Day 7: Polymers, Federal Budget Cuts, and Telling Environment Stories Better

Picking Up Polymers: A First-Hand Look At Plastics in Lake Erie

The group visited the Lake Erie Science and Nature Center and took a short walk to Huntington Beach, a beautiful spot on the lake’s southern shore and, unfortunately, a recipient of much of the water-borne debris the washes ashore. Journalists staged a quick beach clean up with Ohio Sea Grant to get a sense of what’s ending up in the water, then returned to the Science and Nature Center for a hands-on activity on microbeads and microfibers.  

A Deep Cut: Will the Federal Budget Tarnish Efforts to Clean the Great Lakes? 

President Trump’s first budget proposal involves cuts to programs and projects across America. One of the deeper cuts has many in the Great Lakes region concerned. If the proposal were to become law, the popular and, some would argue, essential, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would see its budget shrink 97 percent. The GLRI has received $2 billion in funds over the last eight years, supporting more than 3,000 projects – from invasive species control efforts, to toxic “hot-spot” clean ups, to environmental education programs. Gutting the GLRI would also mean a likely death knell for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Sea Grant program – which was created to help create a sustainable economy and healthy environment in a region that is home to more than 30 million people and comprises the third-largest economy in the world. The group discussed what those cuts would mean and what people are doing to try to do to stop – or at least minimize – them. 

Telling Environment Stories Better

Natural resource stories are some of the hardest to fit into the usual journalism mold. Or, as our esteemed founder always put it, “they don’t break, they ooze.” The group settled in at the Lake Erie Science and Nature Center to explore some of the difficulties of doing “good” environment, public health and resource journalism; brainstorm ideas for how to cover some of the stories we encountered on our trip; reflect on examples of clear, nuanced and powerful storytelling; and talk tips and tricks for getting the most out of our own reporting and writing.