Communicating Climate Change (Dean's Symposium)

April 12, 2024 1:14:23
Kaltura Video

Kaitlin Raimi, Mike Shriberg, and Kara Cook discuss the way that climate change policies are influenced by messages from climate activists and the public, and about the messages those policymakers communicate about climate change themselves. April, 2024.


Okay. Welcome all to

this morning's Dean
Symposium panel discussion

on Communicating Climate Change,

policymakers, advocates,
and public opinion.

My name is Kaitlin Raimi,

and I'm an associate
professor here at

the Gerald R Ford School
of Public Policy.

And it's my pleasure to be
moderating this discussion.

We hope that you have
and we continue to

be able to enjoy
some of the other

sessions at this symposium.

So, climate change is

often described as
a wicked problem,

one with many interdependent,

changing and thorny
factors to solve.

For policymakers, this
often means balancing

complex and sometimes
competing preferences

from a range of stakeholders,

both responding to those
voices and communicating

about policies in ways that will

resonate with a wide
range of audiences.

This morning, we'll be
discussing the way that

climate change policies
are influenced by

messages from climate advocates
and the public and about

the messages those policymakers

communicate about climate
change themselves.

But first, let me introduce
myself and our panelists.

So I am a social and
environmental psychologist

who specializes in climate
change communication.

Among other things,
I study how people

perceive climate change,
science, policies,

and related technologies,
and the interplay between

individual level actions
on climate change and

public support for
societal level policies.

Our first guest
speaker is Kara Cook,

Kara is Chief of staff for
the Michigan Department

of the Environment Great
Lakes and Energy Eagle.

She has worked in various roles

within the Executive Office,

most recently serving as

a senior policy advisor to
Governor Gretchen Whitmer,

focused in the areas of

Energy and Environmental

Before joining the Executive
Office of the governor,

Kara served on the Whitmer
Gilchrist Transition,

where she helped
set an agenda for

the governor's first
100 days of office.

Previously, she worked
in government affairs at

the Michigan League of
Conservation voters.

Next to Kara, we have
Mike Schreiberg,

Professor of Practice
and engagement at

the University of
Michigan School

of Environment and
Sustainability or Cs,

and Director of Engagement for

the Cooperative Institute
for Great Lakes Research

and the Michigan Sea Grant.

Mike's work focuses on water
issues in the Great Lakes,

local and state energy policy,

campus sustainability
and carbon neutrality,

and environmental leadership.

Prior to coming to Seas,

he was the Great Lakes
regional Executive Director

at the National
Wildlife Federation.

Major initiatives there included

leading advocacy for federal

Great Lakes restoration efforts,

ensuring water
affordability and access,

preventing the introduction
of aquatic invasive species,

reforming Great Lakes
water management,

building resilience of the Great

Lakes from climate change,

combating environmental
injustice in the region,

and engaging urban youth in

nature based
education activities.

On Mike's left, we have
Donna Givens Davinson,

who has over 35 years

nonprofit leadership
experience in

areas of youth and
family development.

Community economic development,

community partnerships,
and community education.

She now serves as President and

CEO of East Side
Community Network,

whose missions include
climate equity.

Over the past decade,

East Side Community
Network has built

a reputation as a leader in

the urban climate
resilient space,

focusing efforts on
policy advocacy,

infrastructure development,

and community
education to promote

climate resiliency and

equitable climate change
strategies in Detroit.

Don is also a lecturer at

Columbia University School
of Professional Studies,

and co hosts a weekly podcast
called Authentic Detroit.

I want to acknowledge
our co sponsor,

the Alumni Association of
the University of Michigan

and our media partner,
Detroit Public Television.

Once the panel have
spoken for a while,

we will open it up to
audience questions.

If you're watching online,

please click the link on

the web page to ask
your questions.

If you're here at Wil Hall,

please use the QR codes

on the cards that
were distributed.

My colleagues,
Kristen Burghardt and

Casey Sulens will
moderate those that Q&A.

And if you're posting
to social media,

please use at Ford School
and hashtag Deans symposium

with two Ss between Deans
and Symposium to do that.

So without further ado,

join me in welcoming our guests.

All right, so I'm so thrilled

that you're able
to join us today.

And I'm going to start with

a question that I'll pose
to all three of you,

and I hope that you
will each answer,

but also respond to each
other a bit as well.

So, I thought before we talk

about how policymakers,

and the public communicate and

influence each other
about climate change,

it's helpful to check
in first about what are

the topics and policies that
we're communicating about.

Um, we often talk about

climate policies at the national
or international level.

But as each of you are experts

in climate responses
in Michigan,

I'm hoping that you can
talk a little bit about how

those state and local
policy conversations about

climate differ from those
at the national level.

So what are the climate issues
that are most relevant or

discussed in your communities
or in Michigan as a whole?

Are there different political
fault lines when you think

about local or state policies
and about national ones?

Are there different
interest groups

or stakeholders that you think

about when it comes to Michigan
or local level policies?

So I'll start with Cara first.

Great. Thank you for having me.

That was a lot of
different questions.

I guess I'll start on kind
of the difference between

state level policy and how

people interact with each

other around climate
policy versus,

like, the national or
international level.

I would I think

state and local policy is

going to have a
much bigger impact.

So it's definitely good
for everybody to focus on.

It's also going to
be less politicized.

I mean, I started my career
about ten years ago in

this space working at

an environmental nonprofit
where, you know,

I was lobbying primarily
Republicans because we

had a Republican legislature

and Republican
governor at that time,

and we were still able to get

big things done on climate
and clean energy policy.

We talked about it a
little bit differently.

But we are still able
to make that progress.

So I don't think it's
quite as politicized as

we see at the national level,
particularly right now.

That being said, there
has been a bit of kind of

a transition into things getting

a little bit harder post 2016.

We've started to see some of

those national politics
really trickle down.

It's not impossible
to get things done.

We've gotten a few big
bipartisan budgets

done that have had hundreds of

millions of dollars
for climate change,

a few pieces of legislation
that were led by

Republicans on climate change,

but nothing like we
have seen now that we

have a Democratic majority
within our legislature.

You know, going back
to this last fall,

we negotiated and the governor

signed a really large package of

bills that brought
Michigan kind of

into national leadership
on clean energy.

And I think one of the
most disheartening things

that I heard just around kind of

the politicization
around these issues was

I was talking to an elected

Republican in one
of the caucuses,

and they said, Well,

we would be supportive of
pieces of this policy had

the governor not said that
she wanted to get these done.

So it became less about

the specifics of the
policy or having,

like an informed
debate about what

was best for Michigan and
more about the politics.

So I'm afraid that
that transition

has started to happen
into Michigan,

but we're still working to

try to get things
done. Very good.

Mike, do you want
to take it next?

Sure. Yeah. Thanks so
much for having me.

I guess I want to start
a little bit with

talking about right
here in Ann Arbor.

Cause I've had the privilege of

serving on the Energy Commission

here for years and helping to

draft a couple of
the climate plans.

Now, let's start
with the obvious.

An Arbor is definitely not
a representative sample

of the country. On
climate issues.

It's one of, you know,

probably a dozen cities

that have been really
progressive on this.

But there's a really interesting
debate playing out here

that I think we'll see play
out in different ways.

And that's over actually
the fundamental role

of investor owned utilities
providing electricity.

And the debate here
is whether we should

actually kind of blow it
up and start all over,

meaning Ann Arbor has

a proposal to create its
own municipal utility.

So should we be providing
our own electricity?

Or should we work
within the system and

start building out our
own infrastructure.

It's called a sustainable
energy utility.

And that's basically
where the city starts

building solar panels
on homes and things,

but does it piece by piece
alongside the utility.

And, you know, I think it's

an interesting microcosm
because there is

a fundamental debate
right now about

whether the structure of
providing energy, you know,

that came into play
100 years ago,

actually makes sense for

the future that
we're looking at,

which is mostly about
distributed energy,

it's about climate progress,

and it's about energy
justice and equity.

And so I think what we're
seeing starting to play out in

Ann Arbor is going to spread
out to different areas.

And, you know, sort of, you

know, we're here in
the Ford School.

We know, you know, cities

and local government
are where you

do some of that experimentation
and we're seeing

it happen just
outside these doors.

And I guess I'd just say
briefly at the state level,

I've spent a decent
chunk of time sort of

lobbying on state
renewable energy policy

like Kary was talking about.

And it's interesting
because I think

you'll find some
big commonalities.

So clean energy
jobs kind of goes

across different partisan lines.

When you talk about
the impacts on water,

the Great Lakes are
sort of in the state.

They're a core value, right?

They're not something
that has necessarily

partisan divides on that.

So when you get at that
kind of high level,

you see things that,

you know, more continuity
than you'd see in Congress.

But as Kara was pointing out,

once you get to the specifics

of policy and the
politics behind it,

things tend to fall
apart just a little bit,

at least behind that.

So maybe I'll leave it there
for now, but great question.

Thanks, Dan.

I think that the chief

difference in places like
the place where I work,

largely fence line
communities that are also

really constructed as
sacrifice zones for

the way of life for our
community right now.

We're not really talking
about protecting

the climate we're talking
about protecting people

who are damaged in
the very near term

by policies and practices,

and I will agree
that it's not really

politicized because nobody who

is elected to office is
really trying to do it,

I mean, in a real way.

We can talk about
all of these things,

but it's interesting
to me that in 2019,

Slants built a new
plant, destroyed.

The city facilitated
the destruction of

a greenway and all of the
trees and vegetative buffers

that stood between this
automotive facility

and a neighborhood
where people live.

There have been eight
air quality violations.

And there has been

no regulation that is
effectively protected people.

In other communities, people

are allowed to relocate,
but in Detroit,

they get $15,000 on one block
just west of this plant.

Then the same automotive
facility was allowed to

build a 38 acre
trucking facility.

On in an area that is adjacent
to a pumping station that

failed in 2021 to

protect tens of thousands of

people from flooding and
they're right next door.

They've created all
this cement and steel,

and now there's one truck
per minute going into

this facility adjacent to a
residential neighborhood.

And there's no regulation
on truck idling.

There's no regulation
on truck routes.

There's no regulation
that's even

tracking the amount
of exhaust that's

going into a neighborhood
where people

cannot open their doors
in the summertime.

So it's horrible
for the climate.

But one of the ways
we know things

are bad for the climate is
they're bad for people.

And people have to matter

as much as a theoretical
climate does.

And so you go to the city
and there's no regulation.

Now, we did have a meeting in

our office two days
ago and they said,

we're working on
it. That's great.

Because they've
been working on for

40 years and eventually
they may even get there.

You go to the state and

the state says we
don't regulate that.

The EPA doesn't regulate that.

What I find is that
the kind crisis that

we are confronted with on a
daily basis and the kind of

crisis that will really make
a difference for all of

us is not up for real debate and

discussion because the
imperatives and the needs of

the corporate community
and private investors and

equity investors is always
going to trump the needs

of people like me

and the people who
live in our community.

I'd love to see that
conversation change,

and I'd love to see some policy

around that because
you can't really have

any real meaningful
protection of

the climate when you're
killing people. Thank you.

Well, that is a great segue
into my next question,

which is that we're seeing
this increased concern when it

comes in the US public
and in Michigan,

when it comes to
climate change and

other environmental issues
like air pollution.

But it's not
surprising that we're

seeing increased concern
about climate change.

We are seeing these growing

consequences at our doorsteps,

everything from
wildfire smoke to

flooding to extreme
storms, et cetera.

But this concern is
often paired with a kind

of cynicism or fatalism
among members of the public,

sometimes including
our own students,

that they feel that this
is such a big problem

that there's nothing
they can do to stop it.

Or this belief that, you know,

this is a problem that
policymakers need to address.

But they're paired with

frustration that
these policy makers

aren't working fast enough

that this change
isn't happening.

And so I'm curious
for each of you.

And maybe Don I'll start
with you since you

were talking about
the community action.

Like, what do you
see as the role of

members of the public in
shaping these policies?

What levers can they pull?

And what do you see as the most

effective levers for them to

pull to encourage the kind of

big societal level
changes that we need.

I think most people really want

common sense solutions
to some of this stuff.

I don't think most
people want to live in

a world where we're
continuing to do this.

I think that most people don't
see how to translate that

into policy without changing
how we live as people.

And I think that the amount

of fundamental
changes necessary,

to really bring about
fairness is a challenge.

But when we put our
heads together,

we've created so
many great things.

When we put our heads together,

and we really decide that

this is something
we want to solve,

then we're going to draw on
the interests of most people,

but that means that
we've got to start

regulating corporations

and we've got to be
willing to do that.

We've got to start regulating

private equity and we have
to be willing to do that.

I love what Ann Arbor is
doing in terms of considering

creating some non investor
controlled utility.

I'd love to see that happen
in Detroit because if

you look at what's
happening with

DTE, which is our provider,

I believe here in Ann
Arbor and also in Detroit,

DTE is raising energy rates.

They're asking for increases in

their rates every three
or four months now.

And then they're
paying investors off

$700 million while they're

asking for $400,000,000
rate increases,

and it's like, maybe
let's do the math.

Maybe you should
ask for 100 I mean,

why are you even
asking for that?

Just pay your investors less,

but you can't Because that's

the way that we measure
success, right?

So we look at stock
market performance

as evidence of whether

or not our economy
is doing that well,

not whether people
are doing well,

but stock market performance.

We look at these investor,

I just feel as though we have to

look at the financialization of

our economy and our politics,

and we have to look
at those first

before we have
meaningful change at

the human level because
corporate interests will always

trump human beings right
now in our economy.

So I think that
those are some of

the root cause challenges
that we have to talk about.

I think that we have to
be more willing to listen

to people in our
communities, people like me,

but others who feel silenced

and invisible in these debates,

and I'm not quite sure how to

raise the profile of people.

But again, I think
that we start by

looking at some of these
root causes and stop

thinking that we can
consume our way out of

climate crisis and that we
can commodify climate crisis.

Okay. Micro Care, do
you want to jump in

next on people can get
their voices heard?

Sure. I mean, I think
you asked about sort of,

you know, leverage to pull.

And I tend to think
of this a lot of how

do people feel these
climate impacts, right?

Like, where does it come
from? And people tend to do

it based on their
own experience and

kind of their social
reference groups.

And you mentioned
that, you know,

I worked at the National
Wildlife Federation

and we were trying

to basically motivate and

organize people to
take climate action,

and we're thinking,
Okay, so that group is

a coalition of
people the outdoors

for different reasons, right?

And so we're
thinking, how do you

motivate people to take
action on climate?

Well, you start
seeing where it's

impacting the resources.

So we started looking to

organize people who
go out and fish and

they're they're seeing the
stream temperature change

and the fish species
are moving in

a different way or hunters
that do all these things.

And then, you know, politically,

you need to motivate

whether often sort
of swing voters or

moderate Republicans
in this state who

care about outdoor
natural resources,

but actually, you know,

climate issues aren't
high on their radar.

So we went out and, you know,

produced a report called
changing seasons,

which looked at the impacts

on different
recreational activities,

outdoor recreation
that climates having,

and then tried to
get and motivate

folks and then actually

worked with folks in
local communities.

So local Rod and gun clubs
and things like that,

which, I would say,
you know, politically,

these aren't the folks that I

tended to interact
with the most,

but they're actually
folks who had a lot of

political power in
the legislature.

And so as they're
experiencing these things,

then we're bringing them
into what's ultimately

these kind of wonky debates

within the legislature, right?

These debates are
over things like,

are we going to lift

the distributed generation
cap, which is not,

some folks in the
audience, probably

know what that means, but
it basically means, like,

how much solar can we put on

homes before the utilities
stop is or on that?

So, you can't start by saying,

Hey, We know maybe you're
experiencing climate change.

We want you to go lobby to

remove the distributed
generation cap.

That is not a particularly
motivating message, right?

So it's actually figuring

out how people are
being impacted,

how you pull those levers, and

then motivate them
based on that.

And so in the
advocacy community,

spending a lot of
time trying to build

up those coalitions
to get to some

of the victories and
victories that we've

had in the state and Kara

described this on the first one.

They've been good in terms of

increasing amounts
of renewable energy.

They've also been sort of
chipping away at the margins.

I think what we're hearing
here and what I believe it is

we actually need to
fundamentally alter this system,

and that's going to
take even more work

at sort of that base level.

Yeah, I guess the only
thing I would add is,

like, I think
there's a tendency,

myself included to really focus

on how bad climate change is,

all of the impacts
that are happening.

I think one of the
things that we've

tried to do at the state level,

and we're not naive to how much

more we need to do or
what the impacts are,

but try to be optimistic
and really focus in on,

like, what are the
benefits to people?

We definitely know
that people are

feeling the impacts
of climate change.

But how do we really point

out when we're talking
about climate change?

That's not just about a

hypothetical, big
picture climate.

How is this going to
lower their costs?

What does this mean
for them getting

new economic opportunities or

building wealth within
their household?

What is this going
to mean, you know,

for the air quality that

their kids are
breathing every day,

really making it tangible and

focusing on those opportunities
and the benefits and

really seeing kind of

painting a picture of
what the world will

look like if we do

the right things on climate

because I think a lot of people,

you know, kind of
your everyday folks

that aren't thinking
about the policy

aren't thinking about kind

of broad institutional changes,

think that climate policy

means that something is
being taken away from

them versus they are getting

something more or have
more opportunities.

So I think reframing it is

really important when
it comes to people

engaging in these topics and not

feeling as doom and
gloom about climate.

Can I just respond to a.

In the community serve just
around the automotive plant,

the average life
expectancy is 66 years.

A mile away in Gross Point Park,

the life expectancy is 82.

I'm not being doom and gloom,

but I think that we have

this ability to not

see ourselves as
connected to each other.

Lan Guinea wrote a book
a long time ago about

Miners Cary and
this understanding

that what is happening
to the least of us

will happen to all of us
unless we make policy changes.

While I understand I

had this debate with
some of my colleagues

who were talking about
social justice reform,

and they said, well, people vote

on the basis of self interest.

That's the problem. Because we

don't understand that there is

a collective interest
in taking care of

our planet that ultimately,

we may not see the
connection between what's

happening next is
automotive plant

and what's happening
a mile away.

But it's there because

there's one air,
there's one water,

and there's one soil,
and it's all connected,

and you cannot do this.

When I speak of people
versus climate,

I think people are part of our

environment part of our climate,

and you've got to look at
those people who are the most

vulnerable and how
are we protecting

them because you know if
you're protecting them,

you're protecting your kids.

And you're protecting
your kids future.

I talked to so many 18 year olds

who don't believe they'll

have a future because of

what they see as a
trend in the world.

I think also we have to think

beyond what is good
for me right now in

2024 in terms of
me being able to

produce wealth and me

being able to take care
of my family and say,

what's good for my children
and my grandchildren in

2050 after we do or
don't do these things.

The research backs
that up completely.

So it turns out one
of the best messages

about to motivate people on

climate change is to talk about

future generations
and the effects

of climate change, not just now,

but for our children and

grandchildren because
that really people

care about their families

and that can get

them to act in ways that
they might not otherwise do.

All right. Thank you
all. So next up.

So we're talking
about how, you know,

the public can influence or

communities can
influence policy.

And I want to flip it
around a little bit to

look at the other
communication direction.

So in addition to influence
and communication

coming from members of the
public to policymakers,

we also know that influence and

communication runs
the other way.

So the things that
political elites say and

the policy actions that
are taken or not taken

communicate to the public and

to important stakeholders about

the severity of climate
change and also about

which aspects of it or

which victims of it
are most valued.

So when you think
about the existing or

potential climate policies
that you work on,

how do you see the role of

those policies or
policymakers in

shaping either public opinion

or particular
stakeholder reactions.

Car, I'll start with
you this time. Sure.

I think there's a lot of

different ways that
we can go about

addressing climate change.

So when we're trying
to put together

what the policy is, you know,

to decarbonize our energy sector

or protect our natural
and working lands,

we have to take public opinion
into consideration because

we know we need to be able to

actually execute these things.

We want to be able to
continue to have the actions.

And that also means
that we have to

have a lot of folks
at the table,

which can sometimes slow
down those processes.

So I think making sure that

we understand what the
public feels about

policy doesn't mean that we're

changing our path forward

or we're not following
the science,

but really tailoring
our approach to

make sure that it's unique
to fit the community,

unique to fit the
state can really make

a difference in making sure
that we can deliver. Mm hmm.

Yeah, I guess I would say,

one thing is that
the policy context

is everything in
this space, right?

So I teach a climate
policy class,

I teach it with an
energy economist,

and you start with
the premise of

there is no free market
for energy, right?

Like, so you hear a lot of,

like, sort of fluff around like,

we're not going to
pick winners and

losers and all these
kinds of things,

but it's just false, right?

Like B the policy context

100% dictates or it

sets the frame for how these
decisions are made, right?

So, you can't and
I really agree,

you can't separate out
these policies advocacy

from the impact side of things.

And what's interesting though,

and interesting vested is,

like, how people actually

experience the policies
can be really indirect.

I mean, there's consequences and

the health consequences talking

about coal kills thousands
of people a year.

There's no like,
that's not hyperbole.

That's public health,
right? Exactly.

That's And how you
talk about that.

But then people don't see that
direct link or connection.

The way they're actually
experiencing most of

our federal policy right
now, is through incentives.

I mean, we passed the largest
climate bill in the world,

funding in the world over
the last couple of years,

but it's all carrots in
those sticks, right?

So it's like the way
people are actually

experiencing it is
in cost for solar,

like EV policy, all
these different things.

So it's actually it's a real
communication challenge.

I know this is more
your real Kaling

because it's like, you know,

the connection between EV policy

and public health in
Detroit is indirect.

In some ways. But that's

kind of the whole it's
kind of the whole thing.

But how people
experience it is really

the breast tax.
It's at the store.

It's so I've got
solar on my house,

and I've got two EVs,

and how that happen well in part

because there were
federal subsidies in

place that helped
actually level out

the massive subsidies that go to

the fossil fuel industry,
make that happen.

So people experience
in that way,

but it creates a communication
challenge because it's

not a it's not a
direct line. Okay.

I think we have to rethink
who is the public.

When we talk about the
public and people,

a lot of times we're talking
about a subset of people.

We have a really weak democracy
in the United States.

Most people will look at

our democracy and
see it shrinking.

People are not as engaged in

political life as they
had been some time ago.

And if you compare
the US democracy,

and this is not me, these are

researchers who've
looked at our democracy.

You'll find that our democracy
is actually getting worse.

There's people who just
don't believe in government,

and our government is
tailored to meet the needs of

a subset of people who
really control narratives.

So I think one of the
things that we have to do

is make our democracy more

robust by connecting people who

are experiencing these effects,

people in Cal Country and people

in Navajo Nation who
are dealing with

uranium and people in
Detroit and people in

the part of Michigan Nestle

is siphoning all
the groundwater.

We have shared interests.

We don't talk to each other.

And we're the public that's not

hurt because a lot of
times, we don't vote.

So it's got to show up
in a number of ways.

Number one, we need
to have, I think,

more ambitious policies and

believe that we
can change things.

There was a time when

people did not believe that

we could regulate child labor.

There was a time when
we did not believe

that we could regulate
workplace safety.

There was a time when
we did not believe

that unions could
be what unions are.

We didn't have Social Security.

We didn't have
many of the things

that we now take for granted.

And that's because
people imagined

a world that wasn't
but should be.

And I think we need to
do that with climate.

And I think that in doing so,

we can begin to

widen what we consider
the public so that we

can have voices that have

been not art as part
of the conversation.

But the last thing I
want to say about this

is we've got to move
beyond corporate media

because corporate media
has a vested interest in

keeping us focused and

keeping us thinking these
are the same people.

As a Black woman, when
people say workers,

I know they're not
talking about Black

folks in the city of Detroit.

They're certainly
not talking about

the informal labor force

of people who cannot get jobs.

They're certainly not
talking about people

who are incarcerated,

who are producing
goods and services.

Workers represents a certain
subset of people who

people have deemed the kind

of people that we
want to mobilize.

Again, we've got to change that.


Great. That is a great teaser

for a later panel on democracy.

So I encourage everyone to
attend that one as well.

But what I'm hearing part of
what you all are saying is,

it sounds like part of the
solution to policymakers and

others communicating about
climate change is maybe

not communicating about
climate change directly.

To Mike's point about
the indirect effects

and talking about the
parallels in labor.

Like a lot of the things that

will affect climate
change are things

that have co benefits or co
systems that need to change.

There may be
situations where for

particular audiences
for particular issues,

talking about climate
in an effective way

might mean not talking
about climate at all.

Talking about the need to change

the media environment
or the need to

change incentivize cars and

you don't need to
talk about climate

change necessarily to do that.

So Does that seem right
to you or do you have

examples of that at working

or I'm curious about
your thoughts on that?

Yeah. Anyone? Yeah. No, I

think that's absolutely right in

the public media part,
I think is important.

I've got a project
right now working with

a group of students
that is looking

at how to tell the stories of

energy and water injustice
in urban areas in particular

across the Great Lakes in a way

that lifts up community
voices and isn't extractive.

I mean, that's, that's
a big question.

It's with Detroit Public
TV and Great Lakes now and

sort of this media
consortium and for

this exact reason,
because you know,

the portrayal is either one
of sort of hopelessness

or sort of victimization and

it's not one that's actually,

grounded in the stories on.

And there's some good examples.

I mean, one of the things of

the sort of decline
of media overall.

I'm not saying that's
necessarily a good thing,

but it's opened up the space for

more grass roots media for

nonprofit media for other forms,

because I do think you
have to take away some of

that corporate incentive to

actually get these stories told.

And so, you know,
we're seeing some of

those forms crop up right now,

like a planet Detroit,

which is a media
outlet graduate.

Actually it might even be
a Ford school graduate,

but a U ofM graduate
who's doing that is,

I think, a good example. That

Bringing together, and

I'm not sure if you'd
agree with that,

but, like, of lifting up
those stories in a way,

and it's actually, you know,

telling what's happening on

the ground through those voices

directly without sort of the

profit motive being
out in front of that.

And we're just going to
have to do more of that.

Bridge Detroit is
another example,

Bridge, Michigan is
another example.

Bridge Detroit is
our content partner

for my pipecast
authentically Detroit.

And we just did this to try
to inform the neighborhood.

But what I found is that people

who worked in the
city of Detroit were,

like, loving what I was saying,

and I wasn't being
nice to the mayor.

I was like, Oh, really?

Thank you for saying that

because they can't
really say it, right?

And so what I find is
sometimes people just need

other people to be willing to
speak out is scary, right?

Because we have free speech,

but people are always afraid of

the consequences of
using that freedom.

And so I elevated my voice,

not knowing and I
was really scared

because we record as live.

And so anything I say
and I say obviously,

I speak, you know,
whatever freely.

Anything I say, I
don't get to go back

and edit like I do
on my Facebook post.

And So I was really scared.

Oh my goodness. I say that,

how is that going
to be received?

I found that we could get
more foundation money because

people trusted us more

because they knew that
we knew the issues,

and we spoke with
more authenticity.

So I think there's also got to

be the courage that
we can speak out.

Again, I think a lot of people
share these perspectives.

But they don't feel comfortable
talking about them,

and there's no framework
for them to do so.

And so as we look at how we can

cultivate the voice of
students coming out of

this university and cultivate
the voice of some of

our partners understand that

it's okay to speak
truth to power.

Power is going to be powerful,

but we're speaking on behalf

of people who don't get heard.

So I think that we just got
to change the conversation.

We got to trust in people.

And yes, we don't just complain,
we don't just advocate.

We actually have a lot
of projects that we

engage in our community to
help address the situation.

We are improving homes.

We are actually partnering
with our DTE you know,

utility to do housing upgrades.

We are, you know,
installing rain gardens.

We're doing all kinds of things.

We have resilient
subnetworks that

we are forming so
that we can also help

people understand through doing

that you have the power
to change what you

can even while you
are fighting to

change those things that
are beyond your control.

And those kinds of actions
are also so helpful just

for making everybody feel
like they're not alone.

One of a lot of the research
suggests that people don't

talk about climate change

because nobody else talks
about climate change,

which makes you think
that nobody else

cares and you're the
only one who's worried.

And so this is called
a spiral of silence.

So the more people are
talking about things and

their concerns and their actions

and you know what they want,

the more everybody
else around them

realizes that they also
share those beliefs,

and then they can
start moving together.

So that's really great.
So, my next question,

you all have experience
with nonprofits,

which can play a huge role
in shaping both policy and

public opinion about
climate change

at the local state
and national level.

So I imagine that the
nature of that role must

often must change in the face of

shifting political wins or which

environmental or climate topics

are top of mind for citizens.

So how have you seen the role of

nonprofits in
guiding and reacting

to policy evolve over time

and over different

And Kara maybe I'll
start with you.

Sure. So I left a nonprofit
to join the administration,

and we went from a
Republican administration

to split government now
to a Democratic trifecta.

And it's been interesting to

watch the nonprofit
community and

our stakeholder community
writ large try to figure out

how to best interact what

the levers are that
they're supposed to

pull the types of messages

that they need in
between administrations.

But that kind of
transition across

the nonprofit community happens

really slowly and not always
as quick as it needs to,

to make sure that as
government changes or as

public policy is changing

that we're changing
along with it.

That being said, like, at
the state level, like,

it is so important to have

our nonprofit
partners, you know,

from small community

to our public meetings,

all the way up to large
environmental groups,

everything in between to

be involved in our
policy making,

whether it's a specific thing on

a permit around something
like Slantis or

the big package that we passed
last year to the kind of

day to day decisions that we
make in state government.

Having those voices at the table

really make a huge difference.

So while things kind of

transition a little
slower than I'd like,

it's really critical that we

continue to have
everybody at the table.

Do you have ideas
for how to help

that transition move
a little faster.

I think having folks
that have been in

the community for
a long time who

have gone through these
transitions before,

been doing this
advocacy work for

decades can really
help primarily like

the new crop of folks that
are coming in to really tell

them what it's
like to transition

in between administrations,

what it's like to work
with the legislature

versus a governor's office.

Because a lot of that
is just learned.

So if you don't have
that mentorship and

guidance of folks that have
been doing this for decades,

it's really just
learning as you go.

So the more mentorship
we can have from

folks that have the
experience for people

that are coming out of college
and starting this work

or making a pivot into
nonprofit work, the better.


Don, I'll jump to you next.

Well, you know, one
thing I think that's

different is we're
seeing more coalitions

and really excited
about the coalitions.

We've initiated the East Side
Climate Action Coalition,

and we're working with
a bunch of, you know,

historical environmental
groups that

are now working
in our community,

and so we're able to help

direct some of the energy
towards the needs that we have.

I'm really excited about that.

I think that we
really have look at

the impact of our 51c
through restrictions on

the political activity of

nonprofits because you're
not allowed to really get

engaged in policy
conversations in a big way as

a 51c3 and certainly
not partisan politics

or impacting candidate
elections or you know.

But a lot of us are now
starting to embrace

the need to form
51c4 and also PACs.

I'm on the board of voters

not politicians, 51c3 and 51c4.

We're also looking
at PAC activity

is something that
we need to take on,

but our organization as well,

because so many of us are

doing that because we
understand that you

can't really have real power

when all you're
doing is advocating.

You've got to also look at

accountability, tracking,
funding, monitoring,

and then sometimes primary

those people who refuse
to act on your interest,

and I'm seeing more people

willing to have
those conversations.

Can you talk a little
bit about the difference

between 51c3 and four?

Yes. So 51c3 is

your general charitable
nonprofit organization.

Most nonprofit organizations
that exist for

charitablemission based
work exist on that basis.

A lot of times when
people hear about

nonprofits who are
influencing elections,

they're talking about 51c4,

dark money where you

don't have to release
who your donors are,

and a lot of times
those of us who

are ideologically you know,

focused on trying to do
things the right way.

Don't want to embrace

dark money as our
path forward because,

you know, when people form 51c4,

a lot of times we've seen

them in the justice
community as the enemy.

But a lot of us are
beginning to embrace 51c4,

which are allowed to raise
money for campaigns and to

engage in political activity as

long as it's not coordinated
with a candidate.

And so you have this, sometimes

pretense that these
are separate things,

even though a lot
of times they are

coordinated activities,

and then a PAC is
definitely allowed

to have direct political
activity and to fund

candidates and to get

involved with issues where we

are a little bit more

And so a lot of times

organizations are seeing
the need for all three.

We do our mission work in
the community through 51c3.

We engage in political

and building political
power through 51c4,

and then the PAC is how
we finance campaigns.


Yeah, it's interesting
to think about

the nonprofit sort of

flow within the
government and care,

of course, is a great example.

That's the one I worked with
at LCV and then you know,

spent the next four years
calling and saying, and,

you know, essentially lobbying
and things like that.

And so those kind of
flows go in and out.

But spin it was
interesting for me

working at a nationally
focused organization,

National Wildlife
Federation, from the,

you know, Obama to Trump
to Biden transitions.

And 'cause the strategy is
totally changed, right?

So so during the Trump,
years, you know,

it was kind of like
holding on to victories,

using the courts,
stalling things.

I mean, if we're
honest about it,

from the environmental side,

your strategy is 100%
changed at that level.

And we were able to find

some victories around things
like National Parks funding,

some really, really
consensus based

funding stuff that you
could still get done.

But pretty much you were sort

of you were sort of clinging on.

But then, you know, with
the Biden transition,

it happened that the CEO

of National Wildlife
Federation happened to be

close with the Biden
families from Delaware he's

actually running for governor
of Delaware right now.

So so that all of a sudden,

your organization,
your insiders,

and you're shaping
that policy framework,

that doesn't mean that
the Biden administration

does everything that the NGOs
want or even close to it.

There's actually a lot of
quibbles over things like that.

But the strategy is different,

and the NGO community was
then advancing many of

the policy frameworks
to get adopted by

the administration and all
those different pieces.

So I mean, going through

those kind of two
massive transitions,

and what I was doing was running

the six State Great Lakes region

for WWF and looking at how that

impacts how that impacts

that area has been really

fascinating because
the nonprofits

have to be really nimble.

I mean, because it is a
totally different framework

and it's totally
different strategy.

And by the way,

the funding structures
changed completely.

Like, what happens
when, you know,

I don't think anyone in

the environmental
NGO community is

going to say having Trump
elected was a good thing.

Donations flow much
more, though, right?

Because people see that as an
existential threat, right?

And you'll see every
organization would send out,

you know, a screaming e
mail, saying, We need money,

Now, and it's true. You
actually need more resources.

But then the opposite
happens when Biden was in,

it was kind of like, Oh, well,

you have an environmental
ally in office,

and actually the
resources go down, right?

So there's this resource
flow issue as somebody

that spent a lot of time on

the fund raising and
budget side of things.

There's another
transition sort of behind

the scenes that matters
with that, too.

So you've got these the NGOs
have to be super nimble,

I guess is the
takeaway from them.

Yeah. And I mean,
your answers are

making me think that
they have to be nimble,

not just moving from
one administration

to another at the same level,

but that there's
different layers of

government happening
at the same time.

So you might have a Trump

and a Whitmer at the same
time and that might have

a really complex
interaction for how

nonprofits are
trying to position

themselves and how
they're trying to

communicate to both of those
kind of administrations.

Yeah, absolutely.
And most of them go

through some strategic exercise

at the beginning of the year,

like, where is it
where we can make

progress and where do we
have to play defense, right?

And those things switch, and

the Whitman transition is
a good example of that.

When you have, you know,
great folks like Cara

that are coming into an
administration like that,

it's different. It's
different opportunities.

And right now, I'm talking
to a lot of groups,

particularly at the national

level that are thinking about

contingency planning because
they have their plans for

what it looks like
to have another

four years of President Biden,

but they're thinking
about what do

they have to do right now

while they have the time in
the event that they end up,

you know, with President
Trump moving in.

So I think thinking
about that planning

allows them to be more
nimble as we go. Yeah.

I just came back
from a convening

in DC a couple of days ago,

and we were talking
about the need to

infuse equity and vision

into all of our
conversations as well.

Because I don't know that

either Biden or Trump because of

the trade offs that we make in

our politics have a vision

for true energy equity
and climate equity.

I think that we
have not looked at

the unintended impacts of

some of the things that
we are pushing for.

There's a lot of people in

the circles I'm in who are
concerned about, for example,

this move to EVs
without really thinking

about public transit
as an option

because we can talk

about what's happening
in the congo to

produce the minerals that

are needed for
electric batteries,

but also when you
manufacture them here,

the waste and how we're
going to control the waste,

we don't think about some of
the unintended consequences

of the places that we're moving.

But some of us think that we

need more wholesale
change than just

moving from gas powered
vehicles to, you know, EVs.

And and I say that,

although we have an
EV charging station,

and one of the
first EV car shares

in the city of Detroit
is in our building.

So I'm for EVs, but I think

that it's short sighted
to just say EV.

I've seen electric vehicle,

you know, pickup trucks.

And it's like at some point,
what are we looking at?

We have to look
at I think again,

I just think we need to think

more thoroughly about
the short term impacts

and how it's
impacting everybody.

And I think a lot of
times we get so caught up

in partisan politics
that some people

just check out because

they feel as though
they're not being

represented in either space.

Great. So my last question
is thinking ahead.

What do we see as the
biggest issue on the horizon

that we as the public
or future policymakers,

for the students in the room or

advocates need to be
focusing on when it comes to

addressing climate
change in Michigan

and maybe different

that we might need to
be thinking about.

Cary, I'll start with
you first. Sure.

I don't know if it's
a specific policy.

I think on climate, we have
to just continue to have

everybody do everything or

do the thing that
they're really good at.

I think if somebody
wants to focus in on how

they can communicate about
climate change if they're,

you know, an artist or a
communications professional,

like, that's what they
need to be doing.

If there's somebody like
me that wants to be

wonky and do policy and
government affairs,

then they should do that.

So I really think it's about

not only collective action and

doing every policy
at the same time,

whether it's climate mitigation,

climate resiliency,
and adaptation,

and climate justice
and figuring out,

like how everybody can play

a role from the seat that
they want to sit in.

Yeah, I mean, it seems

almost cheating just
to say culture,

but I do think that is
kind of the piece, right?

Like, you know, I don't know,

if you asked this
question ten years ago,

it would the answer is
probably, like, technology.

Like, we need to make sure we've

got the right tools in place

for the sustainable and

equitable energy
transformation we need.

That's not we've got
those tools right now.

And what's actually
lacking is sort

of the cultural will to do it.

And it's kind of
the psychology of

these changes and
those types of pieces,

to me, is where the
focal point really is.

And it's not that we don't

need more technological

Every time we can get more out

of batteries and technology,

it's not a bad thing,

but I don't think
those are the barriers

I think the barriers
are mostly sort

of on the sort of deep
cultural roots of it.

And really, as we're
talking about,

it's the capitalist economy.

And, you know, it
gets really deep,

really quickly when you
think about what we

need to do to get
to that transition

that we need right now to

mitigate some of
the worst impacts

of climate, which
we're already feeling.

I think we need a
collective vision,

and I think that we need to

do make more of an
effort of trying to

come up with a
collective vision for

what the end result looks like.

Not like in five
years and ten years,

what are we trying to get to in

our society and start there.

And I think we need to be
inclusive in that conversation,

and then we need to
set policy priorities

that'll get us towards that,

because I think a
lot of times we

are just responding to our
own individual visions,

and so it's fragmented.

The more we can come
together around

a collective understanding
of what makes sense,

the more we can get
people to buy into it.

I think that we need
to mobilize again,

more voters in our community
to more people to vote,

more people to
understand the power of

their vote and to
get more people who

are actually engaged in
this work running for

office so that they can
also speak very directly.

I think some of
our most effective

political representatives
are people who've done

this work in the
field and then go and

run for office and understand
who they're fighting for.

So I'm curious how you see

all three of you
see us moving to

this visioning for
a collective vision

or changing the culture.

Like what are the concrete kind

of steps that we can
take to get there

or that communicators or
ranks can do to get us there?

We've got to talk to each other.

We've got to listen
to each other,

and we've got to care what
the other person is saying,

and then again, form this
understanding that we are

going to do things that
address all of our needs.

I feel as though we
speak in bubbles and

we're not having conversations
with each other.

A lot of us are ideological
purists and we don't want to

hear from this person because

this is a bad guy and
this is a good guy.

But ultimately, in an
effective democracy,

people are working
together to make change.

Right now, I just feel as though

too many people are outside
of the conversation.

I'd love to have more
intentional listening

and creativity between all of

these different people
who are fighting for

the same thing and
that is a just future.

Go ahead. I think the
intersectionality piece is huge,

particularly with climate
and democracy because

the way that we
change the culture

is by getting more
people engaged,

getting more people that
understand these issues to run

for office to be the ones

that are in decision
making power.

And I think people
often think like, oh,

there's like
environmental issues

and then there's
civil rights issues,

so there's democracy issues,
and they're the same thing.

And you know, whether it's
like us talking about

the specifics or kind
of the institution,

we just need to start
viewing them in

the same way and having the
same conversations. Mm hm.

Yeah. Well, I'm glad you
went first because it's very

similar to what I was
going to say, you know,

which is the linkage between

the justice movement and

the environmental movement and
the conservation movement,

like, big, diverse coalitions
with a shared vision.

I don't know that there's
any other way to move that.

And I would just say the
environmental NGO movement

was very separate from

even the environmental
justice movement.

Let alone, the broader
justice movement.

And it still is.

But I would say and I'd be
very curious take on this

that There's been movement

that way over the last
five or six years?

In this state, the
Flint water crisis

shook the environmental
movement to its core,

because leaders,
and I'll be honest,

I've put myself in

that realm as the head of an
organization at that time.

It was hard to see
how that impact us.

It was like, Oh, I worked for

the National
Wildlife Federation.

What happened in
Flint is it's racism,

it's bad governance,
it's bad infrastructure.

What that have to
do with wildlife?

And, you know, and
I'll be self critical.

That's the absolute
wrong attitude,

but that is what I think

almost everyone in the movement

was thinking at that point.

And since then, it's not
perfect by any stretch,

but there's been a more
intentional movement to link

the justice concerns with

the environment concerns with
the conservation movement.

That's the only way
it's going to get

done is building a
shared vision like.

You know, and when

the Detroit incinerator was
built, Calming was mayor.

And we built the
largest incinerator

in the nation,
right for garbage.

And we were taking
international garbage

from Canada and everywhere,

and the people who were
coming to fight it

were white suburban ites and
they were coming in saying,

No, this is terrible
for the environment.

And, you know, L
Detroit said, Oh,

you can't we don't
care about trees,

we care about people.

So they were actually fighting

for the right to pollute
our own community.

And there was this
belief in some of

our communities that if you
fought for the environment,

you didn't care
about the people.

And so the civil rights movement

Co was very slow to
embrace environmentalism,

although there were people
like Joanne Watson,

who was a city council
person and with the NWACP,

who was one of the early people

in the environmental
justice movement.

But that was sort of like,
you know, fringe, right?

And so, increasingly,

we are understanding
the intersectionality,

that the environment and people

are connected to each other.

And in fact, the people
who are the most

vulnerable are
sometimes the people

who have been politicized to

believe that they shouldn't
care about the streams,

and they shouldn't
care about the trees,

and they shouldn't care
about the air quality.

And so we

As leaders have come

together with more
of a shared vision.

I used to sit on the board of

an organization
that was, you know,

an environmental organization
in the city of Detroit,

and when I would talk about
environmental justice,

they said, people
are the problem.

We don't care about people's
health. They're the problem.

We those kinds of beliefs
are now the fringe beliefs.

And I think we are
seeing good movement.

All right.

Well, that is an excellent
good news story of movement in

good directions to end

on for this section
of our conversation.

And now we get to
turn it over to

the Q&A for audience
questions as well.

So the first question is
around communication,

which we were just
talking about, but

sort of a slight tweak to that.

How do you think the
worsening climate impacts

will change how we should

communicate climate change or

influence what people
are able to hear.

I think that we
have to be careful

as we talk about worsening

climate impacts that we
look at the solutions.

I think one of the fears

and one of the things
that we're seeing

internationally is
climate gentrification,

where we are solving

climate problems for people
who are the least socially

vulnerable and people who are in

the environmentally risky areas.

And so you're seeing that
and you're seeing people

sort of again, in our community,

you're seeing on the one hand

this talk about green

And there's been no
public investment

in green infrastructure
on the east side

of Detroit by the
City of Detroit,

and we don't have a
watershed management plan.

And so I think one of

the challenges is
that it can't just

be going from climate disaster

and climate shock
to climate shock.

We've got to look
at how we invest

to protect people all around.

I think also when
we start looking at

climate recovery and you
look at the role of FMA,

FEMA has done a very poor job of

compensating and
addressing the needs

of low income people.

If you're not a homeowner,
you don't count.

Your losses don't matter,

and there's very
little compensation

from what we see
in our community.

So I think it's the
way we talk about it.

I don't think that
we should talk about

climate in terms of
just the big disasters.

I think we have to talk about
it in between disasters,

and we have to be as willing to

invest in communities
that are vulnerable or

more willing to invest in

communities that
are vulnerable than

those that are high
income communities.

But a lot of times also we talk

about the financial losses.

This is $1,000,000,000 of loss

and that's going to be
more significant in

a wealthy community than

a poor community where

we don't talk about
the loss to people.

I don't know. I think that
we've got to shift and make

sure that we don't
widen the climate gap.

It's interesting there
was a workshop on campus

the last two days about
combating climate anxiety.

So it was really about excuse
me, about this question.

And this is definitely
not my area of expertise,

but I learned a lot from
this because you know,

part of it is, I mean,
those of us within this,

we're seeing bad news every day,

and it's not, you know,
and it's important news.

We're seeing It feels
like every time

scientists predict
what the impacts of

climate change are going to

be, they underestimate, right?

So it seems like you see
these accelerating impacts.

But in the natural
response to that,

particularly as an
educator and advocate is,

we just need to communicate
more about this.

Like, we need to
tell people more.

But of course,
that doesn't work.

People shut down, right?

Like, I think back this
is a personal anecdote.

The first class I taught
many years ago, I was like,

really determined that
every student was going to

learn every fact about what's
wrong with the environment.

And about halfway through, B

it was a terrible class
because of that, right?

Because about halfway through,

some brave student came
up to me and said,

This is really interesting,

and you were depressing
us all horribly.

And I was like, uh, that
wasn't really my goal.

And so, you know,
it's the same piece.

And so, on the flip
side, well, what is it?

Well, it's storytelling.

It's also being
solution oriented.

It's talking about
what can go well,

what are the stories of hope?

And you don't want to
do that, like, kind of,

with rose colored glasses that

aren't accurate to
what's going on,

but you can do that in ways
that sort of lift up the

positive and are still
accurate about negative.

Because you know,
people just shut down.

If it's just, you
know, bad news,

bad news, bad news, it's
psychological numbing, right?

Like people won't
react. To that.

But it's hard because you
hear it every day, and,

you know, those of us
reading about it every day.

But it's highlighting hope

people learn through
stories, telling stories,

and making sure that we're

showing and I think
back to She before,

it's showing some of the
vision of where we could

be going, where we
should be going.

Here at the Ford School, we

are dedicated to
the public good.

So as soon to be graduates are

hoping to make an impact within
the climate policy space,

what advice would you give
those seeking to make

a career or as they're

beginning their career
journeys within the space?

I think just getting involved,

there are so many
different opportunities.

Like, it's very much
about who you know,

and I don't mean that
in a political way.

Like, it's not about getting

somebody that will give
you a job, but, like,

making connections
in your community,

there are people
doing climate action.

There are people working on
really interesting projects

and there are people that
are focused on policy.

And if there's not
that opportunity,

like within your
existing circle,

then, like, reach
out to a nonprofit.

Get involved in a state program.

Like, one new thing that we just

started is the
climate core program.

There's one here in
Ann Arbor as well,

the Ann Arbor climate
Corp A two C two.

So I think there
are just so many

different ways,
whether it's again,

kind of getting in just
into your networks,

joining a professional or
you know, skilled group,

like a climate core,
reaching out to people.

I think that's one of
the biggest things

people reach out to
me all the time.

I think people in this space

want to bring more people in.

So just reach out to as
many people as possible,

connect to people and
try new opportunities.

Just about everything
about climate change

is governed by policy, right?

And changing policy.

So you're really doing

the research to
better understand

what those policies are.

And I wouldn't just look here,

look in other parts of the world

and see what other
people are doing,

where they're doing
it well, where

they're not doing well in

other states and cities,
where they're doing it well.

I was just talking to

somebody who lives in
the city where they are

100% solar power now or

something like that,
or renewable energy.

And that's happening right
here in the United States.

I want to say she
lives in Vermont.

So let's find out about
how she did that.

I love these innovative ideas

that we're seeing
about, you know,

changing our energy
source and maybe

even looking at creating

a public energy source
to replace the private.

I think that I just

want to look at that and
look for hopeful solutions.

And also,

people are looking to work
in different sectors,

and we need people in
different sectors,

not all in the NGO sector.

And so figuring out what
people in your sector are

doing to create change

and finding where the
interest groups are,

I think that would be what
I recommend because I've

had students who are
working in private equity.

And they're looking
at, you know,

how they can shape change there,

and there's people who are
working in transportation and

people who are working
in food systems.

And in each system,

there are policy inputs that
you can begin to effect.

I'll just add to that point,

we've been talking
about the co benefits

and intersectionality
in this conversation,

and so many of these students,

you may not be going into
a climate policy job,

but you may be going into a
health policy kind of job

or transportation
policy or finance.

And there are lots of
opportunities to bring

climate into that work.

And so look for opportunities

to bring that in where
you can when you can.

Yeah. So the next question is,

the president and governor

both said they would prioritize

environmental justice
and climate change

and climate policy

How are they doing? Where
can they do better?

There's a lot more money
flowing into climate justice,

and people are
really optimistic in

the short term about
getting resources.

There is a new EPA grant that
everybody's talking about.

I think you can get
up to $20 million,

and we're going to be
applying for that.

And so groups feel hopeful
that they're going to have

more resources to do some of

their projects where they're
able to test it out.

I think that we have
to look at things

like our energy grid when
we talk about solar.

We have to look at
our energy policy in

the state and whether
or not community

solar is allowed and also net

metering and some of those
policies surrounding that,

to make sure that solar
makes sense for everybody,

and also how do we
finance it, right?

Because right now, you know,

when you finance things
toro tax credits

for people who don't pay taxes
or don't own their homes,

you may or may not
have access to some

of the new innovations
coming forward.

And so how do we
incentivize landlords?

How do we make it
available to people,

maybe through some
other type of funding.

And then I think that we need to

do a much better
job figuring out

our green infrastructure and

what are we doing with
our water systems.

I'm as concerned about water as

I am about any other
aspect of the climate,

and we haven't figured that

out right now. We're
not investing in it.

We have a combined sewer
system in Detroit,

and either we are going to

separate them or we're going
to have to do a whole lot

more to stop the
flooding and stop

the polluting of the Detroit
River and Rouge Rivers.

And so I would like to see

some more ambitious
policies there as well.

I agree.

I think what I've seen,

which is really good the
Biden administration is

very significant attention in

terms of dollars and funding,

and a lot of really good
people doing good work.

Like, the administration
is now filled with

folks who are true
justice advocates.

And that has trickle down
effects throughout things.

I think where there's
been some struggles on

those big decisions often
around energy infrastructure,

where there are potential trade

offs, political trade offs.

And, you know, like
the Willow project

for those who are familiar,

that big oil and gas project

in Alaska that was
allowed to go through

And probably because it

might have had an impact on
gas prices, otherwise, right?

So, like, the politics
of that play out.

And then right here in Michigan,

probably the biggest
one that's in front of

the Biden administration would

be the line five oil pipeline.

So I won't go into
the whole background

on this, but you know,

it's an oil pipeline flowing

through Wisconsin and Michigan,

And the Biden administration and

the Whitmer administration has

been an advocate for
shutting it down.

And the indigenous landowners

have been on that side, too.

It's working its way
through the courts.

But the Biden administration
has not weighed in,

and if it has weighed in,

it's largely been on the
side of the oil industry.

And why is that? Well, it's

because of the politics of it.

It's because of
maybe energy prices,

but it's also because there
are powerful forces on

the labor side of things that
are not aligned on this,

that are aligned against
the environmental side.

And so that's when you sort
of get your justice shops.

Are you going to go with the
solution that obviously is

better from a justice
standpoint on every way,

which is actually agreed
to shut down line five,

or are you going to
balance that with

labor politics and
energy prices?

So I think those decisions where

the rubber hits the road are
hard for an administration.

I think has largely
done a good job,

but there are some
major gaps as well.

And I guess I'll just say
from the state perspective,

I can't speak on behalf of
everything that we've done.

But, you know, the
Whitmer administration,

particularly the team at Eagle.

We have an Office of

Environmental Justice
public advocate.

We're trying to really
integrate it at least

into the processes
of what we do at

state government so we
can have a voice and have

that space for
environmental justice

as we work to integrate
it in all of our work.

We definitely have
a lot more to do.

By no means have we accomplished

what we want to
accomplish on that.

But we've started to see what we

can do to really center
it as we look at policy.

For example, in this last year,

the package of bills
that the governor

signed on clean energy reform,

for the first time
ever because of

environmental justice
advocates that, you know,

gave these ideas as they got

involved in the Public
Service Commission

that regulates our utilities,

our new law now says as

our Public Service
Commission looks at

long term energy plans that
come in from utilities,

they have to take environmental

justice impacts
into consideration.

They have to look at the
affordability of energy.

And those things
we're not allowed

to them before we
change that law.

They weren't allowed to
consider those things.

But those changes only
happened because we had

environmental justice
advocates that pushed

for years at the Public
Service Commission that

worked to get folks in

the legislature
educated about that,

educated me and other folks on

the Whitmer team
to make sure that

we could get that policy
across the finish line.

And at our form the other day?

You know, Abraham Ash
was suggesting that

more people support a bill that

will address cumulative impacts
of air pollution, right?

And it was the position
of the attorney from

the Great Lakes
Environmental Law Center

that Eagle already has
the ability to do so.

And so I think it's
those types of things

where we really need to have
some conversations about,

are we doing everything
we can do within the law?

We do need to change laws,

but are we doing everything
we can do within the law?

I love Regina Strong and

the environmental justice
advocate for Eagle.

But what I would love to see is

Regina and her office having

the ability to also
help influence

permit approval for

air pollution, and
I'm not seeing that.

I'm seeing an analysis,
but not power.

And I would love
to empower people

like her and others to actually,

you know, change because

we're still approving too
many polluting processes.

This next question delves into

the question that my colleague,
Kristen just raised.

And Professor Ramy has written
about climate migration.

And as we are starting
to hear more about

Michigan becoming potentially
a climate destination,

first and foremost, do you

all believe that or
see that to be true?

And if so, how could we prepare

Michiganders for what
that might look like?

I think a lot of people welcome

climate migration
to Detroit, right?

Because Detroit is depopulating

and it's like, Oh,
that'll be great.

I think the challenge is,
again, climate gentrification.

And so will people
come in and move and

displaced people who are living
in more preferred areas,

and will our
resources go towards

helping to facilitate their
migration to Detroit?

It's not like people
are going to come to

Detroit and say, I'm
a climate migrant.

They're going to come to
Detroit and buy a home,

and we already
have public policy

that incentivizes
people moving into

wealthy clusters of spaces in

our community while disinvesting

in most of the neighborhoods.

And so I think The
challenge is where will

our resources go to

the climate migrants
because we know that,

of course, our
population is slowing

and people want to
repopulate the state.

But I think it's
important that we

balance the incoming population

and the potential
incoming population.

I think most politicians want to

see with protecting
the people who

are already here and
making sure that

the resources are more
equitably shared.

And I would add,
it's not just folks,

you know, like residents
that are moving to Michigan.

Like when I talk to businesses
that want to come to

Michigan or looking at

different states across
the country, like,

they're nervous about going to

the Southwest because
they don't think

they're going to have
the water resources,

not only to, you know,

power their factory,
but to make sure that

the community that
they bring in to work

around them actually has
access to drinking water,

like, those basic human rights.

So this is as much of a
migration issue as it is, like,

an economic opportunity issue,

but it has to be managed
really carefully. Yeah.

Yeah, I think it's not a matter

of if it's when and it's
actually already happening.

It's hard to measure, but, like,

the scale of it, I
think, and, you know,

every prediction, it's going
to take off more over time,

meaning we're going to have
more people coming in.

And so, yeah, it's
community preparedness.

I've been doing a project

with the community
of Benton Harbor,

which folks aren't familiar

it's on the west
side of the state,

and it's got some
characteristics fairly

similar to Detroit in terms
of disinvestment over time.

And they're explicitly trying
to prepare for an influx.

It also sits right
on Lake Michigan.

And so trying to prepare
for that and to have

a future to avoid

what they're calling
blue gentrification.

Like people coming for

the water and pushing

out the folks who are
already living there.

And it's complicated.

I haven't seen anyone come up

with the formula for
how you do that.

And I'm sure it's
not formulic too.

It's going to vary by community.

But that's exactly
the questions,

and we need to wrestle
with those like now

because the climate migration
is going to accelerate.

And as you said,

people aren't going
to come and say, Hey,

I'm here is a climate migrant,

that's not the way
it happens, right?

You know, I think
that, you know,

this goes back to
the whole idea of

the intersectionality
of all of this, right?

So housing justice is
an intersectional,

you know, relationship with
environmental justice.

If people already don't have
secure access to housing,

and we know that we have

a growing homeless
population and

housing and secure
population all

throughout the United States,
not just in Michigan,

and actually
throughout the world,

if you look at big
cities in the world, Um,

we've got to do a better job
of trying to ensure that

people have a place to live and

people are secure
where they are,

even as we're bringing new
people in because, you know,

it would be very easy to
think that we can improve

our economy by pushing out

poor folks and welcoming
in people with more money.

I think it's also education
is really important, too.

I think most Americans
have no concept

of the idea of climate
migration at this point.

Like our own research,
especially when you ask

about Americans having to move
because of climate change.

When we ask people open
ended questions about,

like, what do you
think of when you

think of a climate migrant,

half of them describe,
like, a snowbird,

like a retiree from

Michigan moving to the
south in the winter.

It's just, like,
not on the radar.

So I think if we want
people to be making

decisions for their own
lives and be able, you know,

thinking about where they

want to live at the place that's

going to be safe and
that they're going to

have access to that,

especially people who might not

be in these
conversations as much,

we have to be a little bit more

proactive about explaining

this to all kinds of
different audiences.

This next question is for Donna.

Donna, what do you
see as the role of

academia in engaging with
community organizations.

What makes successful

and what makes not so
good partnerships?

We have so many
wonderful relationships

with the University of Michigan.

You know, I have to say,
I'm gonna love this.

My oldest and youngest
graduated from here.

My oldest is going to be getting

her master's here in the fall.

So I love you of them, right?

And I love Wayne State,

and I don't think we
could do the work we're

doing without our relationship
with the universities.

Quite honestly, all
of the research that

we produce is done
in partnership,

and we have so many
wonderful students

who come into our
community and learn?

We have interns who come in.

Two of my directors right
now started as interns.

So I love those relationships.

Let's keep on
deepening them, right?

I also sit on the board of

the University Research Centers.

And so we talk about community
participatory research

as CBPR community based
participatory research

as a model and a framework
for engaging in research,

where we allow the community

to help shape the
research questions,

to participate as equals,

to co publish the studies,

to circulate the information.

We make sure that
the information that

we're developing is useful and

directly applicable to the needs

of people in our community.

And you know, Barbara
Israel will be retiring.

She is the current director.

We need to honor her
and also make sure

that as other units
of the university

are beginning to engage in
some of the same research

that you always try to lean
in on those principles,

and URC is there to help train

people and help facilitate
those partnerships.

So I think let's
continue to do that.

Thank you. Mm hmm.

Thank you all for your
time. We appreciate it.

All right. Thank you so much.