Archive for January, 2020

How Are We Gonna Top THAT?!

How Are We Gonna Top THAT?!

Perhaps as Michiganders we are a bit more sensitive to drinking water issues than most Americans. What with our 11,000 lakes (Great and otherwise) we are constantly reminder our this precious natural resource. Add to this the recent disasters of the Flint water crisis and discoveries of PFAS contamination, and, well, you could say there is ample reason for our heightened interest.

So I was naturally drawn to the recent news of the US House passing a bill to require the EPA to set limits for PFAS content in drinking water. The EPA has been to a certain extent already in the process of doing this, but the bill is intended to expedite the process. All good and seemingly straightforward. But this was swiftly followed by a threat from the White House that the president would veto the bill (assuming it passes the Senate). I paraphrased in the cartoon, but the actual quote was this:

“The regulatory process works best when EPA and other agencies are free to devise regulations based on the best available science and careful consideration of all the relevant facts.”

This struck me as quite an audacious statement. For several reasons. First, the endorsement of the regulatory process. Up to this point, the current administration has made it pretty clear their position on regulation in general (against). But to suddenly align themselves with “the best available science” and “careful consideration of facts”? Oh my gosh, who wrote this?!

I can’t tell whether the statement is actually earnest or if it was written to mess with us. But if it’s the latter, it reminded me of a lyric from a recent Ben Folds song:

They say it [truth] dies in the dark
Right now, they’re trying to kill it in broad daylight

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Accepting the Reality of Climate Change

Accepting the Reality of Climate Change

I certainly don’t agree with those who deny the existence of climate change, but I can relate to the mindset. I’m a natural born contrarian, so I get the impulse to resist consensus, especially if people are telling me I have to accept it.

When I was nine year-old my family moved to Michigan. It was made clear to me soon after that the University of Michigan had the best college football team, Bob Seger was the best rock singer, and Vernors was the best ginger ale. I immediately began to root for Ohio State, actively shun Bob Seger, and insist that Vernors wasn’t even real ginger ale. (I know, what a jerk.)

I eventually came around on some of it. I gave up on Ohio State after Woody Hayes demonstrated what a terrible person he could be by punching an opposing player during a bowl game. I still don’t care much for Seger, but I will acknowledge his talent and skill. (Ted Nugent remains, as always, objectively awful.) And, yeah, Vernors is more ginger ale than most sodas with “ginger ale” in their names.

So c’mon now fellow contrarians, it’s well past time for you to come around on climate change. And it’s not just the massive erosion of the Lake Michigan shoreline that has caused houses to start falling into the water. Or even the disastrous scale of those horrible Australian bushfires. It’s the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community.

Why? Because they are the biggest bunch of contrarians around. There is nothing more coveted in the scientific community than being able to disprove the findings of another scientist. But they have to do it with facts, not feelings. It’s time for us to give up on our feelings and go with the facts.

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How About Immigrants?

How About Immigrants?

Do me a favor. Open up Google Earth and go to Hamtramck, Michigan. (Go ahead — if you’re working, it’s still basically the holidays, so your boss won’t mind a quick diversion.) Notice the tightly packed rows of homes. Now go south past the GM plant (Poletown). Notice the immense space, the only occasional batch of houses, the vast emptiness. Zooming in to both places tells even more of the story: Hamtramck is a viable community, Poletown is not.

What happened? Well, lots of things. But the obvious difference maker is that in Hamtramck as most of its original population of Polish immigrants moved on, new immigrants moved in. In Poletown residents moved on and nobody replaced them, so it died.

Michigan Radio had a story this week about the state’s population growth in the past decade. We did grow, but only slightly and not nearly at the rate of most other states. This is a problem. As the article states:

“Population determines Michigan’s political representation in Congress (the state is virtually guaranteed to lose another U.S. House seat after the next census), the amount of federal dollars the state gets for vital services, and leaves the state with an aging workforce and a dwindling number of working-age adults to support them and drive the state’s economy.”

Now of course it’s an oversimplification to say immigration is the sole solution. But a brief look at Michigan history will tell you that immigration has paid our state exponential dividends, despite immigrants themselves often being feared and scapegoated. We have the opportunity in this first year of the new decade to reconsider the benefits of encouraging immigration.

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