Saturday, January 19, 2013

You Can Fight City Hall and Win Big

 Norm Spring

You can fight City Hall and win.  It takes time and patience, but sometimes the results are spectacular.

Years ago we lived across the street from the city park in Grand Haven, Michigan where the elm trees were sprayed with DDT to fight Dutch elm disease.  Long after the spraying we would see robins trembling in their death throes.  DDT is a long lasting pesticide that magnifies through food chains and the robin that had fed upon earthworms died before our eyes.

The fish in nearby Lake Michigan were affected even more since food chains in water are long.  DDT builds up in plankton and then magnifies with each step up the food chain.  Small fish and then larger fish and then the American bald eagle that feeds upon fish began to show the effects of DDT.  The young of eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys did not hatch because DDT caused the shells of the eggs to break before the birds could hatch.

At that time, I was reading Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring,  and showed it to my husband, Norm Spring.  His reaction was visceral.  He had to do something about it.  He marched down to city hall and asked that the DDT program stop in our city park.  When it was not stopped, he brought experts to explain why it should be stopped.

City hall countered by bringing agriculture department people.  This went on for three years before he convinced city hall to stop the DDT program.

Then people from a neighboring city, Holland, Michigan came and together with others Norm Spring formed the Michigan Pesticides Council.  It met at M.S.U. with Dr. Ted Black, Dr. George Wallace, Dr. Howard Tanner, Dr. John Kitchel, Joan Wolfe and others.  Together they marshaled citizen support and by 1969 DDT was banned in Michigan and by 1972 was banned nationally. 

It took years for DDT to purge from Lake Michigan food chains, but today we often see bald eagles along the beaches and the Grand River that flows through Michigan.  On January 4, 2003, the Grand Haven Tribune reported 46 bald eagles on the ice and in the trees not far from U.S. 31.  About a third of these were mature eagles.

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