By Andrew Sarpolis
What a difference a year can make. When the idea for the Oakland County Climate Campaign (A.K.A. Turn Oakland County Green) started in December 2019, nobody could have imagined what the effort would accomplish. Today, Oakland County is closer to being a leader on climate change than at any point in its modern history.
With our campaign’s birthday happening last week (February 24), it is a good a time to offer some reflections about progress.
Accomplishments of the Environmental Movement in Oakland County
So, what have we accomplished and what’s happened? First, we published a Climate, Jobs, and Justice Platform for 2021 to outline the principles of the local environmental movement, which you can read here. Since our start, our campaign has also highlighted the importance of the issue of climate change in several ways:
· We held our campaign kick-off on February 24, bringing in more than 100 people. Since then, we held six town halls that engaged over 300 people.
· We collected over 160 volunteer-interest forms and another 200 petitions (sign here).
· We held approximately ten citizen-led lobby meetings with the Oakland County Commission and the Oakland County Executive.
· We Published the 2020 Climate, Jobs, and Justice Platform and launched our website with digital trainings and resources.
On the electoral front, a separate and distinct effort managed to preserve the pro-environment majority on the county commission:
· They raised $11,000 for direct contributions to candidates who supported the environment and spent $250,000 on campaign operations. Those candidates won enough seats to maintain the pro-environment majority.
· Their efforts gathered over 1.25 Million ad impressions on Twitter and Facebook.
· Volunteers and campaign staff knocked on over 13,500 doors and made 25,000 calls in support of pro-environment candidates.
What’s Going on at the County Now?
We’re still waiting for an official announcement but, Oakland County has formed an Environmental Sustainability Internal Working Group. We’re told this group has been working on developing a sustainability plan for all county buildings and operations. Commissioners Gwen Markham and Kristen Nelson have helped support this effort. Furthermore, there is a strong desire right now to do a county-wide climate action plan. We anticipate these could be announced together, or in short succession.
A shout-out also has to go Commissioner Charlie Cavell who has assembled an energetic team of volunteers to look into developing a sustainability office. We have heard from Oakland County that there will be at least one person dedicated to sustainability in the future. However, we still don’t know the size and scope of this hiring. Obviously, we believe an official sustainability office is essential and must be well-staffed to support Oakland County and its communities.
Furthermore, Commissioner Kristen Nelson’s native plant initiative was renewed for 2021. This effort provides free native plants to all residents who want them, encouraging people to support native habitat in their own backyards. This has become increasingly important as urban sprawl breaks up contiguous sections of the natural environment, allowing invasive species to spread and hurting native pollinators.
Where Do We Need To Go?
As the foundations of a sustainability office and climate goals are laid out, environmental justice and equity need to be key components of the county’s climate response. We’re pushing Oakland County to look at energy efficiency in low-income communities, something that could have a big impact. Several commissioners have expressed interest in this idea.
Furthermore, we have one of the most underinvested regional transit systems in the nation. We expect and hope that Oakland County will make some efforts to expand access. We’re hearing this will become a priority within the next year.
Overall, we anticipate major announcements in the next few months. Rest assured, we will keep our followers updated on what is happening as it is announced. Thanks to everybody who has offered their support over the past year.
What Can You Do To Get Involved?
· Have you signed our Petition? A recent review showed that many of you have not. CLICK HERE to sign right away and be sure.
· Volunteer to be sure you are on our email list: go to our website at www.turnoaklandcountygreen.com and look for the “Volunteer” button.
**The Oakland County Climate Campaign is a coalition which encourages views from a variety of sources for its blog. The thoughts reflected in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the particular member organizations of the Oakland County Climate, its affiliates, or other participating groups.**