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Time capsule to be part of Botanic Garden's effort

Monday, June 02, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Young environmentalists hope a time capsule being sunk in Glencoe will contain no surprises when it is opened in 2058.

After all, if jars of clean soil, water and air, or a solar-powered model car, are considered rare and mysterious 50 years from now, Earth will be in very bad shape indeed.

"Our main hope is the Earth is thriving,'' said Wendy Anderson, a science teacher at Roscoe Village's Audubon School, one of three city schools participating in a ceremony today at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The garden is breaking ground this week on a $30 million, 36,000-square-foot plant research center. The aim of the center, which opens in autumn 2009, is to "save the plants, save the Earth," said Botanic Garden scientist Kayri Havens.

Among contributions to the "Seeds for the Future" time capsule is an Audubon school T-shirt marked with hopes for the future, including "environmental peace" and "no endangered plants and animals.''

McCorkle Elementary, 4421 S. State, is offering a vial of vermicompost -- fertilizer made from earthworms. Dawes Elementary, 3810 W. 81st, is including tree leaves.

Last week at Audubon, 3500 N. Hoyne, 13-year-old Miguel Montero tied together the three jars containing dirt, water and air in an effort that was both literal and symbolic. "They depend on each other,'' said the seventh-grader.

The Botanic Garden's Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Center, which will allow visitors to watch the researchers at work, is part of a $65 million attempt to broaden the understanding of the pivotal role of vegetation.

By some estimates, 30 percent of the world's plants are threatened with extinction by 2050. Havens, the garden's director of plant science and conservation, said plants are under pressure from land development, invasive species and climate change.

Locally, invasive species such as buckthorn and purple loosestrife are pushing out other plants. Climate change is of concern because it causes plants and pollinators -- such as bees and hummingbirds -- to get out of sync, she said.

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