When it’s time to give up (5×8 – 7/16/12)

The business of intervening in teen violence, a week of fire, are we changing our attitudes about our lawns, tugs on TV, and the Color Run up close.


The Monday Morning Rouser:

1) WHEN TO GIVE UP?

When is it time to walk? And when is it time to walk away? This has been a terrible summer in some of the nation’s cities as young people keep killing young people. In Chicago, a preacher isn’t giving up…In Minneapolis, K.G. Wilson is giving up. “We have to stop bickering about who is going to get what funding and what money and let’s save some of the lives of our children,” Wilson said of others in the city who work on youth intervention groups. He’s done.

2) A WEEK OF FIRE

It’s hot and it’s dry in many parts of the country, and the wildfire season has already been a tough one. Now, a Concordia College professor, Scott Olsen, is spending a week profiling the people who not only fight the fires, but also the people who have to make the decision who will get what firefighting capability.

His blog, A Week in Fire, is up with a couple of posts already.


Yesterday, on my way here, when I crossed the 100th meridian–for many people the beginning of the West–near Steele, North Dakota, just east of Bismarck, I saw grains and soy beans. Clear sunny sky. Cottonball cumulous clouds. There was nothing to suggest a fire story here, or a fire history.

East of Bismarck by 20 miles, though, a haze grew thicker in the air. At first I thought it was just summer haze, the soft focus of heat or, if it were later in the year, the dust of harvest. But the farther I drove into this, the more I believed it was smoke. Smoke from wildfires in the mountains now drifting slowly over the prairies.

You can smell woodsmoke. You can feel it against the corner of your eyes. The fires near Colorado Springs and the fires near Ashland are over, but they are not out. They are contained, but they smolder. This was not dense smoke–I could see through it to the horizon–but it reminded me that what happens in one place is never an isolated event. The haze thinned, then came back even thicker.

It’s been the worse wildfire season in decades and there’s not much good coming out of it, the Washington Post says. The “fire deficit” built up because we got good at suppressing them. But now there’s a lot of built-up fuel for them, and when they burn, they’ll release a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide.


Ironically, there was one benefit of the buildup of understudy fuel: It allowed native plants to grow tall and thick, blocking sunlight from light-hungry invasive species — also introduced by humans — on the ground level. Falling leaves and brush from native plants also suppresses the growth of weeds. As a result, the Western forests have more successfully resisted the invasion of nonnative plants than most other areas.

This presents a conundrum for fire management officials. For the past couple of decades, they have started controlled fires to burn away the excess fuel and prevent catastrophic wildfires. In the late 1990s, however, officials called off controlled burns in parts of California after noticing the alarmingly rapid growth of cheatgrass, an invasive weed. Officials now have to balance between the risk of destructive wildfires and the effects of invasive plants.

3) MY LAWN, MY LIFE

How we treat our lawns — especially in the suburbs — is a societal barometer. Our lawns often make us forgo all logic. For three weeks of massive heat, many of my neighbors have been mowing lawns, only to see them dry up shortly thereafter. I haven’t mowed my lawn in five or six weeks.

It’s not the prettiest lawn on the block, but it’s not a well-manicured hunk of brown, either.

To counter their decision to mow, they pour tons of water on it, essentially growing grass in the desert.

This has been the tradition of the ‘burbs since they plowed under the first cornfield. So a story in the Pioneer Press today is noteworthy. Water use in Woodbury has dropped despite the heat wave. The city has had water-use restrictions for years, but lawns were too important for laws. But water use per person has dropped 21 percent.

“Whether it’s an indication of the conservation rates or the education outreach or the enforcement, I don’t know,” the city’s utility boss said. “Probably a combination. But we have been consistent with it.”

This needs more investigation.

4) TUGS ON TV

The tugboaters of the Great Lakes had to end up on a reality show sooner or later. This week, the History Channel debuts Great Lake Warriors. Duluth is well represented:

The Duluth-based Heritage Marine is one of three tugboat operations profiled in the series, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Related: About 12 years ago, MPR profiled a tugboat crew that works the Mississippi. My favorite takeaway: The crews weren’t allowed to get off the boat in Saint Paul because they might go get drunk.

5) FROM THE “COLORFUL PEOPLE DOING STRANGE THINGS” FILE

In the color run, held yesterday in Saint Paul, runners get doused with colors at various checkpoints, and a color bomb at the end. Why? It’s summer in Minnesota. Who need a “why?”

Here’s some Color Run images from around the country…

In Madison Lake, meanwhile, they need a “why.” The idea of a “bikini parade” isn’t going over real big, the Mankato Free Press says.

Bonus I: David Levinson at Streets.mn theorizes on closing Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis…


Based on evidence about induced demand, some traffic would disappear and some traffic would reroute to alternatives. Substitute routes should see an increase in total traffic. My guess is the most affected route would be Lyndale. If my posited design were implemented, short sections of 22nd, 24th, 25th, and 26th Streets would also see more traffic as travelers from the North peel off from Lyndale to reach places on Hennepin that would have been accessed differently.

There would be fewer traffic conflicts at the remaining Hennepin Avenue intersections, though it wouldn’t go to zero, as sections of the route would still be open.

Bonus II: It’s great that so many people love soccer, but why do soccer fans insist on trying to convert those who don’t? Today’s MPR commentary says soccer requires a different approach.

The U.S. soccer team didn’t qualify for the Olympics, which — the Los Angeles Times says today — is when the difference between the haves and have-not in sports in this country come into focus. Synchronized swimming? Handball? Field hockey? We’re not real good at that sort of thing.

Bonus III: A good reason to root against all of England at the Olympics. The cops pulled the plug on Springsteen and McCartney because of a curfew violation over the weekend.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The 2012 presidential race has become the most expensive in history. Political advertising is likely to be prominent during U.S. broadcasts of the Olympic Games, and ESPN is set to begin accepting political commercials in its local markets. Today’s Question: Are you ready for the onslaught of political advertising that’s about to begin?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Abuse of stimulant medication.

Second hour: The making of an elite athlete.

Third hour: Is Teach for America failing?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Will the European Union survive? Speakers from Britain, Italy and the U.S. say the situation is dire.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Politicians think they know how they’ll get people to the polls this November, but scientists think they can do better. NPR will report on how they’re using psychology to get the vote out, and why those celebrity robocalls just don’t work.

  • http://www.skyseastone.net/jvstin/ Paul Weimer (@princejvstin)

    Thanks, Bob.

    I would like Minneapolis to be a more walkable city, but I’m not sure it can be managed without a lot of redesign.

  • Robert Moffitt

    “Water utilities across North America are experiencing declining water sales among their residential customers (single family households). Typically, utility officials attribute the decline in water use to several possible factors, including

    wetter weather, new water-conserving appliances, changing demographics, and classification anomalies; however, there is no clear understanding of the ratio of use each of these factors contributes to the overall decline.”

    –“Residential water use trends in North America,” Rockway, Coomes, Rivard & Kornstein.

    Journal AWWA, Feb. 2011.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I was wondering if there was any connection between the Color Run and Holi, the Hindu holiday that also makes use of “color bombs.” There doesn’t seem to be any.

  • Susan

    3) My spouse always says he doesn’t water the grass because then it will grow (and he’ll have to mow it). Our lawn isn’t the worst in the neighborhood, but it is low maintenance. We also have embraced the creeping charlie — it’s green, smells good when you cut it, and has little purple flowers. What’s not to like?

  • Bonnie

    I think it is less showering…have you been to a mall lately and seen the state of people walking around? Everyone in high schools or on campuses look like they just rolled out of bed and in many cases are still wearing what they slept in.

  • kennedy

    Re: Bonus II – soccer

    The US women did qualify for the olympics and are a medal favorite.

    The NPR article implies that the game isn’t catching on US sports fans like rules and are not able to comprehend or appriecate athletic creativity. That type of superior attitude is not going to win many new fans.

    Also, the game does in fact seem to be catching on. For the most recently completed season, average attendance for the MLS was 17,800 per game. This is a 20% increase over the past 10 years, and the league now draws more fans per game than the NHL and the NBA.

  • Bob Collins

    //This is a 20% increase over the past 10 years, and the league now draws more fans per game than the NHL and the NBA.

    That’s a bit misleading. NHL and NBA play in arenas. Soccer plays in stadiums, which, of course, seat more. MLS isn’t more popular than the NBA. The NHL? I still insist its a regional sport.

    12,000 in Toronto yesterday is a more comparison to the nearly 20,000 who showed up at the Maple Leafs last game of the year.

  • Michael

    Sir Paul is just trying to relive his glory days on the roof singing A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody. He paid the bobbies to show up…

  • kennedy

    //Soccer plays in stadiums, which, of course, seat more.

    A lack of available seating is not a problem for the Timberwolves, or most of the NBA. BTW, the MLS generally plays in smaller stadiums (or limits seating) with an average capacity of about 20,000.

    If you measure by revenue instead of attendance, I suspect MLS is much less “popular” than NBA and NHL.

  • Bonnie

    Giving up. I am disturbed by an article about the St Paul UrbanLeague. Bill Wilson. Hard work. Not working. What is the answer? A lot of money down the drain but no answers. Yikes. Why can’t we figure this out?