The Environment Report | Michigan Radio
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The Environment Report

The Environment Report, hosted by Lester Graham, explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

An emaciated deer stands near a fence.
Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

To help combat chronic wasting disease, Michigan is banning deer baiting and feeding across big parts of the state. It’s highly unpopular with some hunters and lawmakers.

But, banning bait will only slow CWD from spreading to new areas, and more aggressive approaches that might actually stop it could be just as unpopular.

white woman smiling in front of foliage
Courtesy of Logan Vear

 


The constant barrage of news about climate change, drinking water contamination, and pollution in the Great Lakes region can feel overwhelming. If you care, it’s hard to know what to do or where to start.

That's where Stateside's new series comes in. We're featuring ordinary people who identified a problem – no matter how big or small – and chose to act. 

People stand in the water, holding both ends of a large net.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A new nonprofit is training citizen scientists to collect data on fish in the Great Lakes. They think it could be a game-changer for research in the region, and even help prevent the establishment of invasive species.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers are finding some of the chemicals used in pavement and driveway sealants are making their way into the environment. That could be putting the health of people and aquatic life at risk.

These chemicals are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. They’re commonly found in low levels just about anywhere something is burned. But, the levels of PAHs are much, much higher in certain pavement sealing products, coal tar based sealants.

red tractor sitting on a green field with trees in background
Matthew T Rader / Unsplash

 

 

Climate change is affecting the world in a lot of ways. The planet is warming, more rain is falling. There are colder winters, and warmer summers. And all of this is having a profound effect on agriculture.

Nicky Marcot, her husband and two children sit on lawn with red tshirt
Courtesy of Nicky Marcot

The constant barrage of news about climate change and drinking water contamination and pollution in the Great Lakes can feel overwhelming. If you care, it’s hard to know what to do or where to start.

Stateside is kicking off a new ongoing series that features ordinary people who decided to do something about it. They identified a problem – no matter how big or small – and chose to act. 

withered, brown leaves on an apple tree.
Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are having a tough time with all the rain this year, because that moisture helps fungus and bacteria thrive.

Ford Motor Company

Next time you're at the mall or grocery store, look around. You won't see many, if any at all, electric vehicles. Maybe a few hybrids.

But you'll see lots of pickup trucks and big SUVs, which by comparison still merit the derogatory phrase, gas guzzlers.

young african american girl in a blue tshirt using an inhaler outside
Adobe Stock

 

Climate change doesn’t just hurt our environment. It affects food production, insect outbreaks, precipitation. And, as health professionals are starting to see, it’s causing problems for human health.

A woman with silver hair and a turquoise shirt stands next to a woman in a navy T-shirt with short brown hair and glasses. They stand on the grass in front of a tent, under which is displayed information about climate change.
Ben Thorp / WCMU

Public opinion surveys show older Americans are less concerned about climate change than young people. But some experts say older Americans may be an untapped resource when it comes to climate activism.


Penguins at the Polk Penguin Conservation Center
Courtesy of the Detroit Zoological Society

Given the myriad ecological challenges facing our world today, there are plenty of reasons to feel overwhelmed and powerless. 

But there are also many people and organizations dedicated to leading community conversations about climate change and conservation through education and example.

A bridge over a murky river has a drain with bars across it.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

From January 2018 through May 2019, 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff AND human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year in Michigan, billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage end up in the state's rivers and eventually in the Great Lakes. That pollution can make people sick. There are two causes. One is poor sewer systems. The second is heavy rains. 

And climate change could be making the problem worse. 

A roll of "Voted" stickers
Element 5 Digital / Unsplash

 


Today on Stateside, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson comments on how an increase in the number of absentee ballots could impact elections without a change in state law. Plus, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is building a manufacturing center in an effort to diversify the tribe's economic ventures.

people holding climate change protest signs
Bob Blob / Unsplash

All this week, Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Climate change is likely to bring more extreme rainfall and flooding to Michigan. So, flood risk in the next 100 years will probably look very different than in the last. But, much of our infrastructure, like culverts, bridges, and storm drains, is still being designed and built based on the floods of the past.


A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades. But high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds, at least temporarily.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

pipes inside generating station
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In 2016, Michigan got an important new tool in the growing effort to limit global heating.

The state's new energy law requires regulated utilities, for the first time, to submit long-term strategic plans that include reducing carbon emissions.   

The plans are called Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have now submitted their first IRPs, and the plans show that Michigan's two biggest utilities differ on how aggressively to cut carbon emissions.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy indicates there are 1.4 million homes in Michigan that are not hooked up to a sewer system. Many use septic tank systems. But Molly Rippke, an aquatic biologist with the agency, says there’s a big problem. 

Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Lab

Some cities in Michigan are putting together climate change action plans. Part of that is making everything more energy efficient in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. One of the big concerns is making sure low-income households are not left behind.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Margaret Lewis is a retired court reporter who lives in a big, older home in Highland Park -- the kind you say has "good bones," because it needs some work. 

She's on a fixed income, and she's done just about everything she can think of to lower her utility bills. 

One winter she even turned the thermostat down to 50 degrees.

A man leans out of a car door and lifts his binoculars to the sky.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

More than four million people crossed the Straits of Mackinac last year. But they are also one of the busiest migration spots for raptors, or birds of prey, in the United States.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

The smooth, rosy trunk of a cherry tree is marked with big, oozing dead areas, called cankers.
George Sundin / Michigan State University

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

A man in coveralls bends over a hole in ice and pulls out a net.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A decline in lake whitefish is pushing some tribal commercial fishermen out of Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re spending more time in Lake Superior, the only place they say they can still make a living. This has fishermen and scientists worried about whether whitefish populations there can withstand the extra pressure.

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