Showing Off Circle of Blue Colleagues and Reporting in Traverse City

Circle of Blue's Choke Point: China project showed how China's massive energy-consuming urban construction program, like this development in Xian, is producing an urgent confrontation over water in the dry north, where much of China's energy is produced. Photo/Keith Schneider
Circle of Blue’s Choke Point: China project showed how China’s massive energy-consuming urban construction program, like this development in Xian, is producing an urgent a confrontation over water in the dry north, where much of China’s energy is produced. Photo/Keith Schneider

TRAVERSE CITY, MI — On Wednesday evening October 8, 2014 Circle of Blue, the Traverse City-based global news organization, is inviting colleagues and friends to meet our talented staff and learn about the state-of-the-art multimedia work we are doing that is changing the world.

This is no exaggeration. And while Circle of Blue has developed expertise and new digital tools to report on the consequences of the fierce global contest for natural resources, the successes we’ve enjoyed really aren’t that unusual in our home region.

Traverse City, you see, is a civic boil. With its rich diversity of community-shaping groups — environmental, progressive business, new media, local foods, transport, and clean energy — the small coastal city of 15,000 near the top of Lake Michigan is a crucible for new approaches to succeeding in a century of ecological and economic transformation.

Circle of Blue is privileged to be a member of this committed community of change. No other news organization in the world is doing more to inform citizens and global leaders about water security, and what the 21st century holds for national economies and communities, including our own Great Lakes region.

On Wednesday evening join me at the Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City to meet the members of the Circle of Blue staff.  Our team will present exclusive stories and stunning imagery from the world’s tightening water-food-energy choke points. This is an evening to introduce our circle of northern Michigan friends to the critically important work this Traverse City organization is doing here at home and around the world.

We are so privileged to be part of a Traverse region community of such talent and commitment to making a difference. Join us for what promises to be an evening immersed in exploration and good cheer.

Where:
Inside Out Gallery
229 Garland Street
Traverse City, MI

When:
Wednesday, October 8
7 p.m.
with music by Blair Miller beginning at 6:15 p.m.

Your tour guides:

J. Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue director and co-founder
Keith Schneider, senior editor and chief correspondent
Brett Walton, reporter
Codi Yeager Kozacek, reporter
Kaye LaFond, reporter & data visualizer
Aubrey Ann Parker & Jordan Bates, social media
Matthew Welch, change manager
Continue reading “Showing Off Circle of Blue Colleagues and Reporting in Traverse City”

The Michigan Land Use Institute Considers Changing Its Name — For What?

At the height of its statewide and national influence, the Michigan Land Use Institute's 15-member staff gathered outside the new home office in Beulah.
At the height of its statewide and national influence, the Michigan Land Use Institute’s 15-member staff gathered outside the new home office in Beulah. Back row, left to right — Gail Dennis, Charlene Crowell, Kelly Thayer, Doug Rose, Mac McCelland, Mary Ellen Pattyn, Patty Cantrell. Middle row, left to right — Johanna Miller, Jim Lively, Arlin Wasserman, Andy Guy. Front row, left to right — Jim Dulzo, Keith Schneider, Hans Voss, Betsy Alles.

BENZONIA, MI — On April 16, 1995, in one of my last articles as a staff correspondent with the New York Times, I wrote this assessment of American environmentalism’s evolving challenges. “The movement that changed the nation’s environmental ethic a generation ago is reshaping itself, and the most important aspect of that effort is a new openness to what works and what doesn’t in environmental protection.”

Six days later, on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, I met at Beulah’s Brookside Inn with Traverse City environmental attorney Jim Olson and a few more regional green heroes and formally incorporated the non-profit Michigan Land Use Institute.

The Brookside closed its doors a few years ago. And earlier this year, as MLUI approached the 19th anniversary of its founding on today’s 44th Earth Day, I received notice and a survey from the organization. It asked for my thoughts on a branding project that may very well conclude with a change in the Institute’s name. Holy focus group, Batman! What works and what doesn’t in environmental protection may include an alteration in identities.

Now, right here, allow me to acknowledge that an MLUI name change is personal. But it’s not sour grapes. I was 38 years old in 1995, and a year into a life-changing scrap with the state’s natural gas industry over drilling practices in northern Michigan’s Antrim shale. Benzie in the 1990s also was Michigan’s second fastest growing county. Among the legion of proposals popping up around here was one to turn US 31 north of Luddington into a four-lane highway. I was convinced that a professionally staffed group that focused on the ecological and economic consequences of development could do important work and prosper financially.

I put $13,000 of my own money into the organization that first year. Ted Curran, an important ally and supporter, added management guidance and welcome funding. Florence Barone and Arlin Wasserman put their keen intelligence to work. We got lucky in the summer of 1995 when 27-year-old Hans Voss, the MLUI executive director since 2000, showed up at our door looking for work. We had an active board that included Gary Appel, an educator, and whose wife, Mimi Appel, helped with development. These and a host of other people — Dick Hitchingham, Gerard Grabowski, Jack Gyr, Marty Jablonski — helped get the joint rolling in a way that steadily built our record of pragmatic advocacy, and keen communications skills.

In 1998 Stewart Udall, the Secretary of the Interior during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and a close friend, called the Michigan Land Use Institute the most successful new environmental organization in the United States. We were smart and fearless. I was with Hans when conservative Governor John Engler announced in 1998 that there would be no natural gas drilling in Antrim County’s Jordan River Valley, which we described as the Yosemite of northern Michigan. I was with him again several years later when the state Legislature and Congress, in separate votes, outlawed drilling for oil and gas beneath the Great Lakes. Hans led both campaigns. Continue reading “The Michigan Land Use Institute Considers Changing Its Name — For What?”

Lake Michigan Ice Caves, Evidence of a Mighty Scheme

Deep cold, ample ice, and relentless snow during the 2014 winter produced a landscape of winds sharp and frozen warp. Photo/Keith Schneider
Deep cold, ample ice, and relentless snow during the 2014 winter produced a landscape of frozen warp. Photo/Keith Schneider

LELAND, Mi — The northern Michigan winter this year, with its Arctic cold and persistent snow, has locked Lake Michigan’s shoreline in towering walls of ice. It’s a frozen grip. The gales of January and the calmer winds of February, shifting from stout to steady, pulled the water and pushed the ice until it careened upward and outward, forming pregnant walls and bridges that birthed big caves.

North of Leland, walls of ice have formed along the Lake Michigan coast. Photo/Keith Schneider
North of Leland, walls of ice have formed along the Lake Michigan coast. Photo/Keith Schneider

Yesterday, gloriously cold and sunny, hundreds of people gathered north of this Lake Michigan shoreline village to explore the icy landscape, a rare example of the water’s warp not likely to be seen again anytime soon. Children and dogs slipped through crevices and slid down the steep faces of icy walls. Older people carefully navigated the ice, peering into caves, and settling onto sun-washed ice shelves that were out of the wind where it was surprisingly warm.

Everywhere there were smart phones and digital cameras documenting the kids, the families, the pretty girls, smiling and draped on the ice. Indeed, it was a day to celebrate the beautiful place where we all live. The sculpted formations, edged smooth, rounded by the wind, were painted by a bright sun — brilliant white, deep blue, and shades of aqua marine.

Families explored the crevices and caves in the ice on Lake Michigan. Photo/Keith Schneider
Families explored the crevices and caves in the ice on Lake Michigan. Photo/Keith Schneider

Snow, of course, has a perfect memory. Each winter here it finds the same gullies to fill, the same stream beds to cloak, the same trees and rocks and fields to cover. But it’s the depth of the snow, and the ice, that’s different this year. Continue reading “Lake Michigan Ice Caves, Evidence of a Mighty Scheme”

Frankfort, Michigan’s July 4: Fireworks and A Legacy of Jewish Discrimination

The annual July 4 fireworks show in Frankfort, Michigan attracts thousands to the Lake Michigan beachfront. Photo/Aubrey Parker.

FRANKFORT, MI – The public event of the year in Benzie County, Michigan occurs here on July 4. The day begins with a parade on Main Street, continues with an art fair, a carnival, and this year a sand castle design contest on the Lake Michigan beachfront. Thousands of people roll into town while the sun is high. And as it sets thousands more come for the meteoric spectacle – the fireworks show that lights the town’s harbor and fills the sky with an escalating tempest of white sizzle, and red and blue flare.

Along with the day’s expert choreography another facet of Frankfort’s July 4 is its staging in a Lake Michigan shoreline town that dates to the 1850s, houses 1,280 residents, and has gradually emerged, like an oaf who’s worked himself into six-pack peak condition, as one of the truly handsome small ports on the Great Lakes. It’s an evolution, decades in the making, that was delayed in part by an indecorous period in Frankfort’s history when residents chased out Jewish vacationers in the years after World War Two. Had the town not made it clear with signs in restaurant windows, golf courses, and lodges  — “Gentiles Only” — it certainly would have been enriched by the energy, ideas, loyalty, and investment that Jewish visitors bring.

Instead, befuddled by a short seasonal economy, content to plug along even as its population grew old and dropped by 31 percent from its 1950 peak of 1,858 residents, Frankfort withered. When I first arrived in Benzie County in 1990, Frankfort was a town preserved in clouded amber. Though it was friendly and quiet, the town felt like an antique parlor that needed a good dusting.

In the last five years or so, even with a national recession that worried shopkeepers and investors, Frankfort has more than perked up. The town’s leafy streets have been repaved and are accompanied by lovely early 20th century homes with gables and porches. All major avenues have broad sidewalks and lead west to the city’s beach and harbor, and the wide breakwater that ends at the black and white steel base of the Frankfort Lighthouse.

Continue reading “Frankfort, Michigan’s July 4: Fireworks and A Legacy of Jewish Discrimination”

Traverse City’s Next Generation Brand

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Young people, raised in northwest Michigan, are returning from college to begin their careers and raise their own families in a region that provides a range of fresh opportunities. Photo/Keith Schneider

BENZONIA — Bridge Magazine this week noted Traverse City’s new brand as a place of opportunity for educated and talented young entrepeneurs. The article by Jeff Alexander, a veteran environmental journalist who spent much of his career at the Muskegon Chronicle, notes the demographic and economic trends that are attracting young professionals to start interesting careers and businesses in this region’s cultural and business capital.

Other treatments of the same trend include my September 2012 ModeShift article reporting on the premiere of Aaron Dennis and Jacob Wheeler’s documentary on Palestine — The People & The Olive — and Crain’s Detroit Business’s report three months later on the excitement that Traverse City’s “boomerang” generation is building in the region.

Two of the three pieces note the role played by Chris Treter, the principal behind the Traverse City-based Higher Grounds coffee company and On The Ground global public interest non-profit, who’s at the center of one of the millennial generation’s most robust professional communities in the region. There are others. It also was good to see Doug Luciani, and the regional chamber, mentioned in the Bridge Magazine article, as a force for good. And the article reported on my colleague and friend Hans Voss, who since 2000 has directed the Michigan Land Use Institute, a force behind the region’s greening and local foods campaigns.

What’s significant about these articles is how they consistently identify the activity now occurring in the region’s millennial generation as a consequence of Traverse City’s deepening economic opportunities and the rich quality of life centered around small towns, close communities, and healthy lifestyles.

The latter, of course, is all about our forests, parks, clean water, our scenic and quiet trails and roads. More recently fresh local foods, and the economic and cultural strength that a robust food-producing sector yields, have also figured in the region’s healthy lifestyle.

Continue reading “Traverse City’s Next Generation Brand”