FABE 5350 was a brand new course, Sustainable Land and Water Systems, looking at eutrophication of Lake Erie — the large harmful algal blooms resulting from runoff of fertilizer from farms in the Maumee River watershed near Toledo, exacerbated by warming of the lake’s water due to climate change. This was another weeklong intensive course at Stone Lab.
Most of the course revolved around writing a mock grant proposal to fund interdisciplinary research on some aspect of land and water systems. There were only three students in the class, which at first made me wonder whether the course would work. But it did work, as we went through several reviews of our proposal during the week, and I got great feedback from the other students.
I wrote my mock proposal looking at the role of focusing events in bringing about policy change. Specifically, I wanted to find out what happens when a focusing event doesn’t bring about enough policy change to solve the problem that caused it in the first place. That is the case with the Toledo water crisis of 2014, when a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie left Toledo residents unable to use their tap water for three days. The crisis did bring about some new programs, but not enough to address the problem, as since then harmful algae blooms on Lake Erie have only gotten worse. There’s even evidence to suggest that harmful algae blooms may cause Alzeiheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological conditions.
Here’s a link to my mock proposal, When a Focusing Event Does Not Solve the Problem: The Case of the Toledo Water Crisis