beautifully arranged variety of vegetables
April 16, 2015

Food Deserts Spreading In Rural Areas

The U. S. Department of Agriculture describes a food desert as: a neighborhood or town without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.


Travelers wait in line after several delays at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
April 13, 2015

Are People Really Leaving Illinois In Droves?

Last year, Illinois was one of a handful of states that lost population. More than 90,000 people moved elsewhere.  It became a campaign issue for Governor when then candidate Bruce Rauner criticized the state's lack of friendliness to business, but the numbers don't mean mean there is a crisis, or even a real clamor, to leave the state.                    


A tornado is viewed near Pearl Street from a home  in Kirkland, Ill., on Thursday, April 9, 2015. One person was killed in the tiny community of Fairdale, James Joseph with the Illinois Department of Emergency Management said.
(AP Photo/Emily Mains)
April 10, 2015

Northern Illinois Tornadoes Cause Damage, Injuries, Two Deaths

Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste said he was able to see the tornado from 18 miles away. He says in his 25 years of storm-chasing, he had never seen one like this.  Dekalb and Ogle counties have been declared state disaster areas by Gov. Bruce Rauner.


Illinois state borders and waterways
(Graphic courtesy of Kenneth Olson, U of I)
December 01, 2014

How Illinois Might Have Looked

Illinois became a state in 1818, but figuring out its shape was not a simple process.  While most people hear Illinois and think Chicago - it could have been without the city, if not for advocacy and politics.

An article in Illinois Issues magazine explores the issue, researched by U of I professor Kenneth Olsen. Rachel Otwell sat down to talk with the author, Eliot Clay, about his article.

Can you imagine Illinois without Chicago? What if Illinois had been a border state during the Civil War? If federal lawmakers had their way back in 1818, it could have very well been a reality.

Professor Olson, who teaches natural resources and environmental science at the University of Illinois, detailed how the combined works of two men and natural geology helped shape our state into the form we know today. “The eastern boundary with Indiana was already set, and it was a line between two bodies of water, Lake Michigan down to the Ohio River through some tributaries,” says Olson. “The story in the southern tip relates to when the Mississippi used to flow farther west into Missouri, and then there was an earthquake, a narrow channel was opened, melt waters went through and the Mississippi was realigned.”

It is fairly common to have a state’s shape based on naturally occurring formations, like the Mississippi River on our western border, but when Olson began looking toward Wisconsin, it became evident that other factors were at play.

“And then the other one was the northern boundary. It was a straight line that had nothing to do directly with water, except the line was moved because they wanted to link the Great Lake watershed and shipping with the Mississippi River.”

Olson detailed that the advocacy for Illinois’ northern border came primarily from two men, one of whom had lived in the Illinois territory for many years before Illinois’ statehood became a topic of discussion. “Nathaniel Pope had certain responsibilities in the territory, and he had a brother who was a senator in Kentucky. Between the two of them, they convinced Congress to move the border up 51 miles, partly so there would be lakefront access to the Great Lakes, partly for the linking of these two waterway systems.”

Pope wanted Illinois to contain a water system that would benefit the state’s economy, but a factor that would end up deciding the northern border would not be fully realized for a few decades. “In order to get votes in the Congress, there was a concern about this North-South conflict, which 40 years later became the beginning of the Civil War, and they really wanted a waterway through a Northern state,” Olson says. “By adding the 51 miles, they ensured that Illinois would be a Northern state and not a border state.”

The work of Nathaniel Pope and his brother profoundly changed the shape, and more importantly the history, of Illinois. Olson says if Congress had enacted its original plan and the Mississippi River had not changed course, Illinois would be minus Chicago, Rockford, Moline, Rock Island, Peoria, Metropolis and Cairo. Olson’s and his colleague Fred Christensen’s work was published in Journal of Earth Science and Engineering in July.


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