Unaddressed environmental issues are heating up politics and firing up sustainability groups, especially in West Michigan. That is not a comment on the weather but on the sheer number of issues facing every corner — and both peninsulas — of Michigan.
On the eve of the Labor Day weekend, the Michigan House of Representatives narrowly supported legislation passed two weeks ago by the state Senate to supersede a November ballot proposal to ban wolf hunting in Michigan, denying Michigan citizens a say in the matter (subject to pending court suits). Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, was among the most vocal opponents of passage.
Environmentalists were ready to walk the Mackinac Bridge on Monday with a number of politicians to draw attention to the two oil pipelines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Their message: “Oil and Water Don’t Mix.”
The pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy Partners LP, the same owners of the failed pipeline that polluted the Kalamazoo River and whose settlement with the state remains controversial.
The harbor captains of Michigan’s West Coast are vigilant this fall about the possibility of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes and continued water level issues.
These concerns are the tip of the most obvious iceberg: Below the surface loom greater environmental concerns in regard to power plant carbon standards, nuclear energy, regulation and zoning changes for alternative energy sources. The monster-size list of issues has monstrous implications if left unaddressed.
Those issues only begin to underscore the importance of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, celebrating 20 years of business participation in regional sustainability issues.
On Monday, Sept. 8, the group will present some of West Michigan’s most recognized sustainability leaders — including Steelcase, Crystal Flash, Carbon Neutral Co., Catalyst Partners and area universities holding LEED stature — for a noon panel discussion at Grand Rapids Public Library Main Branch. The discussion will offer a retrospective of how the “diverse cross-section of industry and community initiatives coalesced to make the region a national hub for sustainable business.”
Grand Rapids’ famed partnerships have woven a safety web for continued discussion and resolution of current issues.
It also is notable that ArtPrize this month will highlight and award a sustainability initiative that could include eco-tourism. And on Sept. 13 and 14, Frederik Meijer Gardens, one of West Michigan’s most prized symbols of stewardship, will offer behind-the-scenes tours of its long-anticipated Japanese Garden.
The West Michigan Environmental Council also has highlighted new initiatives, such as community solar systems that are established much like community gardens, offering a specific neighborhood or block energy-saving potentials. The city of Grand Rapids Office of Energy and sustainability is currently in the midst of a feasibility study for installation of a solar system at the Butterworth landfill site, which could include community solar development.
Such leadership deserves mention as Grand Rapids continues its progress and partnerships. Problem is, it may prove to be an island in the state of Michigan as was evident in separate approvals of a tax for road repairs and parks.