Sunday, April 03, 2005

That Giant Sucking Sound: The Multiple Threats to Michigan’s Water

A diverse panel will slosh through the politics and threats surrounding the Great Lakes state’s water resources at the Spring Griffin Policy Forum at Central Michigan University on April 19.

“That Giant Sucking Sound: The Multiple Threats to Michigan’s Water” will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. April 19 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium. A public reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the... Bovee UC Terrace Room.

“Any aspect of the environment in Michigan is appropriate as a subject matter,” said Bill Ballenger, CMU’s Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government, who organizes the biannual Griffin Forums.

“We are the Great Lakes State, and for everyone living in Michigan — especially the political community — water has always had a salience. It’s always hotly debated in the legislature,” he said.

“The idea that Michigan government possesses not one but two departments, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, when the effort elsewhere has been to consolidate — well, it just shows how deeply people in this state care about the environment,” he said.

Panelists will be: Wil Cwikiel, program director, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Mike Johnston, director of regulatory affairs, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council; and Bill Rustem, president and chief executive officer of Public Sector Consultants Inc. Dave Poulson, assistant director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University, will moderate.

Topics will include perceived encroachment on the quantity of Michigan water, both in the Great Lakes and inland. The forum also will address a wide variety of water quality issues, including industrial contamination.

Ballenger said that while Michiganders care about the environment, sometimes it takes a backseat to issues like jobs, education and the economy.

“Everyone wants jobs, and the economy ranks very high on any list. But when you say, ‘Well, you want jobs, but do you care whether the water’s all polluted, people say, ‘Of course we do.’ Yet in some cases, economic interests claim we can’t have both,” Ballenger said.

CMU’s Griffin program seeks to build interest and increased engagement in politics among young adults, faculty and the general citizenry. The endowment honors Robert and Marjorie Griffin, both distinguished CMU alumni.

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