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  • Writer's pictureDan Robinson

Voices on Climate Change and Environmental Justice at the MI Clean Energy Future Rally - part 1

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Over 500 people from across Michigan rallied in the state capitol of Lansing on September 26, to advocate for a series of bills aimed at boosting clean, renewable energy in the state as a way to address climate change and promote environmental justice. Led by the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition and other organizations, the event filled the capitol steps and grounds with speakers, music, education booths, and opportunities to meet with lawmakers. (See the end of this post for an update on the legislation.)


People came from throughout the state for many different reasons, all focused on creating a brighter, more equitable future for Michigan and beyond. Here are a few of the voices from the day...


Dominique Campbell, Deputy Director, Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition: "I have a three-year-old, but when we was going through the pandemic, and just really had a moment to reflect, and all the things that were happening, the social unrest, the crisis around the pandemic, and it just kind of hit me like, if we don't have a world to live in, nothing else matters. I want to make sure that we have a world that's healthy, that we can all thrive in so my son can grow old and thrive and build a family here. He has to inherit this planet, and he has to be able to take care of it. So, I want to have it be in a place where he can be proud of the legacy that we're leaving today, that it's a little bit better for him than it was for us today."


Elli Gurfinkel, Chair, Dayenu Circle, Temple Beth Emeth: "We are here representing the Jewish community, utilizing Jewish values of Tikkun Olam, which is repairing the world and being the stewards of the earth. When God sent Adam and Eve out of Eden, he said, ‘You are in charge of the world.’ So we better, you know, don't break it. We already broke it; let's fix it. How about that?... It is important to me personally because, you know, I found out that climate activism is a great countermeasure to despair, hopelessness, and feeling like ‘Oh, it's too little too late.’ When you're active, the little bit that I put in hopefully joined with everybody else, will make it possible to stop climate change."


Zahra Seblini, Office of Sustainability, City of Detroit: "I'm a Muslim, and in my faith, there's something called an Amanah or like a trust that, essentially, God trusts you to take care of something in your life. And eventually, once you die, you're gonna get judged for what you've done during your life. I think the earth is one of the Amanahs that we're trusted with, one of the things that we're responsible for. It's like a part of the test. Taking care of the earth is a part of the test as a Muslim. It's kind of your responsibility."


Michael King, Grand Valley State Univ. Student and Organizer with MI League of Conservation Voters: "I am a young African American male that has to make sure that my community, not only as a young person but as a person of color, is being represented in everything and is amplifying the voices within my community that needs to be amplified. A lot of communities, a lot of low-income communities, are feeling a lot of these problems firsthand. And so I want to make sure that we actually have a seat at the table. I always have hope. Hope is extremely important. Without hope, there's nothing ... just seeing everyone, all of the young people out here today, literally being passionate about these different things. The more that we are educating our people, the more likely that our people are going to care about these different problems. My hope is my education. Education is the reason why I have hope."


Rev. Linnea Stifler, Retired Episcopal Priest: "I'm here because I love this earth... This is God's gift, and every single breath is a gift from God that is to be treasured. And if we are careless with the gifts, they're not going to be present for us as we continue... (Speaking to the next generation) ... you're right, you're right. You didn't cause this to happen. This is on us and yet it is on all of us, old and young, to make a difference, as much difference as we can right now. And then handing things over and saying we love this earth and we bequeath it to you the best we can."

 

Legislative update - Senate Bills 271, 273, and 502 recently passed both the Michigan Senate and the House and are headed for Governor Gretchen Whitmer's desk. While some environmental groups support the legislation, others, including environmental justice groups, feel the bills fall short, including with clean energy targets and dates, how clean energy is defined, and the lack of any community solar provisions.


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