Buildings lit up through the night, like these in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are deadly obstacles to migrating birds. Photo: Andrew Blok.

Birds killed by windows, the programs trying to count them and their final, museum resting place.

This story was originally reported and drafted in fall 2019. It went unpublished until April 2021. I’m publishing it now without no further reporting and a bit of editing to remove some confusing references to 2019.

By Andrew Blok

One autumn day in any of the last few thousand years, a chimney swift in Michigan joined dozens or thousands of others and flew south to become a chimney swift in South America for the season.

On a more recent autumn morning, a volunteer walked around Michigan State…

The 1992 report, Michigan’s Environment and Relative Risk, lists the risks of facing Michigan’s environment, often at the intersection of cities, humans, natural resources and wildlife. Photo: Andrew Blok

Predicting and preparing for Michigan’s environmental risk

In 1992, Michigan set a new course for environmental regulation and protection.

Two decades after the environmental awakening that saw the EPA’s creation and the first earth day, after the environmental disasters of the the decades previous, Michigan would take a clear-eyed look at the challenges of the coming years. Looking forward, they’d head off environmental harm, lessening the blow before it fell.

This clear-eyed look became Michigan’s Environment and Relative Risk, a report that ranked the most pressing environmental risks facing Michigan.

Some saw it as the return of Michigan as a national environmental leader. …

Abandoned homes are both a danger to human health and a drain on municipalities’ resources. Photo: Andrew Blok

Preventing harm in Michigan’s most densely populated environments.

In 1992, experts named degradation of urban environments one of the greatest environmental risks facing Michigan.

Over a decade late, the Flint Water Crisis proved that true.

Listen below to my conversation with one of the people trying to solve one facet of the problems facing Michigan’s cities: blighted homes and residences.

In this episode:

CA Frost Environmental Science Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo: Andrew Blok)

In 1992, environmental experts worried Michiganders weren’t aware enough to value or protect the environment. What could change that? What would it matter?

Michigan’ s Environment and Relative Risk, a report intended to set Michigan’s course for environmental protection, claimed that an uninformed, unaware public was one of the biggest environmental risks Michigan faced.

They said an unaware public might see environmental protection as unjustified and a waste of time, money and effort.

Today, educators recognize the importance of environmental awareness. They see environmental education as a path to success for students and the start of long term care for the earth.

And, care for and attention to one’s local environment can be the catalyst for major efforts to protect the earth…

Experts weigh in on the risks facing Michigan’s environment.

In 1992, experts determined Michigan’s greatest environmental risks.

After nearly 30 years, it’s time to revisit the list.

Listen to hear what each expert from the first three episodes views as the greatest risks facing Michigan’s environment heading forward.

In this episode:

Read the New York Times article Lynn McIntosh references here.

Agricultural runoff is spurring algal blooms in the Great Lakes. Farmers’ use of cover crops offer one solution to the runoff problem.

In Hope, Michigan, Goodstead Farm is trying to do something special: bring fresh produce and meat to some of its neighbors in the surrounding area nearly year-round.

Sarah Longstreth, the farmer, delivers to restaurants, farmer’s markets, and her neighbors through community supported agriculture shares. People purchase a share at the season’s start and receive veggies every week; along the way they get to know their farmer, too.

But, despite all the fresh meat and veggies leaving the farm, Longstreth knows each bit of food she successfully raises starts with the soil.

A cover crop of winter wheat sprouts in November at Eighth Day Farms in Holland, MI. Photo credit: John Puttrich

“We’re very careful,” she says, to “feed the soil…

Lake Michigan lighthouse, Charlevoix, MI.

About the Project

This site is the culmination of a Solutions Journalism class project as part of the M.A. program in journalism at Michigan State University. We were guided by a desire to deliver meaningful coverage of a problem whose importance is growing in the Great Lakes Basin and beyond. We made an effort to highlight the complexity of the problem as well as solutions currently being implemented. We’ve been motivated to share important, impactful, thoughtful work done by scientists, farmers, volunteers, and others all around the Great Lakes. …

Some simple steps to keep algal blooms out of local lakes.

Interested in helping stop algal blooms? While the problem is complicated, and you may feel like meaningful solutions only reside in state legislatures and well-funded government laboratories, there’s plenty you can do to keep algal blooms at bay.

Make your lawn lake friendly: Only fertilize to the degree needed. Many homeowners overfertilize their lawns, increasing the likelihood of nutrient runoff into local waterways. An inexpensive soil test can help you pick the right fertilizer for your lawn.

Watch that storm drain: Keep leaves and grass clippings out of storm drains. Cities can act like big yard waste funnels. The small…

An algal bloom covers a large swath of Lake Erie. Photo: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Climate change and agricultural practices create fertile environments for algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

In early August 2014, Toledo, Ohio citizens lost access to drinking water. Lake Erie hadn’t dried up overnight. The loss of water to their homes was attributed to an explosive growth of a Microcystis — a ubiquitous microorganism that lives throughout the world’s waterways. It had made Toledo’s water harmful to the 500,000 people who rely on it. After three days, the bloom dissipated but left the city shaken and scrambling to ensure the crisis would not be repeated. Toledo’s mayor compared it to 9/11.

So far, a similar algae crisis hasn’t resurfaced in Toledo, but the chaos prompted investigations…

Scientific environmental advocacy organizations turn to volunteers to combat water pollution by monitoring water ecosystems.

On ten different evenings from April to September, Karla Passalacqua leaves work — the University of Michigan Medical School where she is a research microbiologist — and drives across Ann Arbor, Mich. to meet with a small group of volunteers to test the health of the Huron River. The small team then piles into a vehicle and drives from the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) headquarters to the sites they’ll be testing that evening.

A history of the Chemistry and Flow Monitoring Program

Over the next two hours, they don waterproof waders to collect water samples, measure flow rate, and…

Andrew Blok

A journalism Masters student at Michigan State University. Interested in landscapes, trees, climate change, and any other subject of good writing.

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