Coming Home to Wild – In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Presents,
Coming Home to Wild
New Works on Extinction and Resilience.

An immersive, intergenerational evening of stories, music, and community, with a light meal.
All ticket income will benefit Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Coming Home to Wild reminds us: we are not the only ones wondering what wholeness feels like as the world burns. Through music, puppet performance, and a light community meal we will strengthen our collective resistance and resilience.

Experience three new puppet works by Julie Boada (Anishinabe), Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra (enrolled Maya-Lenca), and Wild Conspiracy (Elle Thoni and company) who ask: in the face of extinction and climate catastrophe, what do our ancestors have to teach us about resilience? You are invited to join the circle as our ancestors, human and more than human, speak, sing, and soar. Encounter stories of our time that awaken rather than paralyze reminding us of the world as it truly is, in all its beauty and its pain.

Together we will answer the call to come back to the truth of who we are: wild.

Tickets on Sale Now
Sliding scale tickets are offered to everyone, no-questions-asked. “Pay what you can” tickets will be available at the door, pending availability. All tickets include a light meal.

March 21st, 7pm

March 28th, 7pm with ASL Interpretation and post-performance panel discussion

We welcome an intergenerational, multi-cultural audience, reflective of the artists Indigenous, Latinx, and Queer/Trans communities. All are welcome!

100% of ticket income will go to Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to support their organizing efforts to stop the Line 3 pipeline. If you are a white settler, we encourage you to reflect on that identity and give as you are able.

Coming Home to Wild – In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Presents,
Coming Home to Wild
New Works on Extinction and Resilience.

An immersive, intergenerational evening of stories, music, and community, with a light meal.
All ticket income will benefit Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Coming Home to Wild reminds us: we are not the only ones wondering what wholeness feels like as the world burns. Through music, puppet performance, and a light community meal we will strengthen our collective resistance and resilience.

Experience three new puppet works by Julie Boada (Anishinabe), Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra (enrolled Maya-Lenca), and Wild Conspiracy (Elle Thoni and company) who ask: in the face of extinction and climate catastrophe, what do our ancestors have to teach us about resilience? You are invited to join the circle as our ancestors, human and more than human, speak, sing, and soar. Encounter stories of our time that awaken rather than paralyze reminding us of the world as it truly is, in all its beauty and its pain.

Together we will answer the call to come back to the truth of who we are: wild.

Tickets on Sale Now
Sliding scale tickets are offered to everyone, no-questions-asked. “Pay what you can” tickets will be available at the door, pending availability. All tickets include a light meal.

March 21st, 7pm

March 28th, 7pm with ASL Interpretation and post-performance panel discussion

We welcome an intergenerational, multi-cultural audience, reflective of the artists Indigenous, Latinx, and Queer/Trans communities. All are welcome!

100% of ticket income will go to Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to support their organizing efforts to stop the Line 3 pipeline. If you are a white settler, we encourage you to reflect on that identity and give as you are able.

2019 Year in Review: Minnesota’s Arts and Culture Scene


As we flip back in our mental Rolodex to remember the standout cultural and artistic happenings of 2019, we can generally sort the year’s events into three piles: good, bad, and…complicated. With a quick glance at the year’s headlines, things might appear grim: world leaders are running amok, and irreversible climate change is becoming ever-more apparent. But, upon a closer look, there are several silver linings to be found: the first-ever (!) exhibit showcasing Native female artists was displayed at Mia, the youth are stepping up to save the planet, and an unexpected Midwest spice company is at the forefront of the political resistance. And, I feel somewhat obliged to add: Lizzo!

So without further ado, here is the ultimate—but by no means exhaustive—highlight reel of the year in arts and culture, neatly organized into The Good, The Bad, and It’s Complicated.

Hearts of Our People at the Minneapolis Institute of Art // Photo by Tj Turner

Arts & Entertainment

The Good

  • With the exhibit, “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” the Minneapolis Institute of Art introduced the first-ever exhibition of work devoted to Native American and Canadian female artists. Starting in 2015, the museum worked with up to 21 Native and non-Native female scholars and artists to curate the groundbreaking exhibit, which encompassed the work of over 115 artists from 50 Native communities. 
  • Juxtaposition Arts received another big grant of $50,000 from U.S. Bank for its Northside skateable art plaza project in August. The new funding will go toward programming for the skate plaza, which opened in June. 
  • Community members and city leaders broke ground in October on the renovation and 20,000-foot expansion of the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis, where Prince played his first solo show in 1979. The project is just shy of its $13 million fundraising goal, which will ideally transform the theater from the de facto community center it’s been operating as into a full-fledged working theater.
  • A $1.5 million donation to the Minnesota Museum of American Art has allowed the art museum to continue its build-out in the Pioneer Endicott Building. The first phase of the museum’s new home opened in December of last year; the new expansion of the facility is expected to open in 2021. 
  • Minneapolis’ newest music venue, the Live Nation-owned Fillmore Minneapolis, announced its first musical acts for 2020. Brandi Carlile will christen the North Loop stage with a three-night run in February, followed by local pop-punk group Motion City Soundtrack and blues icon Buddy Guy.
  • The Loft Literary Center hosted the inaugural Wordplay Book Festival, bringing literary icons like Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Dave Barry to Minneapolis. The fest kicked off at First Ave with a show from the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of several authors including King, Tan, Barry, and Mitch Albom.
  • It’s the year of Lizzo, baby! The rapper’s 2017 bop “Truth Hurts” re-emerged and is now the longest-running Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 by a solo female rapper—and with that recognition has come several accusations of plagiarism. (Editor’s note: aren’t accusations of plagiarism a definitive sign that you’ve made it as a musician?)

The Bad

  • The Children’s Theatre faced a firestorm of criticism this year after a jury found the theatre negligent, but not liable, for the sexual assault committed by a teacher against a teenage girl in the 1980s—the subsequent decision to go after the victim to recoup the theatre’s legal fees was quickly reversed, complete with an apology video, days later. In total, 17 plaintiffs have settled cases with the theatre, past staff, or both, implicating 20 former CTC staff members in the widespread abuse scandal, which has been masterfully reported in an ongoing series by Marianne Combs of MPR News.
  • The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra was forced to make cuts in its staff and programming, including its contemporary Liquid Music series, due to significant cuts in corporate funding.  
  • Minneapolis-based Zenon Dance was forced to shut down this summer after 36 years. The dance company cited a severe lack of funding for the primary force behind the decision, namely from cuts over the last two years from long-term corporate partners.  

It’s Complicated

  • Radio host Brian Oake left The Current in August—the decision came after an incident at the Palace Theatre, which was followed by an expletive-ridden Facebook rant by Oake. Fans of Oake started a petition to get him back on the air, but he’s since moved on to start his own podcast, tentatively called “The Brian Oake Show.”
  • A judge sided with workers at The Guthrie Theater in a labor dispute, sending a cease-and-desist to the theater to stop all unfair labor practices. The order found that the theater was actively threatening and penalizing workers who took part in union-protected activities.

Sunset in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness // Photo by Tony Saunders

Science and Environment

The Good

  • 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took the U.S. by storm (or rather, by solar-powered ship), when she made a 15-day carbon-neutral voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in August, docking in New York City. She then addressed the UN Climate Action Summit, delivering a speech shaming world leaders for their inaction in fighting climate change, before heading to Standing Rock in October in support of the tribes continuing to protest oil pipelines.
  • SpaceX’s capsule successfully completed its journey and attached to the International Space Station 27 hours after blasting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew-less test flight was designed to show the commercial spacecraft’s ability to safely transport astronauts into orbit. 
  • Counties in northwestern Minnesota are improving traditional methods of waste management, investing in updated machinery that separates recyclable plastics from trash and burns the excess waste to generate energy, rather than bury or burn everything that’s thrown away.  
  • Conditions were cold but clear for the year’s first lunar eclipse on January 20, also called the “super wolf blood moon,” which appeared in the night sky for over three hours. 

The Bad

  • Scientists say North America has lost 3 billion birds over the past 50 years, amounting to more than a quarter of the total bird population. This alarming decline could include our beloved state bird—the National Audubon Society says Minnesota’s dangerously close to losing its loons, as temperatures continue to rise and cold-weather species move farther north.  
  • Over half of Minnesota’s lakes and streams are classified as “impaired,” or fail to meet water quality standards that sustain aquatic life and human health. In total, 581 new waterways have been added to the list for 2020, including a popular stretch of the St. Croix River stretching from Taylors Falls to Stillwater.  

It’s Complicated

  • The New York Times named Duluth as the ultimate destination to escape the effects of climate change, citing the cold temperature, abundance of freshwater, and inland positioning far from rising seas. We’re honored, truly, but please…stay away.
  • In April, scientists revealed the first image ever made of a black hole, compiling data from eight telescopes around the globe. The supermassive black hole that appears in the picture took several days of perfect worldwide conditions to photograph and contains an “event horizon”—the space where gravitational forces are too strong for light to escape—the size of our solar system. If you can manage to digest that without breaking out in an existential sweat, bravo! 

Schell’s Brewery deer have been the topic of social media discussion  // Photo by Jodi Marti


The Good

  • In April, organizers for Grand Old Day announced its cancellation due to high costs—but after the people and businesses of St. Paul rallied to raise last-minute funds, the 45-year-old Grand Avenue block party was resurrected and held on June 2.   
  • The Little Free Library turned 10 this year. The first schoolhouse-style box was constructed in Hudson, Wisconsin, by founder Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother, a lifelong educator; now, there are over 80,000 registered Little Free Libraries all over the world.   

The Bad

  • After 62 years in business, Lee’s Liquor Lounge closed its doors in May. The decision was made after it was decided that the bar’s parking lot would be used for light rail construction. The bar was known and loved for its live music, showcasing blues, Americana, and country music.
  • The Twins did what the Twins do: get our hopes up before crashing and burning in a series with the Yankees.

It’s Complicated

  • After an outcry on social media over the state of the deer held in a pasture at Schell’s Brewery—a 159-year-old tradition—the brewery spoke up to tell patrons that the deer were simply aging, not starving, and asked the public to stop feeding them food scraps. “Items we’ve had to pull out of their feeding area include orange peels, plastic, paper, chicken meat with bones, mushrooms, and a beef burrito still wrapped in plastic,” the brewery said on Facebook.
  • Wisconsin-based Penzey’s Spices was found to be spending more on impeachment ads than literally anyone else, save for Trump himself, spending upwards of $100k on Facebook ads.  
  • People have gone batshit crazy for Popeyes’ chicken sandwich this year, a fervor largely sparked by social media that’s led to supply shortages, online feuds with Chick-fil-A, and a group literally holding up a Houston branch at gunpoint to get their hands on the sandwich. 

Back to the Earth: When it comes to after-death care and burials, green is the new black

Illustration by Brian Britigan

It might not be the most pleasant topic to think about, but it is a part of life: we are all going to die. But how can we die better? 

Many Americans are reflecting on this question and recognizing that their carbon footprint extends past death, shunning traditional burials in the process.

Over half (53.8%) of respondents to a 2017 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association said they are interested in natural, or “green,” burials to reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life rituals.

“If we look at conventional style burial that includes caskets that are made from precious metals, hardwoods, foam liners, and satins that get put into a vault liner that is in a reinforced cement steel container that goes into the ground, that may not be in line with people’s values,” says Anne Murphy, celebrant and after-death care guide. Her business, A Thousand Hands, works to create a more hands-on approach to death through ceremony, ritual, and education.

Green burials allow the body to decompose in the soil naturally. A green burial includes removing pacemakers and anything not biodegradable from the body, performing a formaldehyde-free embalming process, and providing shrouds of burlap or paper and/or caskets made of untreated wood, wicker, or cardboard.

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Minnesota, there are now about 150 natural burial grounds in 40 states. Minnesota offers two hybrid burial grounds, Mound Cemetery of Brooklyn Center and Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville, that allow burials without a casket and vault in addition to traditional burials. Since 2010, green burials on an exclusively natural burial ground have been available in Minnesota at Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens, founded by Tony Weber and his sons, Ryan and John.

John was looking for a home site to build on and found a 13-acre piece of land in Inver Grove Heights. When he started researching the property, he saw that the land had already been plotted out for use as a cemetery. With all the hard zoning work completed, his family saw a business opportunity and the cemetery was born.

The Webers say that when you look at what a standard burial entails, it doesn’t take long to think that there has to be a better option. According to Cornell University research cited by the Green Burial Council, the environmental impact of traditional funerals is significant. Burials each year in the U.S. use about 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid (827,060 gallons of which is formaldehyde and benzene, which are known carcinogens, as well as methanol, a toxic alcohol that can cause birth defects), 20 million feet of hardwood boards, 1.6 million tons of concrete, 17,000 tons of copper and bronze, and 64,500 tons of steel. The median cost of a traditional funeral in the U.S. in 2017 was just under $9,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

This significant investment of resources hasn’t always been the case, however. For most of human history, all burials were “green burials.” The formaldehyde embalming process used by today’s industry became popular in the mid-19th century to slow the decomposition process, making the timing of open-casket funerals more flexible. “It’s been ingrained in people’s minds over the past 30 or 40 years that you need to do things a certain way,” says John Weber, arguing that metal caskets, cement, and above-ground monuments are not necessary.

Simplifying that burial process further, Prairie Oaks uses engraved slabs that are flush with the ground and natural boulders as plot markers in order to minimize the environmental impact and maintain a natural setting. John continues, “You don’t need a big, fancy metal casket, and we do not allow concrete vaults. It’s just taking out the extra costs that really saves people money, and then being green is really a byproduct. You are actually going back into the ground like you were supposed to.”

The business is run side-by-side with the family’s existing insurance brokerage that started in the 1970s. “They kind of feed off each other,” says Ryan. “If we have a customer who comes in for the cemetery and they want to finance that purchase through life insurance, for example, we can facilitate that as well.”

“I didn’t want to be a cemetery owner—dealing with life insurance was morbid enough for me,” continues Ryan, who wasn’t completely sold on the idea of entering the funeral industry at first. “It’s been amazing,” he says, after getting into the work. “You talk to people and it’s not nearly as stigmatized as you think it would be. People are incredibly curious when you tell them about what we are doing. They’re inquisitive about why this is not more common.”

Illustration by Brian Britigan

People often come for the green aspect of what Prairie Oaks provides but are sold when they find out that a green burial is approximately one-third of the cost of a traditional burial. “That might not have been a factor in the first place, but it doesn’t hurt anything,” says Tony.

The green burial grounds attract a diverse clientele, serving all types of people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. “We thought we would have a green, very hippie audience and found that it’s really pretty universally adopted. It’s really more about education and simplicity than it is about truly having an overwhelming green impetus,” says Ryan.

The Inver Grove property houses the remains of approximately 70 people and has 13,000 plots total, approximately 1,000 of which are already sold. The business is rapidly expanding as they capitalize on growing demand for simple, low-cost burials. The Webers already additionally have land in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, and are opening green burial plots in Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, Brainerd, and Little Falls all by the end of the year.

Minnesota resident Diana Konopka took part in the eco-burial for her aunt in Gainesville, Florida, and found it to be a special experience. “The opportunity to see her go back to the earth from whence she came and to bring the soil to her was deeply meaningful,” says Konopka.

Both pragmatically and ceremonially, the green burial option is in line with Konopka’s own beliefs and values and has informed her thinking about the logistics and desired direction of her own end-of-life care. “It is my hope that I will be buried next to my partner and that we will be eaten by worms together,” she says with some humor and joie de vivre.

Another consideration for those who wish to be holistically green upon dying is recycling their body through organ and tissue donation. According to Donate Life America, 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time, and one tissue donor can heal the lives of more than 75 people.

“Do you think you need it after you die?” poses Patrick Becker, an ocular tissue procurement technician at Lions Gift of Sight, a full-service eye bank that obtains, medically evaluates and distributes donor eyes for cornea transplants, research, and education.

Becker encourages thinking about social responsibility in death and registering to be a donor. “The more I’ve done this job, the more I realize that our bodies are just vessels that we happen to be inside of,” he says. “After you die, your parts—if they are useful to someone—they might as well go to someone else.”

Murphy works to educate people about the different options around end-of-life care, including green burials. She explains that growing secularism in the United States has left many people without cultural traditions and rituals to process death. “In North America, traditionally over the past 200 years we have handed that process and the ritual right over to funeral directors, and they have done, in a lot of cases, really excellent jobs. There are plenty of religions and spiritual systems that have very intact practices following death; however, there are a good number of people who have lost that rooted connection to after-death care.”

She encourages everyone to exercise “after-death care choices that are most aligned with their values and belief systems.” Murphy explains, “If you were someone who was a staunch environmentalist or recycled and made sure that you composted and had bees in your backyard and made your own beer, I want your death to have some similar qualities to that.”

For the do-it-yourselfer, the North House Folk School in Grand Marais offers a three-day course in building your own casket, which can be a meaningful experience and result in a useful aboveground furniture piece (bookshelf, coffee table, entertainment center, etc.) with a post-life plan. Another common green option is being buried in a shroud, or, perhaps more meaningfully, a favorite family blanket, quilt, or afghan.

A third relatively unknown choice is a “green cremation.” Sometimes called “water cremation” or “biocremation,” the Department of Anatomy at Mayo Clinic offers the service at no cost to whole-body donors. The process converts tissue and cells of the human body into a watery solution, leaving mineral compounds. Since it’s not a combustion process like traditional cremation, it is environmentally friendly and does not produce toxic gases or air pollutants.

“There are all these different options that are now emerging in our neck of the woods that are really inviting us to slow down, look for simplicity and find ways that we can be kinder as far as our impact on the planet,” says Murphy. Continuing, she reflects that “a lot of people regard death as such a mystery, and I think it’s a huge teacher. If we don’t take time to really get to know it and really relate to it, then we are missing a huge part of life.”

Make The Lakes Great Again

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative restores and maintains the largest freshwater system in the world

A harmful algae bloom in the Western Basin of Lake Erie taken September 25, 2017 // Photo courtesy Aerial Associated Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick, Flickr

For Ron Zalesny, a plant geneticist with the U.S. Forest Service, 15 landfills within the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan watersheds are places that hold promise. Promise for a better watershed, a better understanding of the ecosystem, and ultimately, a cleaner Great Lakes region. 

From his station in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Zalesny is developing “green tools” to reduce landfill runoff and—potentially—remediate pollutants. And these tools are big. He and his team hope to plant 18,000 trees on the edges of the landfill sites by 2019. 

“What we do can have positive impacts downstream,” Zalesny said. “The biggest positive outcome is the connection to the water.”

Zalesny studies the remedial effect of these trees, while building partnerships with the landfill managers, local organizations, and nearby cities. The landfills are already following regulations, but Zalesny, the U.S. Forest Service, and political leaders in the Great Lakes regions are striving to create an even cleaner watershed. Reducing the landfill runoff with roots is just one of the many ways agencies have been trying to solve global problems surrounding the massive bodies of water. 

That’s where the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) comes into the picture. Since 2010, the GLRI has joined the forces of the Environmental Protection Agency and 15 other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to clean and sustain the watershed of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.

MODIS image of the Great Lakes looking eastward, April 24, 1999 // Photo by NASA, MODIS OrbView-2 – SeaWiFS, courtesy NOAA, Flickr

The GLRI focuses the 16 agencies on global-sized goals: cleaning up toxic waste sites, halting perennial pollution problems, slowing or stopping the spread of invasive species, increasing recreational opportunities, funding research, educating residents, and sustaining the overall health of the largest freshwater system of lakes in the world.

“The GLRI supports cooperative federalism by building state and local capacity to conduct monitoring,” says Nick Vrevich, GLRI manager at the U.S. Forest Service. “It also recognizes that the primary responsibility for local ecosystem restoration rests with states and local groups.”

The research and planting of trees near landfills is just one of many projects that have received funding around the Great Lakes region. 

These lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people. They hold one-fifth of Earth’s freshwater. So it seems like everyone could agree they need protecting. But in the past, they have been treated as the best place to discard unwanted waste. 

“The Great Lakes have been on a downward trend since the 1960s,” Vrevich said. “The GLRI is helping the Great Lakes become sustainable. But there’s so much work to do.”

The heaviest lifting of that work for Vrevich and the other program managers has been targeting the “Areas of Concern,” a bureaucratic name bestowed on 43 of the worst pollution-ridden industrial dumping spots on the Great Lakes, as of the 2016 report to Congress. The St. Louis River estuary near Duluth, Minnesota, earned the designation due to years of pollutants entering its waters from the steel, shipping, and lumber industries nearby. The area recently benefited from millions of grant dollars from the GLRI, moving its restoration timeline closer, now set for completion in 2025.

Since the GLRI began focusing funds and efforts, four sites have been delisted in the U.S., as well as three in Canada. 

Sampling shoreline muck in Lake St. Clair, October 3, 2012 // Photo courtesy NOAA, Flickr

One “Area of Concern” in Michigan is near the southern tip of Lake Huron, where for years the St. Clair River ran with high levels of heavy metals, mercury, and other toxic chemicals. Now, after years of cleanup, more shoreline has been restored and animals are making their home in new habitats.

And that’s why many people were confused and frustrated in February 2017, when President Donald Trump released his 2018 budget proposal, in which the EPA was slashed more than 30 percent to $5.7 billion, the lowest budget seen since the agency’s formation in 1970. Environmental groups voiced particular concern over EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as attorney general of Oklahoma sued the agency more than a dozen times.

One person who passionately disagreed with the proposed cut was Jennifer Caddick, a spokeswoman for Alliance for the Great Lakes. The Chicago-based nonprofit’s goal is to protect the lakes, and it has received initiative grants for projects, such as coordinating with local municipalities to fix wastewater problems that had resulted in raw sewage flotsam. 

The president’s budget proposal was released the same morning Caddick planned to meet with congressional delegates in Washington, D.C. about water quality issues. When she saw the news about the EPA budget, she also saw the GLRI had been cut entirely. The rationale was that the move would allow the EPA “to focus on its highest national priorities,” though it was not entirely clear what those priorities were. 

The Niagara Falls-sized funding plunge would have washed away the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, dropping its funding from $300 million to zilch. But as Caddick and other advocates went around speaking with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, it became clear that the proposed budget wouldn’t be followed.

“It was a good moment for all of us, because we knew there was support [of GLRI] in Congress,” Caddick said. 

In March of 2018, a bipartisan group of lawmakers restored the GLRI to full funding in an omnibus appropriations bill. One Republican lawmaker said the EPA funding of the GLRI was important because it was “an environmental protection issue.” 

In statements, most lawmakers around the region said the money going to clean the Great Lakes was the best use of tax dollars because the money often comes back to their districts. Caddick echoed their sentiments, saying that the money goes to making things “happen on the ground.”

Silver carp jumping in the Fox River in Illinois // Photo courtesy Asian Carp Regional Coordination Comittee

Silver carp jumping in the Fox River in Illinois // Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS, courtesy Asian Carp Regional Coordination Comittee, Flickr

“A large portion of the money is given out in grants to municipalities,” Caddick said. “Local governments apply for that money, and the agencies can guide it. A majority of the money goes around to specific measurable projects.”

The Brookings Institute did a study on the money from the GLRI and found that for every dollar spent on a locality, two dollars were earned in return, which went to strengthen the entire region.

“We can’t have a strong Midwest without healthy Great Lakes,” Caddick said.

Agency program managers contacted for this story said they knew the GLRI defunding was a possibility. But they said it wouldn’t mean that specific agency projects would stop—just that they would take years longer to complete. The GLRI money, they said, goes to “supplement, not supplant” the existing projects—it essentially punches the accelerator on the projects.  

“It’s the gas pedal to the restoration actions that we are implementing with our annual appropriated funds,” Vrevich said.  

One problem that needs acceleration for a solution is the advance of the bighead and silver carp through the Illinois River system. The species, originally from Asia, have decimated native fish populations by hogging food sources and inhibiting their natural fecundity. Scientists say that if they enter Lake Michigan, the Great Lake’s fish population is in danger.

Silver Carp caught in the Fox River in Illinois // Photo courtesy Asian Carp Regional Coordination, Flickr

The silver-scaled fish are one of the challenges in the forefront of Todd Turner’s mind. As the National Fish and Wildlife Service (NFWS) assistant regional director, Turner oversees many of the projects funded with GLRI money that have, so far, kept the carp from entering Lake Michigan. 

To keep the fish from entering the lake, the NFWS has partnered with states to do extensive research, eventually installing electronic barriers in the river system. They’re even experimenting with sound barriers and walls of bubbles. 

“The GLRI has helped to develop the research, and as we are getting additional dollars appropriated, we are using those to deploy it,” Turner said.

The agency has also been culling the massive amount of invasive carp in the river.

“They grow fast and they grow big,” Turner said of the fish. “In some areas [of the river] they are 90 percent of the biomass.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s paupier net was deployed to the Chicago Area Waterway System in response to the silver carp found nine miles from Lake Michigan on June 22, 2017. Here it is pictured in Calumet Harbor on June 27, 2017 // Photo courtesy Illinois DNR, Flickr

In 2017, Turner oversaw a commercial fishing enterprise in a lake adjoined to the Illinois River near Morris, Illinois. Working together with Chinese fishermen who taught them a type of herding, the group hauled out 100,000 pounds of fish—a mass of invasive bighead and silver carp—to free up the lake’s food chain for the fish native to the region: bass, walleye, sauger, and others. 

While Turner said the culling has helped, some wonder about spending millions to try to keep the fish from reaching the lake. Turner has an answer for them.

“In the U.S., on the Great Lakes, recreational fishing is a $7 billion dollar industry,” Turner said. “That’s $7 billion, with a ‘B.’ That’s not even taking into account commercial fishing or tribal fishing. So you’re spending millions to save billions.” 

Caddick agrees that cuts to the GLRI would matter for the fishing industry—but says the impact would affect everyone. 

“It absolutely would matter and it would be detrimental to the Great Lakes region,” Caddick said. “Cleaning up the Great Lakes isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. These are projects that require decades and decades of work.”

She said the initiative allows cities dealing with the intractable problems to spearhead solutions.

“GLRI has helped communities start picking at those problems,” she said, adding that it also “puts the money in local control.”  

Many federal government employees contacted by The Growler declined to comment on the GLRI budget. Some mentioned that they are used to the pendulum swings of what is proposed and what is authorized. 

So perhaps they were not surprised when the president’s budget proposal for 2019 was released in February. Did it contain funding for the initiative charged with keeping the Great Lakes clean? Not much. Just $30 million, which wouldn’t have even funded the Fish and Wildlife Service portion of the GLRI. 

This U.S. Great Lakes coastline graphic highlights exactly how much aquatic habitat is under the supervision of the organizations that make up the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as compared to other U.S. coastlines // Illustration courtesy NOAA, Flickr

An EPA spokesperson responded to Growler requests for comment by sending a link to a video in which Pruitt expressed his desire for Congress to not follow his own EPA budget direction. 

“I think the Great Lakes Initiative represents something that is very, very good for the rest of the country,” he said during a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on April 26. “It is my belief, my conviction, that we work together to keep the funding levels consistent [with past years].”

The doublespeak had Congress members pleading to take Pruitt for a walk along the shores of the Great Lakes to show him the work completed with GLRI money. 

And representatives have pledged to ignore the proposed budget and renew the GLRI funding again. Statements released by many refer to the strong work that has been done since the initiative was first funded in 2010, and the principle of stewarding the environment for future generations. 

But perhaps it is simple enough to say that for 2019, Americans will insist on Making the Lakes Great Again.

Green Parties: Minnesota musicians and entrepreneurs reducing their impact one tour at a time

Keeping the Walker Art Center's garden green is one of the goals of Eureka Recycling // Photo by Emmet Kowler, MPR

Keeping the Walker Art Center’s garden green is one of the goals of Eureka Recycling // Photo by Emmet Kowler, MPR


he sun has set, the band’s last lingering note has faded, and the fans are headed towards the exits. What’s left on the ground? Hopefully, just the sweat and emotions from a long day of outdoor music. That’s the goal of an increasing number of artists, venues, and companies working to reduce the environmental footprint of live music.

In the late 1980s, Michael Martin, CEO and founder of Minneapolis-based Effect Partners, was working as an investment banker on Wall Street when he began to recognized the negative impact capitalism was having on the environment. Wanting to make a change, Martin took a step back from his career and decided to invest in the earth, producing the first Earth Day Concert that took place in Washington, D.C. in 1990. The concert became an iconic moment in an era that saw environmentalism become an increasingly mainstream movement.

Mike Martin, CEO and founder of Effect Partners // Photo courtesy of Effect Partners

Mike Martin, CEO and founder of Effect Partners // Photo courtesy of Effect Partners

In the years since, the world has moved toward finding new ways to reduce and offset carbon emissions, and musicians have integrated many of Martin’s ideas into their tour riders. Early adopters, including Steve Miller, Dave Matthews Band, Black Eyed Peas, U2, and Jack Johnson, worked with Martin to green their time on the road and extend the message of sustainability, using his “EnviroRider” to reduce the environmental impact of their large tours.

Next, Martin decided to push things a little further and cut the use of plastic at shows. After spending a few years developing the idea, Martin was finally able to put his concept in place through U2 in 2017 with the r.Cup. The band partnered with Martin to make the reusable cups part of their U.S. tour.

“During an r.Cup concert, if you want to buy a beer, you also have to buy a cup,” Martin explains. “This cup is branded with the tour or festival logo. You use that throughout the day. At the end of the day, you can turn in your cup and get your money back. You basically are renting a cup. At the end of a concert, there is no waste on the ground. The concessionaire loves it because they don’t have to buy the cups; we provide the cups. The venue loves it, because they don’t have to clean up the cups; they don’t have to throw out the cups. The fans love it, because they get to keep a small hug from the artist. It’s a keepsake. It doesn’t affect merch sales. The artists love it, because they can give their fans a gift; they also get a percentage of [proceeds from] the cups that are kept. The cups that are not kept are given back to the company, washed, and used at the next venue. Our goal is to change the industry.”

Making a concert green is a complex challenge, says Ben Geffen, director of program services at the Walker Art Center, which has worked with Eureka Recycling for events such as Rock the Garden. “We do our best to make sure production items like banners and table coverings are reusable and we encourage using cell phones instead of printed tickets,” explains Geffen. “That said, music concerts of this size do use tremendous resources and it’s a challenge to figure out ways to keep our event as sustainable as possible. As technologies advance, I look forward to replacing diesel generators with portable electrical power, moving more of our lighting to LED, and replacing any fossil fuels with sustainable resources.”

Environmental concerns aren’t just for international superstars and big festivals. In recent years, Martin worked with CLIF Bar on CLIF GreenNotes, a grant-funded program that works with smaller touring artists, like Dessa and Astronautalis, to advance sustainability in a variety of ways. For example, there’s a toolkit that musicians can use to reduce their carbon footprint by taking steps like making sure touring vehicle tires are fully inflated and encouraging fans to carpool to venues.

Photo courtesy Effect Partners

Above: The floor of a concert venue after a concert // Photo via Shutterstock; Below: The floor of a concert venue during a show that Effect Partners worked on // Photo courtesy Effect Partners

Some artists are even ditching touring vans altogether. Minneapolis singer-songwriter Brianna Lane, along with Peter Mulvey, has been traveling around the country on bikes to showcase an example of low-impact touring. “It makes a statement when we show up to a venue and say, ‘We biked 70 miles today to be here.’ That becomes a conversation topic. As a general rule, we don’t do more than 70 miles in a day. We learned that the hard way when we rolled into Buffalo, New York one year after doing 85 that day and 143 the day before. We probably played our worst show of tour that day.”

I ❤bike touring.

A post shared by Brianna Lane (@briannalanemusic) on

Lane is pairing with Farmstead Bike Shop later this fall to host four events that will take place at different parks in St. Paul to bring attention to river cleanliness. Funded through a Knight Foundation grant, the concerts will feature artists commissioned to write river-based songs, and their sets will be performed on a pedal-powered stage. That’s right, volunteers in the audience will be pedaling throughout the events to harness energy to run the lights and sound system.

“By getting recruits to power the stage,” says Lane, “it will add more to the show. We want people to get so excited about it that they’ll want to contribute to the evening… We want it to be visible because we want to engage people.”

“I want to make it easy to do the right thing,” says Martin. “The more you learn about what is happening, the more difficult it is to ignore it. You’re not getting people to care by simply telling them to care. You’re changing the system to something that makes more sense environmentally and economically.”

This article was produced as a part of a collaboration between The Growler Magazine and The Current, Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. Find this article and more great music content at

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offering big grants to breweries to reduce waste

Fresh Food In Garbage Can To Illustrate Waste

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is currently offering grants for food waste reduction and toxic chemical use reduction at Minnesota breweries.

Grants up to $75,000 are available to minimize food waste, such as diverting spent grain that otherwise would be managed as solid waste.

Another $40,000 is available for alternatives to sanitizers and cleaners used in the beer-making process, other cleaning needs throughout a facility, and alternatives to BPA paper receipts.

Grant applications will be accepted through April 13. Breweries should contact Angie Bourdaghs (651-757-2176, [email protected]) with questions.

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12 green myths put to the test

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Green. Eco-friendly. Sustainable. 

Every day we’re told what’s OK and what’s not when considering how to best treat the Earth. But how much of that advice is factually sound and how much of it is just another old wives’ tale? We dig into some of the most assumed-to-be-true green practices to see which ones check out—and which ones don’t.

1. Washing dishes by hand saves more water than using a dishwasher


The only time hand washing saves more water and energy than using a dishwasher is if you wash dishes with cold water, run the faucet less than two minutes total, and use just 9.5 ounces of water (a little over a cup) per piece. Otherwise, the machine wins.

Note: This does not apply to dishwashers built before 1994. Those things suck up nearly 10 gallons per cycle, whereas newer machines use just six gallons per cycle; Energy-Star rated machines use just four.

2. Turning down your thermostat is more efficient than leaving it at a constant temperature


Do like you did when you were a broke college kid and turn that thermostat down. The common argument that it takes more energy for a furnace to kick up than if it had been set to a consistent temperature all day simply isn’t true.

The Department of Energy says that “as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.”

Turning your thermostat down 10–15 degrees for at least eight hours a day can save you up to 15 percent on your heat bills. Use that extra cash to buy a fancy, fuzzy pair of earmuffs.

3. Leaving appliances plugged in doesn’t waste power as long as they are turned off


Vampires aren’t just characters in scary movies. Appliances with a “standby” mode or continuous display (think digital clocks and microwaves), chargers, and cable and Wi-Fi boxes all use “vampire” power when plugged in, no matter if they are on or off.

To avoid unintentionally wasting energy, invest in a power strip or simply unplug those suckers. Do this, and you could see a 10–15 percent reduction in your energy bills.

4. Solar panels are a smart investment for homeowners looking to cut down on utility costs


The short answer here is yes. According to energy companies like Xcel and PG&E, solar panels reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent each year. And depending on how much sun your home is exposed to, your energy bill could be sliced in half.

The kicker is that in order to reap these benefits, you’ll need to stay put for quite some time—namely, around 20 years. Here’s the drill: Purchasing solar panels outright will cost, on average, around $15,000. That’s no small sum, but solar panels can save homeowners more than $20,000 over a 20-year span. In other words, the average panel owner will more than recover the cost of their investment in less than 20 years.

If you still want to go green but don’t have the cash necessary to purchase your own solar panels—or don’t know where you’ll be in 20 years—consider leasing them. Third-party ownership models offered via energy companies like Xcel allow people to lease a share of a communal solar garden and receive credit on their electric bill each month in exchange.

Next page: littering organic material, driving vs. flying, & paper vs. plastic

MN signs off on PolyMet Mine environmental review

Facilities at the PolyMet NorthMet Project site, in northeastern Minnesota, will be refurbished and upgraded to modern standards. The site includes crushing and milling facilities, electric substations, tailings facilities, maintenance shops, an office building, railroad, and other essential infrastructure. // Photo via

Facilities at the PolyMet NorthMet Project site, in northeastern Minnesota, will be refurbished and upgraded to modern standards. The site includes crushing and milling facilities, electric substations, tailings facilities, maintenance shops, an office building, railroad, and other essential infrastructure. // Photo via

The state signed off today, March 3, on the decade-long environmental review of the first copper- nickel mine proposed for the Iron Range, marking a major turning point in the most contentious environmental fight Minnesota has had in years, reports The Star Tribune.

Next will come what is likely to be a heated debate about how to protect taxpayers from the environmental risks of the mind, as regulators tackle the next phase of the $650 million open pit mining project: permitting and financial assurance.

Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, announced Thursday that the 3,500-page environmental impact statement for the open pit mine near Hoyt Lakes adequately reflects the risks and the protections the mine will require.

Additional environmental analysis and evaluation are still needed, and will start once the company submits its application for permits to mine. Both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must still complete their records of decision, too.

Environmental risks presented by the mine include waste that, when exposed to air and water, could produce an acid that leaches heavy metals and other pollutants from waste rock that could drain into the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. There is also a chance that water could drain north to the nearly pristine watershed that holds the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

PolyMet and state officials have said that it will use modern mining techniques to prevent such disasters, and that the environmental review includes adequate protections. But Indian tribes and environmental groups have argued that they are not enough and that the calculations used to predict future contamination are flawed.

While long expected, the state’s announcement is a significant point in a project that’s been underway since 2006. For Toronto-based PolyMet, the completion of the environmental review is proof to their shareholders that they have taken a huge step forward toward a project that will generate revenue.

[H/T Star Tribune]

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Red Lake Nation announces plans to go solar


The Red Lake government center is one of a few buildings the tribe plans to cover with solar panels.

Tribal leaders of The Red Lake Nation recently announced plans to install 15 megawatts worth of solar panels across the rooftops of their largest buildings, reports Minnesota Public Radio. When they’re done, the panels will generate enough power to light every bulb in the tribe’s three casinos, the tribal college, and all government buildings.

It’s one of the largest solar projects planned in northern Minnesota, and tribe leaders said it is a big step toward energy independence for the Red Lake Nation.

“Grandfather sun and mother earth are the foundations of who we are as native people,” said Red Lake development director Eugene McArthur. “With this project, we’re harnessing the forces of nature.”

McArthur set the solar plan in motion over the last several months. He said the project will break ground this June, and save the tribe roughly $2 million a year in energy costs.


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Lake Superior one of the fastest warming lakes on Earth


A new study found that Lake Superior was one of the fastest-warming lakes on the planet, warming at a rate of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, which is three times the global average. // Photo via Wikipedia

A new study released by NASA and the National Science Foundation in December shows that lakes are warming faster than the oceans, reports MPR News.

The study focused on 235 lakes on six continents over 25 years and concluded that lakes are warming at an average rate of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit every decade.

Four of the five Great Lakes were included in the study, and Lake Superior was found to be one of the fastest-warming lakes on the planet. Superior is warming at a rate of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, which is three times the global average.

“Project that out 50 years, and you’ve got a Lake Superior that’s 10 degrees warmer. That could be a very different lake in terms of ice cover and ecosystems within the lake,” said Paul Huttner, MPR’s chief meteorologist.

[H/T MPR News]

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2015 the hottest year on record by a long shot


Last year was the Earth’s hottest year on record, surpassing more than a century of high temperature marks by a wide margin, reports the Associated Press.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and NASA say 2015 was by far the hottest year in 136 years of record keeping.

NOAA says 2015’s average temperature was 58.62 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 1.62 degrees above the 20th-century average. NASA, which measures differently, says 2015 was 0.23 degrees warmer than the record set in 2014.

This was the fourth time in 11 years that Earth broke annual marks for high temperature.

[H/T AP]

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Honeybees win round one in federal fight vs. pesticides


Honeybees pollinate roughly a third of the food found in U.S. grocery stores

Bee lovers (and anyone who likes food) rejoice: Federal regulators said for the first time Wednesday that one of the most widely used and controversial pesticides in agriculture—neonicotinoids—is harmful to pollinators when used on some crops, reports Star Tribune.

The EPA issued the finding as part of its first scientific risk assessment of the pesticides and how they affect colonies, not just individual honeybees.

The finding is a big deal because honeybees pollinate roughly a third of the food in the nation’s grocery aisles, which has amplified global concern over their decline.

But the ongoing war over pesticides and pollinators is far from over. The same day the EPA released their findings, environmental groups and beekeepers sued the agency, alleging that it failed to properly regulate neonicotinoids used as seed coatings on corn and other crops.

[H/T Star Tribune]

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