Environmental Activists

July 29, 2018


my picture????????????????

Barbara Spring                           Norm Spring

Environmental Activists by Dave Dempsey

 

Barbara Spring is a living and thriving piece of Michigan’s environmental history. With her husband, Norm, she successfully worked for a state ban on the use of toxic DDT in the 1960s. In 1967, Michigan became the first state to cancel most uses of the pesticide. EPA didn’t get around to a national ban until 1972.
It could be argued that Norm, Barb and their allies did the most important work of the modern Michigan environmental movement. Other laws and reforms followed their triumph.
They weren’t the first or the last to fight DDT, but they were among the most persistent. Norm went to the Grand Haven City Council three years in a row asking the city to stop spraying the elm trees in the city park with DDT. Then along with Ann Van Lente .from Holland the Michigan Pesticides Council was formed and it met in East Lansing with Dr. George Wallace, Dr. Ted Black, both ornithologists who knew what was happening to the birds, other members were: Joan Wolfe, Dr. John Kitchel, H. Lewis Batts, Mrs. Ronald Marlatt, Charles Shick. Their success has contributed to a 90% reduction in DDT levels in Great Lakes fish, and the recovery of the bald eagle. Norm Spring was inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in 2014.
Barb has continued her activism and authored four books, including The Dynamic Great Lakes, a non-fiction book about changes in the Great Lakes system, both natural and by the hand of man. She also maintains three Great Lakes blogs. She was 80 when I sent her my questions.
Growing up in East Lansing, Barb said she knew little about the Great Lakes since her schools did not teach about them.  That changed the moment she saw Lake Superior as a 7-year-old on a road trip with her parents.
A resident of Grand Haven, Barb said she now sees Lake Michigan “every day since we live within view of it.  I used to bring my kids to the beach all the time and now I walk the beach and sometimes swim. Along with our two daughters I have also gone fishing with my husband to fish for steelhead and salmon.”
Close to home are her favorite places, wooded dunes at nearby parks on Lake Michigan’s shoreline.  She walks the woods to enjoy the change of seasons and spring wildflowers.
The Great Lakes, she said, does not figure much in the conversations with her friends. “I do hear people exclaim, ‘Wow’ as they get their first look at Lake Michigan as they go by my house.”
Barb has spent decades in the life of a committed environmental volunteer, including service as Water Resources Chair for the Michigan chapter of the League of Women Voters. In that role she reviewed all water legislation in the state legislature and advised the League on whether to take a position.
“I also made a proposal to the Grand Haven city council that the city upgrade the municipal wastewater plant that was only primary treatment at that time,” she wrote.  “I also proposed that the tannery send their wastes through it.  I informed the Council that they could get state, local and federal funds to make this happen.  It happened.”
The tannery’s interest in participating was promoted by a little production arranged by Barb and friends. “With friends we put on some theater presentations in our local League of Women Voters,” she said. “One friend came out dressed in a cow hide and spoke about the tannery wastes. Fishermen talked about the colors and stink of the Grand River due to dyes and toxic wastes.” The tannery subsequently paid to treat its discharge in the new wastewater plant for a few years before going out of business.
Barb was one of the few I interviewed who responded affirmatively to my question about arts and the Great Lakes. “I’ve read many books about the Great Lakes.  I have friends that are wonderful photographers and painters.  I’m a member of Lakeland Artists and I like to paint and photograph also.”
She said it was difficult to say whether the lakes are getting better or worse. But there was one certainty: plenty of threats. “The Lakes still get the fallout from many places through airstreams.  There are manufacturing chemicals that may have unknown effects on their ecology.  Tiny bits of plastic get into food chains.  Oil pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac threaten the lakes. Many aging nuclear power plants pose a very dangerous threat.”
What could concerned citizens do about all of this? Successful in her local government efforts, Barb recommended that would-be advocates go to their municipal government bodies when they see something that could be fixed.  “They can call and write to their state and federal government officials.” But, she added, “I don’t believe people think they can fight the political forces that are funded by big business.”
She said was surprised by a reader’s reaction to her book The Dynamic Great Lakes: “I have lived in Grand Haven all my life and I did not know these things.”
“I try to be hopeful and still try to do the right things even at my advanced age.  After all, I have children and future generations to consider.”
Not surprisingly, Barb retained her sense of wonder.  She shared it with Rachel Carson, author of A Sense of Wonder as well as Silent Spring, the book that launched the fight against DDT and other bioaccumulating pesticides.
“The Great Lakes are magnificent. Awesome.”

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Rachel Carson  click the link to learn how Rachel Carson changed the world.  She inspired my husband and I to become activists after reading her book Silent Spring.  DDT was banned in Grand Haven, MI and then in Michigan after we formed the Michigan Pesticides Council.

I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes to show that we really can correct mistakes made in the past.  The return of eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys to the Great Lakes and the U.S.A. proves it.

 

DGLmap of Great Lakes

Outdoor Learning

March 29, 2017


Hands On Outdoor Learning

I’m told that children learn through play.  From what I have experienced, I believe that everyone can learn through play. Our family has been playing in, on and around the Great Lakes most of our lives. We have learned a lot while we swam, boated, fished and beach combed.  The lakes engaged all our senses: the splash of cold water, the sound of the waves, the silence of fog, hot sand underfoot and the way it sings when you drag your toes across it, the ever changing colors and rhythms of waves, the times fish bite the best.   The outdoors have many lessons to teach if we pay attention.

Family vacations took us to all of the Great Lakes; the majesty of Niagara Falls; to the rocky shores of Lake Superior where we hunted for agates; to many embayments and open waters of the lakes to fish.  My husband  Norm, has caught nearly every kind of fish in the lakes: walleye from Lake Erie and the embayments of the upper Great Lakes, deep water fish such as lake trout and burbot, and the annual runs of white fish and perch  Pacific salmon that were planted to control alewives.

We have all learned so much from our outdoor adventures;  changing colors, their beaches of stone or sand, waterfalls, fishes and birds, wetlands , and dunes with their succession of plants.  In our play around the Great Lakes, we always learn something new.

With all of this hands-on experience I wrote a non-fiction book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, a non-fiction primer.  I had wanted a book like this to read, but I never found one so I decided to write a book with information that people could use to make sound decisions about the Great Lakes.

I am also the published author of three poetry books: The Wilderness Within and Sophia’s Lost and Found: Poems of Above and Below and Between Sweetwater and Sand. The last book will be released July 30, 2013( These poems are drawn directly from observations of nature.

At Grand Valley State University, I developed writing classes based upon environmental studies. This gave students important topics to work with. I did not want papers recycled from high school.  I assigned books such as The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon and Thoreau.  We discussed the topics and writing techniques used by these authors.

I asked my students to go outdoors and use observation and to use the five senses. They kept journals based on what they saw and even how they felt about what they saw.   I brought things from nature such as feathers and plants indoors for students to hold in their hands and then describe in concrete detail. They played with the downy feathers, blowing on them and closely observing them.

I asked them to use metaphor and to use as many of the five senses as they could in their descriptions.  Student writing becomes grounded in reality when using these sorts of exercises.

Our lives become grounded when playing outdoors.???????????????

Click the link for reviews of The Dynamic Great Lakes

https://www.amazon.com/Dynamic-Great-Lakes-Barbara-Spring/dp/1588517314/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492203420&sr=1-1&keywords=the+dynamic+great+lakes

Isle Royale in Lake Superior

February 15, 2017


Greenstones,  Wolves, Moose, Thimbleberries, and the Isle Royale redfin lake trout

On the map, Isle Royale looks like the eye in the wolf’s head shape of Lake Superior with Duluth its snout and the Keweenaw Peninsula its mouth.  It is precious since there are few places left on this planet that have been preserved like this.  It is unique; some of the oldest rocks on this planet form Isle Royale, its plants and animals  and minerals.  There are copper mining pits on the Island where native Americans dug rich veins of copper long ago.

When I think of Isle Royale, I think of Eden, a place away from cars and the noise of machinery. There is no traffic on Isle Royale; only hiking trails.   The sounds of Isle Royale are of bugling moose, the silvery songs of northern songbirds, the lapping of waves on rocks and the quavering voices of loons.  Sometimes there is the slap of a beaver’s tail.  The resident pack of wolves are elusive and seldom seen.  We did not hear them at all.

My husband and I hiked the trails there and I’ll never forget the thimbleberries  higher than our heads along a trail.  We picked the large berries like none other I have ever tasted, copper color, tangy and delicious.

We found greenstones, Michigan’s semi precious stone.  We stayed on Isle Royale for a week and every day we took a different hiking trail.  We watched a diving duck teaching her young to dive.  We saw a fox near its den, and had a close encounter with a moose.   As we hiked, my husband Norm said, “I smell a moose.”  I didn’t believe him, but as we came around the bend, there it was, bigger than life, standing athwart our trail.  We kept a respectful distance and it casually strolled off.

We did not fish, but the rocks off of the island are the place where the Isle Royale redfin lake trout spawn as they have for millennia.  This is an endemic species and its good to know it is still returning to Isle Royale every year before returning to the depths of Lake Superior.

In my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, I have a section devoted to this very special fish, the Isle Royale redfin lake trout.

 

 

 

 


Since DDT and like pesticides were banned in 1972, the American Bald Eagles may be seen around the Great Lakes.

Read About how this happened in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes. 

Find the book at bn.com, Amazon.com and many other brick and mortar bookstores such as the Bookman in Grand Haven, MI.


Pacific Salmon in Great Lakes  Here is an interesting link about changes in the Great Lakes fishes.

For more information, The Dynamic Great Lakes shows how many changes happen and continue to happen in the Great Lakes.  Available at Amazon.com, bn.com and many fine bookstores.

blueglDynamicGreatLakes-Independent_FullCover copy

Great Blue Heron

April 8, 2016


The wetlands are important for wildlife and for filtering pollution.  The great blue heron is part of the web of life found in and around the Great Lakes and especially the wetlands surrounding them.  Read more about wetlands and food webs in my book,

The Dynamic Great Lakes.   blue heron


Podcast: Great Lakes Book  click the link.

March 26, 27 go to my podcast on Bookmarkedradio.  I am interviewed by Kevin Collier about how I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes.  I also read a few poems from my other books: Between Sweetwater and Sand, Sophia’s Lost and Found and The Wilderness Within.

 

DynamicGreatLakes-Independent_FullCover copy


GreatLakessatmap

NASA View of the 5 Great Lakes

map of Great Lakes

Freshwater seas.

 

Podcast: The Dynamic Great Lakes


The Dynamic Great Lakes on Kindle    

click the link above

This critically acclaimed book is also available in paperback from many bookstores and online at Amazon.com, bn.com and many other places.

 

DynamicGreatLakes-Independent_FullCover copy