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Lynn Henning Named Eco-Heroine by Whole Living Awards
Posted by: Scott Dye on March 21, 2011 at 8:02PM PST
ALL HAIL Michigan Water Sentinel Lynn Henning, 2010 Goldman Prize winner and 2010 O Magazine Power List, for racking up yet another honor—she was just chosen as one of 10 Eco-Heroines in the inaugural Planet Keeper Whole Living Awards by Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, on newsstands now.
Lynn’s relentless and successful campaign against factory farms knows no boundaries, and her work and awards are a source of pride for all Sierra Club members. Congratulations, Lynn!!
From the article:
‘But the beauty of this rural landscape belies an ugly truth: Noxious chemicals are slowly tainting the region’s air and water. The pollution can be traced to the proliferation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)-feedlots that confine thousands of cattle or pigs in windowless, hangar-size barns. CAFOs make up only about 5 percent of all U.S. animal operations, but they contain half of the animals producing the nation’s meat and dairy products.
Crammed indoors on concrete floors, CAFO animals spend their days eating and, inevitably, eliminating. A large CAFO produces as much waste daily as a city of 411,000 does. And while municipalities are required to treat their waste before it’s discharged, CAFOs are allowed to store liquefied manure in open pits (called lagoons) until operators are ready to spray it on leased farm fields as fertilizer.
“We’ve got 12 of these operations within 10 miles of our house,” says Lynn Henning, who monitors CAFO discharges for Michigan’s Sierra Club, as I tag along on a surveillance mission in her hometown of Clayton. “When they’re spraying waste, the smell is so bad you can’t open your windows or sit outside.”
A grandmother with long white hair, Henning isn’t being prissy. She’s a farmer herself – she and her husband, Dean, grow corn and soybeans on a 300-acre plot that’s been in his family for four generations. But the more than 60 lagoons near the Henning’s home hold 400 million gallons of liquefied manure each year. This toxic farrago contains cleaning solutions, pesticides, blood, hormones, antibiotics, and other substances common to industrial agriculture. As this mixture decomposes, it generated methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide, gases that can cause burning sinuses and respiratory illness. Diagnosed with hydrogen sulfide poisoning, Henning’s mother-and father-in-law, who have lived within 1,000 feet of a CAFO operation since 1999, routinely experience short-term memory loss, balance problems, and delayed reactions.
Across the nation, rainfall has sluiced CAFO waste, transporting such pathogens as Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and Listeria from fields into waterways. Storms have ruptured lagoons and sent raw manure into creek into creeks, killing huge numbers of fish. It gets worse: CAFO’s overuse of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease contributes to the rise of superbugs.
Slowing to a crawl, Henning raises her camera and shoots a series of photographs. One is of a plume of liquid waster spraying 100 feet in the air to fertilize a CAFO field, directing a brown mist of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in our direction. Hemming closes her window against the stench and dust – “I’ll have a headache before the day is out,” she says – and steps on the gas.
In addition to documenting violations, Henning makes frequent speeches about the need for tighter monitoring and enforcement of CAFO regulations. Stricter controls paid for by CAFO owners will surely raise the cost of meat, but Henning cuts consumers little slack. “There’s no such thing as cheap meat,” she barks. “People need to be responsible.”
“At the grocery store, ask where your food is coming from,” Henning says, sprawled on her pond’s dock. “We need small family farms and need to teach our children to grow food.” She squints into the late afternoon sun. As predicted, her head aches after the day’s manure tour. But she shakes it off and stiffly rises. “Come on,” she says with a generous smile. “I want to show you my garden.”’
Whole Living Awards: Planet Keepers
April, 2011 Whole Living Magazine
(At newsstands now.)
We salute these 10 eco-heroines who pour their passion into turning our blue marble green. Be inspired by their stories and take notes on what’s trending in our first Whole Living Awards.
The Watch-Dog: Lynn Henning
Eco Achievement – Exposing the polluting practices of livestock factory farms
By Elizabeth Royte
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