Thursday, December 10, 2009

Changes afoot

At our November meeting, the Board of Directors was informed that Mike would be stepping down as executive director. While it is true that this drastic change in leadership happens at an unfortunate time, the board wants to let everyone know that we are committed to making the appropriate changes to keep the Task Force both operational and productive in the near future. Here's a list of some of the things we're doing.
  • We've contacted our major supporters, informing them of the change in leadership structure. We have provided them with a strategic plan that addresses our goals for improving organizational governance, fiscal integrity, and ability to provide programming to the community.
  • We are reviewing the budget with the primary goal of keeping the office on 13300 S. Baltimore Ave. open! In our opinion, this is a very important space that has been underutilized in the recent past, and we plan on changing that.
  • We will hold elections at the January board meeting. After new leadership is selected, the board will be able to present more specific details about actions and acitivities for the 2010 year.
In closing, we want to insure our community and partners that we are working passionately, and working hard to bring about the improvements necessary to keep the Southeast Environmental Task Force an important partner in the effort to improve the quality of life of South Side residents through environmental education, pollution prevention, and open space management. We welcome your input during this transitional stage, and I encourage you to email us or contact the main office with your suggestions.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wolf Lake Outdoor Bash

Come celebrate fall and howl at the moon on the shores of Wolf Lake October 24th with SETF. We are pleased to announce our exciting new fall fundraiser entitled 'Harvest Moon', which will take place from 3pm-10pm on Saturday 10/24.

We will have a bonfire starting at 7pm and many delicious food and drinks, some even homemade! We believe the atmosphere set by the hall’s newly installed pine lodge decour will provide a lovely fall location on the lake for this venue, propelling one straight into the north woods. The night will have a fall ‘Oktoberfest’ theme, offering brats slowly cooked in beer with other German and European delectables. You can find us at:

Sportsman’s Club
13139 S. Avenue M
Chicago, IL

Tickets cost only $30. Please rsvp with by October 15th. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Local industry goes green

This summer Holcim concrete has taken an active interest in the community garden found at 97th and Marquette. Holcim has long been a part of SETF's 'Good Neighbor Dialogue' where we engage local industry on the southeast side in dialogue over their practices and opportunities we see to make them more eco-friendly and energy efficient. At a recent meeting in Holcim, SETF expressed its interest in finding supplies for our garden and natives work. We had a lot of day-to-day work needs such as requiring nails, paint, wood, and other materials for construction of interpretive displays. Not only did Holcim supply the above goods, but they also furnished safety goggles and gloves for our volunteers in addition to giving a safety lecture!

Many thanks to Tim, Kervin, and John at Holcim for their time and dedication to our cause. We are pleased that Holcim recognizes the value of sustainable agriculture and native gardens for our community and that they are willing to give their time and resources. We look forward to a continuation of the productive and mutually beneficial relationship with Holcim in the coming years.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Putting a new shade of green in your green thumb

What do birds and tomatoes have in common? One unique garden in South Chicago located on 97th Street and Marquette Avenue. Recently, two groups on the Southeast Side of Chicago have teamed up to address two issues: the dearth of grocery stores and markets that offer a selection of healthy produce, and the lack of native gardens with plants that encourage biodiversity.

Healthy Southeast Chicago and the Southeast Environmental Task Force ( are together encouraging residents to plant “biodiversity gardens” using native plants like the purple coneflower (Echinacea) shown here for health and various native wild flowers to attract birds and insects. This is coupled with classic urban agriculture edibles such as peppers, corn, squash and tomatoes.

Native plants restore the health of our ecosystem by providing habitat for birds, butterflies, and other insects, and vegetable gardens provide nutrition for people. SETF is also exploring how natives can also be used to clean polluted soil over the years. With any luck, social justice and environmental conservation will find a healthy balance in communities home and community gardens

Monday, July 27, 2009

SETF hires new Community Educator!

SETF is pleased to announce that we have a new staff member, Ms. Danielle Diaz. Danielle will be the new Community Educator and is replacing Jessica Canas, who is now headed off to Peace Corps' Masters International Program. Danielle started work at SETF in mid July and has hit the ground running, closely working with Jessica and attending meetings to get to know partners before Jessica heads off to Cornell August 15th. SETF is very fortunate to have Danielle, who has a Masters degree in Environmental Education from California State University and a BA in Environmental Studies from Loyola. Danielle has worked with children of all ages in environmental education, and brings a particular passion for art to her work for SETF.

As the Community Educator, Danielle will work closely with civic and governmental organizations in the Calumet Stewardship Initiative (CSI), promoting environmental curricula in Calumet-area schools and community-based organizations. Danielle will play a vital role in the organization of the CSI Education Team and in producing the CSI triennial newsletter. In her capacity, Danielle will also be responsible for creating and implementing environmental education programs for students, adults and families of the Southeast Side, as well as professional development opportunities in environmental education for teachers. A large portion of her time is allocated to outreach, specifically in the Latino community of the Southeast Side of Chicago.

Monday, May 11, 2009

SETF's 2009 Bike Tour!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Announcing SETF's "Sweet Home Chicago Bike Tour"
Calumet Park, 9801 S. Ave. G, Chicago
June 6th, 9am

Open to everyone

The tour will focus on locations where movies were made on the Southeast Side of Chicago and will include the neighborhoods of South Chicago, the Eastside and Pullman. While seeing the spots where the films were shot we will pass natural treasures en route.

The cost is $25.00 per person and includes a box lunch. The tour will begin in Calumet Park. If you're a movie buff, cyclist or both, you will want to join us for this fun event. We will be biking past some amazing natural areas with local resident experts to inform you. Registration is required.

Contact us at (773) 646-0436 or to register or for more information.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Green revolution is in our hands

We inherit a legacy from our past. Often times in the Southeast side this is viewed as negative: a polluted landscape from large industries such as steel, an out of work manufacturing workforce which is over skilled and underpaid, and resultant pervasive unemployment. Yet if one looks at our situation from the angle of climate change, he/she sees the excellent opportunities the Calumet affords. For instance, due to our steel industry, we have a large, talented, and ready labor force experienced in manufacturing, perfect to take on the challenge of green industry. This could come in a variety of forms, such as manufacturing jobs for solar panels. The southeast side also has 3,000 acres of 'brownfields' (abandoned or under-used industrial lands) potentially conducive to alternative energy sites. Indeed, the Calumet region could produce a whole slough of "Green Collar" jobs, perhaps the best in the country. SETF sees the green revolution as a means of revitalizing the southeast side through the creation of jobs.

Poverty is multidimensional. Matrices that are of most valuable to measure poverty deal not only with economic benefit, but also freedom to choose a better life or the ability to run your own business. Green collar jobs are springing up nationwide in areas similar to the Southeast side. Minority owned green businesses are already established in the south Bronx for example. The challenge then, is to make sure that the new wave of industry, green industry, is able to proactively combat poverty in our communities. SETF looks forward to future collaboration with organizations like Green for All ( to make this happen. Indeed, our children's future is in our hands.
Photo by Jessica Canas

A ravaged landscape?

Calumet and the southeast side of Chicago is often stereotyped as a barren wasteland; a landscape stripped of its natural resources and left to rot away. This narrow-minded view often thwarts sustainable development and conservation in the region, which is unfortunate. A root cause of this problem is that Chicagoland residents often forget the illustrious past of the region.

The labor force of the Calumet built the steel which fueled all of our regional railroad developments, aided us greatly in World War II, and made Chicago one of the great American cities it is today. Moreover, the ecology of the region sits atop an eco-tone, which is an intersection of of various habitats from wetlands to forest to prairie.

As imperfect as the landscape may be, it is still a very important refugia for diverse wildlife on the edge, holding important bird nesting sites as well as rare plant assemblages. SETF believes the people of Chicago should look towards the southeast side's past with more pride, and also hopes that residents will now look toward the future with more optimism. Our natural and human resources still abound, if we find creative ways to tap into them.

1st photo by Rod Sellers
2nd photo by Jessica Canas

A rich tapestry of cultural diversity structures our views of nature

Calumet's waves of immigration have a region claiming routes from Croatia to Mexico. Steel workers such as the one pictured here were responsible in large part for this blending of cultures. Equally diverse are the landscapes which have been carved out from Native Americans to European settlers to industry. Unfortunately, the latter two have left a very difficult legacy for nature to recover from.

This dramatic region is now negotiating its rich industrial past with future plans for economic and environmental revitalization. Unfortunately, this negotiation is thwarted by unjustly high rates of poverty and unemployment, due to the waning of industry which helped to build up the Southeast side in its hey day. Yet diversity still thrives, even more so nowadays. Today, one finds African Americans living side by side to Haitians and Ethiopians. Unfortunately, these social groups share a commonality of pollution from the air, water, and land. Ships coming through the harbors below, cars commuting on the highways above, and industry fouling the air they breathe all present a multi-pronged assault on the health of residents.

Environmental problems and poverty challenges are arguably the two biggest problems facing our world today. In this sense, the Southeast Side is a microcosm of our world’s failures. Moreover, the two phenomena are linked and we are now seeing an increase in poverty and inequality as our natural systems collapse. Both of these issues are already acute and only stand to worsen in the coming decades for the Southeast side. SETF will work hard to address both of these facets, which we see as key to the region's development in the coming decades. We hope to build a future that leaves us as proud as we are about our past.
Photos by Rod Sellers