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Federal Budget Endangers the Environment, Kalamazoo Leaders Say

Sehvilla Mann

​The Trump administration’s proposed federal budget poses a serious threat to the environment locally and globally, two elected representatives and a Western Michigan University political science professor say.

60th House District Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo City Commissioner Shannon Sykes who’s also with the League of Conservation Voters, and WMU’s Paul Clements spoke at the Northside Association for Community Development Monday.

Of particular concern, they say, are proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the end of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the possible abandonment of efforts to curb climate change.

Clements, who ran for Congress against US Representative Fred Upton last fall, says that unchecked global warming will point the world toward catastrophe, for example through the flooding of coastal cities as sea levels rise.

“So far, we’ve seen sea level rise about eight inches. Now science says we could be on track for another five feet of sea level rise by 2100. Maybe more, maybe sooner,” he said.

“Along with more powerful hurricanes, this will swamp cities up and down our Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. Many will be killed in floods, and remember New Orleans, and Hurricane Sandy? It’s usually the poor and people of color who are hurt the worst,” Clements said, adding that flooding would probably also cause property values to plummet.

Commissioner Sykes said that along with the global impact, people need to be aware of how pollution affects Kalamazoo.

“It’s fitting that we’re having this discussion today at the Northside Association for Community Development, because we know that in communities that are largely communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by this issue,” she said.

“We know that 40 percent of the six million Americans living near a coal-fired power plant are people of color. We know that exposure to pollution from these power plants is particularly dangerous for children of color, who have increased rates of asthma, and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of polluted air,” Sykes added.

Hoadley urged people concerned about the budget to reach out to their elected leaders.

Clements and Sykes said they also hope to see Kalamazoo take steps toward greater energy conservation, apart from the national budget. Clements says that “weatherizing” houses to improve their efficiency would save a lot of energy.

Sykes says that she would like to see the City of Kalamazoo’s offices switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources. Community Planning and Development Director Rebekah Kik says that right now, none of the city’s energy comes from those sources.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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