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Monday, August 20, 2018

EJAG in Action at Michigan Environmental Justice Summit

Monica Lewis Patrick of We The People spoke at the Summit
On September 8th, more than 200 environmental justice advocates from across the state convened in Flint for the 2018 Michigan Environmental Justice Summit to testify, visualize and strategize for a just and equitable future. The Summit was organized around four tracks: water justice, racial justice, youth justice and energy justice.

I’m proud of the Sierra Club Michigan Environmental Justice Action Group’s (EJAG’s) hard work to support the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition in organizing the event. We contributed in a number of ways, including:
     Developing and being featured in the opening “Flint in Focus” session where, on stage, we discussed the Flint water crisis status, myths, environmental justice demands for the next administration of Michigan government, and what needs to be done for Flint to heal from the water crisis;
     Curating the water justice track by reviewing and selecting proposals
Flint pediatrician/activist Dr. Lawrence Reynolds appeared on a panel.
     Organizing the 2-hour “Water Warriors Unite!” session, where we educated an audience of about 50 participants on the importance of policy development and how to use power mapping as a tool for analyzing powerful influencers for/against an issue, and gathering information to support the EJAG’s power mapping work regarding water issues; and,
     Recommending the event location and local vendors.

The energy at the Summit was buoyant and hopeful, with people networking and connecting across communities and organizations to address pressing - and often interconnected - environmental issues. For example, the dangerous presence of Enbridge pipelines is both an energy justice issue and a water justice issue. Participants discussed strategies to make room for new generations of environmental leaders, and the intentional inclusion of a youth-organized youth justice track was a way for the Summit itself to grow youth environmental justice leadership. Summit participants also explored how to broaden environmental movements to be inclusive of Native, First Nation and People of Color’s environmental matters of concern like the Rights of Nature movement, and polluting facilities (e.g. incinerators, petrochemical refineries, plastics manufacturing), environmental disinvestment, and unaffordable drinking water rates which tend to be concentrated in Native, First Nation and People of Color communities.

In addition to our power-mapping session, the water justice track highlighted an Anishinaabe-led workshop on grassroots action on threats to Great Lakes water and a panel about forming just and equitable research partnerships between academic institutions and communities to address environmental injustices. One of the EJAG’s next steps is to circle back to the full range of groups and organizations that participated in the Summit to gather more information on how groups are working on water quality and water affordability issues so that we can complete our internal power mapping project and identify additional partners to work with to achieve relevant Chapter priorities.

I was pleased to see Sierra Club Michigan staff well-represented at the Summit, both to support the power-mapping session and bridge tracks by learning from energy justice sessions that related to the Chapter’s priorities. Great work, everyone!

In solidarity,

Mona Munroe-Younis
EJAG Chairperson

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