Lester Graham

Lester Graham is with Michigan Watch, the investigative unit of Michigan Radio. 

He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report/Great Lakes Radio Consortium, the environmental news service based at Michigan Radio, starting with the service in 1998. 

He has been a journalist since 1985.  Graham has served as a board member of Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association(RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups. 

Graham received more than 100 awards at the state, regional, national and international levels for journalistic excellence, including four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

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email:  llgraham@umich.edu

We know that burning fossil fuels releases a lot of greenhouse gases. But there are other human-caused sources that contribute to climate change. As Lester Graham with the Environment Report found, one of them is how farmers plant crops.

A half-century ago, within the span of two years, three of America’s rivers caught fire. One of them was in Michigan. Those fires ignited the environmental movement. 

On this date, October 9th, 50 years ago, the Rouge River caught fire. 

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

Researchers are finding some of the chemicals used in pavement and driveway sealants are making their way into the environment. That could be putting the health of people and aquatic life at risk.

These chemicals are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. They’re commonly found in low levels just about anywhere something is burned. But, the levels of PAHs are much, much higher in certain pavement sealing products, coal tar based sealants.

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

The state has finished testing all the public water systems in Michigan for PFAS chemicals. Of more than a thousand municipal systems, 119 are contaminated by PFAS. 

A lot of people assume a healthy diet is also good for the environment. A recently published study lends some credence to that conventional wisdom.

Soon, you’ll start seeing your energy bills start to rise each month because of the cold weather. That’s never fun. But, you might be paying a lot more than necessary to heat your home. We decided to look into whether a new efficient furnace adds up to much in the way of energy savings.

The elk is an important Michigan symbol. It’s even on our state flag. But have you ever seen an elk in the wild in Michigan?  Did you even know there are elk in Michigan?

Wind energy became popular because it can reduce the need for polluting coal and gas generated electricity. But, things are shifting now.

“The primary driver is economics,” said Stanley “Skip” Pruss with Five Lakes Energy, a consulting firm on sustainable energy.

New tariffs are putting some Michigan newspapers and printers at risk of going out of business.

There’s more than a little irony in the fact that a state which built paper mills all over, no longer makes the kind of paper that newspapers use.

How can cities reduce flooding caused by increasingly intense rain storms?

More often, it's flooding in areas not known for a lot of flooding in the past. That happened in Detroit in 2014. It caught everyone by surprise as interstates and neighborhoods were suddenly under water.

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

Beaches along Lake Michigan are closed when E. coli bacteria gets too high. But a nasty critter found on the bottom of the lake might help keep the beaches open.

New laws signed by Governor Rick Snyder last Friday set up commissions to oversee the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Environmentalists say those commissions will be stacked with business and industry people and give them more influence in the environmental rulemaking process.

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

With less than three months until its Lansing convention, the two Republican candidates for Michigan attorney general are pitching their message to a small, impassioned audience: the estimated 2,000 delegates who will choose between House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

Detroit residents will soon vote for mayor, city council, and other offices. What do they want for the future of the city? The MorningSide neighborhood reflects the rest of the city well. So, how well do the priorities of the residents align with the candidates vying to represent them on city council?

Actually, they align surprisingly well. We talked with a dozen residents of MorningSide. One of their top concerns was abandoned houses.

Detroit’s reputation as a high crime city has not gone away, but its crime rate is down substantially. It’s been falling since the 1980s. But there are areas of the city that are not as safe as others.

Detroit Neighborhood Police Officer (NPO) DeAndre Gaines at the Department’s Fifth Precinct picked me up for a ride-along in his patrol car. We headed to the MorningSide neighborhood on the city’s east side.

Scott Smith Pipe Organs in Lansing repairs, restores, installs, and builds pipe organs. However, Scott Smith says his profession causes confusion for some people, such as a guy he was talking to at a party.

The Cheers! crew is always looking for new Michigan products for cocktails and other drinks. Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings hunts high and low.

“This is one of the most unique products I’ve come across recently,” she said. “It’s a Michigan-made sweet vermouth,” she explained, holding up the Brengman Brothers Piccolo Dito Vermouth. Brengman Brothers is based at the Crain Hill Vineyard near Traverse City.

The U.S. Department of Education says kids at schools with mostly black or Latino students don’t get as good of an education as kids at schools with mostly white students. Generally speaking, their teachers are not as experienced and their buildings are in worse shape.

You can see that in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities.

There was a major Michigan court case that could have ended segregated schools and made it possible for children to have a good education no matter where they lived.

Here's how that court case might have made a difference today.

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