Robert Loerzel

Monarch Butterfly
Adele Hodde / Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Urbana resident Alex Wild kept an eye out for monarch butterflies last year. He was alarmed by what he saw. Or rather, what he didn’t see.

“I saw two the entire season,” says Wild, a biologist and photographer who specializes in taking close-up pictures of insects. “That was it — and I was looking for them.”

In Tuscola, about 35 miles south of Champaign, butterfly enthusiasts Kirby and Cindy Pringle also had trouble finding monarchs. “We saw only a handful,” Kirby says. “We could probably count them on our fingers and toes.”

Classie Poe says East St. Louis even has few fast-food jobs
Robert Loerzel / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In some pockets of Illinois, where one in every three people live in poverty or close to it, the need is visible in the landscape: empty lots where buildings once stood in Cairo; abandoned houses marked with X’s in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; families living in ramshackle trailers in Kankakee County’s Pembroke Township.

Heaven Sutton and her mother, Ashake Banks
Cook County Sheriff's Department

It felt like summer in Chicago, but it was barely spring. In mid-March — a time of year when the highs are usually in the upper 40s — temperatures hit the 80s on eight days during one nine-day stretch. And in some parts of the city, bullets began flying.

Day after day, headlines delivered the grim news: “1 dead as shootings erupt around city”; “Chicago shootings leave 7 dead, 33 hurt”; “CHICAGO COP SHOT”; “Shooting death of girl, 6, marks lethal weekend. ‘She didn’t deserve this,’ mother says”; “49 people are shot citywide, 10 fatally.”