Blog: Stephanie Chueh & Jordan Garfinkle

Why consume resources today that can get us through tomorrow? This week we pick the brains of Stephanie Chueh and Jordan Garfinkle, interns from the UniverCities program of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance charged with helping Metro Detroit cities cut their energy usage 25% by 2015.

Jordan Garfinkle: Passionate Young People as a Renewable Resource

As a grad student at UM's School of Natural Resources & Environment, I've been looking into many of the environmental and social issues facing metro Detroit through an academic lens. I noticed that while so much of the research on the region's issues was timely and important, I had a hard time feeling a personal connection to the areas of study. Living in Washtenaw County and in Ann Arbor in particular, it's easy to consider many of Detroit's issues as being from a distant land, a mere case study in post-industrial urbanism; in reality, however, Detroit's success is intimately connected to our own. I wanted to get involved in the effort to revive metro Detroit while developing an understanding of the people and places around me.

At the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, such opportunities abound. Through the UniverCities Connection program, aimed at connecting academic research with real-world problems, I've been working to identify policy options for addressing energy issues across the region. Energy will be a critical component of metro Detroit's future as we grapple with a volatile fossil energy market, concerns about energy security and the growing threat of climate change. When it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy, there are many laudable examples throughout the country that local communities can emulate when developing policies to address their own needs.

In the interest of aiding resource-strapped cities, I've taken this work one step further by beginning the process of tailoring these broad policy initiatives to metro Detroit. Through my research on municipal energy policies and discussions with local government officials this summer, it's become clear that many cities are interested in addressing energy issues but lack the technical expertise and administrative resources to get started. My aim has been to clarify for them the challenges posed by continued reliance on fossil fuels, and to provide potential solutions.

If we're going to advance the public discussion on energy, though, we need vocal and adamant youth. To raise awareness among the region's Millennials and stimulate their involvement in metro Detroit's energy future, I've organized an open forum for young people. We'll be discussing the energy challenges we face, potential policy options going forward and how to get involved and make our voices heard. And here's my shameless plug: we'll be meeting at the Ferndale Public Library on Thursday, August 4th from 7:30 to 8:30 pm.

I've learned this summer that building a strong, sustainable future for metro Detroit is about more than reaching out; it's also about reaching in. All of the passionate, talented people living and working in the region have a stake in our future – by standing up and speaking out about what that future should hold, we can determine where we go and what metro Detroit becomes. Working on energy issues in metro Detroit has been so rewarding largely because of the pressing problems we face, but also because of the region's potential to chart a course for a more prosperous and sustainable future.  This transition to responsible energy policies can be powered by our most abundant renewable resource – passionate young people demanding the future we deserve.