Black Swamp Green Team

Lake Erie doesn’t have a prayer without everyone taking action

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Factory farms, corporations and kids can all help address concerns about pollution in Lake Erie. That was one of the message that came out of the third Creation Care Celebration Sunday Peace Lutheran Church. Sponsored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event encourages looking at environmental issues through a spiritual lens. That’s something that’s needed said keynote speaker Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Lake Erie Foundation, and founder of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. It is important for all faith communities to come together to protect our sources of water. The Maumee River Watershed is central to that effort. Lake Erie, especially the western basin, suffer from algae growth promoted by the phosphorus from manure and fertilizer flowing from the regions’ vast farmlands. Much of it finds its way to Lake Erie. And under the right conditions that algae can produce the deadly microcystin toxin. That toxic algal growth is what shut off the Toledo’s water supply in summer, 2014. And though $20 billion have been spent to protect the lake, those phosphorus levels have not gone down, Bihn said. She likened Lake Erie to the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Because it is so shallow, it is the first to exhibit, problems, Bihn said. However, that also means that the water in the lake is replenished within a matter of weeks, or in the case of the western basin a matter of days. However, Bihn said, once these problems begin to manifest themselves in the larger lakes, they will take much longer to remedy. Lake Erie has come back since the nadir in the 1960s. That came about because of government action to invest on better water treatment systems. States also moved to ban phosphorus in detergent. Despite the evident problems in Ohio, Bihn noted, the state lagged behind others in banning the phosphorus in laundry detergent, waiting until 1988, some 17 years after Michigan. Procter and Gamble, with headquarters in Ohio, fought the ban. However, Bihn said, two decades later when a ban on phosphorus in dishwashing liquid was proposed, the company got on board from the beginning. Now the major problem, she said, comes from agriculture. The ditches and field tiles that made the Black Swamp tillable, also mean the water’s flow to the lake is expedited. Manure contributes 27 percent of the phosphorus, and commercial fertilizer contributes 33 percent. But addressing those two sources take different approaches. Farmers must buy commercial fertilizers, so it is in their economic interest to minimize their use. Manure, however, is a waste product that needs to be disposed of, so spreading as much as possible on fields is an economic gain. Factory dairy farms and concentrated feeding operations produce a lot of manure. Now four times as much manure is used as commercial fertilizer. If those numbers were equal, she said, that could greatly reduce phosphorus levels in the lake. The point is “only put on as much as the crop needs,” Bihn said. That requires new technology for treating and using manure as well as better monitoring of the cows and pigs raised on medium and large operations. But even those who don’t own cows or pigs can do their part to address the problem, said Amanda Gamby, the newly hired sustainability coordinator for the City of Bowling Green. Properly taking pets’ waste, or pets’ poo, a term that tickles the younger set, is an important step, she said. That’s one way youngsters can be green superheroes, she said. Simple steps like not running the water while brushing teeth can also help,…

Creation Care Celebration, April 29, at Peace Lutheran

From BLACK SWAMP GREEN TEAM We warmly invite you to attend the third annual Creation Care Celebration on Sunday, April 29 from 1-3 p.m., at Peace Lutheran Church, BG Water care will be the primary focus of this year’s gathering. Sandy Bihn of Lake Erie Water Keeper ( will be our keynote speaker. The recent federal designation of Lake Erie Impaired and what next steps are underway will be discussed as well as other efforts to keep our water safe! Lake Erie Water Keeper is part of the National Water Keeper Alliance. United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community’s right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. This event is being organized by the Black Swamp Green Team, an ecumenical group of religious and community leaders and ordinary citizens committed to greening Northwest Ohio to ensure our region does its part in the worldwide effort to avoid climate disruption and ensure a sustainably prosperous future for ourselves and the next generations.

Farms are victims, & part of the solution, as climate changes

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Farmers are in the crosshairs of climate change. The climate is moving south, said Neocles Leontis, one of the founders of the Black Swamp Green Team. That means as the years go by our weather will be more like what we associate with areas further south, and that means problems for agriculture. The Black Swamp Green team is a loose-knit alliance of faith communities, advocacy groups, non-profits, and individuals that promotes energy efficiency, renewal energy, and sustainability. As Pastor Deb Conklin, of Peace Lutheran said: “Who we are is whoever shows up when we make a decision.” On Sunday the team hosted the Creation Celebration at Peace Lutheran. The event focused on agriculture, the challenges it faces, the ways of addressing those challenges, and its role in combating climate change. Alan Sundermeier, of the Ohio State University Extension Service, catalogued the dangers. The effects of climate change can harm farms, whether it’s increasingly severe rainstorms or drought. Drought, Sundermeier said, poses the greatest danger. High water rarely destroys an entire crop. Drought can. But unpredictable weather, such as can late freeze, can also play havoc with crops. “The variability is more severe.” That severe weather can also carry pests with them. People have to keep in mind that: “Whatever we do, whatever small part we play, affects the rest of the world in big and small ways.” The effects of rising temperature are many. Leontis noted that 2016 was the warmest year on record. Sundermeier showed a slide of a dry, brown field. That field should be green, he said. What could the farmer do to prevent such conditions? “There are ways we can, maybe not totally mitigate, but maybe improve the productivity of our soils in Northwest Ohio when these sort of conditions happen,” he said. “They will happen, maybe floods, maybe drought. That’s what we’re faced with in agriculture, and we have to find ways to deal with it if we’re going to survive.” The key is healthy soil. That’s not just good for farming, but for the atmosphere as well. Soil is a “natural sink for carbon,” he said. “We want it in the soil, where it should be, not in the atmosphere.” Farmers think in terms of “organic matter,” he said. “That’s where the life is in the soil and where the active nutrients are.” In the 1980s, agricultural experts started promoting no-till practices where the field were left as is after harvest, not plowed under. But there was missing a piece, Sundermeier said. Farmers came to realize this needed to be paired with the planting of cover crops that could help break up soil and regenerate it. And best is a mix of cover crops, he said, that complement each other. More effort and money, he said, are being put into looking for “more practices that will improve soils improve, production, but not necessarily increase inputs like chemicals and fertilizers.” One of the problems of modern agriculture was the advent of heavy machinery. As economics demand farms get bigger, large-scale equipment becomes necessary, Sundermeier said. It comes down to “production efficiency.” But those heavy machines compact the soil. Some types of cover, such as oil-seed radishes, can help break the soil up, he said. Other equipment is helping farmers grow crops more sustainably, local famer Paul Herringshaw said. Using advanced GPS technology, he can apply fertilizer only along the rows where the corn is planted. The technology lets him plot where that row is and be accurate within an inch. That allows him to use cover crops but leave…