Approximately 15 professors and environmental leaders attended a discussion on environmental sustainability last Friday,. The event was organized by Chris Mayda, associate professor of geography at Eastern Michigan University.
This was the first of three such talks; subsequent discussions to be held will cover the ecological and social aspects of environmentally sustainable practices.
The discussion leader was Janet Kauffman, a former EMU professor. Kauffman is a member of a group opposed to intensive animal farming practices, also called confined animal feeding operations.
In the last 10 years, 12 such intensive animal farming operations have been started in the southern Michigan area.
Each one has from 700 to 5,000 cows, with each cow producing up to 200 times the amount of solid waste an average human would each year. The water used to clean the feces-covered floors is poorly contained – it often seeps through the soil into the underground water table, or runs off into bodies of water.
Cows, being ruminant animals, belch and break wind constantly. Huge volumes of greenhouse gasses are generated by their digestive processes alone.
The process of pumping discharge in a manner that would allow it to reach any body of water is illegal.
Each farm is warned only once if surrounding groundwater tests positive for fecal flora. They can be prosecuted under the Michigan Clean Water Act for subsequent offenses – some operations are already on their fourth lawsuit.
It was recommended during the discussion that people patronize the Ypsilanti Food Co-op, a cooperatively operated grocery store on River Street in Depot Town. The store only takes goods from local farms, and personally verifies animals and their waste are handled properly.