A January 2021 story by the Capital News Service headlined “Microplastics threaten Great Lakes, and not just the water” was one of the first I have seen recently about the threat of microplastics to our precious fresh waters. However, microplastics have been reported in the Great Lakes for more than 15 years. Researchers started to get interested in microplastics around 2012, but outside the scientific community, microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes hasn’t gained much interest. How much has been done to reduce microplastics? How much has been done to make the general public aware of this serious and growing threat?
The Great Lakes face many challenges. Some are well-known, such as Asian carp, but some are almost invisible, such as microplastics. Small plastic detritus, termed “microplastics” or “microfibers,” are a widespread contaminant in aquatic ecosystems including the Great Lakes. Research reported in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that marine microplastic debris can have a negative impact upon zooplankton function and health.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 112,000 particles of plastic per square mile of Great Lakes water. While the specific, causal effects plastics may have on human health are yet unknown and currently being researched, animal studies suggest that plastics and plastic byproducts affect digestive, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems.
Picnics with Less (or Zero) Plastic You may be surprised at how much trash we generate from what might seem a low-impact picnic. Reducing picnic waste—especially plastics—is particularly important at a time when scientists are sounding the alarm about the buildup of small particles, or microplastics, in the Great Lakes Zero-Waste Picnic vs Typical Picnic… Read more »
Photo: Liz Kirkwood is Executive Director of FLOW (For Love Of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, Michigan. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Editor’s note: The following op-ed originally appeared Jan. 17, 2023, in Bridge Michigan. Michigan is a water wonderland — think Great Lakes, 36,000 miles of rivers and… Read more »
A Battle for the Future of the Great Lakes Photographs and video by Adam Joseph Wells. Story by Donovan Hohn. Produced by Geoff Mcghee. | Sierra Magazine | 03/16/2023 A pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands crude has already leaked a million gallons. These are the resisters dedicated to shutting down Enbridge Line 5. “It’s not… Read more »
Ten years to save the planet from climate change. PFAS, microplastics, and invasive species. Wetland destruction and failing, polluting septic systems. Sometimes it seems as though the only environmental news is bad news. Here’s an antidote, borne in a glass half-full. Great Lakes Piping Plover An endearing, small shorebird that nests on Great Lakes beaches,… Read more »
Microplastics are plastics that measure no more than 5 millimeters long and reflect a growing environmental and public health concern. They come from a variety of sources. Some are intentionally manufactured. These are found in industrial or health and beauty products, the latter often used for scouring or exfoliation purposes.
In his 1960 Wilderness Letter, conservationist and author Wallace Stegner famously coined the phrase “geography of hope,” referring to the impulse that led Americans to the wilderness idea. Now, in 2022, comes another prophet of hope, Maude Barlow. A lifelong and world-renowned champion of water, Maude has authored a book built on her career of activism. Its title, appropriately, is “Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism.” FLOW will host a livestream book event featuring Maude Barlow on Wednesday, June 15.
As she begins her fourth year in office, Governor Whitmer, who will deliver this year’s State of the State message on Jan. 26, has an opportunity to build on past environmental successes and set the tone for a historic year of accomplishment. Thanks to significant federal COVID relief aid and a state economy performing better than forecast, Michigan has a rare abundance of funding to attack the state’s multi-billion-dollar backlog of sewage and drinking water infrastructure needs and attend to other urgent environmental needs. Here are a few ways she can strengthen public health protections and restore our environment.