Invasion of Ohio's buckeyes into Michigan used to call attention to climate change

BY ELAINE LAFAY
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 28, 2008

Thanks to global warming, some Michigan residents might be seeing more reminders of the Ohio State Buckeyes than they'd like.

Experts say higher temperatures are causing the buckeye tree, native to Ohio and the mascot of Ohio State University, to grow further north into Michigan.

“Until now, these seeds may have arrived in Michigan, but they haven’t been able to grow because it’s been too cold,” said Ines Ibanez, an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment. “But now with global warming they’re able to grow.”

A group called the Stop the Buckeye Coalition, endorsed by the American Lung Association of Michigan and Michigan’s branch of the National Farmers Union, has formed to use the invasion of the buckeye tree to draw attention to global warming. The campaign kicked off last week at the University’s Dearborn campus. It uses ads, billboards and petitions to educate people about global warming and its effect on Michigan.

The petition urges the next president and the new Congress to support legislation that would promote use of alternative energy in Michigan. The coalition hopes to see an 80 percent reduction by 2050 in the pollution said to cause climate change.

Coalition spokeswoman Amy McCusker, a University alum, said the growth of buckeye trees in Michigan uses the rivalry between states and colleges to shed light on the larger problem of global warming.

“To be honest with you, as Wolverines, we don’t want Buckeyes. But there’s more to it than that,” she said. “It’s just been a really fun way to get people involved that aren’t necessarily environmentalists,” McCusker said.

A similar campaign in Ohio called “Save the Buckeyes” began in September. Both the Ohio and Michigan programs operate under the Pew Charitable Trusts, a social justice organization.

“The rivalry is bringing us together — which, as a Michigan alum, is a scary thought,” McCusker said.

The Stop the Buckeyes Coalition campaigned during the football game against Michigan State University on Saturday, garnering more than 300 signatures of support.

Ibanez voiced some criticism of the campaigns, saying their intentions were admirable but misguided.

“Education on global warming and people being aware and taking action – that’s important to me,” she said. “But I don’t understand the point of stopping the buckeye. Global warming is very serious and we should be doing something about it, but is this just about football?”