Environmental (In)Justice in Michigan

Environmental (In)Justice in Michigan

 
 
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“One of the worst things you can do to a population is take away their ecology.”

– Oday Salim, quoted in Grist’s list of 50 “forward-thinking fixers” and sustainability leaders for 2018. 

Professor Oday Salim is the director of the University of Michigan’s Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic and he’s an attorney at the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. (Those positions overlap.) Throughout his career, Salim has focused on environmental justice issues like water affordability, pollution control, improving non-native English speaker participation in state permitting processes, and more. In our conversation, we talk about the issue of water affordability and accessibility in largely-minority communities, including water shutoffs in Detroit and a 1998 water infrastructure case in Lansing. We also touch on the state’s obligation under the Civil Rights Act to facilitate community participation in decision-making processes, specifically when it comes to translating documents for community members who aren’t proficient in English. We cover a proposal to add a third turbine to a natural gas plant in Dearborn (which has a large Arabic-speaking population) that was eventually withdrawn by the energy company involved as well as an ongoing case regarding the proposed expansion of a hazardous waste site in Hamtramck.

Toward the end of the show, we discuss the draft environmental justice plan that’s been sitting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ proverbial shelf for the last decade. Professor Salim closes us out with some recommendations as to what pathways we need to establish in Michigan law and policy in order to uphold environmental justice in our state.

You can learn more about those cases in addition to some that we didn’t have time to cover below.

Until next time, keep it hot, keep it here.

Water affordability and infrastructure:

Water shutoffs in Detroit 

Bolt v. City of Lansing (1998) 

Community participating in decision making:

CMS Energy’s proposal to add a third turbine to a natural gas plant

CMS’s decision to withdraw that proposal

An article from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center after the proposal was withdrawn

U.S. Ecology’s proposal to expand a hazardous waste site in Hamtramck 

More cases to learn about:

The Menominee Tribe’s challenge to the MDEQ over a wetland permit for an open-pit mine on the Menominee River

Juliana v. United States Youth Climate Lawsuit

Flashback Friday: Galaxy Sustainability Exchange 2018

Flashback Friday: Galaxy Sustainability Exchange 2018

 
 
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Today, we bring you an archived show from last summer that Hot In Here alum Ben Sonnega recorded during the very first Galaxy Sustainability Learning Exchange. As you may know, our show is intertwined with the Michigan Sustainability Cases (MSC) initiative at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. Check us out here if you’re curious.

MSC is hosting its second annual Galaxy conference this June, and to give you an idea of what last year’s events were like, this podcast features the co-facilitators of a charette on 1,4-dioxane groundwater contamination in Ann Arbor as well as Laura Sullivan of Kettering University, our very own Leana Hosea, and the brilliant Rebecca Hardin. The co-facilitators break down some of the history behind 1,4-dioxane contamination in the city and Leana, Laura, and Rebecca have a conversation about the Flint water crisis, Leana’s documentary film “Thirst for Justice,” and Laura’s experience as an educator and a Flint resident. These topics are particularly relevant given that the state’s Flint water investigation is ongoing and that last week, Ann Arbor residents were told that very low amounts of 1,4-dioxane were found in their drinking water for the first time.

One more thing: our friends with the Climate Action Movement at the University of Michigan are co-hosting the upcoming Washtenaw County Climate Strike, which will take place on Friday, March 15th, from 11:11AM to 1:00PM on the Diag. Check out that event on Facebook or Twitter for more details.

As always, keep it hot, keep it here.

Joe Trumpey Wants You to Fight for a Carbon-Neutral Life

Joe Trumpey Wants You to Fight for a Carbon-Neutral Life

 
 
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Joe Trumpey is a farmer, sustainable designer, science illustrator, and educator. He’s also the director of the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Living Experience and he teaches in the STAMPS School of Art and Design as well as the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and the Program in the Environment (PitE). Is that enough to convince you he’s legit? 

Joe joined us to talk about an open letter he’s co-authored (that has yet to be published, by the way, so consider this your exclusive first look) titled “Now is the Time for All Good Faculty to Come to the Aid of Their Campus: Re-allocating Teaching, Research and Service to Achieve Campus Carbon Neutrality.”  He tells us why it’s important to encourage actions on both a small and large scale that help propel the University of Michigan toward a carbon-neutral existence, and how he proposes we do it.

During the second half of the show, Joe tells us about his family’s “straw-bale home,” which they constructed over the course of several years using only local, sustainable materials. Joe went on to use that same process to build a one-room “house” at the University of Michigan’s Biological Station in Pellston and another up at the Campus Farm here in Ann Arbor. You can find more about Joe on his website.

We mention the upcoming Washtenaw County Climate Strike in this episode, which is taking place Friday, March 15 from 11:11AM to 1:00PM. You can find out more on Facebook, and be sure to tune in Friday, March 22 for our conversation with some of the march’s co-facilitators. Until then, like we always say: keep it hot, keep it here.

 

Local Food, Global Fun

Local Food, Global Fun

 
 
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Shannon Brines and Eliot Jackson stopped by the studio to shamelessly plug the Local Food Summit, which—wouldn’t you know it—is happening this Saturday, February 16.

Shannon is a local farmer and manager of the Environmental Spatial Analysis Laboratory at the UM School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). He’s also one of the co-founders of the Summit and serves on the board of Slow Food Huron Valley.

(Regular listeners may remember that we had a great conversation about local food with Shannon back in November.)

Eliot is a co-leader of this year’s Summit, with a day job as a research technician working on agroecology at SEAS.

We talked about the history and growth of the Summit, working towards inclusivity in the local food movement, and why our guests believe that anyone who eats should participate.

In the second half of the show, we got into a heavier discussion about agroecology from both a theoretical and practical, down-to-earth perspective.

Walk the Line (5)

Walk the Line (5)

 
 
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The two hand-shaped maps of the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan cup the hydrological corridor that links Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The whip-sawed waters of this passageway contain some of the mightiest currents in the Great Lakes, which intermittently thrash around a volume of water ten-times that which flows over Niagara Falls. The powerful Straits of Mackinac reach a 3.5-mile distance at their widest width and a 295-foot range at their deepest depth.

But below the surface of the formidable water body lies a slipshod vein at the risk of rupture: Line 5. It was constructed in 1953 by Enbridge, a leviathan oil corporation headquartered in Calgary, Canada. This particular pipeline—though it is difficult to disentangle from the web of Enbridge lines that sprawl eastward and southward across the US—has had 33 leaks on land in its lifetime. The construction of the line itself is problematic at best, distinguished by its sub-par coating, not-so-thickness, and (lack of) physical support. A leak along the length exposed in the open waters of the Straits is likely not a matter of if, but rather when. And when it does rupture, Michigan’s marine environment, blue economy, and fresh-water dependent residents (i.e. all residents) will bleed too. Oh, and so may Enbridge, but that will just make notch number 34 in their bent bedpost. Continue reading Walk the Line (5)

Something’s in the Water

Something’s in the Water

 
 
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Editor’s note: We faced some techincal difficulties with this recording, but the sound will level out after the first minute or so. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Ann Arbor and its 72 sister municipalities form the Huron River Watershed, meaning that every drop of water that falls in these locations makes its way back to the river one way or another. We share this water not only with our families, friends and neighbors, but also with our governments, businesses, and manufacturers. In sharing a common resource like water—the essence of life—it makes sense to have a rule book that outlines permissible and non-negotiable actions as well as provisions to guide the course of action in the event of foul play. Michigan water quality standards fill this niche. However, as we learned this week from our guest expert, Laura Rubin, our rule book does not always keep pace with the discoveries of contemporary science.

Rubin is the executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), a non-profit organization that conducts hydrological research on the watershed and uses those results to shape its agenda. She invited us to walk back through the history of concerns HRWC has faced throughout its existence, which spans back to 1965. Over the years, the conversation has evolved from the impacts of point-source effluents (like discharge from a pipe) to those brought about by diffuse source pollution (like runoff from pavements and buildings). Climate change has become a salient theme in this discourse, too. The HRWC has identified some local impacts of climate change, like a trend of increased rainfall by 40% in spring and early summer, followed by drought periods in July and August.  Continue reading Something’s in the Water

Plants Are Good

Plants Are Good

 
 
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You heard it here first, folks! Last Friday, we invited Peter Pellitier into the studio to elucidate the multi-faceted relationship between plants and carbon dioxide. Peter is a current Ph. D. candidate at SEAS where he researches terrestrial ecology and mycorrhizal fungi. He explained that plants have increased their carbon dioxide uptake by 31% as compared to pre-industrial rates. Continue reading Plants Are Good

You Want the Good News or the Bad News First?

You Want the Good News or the Bad News First?

 
 
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Whatever your answer, we decided to start with a bit of good news. As we finished off the second week of the new year, the Hot In Here crew covered all things environmental, from the impacts of fast fashion trends to nuns karate-chopping incandescent light bulbs (full disclosure, this week’s tangents were sponsored by Ed’s empty stomach). Continue reading You Want the Good News or the Bad News First?

Justice, Economics, and the Environment Walk into a Bar… A Conversation with Dr. Sam Stolper

Justice, Economics, and the Environment Walk into a Bar… A Conversation with Dr. Sam Stolper

 
 
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Many Americans hear the word “economics” and quite literally start to talk business: bulls and bears, stocks and bonds, revenues and profits—you know the drill. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, though, economics is “a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” For Dr. Sam Stolper, this meaning rings especially true when it comes to distribution. Sam is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), where he researches and lectures on the intersecting issues of economics and environmental justice, particularly as they apply to how the impacts of energy use and production are distributed.  Continue reading Justice, Economics, and the Environment Walk into a Bar… A Conversation with Dr. Sam Stolper

Inside COP 24 with Alexa White

Inside COP 24 with Alexa White

 
 
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Ever wonder what actually goes on at an annual international climate change conference? Alexa White doesn’t. That’s because she’s attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC-COP) not once, but twice. She attended the 2015 talks in Paris, France and the ones that were held this month in Katowice, Poland. White is a second-year Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. student. She was sent as a representative of the University of Michigan’s student delegation, organized by SEAS Professor Avik Basu. Continue reading Inside COP 24 with Alexa White