EmpowerU! Advocating Invasive Species Management 

Do you work to combat invasive species in Michigan but feel compelled to do more? Learn how to work with decision makers, influence management decisions and stop the spread of invasive species.


In conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Michigan State University Extension is launching an online course called, “Empower U! Advocating for Invasive Species Management” to move your invasive species work to the next level.  


Woodland and shoreline owners, master volunteers, and natural resources professionals can grow their skills to meaningfully engage decision makers about invasive species. Through the course you will learn how to craft your own argument to persuade decision makers about the importance of invasive species (aquatic and terrestrial) management or removal in your area.  


The course begins on March 2, 2019 and consists of 5 weeks of online sessions (around 1 hour/week), concluding with an in-person workshop on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Okemos (attendance required).


Through this 5-week course, which consists of a series of self-paced online learning activities and one in-person workshop, participants will: 

  • Gain understanding of the roles and levels of government and whom to contact regarding invasive species management.
  • Learn to use skills such as influence, power, persuasion, framing, questioning and listening in interactions with decision makers. 
  • Know where to find reputable information on the status of invasive species in your area.
  • Create an engagement plan and experience practicing it in a safe, peer-learning environment.
  • See yourself as a resource to decision makers on invasive species management.
  • View engagement with decision makers as a norm and encourage others to do it, too.
  • Network with other people passionate to make a difference around invasive species. 


The cost is $30/person and includes access to the online course, handouts and lunch on the 29th.

Click here to register today! Deadline for registration is Friday, March 1st.


Questions? Contact Julie R. Crick, Natural Resources Educator, Michigan State University Extension

(989) 275-7179; crickjul@msu.edu

New Ways to Love Trees, February 23

New Ways to Love Trees

Douglas, Michigan — On Saturday, February 23, Drs. Greg Murray and Kathy Winnett-Murray, professors of biology at Hope College, will talk trees at the Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ. The event is free, open to the public, and runs from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

These zoologist-biologists have been studying trees (and the things that live in them and near them) since they came to Hope College in 1986. As ecologists, they love exploring interactions among creatures in all sorts of environments. Hope students often join them in their research, particularly in Hope’s splendidly forested dune forest preserve, and in Costa Rica, where Greg has studied forest dynamics for 37 years. Greg and Kathy have also led May Terms in Ecuador, the Galapagos, the Sonoran Desert, and Tanzania.

Drs. Greg and Kathy explain, ”Even trees standing outside your window in the dead of winter are providing you with ecological, economic, and health benefits that most folks take for granted.” All while “just standing there.”

During the summer of 2018, the Murrays and an eclectic group of tree-lovers — biology student Katelyn DeWitt, Hope’s sustainability coordinator Michelle Gibbs, partners from the City of Holland, and computer science professor Dr. Mike Jipping and his app-savvy students– found new ways to love trees. They’ll share the story of what they learned together and how they hope it will promote the value of trees to our communities. It’s a story about the benefits of trees now and in the future.

The professors will share several resources for people to take home/link to/download as part of the presentation.

Attendees should feel encouraged to bring their cell phones in case they want to try out some of the apps presented during the talk.

The presentation is free to the pubic, light refreshments will be served.

This talk is part of the education series conducted by Douglas UCC’s Creation Justice Team. To follow the series and the work of the team online, visit https://ducccreationjusticeteam.blog/.

Michigan’s 2019-2022 Environmental Road Map


Are you looking for ways to advocate for our environment with local and state legislators? Well, here you go.

The link above takes you to the road map developed by Michigan’s League of Conservation Voters along with more than 20 other environmental organizations across the state. It’s a good read. The top priorities for the first term:

*Shut down the dangerous Line 5 pipeline.
*Establish a PFAS drinking water standard so we can protect communities and ensure clean drinking water for all.
*Remove barriers to clean, renewable ‘energy like wind and solar.

But there’s much more. Follow the link!

Tomorrow – New Ways to Love a Tree

Hi folks. We are hoping to entice Dr. Winnett-Murray and Dr. Murray to come to Douglas to teach us about our trees and all the way they contribute to our neighborhoods and waterways. But these two and their expertise are available RIGHT NOW, or at least tomorrow, in Holland. Here’s the scoop. Stay tuned on more opportunities to catch up with them and their programs:


Saturday, January 26

Haworth Inn and Conference Center
225 College Avenue, Holland, MI 49423

This event is open to the general public and is sponsored by Public Affairs and Marketing.

Admission to the seminars is free. Lunch is $13. For additional information please contact: Lynne Powe (616) 395-7860 or powe@hope.edu

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Registration: Haworth Inn and Conference Center, 225 College Ave.
All seminars will be held at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center

9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

New Ways to Love a Tree – Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray and Dr. K. Greg Murray
Ballrooms 1 and 2, Haworth Inn and Conference Center​​​​​​​

It may be the dead of winter, but the tree outside your window is very much alive, providing you with ecological, economic and health benefits that most folks take for granted. All while “just standing there.” During the summer of 2018, the Murrays and an eclectic group of tree-lovers — biology student Katelyn DeWitt, Hope’s sustainability coordinator Michelle Gibbs, partners from the City of Holland, and computer science professor Mike Jipping and his app-savvy students — found new ways to love trees. They’ll share the story of what they invented and how they hope it will promote the value of trees to the communities of Holland and Hope College. It’s a story about the benefits of trees now and in the future.

Drs. Greg Murray and Kathy Winnett-Murray, professors of biology, have been studying trees (and the things that live in them and near them) since they came to Hope in 1986. As ecologists, they love exploring interactions among creatures in all sorts of environments. Hope students often join them in their research, particularly in Hope’s splendidly forested dune forest preserve, and in Costa Rica, where Greg has studied forest dynamics for 37 years. Greg and Kathy have also led May Terms in Ecuador, the Galapagos, the Sonoran Desert and Tanzania.

Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute


Each of us has a role to play in protecting Michigan’s magnificent lakes and streams. Are you ready to play your part?  If so, the Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute is looking for you!  We invite you to apply for the Class of 2019. Community members, professionals, and undergraduate and graduate students are all welcome.
As an Institute participant, you will increase your understanding of lake and stream science and management, and learn leadership skills necessary to work through the sometimes challenging issues surrounding lake and stream protection, all through interactive, hands-on experiences with expert instructors and peers:
— Study fish, insects, and habitat in Michigan lakes and rivers
— Develop conflict management and communication skills
— Discover new resources and partnership opportunities
— Explore Michigan water law, regulations, and programs
— Apply your new knowledge and skills in an independent project
The Institute employs a combination of classroom activities, field experiences, and independent work over three sessions: May 31-June 1 at the Kettunen Center near Cadillac, July 26-27 at the Kellogg Biological Station near Kalamazoo, and October 18 at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Instructors are leaders and experts in their fields including university faculty, agency professionals, and leaders of non-profit organizations. The Institute is a partnership program offered by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations, Inc., the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
The application deadline is March 31, 2019. Class size is limited to approximately 20 participants. Tuition for the 2019 Institute is $400, and includes all materials, meals, field trips, equipment, and overnight lodging. Limited scholarships are available.
For application forms and more information about the 2019 Institute, visit http://bit.ly/MSU-LSLI.
You can also contact Institute Director Dr. Jo Latimore at latimor1@msu.edu or 517-432-1491.

CJT’s Sarah, Intro to Mountain Sunday

Sarah’s soaring intro to Mountain Sunday, for the last of three services in our Creation Justice season. Enjoy:

Essay about Mountains — by Sarah Swift –9/23/18

At the August meeting of the creation justice team we had a lot to cover  — September is Creation Justice month ….- cleaning beaches and highways and launching our community wide book read.

There was a smaller item on the agenda – we were asked to raise our hand if we were willing to do a reading on either Planet Earth, the Skies, or the Mountains.  I raised my hand – and was assigned Mountains. I had expected that when the time came I would be handed something to read. I was wrong about the ‘hand me something to read part.’  

Before I start talking about  mountains, let me first say that mountains have not been a significant part of my life.  Raised in very flat central Michigan, the first “mountain” I ascended was Sugarloaf, as in that little bump of a hill that was a ski “mountain” — for a brief while.

In my twenties, living in Boston I was introduced to the “real mountains.”   One fall day I climbed my way to the top of Mt. Washington, the largest mountain east of the Mississippi.  Beginning in autumn forests and passing through a minor snowstorm to reach the summit. It was beautiful and exhilarating and breathtaking – literally.  This was the beginning and end of my exploration of mountains.

The Creation Justice committee is focused on the environmental issues that surround and impact us. We respond by becoming educated and then proactive with regard to that we can protect, recover, improve and sustain.  Water, air, animals, nature — things that are integral to nature and our lives.

The question then is how do mountains fit within the realm of  Creation Justice?

A very long time ago Mountains began rising up from the center of the earth.  The oldest mountain range on the planet, the Barberton Greenstone Belt is in south Africa and is 3.6 billion years old. NIcknamed  “The Genesis of Life,” the geological components of these mountains provided information to geologists that allowed the scientists to estimate the ages and origins of all  other mountains in the world.

On a human and more personal level, we describe mountains as  majestic, magnificent, peaceful and powerful. They are described as:  awe-inspiring, grande, godly, imposing, beckoning, inspirational, dangerous, unpredictable.

We are drawn to their vistas and views.  We see them as a backdrop that will never change.  And yet we also know they can launch into motion without warning — an earthquake, an erupting volcano, a severe weather event:  all have triggered instant chaos, destruction and death.

In religious and spiritual realms mountains have always had meaning: – either as gods, or tools of gods, or as the settings for the greatest stories — of conflicts, revelations, sacrifices, inspirations and miracles.  

So is there any threat from mankind to mountains that are, in human terms, eternal?  Yes — the most significant threat is from mining. Strip mining in particular – which is happening in 24 states currently with no sign of stopping.  High value minerals, metals and fossil fuels can only be extracted by mining. If a mountain either contains or sits upon one of these compounds then they are a target for devastation.  

Strip mining is desecrating mountains in the southern Appalachians – only 9 hours from here. Mountaintops are being stripped bare of everything green and living to extract coal. More than 470 mountaintops have already been sheared off — leaving behind debris including trees and coal dust that are   contaminating rivers and streams. This particular mountain range is 1.2 billion years old. Man dates back only 200 thousand years, and in a fraction of that time found a way to exploit these mountains.

But there is hope for the mountains.   In a world where power is the end-game for countries, corporations, political leaders and even single individuals, the power of the mountains are still greater. They rise and fall and shift and settle, and may even sink beneath the oceans but they do not disappear. They are from the earth and of the earth and as long as there is earth there will be mountains.

I will end with a writing that underscores how mountains sustain themselves —

This is a passage written by John Muir- mountain man, journalist, scientist, explorer.  He was the force behind the bill to set aside Yosemite as a national park – inspiring the later formation of the national park system.  He was also the founder of the Sierra club, an environmental and political force still very active today.

In March of 1872, Muir was camping in valley in Yosemite near a mountain wall he had been studying for months.  At 2:00 am he was was awakened by an earthquake. The earth turned to jelly, the mountain roared and then a massive slice of the mountain wall he had been researching collapsed into the valley.  When it all finally stopped and grew quiet he wrote this:

“Nature, usually so deliberate in her operations, then created a new set of features simply  by giving the mountains a shake – changing not only the high peaks and cliffs, but the streams.  

As soon as the rock avalanches fell the streams began to sing new songs; for in many places thousands of boulders were hurled into their channels roughening and half damaging them, compelling the waters to surge and roar in rapids that changed to meadows, through which the streams are now silently meandering…Thus rough places were made smooth, and smooth places rough.  But on the whole, by what at first seemed pure confusion and ruin, the landscapes were enriched…..In this work of beauty every boulder is prepared and measured and put in its place more thoughtfully than are the stones of temples.”

Muir went on to conclude that this was a “Fine lesson; and all of Natures wildness tells the same story – the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring, thundering waves and floods, the silent uprush of sap in plants, storms of every sort – each and all are the orderly beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart.

CJT Randall’s Intro to Sky Sunday

Randall gave this glorious intro to Sky Sunday, part of our three-week Creation Justice Season at the DUCC. Enjoy:

Good morning. I’m Randall Braaksma, and I’m part of the Creation Justice group at Douglas UCC, and I’m here to talk to you about the sky. Perhaps you’ve worn one of these [face mask respirator] when you were doing some dirty, dusty work around the house or on job site. But many people wear these every day just to breathe a little easier.

I lived for several years in Beijing, China, and this was not a fashion accessory, it was often a necessity. I remember the day Beijing’s normally smoggy skies went clear blue on a crisp December day. We were all amazed until we remembered that the Olympic Committee was visiting to review Beijing’s bid to host the Games.

The city government of Beijing had the power and control to make its citizens stop polluting in order to make a good impression. But just for a while. The smog began descending almost as soon as the Olympic Committee’s plane took off.

Air pollution continues to be a big problem in places like Beijing, Dehli, and Manilla. And it’s causing damaging health effects for millions around the world. Today, about 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide. And more than 80 percent of asthma deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries. Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that 3.7 million people die each year due to air pollution.

Statistics like that certainly make this a justice issue. So, what can we do about it?

Pastor Sal has often exhorted us to speak truth to power. And Lord knows there are plenty of opportunities for us to do that. Just a few weeks ago, the E.P.A. announced it’s looking at letting coal plants that are nearing retirement keep on working, or should I say polluting, with a refurbishment that DOES NOT include adding pollution controls. And just this week, the administration said it plans to roll back rules covering methane leaks and the “flaring,” or burning, of potent greenhouse gas by energy companies. This while U.N. General Secretary António Guterres called climate change the defining issue of our time and said, (quote) “the time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands.”

Clean air is a basic human right. When it’s in danger, we must fight this injustice. We can take that fight to the national and international levels. We can take it to our individual lives, too. Last week, Pastor Sal talked about the need to become aware that Christ is in us and in everything, including, or should I say especially, the air we breathe. The challenge is to ask ourselves is, How can I be more aware so that the decisions I make every day do the sky good and not harm?

–Randall Braaksma

CJT Eric’s Planet Earth Sunday Introduction

Did you miss this? I hope not. Eric’s lovely introduction to Planet Earth Sunday at DUCC.

“Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

This all too familiar passage from Genesis is in some ways at the root of our modern-day environmental crisis.  In particular, the word “dominion” has become somewhat problematic. Webster’s dictionary defines dominion as “supreme authority” or “absolute control”.  At this point in our history and culture, we have taken this charge quite literally, plundering the earth for its resources as if we are the “supreme authority”, and as a result, we are putting our own existence in peril. Something about our approach is not right.

If we could somehow see our actions outside of our own culture and context, perhaps we might understand our responsibility differently. Indigenous cultures throughout the world, those who have held on to primal teachings, have something to teach us.  Native American cultures don’t share our story of dominion or even the language of stewardship – their story is of relationship with the Earth.  In language and in practice, these cultures model more closely our own biblical example that God set forth in Genesis – Creator in loving relationship with Creation.  Right stewardship flows from a loving relationship. And it is by remembering and rediscovering this love that we will find our way forward.

Today, on this first Sunday of Creation Season, we begin by celebrating “Planet Earth”.  We open ourselves to learn from lava and trees, soil and water, moths and ravens, and all that our planet has to show us.  We seek to learn the language of seasons and cycles, which makes us more attuned to the underlying rhythms of life, We hope to show the type of compassion that extends beyond all borders, beyond our species, to “all the ends of the earth” –  compassion from a “God’s-eye view”.  And we pray that this compassion results in action and justice for our common home, planet Earth. Please join me in our unison prayer.

–Eric LeJeune, Creation Justice Team, DUCC