My commentary as the crisis was unfolding.
An event designed to be a positive step for the embattled city of Flint nine years ago eventually led to a health crisis of epic proportions.
The event was the switch of Flint’s water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River. The outcome is well-known and well documented.
Residents complained about brackish, discolored water coming from their taps followed by illness. Debates ensued about whether Flint’s water was safe to drink. The inevitable finger pointing followed with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality blaming the city of Flint.
Then came discovery of high levels of lead in the water. Executives in Michigan and the USEPA were eventually fired for their role in the debacle, lawsuits were filed and are still unresolved. Criminal charges were brought against members then Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration including the governor and many of them are unresolved too.
I could go on but if you’re reading this you likely know the story. If you don’t, an easy Google search for Flint water crisis will take you to a trove of information.
As the crisis began to unfold and became a prominent story in 2015, I was doing a monthly commentary on Great Lakes and water issues for public radio’s WKAR Current State program in Lansing. The program was hosted by Mark Bashore.
Below, four commentaries beginning in January of 2015 before the lead issue was known, at least publicly. I recently went back and listened to them, always risky as I’m inclined to do a story and not look back.
Each segment is 10-12 minutes and part of a broader show with Flint being about 5 minutes. Sometimes Flint is the lead topic and others it follows the lead. I’ve given each segment a short topic for perspective.
Heads up, I’m reporting but also commenting so you’ll hear my opinions.
Here we go.
Flint- Current State January, 2015 Flint Mayor calls for Gov. Snyder involvement
Flint- Current State March, 2015 Trust is lost
Flint- Current State November, 2015 Lawsuits aplenty
Flint Year in Review 2016 Current State Top execs fired and Gov. Snyder’s mea culpa
EV’s are still cars and they come with all the problems of cars, says University of Toronto transit expert, other critical thinkers
The headlines on the nascent hyper-transition to EV’s come at a dizzying rate.
It’s hard to go a day without seeing a story about billion dollar taxpayer subsidies to support EV production. Or a politician talking about setting aspirational climate goals, referring to them with the obligatory “bold” descriptor, to end the manufacture of fossil-fuel powered cars by a date certain in the near future.
EV’s are touted as emission cure-alls, the Toronto transit expert said while advocating that investing in public transit is the better option.
Deep-down, I suspect politicians know that climate change won’t be solved by our continued addiction to cars, but they have to do something as they’ve been doing nothing for twenty years or more.
So off the production lines come electric SUVs replacing the gas-guzzling SUVs that we love to drive, even though it takes many two or three attempts to get them into a parking space. And electric SUVs are heavier than existing ones and will still require road repairs, drive new road construction and retain all the ills of their predecessors.
The result, implied, if not stated, is that EV’s are a panacea. And if we can just get enough EV’s on the roads all will be ok. No sacrifice needed.
There are critical thinkers out there who aren’t following the masses over the EV’s can save us cliff. Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Kolbert is one.
In an interview, Kolbert told me last October that the climate deal President Biden negotiated with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin “offers a lot of tax breaks for electric vehicles without addressing the fundamental problem… our car culture, a country built around everyone owning basically a car per adult,” Kolbert said.
New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo was an early critic of the rush to EV’s as a climate solution when he wrote in 2021 that “electric cars are merely a power source, not a panacea.”
“Fixing the problems caused by cars with new and improved cars and expensive new infrastructure just for cars illustrates why we’re in this mess in the first place — an entrenched culture of careless car dependency,” Manjoo said.
That Biden, Manchin deal is the Inflation Reduction Act, so called because it may not have become law if its title reflected that it was climate change legislation. The shorthand is the IRA and you can hear cabinet officials and its enlightened supporters referring to it repeatedly, like it's something from Chairman’s Mao’s Little Red Book.
To be sure, elected officials are not just focused on EV’s to combat climate change. Michigan, for example, wants to resurrect an aged and shuttered nuclear power plant that rests on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office called the plant a “critical energy source” in calling for the re-start.
There’s a certain irony in play here.
Whitmer ordered the aged Line 5 oil pipeline that traverses the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down as it is a threat to the Great Lakes in case of a rupture. But she apparently sees no such threat from the aged nuke plant on Lake Michigan’s shore.
With the gravitas of the U.S. government and the billions of taxpayer dollars going to jump start EV’s as the primary climate remedy, the die has been cast, there’s no turning back.
But as the Toronto transit expert referenced, “cure-alls cure nothing.”
Chicago-based environmental journalist