This image is a screenshot of the CMU panel section of the conference.

CONTRIBUTING: Central Michigan Climate Solutions Summit: What’s Next?

This post was written and submitted by Marie Koper, the Community Coordinator for the Central Michigan Climate Solutions Summit and Group Leader of Mt. Pleasant Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education.

On Oct. 16, 2020, a new collaboration between Central Michigan University and the Mount Pleasant community produced an online conference to feature the efforts to deal with climate change and its problems being made by the University and various groups in the community.

The Central Michigan Climate Solutions Summit was organized by a handful of dedicated CMU faculty and students and members of Mount Pleasant Citizens’ Climate Education. It was originally scheduled to be held in late March. When COVID-19 shut down the campus, the conference was re-organized as a Zoom event with the same panelists and keynote speaker. Groups that were planning to table in March submitted short videos of their work for an online version.

The support of the conference offered by CMU students made it clear they are concerned about the impact of climate change on their futures and are eager to learn about solutions and work to make them happen.

Responses to the central theme of the collaboration have been positive. People were surprised and happy to learn about local efforts that they had been unaware of.  The CMU Panel members were Dr. Bob Davies, President of CMU who outlined CMU’s vision for climate solutions; Jay Kahn, Director of Facilities Operations, Facilities Management at CMU who highlighted sustainability initiatives on campus; Dr. Goksel Demirer, Professor of Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering and Technology, and Institute for Great Lakes Research spotlighted how the Environmental Engineering program approaches solutions to the climate crisis; and Chloe Majeske, a CMU student majoring in Meteorology provided a student’s perspective on university initiatives.

The Community Panel presented four different sources of solutions. Its members included Will Joseph, Mayor of Mt. Pleasant, and Nancy Ridley, City Manager, who discussed municipal actions and aspirations, and Jim Hageman, Co-founder of Trees NOW Isabella, an individual initiative to organize planting more trees. Emily Zoet, a volunteer with Mt. Pleasant Citizens’ Climate Education described that group’s advocacy for national legislation to price carbon emissions as well as local initiatives for sustainability.  Laura Coffee, Marketing & Owner Services Manager of Greentree Cooperative Grocery discussed how their commitment to sustainability drives their business practices.

The keynote presentation of the Summit was by Dr. Andrew Hoffman, the Holcim (U.S.) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at University of Michigan. Hoffman has a national reputation in the relatively new field of business and environmentalism. Dr. Hoffman’s remarks reiterated the Summit’s focus on solutions to the problem of global warming.

The market has rewarded activities that poured excessive CO2 into the atmosphere and failed to curb that pollution. The market’s use of fossil fuel has disrupted the balance of nature. We cannot deal with global warming without accepting the role of businesses. “The market is the most powerful institution on earth; business is the most powerful entity within it. If business isn’t solving the problem, it won’t get solved.” He then described a wide range of measures that businesses could adopt that would not destroy the economy but would change the destructive patterns of fossil fuel use that came with the Enlightenment.

Dr. Hoffman pointed to humans’ changing relationship with nature over millennia and to the ways that the climate crisis is causing us to re-examine that relationship and redesign business – a re-enlightenment if you will – based on a better understanding of natural systems and how to work within them.

The organizers of the Climate Solutions Summit hope that it will grow and become an annual event reflecting expanded interest in local implementation of solutions to the causes and problems of climate change. Many important sectors of the community, from agriculture and clean energy to faith organizations and health providers were not included in this Summit due to time constraints. Their interests and views are all important. Other municipalities in Michigan, ranging in size from Northport to Grand Rapids, townships and counties, as well as universities are devising sustainability plans and setting clean energy goals to deal effectively and responsibly with climate change.

All sectors and populations within the area need to be in the room collaborating on these decisions. It remains to be seen if there is a critical mass of local interest sufficient to lead our university and community away from the activities which have created the climate crisis, build on existing efforts, and design a healthier community for the future.

We hope that there is.

For more information, contact Marie Koper at mtp.mi.ccl@gmail.com. To view the panels and keynote presentation, go to cmich.edu/diversity/Pages/Climate-Solutions-Summit.aspx  or mtpleasantcitizensclimatelobby.org/

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