chicago's neighborhoods.
University of Chicago College Alumnus Matt Ginsberg-Jaekle said gentrification will be his main concern if Chicago gets the Olympics.
"Chicago is a city that's already notorious for displacing its low-income people," he said.
Ginsberg-Jaekle is a member of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), a community organization comprised of residents of Woodlawn, Washington Park, and other nearby neighborhoods that is heavily involved in anti-Olympics campaigning.
"Our concern is that the Olympic Committee and [the non-profit Chicago] 2016 will say, 'oh, it's going to bring jobs and economic development, etc.' But we don't need the Olympics to launch major infrastructure projects. We can spend 500 million dollars on constructing affordable housing, and a number of other things."
Jake Werner, a graduate student in the History department and a member of the community group South Side Solidarity Network (SSN), led a group of 10 students to the Federal Plaza protest.
Werner, a resident of Hyde Park, echoes Ginsberg-Jaeckle's worries about the displacement of South Side tenants in the wake of the Olympic games.
"[My concern is] that the city will end up evicting homeless people just to make the city look good while our international visitors are here," he said. "The Olympics will accelerate gentrification from the South Side to around 55th street, and do what has already happened to the North Side: make it a nice place for professionals to live. That won't address the issue of poverty, it just pushes it away."
"I would support the Olympics if I trusted Mayor Daley to not use this as an opportunity to push poor people out of their homes," Werner added.
The NO Games Coalition wasn't the only organization to take to the streets in response to the IOC's visit. The Chicago Police Union picketed City Hall on Thursday, taking advantage of the committee's arrival to draw the city's attention to a contract dispute. Here are some related stories about how the IOC is stirring up community members' enthusiasm, and ire, around Chicago:
What effects will this price increase have on smokers? Certainly some (hopefully myself included) will use this as an opportunity to quit or cut back, immediately benefiting both wallet and lung capacity. Others will look elsewhere for their fix-- in the collar counties and Indiana in particular. These factors combined may well decrease revenue for the state.
In other public health related news, apparently KFC (as in the fried chicken joint) is offering to repair Chicago's potholed roads in exchange for some advertising space -- spray painted onto the repair. Mayor Daley is entertaining the offer but holding out for some cash incentives.
There's a lot to think about here-- personal and public health, state revenue, freedom of bodily autonomy, the relationship between corporations and civic space... Do you think the cigarette price jump will significantly affect anything? Will people just buck up and pay the extra money for convenience? What about a private corporation doing the job of a city or state bureau? Can we stand any more advertisements invading our space?