Agriculture

Detroit River Institute Dispatch from the Road: Day Three

On the final day of the Detroit River Institute, Fellows learned all about urban agriculture, from production to sale to consumption. And – in what may have been an IJNR first – they debarked the bus and hopped on bicycles to tour the city!

Check out the Storify synopsis of Day 3! Thanks to all the Fellows for joining us on this adventure, and thank you, reader, for following along virtually.

Detroit River Institute Gets Underway!

At this very moment, journalists from throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states, and Midwest are descending on Detroit to begin their four-day whirlwind tour of the city and its natural resource issues.

We have a great line-up of stops and speakers, and we can’t wait to meet everyone and get the bus rolling – literally! Topics we’ll cover include: Rewilding the Detroit River, the conflicts between residential and industrial neighbors, environmental justice, international trade, clear-air regulations, wastewater, wetlands, nutrient pollution, wildlife conservation, and urban agriculture. Whew!

We’ll visit the 48217 area – Michigan’s “most polluted zip code,” and we’ll stop at Ambassador Bridge, where 10,000 diesel trucks idle each day as they wait to cross. We’ll meet with representatives of the EPA and Michigan DEQ, to discuss efforts to reduce air pollution – especially sulfur dioxide, which is a leading air pollutant tied to asthma and other health issues.  We’ll stop at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant, which is changing its image as a major point-source polluter.

We’ll go to Belle Isle, and learn how to restore a river, one wetland at a time, and we’ll see the Blue Heron Lagoon restoration project that’s providing important habitat. We’ll get out on the river with Detroit Riverkeeper, to visit areas of concern, and learn how a bi-national commission is working to clean them up. The group will tour the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the only such refuge in North America. And finally, the group will get a day-long immersion in urban agriculture – by bicycle.

We hope that you’ll follow along digitally, as we’ll be posting highlights to Twitter (#ijnr_detroit ) and Facebook, and we’ll offer daily dispatches from the road here on the blog.

And last but not least, we’d like to congratulate and welcome all the journalists who will be joining us on this trip!

Introducing the 2014 Detroit River Institute Fellows 

Jim Bloch – The Voice (St. Clair, MI)
Mary Ann Colihan – Freelance writer/producer; book author
Steve Furay – Michigan Citizen; Common Breath Media
Weenta Girmay – Freelance multimedia journalist
Tom Henry – The Blade (Toledo, OH)
Tim Lougheed – Freelance writer/editor
James McCarty – The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
Alexa Mills – The Boston Globe
Peter Moskowitz – Freelance writer
Hannah Northey – E&E Publishing
Elizabeth Royte – Freelancer writer; book author
Zoe Schlanger – Newsweek
Kristina Smith Horn – Port Clinton News Herald and The News-Messenger (Ohio)
Al Smith – Freelance writer

Institute Announcement: Detroit River

The Detroit River and downtown skyline. Photo courtesy Flickr user rexp2

IJNR invites applications for its Detroit River Institute, an expenses-paid learning expedition that will explore natural resource, agricultural, economic and human health issues in and around Detroit, Michigan. Content of the fellowship program will be relevant not only to journalists in the Great Lakes Basin, but to those working throughout North American cities as well. Radio, television, print and online journalists of all ages and experience levels are eligible to apply.

While the agenda for the Detroit River Institute is still being completed, current planned stops will introduce journalists to:

  • The Detroit River, which holds the hopes of a proposed redevelopment highlighting its ecological and economic comeback, while also bearing the burden of outflow from one the nation’s largest single-site (and most problematic) wastewater treatment plants.
  • Life in the 48217 zip code, a neighborhood of Arab, African-American and Latino residents surrounded by heavy industries like steel plants and the Marathon Petroleum refinery. The EPA’s toxicity score for the area is 45 times higher than the state average, leading to myriad health and environmental justice concerns.
  • Eastern Market, a historic urban marketplace working to not only connect consumers to locally grown, fresh food but to also procure some of that food from Detroit’s urban gardens and help inner-city agriculture flourish in the city.
  • The city planners, farmers and organizations working to grow and organize Detroit’s urban agriculture landscape now that unused land is plentiful and official zoning regulations are on the books.
  • Ford Motor Company’s Wayne County Plant, where the industry that gave birth to “Motor City” is attempting to reinvent both itself and the technology that made Detroit possible by building new electric and hybrid cars and planning for a much different auto industry future.

These are just a few of the issues currently being considered for an Institute that will use Detroit as its hub and visit several locations both in and around the city over the course of four to five days. The trip may also include programming like: Lake St. Clair dredging and its impact of Great Lakes water levels and the shipping industry; Belle Isle, the newly created Michigan state park in downtown Detroit, and the move to adopt more “deconstruction” versus demolition of abandoned houses.

Earth Month, Day 13: Four-part Lake Series

Today on Earth Month, a dynamic duo of alumni present a four-part series examining threats to the quality of Wisconsin lakes, and ambitious new efforts that seek to improve them.  Also, how can you not love the incredible quote they got to lead off the story?

“There are no trends in the lakes. The lake water quality is not getting better. It’s not getting notably worse. It’s as if the interventions we’re doing are just holding the line, running in place like the red queen in Alice in Wonderland.”             - Steve Carpenter, University of Madison

 

Kate GoldenJessica VanEgerenWithout further ado, here's Kate Golden, with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Jessica VanEgeren with The Capital Times, partnering up to bring you:

 

Murky Waters

PART 1: BEACH BUMMER Yahara beach closures highlight algae, bacteria threats statewide

PART 2: MANURE MESS Manure digesters seen as best hope for curbing lake pollution, but drawbacks remain

PART 3: URBAN POLLUTION Leaky sewer pipes could export viruses to lakes

PART 4: CHALLENGES AHEAD Lake scientists to Kegonsa: Lower your water quality expectations

A experimental boom surrounded Madison’s B.B. Clarke beach in 2010 to keep out algae, though it ended up being closed June 24 for high E. coli levels. Algae and bacteria are the prime causes for beach closures throughout the Madison area and the state. Mike DeVries/The Capital Times

Earth Month, Day 10: Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Betsy KulmanToday on Earth Month we bring you Betsy Kulman's story about the politically complicated business of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, in Al Jazeera America. How the Chesapeake Bay Became a New Front in States' vs. Federal Rights

ROCK HALL, Md. – Since the 1960s, Chesapeake Bay waterman Dave Kirwin has seen the waters where he earns his livelihood overwhelmed with a combination of agricultural and industrial runoff, sediment and wastewater from sewage-treatment plants.

“When they started using fertilizer, stepping that up in agriculture, and the runoff, that’s what killed all the grasses,” he said of the plants that once poked up along the entire coastline. “I’ve worked on this water for 48 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes. And not any of them good.”

For 30 years, the six states surrounding the bay have pledged to clean it up.

But with no financial penalties, their numerous voluntary agreements have failed to limit pollution in the watershed that’s home to 17.5 million Americans. So in 2009, President Obama stepped in, inadvertently setting off a fight that has made the bay an unexpected but critical battleground in the broader war between states' versus federal rights... Read and watch more.

Waterman Dave Kirwin has been fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for decades, and his seen it transform firsthand. (Photo courtesy America Tonight)