more electric vehicle chargers coming to the Michiana area

The Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee recently awarded funding for 56 Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations across the state, including 11 sites in the MACOG region in northern Indiana.

The projects follow an application filed in response to a request for proposals issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

MACOG coordinated an application for 10 locations, which were awarded a total of $90,000, including the cities of Elkhart, Goshen, Mishawaka, Plymouth, South Bend (in partnership with the Potawatomi Zoo), and Warsaw, the Town of Culver and the Goshen Public Library. MACOG is providing a $500 match for each station.


Click here for the rest of the MACOG press release.

These are similar stations as was installed in the Peace Garden in 2017. In this case, I was able to work with MACOG and city leadership during the application process to evaluate proposed locations in downtown Plymouth. PHJC also provided cost-share funds for Plymouth’s proposal, critical to getting it across the finish line.

Even though we are still not moving fast enough to address the climate crisis, it’s always encouraging to see steps moving forward.

Sparky sips electrons at a public station in downtown Goshen, IN, looking on at the City of Goshen’s Tesla Model 3.

‘Running out of everything.’ Michiana doctors, nurses say COVID is pushing them to the limit

I wanted to share this article from the South Bend Tribune with testimony from our frontline medical workers in the N-Central Indiana region. It is short & direct, please read it.

Our family recently had a little medical scare and had to make a quick visit to the ER (everyone is fine now). We are very grateful that we were seen quickly and able to get the attention we needed.

The woman in front of us had a 1 year old that hadn’t been able to keep any food down for 48 hrs. On any given day, in addition to those with COVID-19 issues, we may find ourselves needing medical services.

We are all lamenting the disruption of our holiday routines, but we can be creative and make do without in-person family gatherings this year. We have technology. Our healthcare workers do not even have time for a lunch break, much less a holiday vacation.

I was updating my daughters yesterday on the COVID situation, the promise of a vaccine, expectations for the winter, etc. My daughter’s birthday is not until the end of next month. She said, “I already know I won’t be able to have my friends over. But that’s okay, because we have our family.”

Far too much will be asked of a few of us. But we can all help. Let’s consider all we can do to avoid any points of exposure that aren’t absolutely necessary, and find ways to stand in solidarity with our frontline workers during this trying time.

(UPDATE: here’s a note showing that contact tracers in Indiana and Michigan do not have sufficient staff do trace all cases)

Amber Hodges 1.jpg
(photo from the SBT article)

Marshall County: we need your help assessing community health priorities

The St. Joseph Health System does a survey every 3 years to assess the community health needs of the region. The results are only useful if we, the public, provide good data about our own needs.

Having had a few glimpses of the design, implementation, and analysis of this process for one 3-yr-cycle already, I will say I’m an enthusiastic supporter. This level of rigor is rare for social agencies/non-profits, and it’s sorely needed.

You are participate in the survey here (English & Spanish copies are available). The deadline is approaching soon. Thank you!

late season invasives spraying

And so begins the Midwest’s Season of Gray & Brown. Most of the green in the landscape is gone, the pretty leaves have flown off the trees (yes, now even the oaks are reluctantly letting go).

Most, but not all.

Many of the invasive species in our area (which I’ve written about them previously) maintain their leaves longer into the fall. Perniciously, they also emerge extra early in the spring. As Michigan State U. extension says:

All of these honeysuckles are especially successful in dominating natural areas because of their ability to leaf out extremely early in the spring and remain green well into the fall. This means they have a leg up in these settings, essentially shading and out-competing native plants. These honeysuckles can eventually form dense thickets where little else can grow, including tree regeneration.

Land stewards can use this to our advantage, however. For a few weeks, it becomes very easy to spot populations of autumn olive and bush honeysuckle. “Wait… when did that population show up!?? Sigh…”

Not only are they green and visible, they are still photosynthesizing, unlike most of the other (dormant) plants. We can thus target them with herbicide from a backpack sprayer, and the plants move the chemical into their vascular system. On cold days this the plants are mostly shut down, but there are several warm days (~50 deg F or higher) where this is an effective strategy.

Even a single person with a backpack sprayer can make a lot of progress in a short time.

Blue dye is mixed with the herbicide to help the steward visualize where the chemical is applied.

One of the reasons this is effective is that it can be a great way to reduce collateral damage from overspray. Just “nuking” a wide swath around a single invasive plant is counter productive, because we are trying to get native species to occupy the same root space.

For example, in the photo below, the invasive Autumn Olive shrub is on the left, green and photosynthesizing. The location is a roadside ditch that has a substantial population of high quality native prairie wildflowers. On the right are the withered remnants of the leaves of the Prairie Dock. This perennial wildflower has abandoned this tissue for the year and survives overwinter as roots and buds, so it’s of little consequences if a few drops of herbicide land on the shriveled remains.

I was also hitting some invasive Poison Hemlock in the ditches, which is an increasing problem in the region. Then I came across the following:

There are some native Asters growing in and around the Hemlock. I could spray one without hitting the other. I skipped this one, knowing I could come back next spring and cut the flowering stalk of the Hemlock plant, interrupting it’s biennial lifecycle and giving the Aster the chance to spread.

These photos are all from Nov. 6. We’ve had a pretty hard freeze since then, so conditions have changed already. But there were still some goldenrods blooming, and insects foraging. The “growing season” is a simplification we use to make sense of our rhythms, but the reality is that many plants and creatures often live, move and have their being even in the cold. That’s a resilience we can aspire to!

1 Gigawatt

Since our first solar energy system came online in Sep. 2018, our total solar production has now exceeded 1.00 Gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity! Yes, that’s 1 million killowatt-hours (kWh), the units we are used to reading on our electric bills.

>> This has displaced more than 1.7 million lbs of CO2e (carbon dioxide-equivalent), in addition to other pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, and others.

>> This is enough energy to power 111 Hoosier households for a year, or drive around the world 133 times in an electric vehicle, or power a single light bulb for 11,415 years!

And that’s not all!

A new report out covering solar installations at K-12 schools shows that Indiana is #5 in that nation for total solar capacity! 41 MW have been installed so far, or 6 watts per capita. Good work, Hoosiers.

Hoosier voters agree: our values compel us to act on climate change

The following op-ed was sent out to local media. Given that tomorrow is Election Day, I suppose it’s now or never for the blog! Enjoy.

By: Adam Thada, Director, Ecological Relationships at The Center at Donaldson

In the Nov. 17, 1899 edition of the Marshall County Independent newspaper, a Professor Arrhenius theorized that “an increase of carbonic acid (carbon dioxide) between 2 and 3 times its present amount would raise the mean temperature 15 degrees, and renew the hot times of the Eocene epoch.” His intuition 121 years ago has since been affirmed in recent decades by many thousands of modern scientific studies: human-caused climate change is happening, right now.

It’s no wonder that a recent poll found that 8 of every 10 Hoosier voters think that the earth’s average temperature is rising, and largely the result of human activity. Farmers are already adjusting their planting schedules and seed varieties to prepare for wet springs (like 2019) and droughty summers (like 2012). Marshall County saw serious flood damage to private homes and public roads in February 2018. Hoosier scientists are finding that these concentrated spring rain events are becoming more frequent.

Climate change also poses a problem nationally, forcing entire neighborhoods and towns to relocate due to flooding and fire. Back in 2010, the Department of Defense recognized climate change as a serious security threat, stating that it “may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”

Our ethical and spiritual values compel us to love and care for our neighbors, our children, and our grandchildren. How can we prepare our communities? What role do our elected officials have to play?

This fall, we can vote on these values. In fact, 7 in 10 Hoosier voters think the state and federal government should do more to address climate change, and voters rank environmental concerns of equal importance with economic growth. It is important to note that local officials also have a very important role, such as building smart infrastructure and cultivating green businesses.

Here are some climate change-related questions you can ask before you vote: 

For local elections, do the candidates understand renewable energy projects, like solar farms? Do they listen to knowledgeable people with experience in the field, or only the loudest voices in the room? Are they willing to commit to reasonable development standards that balance private property rights with public concern? Ask them.

Are your local officials talking about water quality and flooding issues when they make plans for the community? Are they proactively addressing these issues for the future, or just hoping they (we) will get lucky? Where are they locating development projects and why?

Our local flora & fauna will have to also adapt to climate change. Are local officials making parks & conservation areas a priority, supporting it with staff and resources? Ask them, then vote. 

At the state and federal level, do the candidates realize that renewable energy jobs are among the fastest growing sector in the economy? Do they support these industries with reasonable policies and incentives, or do they funnel money to declining fossil fuel companies?

Marshall County is blessed with two beautiful rivers and dozens of lakes. Protection of these natural treasures depends in a large part on state and federal laws. Ask the candidates how they stand on strengthening smart policies that protect our water.

Local businesses, schools, and non-profits have been addressing climate change, too. Solar energy systems have sprung up at Argos Schools, John Glenn Schools, Ancilla College, The Recycle Depot, the REES Theatre, and more.

Volunteers and community groups came together to fill sandbags and provide aid to flood victims in 2018. 

We all have a role to play. Will our elected officials do the same? Express your concerns, offer your assistance, and then vote your values. For more information on climate change and questions to ask political candidates, you can find a voter guide at