Mike’s Letters to the Editors
Mike was a dedicated environmentalist and a civic-minded, compassionate citizen. He believed that the path to solutions to some of our most difficult problems – like climate change and racial inequality – could be paved through individual action. He knew that his voice and his actions were part of a collective movement, where each of us does our part – as advocates for policy changes or through modifications to our individual behaviors. He was excited by the younger generations’ participation in environmental activism, and was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The movements that Mike cared deeply about will live on, but as Martin Luther King Jr. – one of Mike’s heroes – once said:
“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”
Below are Mike’s letters to the editors of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Capitol Times over the past 20 years. They are only a fraction of his life’s work, but they show that Mike truly embodied that spirit.
Feb 5, 2020
Dear Editor: It’s no surprise to anyone who has been keeping informed with what has been reported on the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that disasters caused by weather and climate change in the last decade exceeded $1 billion. The costs on people and their health are probably much higher and more devastating but are more difficult assess. But really, the most important thing everyone needs to realize is that these losses are only a small taste of what is likely to be coming, given the very real fact that Americans, and practically everyone else with money, are still practicing “business as usual.” By doing so, they’re adding more and more volumes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, mostly from their burning of fossil fuels in cars, going on long distance vacations and conventions, and using lots of fossil fuel burning devised electricity.The effects of past emissions have yet to be fully experienced due to the latency effect of adding residuals from fossil fuel burning to the atmosphere. The public ought be forewarned that the cause and effect of doing things to our environment are seldom immediate. The effects come long after the causes occur.The global warming deniers are wrong, plain and simple, callously wrong. They need to be ignored to avoid being dangerous.The only thing certain about “the new normal” in our climate is that things will continue to warm up — even if we completely stopped burning fossil fuels right today. But stop we must do, as Greta Thunberg realizes, before things get totally messed up beyond livability for those who will outlive us.
Apr 5, 2019
There were two scientific reports published in the mainstream media last week — one reported in The New York Times about the havoc caused by a rise in the number and severity of heat waves occurring in the oceans on marine life and coral reefs, the other about the lack of timely notice of precautions to take given to people living in the northern parts of the continental United States last summer that resulted in unnecessary hospitalizations.I’m especially concerned about the health and quality of life children who will grow into adulthood in the coming years. How will they perceive of nature? With rising seas, more powerful weather extremes and less security in the world, it seems much more likely they will have to learn to live in fear of the next climate change calamity.People will look back at these times in the history of our civilization and undoubtedly question our motives. The TV media and its constant stream of high-powered, fossil fuel-burning auto advertisements and the number of people who step onboard jets that emit more greenhouse gases than non-flyers emit in a year are mind-boggling!By the time our government acts in the best interest of one people, one planet and one future — by paying money to individuals and families who minimize their annual greenhouse gas emissions and replacing pavement with green space — we can only hope it will still be possible to reverse this suicide course we are all on.
Aug 22, 2017
It seemed absurd that our Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker would commit public funds to help build a new arena for the privately-owned Milwaukee Bucks franchise, but the $3 billion Foxconn “deal” really takes the cake.We ought to insist that lawmakers responsibly address the many more pressing — and ultimately life-threatening — needs that Wisconsin’s people will face in the next 25 years. These include mitigating and adapting to a much more erratic and damaging climate, which we are now, unfortunately, beginning to experience.The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau says it will take 25 years for Wisconsin to recoup its investment. But if our state continues its failure to come to grips with the reality of climate change, it will be many more billions of dollars in debt in 2042 and its people will suffer much more significant and higher losses in the future.
Jul 14, 2016
Dear Editor: I was pleased to read Steven Elbow’s report on the future of biking discussin at the High Noon Saloon earlier this month. I commend and support the panel members who are working to encourage more people-powered transportation in Madison that doesn’t add to now well-established global warming reality we are leaving future generations.I believe Bike Fed executive director Dave Cieslewicz was on the right track when he said, “Pay people a few cents a mile to ride a bike” (as an alternative to driving a fossil-fuel-burning motor vehicle that adds more wear and tear on the streets, requires parking, causes more air pollution, etc.).I personally believe it would be more appropriate for our state government to pay conservation benefits to Wisconsin residents who minimize their annual driving mileage or don’t drive at all. Automobile insurance companies have been rewarding their customers who record “low mileage” on their vehicle with lower premium rates for decades. Unfortunately, the state refused to consider this alternative to massive highway expansions years ago by omitting it as viable alternative to investigate in its transportation planning.I maintain we would be seeing many more bicyclists and fewer motor vehicle on our roads in Madison had the road-building industry and the policy-makers they influenced not rejected the idea back in 1999-2000.
February 5, 2016
The whole idea of the city of Madison demanding that the Municipal Building be replaced by a hotel having a minimum of 250 rooms for the convention center is asinine.By the time the hotel is built and ready for business, it would be in our own best interest that it remain unused. It will be better for all, particularly future generations, if fewer people board planes and fly hundreds and thousands of miles to conventions. That sort of travel pollutes the atmosphere with additional greenhouse gases emitted from jet fuel combustion, warming our lands and oceans, eventually to the point of no return.The city should put another halt on this project. Build something more sustainable for our city, please.
Jan 9, 2015
The article in Monday’s State Journal “Budget deficit among obstacles” listed the major issues facing the Wisconsin Legislature this session. But it missed what is arguably the most urgent threat facing Wisconsin: human-caused global warming and the notable changes to the climate, oceans and agriculture.Our political representatives swear to protect the state of Wisconsin and its people from serious threats such as the harm that will be caused by global warming. Yet we need politicians in this state with the guts to push legislation that requires action to address this problem.Gov. Scott Walker stated: “We’ve shown why the founders of this great nation look to the states and not the federal government as the source of hope for this exceptional country.” But there is little hope that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced quickly enough to avoid catastrophe.I and many others over the years have written countless letters to the State Journal as well as to our representatives in government pleading that they take actions before it’s “too late.” We need to do more than “hope.” We need to act, without anymore delay.
Dec 26, 2014
When is it ethical or morally justified for a government body to insert itselves between a family and its employer? Would the interests of an out-of-state third party make it justified?Wisconsin ranks 23rd in average income in the United States. Who decides if this is too high or too low? Alabama is in last place at an average about $6,000 less than Wisconsin. Wisconsin ranks 12th highest for taxes. Wisconsin has a much higher percent of college graduates in the work force.Is that an important part of the mix? Maybe unions are not our problem. It is too many college graduates.Our governor always says he does not care about the minimum wage, but apparently he does care about us citizens making too much money. Maybe he could provide us a chart showing what each of us should make. That would be helpful to all.There should be a required ethical review of all laws passed in the state. Then I would not have to drive 100 miles so my 91-year-old mother can vote.
Oct 28, 2014
Dear Editor: I was pleased to read the CT’s recommendation for Wisconsin voters to vote “no” on the proposed transportation amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution. I hope other Wisconsinites follow suit. Amending our constitution to mandate that all our state’s motor vehicle fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees go exclusively to transportation is not only a goofy and idiotic idea, it is built on the false assumption that users of the highways and bridges of the state have somehow paid their own way when the opposite is true.Supporters of this referendum ought realize that the highway and bridge system that has been built upon Wisconsin’s landscape with transportation-generated dollars also costs us dearly every year in terms of the loss of farmland, wetlands, grasslands and other wildlife habitat that has been covered over with cement. Moreover, the continued overuse of this system by too much motor vehicle driving, annually, has added billions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which accumulates from year to year.Not only should the state be working harder and faster on reducing its emissions (by reducing driving), it should also be able to use the transportation fund to offer financial incentives to the public to drive less or not at all. In fact, the way things are going with the climate and other environmental bads from transportation, it is only prudent that Wisconsin put a moratorium on expanding the highway system beyond its present capacity. Invest in transit and nonmotorized transportation, yes. But there is already too much unpaid-for damage from personal motor vehicle use in the state. The push for expanding the highway and bridge capacity by amending the constitution is ill-founded and should be turned back.
Aug 17, 2014
We definitely need leaders in Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin willing to make the tough decisions regarding America’s future transportation needs. They ought to agree on how best to raise the funds for resurfacing and rehabilitation of the highway system and bridgesBut rebuilding the highways and bridges should be restricted to the number of vehicles the current highways and bridges were designed for.There ought to be a nationwide moratorium on converting green space to highway pavement. There is the loss of carbon dioxide-consuming vegetation when green space is converted to materials of cement. Also, cement manufacturing and spreading requires that fossil fuels be burned, adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.Every gallon of gasoline burned in a motor vehicle emits pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it can remain for a century, adding heat to our air and waters below. The condition of the highway system may turn out to be the least of their worries.
Jun 13, 2014
I can’t say I enjoyed reading Leonard Pitts Jr.’s Monday column “GOP pleads ignorance” about human-caused global warming. Some might say ignorance is bliss, so they’d rather not hear the facts about global warming.I agree you don’t need to be an expert to accept the scientific reality of global warming caused by too much residual gases from human activities accumulating in the atmosphere. This increases the atmosphere’s heat-trapping ability, creating a warmer planet.Just like you don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to know the United States and the USSR could have destroyed the planet had nuclear war broken out in the 1960s.Pleading ignorance would not have been a good tactic back then, either. Fortunately, our leaders took appropriate actions over the next decades to reduce the nuclear stockpiles. Time for taking meaningful actions to slow global warming is running out. Worldwide changes are needed. The United States needs to do the right thing.
Mar 9, 2014
It does not bode well for the future of farming in Wisconsin and elsewhere if the world continues to fail at drastically reducing energy consumption from fossil fuel burning. This includes fossil fuel use in power plants, motor vehicles, ships, jets and frivolous ATVs and motor boats.The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts increasing global average temperatures in the range of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The panel also predicts longer periods of drought in summer and heavier precipitation in fall, winter and spring in the Midwest by 2050, and even higher temperatures and more extreme weather later in the century.None of that will be good for farming or for anything else in Wisconsin in the future.Now — not in five, 10 or 20 years — is the time to make some meaningful changes in the way we do business and live our lives. For more information: http://bit.ly/1ijkFej.
Jan 26, 2014
While I don’t like paying property and income taxes any more than the next guy, I’d still rather see the surplus be put to better use as an incentive for folks who pollute less.Reward those who drive fewer or no miles on our highways, who don’t fly the increasingly unfriendly skies and who use less electricity and heat derived from fossil fuel. Maybe we won’t need those extra lanes added to the Beltline after all.A program that would provide this can be found at www.allthingsenvironmental.wordpress.com. It would still be good for business, especially those easy to reach by walking, bike or transit.
Sep 7, 2013
I believe strongly that the best option for the use of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant property should be a plan that emphasizes conservation, education and in particular, the importance of participating in nonmotorized recreational pursuits.In fact, it seems ludicrous to me that our state of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is even considering using this land for an all-terrain motorized vehicle track. This kind of use only encourages more frivolous burning of fossil fuels and thus more needless emissions of greenhouse gases, the latter of which have built up in the atmosphere to levels now considered dangerous to humanity.
Aug 2, 2013
I do not support using any federal dollars to staff federal aircraft controllers at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture fly-in at Oshkosh.If this event has to be held at all, participants, spectators and owners should pay air controller fees. The fact the Federal Aviation Administration has supported this event for years is no reason for continuing to do so.Furthermore, this event is responsible for tons of greenhouse gases emitted from the approximately 10,000 airplanes burning fossil fuels to get to and from Oshkosh each year and from the vehicles traveling there from all over the nation.According to the Environmental Protection Agency, average global temperatures could increase up to about 11 degrees by 2100 due to greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere, much of which is due to jet travel that burns fossil fuels.We must begin to slow global warming now, because the effects are compounding. As global warming advances, the poor will likely suffer the most, even though they contribute the least to the problem.
Jul 12, 2013
It’s difficult to fathom that $175 million of the public’s money is needed just for the first two phases of the Verona Road project, as reported in the State Journal on June 29.The fact that much of the borrowing for the complete project will have to paid by future generations is even more distressing.According to the organization 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, our younger generations are driving less than our generation did, which makes their having to pay for the expanded freeway even less fair, and therefore even less necessary.We all need to try harder to drive less, fly less and use less energy in our homes and businesses, and to engage less in other activities that result in greenhouse gases being released to the atmosphere. We must try to make sure we leave a hospitable planet for succeeding generations.
May 19, 2013
I have reservations about this federally funded university study on the dairy industry reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.Industries knew the importance of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President George H. W. Bush signed an agreement at the summit.Besides being too little in the fight against global warming, UW-Madison’s research grant seems too late.Unfortunately for us, few U.S. industries took the threat of climate change seriously enough to begin researching ways to reduce emissions 20 years ago.Now that we are beginning to experience effects of the increasingly warmer atmosphere — rising sea levels, higher temperatures, melting polar ice caps — the Department of Agriculture finally decides it’s time to fund research into reducing dairy’s contribution to the “problem” (catastrophe) of global warming.Who should fund the studies? Global warming scientists have pinpointed the majority of this problem to fossil fuel burning. That industry should be tapped to fund the lion’s share of funding, not the American taxpayers.
May 15, 2011
I see in the paper that there is a rush to get the voter ID law into effect. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I only hope that the administration again makes missteps that slows it down.Voting is not like buying a case of beer for which you need an ID. Voting is a civic responsibility, so government must do all it can to accommodate individuals who want to exercise this right and responsibility. Otherwise election results will be forever suspect.If the law passes, the government will have to go to great lengths to be sure all who want to vote are accommodated. This could mean weekend and evening hours at court houses and DMV offices for all who need their “papers” ready for the recall elections.It would be more fair to roll this out over six months so everyone knows the law and can comply. It will take time to honor large numbers of birth certificate requests.There has never been a significant voter identity theft issue in the state’s history, but recently there was an article about a DMV employee who was arrested for issuing fake drivers licences, so this law does not guarantee “clean” elections.I will give this law a thumbs up the day Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen actually finds one situation where this ID would help.
Dec 21, 2009
If Wisconsin were really serious about seeing to the reduction of greenhouse gases emitted here, it would offer financial incentives to encourage citizens to use less fossil fuel energy in their homes and burn less gasoline by using more fuel-efficient vehicles and driving fewer miles on public roads.
Sep 9, 2007
The Enbridge Energy pipeline that you reported on last week is a much more environmentally significant project than our state and federal agencies would care to admit.First, increased tar sands extraction and processing that will take place in Alberta, Canada, will require huge quantities of natural gas. When burned, that will produce large volumes of carbon dioxide, an atmospheric greenhouse gas, the growing volume of which is believed to be causing global warming.Second, the pumping of the additional 400,000 barrels of crude oil for thousands of miles from Alberta through Wisconsin to Chicagoand south, commands vast amounts of electricity, much of which is obtained by burning coal, producing more carbon dioxide. Additional energy is also needed to refine the crude oil into fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation fuel. When burned, these will cause even higher rates of global warming and increased volumes of particulates and other pollutants in our atmosphere.Nevertheless, officials at the Wisconsin DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded last fall, over the objections of Wisconsin’s leading environmental advocacy organizations, that the project has “no major and significant impacts on the environment” and that preparation of an environmental impact statement and additional public input was unnecessary. It beats me how they could come to that conclusion.
Mar 9, 2007
I found little in your Feb. 25 editorial, “Respond to global warming,” to agree with.I don’t agree with Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposal to offer millions of dollars in grants and loans for renewable energy projects, or his plan to offer $2 million in tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel pumps.I would have preferred to see more of our tax money offered back to us in the form of rebates for conserving energy and for minimizing the amount of fossil fuels we burn.Madisonians can fight global warming by driving less, using mass transit and flying less. Maybe someone should tell Doyle that before he sets out on his trade mission to Japan and China.Global warming can also be slowed by using less electricity and natural gas, and by burning less wood, gasoline and propane, because it is primarily the act of combustion that releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.But having our president join with the rest of the developed countries in endorsing the Kyoto Protocol may have convinced the rest of the world to join in reducing greenhouse gas emissions the last several years, rather than increasing them.
Jan 11, 2007
I would like to believe that the headline of Brett Husley’s Sunday guest column was true, that Wisconsin is “making progress on global warming.” Unfortunately, a report published last month by the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of Energy “2006 Wisconsin Energy Statistics” shows no progress.The report shows Wisconsin’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burning increased more than 20 percent from 1990 to 2004, resulting in millions more tons of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. I wouldn’t call that progress.Transportation continues to be the largest user of energy in Wisconsin. Too much motor vehicle driving and flying by too many people is at the core of the transportation emissions problem. Yet our representatives in government continue to spend billions to expand the capacity of Wisconsin’s highway system to accommodate more vehicle driving, rather than investing more tax revenues in mass transit and providing financial incentives for Wisconsinites to drive less.Another major source of greenhouse gas emissions from Wisconsin comes from burning coal and natural gas in electricity-generating power plants. Yet many electricity companies operating in Wisconsin continue to burn coal and plan to build even more coal-fired power plants. We are not contributing to any progress in fighting global warming in Wisconsin — not yet anyway.
Aug 8, 2006
Why all the kudos to the Wisconsin Legislature for passing a state energy bill that does little more than preserve the status quo of fossil fuel burning for the next 10 years?The energy bill doesn’t address petroleum energy and motorized transportation, nuclear energy or conservation to any significant degree, and it ignores global warming. Requiring that 10 percent of Wisconsin’s utility energy come from renewable sources after 2015 lets Wisconsin’s power companies off way too easy.Wisconsin needs a comprehensive state policy that addresses the state’s contribution to greenhouse gases and the change in our climate that will inevitably result.
May 4, 2006
It’s terrible to see anyone in a position of authority putting a muzzle on another person for expressing their concerns about societal issues. It’s an abuse of authority, but it happens all the time. The abusers see themselves as having an absolute control over others since they control the purse strings. It’s a big ego trip for them. Society is worse off because of it.
Nov 23, 2005
I remain unconvinced on the wisdom of the ethanol mandate, despite reading your well-researched editorial supporting more ethanol production.I don’t favor our country being dependent on other countries for vehicle fuel, nor do I want to see our state’s farmers struggle financially because of low corn prices. It’s just that if you burn 10 gallons of oil to produce 12 to 16 gallons of ethanol, that would mean a total of 22 to 26 gallons of fuel would be burned. That seems like too much, especially when multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel that gets burned every day in Wisconsin.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted to the atmosphere for every gallon of fuel that gets burned in motor vehicles, give or take a little depending on the type of fuel. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has a lifetime of over 100 years in the atmosphere. It boggles the mind to think of all the tons of greenhouse gases we are all adding to the atmosphere every day now.I’d rather see us buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and drive fewer miles every week than see our state Legislature pass a law that results in significantly more fuel burning just to produce more fuel for burning in motorized travel.
Jun 16, 2005
I believe the Smart Growth law was one action Wisconsin has taken recently that was helpful in the fight against global warming and air pollution. It should have been retained.One of the primary purposes of the law was to address issues related to inefficient transportation and urban sprawl development. Poor development siting puts burdens on Wisconsin’s transportation system, not just in terms of highway development and maintenance but also from vehicle emissions.Being exposed to too many motor vehicle emissions is not good for human health for other reasons besides high ozone levels. Scientific journals are filled with studies that demonstrate living close to heavily traveled highways is directly linked with a higher incidence of respiratory illness, cancer, stroke and heart attack in the population.Smart Growth planning is good because it results in sustainable and healthy development that requires less motor fuel burning and less driving because it reduces sprawl. This amounts to less pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions in a region, in addition to reduced demands for costly and land consuming highway expansion.