Our Dow Sustainability Fellowship Program team (the Dow team) partnered with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) to investigate drinking water quality and affordability issues at the community level to better inform statewide efforts to empower citizens and address water access concerns. The locality of focus, Benton Harbor, Michigan, shares similarities to Flint, Michigan – a city thrust into the spotlight when lead contamination was discovered in its drinking water. Benton Harbor, like Flint, has experienced an economic depression, a strained city governance, and aging infrastructure.
Keywords: water, infrastructure, Michigan Environmental Council, City Planning
A Dow Sustainability Fellows team presented to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) the financial, social, and environmental merits of offering subsidized ride-hail services to residents in areas that cannot be efficiently covered by buses. The team proposed a subsidized ride-hail service, FlexBus. While the research, design, and analysis of this report were conducted specifically for the AAATA, the team expects the information and insight will be broadly applicable to any transit agency considering on-demand ride-hailing.
Keywords: Ride sharing, hailing, transportation, subsidized
The concept of energy democracy allows people and communities to have control over their energy supply, with options such as choosing whether it comes from fossil fuels or renewables, and infrastructure considerations. Energy democracy focuses on poor and working class people of color, often most impacted by energy purchase decisions. The city of HIghland Park, MI has a majority of African-American and black population, with nearly half of residents living below the poverty line. Soulardarity and the Dow Fellows team collaborated on a community survey, that showed, among other findings, that approximately 40% of the population reported difficulty in paying their energy bills, with multiple people reporting illegal shut-offs. The results suggest a high and possibly unjust energy burden on the population.
Keywords: Energy democracy, Community Solar Calculator, Community Solar Power, Highland Park
Like many post-industrial cities, Detroit has an outdated and overburdened combined sewer system. In a combined sewer system, heavy rains overwhelm the city’s water treatment system, resulting in increased flooding and discharges of both sewage and stormwater into local rivers. In order to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO), stormwater must enter the sewer system at a slower and steadier pace without high peaks caused by heavy rain events. In addition, Detroit has vast amounts of impervious surface, much of which is abandoned or underused, further contributing to stormwater runoff concerns.
This project, in collaboration with Michigan Community Resources (MCR) and Eastside Community Network (ECN), explores whether a collective, place-based approach to green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) installations can result in joint stormwater credits toward fees in residential neighborhoods.
Over the course of 2017, a team of University of Michigan (U-M) Dow Sustainability Fellows partnered with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin to assess NELD impacts experienced by their community. Students collaborated with the tribe to document and illuminate the potential adverse health, cultural, and psychological impacts stemming from biodiversity losses and destruction or alteration of landscapes. Their research highlights the interconnected relationship between the environment and tribal members’ identity, spirituality, and culture. Moreover, it demonstrates how dedicated the community is to being environmental stewards.
Keywords: Non-economic losses and damages (NELD), Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, emotional, health, psychological impacts stemming, climate and environmental change, Wisconsin
Coastal cities around the country are exploring structural engineering options for defending against extreme storms and the resulting surges of ocean water that cause massive flooding. Storm surge barriers or tide gates can effectively protect harbors and minimize flooding, property damage, and loss of life during large storms. These barriers typically span the opening to a harbor or river mouth and include gates that are only closed when storm surges are expected. However, even when gates are open, the barriers reduce water flow and tidal exchange, which in turn affects water quality and ecological processes. Scientists and engineers are increasingly recognizing the need for broad research initiatives to more fully explore the advantages and disadvantages of large surge barriers.
Leading public health organizations, including the American Public Health Association (APHA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, all consider climate change among the most significant contemporary threats to public health. Longtime efforts of environmental justice (EJ) leaders and scholars clearly document patterns of cumulative environmental exposure and adverse health outcomes by race and income that are exacerbated by climate change. Given public health’s commitment to health equity and social justice, attention to EJ must be central in public health’s climate-related work.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has identified a need to increase its collective capacity to process and synthesize Surface Elevation Table data and to create visualizations and educational tools for scientists, managers, and the public. This project addresses these needs by developing standardized tools to quality-check Surface Elevation Table data, perform trend analyses, and generate informative visualizations for a variety of technical and non-technical audiences. The team’s collaborative approach to developing statistical methods and outreach products will build both technical expertise and broader understanding of how the data can be used to better understand how sea level rise is impacting marshes.
In recent years, seagrass and mangrove deaths have accelerated in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and other parts of southern Florida. Sea level rise, climate change, and severe weather (such as hurricanes) place significant stress on these habitats, which are already under pressure from urban development, road construction, boating, and pollution. The loss of these habitats poses a threat to the local economy, as they support the tourism and fishing industries, which drive economic development in local communities. In order to mitigate and reverse the damage to these habitats, Rookery Bay reserve staff are looking for new ways to measure which pressure has the most impact and determine the location and extent of damages. In this project, staff from Rookery Bay Reserve are partnering with researchers at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science to study the degradation of underwater habitats and coastal wetlands.
Tidal wetlands play an important role in carbon sequestration by capturing a substantial amount of carbon—termed “blue carbon”—and storing it below ground. Since the Verified Carbon Standard first released a draft “Methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration” in 2013, members of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Blue Carbon Working Group have been working to fill blue carbon data gaps to facilitate the application of this methodology to the conservation and restoration of Pacific Northwest tidal wetlands. This includes data collection and database development efforts, such as the Pacific Northwest blue carbon stocks and database project supported by the Science Collaborative.