Dear friend of FLOW,
Happy spring from Traverse City, where the snow has melted, and robins have started returning to our community!
Today I’m thinking about youth and optimism. Often I hear that members of Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, mistrust government, worry about the future of democracies, and feel overwhelmed by the weighty burden of climate change they are inheriting. While the challenges indeed run deep, from the depths rise the leaders of tomorrow—our beacons of hope.
“The vibe of the youth climate movement,” writes The New York Times, is “powered by rage and distrust, it is decentralized and it is increasingly focused on the inequitable effects of global warming.” Case in point, today, March 25, the “Friday for the Future” global youth movement is organizing protests around the world to call for “climate reparations and justice.”
You’ve heard, no doubt, of Greta Thunberg, the 19-year-old Swedish environmental activist challenging the establishment on climate. But you likely have not heard yet of Bebe Schaefer and Rachel Roberts, two students at American University in Washington, D.C., who recently launched the nonprofit organization Water&, on a “constant journey of collective action” in pursuit of water equity.
Photo: (L-to-r) Rachel Roberts and Bebe Schaefer
To celebrate World Water Day, the annual United Nations event that this year focused on “Groundwater: Making the Invisible, Visible,” Water& partnered with FLOW to publicize our groundwater webinar (watch a recording here) and produced compelling infographics, a legislative advocacy campaign, and a powerful and inspirational video, titled “G is for Groundwater,” which weaves together a narrated poem with hand-drawn digital imagery of gray, blue and green colors seeping across the globe. Read our interview here with Bebe and Rachel, and behold their team's creative contributions.
We at FLOW are thrilled to join hands with Water& and other student-run Next Generation organizations in the Great Lakes Basin and in our nation’s capital to expand optimism and leadership through stewardship of our waters. We hope this effort will support not only a youth climate movement, but also a “Youth Water Movement” that benefits us all.
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director
PS - We are still abuzz about news this week of Michigan's bipartisan legislative deal that will invest billions of dollars in water infrastructure improvements, including on two of FLOW's priorities — $35 million for a septic system replacement loan program and $10 million to enhance groundwater protection through Water Use Advisory Council recommendations.
FLOW Has a New Home Down the Street
FLOW’s office has moved a few blocks west to a new location at 440 West Front St., Suite 100, in Traverse City. We’re next to Kids Creek, just a couple blocks south of the azure waters of West Grand Traverse Bay. Stop by and visit us!
FLOW Seeks Intern for Summer 2022 in Communications
FLOW is seeking an intern for summer 2022 in communications. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Learn more below and apply today! FLOW is a Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, Michigan, and operates as an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We act to protect 20% of the planet’s surface freshwater for the benefit of all by educating and engaging citizens to advance cutting-edge public trust policy solutions.
Public Trust Bill Package Boosts Groundwater Protection in Michigan
FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood expressed strong support for legislation introduced in Lansing on March 17 that would shore up public trust protections for the Great Lakes and groundwater against water-bottling companies thirsting for profits and strengthen safeguards for waterways on state land. “The Great Lakes must never be for sale,” Kirkwood said in a video-recording message for the press conference announcing the legislation. “And Michigan’s groundwater must never become privatized and siphoned away.” Click here to read our media release and watch Liz’s remarks.
High Gas Prices Could Drive Down Emissions, Boost Support for Fuel Efficiency and Electric Vehicles
Skyrocketing gasoline prices are shocking drivers–but they also provide an opportunity for environmental benefits and demonstrate the value of vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Studies suggest that gasoline price boosts of 20 to 40 cents per gallon have only a modest effect in reducing driving and emissions. But bigger increases, such as those American drivers have experienced lately, may bring bigger reductions in miles driven and greenhouse gasses emitted. Pending policy changes also would save consumers money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to read Dave Dempsey’s blog.
Protecting Groundwater and Michigan’s Most Endangered Wildflower
An unseen resource, Michigan’s groundwater provides drinking water to more than 4 million Michiganders, supports agricultural irrigation and manufacturing, and contributes a significant portion of the inflow to the Great Lakes. But there is still another reason to protect Michigan’s groundwater: conservation of our state’s biological diversity. Groundwater is critical to valuable species and their habitats, including cold water trout streams like the Au Sable River–and a rare wildflower found exclusively in Michigan. The federally listed endangered species, Michigan monkey-flower (Mimulus michiganensis) has been found in only 23 locations on earth, all in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Northwest Lower Michigan–most of them hidden where wetlands are fed by groundwater seeps and springs. Read more here.
FLOW to Michigan Public Service Commission: No Enbridge Oil Tunnel without Authorization under Public Trust Doctrine
In formal comments submitted to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on March 17, FLOW urged the MPSC to suspend further consideration of the ill-conceived Line 5 oil tunnel project through the public bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac until Enbridge seeks and obtains legal authorization to occupy state bottomlands from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Read FLOW’s comments here.
Music to Our Ears: Leave the Oil in the Ground … Let the Rivers FLOW
If you tuned into WNMC, the radio station at Northwestern Michigan College, recently you may have heard Kurt Westie interview FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood on the air. Westie, a singer-songwriter and member of the band “The North Carolines,” wrote a song during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown titled “Leave the Oil in the Ground”—an artistic call to shut down Pipeline 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. He spoke to FLOW about his environmental inspiration, his interest in FLOW, and his most recent album. Read Kurt’s interview here.
Act Now! Tell Congress to Ban Water Futures Trading
No one should be allowed to gamble with clean, safe water, but that’s exactly what financial speculators are trying to do by trading water futures. Allowing financial speculators to profit off and drive up prices on a resource that we all need is dangerous! U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Representative Ro Khanna just introduced legislation to ban water futures trading. This bill will protect water as a human right by declaring that water is not a commodity for financial speculators to gamble with. Our allies at Food & Water Watch have created a tool you can use to tell your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Future of Water Act (HR 7182, S 3886), which would ban financial speculators from engaging in water futures trading. Here is the legislation and a fact sheet summarizing the details and what’s at stake.
April 12 to April 21: Jim Olson, FLOW Team Offer Online Classes on "Water & Shoreline" with NMC
Don't miss FLOW founder Jim Olson's "Water & Shoreline" courses offered this spring through Northwestern Michigan College Extended Education. These courses are taught by Jim and the FLOW team, including FLOW Board Member Bob Otwell, Executive Director Liz Kirkwood, Legal Director Zach Welcker, Policy Advisor Dave Dempsey, and Legal Advisor Skip Pruss. The public is invited to sign up and attend these four online courses:
• April 12 & 14 -- "Can Humans Survive Climate Change?"; and
• April 19 & 21 -- "A Matter of Public Trust: The State of Michigan’s Shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipelines" Click here to sign up.
FLOW in the NEWS:
FLOW’s expert staff members provide key context and analysis to journalists covering freshwater threats and protection. Our full list of media coverage involving FLOW includes these most recent stories: