Michigan Scientists to Legislators: Do Something About Global Warming

On Tuesday, a group of more than 150 scientists, researchers, and academics released a letter urging Michigan’s U.S. Representatives and Senators to take action against climate change by supporting measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter says that global warming could have devastating consequences on Michigan’s economy and environment and that in order to avoid such consequences, action needs to be taken.

Grand Rapids area Representative Vern Ehlers reacted to the letter, saying in The Grand Rapids Press that:

“The scientific community is pretty well in agreement that the amount of greenhouses gases are changing things … that it is, in fact, dangerous,” Ehlers said.

“It’s a major problem. Wishing it away doesn’t solve it.”

Ehlers indicated that he supports the cap-and-trade concept of dealing with emissions.

The letter is important because here in West Michigan, we see an awful lot of hyped “science” that purports to discredit global warming. We’ve had local TV meteorologists (Craig James and Bill Steffen) dismiss the science, the activities of a local think-tank, and numerous letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press that have denounced global warming, despite the scientific consensus on the issue. In that sense, hopefully this letter will make some headway in convincing people that there really isn’t a debate over global warming–it’s a scientific reality. Also, kudos to the Grand Rapids Press for not giving space to a “skeptic” to discount the impact of the letter.

Local signers include Prof. Al Steinman, aquatic biologist and climate change expert from Grand Valley State University; Prof. R. Jan Stevenson, climate researcher and biologist from Michigan State University; and Prof. Karel Rogers, biologist and climate researcher from Grand Valley State University.

The full text of the letter follows:

As scientists living and working in colleges and universities in the state of Michigan, we urge the Michigan Congressional delegation to support strong federal policies for rapid and deep reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. We are convinced that immediate action is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming on Michigan’s economy and environment, including the Great Lakes. While slowing the damaging effects of climate change poses enormous challenges, we also believe such action presents Michigan with real opportunities to reinvigorate our economy and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders.

Controlling carbon emissions is critical to the energy future of our state and nation. It will help Michigan and the United States take full advantage of the clean renewable resources and energy efficient technologies that are available today. A workable federal policy to combat global warming will also encourage researchers, investors, and businesses to accelerate development and deployment of next generation energy technologies. Putting a price on carbon is a critical step toward building a clean energy future for the US and right here in Michigan.

Federal climate policy offers a unique opportunity to protect valuable natural resources and stimulate the economy ‐ the benefits to Michigan will likely far exceed the costs. A comprehensive federal climate and energy policy can provide the stable regulatory framework, appropriate market signals, and long‐ term investment commitment necessary to jumpstart new business, transition core industries, and enhance our global competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that capping carbon pollution and promoting energy efficiency could create millions of new jobs nationally and more than 150,000 new jobs in Michigan, nearly 50,000 of them in manufacturing. Michigan already boasts one of the nation’s largest solar components manufacturers, and will be one of the first states to produce advanced automotive batteries. Michigan universities are already partnering with major industries and suppliers, as well as Silicon valley funded start‐ups, to deliver next generation vehicles and fuels technologies, while we also put idled manufacturing capacity to work building components for wind turbines. Sound climate policy will accelerate this transition – it is a critical part of the stimulus our struggling economy needs.

Doing nothing is not a viable option for Michigan. Our state faces serious economic, social, and ecological impacts from global warming. If climate change continues on its present course, not only will we miss out on the new economic opportunities outlined above, but two of Michigan’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism, could suffer. Additionally, climate change could seriously impact water quantity and quality in the Great Lakes, leading to greater conflicts over water resources in the region.

Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry, contributing $60.1 billion to the state’s economy annually and providing more than 1 million jobs, according to the Michigan State University Extension. About 24 percent of all Michigan workers are employed in the state’s agriculture/food system. Many of the jobs and much of the economic impact provided by Michigan’s agriculture industry could be lost if climate change continues on its present course. Conversely, Michigan universities are leaders in agriculture and bioenergy research, and Michigan farmers stand to gain from federal policy that promotes renewable energy and caps carbon pollution. Farmers, for instance, could realize new revenue by leasing land for wind turbines and assigning unproductive cropland to carbon offset programs and producing biomass for next generation renewable fuels.

Associated with warming temperatures, increased ozone concentrations can decrease crop production and damage one of Michigan’s few economic bright spots. Intense rainstorms during spring planting season and summer droughts, both of which have increased in recent decades, will continue with greater intensity under “business as usual” carbon emissions and will likely reduce agricultural productivity and pollute our surface waters, including the Great Lakes. Hotter, drier summers and more droughts will require additional irrigation for crops that were previously rain‐fed. Warmer winters will favor more southern insects, pests, and plant pathogens. Perennial fruit crops like Michigan’s tart cherries are particularly vulnerable to increased climate variability caused by regional warming. All of these factors could dramatically reduce agricultural production and increase costs for farmers, agribusinesses, and others who have either direct or indirect ties to Michigan’s important agriculture industry.

Left unchecked, climate change will also harm our state’s tourism industry. Tourism contributes $17.5 billion each year to Michigan’s economy and provides 200,000 jobs, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Winter sports, such as skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowboarding will suffer due to shorter, warmer winters. Warmer Great Lakes, rivers, streams, and inland lakes will change the distribution of fish species, and many species of cool‐water fish — including all four of our trout species (Brook, Lake, Rainbow and Brown Trout) — could disappear from our region. Bird‐watching activities will slow due to a decline in bird diversity, particularly among waterfowl and songbirds. Longer, hotter summers could increase beach use, but beach recreation could see a decline in activities because of more volatile weather and potential increases in pollution and waterborne‐ and insect‐ diseases.

Policymakers have a clear choice: allow climate change to continue on its present path and cause serious long‐term damage to Michigan’s natural resources and economy, or embrace an enlightened global warming solutions policy that will protect our air, water, land, and Great Lakes while spurring economic growth right here in Michigan.

For all these reasons, we urge the passage without further delay of reasonable global warming solutions policies that can give Michigan citizens, businesses, and farmers cost‐effective, clean and affordable energy.

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Details of GVSU Drug Raid; Trial for Deputy who Shot Student Pushed Back

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New details have come out about the shooting of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student Derek Copp back in March. According to media reports, Copp was not the target of the warrant that led to the search and the shooting.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that in the months leading up to the shooting, WEMET investigators purchased small amounts of marijuana from Copp’s roommate three times. The police tried to buy marijuana from Copp’s roommate again on March 11–the day Copp was shot–but his roommate said that he would not be home and that they could pick it up from Copp instead.

When the police raided the apartment two hours later, they found an unspecified amount of marijuana. Media reports saying that officers confiscated six glass jars containing “suspected” marijuana, two Ziploc bags containing suspected marijuana, marijuana stems and seeds, and a digital scale.

Trial for Deputy who Shot Copp Delayed

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Meanwhile, the trial for the Deputy who shot Derek Copp–Ryan Huizenga–has been delayed until August according to media reports. The Grand Rapids Press says that attorneys on both sides need time for further investigation.

Unlike Copp, who faces felony charges, Huizenga is being charged only with a misdemeanor. Huizenga remains employed after being returned to work in April.

As would be expected, Copp’s attorney publicly criticized the delay saying that prosecutors are showing “favoritism” towards Huizenga. The Grand Rapids Press also quoted the Michigan State Police’s lead investigator in the case who said that he was surprised by the length of the delay.

GVSU Student Pleads “Not Guilty” to Charges

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Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student Derek Copp who was shot by police during a drug investigation on March 11 and later charged with selling 3.3 grams (1/8th of an ounce) of marijuana to an undercover police officer plead not guilty to the felony charge of delivery or manufacture of marijuana.

In court yesterday, Copp entered the plea and asked for permission to contact Ottawa County Deputy Ryan Huizenga who shot Copp. Copp says that he wants to apologize to the officer for what has transpired since the shooting. According to media reports, Copp is “sorry the whole incident took place.”

It’s also worth noting that during the hearing, Copp said that he could not pass a drug test and admitted to smoking marijuana on April 14.

Copp’s supporters have planned another protest for tomorrow, April 24, at Rosa Parks Circle. The protest will begin at 1pm. According to the Facebook event for the protest, the organizers feel that Copp’s shooting is “enough punishment” for the charges he faces.

Magazine Editors Debate Obama’s First 100 Days in Grand Rapids

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A debate between The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and Richard Lowry of The National Review last Thursday in Grand Rapids offered an overview of President Barack Obama’s first one-hundred days in office. For presidents, the first hundred days has become a barometer for how an administration will perform in the coming years.

In advance of the debate, organizers with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University said that they hoped for “fireworks” during the debate, but instead, the conversation was surprisingly civil and subdued, even as the two disagreed on a range of topics.

Obama and the Economy

The first issue debated was economy. Moderator Gleaves Whitney read the resolution that dictated the first half of the debate: “Resolved: President Barack Obama’s domestic and fiscal policies will likely make the economy get worse.”

Richard Lowry–representing a conservative view–offered some criticism of Obama’s plan, saying that historically big spending packages fail to stimulate the economy and that the current plan is too small to make much of an impact. He pointed to critics on Obama’s left who have said similar things. He also said that the stimulus includes too much deficit spending and questioned Obama’s motives for pursuing the stimulus–and a good portion of his party’s agenda–before the bank bailout.

Katrina vanden Heuvel said that while the stimulus and bank bailout have their problems, the only other alternative at this point is more recession. She said that spending at the federal level will help and urged more spending–as well as a stronger focus on using the stimulus to build a so-called “21st century economy.” She said that the crisis has shattered the idea that “markets can do no wrong.” She said that the bank bailout is troubling as it rewards those who got us into the current situation and that there is a double-standard when it comes to the bank bailout and the auto industry bailout. She also questioned Republicans sincerity on concerns over deficit spending and pointed to the lack of concern they expressed during the Bush years when they enacted large-scale tax cuts for the wealthy.

Obama on Foreign Policy

The most spirited debate of the night came in response to the second resolution: “President Barack Obama’s security policy represents a fundamental break with President Bush’s and thus will make us safer.”

vanden Hauvel said that while there are breaks with the Bush foreign policy–particularly when it comes to engaging Muslim nations and governing as a peace time president rather than a wartime president–there are continuities. She said it remains to be seen whether Obama will pursue the idea of U.S. as empire and questioned the escalation of the Afghanistan War. She also praised President Obama’s commitment to winding down the Iraq War and ending the use of torture.

Lowry argued that there has not been a fundamental break with Obama’s presidency. He said that the substance of Obama’s Iraq policy is not much different than President Bush’s, he is escalating the war in Afghanistan, and is keeping in place many of the features of the “War on Terror” including the USA PATRIOT Act, the terrorist surveillance program, targeted assassinations, indefinite detention, and leaving open the possibility of using torture. For Lowry, these are arguably good things because they will allegedly make the U.S. safer. He also expressed support for the Afghanistan War, arguing it is the only thing keeping the Afghan government in place.

In her rebuttal, vanden Hauvel provided further criticism of the escalation in Afghanistan, arguing that Obama should rethink the policy. She cited counter-insurgency experts who have said that 400,000 troops would be needed to quell the insurgency and said that the U.S. occupation is inflaming nationalism in the country and is destabilizing Pakistan. She further urged Obama not to lose site of the limits of military power.

Video of the Debate

For those wishing to view the debate in its entirety, it is available below:

Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

A 12-year veteran of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is being charged in the shooting of unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Derek Copp following an investigation by the Michigan State Police.

Deputy Ryan Huizenga is being charged with the careless discharge of a weapon causing injury or death. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.

Huizenga could ultimately lose his license to perform police work in Michigan if he is convicted. He has also been placed on unpaid suspension according to media reports. Huizenga was previously on paid leave while the Michigan State Police finished their investigation. He will be arraigned next week in Hudsonville District Court.

Charges against Copp or other students living at the house have not been filed.

Source: Student Shot after Opening Blinds

Unfortunately, the results of the investigation have not been released to the public.

The Grand Rapids Press spoke with an unnamed source and gave a summary of what happened according to the investigation:

“Copp, 20, was hit once in the chest by a .40-caliber handgun bullet when he went to a glass sliding door and pulled open the blinds after police knocked, a source familiar with the investigation said.

A gun-mounted flashlight shined in his eyes, causing him to raise a hand to deflect the light.

That’s when Huizenga fired at Copp, who was not armed and not aggressive toward officers, the source said.”

The article further reports that a police officer or undercover informant purchased marijuana at the apartment.

Officers Still Looking out for their Friend

Since the shooting, there has been concern–much of it valid–that there would never be a fair investigation of the shooting and that the deputy who shot Copp would likely get away without being charged. That opinion stemmed in part from early reports indicating that the police union advised the deputy not to speak to investigators. Critics of police behavior and corruption have often pointed to the perception of a “Blue Code of Silence” where police are believed to protect each other no matter what. Various sociological studies have explored this phenomenon at length.

Even though Deputy Huizenga was charged in this case, there was an interesting bit in The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the announcement. The Press reports:

“A Press reporter seeking comment at the deputy’s home was turned away by two Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies who advised him about trespassing laws. The deputies were in uniform and in a sheriff’s cruiser.

Ottawa County Undersheriff Greg Steigenga said he was not aware of any deputies being assigned near Huizenga’s home and planned to investigate the incident.

‘It wasn’t something that was sanctioned through our department,’ he said.”

It looks like a pretty clear example of officers seeking to protect their own.

A Clear Goal for Future Protests

Now that the officer has been named and charged, hopefully additional protests will make the clear demand that the officer be removed from office and be put in jail. Additionally, the report should be made public.

State Police Conclude GVSU Shooting Investigation

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The Michigan State Police have concluded their investigation into the shooting of Derek Copp, an unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student last month.

According to media reports, the investigation–which was overseen by Lt. Curt Schram of the Michigan State Police–resulted in a report that is being given to Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeffery Fink who will decide whether charges should be filed against the Ottawa County deputy that shot Copp.

The Kalamazoo County prosecutor expects to take several days to come to a decision on how he will proceed.

While the shooting occurred on March 11th during a drug investigation, police have said little about the circumstances around the shooting. They have admitted that Copp was unarmed, but have not identified the officer involved in the shooting nor have they said whether or not they found drugs at Copp’s apartment.

GVSU Student Shot in Drug Investigation Returns to Class

GVSU Student Derek Copp has Returned to GVSU after begin Shot by Police

Today, Derek Copp–the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student shot by police earlier this month–held a press conference at the college announcing his return to class.

As would be expected, Copp largely refused to comment on the specifics of his case and the ongoing investigation. His lawyer said that they are waiting for the results of the Michigan State Police investigation before commenting.

Instead, Copp focused his comments on his recovery, which he said is “going well.” He said that aside from occasional excruciating pain and difficulty breathing, he is now able to ease into his regular routine.

Copp–who described himself as “awake” and “aware” immediately following the shooting–outlined his injuries:

“Both of my ribs, front and back were fractured and punctured through my lung. And they took a corner chunk off my liver. And then the bullet kind of stuck in my muscles and skin where they had to remove it surgically–or not surgically–but with a knife.”

Copp wouldn’t say much about the protests surrounding his shooting, but he did say that he appreciated them.

Blogger and Author Speaks on the Importance of Feminism

Jessica Valenti on the Importance of Feminism

In the world we live in, we are reminded daily of why feminism is important.

For blogger and author Jessica Valenti who spoke Monday at Grand Valley State University, she cited a few recent examples: the story of an Arizona State University student raped by a man who was kicked out for rape accusations but was allowed back into school to play football, an ad using women’s bodies to sell shampoo, and the media’s publishing photos of pop star Rihanna after being the victim of domestic assault.

For Valenti, these are just a small sampling of the many reasons why she calls herself a feminist. She said that the common stereotypes of feminism–from man-haters to bra burning–are cultivated by groups who want to benefit from keeping women in subservient positions.

However, Valenti said that the fact that so many seek to discredit feminism is proof its power.

Feministing.com and Young Feminism

Back in 2004, Valenti started the blog Feministing.com while working at a national feminist organization. At the time, she saw few outlets for young feminists online and had experience the marginalization of their ideas within the major feminist organizations.

She took a new approach with Feministing.com and worked to make feminism “fun, cool, and edgy” to extend its appeal to a new group of women. The site thrives based on its community (readers interact extensively through comments and blog posting) while at the same time it works to move blogging away from simply being commentary and towards activism. She cited examples of getting lawmakers to pull patriarchal legislation and pressuring companies to stop selling offensive clothing. The website also engages in media watchdogging and highlights examples of sexism in the media.

Valenti emphasized that the site has been able to attract thousands of readers by being informal and funny. She said that if you talk “to” and not “at” young women, they are quite receptive and that they understand the importance of feminism. Moreover, she also said that it is critical to make feminism accessible to anyone and not just college-educated people reading feminist theory.

The Purity Myth

Valenti’s work on Feministing.com has led to three books–Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, and the forthcoming The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women.

Over the past few years, she has begun to take an interest in how women’s sexuality is being portrayed in the media and how that relates to notions of purity. This led to The Purity Myth. She cited examples of media coverage that express fear of women’s sexuality, books that argue sex leads to depression, and rightwing groups that charge that female students will become dropouts with STDs if they have sex. At the same time, she noticed a parallel trend of legislative policies that have emphasized abstinence only education, banned access to Plan B, and other such policies. This has created a situation in which a moral panic, conservative organizations, and traditional gender roles are pushing women to choose between an unattainable purity myth and a hyper-sexualized version of femininity.

Optimistic about Feminism’s Future

Despite the daily outrages of a patriarchal society, Valenti said that she is optimistic about the future of feminism. She said that she sees more people getting involved and is inspiring by the steady stream of victories and activism ranging from girls pressuring Abercrombie to pull sexist t-shirts to rock camps for girls.

Police Found Small Amount of Drugs at GVSU Apartment

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The lawyer for a GVSU student shot by police last week during a drug investigation has issued a statement saying that the investigation turned up only a few tablespoons of marijuana:

“I have been asked what drugs may have been seized by those executing the search warrant at Derek Copp’s apartment. To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more. The primary concern remains the manner in which this raid was carried out. And the apparent lack of any justification whatsoever for the use of force…much less deadly force…in executing a search warrant.

‘The campus and Allendale communities are asking why? Why burst into a college student’s apartment with a gun drawn for a few tablespoonfuls of pot.'”

GVSU Student Senate Calls for Investigation

Meanwhile, the Grand Valley Student Senate has joined the call for an investigation. It issued a statement reading in part:

“Even though this incident took place off-campus, Student Senate is greatly concerned with the actions of the law enforcement team. Student Senate will await a full and complete explanation from the Michigan State Police. Like all students, we want to know why the West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team entered Derek Copp’s apartment and why a firearm was used.”

This echoes a call from GVSU President Thomas Haas to investigate the shooting. Like the Student Senate, Haas has said that he will take no further action until the results of the investigation are released.

Haas also made it clear that he does not support calls from student protestors to relax drug laws. In The Lanthorn, Haas said “Drugs on or off campus have no place in the community. Illegal drugs are illegal.”

Ottawa County Asks for Special Prosecutor

There has been little comment from police on the incident. The Michigan State Police is investigating and will pass along the results of its investigation to prosecutors who will decide if the shooting as justified.

However, Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz has asked that a Special Prosecutor to be appointed by the Attorney General. Frantz is on the operations board of the West Michigan Enforcement Team that shot Copp.

Reassigning the case could take up to according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Students Win Brief Meeting with Ottawa County Police

Students Protesting A Shooting Of An Unarmed Student @ GVSU Won A Meeting With Police

During a protest yesterday at the Ottawa County Police Department, GVSU students protesting the shooting of an unarmed student last week during a drug investigation were able to meet briefly with the police.

According to a message on Facebook:

“the real news is that after two hours of protesting we met with the police. Everyone involved was very calm and cooler head prevailed. They have agreed to work with us to make sure this never happens again. However, dont assume that they are doing this out the goodness of their hearts, they are only working with us because of the enormous polictical pressure from all around them forcing their hand.”

The meeting with Lt. Mark Bennett provided few additional details–the police would not discuss specifics of the case nor would they say when an investigation would be completed. However, the officer pledged to release the results of Sheriff’s Department and State Police investigations.

Deputy Refusing to Talk

According to media reports, the Ottawa County Deputy who shot Derek Copp is not speaking with Michigan State Police officers investigating the shooting. He is doing so at the advice of police union lawyers. The Police Officers Association reportedly told him within hours of the shooting not to speak with investigators.

According to the union, the deputy is required by contract to give a statement to any internal sheriff’s department investigation that could impact his job, but that statement cannot be used by prosecutors to file criminal charges. Thus far, no statement has been requested.

Family Hires Lawyer

In response to the shooting, Copp’s family has hired a lawyer with experience in representing people shot by police. The lawyer–Fred Dilley–won a $1.2 million settlement over the 1987 shooting of a man by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Thus far, Dilley has made few specific comments about the case to the media, aside from saying he has concerns about how the warrant was served and how the decision to use deadly force was made.