"The Green Room" is a monthly radio show that airs the last Friday of each month at 6:50 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. on WEMU 89.1FM. The show is a collaboration between the WEMU News Department, the Washtenaw County Office of the Water Resources Commissioner and the Environmental Health Division, with Barbara Lucas as host / producer and David Fair as director / executive producer.
Through her work with the County, Barbara also co-produces a monthly Green Room television show with Ann Arbor's CTN, Channel 19.
Shows are listed in chronological order below. Past shows are also sorted by topic on separate pages -- see the sidebar on the left.
July 27, 2018: Pipelines-Part One
Why do some people feel oil and gas pipelines are a good and necessary part of our lives, while others fight against them? To tackle this question, first we need to understand the basics: We all know what a pipeline is. But what they carry, where they are, and why there are so many, are questions most of us aren’t so sure about. In this first part of a series on energy pipelines, Barbara Lucas gives us a bit of “Pipelines 101," in "The Green Room."
May 25, 2018: Can Automated Vehicles Drive an Energy-Saving Future?
Driverless technology is here! Two fully-automated, 11-passenger, all-electric shuttles manufactured by French firm NAVYA will soon begin transporting University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff on a non-stop two-mile route between the Lurie Engineering Center and the North Campus Research Complex. As it grows, this paradigm-shifting technology promises to change our world in many ways. In the May edition of 89.1 WEMU's 'The Green Room,' we examine its potential to help, or hurt, in our challenge to reign in the energy costs and emissions of our transportation sector.
April 27, 2018: Wildlife "Rights" Vs. "Management" - Perspectives Underlying the Debate
Inspired by the intense controversy over Ann Arbor’s deer cull, this two-part series focuses on underlying value systems that shape perspectives on wildlife management issues.
March 30, 2018: Washtenaw County's Big Trees Controversy
Centuries-old trees have many benefits: they provide habitat, absorb stormwater runoff, sequester carbon, and beautify the rural landscape. Many of our largest got their start when buggies or farm tractors were the fastest thing on the road. Now, in the age of speedy (and often distracted) driving, trees close to the road are being hit by drivers that lose control. Should they be removed for safety's sake? In the last few months, there has been much talk about this question in Washtenaw County. The controversy continues.
January 26, 2018: Deer Management - Perspectives Underlying The Debate
These days, it seems you can back up just about any point of view, depending on which facts you choose to cite. So, let’s take a moment to set aside the debate over data when it comes to Ann Arbor’s deer management plan, including sterilization and a lethal cull. In this first of our two-part series in “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas focuses instead on the underlying perspectives and value systems guiding some of the voices in this contentious issue.
Past shows are available by topic.
2017 Radio Shows
December 29, 2017: The U.S., Canada, And Climate
At the November climate talks in Bonn, Germany, an initiative called “America’s Pledge” put forth a commitment by U.S. states, cities, companies, and colleges to achieve the carbon cuts agreed to by the U.S. in Paris in 2015, despite Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement. But if the U.S. doesn’t pursue federal-level policies to reign in carbon emissions, can global efforts succeed, in light of the world’s highly interdependent economies? In this installment of WEMU’s The Green Room, Barbara Lucas explores this dilemma, with a focus on the US and Canada.
November 24, 2017: Should Sandhill Cranes Be Fair Game?
Sandhill cranes are perhaps the earth’s oldest living bird species. Measuring up to 5 feet tall, these iconic symbols of wilderness have rebounded from near extinction in our area. Has this conservation success story gotten out of hand? In this installment of WEMU’s Green Room series, Barbara Lucas explores varying perspectives.
September 29, 2017: Starlight, Streetlight, What Can I See Tonight? Preventing Light Pollution
No matter who we are or where we live, all human being have one thing in common: we all have the night sky above us. But can we actually see it? Studies say nowadays only 20% of the world’s population lives somewhere dark enough to see the heavens untouched by light pollution. Luckily, this is one form of pollution that can be reversed.
August 25, 2017: Crosswalk confusion in Ann Arbor
The City of Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan says walking reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion, while improving our health. But, walking can be risky. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a pedestrian dies after being hit by a car every 1.6 hours in the United States. Understandably, many people feel safer behind the wheel, than in front of it. How can people get across the street safely? There is considerable debate over best strategies.
July 28, 2017: Can local climate efforts the solve the global crisis?
The U.S is out of the Paris Climate Accord. Despite lack of support from the current administration, many are heartened by the growing interest in finding solutions emanating from other levels of government. This installment explores a fundamental question: at what level will it be most effective to concentrate our efforts?
June 30, 2017: Road Rage: Bike vs. Car
More and more people are opting to cycle rather than drive for at least some of their transportation, whether for personal health, or for the health of the planet. But safety is an issue, and emotions run high. Conflicts occur over who has a right to the roadway. Should we encourage bicycles in the street, or should we try to separate bikes from cars?
May 26, 2017: The Cultural Colors of Green Burial
Because natural burial has environmental benefits over conventional burial, it is often favored by those who like to "go green." It also can appeal for other, more conservative reasons. It’s the choice of some independently-minded rural folks, and to many religious traditionalists. Additionally, it can help out the local businesses that serve the growing demand.
April 28, 2017: Birds, Glass and Cats-Preventable Impacts
Many of our most cherished North American songbirds are in trouble. It’s primarily due to habitat loss-whether through development, agriculture, or climate change. But, cats and glass, i.e. collisions with buildings, are also huge problems for birds. Although there are definite challenges to reducing these threats, there also are solutions.
March 31, 2017: The Carbon Dividends Plan: A Breakthrough on CO2?
Carbon taxes are a seemingly simple way to deal with the climate crisis. As the price of fossil fuels goes up, consumption goes down. But fears of negative economic impacts have kept the idea from moving forward in the U.S Now, a group of leading Republican elders has a proposal that goes a step further. They call it “Carbon Dividends,” because the taxes collected are returned to the public. What is the local reaction?
February 24, 2017: Urban Living Density - A Negative Or A Positive?
Every parcel slated for development comes with a host of environmental considerations, from stormwater control to cleanup of soil contamination. Two of the considerations most hotly debated in the Ann Arbor area are greenspace and density.
2016 Radio Shows
October 28, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 25)
For two decades the State of Michigan's "containment" policy has allowed polluters to leave contamination in place rather than clean it up. 4,000 such “prohibition zones” exist in the state. In our ongoing look in the Ann Arbor area's 1,4 dioxane plume, we look at the ramifications of that kind of policy.
October 21, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 24)
As concern rises and detection methods improve, 1,4-Dioxane is being discovered in water sources across the country. Central to formulating remediation plans is determination of the safe level of exposure to this probable human carcinogen. What constitutes a true hazard as opposed to an "acceptable risk?"
October 14, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 23)
At a September work session, Ann Arbor City Council members asked city staff if the current water treatment plant could accommodate equipment to remove 1,4 dioxane, just in case it becomes necessary in the future.
September 30, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 22)
Ann Arbor’s dioxane plume is rather unusual, in that it emanates from just one source. That source is the old Gelman Sciences facility on Wagner Road in Scio Township. Other areas of dioxane contamination around the country, such as the KL Avenue Landfill in Kalamazoo, have many "Responsible Parties" contributing to the contamination problem. Even with a single source, assigning responsibility for clean-up remains complicated in Ann Arbor.
September 23, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 21)
The cast of players involved with Ann Arbor’s dioxane problem has changed many times over in the thirty years since the contamination was first discovered. Some say that’s part of the problem; it’s hard to stay motivated to tackle problems that go on seemingly indefinitely. Luckily, there are a few people in the community who have stuck with it, keeping the issue in the public forum.
September 9, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 20)
While the federal advisory level is 3.5 parts per billion (ppb), the amount of dioxane the State of Michigan allows in drinking water is 85 ppb, one of the highest standards in the country. High levels mean less extensive remediation plan; a boon to industries responsible for the cleanups. But, could the resulting water pollution negatively impact other businesses, and the local economy in general?
August 26, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 19)
In our previous installments on the Ann Arbor area’s 1, 4 dioxane plume, we’ve heard from citizens, scientists, and government officials; both locally and from other dioxane sites around the country. Meanwhile, requests for interviews with the “Responsible Party” - Gelman Sciences, Pall Corporation or Danaher - are all met with silence. In this episode of “The Green Room,” we learn that wasn’t always the case.
August 19, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 18)
When considering the expanding 1,4 dioxane plume in groundwater in the Ann Arbor area, money plays a significant role. Further determinations need to be made on how best to clean up the pollution. In this 18th installment on the dioxane plume, Barbara Lucas explores what the clean-up goals should be, how much money is needed and who should pay.
August 12, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 17)
Good communication between all parties involved is central to productive conflict resolution. Some say it needs improving when it comes to dealing with Ann Arbor’s dioxane-contaminated groundwater. In this segment of our ongoing series, Barbara Lucas looks at the question: “What part does communication play in how we move forward?”
July 29, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 16)
Environmental Protection Agency risk assessments indicate that the drinking water concentration representing a one in a 100,000 cancer risk level for 1,4-dioxane is 3.5 parts per billion, and for a one in a million cancer risk it is 0.35 parts per billion. Only three states still have double-digit drinking water guidelines for dioxane: New York, South Carolina, and Michigan. Obviously, what is "safe" is subject to interpretation, and is influenced by many variables. But there is growing awareness that what is safe for you, may not be safe for your children or grandchildren.
July 22, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 15)
A plume of 1,4-dioxane has been spreading under Ann Arbor since the 1980s. During this time, numerous homes on private wells have had dioxane in their drinking water before being hooked up to city water. Is that the only source of dioxane to consider when weighing body burdens? In the 15th of our series on 1,4-dioxane, Barbara Lucas looks at other ways people can be exposed to this chemical of emerging concern.
July 8, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 14)
Flint's lead crisis has led to an increased concern about the dioxane plume in Ann Arbor’s groundwater. In this segment of WEMU’s 'The Green Room' series on the Ann Arbor contamination plume, Barbara Lucas considers the dioxane content of bottled and tap water.
June 24, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 13)
1,4-Dioxane is a suspected human carcinogen and a contaminant of “emerging concern” for the EPA. It has been found in over a thousand public water supplies across the country, including thirty in Michigan. Will those who’ve been exposed to Ann Arbor’s contaminated groundwater develop health issues? It’s a question that may be of concern far beyond our borders, and the focus of our report in 'The Green Room.'
June 17, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 12)
On June 14th, a resolution was passed by the Scio Township Board of Trustees aimed at addressing the 1, 4 dioxane plume that has spread from the old Gelman Sciences facility on Wagner Road. It seeks Superfund designation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and City of Ann Arbor are considering similar resolutions. A meeting is being arranged between all government entities involved, at the local, state and federal levels. Until that meeting takes place, there are many unknowns and much speculation. In this week’s 'The Green Room' segment, we look at one perspective.
June 10, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 11)
It’s been over three decades since Ann Arbor’s groundwater contamination was discovered, and throughout this time, citizen science and community advocacy have had a crucial role. In this edition of 'The Green Room,' Barbara Lucas looks at the uphill battle from its earliest steps.
May 27, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 10)
The National Priorities List (NPL) is the list of hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for long-term remedial action financed under the federal Superfund program. Currently there are 1,171 sites on the NPL, either being cleaned up or waiting for their turn. Should Ann Arbor’s 1,4-dioxane contamination be “listed” too? Weighing benefits against potential stigma costs is the subject of this week’s Green Room segment in our ongoing series.
May 20, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 9)
In 1980 Congress created the Superfund to clean up hazardous waste sites that have passed criteria placing them on the “National Priorities List.” If and when funding becomes available for a site, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with the state’s DEQ to remediate it. When polluters can’t be made to pay to clean them up, the Superfund pays, using taxpayer money. In Michigan, there are currently 65 sites on the National Priorities List. Should Ann Arbor become one of them?
May 13, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 8)
The University of Michigan’s research in human and environmental health is of global import. Should the university “think local” as well, when it comes to the 1,4-dioxane plume?
May 6, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 7)
For almost 30 years, a “responsible party” (Gelman Sciences, Inc.) has been legally and financially responsible for the 1,4 dioxane contamination of groundwater in the Ann Arbor area. This is in contrast to many contamination sites where cleanup falls totally on taxpayers. But the plume remains, and some question if enough resources are being devoted to its remediation. In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas looks at money, and how it impacts Ann Arbor’s contamination problem.
April 29, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 6)
Local citizens and scientists have amassed large amounts of information on Ann Arbor’s 1,4-Dioxane plume. Locally sourced information has been invaluable since University of Michigan student Dan Bicknell first discovered the plume. It has continued with 23 years of data collection by Roger Rayle of Scio Residents for Safe Water. Has the information been put to good use? Has it informed decision-makers? In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas continues her exploration of this ongoing issue.
April 22, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 5)
For over ten years, the cleanup criterion for 1,4-Dioxane in Michigan has been 85 ppb. This is in spite of the fact that in 2010, the EPA in recommended 3.5 ppb as the screening level for a one in 100,000 cancer risk. Finally, the Michigan DEQ has proposed a safer limit: 7.2 ppb. Today - Earth Day - WEMU’s “The Green Room” looks at how this may affect Ann Arbor’s groundwater cleanup.
April 15, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 4)
In the past two decades, Michigan’s dioxane standards have seen extremes, going from 3 to 85 parts per billion (ppb). Now 7.2 ppb is being proposed by the MDEQ. Other states' standards are all over the map. The EPA’s current recommended levels for dioxane exposure vary greatly as well, depending on multiple factors. In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas looks at some reasons why it is so hard to come up with uniform guidelines for safe levels of dioxane.
April 8, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1,4-Dioxane Plume (Part 3)
Since 1995, 4,000 prohibition zones have been put in place in Michigan to “manage risk,” i.e. prevent people from coming into contact with contaminated soil or water. In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas looks at how the balance between cleaning up pollution versus managing the risk is playing out when it comes to the Ann Arbor area's 1.4 dioxane plume.
April 1, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1, 4 Dioxane Plume (Part 2)
Following last week's initial report looking at how another major city is handling its dioxane issues, we take the next step in exploring whether solutions in Tuscon, Arizona might work here.
March 25, 2016: Ann Arbor's 1, 4 Dioxane Plume (Part 1)
Gelman Life Sciences on Wagner Road stopped using dioxane 30 years ago. But despite efforts to contain it, the 850,000 pounds they dumped have been spreading throughout the groundwater. Tuscon, Arizona also has been dealing with dioxane contamination. This installment explores the experiences of two cities.
February 26, 2016: How Green is your cup of Joe?
Eighty percent of Americans drink coffee, and global consumption is projected to rise by 25% in the next five years. What is the eco-footprint? Many factors contribute. In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas explores what’s happening locally and beyond to green up America’s favorite morning drink.
January 29, 2016: The Allen Creek Greenway - A Matter of Time
The Allen Creek Greenway is a three-mile walking and biking trail proposed to run north-south, near the railroad, through downtown Ann Arbor. The City of Ann Arbor has taken a $200,000 first step, by funding its master plan process. In this installment of WEMU’s "The Green Room," Barbara Lucas explores hopes and dreams for the Greenway, whose proponents say, "It’s about time!"
2015 Radio Shows
November 27, 2015: Paper, Plastic or Neither?
While the repeated use of cloth bags makes them a better choice for the environment, the free throwaway bags at checkout are hard to resist. Is this really a problem? This installment explores why the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is looking into a reusable bag ordinance.
October 30, 2015: Who's 'Whoo' - Michigan's Owls
Now’s the time of year a few Snowy owls might arrive in Michigan, if we’re lucky. This installment explores a few of Michigan’s owls, including the dangers they face, and why we should care.
September 25, 2015: The Buzz about Bees in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti
Whether honeybees or native bees, local or global - bees are in trouble. And, since nearly a hundred of our crops are pollinated by them, their trouble is our trouble!
August 28, 2015: Shades Of Grey In Green Agriculture
Americans spend less of their household budget on food than do citizens of any other country. Should we spend more, to reduce long-term impacts to the planet? How do we decide what products are most "green?"
July 31, 2015: Eco-considerations of Driverless Cars
Once thought of as fantasy, autonomous and connected cars are real and are being researched right here in our backyard. In this installment, Barbara Lucas looks at the environmental implications of this cutting edge technology.
June 26, 2015: Breast Milk - Nature's Most Perfect Food?
Some consider breastfeeding to be one of the best ways to promote both human and environmental health. In this installment, Barbara Lucas explores the benefits and challenges of ensuring that all babies have access to breast milk.
May 29, 2015: The 3-R Hierarchy Of E-Waste: Reduce, Reuse And Recycle
The average American household has 24 electronic devices, and most are destined for the dump when we’re done with them. We are upgrading at ever-increasing rates, and challenges to getting our discards recycled safely are mounting.
April 24, 2015: Michigan's Sugarbush - Environmental considerations of the Maple Sugar Industry
Early spring in Michigan brings the cold nights and warm days that make tree sap flow: It’s Maple Sugar time! In this installment of WEMU’s “The Green Room,” Barbara Lucas explores the environmental considerations of this growing local industry.
March 27, 2015: Learning Without Walls - Local Programs Where The Outdoors Rules
Are today's children spending too much time indoors and online? Might a year-round, outdoors education serve them well?
February 27, 2015: Pedestrian And Bicycle Access In Winter
To decrease its carbon footprint, the Climate Action Plan of Ann Arbor calls for increasing walking, biking and public transit. However, heavy precipitation events have increased 37% in the Midwest in the last century, and keeping pathways clear can be a challenge.
January 30, 2015: Toxic Algae: An "All of Us" Issue
Why is toxic algae plaguing Lake Erie, and what can we do to stop it? Perspectives abound, especially when it comes to whether or not measures to prevent it should be voluntary or prescribed by law.
2014 Radio Shows
December 26, 2014: Spurring Local Solar Development
Michigan gets more sun than Germany-the world leader in solar-but we lag far behind in solar installations. What are some of the factors that would help us move forward?
November 28, 2014: Bountiful Harvest - Local Folks See Benefit in Raising Own Food
In today’s world, most of our food comes in packages from the grocery store, and few of us have a real connection to how it got there. From schoolyard gardens to addiction treatment centers, growing plants and raising livestock can have many benefits.
October 31, 2014: Double, Double, Bats in Trouble - Local Efforts to Save Our Bats
Bats are in double trouble; bat species that migrate long distances are being killed in wind turbines, and White-nose syndrome is devastating bat species that migrate shorter distances.
September 26, 2014: Return Of The Osprey - A Southern Michigan Success Story
DDT wiped out Osprey from Southern Michigan, but a reintroduction program has resulted in over fifty breeding pairs in the region. It is reason to celebrate, but several challenges remain.
August 29, 2014: River Renaissance
After years of industrial contamination and economic stagnation, things may be turning around in Ann Arbor's Lower Town, thanks to a new recreational feature in the Huron River, and the soon-to-be-announced DTE proposal to develop the Mich-Con property across the river. Community responses are mixed, ranging from cautious optimism to elation.
July 25, 2014: Monarchs in the Midwest and GMOs
Looking at the possible connection between the plummeting numbers of the Monarch butterfly, our local populations of the milkweed wildflower crucial to their reproduction, and the booming use of genetically-modified crops.
June 27, 2014: Sound Matters: Noise and its Impacts
Approximately 15% of Americans under age 70 have preventable noise-related hearing loss. New research is showing that seemingly benign levels of noise can have impacts, and the effects can go far beyond just hearing loss.
May 30, 2014: When It rains, It Pours - Local Efforts to Contain Floodwaters
Water is life-giving, but too much, too fast is destructive. Climate change is causing more severe rainstorms, creating challenges for both homeowners and municipal governments.
April 25, 2014: Increasing Bus Ridership in the Ann Arbor-Ypsi Area
While disagreeing on the question of a tax increase, both supporters and opponents of a proposed millage support expanded services. Environmentalists say buses help communities achieve their climate action goals, and so increasing ridership is crucial.
March 28, 2014: Chimney Swifts In Washtenaw County
It’s finally time for our migrating birds to return, such as chimney swifts, which come here all the way from South America to raise their young. Their numbers have gone down 65% in the last 50 years. This segment explores the current and future status of our local chimney swifts.
February 28, 2014: Rental Housing and Wasted Energy - Who Pays?
Energy conservation is low-hanging fruit but can be hard to achieve if there is no financial incentive to conserve.
January 31, 2014: Green Departures: Natural Burial and Cremation
More and more people are looking for ways to better serve the environment in their post-life decisions. This segment looks at two of the options.
2013 Radio Shows
December 27, 2013: Deer Overpopulation
Are there too many deer in our area, if so, what can be done about it? Opinions are wide-ranging, and answers are elusive.
November 29, 2013: Stadium Waste
Collegiate athletic events are big generators of excitement, of revenue, and of waste. How can we cut down on the trash, while leaving the finances and fun intact?
October 25, 2013: Speed Limits
An exploration of the environmental impacts of car speeds, including issues of bicycle and pedestrian safety.
September 27, 2013: Local Access to Local Foods
As "food miles" have increased, finding fresh, locally-grown food often means driving a distance to get it. But Washtenaw County is seeing a surge of interest in locally-sourced food that is available nearby.
August 30, 2013: Grassland Birds
Some birds cannot survive without open spaces, and as these natural areas have declined, so have the birds that depend on them. Various efforts in Washtenaw County are being pursued to reverse this trend.
July 26, 2013: Wind Energy
An exploration of where we are, and where we are going, with wind energy - both in Ann Arbor and in northern Michigan.
June 28, 2013: Bicycle Commuting
Cycling is a pollution-free from of transit, and is rising in popularity. Here and elsewhere measures are being taken to improve the safety and convenience of on-road bicycling.
May 31, 2013: Citizen Science and the Health of our Watershed
Clean water sustains life and is dependent on a healthy watershed. Measuring the health of these watersheds is not just the job of scientists - it also takes a virtual army of citizen volunteers.
April 26, 2013: Recycle Ann Arbor: Then and Now
From a half-dozen college students with a beat up truck to a major business, today's Green Room traces the 35 year history of this local non-profit devoted to recycling and reuse.
March 29, 2013: End-of-Life Options (Part 1)
This show consists of the first in a series about the environmental impacts of decisions regarding our final resting place.
February 25, 2013: Housing Choices and Greenhouse Gases
Available housing choices - or the lack thereof - in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor can impact the level of greenhouse gases produced.
January 22, 2013: Food Waste
On any given day, we waste a lot of food-about half of what we throw away is food. What should we do with it all? Sending it to the landfill has environmental impacts, so cities are looking into alternatives.