Since it’s founding in 2011, The Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC) has worked tirelessly to put the needs of community members over those of corporations and front and center in legislation aimed at creating and sustaining a healthy climate for all Michiganders. With the rising impacts of climate change, industrial pollution and environmental racism threatening poor, Black, and Brown communities the most, and the understanding that all of our fates are linked no matter your zip code, their mission is clear…the time for real community-led solutions is NOW!
In 2020, the MEJC sent a letter to Governor Whitmer urging her administration to focus on impacted communities and create a plan that prioritizes environmental justice and people-powered solutions rather than corporate agendas. Along with this letter they drafted the Climate R.E.A.D.Y Plan which provides a comprehensive outline for the action that must happen if we want a future that is healthy, secure, and just for all. Here we provide a section of their plan which outlines why their work is so important and invite you to read the letter to Governor Whitmer and their full climate R.E.A.D.Y plan by following the link in the QR code below. Riverwise Eds.
MEJC COVID-19 Preamble
Whereas communities throughout Michigan hope to see themselves and their children thrive without worry of meeting basic needs, concern of pollution and unhealthy standards of living in their communities, and each person has the opportunity to the dignity of reliable work;
Whereas the COVID-19 Pandemic has laid bare the inequities Indigenous peoples of this region and Black and Brown Michiganders have been living under for centuries, including health, economic and environmental inequities;
Whereas the reach of COVID-19 has been a universal crisis requiring non-partisan, swift, decisive, radical action to adequately deal with the needs of our community;
Whereas the interconnectedness of economic and environmental issues has brought forth the long-held perspective of lobbyists and those seeking to influence responses to climate change that solutions that we must prioritize the economy at the sacrifice of the well-being of our communities. We reject this perspective, knowing that the economy thrives when our communities thrive;
Whereas it is necessary in this current crisis for the interests of government office and politicians to be in direct alignment with the needs of the community for the survival of us all;
Whereas false solutions like carbon markets, cap and trade, and carbon taxes give preference to corporations, allowing them to pollute and shift pollution and financial burdens to different locales rather than eliminate them, only forestalling the inevitable crises;
Whereas systems like RGGI have been proven to increase pollution in communities of color, expanding pipelines and water-based pollution, while reducing carbon dioxide regionally;
Whereas the survival of Michiganders requires understanding that when communities’ most basic needs are left unmet and are coupled with systemic racial injustice, then we are not only all ill-equipped to handle the current crisis of COVID-19, but also ill-equipped to handle the impending climate crisis;
Whereas communities across the State of Michigan are living in shut-off from fresh, safe water resources either because of affordability or because of being poisoned by their municipal water supply, while company Nestlé is extracting water resources for no cost.
Whereas the lack of secure jobs, increased number of unemployed people and declining
economic opportunity during the COVID-19 crisis has further exacerbated the lack of access to health care and adequate housing during this critical time.
Whereas people across the State of Michigan have been living with the reality of utility shut-offs during a pandemic – living with rates raised by monopoly investor-owned utilities including DTE and Consumers Energy, unreliable service and being shut off with little intervention from Michigan elected officials, even after the utilities reported that it will work with consumers; whereas the Upper Peninsula has the highest energy rates in the continental US in a time of extreme cold and extreme heat.
Whereas several communities throughout the State of Michigan are identified as Environmental Justice Hotspots caused by concentration of pollution burdens, and experience increased medical disability, which increases vulnerability to crises including COVID-19, flooding, high pollution events, and others, and furthermore exacerbates the cycle of poverty through high medical costs and difficulty obtaining work.
Whereas these same communities are living with municipal, hazardous, biological and medical waste in their community are being processed, further spreading COVID-19 and further exacerbating the risk these environmental justice communities are living under, especially those in communities of predominantly Black and Brown people.
Whereas for the benefit of industry, the State of Michigan continued permitting and regulatory rulemaking during COVID-19 with diminished meaningful public participation and made decisions that directly impacted already overburdened environmental justice communities.
Whereas the actions of our State government and the choices made with regard to the syndemic of the COVID-19 crisis, racial, economic and environmental injustice communities are living with now can either worsen impacts on environmental justice communities or enhance their resilience, and will influence the outcomes of our survival of the climate change crisis.
Therefore be it resolved that, The State of Michigan should be a place where everyone, no matter their zip code or what they have in their wallet, should have the opportunity to thrive – to have their basic needs met, to live in a healthy community, with access to affordable housing, water and utilities and to have the dignity of good work.
Be it resolved that Michigan should divest in fossil fuel generated energy technologies, and invest in community solutions.
Be it further resolved that Michigan invest in local and community-based food systems providing universal access to local, organic food that is affordable to people in urban and rural places, and fair and safe workplaces for farmers and farmworkers.
Be it further resolved that residents and climate migrants deserve affordable, safe housing through and beyond the economic and climate crises not threatened by toxins, foreclosures, flooding, evictions, and unaffordable water and energy.
Be it resolved that Michigan needs access to good paying jobs, living wages, and healthcare in a pollution-free economy, and provide the investment needed to rebuild our infrastructure, including water, energy, transit, and affordable housing.
Be it resolved that Michigan should be the leader in the protection of the Great Lakes, by shutting down Line 5, and other aging pipelines and halt construction of future pipelines that carry fossil fuels through and under our watershed, providing for a Just Transition for workers and communities that host extractive industries.
Be it further resolved that Michigan residents need training and education to restore our farms, lands, forests, and engineering for technologies to support thriving communities; and care workers to assist children and elders for a safer, more dignified world.
Organizational and Individual Signatories:
Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition
Benton Harbor Community Water Council
Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes
Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy
Denby Neighborhood Alliance
Detroit Future City
Detroit Hamtramck Coalition for Advancing Healthy Environments
Detroit Jews for Justice
Don’t Waste Michigan
Georgia Street Community Collective Inc
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center
Healing by Choice!
Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice
Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice
MI Air MI Health
Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action
Michigan Climate Action Network
Michigan Interfaith Power & Light
Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
People’s Water Board Coalition
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
V Martin Environmental Justice Consultant Organizer
We The People – MI
We the People of Detroit
West Michigan Environmental Action Council
Claire S Vial
Mary Ann Baier
Michael J. Lorr
Nicola Jane Philpott