Michigan shows how to help nature
There's bitter partisan wrangling in Lansing and Washington over a wide variety of Great Lakes issues, including how best to block water diversion, evasive species and drilling under the lakes.
It flared last week when U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, managed to zap an amendment to the energy bill that would ban such drilling. He said it should be decided by the states, arguing the lakes would be "at risk if Washington is deciding about drilling or diverting water to other parts of the country."
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, accused Rogers of "a watered-down and toothless attempt to pretend that he cares about protecting our Great Lakes."
In Lansing, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the GOP-ruled Legislature are stalemated on adopting a long overdue strategy for regulating high-volume withdrawals from ground waters that feed the Great Lakes.
But after last week's statewide celebration of the 35th Earth Day, let's look at the bright side: Positive examples abound in communities and schools across the state of encouraging an earth-friendly ethic of stewardship -- especially among children.
Consider the crusade of Charles Ferguson Barker of Plymouth, a Wayne State University geology professor who is somewhat of a Paul Revere of the Great Lakes, riding across the state to sound the alarm of threats to the lakes.
Barker is author and illustrator of "The Day the Great Lakes Drained Away," a nifty new children's book published by Mackinac Island Press touted by Granholm.
Although the title is fanciful, Barker provokes thoughts in young minds by illustrating "eye-popping things on the bottom of the lakes" based on maps from the National Geophysical Data Center and suggesting how things would look if the unimaginable happened.
In Traverse City, the popular Great Lakes Children's Museum cooperated with the Traverse Area Children's Theater production of the "Life in the Pond" play.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, far more pro-active now that it was in the Engler administration, promoted environmental awareness among the young last week by honoring winners from 1,500 entries in its 2005 Earth Day poster contest among students through the 5th grade.
On Earth Day, the DEQ cut the ribbon on its new Southeast Michigan District office on the old Warren Tank Plant brownfield site, featuring "green" design benefits that will reduce overall potable water usage 20 percent and reduce energy usage 35 percent.
Michigan State University Press says that by its selection of recycled paper through the "Green Press Initiative" it has saved the use of 47 trees and 20,024 gallons of water.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, joined the United Auto Workers and the automotive Big Three for a scheduled Earth Day Auto Show in Taylor featuring environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Keith Schneider, founder of the Beulah-based Michigan Land Use Institute, says, "The country is cleaner and greener than it was 35 years ago, and the economy is much, much larger. The most economically vibrant places in America and the world are those that recognize that prosperity lies in securing land, water and air quality." Well said.