Illinois History

Over the years, Illinois has had many historical and contemporary events that have shaped its current state. Beginning in the 1820s, farmers have been importing animals from out of state in order to better their breeds. Prior to the 1930s, these early Illinois farmers lost many of their animals due to these unpreventable pests and diseases. This is due to the fact that Illinois farming began before the usage of chemical pesticides became the norm. Without these pesticides, it was both costly and nearly impossible to protect against the insects that attacked their crops. In efforts to control these pests, farmers used methods such as crop rotation. Crop rotation involved the crop of wheat being followed by beans and then wheat again afterward. This coupled with skipping a year greatly decreased the number of pests in the area. Also, beans were grown near other crops because the amount of moisture and shade they offered discouraged insects. The second popular method was to harrow the soil, plant debris in the fall, and clear rotten plant material which killed many of the pests. Because of occurrences like this, farmers have formed farmers’ associations for mutual benefit. From 1850 to 1900, farms in Illinois rapidly developed using mechanization and farmers became even more connected by sharing the cost of machinery. Agricultural in Illinois today is very different. Rather than the traditional subsistence farming of the 1800s and early 1900s, the majority of modern farms are commercial. New technologies and computers have drastically become more used in agriculture over the past two decades. In the fields, computers are used for record-keeping, to monitor rainfall, crop yield, and soil quality. In terms of new machinery, during the middle of the 1800s, the usage of steam-powered machinery became the norm for those who could afford it. Also, as the custom of using automobiles for transportation became popular, farmers began to use the gasoline engine for their machinery. In terms of how farms are financed, farmers get government subsidies, insurance, and take out loans. This often means that farm owners and workers must also have additional jobs.

Illinois became a state in 1818, with Chicago being incorporated as a city in 1837. With the incorporation of Chicago soon came a largely diversified economy. Chicago connects Illinois to other ports, the Mississippi River, and the Atlantic Ocean. In the early 20th century, groups of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe came to northern Illinois for the industrial job prospects. In around the same time period, the Great Migration occurred where groups of African Americans from the south moved to Chicago and established communities within it. At the turn of the 20th century, Illinois had a population of around 5 million people. Although Illinois has been historically considered a swing state, it is currently considered one of the most democratic states in the United States. Illinois also, unfortunately, has a history of corruption. In the late 1900s, an Illinois congressman was imprisoned for mail fraud, a governor and federal judge was imprisoned for bribery, and a comptroller was imprisoned for embezzlement. In 2006, the former governor of Illinois was convicted and sentenced to about six years in prison for racketeering and bribery. Only two years later, Governor Rod Blagojevich was alleged to have conspired to sell Barack Obama’s old senate seat to the highest bidder. Then, in December of 2011, Blagojevich was convicted of this crime and sentenced to 14 years in prison for it. In the future years, it is hoped that Illinois can avoid putting corrupt people into power.

“Chicago’s Dominance Puts Illinois Solidly in ‘blue-state’ America.” HighBeam Research. Chicago Tribune, 8 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. <>.

“From Prairie to Fruited Plain: The History of Illinois Agriculture.” History of Illinois Agriculture. Illinois State Museum, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. <>.

Shaw, Andy. “A ‘must Read’ Tells How Corrupt Chicago and Illinois Are.” Chicago SunTimes Opinion. Chicago Sun Times, 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. <>.

Automated Machinery used in Illinois in the early 20th century

This picture shows the type of industry in Chicago that brought in immigrants.

Sustainability and Water

By participating in this study abroad tour, I learned a few things about sustainability and the actions that help to promote it. My main takeaway from this trip is that preserving water and having efficient ways to treat and distribute it are vital aspects of sustainability. The sustainability of water depends on how well it is managed. Because it is both an irreplaceable and finite resource, it is crucial that the management of the many water systems across the globe is put into the hands of people who know how to handle it. This means putting an emphasis on the fact that the water issues around the world are not just problems; it is a water crisis for many.
We also must educate those in the fields of agriculture, industry and energy, and cities. Agriculture accounts for 70% of water deficits globally. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, agriculture needs to double its food output in developing countries in order to sustain population growth. This means that the amount of water needed to sustain this increase in production must also nearly double. Energy and industry come in second for the amount of water they demand. The 20% of water demand that these two sectors account for mostly occurs in the more developed countries whereas agricultural water demand dominates in less developed ones. In large urban areas, water management organizations cannot keep up with the overwhelmingly large demand. By 2050, it is anticipated that over two-thirds of the world’s population will live in these cities which are already hard pressed for water. Lastly, it is vital to educate the public. Millions of people around the world die from preventable waterborne diseases largely due to a lack of knowledge and education about the proper ways to purify water.
Another issue is that so many people do not know how big of an issue the water crisis is because they are not noticeably directly affected by it. Many people do not really give major issues a second thought when they believe that it could never happen to them. This is why education plays a huge role in decreasing the negative effects of the depletion of water. It is estimated that in just eight years, in 2025, around two-thirds of the population will be living in countries that are classified as “water-stressed”. The increasing strain on the planet’s water resources has had detrimental impacts on millions of people’s economic status and wellbeing. This is due to things such as wastefulness, weather patterns, and the over-pumping of aquifers. While the earth’s groundwater is finite, other aquifers are renewable. The problem with this, according to Sandra Postel, the director of the Global Water Project and the National Geographic Society’s freshwater fellow, is that humans are pumping them too fast for precipitation alone to refill. Also, poorly managed water systems coupled with underinvestment have only exacerbated the problem.
At the water treatment plant pictured below that we visited, many water was sent to places in both that city and the surrounding cities. Visiting this place showed us how much it can take for water to get to homes, farms, and various businesses. Visiting this plant during the trip also strengthened my interest in water supply and quality, which I am interested in partially because of how vital it is to life on this planet. Around 900 million people do not have access to potable water and about 3 million die each year due to waterborne diseases.

Handwerk, Brian. “Sustainable Earth: Water.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017. <>.

“Water and Sustainable Development.” United Nations. United Nations, 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2017. <>.

Current State of Illinois and Puerto Rico

In the political world any small single change, vote, or law can have the greatest and extensive consequences, good or bad. A couple years ago the people of Illinois elected Bruce Rauner as our governor. As hard as it is not to, I will not digress by going into what my personal opinions about him which are quite strong. Last year, Rauner, his advisors, and a few other state officials decided to impose major cuts to CPS (Chicago Public Schools) funding. It was rumored that my high school along with many other school in CPS would have to cut about a fourth of their teachers. I could not believe it when I heard it, twenty five percent of CPS teachers would be out of work. This insane percentage of teachers being cut would serve as a good measurement factor to indicate that the situation was not in good shape Before Rauner was mayor he cheated the system and got his daughter to go to a CPS school even though they lived in the suburbs and now he wants to cut funding no that she graduated. This blatant neglect toward the public education system, students, teachers, and their families was appalling, and a lot of us students felt like we could not let this happen.

Many people, including me, took it upon ourselves to advocate for a change and try to do something about it. One of my friends created a facebook event called the “Study In” to respond to the budget cuts. My friends and I told everyone we knew about the event, shared it on facebook, and eventually there were nearly a thousand people planning on going. One of the risks of this event though is that it could be thought of as hypocritical because we were ditching school to protest for education. However, if we did it during a school day it would attract the most attention and it would show that we found this issue more important than one day of school so we decided to go through with it. Soon before the day of protest it got a lot of attention and our principal had do make a comment about it. He emailed all of the students urging us not to go to the protest. We knew our principal though, and he was probably pressured to make this decision, and after we went out and protest he secretly thanked us. The protest went really well, about six hundred students ended up joining us, and we attracted a lot of attention. We marched while chanting from the Thompson Center, around downtown, sat outside of the state building and studied for a few hours, and then we finished with a rally back at the Thompson center.

I thought that the fact that we were high school students going and were protesting made the message that we were trying to advocate for even stronger. The state looked over the budget and made a slight change, but a huge amount of teachers were still cut. As a result, CPS enrollment fell by 3.5 percent in 2016, which is only going to cause more cuts, approximately for a total of 300 CPS teachers and staff members. CPS will continue to be underfunded by the state and with our next president I cannot imagine it will get any better.

A solution to this problem that I would advocate for though it really controversial is the legalization of marijuana. Wait, hear me out. If marijuana were to be legal, I think the majority if not all users would buy it from dispensaries, which would mean that it would be pretty easy to tax. We could use the huge amount of tax revenue that this would create and funnel it into our education system. If the question has to do with money this is a pretty easy and pretty harmless way of getting it. Just a thought.

I have really loved my stay in Puerto, it is a really beautiful territory, from the beaches, Old San Juan, to the Rainforest and all of the people that we have met really kind and interesting. One major problem that Puerto Rico is facing that I have seen through research is their economy. Puerto Rico is 70 billion dollars in debt, which is a very large number considering that the island has only 3.5 million inhabitants. This measurement of the debt owed to its creditors is a credible indicator to show that Puerto Rico is indeed facing a big problem.

There have been quite a few factors that have led to this debt accumulation, and to Puerto Rico’s current economic state. A few years the United States changed a tax law in Puerto Rico which raised taxes on companies operating there. Before this change was enacted, many American companies moved some of their operations down to Puerto Rico because they were taxed less. However, now that the taxes have increased a lot of the companies are moving back to the United States which is hurting the Puerto Rican economy and causing debt. Another reason as to why Puerto Rico’s economy is bad is because the job market isn’t very good. Puerto Rico has an eleven percent unemployment which is about twice the rate of the US. Because of this, a lot of educated Puerto Ricans are leaving the territory to look for jobs in the US.

Puerto Rico has a lot of work to do to get them out of this whole. However, it would be easier for them to do so if they had the same bankruptcy rights as all of the United States. The United States has something called Chapter Nine Bankruptcy rights which can be used to help the country, states, and municipalities get out of debt. Chapter Nine Bankruptcy Rights were crucial in helping Detroit when it went bankrupt as with a couple cities in Michigan. The Obama administration pushed for Puerto Rico to gain these rights however it was very difficult to get the bill through congress. Even if Puerto Rico had Chapter Nine Bankruptcy rights though, it is estimated that it would only cover about a third of their debt. A lot of politicians in the United States are thinking about finding ways to help Puerto Rico but they are worried if they give them money no real problems will be solved and debt will build up again.

I think that Puerto Rico needs to find a way to create new jobs, and I think that a great way of doing this would be using its environmental awareness revival to its advantage. In this way, Puerto Ricans can try and find solutions for there environment, and in order to execute these solutions, people will need to work, thus a greater job market. The key to getting out of debt that I would advocate for doesn’t have to do with stocks or bonds but with creating jobs

The Food Energy Water Nexus

What an interesting opportunity.

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) hosts this week “The Food-Energy-Water Nexus” its 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a NCSE university affiliate. Given this affiliation, I am feeling pretty lucky to be here at very little cost to me.

I have been only attending the meeting for a few hours now and I am quite taken by how broad this The Food-Energy-Water Nexus Nexus really is.

  • How does two weeks of food security sound to you? This is mentioned by a panelist from Hawaii—at any given time there is a two week buffer of food within the archipelago.
  • The education session was packed with folks standing in the back of the room. I don’t think I have ever been to a curriculum session that was so full.
  • Venture capitalists hosted a panel. Data, models, and decision making are key for both organic and conventional systems. The lines between organic and conventional are decidedly blurred. I really appreciate hearing this.

From my view, on my first few hours at the conference, I am most looking forward to the NSF Director France Córdova and her remarks about the FEW Nexus. Luckily they rescheduled her talk as I would have missed it on Tuesday morning, as it was originally scheduled.

Blake Mrozek Video Post

What I would say I have envisioned for the Engineering Open House stand is related to what we’re calling our presentation: ‘A Walk Through Puerto Rico’. Because of this, I think the primary goal of our presentation should be to attempt to recreate our experiences minus the drives for anyone who checks out our presentation to see. I believe the best way to set it up would be to have a setup in the front, most likely a poster or something along those lines, to draw people’s attention, but then we have different screens of footage we captured on the GoPros and our phones during different parts of the trip, each being closely related, so we have one video for the horseback riding, hiking through the jungles/climbing the waterfalls, seeing all of the plantations and farms, and just driving across the island itself. This would allow us to at the very least attempt to show people who visit our booth what we did and the experiences we had while studying abroad, which would hopefully encourage them to look in to opportunities to study abroad and potentially do it themselves.


I just want to say I tried multiple times but my phone kept recording the video upside down, and I couldn’t find a way to rotate it. Here’s the link for the video

Blog #3 – Kate

For the actual booth presentation, I hope to make the booth much more interactive; starting with a game similar to the game we presented to students at the University of Mayaguez. After this area I imagine us putting together a multi-section presentation, with each area being screened off from the next to help the viewer focus on the particular section of the booth. Each section would have photos from our trip containing that theme, along with a video on each of the different area themes (water, agriculture, and hiking/rain forest areas). This interaction would allow the viewers to interact with us, along with being able to interact with a visual stimuli that could provoke new thoughts and questions for us.

At the end of the presentation there would be several other of us that would be avaible to answer questions our viewer may have came up with. Alongside us we could also have several of the souvenirs and objects we brought back from Puerto Rico, so that the view could see even more stimuli. After attracting the viewers, we will know how to keep them focused on us, but it will be attracting them initially that could be difficult (especially at the beginning of open house when no one knows what we are); therefore I propose that we also have a blooper reel on a monitor alongside our barkers, in order to attract attention to the booth. This would help to attract attention to the booth, and then we could continue keeping their attention by our speaking and visual displays.

Winter trip to Puerto Rico

The trip to Puerto Rico has been a wonderful experience for me. I was constantly surprised by the biodiversity and beauty of the nature when I visited a new place each time. I truly appreciate what Puerto Rico has been doing to conserve the nature in its primitive look. Since I was blessed to visit Puerto Rico, I want to share the blessing with people visiting our booth during the open house by showing them several videos and footages of what we did and saw in Puerto Rico. I am thinking of adding both fun and educational elements into those videos. Those videos can be split into nature and agriculture and present it like a walk through Puerto Rico as discussed in class. In each part of the video. There should be some historical background about the topic so as to help audience have a better picture. After watching the video, audience will be given quizzes that are related to climate change and agricultural problems related to Illinois and Puerto Rico. In order to accommodate to audience of different age, we can come out with two sets of questions, e.g. one for elementary school students and the other one for older students. At the end of the booth, I hope the audience will capture the beauty of Puerto Rico and become a bit more aware of global issues related to agricultural sustainability.


My Booth Vision

My vision for our booth is having a table set up with a sort of prequiz that people will take when they first come to the booth. After completing this quiz they will take a “Walk Through Puerto Rico”. There will be three stations set up. They will have multiple monitors playing videos of our experiences while on our trip. The videos will be split up into the categories of beaches/coral reefs, our hiking adventures and agriculture. This video is an example of the kind of video that could possibly be displayed for the agriculture section. It discusses what we learned about coffee production while on our trip. The material is simplified so that all types of audience will be able to follow along. Each video will have a sort voice over with details about what is in the video as well as other sound effects to make it seem more realistic. After going through each station, the visitors will end at the final table. At this table there will be a blooper video playing with music. Also, there will be candy and students to talk with everybody. Maybe we could have other decorations to draw attention such as a hammock or coconuts what have you. I think that if we combine all of our talents together we will make an amazing booth to display at the open house.

Climate Change and its Effect on Coffee Production

For open house, I imagine us having three separate videos similar to the one above, each focusing on different topics. The three topics would include agriculture, beaches, and rain-forests. In the videos, we would present some crucial information we learned about each topic. More importantly, we must show some of the visually appealing points of our trips to engage and attract viewers. We will use the pictures and go pro videos we took to portray our ideas. In addition to the videos, we will set up the mood of each location. This includes adding sand and wave noises to the beach as well as waterfall and bird sounds to the rain-forest. We will try to transform the setting so people feel as if they were in Puerto Rico. To help accomplish this, we will show them transition videos including the plane ride to and from Puerto Rico and the car rides between the various locations. This will make the booth feel more realistic.

In order to add an educational portion to this, we will give the participants a pre-quiz and post-quiz about Puerto Rico and Illinois. The questions will cover topics presented in the booth. I imagine that we will need an interesting set up outside the tents to attract people to the booth (as they will not be able to see the inside with the videos). This could be decorating the tent outside to look like Puerto Rico and also showing the video we used at UPR. After taking the post-quiz we will give a quick debriefing, answer any questions, and show the interviews from UPR. I anticipate this booth attracting many people as it will be unique and engaging, but also informative.

Puerto Rican Surprises

When thinking of how to present this blog I thought about what would engage people the most. I think that people respond the best to visuals. The best way to fully experience a place without actually going there is to see videos or pictures of it. In this video I talked about what surprised me most when visiting Puerto Rico: The landscape. I included visuals of the three most extreme landscapes that we observed while traveling abroad. These three extremes were the mountains/rainforest, ocean/beach, and the farming flatlands. I found it interesting how the terrain changes interacted with each other in terms of agriculture. At Martex farms we were taught about how many of the farmers irrigate their fields with the water from the mountains and how the placement of the fields between the mountains and the oceans creates an ideal environment for farming and produces very fertile soil. Overall, I hope to give the open house visitors the best idea possible of what it is like in Puerto Rico. I believe that through strong communication and effective visuals we will be able to do that for our booth visitors.