Lynn Henning never grew up knowing that one day she would fight to keep her homeland safe. At 42 years of age, that’s exactly what happened. Lynn grew up on a family farm in rural Michigan. Large farming and meat companies sought to take advantage of the land by setting up concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s). Originally content with the CAFO’s due to the increased wealth brought to the area, the damage they caused quickly became apparent to her. Up to ten thousand cows could be stuffed together into one CAFO which results in large amounts of manure. This Manure was drained with the pee and blood into open lakes to sit there and leech into the ground water. This can contaminate entire communities and leech a landscape of its nutrients.
Being a farmer most of her life, Lynn knew nothing of the violations the CAFO’s were breaking by they way the dispose of their waste. It wasn’t until her in laws were diagnosed with hydrogen sulfide poisoning that was directly attributed to the cow waste did she chose to battle for her beliefs. Lynn pursued state officials until they would run water quality tests. She became a Water Sentinal with the Sierra Club which meant she was responsible for monitoring water quality. Lynn gathered enough evidence to bring the issue into the mainstream media and forced pressure on the CAFO’s. The state then upgraded its water pollution techniques and levied hundreds of citations against the companies. Due to Lynn’s aggressive pursuit of closing the CAFO’s, the state started to deny permits for them for the first time ever. Any CAFO’s would have to be built somewhere else because of what she did.
Lynn is an inspiration to me because she single handedly managed to slow down the degradation of our fragile ecosystem. She works hard to stop the widespread damage that the concentrated cattle can cause. It makes me wonder how much change would be attainable if more people were determined like Lynn. She received many threats and total social exclusion from those in the town around her. Lynn stayed strong because she knew she was fighting the good fight. Even though Lynn had no prior knowledge about water pollution, she informed herself and was able to make a difference. This is something we can all learn from as we face potential environmental power struggles. We may not grow up knowing that we’ll fight for our homeland, but we all have the potential to do so within us.