Michigan seniors struggle with climate change

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CO2 2022/2021 : 421.13 ppm / 419.64 ppm

Dear Michigan Climate News readers,

In the news this week: Climate-related flooding is making life hard for Michigan seniors, Michigan goes all-in on tree planting while experts question its value in the climate fight, and dank buds are powering a move to solar energy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

And in this week's climate solutions feature, we take a look at the carbon-neutrality plans of student farmers at the University of Michigan.

Have a great week!

— Nina Ignaczak, Editor of Michigan Climate News

p.s. Let us know what you want to see in this newsletter by taking our reader survey!


Senior struggles: For Michigan seniors on tight budgets or suffering from mobility issues, dealing with a flooded basement can seem like an insurmountable challenge. January Castleman’s basement in Inkster has flooded three times, but she’s had trouble getting help from the insurance company or other sources. "I’m not disgruntled with the system – I’m mad as hell at it. And now I’m too old to do anything about it," she said. Unaddressed mold issues in a basement can contribute to health issues like asthma and allergies. Josh Elling, CEO of the nonprofit Jefferson East, says accessing government assistance or finding cheap ways to fix flooded properties can be too challenging for many residents. This problem will only grow as the U.S. population ages along with the number of seniors who are living alone, which is also expected to increase. And the Midwest is already seeing more precipitation and flooding as the climate crisis accelerates. Elling believes one-on-one case management could help, assisting seniors with the process of filing claims with insurance companies or government agencies, finding trustworthy contractors, and applying for grants and other assistance. (Fox 2)

Can’t outplant climate change: The state of Michigan recently launched the “MI Trees” campaign to plant 50 million trees by 2030 to sequester carbon and fight climate change. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources is encouraging residents to join their tree-planting efforts and has launched an interactive map where people can report where they planted them. In other tree news, the Erb Family Foundation pledged $450,000 each to tree–planting nonprofits American Forests and the Greening of Detroit to further those organizations’ efforts to improve Detroit’s tree canopy as part of the Detroit Reforestation Tree Equity Initiative. Yet, while tree planting can sequester C02 and mitigate against negative climate impacts like flooding, some warn that tree-planting is not a permanent climate solution. In an opinion piece, climate researcher Zeke Hausfather reminds us that a tree only temporarily stores carbon throughout its lifespan, while much of our current emissions will remain in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia. He says that by emphasizing tree planting to offset emissions, companies are hitting the “climate snooze button,” forcing future generations to deal with their carbon pollution. However, the solution Hausfather argues for, carbon removal technologies that suck C02 out of the atmosphere, is largely unproven. Other experts argue that the focus needs to stay on reducing emissions as quickly and completely as possible. (Detroit News, NY Times)

Summer forecast: Michiganders can expect warm weather, lower water levels on the Great Lakes and fewer algal blooms this summer. Campers may have a little more room on account of lower water levels that have opened up campsites at waterfront state parks. And fishers could also expect a decent catch because an abundance of prey species has helped increase the number of salmon, and high water levels on Lake Erie in recent years have contributed to a healthy walleye population. Harmful algal blooms may be more difficult to forecast, but the lack of large storms so far has created less phosphorus runoff from farms into rivers and lakes, a major driver for toxic blooms. (Bridge)

Sneezy time: If allergies seem worse this year, you’re likely not imagining things. Experts say global heating is making trees and other plants produce more pollen for longer periods of time. “More people are complaining about (allergies) this year and last year than ever before,” said Kathleen Slonager, executive director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s Michigan Chapter. Yingxiao Zhang, a University of Michigan graduate student who researches allergies and climate change, says pollen production has increased by 31% in North America over the last three decades. Experts also expect asthma attacks to increase along with allergies and recommend those with asthma stay inside on rainy and windy days when there is more pollen in the air. (Bridge)

Very dank indeed: Negaunee Township in the Upper Peninsula is firing up 50 new solar panels with tax money from marijuana dispensaries. The solar panels will be used to power the Negaunee Township Hall, saving the facility an estimated 20% a year on electricity. Township supervisor Gary Wommer said solar could be the best source of energy for the Upper Peninsula as it transitions away from coal power. (Upper Michigan Source)

An unloved fish: With their suction-cup mouths, numerous sharp teeth and blood-sucking ways, sea lampreys make some people less than comfortable. Long-distance swimmers crossing Lake Ontario said they had to detach lampreys along the way, although experts say the fish were just hitching a ride and that they only feed on cold-blooded animals. Yet lampreys kill native fish and they breed prodigiously, with each female producing 100,000 eggs. In the 1950s, scientists tested thousands of chemicals to find a “lampricide” that would kill lampreys, but not other fish. Since then, wildlife managers have treated streams to kill larvae across the Great Lakes Basin. However, a pandemic-related interruption of these treatments and warming water could cause lamprey numbers to increase. “In Lake Superior, in some of those cold streams in the middle of nowhere, they live as larvae for up to 17 years before going through a metamorphosis. In some lakes, like Lake Erie, they’re more frequent because of the warmer environment there,” said Dr. Marc Gaden, the communications director and legislative liaison of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. (Fox 8)


University of Michigan students aim for carbon neutrality with small-scale farm

Just a few miles off campus from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, students are leading the way toward a sustainable food system. Across ten acres, students cultivate a number of crops at U of M’s campus farm, including tomatoes, kale, and several kinds of squash. The produce is sold in dining halls, and directly to students at an on-campus farm stand.

On the farm, research is conducted on sustainable farming practices, like cover cropping and kernza, a perennial grain. Classes also come out to learn and collaborate. By hand, one class built U of M’s first off-the-grid building, using 18-inch thick straw bales and adobe. The farm also partners with organizations across the community on food justice issues.

And this year, the farm announced its latest project: A commitment to carbon neutrality by 2026.


What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org or hit reply!


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