Democrats and protesters debate in Detroit, Greenland has a heat wave

Aug 3, 2019 | CO2 409.83 ppm <<

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Why Detroit's new Sustainability Action Agenda links climate action with quality of life

And why implementation will likely hinge on the Mayor's support

The first thing Joel Howrani Heeres wants you to know about the new Detroit Sustainability Action Agenda is that it is not just a climate plan. 

Planet Detroit’s Brian Allnutt took a look at the plan and has this report>>>

Democratic debates in Detroit bring out protesters, draw attention to climate, environment

Advocates tied environmental justice to jobs

Large protests took place downtown on the first night of the Democratic presidential debates with demonstrations by both Trump supporters and those in favor of the Green New Deal. Environmental advocates—including groups like the Sunrise Movement and the Michigan Environment Justice Coalition—tied the climate crisis fight to jobs and an end to systemic racism.

Leading up to the debate, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and the governors of Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota released their “Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda”. The document urges presidential candidates to increase funding for water infrastructure in the region as well as the Great Lakes Restoration initiative. It also seeks help with controlling invasive species, reducing pollution and providing money for infrastructure like the Soo Locks. It also asks for assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense in addressing PFAS contamination. The statement doesn’t mention Enbridge’s Line 5, although candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sander and Washington governor Jay Inslee have both promised to shut it down.

Candidate Marianne Williamson—who may not exactly be the most science-forward contender— managed to move people with her comments on the Flint water crisis.

Although recaps of the debates often emphasized disagreements on health care and Elizabeth Warren’s takedown of John Delaney, the climate crisis did make an appearance.

“Please don’t tell me that we cannot take on the fossil fuel industry and nothing happens unless we do that,” Bernie Sanders said on the first night, before referring to the actions of these corporations as “criminal activity”. Elizabeth Warren pushed the economic and job creating aspects of the Green New Deal, a stance that some have referred to as economic nationalism.

Scientific American framed the debate as an “argument about the best way to fight rising temperatures without wrecking the American economy.” Writer David Wallace-Wells, in his book The Uninhabitable Earth, instead points out how not stopping the crisis could wreck the economy:

“Every degree of warming, it’s been estimated, costs a temperate country like the United States about one percentage point of GDP…”

E&E News has this rundown of various Democratic candidate’s positions on climate.

Washington governor Jay Inslee made local news by mentioning the pollution in Detroit’s 48217 zip code. He also visited the area, which is home to the Marathon Oil Refinery, a coal-burning power plant, and other polluting industry.

The Detroit Free Press’ Niraj Warikoo pointed out a lack of commentary on water shutoffs:

Across Detroit

Detroit’s livestock laws come under scrutiny | Curbed Detroit drew attention to the ongoing problems faced by urban farmers and others with backyard livestock that often include chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats. Enforcement of existing laws is spotty and generally requires a complaint from neighbors. However, some growers like Atiemo Kasagam and her partner Zomi Huron in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood have faced large fines and even the threat of jail time. Others have had their animals confiscated.

City planner Kathryn Lynch Underwood is working on a new livestock ordinance, but it still hasn’t come before city council even though it has been in the works since 2014. The newest version of the ordinance would allow for a limited number of laying hens, ducks and honeybees. Keepers of chickens and other animals fear they are already over the limit of animals that will be allowed.

Belle Isle still underwater | Historically high water levels in the Great Lakes continue to keep large portions of Belle Isle underwater. Some weddings on the island have been cancelled and a power substation on the island was knocked out, causing the Coast Guard station there to employ a backup generator.

A habitat improvement project designed to connect the Blue Heron Lagoon with the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair has contributed to the flooding. An exit point for water on Lake Okonoka has still not been constructed.

Photo: Michigan DNR

CAFE agreement | California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other lawmakers reached a deal with Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Honda last week to reduce emissions on new automobiles. This is widely seen as a rebuke of the Trump administration, which wanted to loosen the CAFE standards that regulate fuel economy for different types of vehicles.

“The world gets it and these automobile makers get it as well,” Newsom said on a conference call with reporters. He also said the Trump White House is “in complete denialism on climate change.”

The deal with California gives automakers until 2026 to raise average fuel efficiency from 35 mpg to roughly 50 mpg. Newsom said he believes other automakers will come on board with the agreement.

SEMCOG survey | The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) has launched a survey to better understand attitudes toward water and evaluate its own “One Water” campaign. You may very well have more exciting things to do with your weekend, but the folks at “the COG”—as we will now start calling it—say the feedback will be used to inform their program that encourages water stewardship. You could also win a $75 Visa gift card, so there’s that too.

Across Michigan

Congratulations to the Kirtland’s warbler | We knew you could do it! After 52 years, the diminutive grey-and-yellow songbird that nests in the branches of Michigan’s Jack pines is set to come off the endangered species list. However, as The Detroit News notes, the warbler will continue to need assistance as a “conservation-reliant species”—meaning ongoing conservation of Michigan’s Jack Pine Barren ecosystem is essential for its continued survival.

Historically, some have proposed replacing the rather prosaic robin with the Kirtland’s warbler as the Michigan state bird. Listen to the warbler kick out the jams below:

Enbridge Line 5 | Crain’s Detroit Business ran an editorial by Enbridge’s Vice-President of U.S. Operations Brad Shamula touting the company’s largesse in the form of tax dollars in the Upper Peninsula. Shamula mentions the $2.6 million he says the company pays in property taxes in the U.P. and also warns that Michiganders could be paying more for gas and propane if the pipeline is discontinued.

However, Shamula doesn’t mention the pipeline’s history of oil spills, including the 2010 one in the Kalamazoo River that required a $1.5 billion cleanup or the 28 other ones that have occurred since 1968. Critics like For the Love of Water (FLOW) say that most of the oil from Line 5 ends up in Canada and that Line 5 is simply a shortcut placed in “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes”. FLOW also argues that the propane that Shamula says is critical for power in the U.P. could be easily supplied by other sources.

Lead hotspots | Benton Harbor has found elevated lead levels in 12 of the 47 homes it has tested since January. However, there has been no recorded increase in the number of children with high lead levels. The city issued this statement on the issue, recommending pregnant women or those with children use filters to reduce lead from drinking water. Other cities that are reporting lead levels above the federally acceptable threshold include Highland Park, Hamtramck and the Village of Lawrence in southwest Michigan.

Lake Erie | Low levels of microcystins have been detected in Lake Erie near Toledo’s water intake, prompting the city to begin daily water testing. This is the same toxic blue-green algae that caused the city to shut down its water supply for several days in 2014.

PFAS | Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel urged national lawmakers to act on PFAS in a letter signed by 20 other Attorneys General. These so-called “forever chemicals” often associated with military bases are prompting lawmakers to push for a lower federal limit on the chemical that could be incorporated into negotiations on the annual defense bill.

Big Picture

Greenland is melting big-time

We try to keep it local here, but the global nature of the climate crisis compels us to mention the serious heat and melting that is occurring in Greenland, where the ice sheet is in the middle of its biggest melt on record. Greenland will lose an estimated 50 billion tons of ice this week or “enough to cover Florida in about six feet of water.”

Scientists are calling this melt an alarm that demands immediate attention from the international community. However:

As daunting as this is, the latest science on Greenland also points to a window of hope: Greenland’s meltdown is not yet irreversible. That self-sustaining process of melt-begetting-more-melt would kick in at around 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius of global warming. That means whether or not Greenland’s ice sheet melts completely is almost entirely in human control.

Black women and climate action

The New York Times ran an editorial of both local and national significance on the importance of Black women in the climate movement:

Despite stereotypes of a lack of interest in environmental issues among African-Americans, black women, particularly Southern black women, are no strangers to environmental activism. Many of us live in communities with polluted air and water, work in industries from housekeeping to hairdressing where we are surrounded by toxic chemicals and have limited food options that are often impacted by pesticides.

Environmentalism, in other words, is a Black issue.

Insta-photo pick 

Via @nohlc

Connect | Engage with Detroit’s environment

Have an opportunity you’d like to see featured here? Let us know.

August 4 | Rouge Park Annual Butterfly Walk | Detroit >>>

August 4 | Learn to identify trees “ Detroit >>>

August 7 | Paddle on Anchor Bay | New Baltimore >>>

August 8 | Gardens of Detroit Bus Tour | Detroit >>>

August 10 | Beekeeping Basics | Detroit >>>

August 17 | Butterflies and Young Birders | Davisburg  >>>

August 24| Joe Louis Greenway Tour & Fundraiser | Detroit >>>

August 25 | Live Honey Harvest | Detroit >>>

August 28 | Urban agriculture bike tour | Detroit >>>

September 7 | Native Plant Sale, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy | Clarkston >>>

September 8 | Make Food Not Waste | Eastern Market >>>

September 10 | The 13th Annual Garden Party on Belle Isle | Belle Isle >>>

September 12 | Crafts on the Clinton | Yates Cider Mill >>>

Thanks for reading!

Our ability to continue Planet Detroit hinges on you! If you are finding value in this newsletter, please FORWARD TO A FRIEND, SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, or consider SUBSCRIBING FOR FREE or as a PAID SUPPORTER. Also, you can give a GIFT SUBSCRIPTION.      Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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