Welcome to the Planet Detroit Newsletter

Issue # 1 | How does global warming impact people of color?

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Know | Top environmental stories from around the city, region and state

Climate Change | How it impacts Detroit and people of color

Blac magazine wrote about the nexus between climate and color. Detroiters living in the city are exposed to an urban heat island effect, and “black and poor people are less likely to live in well-insulated homes, which means wasted energy, and typically have less access to air conditioning and places to go to cool off.”

Meanwhile, the NAACP just released a climate adaptation toolkit for communities of color.

Source: Blac, NAACP

PFAS | Michigan is #1

Looks like it was PFAS that flowed in a frothy plume through southwest Detroit in summer 2018, and although the source is still a mystery, Stephen Kuplicki of the Great Lakes Water Authority hints that the culprit may soon be revealed. Michigan has the dubious honor of having more PFAS-contaminated sites than any other state (192).

So how did it get here? Well, did you ever use Scotch-Gard to waterproof your boots? Detroit Free Press’ Keith Metheny’s investigation uncovered a 1999 resignation letter, obtained via FOIA, from a 3M environmental specialist who quit in protest of the company’s unwillingness to address concerns about the compound’s toxicity (3M used PFAS in Scotchgard and other products until 2003). Michigan’s attorney general is now exploring legal action against the Minnesota-based company (thank you independent investigative journalism).

But it’s not just in Michigan. This study indicates more than 98 percent of Americans likely have measurable levels of PFAS, which is associated with a range of negative health effects, in their blood.

Sources: MLive, Click on Detroit, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Environmental Health Perspectives, ATSDR

Water | The cost of green infrastructure

It’s spring, and it’s flooding. The Great Lakes are set to break records for high water levels this year. Ensia wrote about the City of Detroit’s efforts to mitigate that flooding and reduce pressure on its combined sewer system via green infrastructure (ponds, constructed wetlands, bioswales, and more). The city spent $1.5 billion on nine detention basins between 1993 and 2017, treating (albeit lightly) 95 percent of the city’s stormwater.

For the last 5 percent, the city is investing $15 million in green infrastructure to hold, treat, and clean rainwater. That effort is partially funded by a controversial city drainage fee that some residents are organizing against. Residents can create green infrastructure on their properties to mitigate that fee. Meanwhile, a city Green Task Force is hoping to develop a proactive plan on where to place green infrastructure for maximum benefit.

Sources: Ensia , ASLA, DWSD, DAART, Green Task Force

Greenways: How to measure Detroit’s bike-friendliness?

Don’t upset Todd Scott with your flawed and biased city bikeability ratings (we’re looking at you, Thrillist, Bicycling Magazine, and League of American Bicyclists). The longtime city bike advocate and Executive Director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition doesn’t want to hear it. His biggest beef: Ranking systems which rely on American Community Survey data for bike commuting. The data is not only inaccurate, according to Scott, but it undercounts Detroiters who bike for other reasons than going to work (since so many Detroiters have jobs outside the city, he argues, bike commuting is not realistic for many). Scott proposes some alternative sources of data and mentions work with the Detroit Office of Sustainability to create better methods for measuring progress toward trail and bike-friendliness.

Also, check out plans for the new Fitzgerald greenway.

Source: Detroit Greenways Coalition, Model D

Green New Deal | The rally visits Detroit

The Road to a Green New Deal Tour visited Detroit in April, with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and former city health director and gubernatorial candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed leading a rally at the Detroit Bonstelle Theatre. According to Tlaib, Detroiters don’t have the 12 years to reduce emissions that scientists warn about, because of existing pollution in places like Southwest Detroit. El-Sayed penned an op-ed in The Guardian in April on the subject, describing himself as a “reluctant environmentalist” and linking the Green New Deal to public health.

But as Detroit Free Press staff writer Niraj Warikoo tweeted, not everyone in the struggling Rust Belt is in favor of the proposal. Some, like Michigan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rich Studley, see it this way:

Sources: Detroit News, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine

Understand | Context, background, and explainers to help you understand what’s happening

So what is the Green New Deal, anyway? It’s a resolution spearheaded by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts that outlines a set of recommendations to cut carbon emissions by shifting the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy, while “creating high-paying jobs and wiping out inequality and poverty”— all within a decade. It largely focuses on investment as opposed to regulation, and reads like a progressive’s wish list, enumerating items from zero-emission energy to strengthening trade unions. Cost estimates approach $1 trillion; Republicans have derided and outright mocked it.

See | Our photo pick

We present to you: The Detroit Pheasant, courtesy @camera_jesus.

Connect | Engage with Detroit’s environment

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

Help clean up the Rouge River

The annual Rouge Rescue is May 19 with a cleanup site near you >>>

Pull garlic mustard

Join the Six Rivers Land Conservancy on an invasive garlic mustard pull during several events in May >>> (Bonus: reward yourself with some some garlic mustard pesto when you’re done!!)

Buy some native plants

Upcoming plant sales where natives can be purchased:

  • May 14: Cranbrook 47th Annual Spring Plant Sale >>>

  • June 1: Stage Nature Center Native Plant Sale >>>

  • June 8: Clinton River Watershed Council >>>

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