LA Rolls Out Water-Saving 'Shade Balls'

Aug 11, 2015

Today, "shade balls" got their moment in the sun.

On Monday afternoon, the 20,000 black plastic balls tumbled down the slopes of Los Angeles Reservoir, joining 95,980,000 of their brethren already covering the surface of the water.

The final deployment of these shade balls was the last step in a $34.5 million water quality protection project aimed at preventing evaporation and algae growth in the reservoir.

For the past nine years, some of America's biggest producers of fresh salad greens and vegetables have been waging a quiet war on wildlife surrounding their fields, all in an effort to keep your veggies free of contamination from disease-causing bacteria.

Now, a fresh analysis of safety data suggests that the effort is mostly in vain. Clearing away wildlife habitat does not make food any safer.

flickr.com / Creative Commons

A cool wet spring  is having an impact on Michigan's Agricultural sector and in your home gardens. David Fair delves further into the impacts with MSU Extension Services Agriculture Educator ben Phillips in this week's 'Issues of the Environment.'


Courtesy photo

A new "medicinal garden" just opened at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor to showcase the connection between plants and medicine.  

Jake Nehere / Michigan Public Radio Network

Dozens of protesters rallied at the state Capitol on Thursday against an aging pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The group delivered a letter addressed to Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette demanding that the pipeline be shut down.

“This pipeline is already one pinhole leak away from wreaking havoc upon the Great Lakes,” said Mariah Urueta, Michigan organizer for the group Food and Water Watch.

“The Straits of Mackinac is the worst possible place for an oil spill to occur.”

Mackinac Pipeline
Greg Varnum/Wikimedia Commons

The National Wildlife Federation says it’s making plans to sue the federal government. The environmental group says the US Department of Transportation is not enforcing a law that requires “worst-case” disaster plans for underwater pipelines to be on file.

Big Trucks
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It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is an argument to be made that bigger trucks are less harmful to our roads and better for the environment.  Michigan Agri-Business Association President Jim Byrum joins David Fair for that conversation in this week's Issues of the Environment.  Jim explains how Michigan's truck weights help our state remain competitive in the marketplace and reduce wear on roads.

Daniel Mausolf / Radrick Farms Golf Course Maintenance

  Goats on a golf course!

The University of Michigan's Radrick Farms Golf Course recently turned to an environmentally safe method to clear out some problem areas near the course infested with invasive plant species such as poison ivy, buckthorn and honeysuckle. They rented ten goats from a nearby farm and let them eat away the problem.

89.1 WEMU's Lisa Barry spoke with Paul Scott, the general manager of the course, and you can hear the interview here:

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Water levels in the Great Lakes are rising from record lows. Lakes Huron and Michigan are 3 feet higher than a year ago. Here's NPR's David Schaper.

West Nile Virus
The Ecology Center / Ecocenter.org

Wet weather in Michigan this year has meant more flooding and standing water. Now, we are at the height of mosquito season which brings the threat of West Nile Virus. As bad as the illness is, some of the methods of prevention are just as dangerous. Learn more in this week's 'Issues of the Environment.'


Tens of thousands of people are coming from across the country to visit Ann Arbor's annual Art Fairs. And while most fair-goers are interested in seeing what sort of artwork and other items people have brought with them, there's another issue at hand once it all wraps up.

Kathmandu Is Cowed By Abandoned Cattle

Jul 10, 2015

In post-earthquake Kathmandu, it is now cows and calves that are a problem.

Stray ones that is.

Hundreds have taken over the streets, casually strolling or curled up in the middle of the road, oblivious of their traffic-aggravating role amid the cacophony of buses, trucks, motorcycles and cars trying to avoid them.

The stray bovines aren't exactly a novelty. Farmers have a habit of turning loose old or sick cows and bull calves, which have no financial value (artificial insemination is increasingly in use). The owners should be fined, but they're usually not.

Ypsilanti Community Schools / Creative Exchange Educational Solutions

Staff and community leaders will help show off the work and achievements of students at Ypsilanti Community Schools Middle School . An inter-disciplinary educational program focused on sustainability culminates on Thursday, June 11 with a Sustainability Summit. Science and Humanities teacher Cheryl Plouffe guests on this week's 'Issues of the Environment.'

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said "the earth laughs in flowers," which means there should be plenty of smiles and laughter next weekend when the 25th annual Ann Arbor Garden Walk is held.


Washtenaw County Solid Waste Program Specialist Noelle Bowman discusses where we are succeeding with food waste, and where we can improve.   

Richard Neitzel

The average American household has twenty-four electronic devices—most are destined for the dump when we’re done with them.  We are upgrading at ever-increasing rates, and challenges to getting our discards recycled safely are mounting.  In this installment of 89.1 WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas looks at what we can do to lessen the environmental impact of our love of the “latest and greatest” in electronics.

Michigan wildlife officials say they've detected chronic wasting disease among free-ranging deer in mid-Michigan. Chronic wasting disease is a contagious disease that can decimate deer herds if left unchecked.

State Farm/ Flickr

Wet basements are a problem this time of year. If you don't work to prevent water and moisture from getting in, the bills for remediation escalate quickly. In this week's 'Issues of the Environment',  Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt offers up some tips for you. 

Michigan House Democrats

If you look at a map of the pipelines that run through the state of Michigan, it resembles a spider-web. They are everywhere, and more on planned and more are being constructed as we speak.  As we learned in 2010 when a pipeline burst and polluted portions of the Kalamazoo River system, protection of our waterways may be lacking in some areas.   

On Earth Day last month, A group of state lawmakers and the heads of some leading environmental groups publicly announced a package of legislation that aims to address pipeline safety and natural resource protections.  This week, we are talking with Ann Arbor State Representative Jeff Irwin about the Pipeline Safety Legislation that he helped introduce.

Wendy Lawrence, nationally-published freelance author from Ann Arbor, discusses how to make a home eco-friendly, green and safe for kids, and what resources are available to parents in Washtenaw County.

Cathie Pare adores water-wise gardens. She works for Santa Barbara's water conservation program, and today, she's inspecting a yard that was recently converted from grass to drought-friendly plants.

"There's a little manzanitas in here — the little baby ones," Pare says. "Those are so cute!"

The owners will get reimbursed for half the cost of materials, thanks to a city rebate program that since last July has doled out $190,000.

Pare and a team of two others also visit homes for water checkups to help homeowners program their sprinklers or improve irrigation.

Wikimedia Commons

Should Michigan's energy future include more nuclear energy? That's the topic in this week's Issues of the Environment.  Jeff Alson is a volunteer with the group, "The Alliance to Halt Fermi III."  

Listen to why that group is working to stop DTE Energy from moving forward with a another proposed nuclear generating station. 

89.1 WEMU

Michigan’s maple syrup industry is growing at a time when climate change is both shortening the sap collection season and moving northward the range of sugar maples.  But new technologies have increased efficiencies, and the recent cold winters have been great for maple sugar farmers. 


Things are sweet in Michigan’s Sugarbush!  In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas explores the environmental considerations of this homegrown industry.

Courtesy Huron River Watershed Council

The Huron River Watershed Council is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. David Fair talks with Executive Director Laura Rubin about the past, present and future of the organization in this week's 'Issues of the Environment.' 

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown made water conservation mandatory in the drought-stricken state of California. "As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can," he said.

But if the four-year drought continues, conservation alone — at least what's required by the governor's plan — won't fix the problem.

Across California, communities are examining all options to avoid running out of water. Some, like the coastal city of Santa Barbara, are looking to the past for inspiration.