From the Headlines – May 24-28, 2021

Remove the damn roads: An article in the New York Times looks at removing expressways in Detroit and other U.S. cities as a way to reconnect neighborhoods, make cities more walkable and reduce pollution from cars and trucks. Historically, many of these highways demolished Black neighborhoods; Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood was razed to create I-375, which is now slated for removal. But what will it take to truly repair the damage from past displacements without driving even more gentrification? President Biden’s proposed infrastructure spending plan looks to invest $20 billion in removing expressways and reconnecting neighborhoods, while also prioritizing things like land trusts that would ensure affordable housing for current residents. “It’s no longer good enough for us to remove a highway and make a replacement road beautiful,” said Lynn Richards, president of the Congress for New Urbanism. “We have to reconnect the neighborhoods and invest in the legacy residents.” (New York Times)

Are we thriving yet? U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib joined environmental justice groups in Highland Park on Tuesday to express support for the THRIVE Act, which would require the federal government to spend $1 trillion a year on green energy and infrastructure, creating union jobs in the process. “You talk about community-led empowerment, this is it. What they’re trying to do is become much more independent, especially with such a high concentration of poverty to be able to create our own energy, our own resources,” Tlaib said. (Detroit News)

Shutoffs resume: Muskegon will resume shutting off people’s water for failure to pay this week and Saginaw is set to do the same by mid-June. Officials in Warren, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Port Huron say they plan to reassess their own positions on shutoffs later in the summer. Detroit previously said it did not plan on returning to shutoffs before 2023. The state’s moratorium on water shutoffs–which was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic–ended on March 31. (Michigan Radio)

On the water: Environmental advocates are urging Detroit City Council to adopt a new riverfront ordinance that would require businesses operating along the river to complete an environmental assessment, maintain their properties, and store materials at least 150 feet from the shore. The city would also be required to complete regular inspections of companies operating on the waterfront. The legislation is a response to the shoreline collapse at the Detroit Bulk Storage site in 2019 that spilled contaminated soil into the Detroit River. At the time it was feared that materials from the site could affect downstream drinking water intakes. “We have all seen the devastating effects of the industry when it is not regulated and where there aren’t enforcements,” said Councilmember Raquel Castañeda-López. “We are really taking lessons from Flint to prevent that kind of contamination.” (Metro Times)

UM to go ‘net-zero’: University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced last week that all three of the university’s campuses will be “carbon neutral” by 2040. “To fulfill our mission as a public research university, we must address the climate crisis by leading the way on our campuses and beyond,” Schlissel said. U of M’s plan includes using electric buses for campus transportation, making upgrades to buildings so they can be heated and cooled more efficiently, and drawing electricity from renewable sources. However, achieving “carbon neutrality” or “net-zero” means offsetting emissions with carbon removal, sequestration, or the purchase of carbon credits. Critics have challenged these practices for relying on unproven technologies for removing carbon from the air and using ineffective carbon credits. (Detroit Free Press, New Republic, ProPublica)

It’s crap: A new study found concerning levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in commercial fertilizers, which are made up partially or entirely of “biosolids” or processed human waste. This includes products like Milorganite and Menard’s Premium Natural Fertilizers. Many of these fertilizers are labeled as “natural”, but the PFAS they contain could be taken up by fruits and vegetables or leached into groundwater. However, none of the brands tested currently exceeds Michigan’s limit for PFAS chemicals in biosolids. (Freep)

Sacred grain: Grand Rapids chef Camren Stottuses manoomin or wild rice at his business, Thirteen Moons Kitchen, to honor traditional foodways while also finding new uses for the crop like mixing it with tapioca and potato starch to create taco shells. Stott, an Anishinaabe Odawa member, believes it’s important to make the Anishinaabek staple crop easily accessible for indigenous people. The Great Lakes has lost over 90 percent of its traditional manoomin beds, and the plants continue to be threatened by development, pollution, and invasive species. Harvesting the crop is a time-consuming, communal task that involves canoeing out to rice beds and “knocking” the plant with paddles, drying the grains, and then heating the kernels to open them up. “This is a really good overall food for our people, and the significance in bringing that back to the community would be amazing,” Stott said. (kitchn)

Bad day for oil: On Wednesday, ExxonMobil saw a shakeup of its corporate board with shareholders voting to install two new, independent directors on account of the company’s poor financial performance and failure to address the climate crisis. And in Europe, a Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to make deeper cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions than the company had previously planned. But that’s not all! Chevron lost a shareholder vote that called for the company to take into account its customers’ emissions when mapping out its own reductions. “This is a watershed moment for the oil and gas industry. It’s no longer tenable for companies like ExxonMobil to defy calls to align their businesses with decarbonizing the economy,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. However, the Shell ruling may be especially significant. Environmental advocates believe it may force the company to curb production and could serve as a precedent for future rulings. (WaPo, Guardian)


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