By Shea Howell

April 25, 2017

This year there was a renewed energy in the celebrations of Earth Day.  Facing an administration that has shown little regard for evidence, climate protection, ecology, or funding for basic research, scientists and their friends called for a March for Science.

They said:

“This Earth Day, join the effort to defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world.
Science serves all of us. 

It protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives with medical treatments, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future.”

This is not the first time scientists have felt compelled to bring their skills and intellect to the discussion of public policies.  After WWII scientists helped us understand the enormity of the dangers the world faced from nuclear weapons. Their voices were critical in advancing the global movement to reduce the madness of the nuclear arms race.  Later they extended this understanding to nuclear power plants and waste.

In the 1990s it was science, especially here in Michigan,  that demonstrated the link between environmental degradation and racism. The School of Natural Resources helped give birth to the Environmental Justice Movement by documenting the clear correlations of toxic dumping and communities of color across the country.

Globally more than 600 cities joined in the celebration of Earth Day to support science.  Here in Michigan at least 15 cities participated, along with countless school, church and community events. People walked and ran for science, made art, visited zoos and parks.  In Detroit thousands gathered at Hart Plaza, many emphasizing the importance of the Great Lakes.

Last month the Trump administration proposed eliminating the $300 million annually spent on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  This effort has been critically important in improving water quality and restoring the vitality of the entire water system.

In the face of all of this activity encouraging us to think more deeply about our responsibilities to our earth and one another, Mayor Duggan announced another round of water shut offs. His appointee, Gary Brown said nearly 18,000 homes face shut offs. Emphasizing the inability of the Duggan administration to grasp the enormity of this decision, Brown emphasized that the number is less than it was a year ago. He misses the essential point that no human being should be denied water.

In response to the news of renewed shut offs, Wenonah Hauter, the director ofFood and Water Watch said, “This is absolutely unacceptable.” She went on to say:

“Community groups have been working to establish a water affordability program for over a decade, as water rates have steadily climbed over the past several years—partially to compensate for much-needed infrastructure upgrades. But nearly 40 percent of Detroit households live below the poverty line, and it is not fair to expect them to make up for the dwindling federal support for their water system.

“While the city has implemented a payment assistance plan, shutoffs increased from 2015 to 2016, indicating that the plan is not working. Moreover, many of the recommendations issued by the United Nations when it investigated the shutoffs in 2014 were never implemented.”

Mayor Duggan refuses to face reality. His approach to our water crisis is based on the same willful ignorance as that of Donald Trump. He has refused to look at the science behind a water affordability plan, he has refused to look at our ecological responsibility to encourage conservation, and he has refused to explore the real public health costs to a city denying many of its most vulnerable citizens access to water.

As we approach the People’s Climate March on April 29th at the Charles H Wright Museum in Detroit at 12pm, they Mayor can be sure we will continue to demand no more shut offs. Adopt an affordability plan. There is no other path to the future.