Environment: An Ethic of Environmental Sustainability
In Michigan, we are the stewards of the largest source of freshwater in the world and host some of the most unique wildlife species on the planet. If future generations are going to enjoy the benefits of these resources as we do, we must ensure that we utilize those resources sustainably and promote ecological stewardship, goals I work toward every day at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum. Maintaining our natural areas and urban green-space is essential for productive, healthy lives in all areas of our state. Additionally, we have a responsibility to combat Climate Change by making sure that the energy we consume is renewable and carbon-neutral, leaving this world in better shape for those who come after us. Michigan’s growing “green economy” presents an opportunity to create a better planet and help to diversify our state’s economic portfolio. Helping our Earth can be linked not only to building a more resilient economy, but also to equity. For too long, communities of color have borne the disproportionate negative effects of pollution. We must work to right those wrongs through equitable zoning, effective limitations on pollution, and conservation of our valuable natural resources.
Energy and Climate Change:
- Renewable Energy: Climate change is real, and it’s caused by us. Instead of denying that the planet is getting warmer, we need to step up to the plate and reduce this state’s carbon emissions. We must reinstate and increase Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standard. While the utility industry has long complained that this standard was difficult for them, they easily met the 10% renewable standard before it expired in 2015. Efforts in the legislature to renew it stalled in the face of utility lobbying. We can do better. We need to push ahead with a new standard of 25% renewable energy by 2025 and 50% by 2050.
- Net Metering: In order to achieve an ambitious statewide renewable energy standard, we must make it easier for Michiganders to generate solar or wind energy on their own properties. Consumers should have the freedom to produce their own clean energy, and should be protected from the bullying tactics of utility providers, which discourage private investment in renewable energy.
- Ban Fracking: Natural gas is not a bridge fuel on the way to clean energy. Hydraulic fracking is dangerous to human health and to the environment. The risks far outweigh the benefits. A ban on fracking is necessary to protect the air, water, and people of our state.
- Reform the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ): From my experience working to address the issue of the 1,4-Dioxane dumped into Ann Arbor’s groundwater by Danaher-Pall-Gelman, I know that the MDEQ is broken. While I strongly believe that the front line staff are good people, the MDEQ as an agency is in the pocket of “industry stakeholders.” This is a deep structural deficiency in the department, which must be reformed to create a more responsive, honest, and effective agency.
- Local Control: When it comes to mining or the extraction of oil or gas, local communities should have a say as to whether a project can proceed in their community. Too often we have seen projects move forward that have severely impacted the health, safety and welfare of a local community. Without power in the hands of the community leaders and local government, residents are often left suffering the consequences for years after the resources have been extracted and jobs have left town.
- Hold Polluters Accountable: We need to return to the principle of making polluters pay to clean up their messes. Current law does not require polluters to even attempt to undo environmental damage; instead it simply requires that they take measures to keep people from encountering the pollution. Instead of fencing off ever-expanding “sacrifice zones,” we should change the law to protect our shared environment and hold polluters responsible.
- Protecting our Water, Air and Ecosystems: Lack of public oversight poses a continuing threat to our clean water and air, as we experienced with the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. We cannot let that type of disaster happen again. The state must take action and close Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which is far past its expiration date but continues to operate under the Straits of Mackinac. The Department of Natural Resources must also increase its efforts to control and eliminate threats to our unique ecosystems, such as invasive species and habitat destruction.
- Disproportionate Impacts of Pollution: Too often, we see the disproportionate impact of industry on communities of color and working-class families. The state’s environmental justice standards are inexcusable, failing to sufficiently protect vulnerable communities. We need new environmental justice standards that restore and strengthen local power to control pollutants that particularly affect disadvantaged communities.
- Infrastructure for All: Michigan’s infrastructure is broken. Working-class and minority communities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of underinvestment, as we have seen with the Flint water crisis. Many times this is the result of the fact the state has devastated local government funding by gutting revenue sharing and limiting revenue-generating options. We need to reinvest in our communities.
- Access for All: While Michigan boasts an expansive State Park system, not all families are able to enjoy this public resource. The state must endeavor to find ways to make our resources relevant and accessible to all Michiganders, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
- Recycling: Our state‘s recycling rates are embarrassingly low. We need to provide resources to support recycling efforts and expand our state’s successful bottle bill to all beverage containers, including bottled water.