A history of potential events as chronicled by Steven Coburn-Griffis.

Chapter Six

Friday. March 16, 2018

Bart Butterman looked down at the outlines of the two men on his Smartt tie and then he looked back up at Ms. Raczkowski’s Earth Sciences Class.

“Debate is good,” he said. “It is very important that we talk about what worries us, about the problems that we face. That way we can come up with solutions to those problems.”

Bart Butterman reached up and, with both hands, covered the outlines of the two men on his Smartt tie. And then, although nobody in Ms. Raczkowski’s Earth Sciences Class had ever seen such a thing happen before, Bart Butterman loosened his tie and slipped it up and over his head.

“But sometimes talk turns to blame,” Bart Butterman said. “And it becomes more important to point fingers at somebody else than it is to fix a problem. When that happens, we need to take a step back.”

Bart Butterman reached up and loosened the top button on his shirt.

“The truth is, what’s causing these toxic blooms is everything that people have already talked about,” he said. “Everything that we’ve already discussed and probably more besides. So, rather than point a finger of blame, it’s time that we all work together to fix the problem.”

Bart Butterman slipped both of his hands into his pockets and bounced up onto his toes.

“And we are!” he said, smiling. “At least with this toxic bloom problem. The operators at wastewater treatment plants are working with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to find ways to clean up sewage better than ever before. And there are communities, cities and towns that are building wetland areas that help to keep nutrients from getting to where algae and bacteria can feed on them.

“On farms all across the state,” Bart Butterman continued, “farmers are installing grass filter strips between their fields and local streams and rivers. These filter strips work in the same way as wetlands by helping to keep dirt and fertilizer from washing into rivers and streams and from there into Ohio’s lakes.”

Bart Butterman laughed and it was such a happy sound that every single person in Ms. Raczkowski’s class couldn’t help but laugh along with him, including Ms. Raczkowski herself.

“Why, there is even a small town that is working to process cow manure at one of its old wastewater treatment plants,” Bart Butterman exclaimed. “Their idea is to take the manure and turn it into highly nutritious dirt that’s even better than fertilizer. And one of the professors here in Bowling Green is helping!

“And that’s what it takes to fix a problem like this;” Bart Butterman said, “a whole lot of different people thinking a whole lot of different thoughts about the best way to tackle it. And then getting together and talking their way through it.”

Bart Butterman raised both hands and raised his eyebrows, as if to say, “See there, nothing to it. Easy Peasy.”

“So, here we are,” he said. “Not at the end of our story by a long shot but moving in the right direction, provided we keep working together.”

Bart Butterman raised one finger in the air and said, “Oh, and there’s one more thing we need to keep in mind.”

He turned around and picked up his tie. He held it up so that everybody could see the big question mark that burned along the length of it.

“Ask questions,” he said. “Keep asking questions and search for honest answers. You just never know where those questions will take you, what answers you’ll find.”

Chapter Six questions

1. Bart said that debate is good. During political elections, such as the upcoming 2016 Presidential election, the candidates debate each other about issues that they think are important. Look through recent issues of the newspaper for issues that people are concerned about now. Make a list of them. Over the next several months, pay attention to the people who want to be the next President of the United States and see if they take a stand on any or all of these issues.

2. “Bart’s Big Brain Turns Blue” is set in the future, three years from now. In the eighth paragraph of this chapter, Bart said that people are working together to fix the toxic algal bloom problem, and goes on to list all the things people are doing. Make a list of the steps he mentions and research to find out how many of these steps are being considered.

3. Bart is from Bowling Green. Find Bowling Green on a map of Ohio. Using the scale of distance on the map, estimate how far your town is from Bowling Green. Are HABs, and the things that cause them, more or less likely to be a concern where you live?

Chapter Six vocabulary


Ohio Environmental Protection Agency


grass filter strips