Detroit Climate Justice Alliance

Raising Awareness Of Climate Change’s Impact On Our Communities

We generally don’t pay attention to climate until extreme things happen: unusually warm days in the winter or cold days in the summer; unusually long stretches of no rain or too much rain; more frequent hurricanes and tornados and so on. Even when these things happen, it isn’t until our lives are directly impacted that this idea of climate change really hits home. Most of the time we often feel as though we can’t change the weather anyway, so why worry?

East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) believes that together we can change the impact that human activity has on the climate, which is why we began participating in a national coalition of groups concerned about the effects of decades of worldwide use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal).

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is a national formation of grassroots peoples and organizations who share a unified vision of a new world that’s healthier and safer for every community in every nation. CJA confronts the root causes of climate change by developing strategies for a just transition out of our dependence on fossil fuels and risky energy and promotes an action agenda to build resilience at the grassroots level.

At the Alliance’s major September 2012 convening, EMEAC committed to playing a role in helping to build community resilience to climate change, while exposing the causes of extreme energy and the false solutions proposed by its industrial and corporate emitters. While thousands of Detroiters go without utilities and water, our power system as a whole is dependent on highly destructive and polluting sources of energy, such as mountaintop removal, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing. This leaves frontline communities in places like Detroit vulnerable to toxic pollution and too often without consideration for evacuation, treatment or reparations for bearing the health burdens to provide power the entire society.

In November 2012, a group of allies in the community began conversations about the meaning of climate change, extreme energy, just transition, community resilience, and what they look like in the lives of Detroiters.  Through our collaborative process, we examined the ways that communities have already been grappling with the impacts of climate change –and defined what our work would look like over the coming year.

As a group, we are dissecting such jargon as climate change, resilience, and extreme energy dependence.  Further, we agreed to take time to really understand the problems, continue to implement and exchange solutions, and raise awareness in the community about dirty energy sources, their effect on our children’s health, and how burning oil and coal negatively affect weather patterns and food production around the world. Members of the group have been raising awareness in their respective communities and meeting places about these issues.

Detroit Climate Justice Alliance members include: Hanifa Adjuman, Education and Outreach Director, DBCFSN; Shane Bernardo, Outreach Coordinator, Earthworks Urban Farm; Linda Campbell, Building Movement Detroit; William Copeland, Youth Director, EMEAC; Kae Halonen, Chairperson, Southeast Michigan Jobs With Justice; Jerry Hebron, Northend Christian CDC and Oakland Ave Farmer’s Market; Charity Hicks, Eat4Health Fellow, EMEAC; Joel Howrani Heeres, Sustanable Communities Coordinator, WARM Training Center; Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director EMEAC; Joan Ross, Director of North End Woodward Community Coalition; Sarah Sidelko, Co-Founder, Fender Bender Detroit; Sam Stark, Jobs Committee member, Southeast Michigan Jobs With Justice; Kathryn Lynch Underwood, City Planner, City of Detroit Planning Commission

National CJA

Local and national CJA’s are uniquely positioned to shift the local and national political discussion given our group’s histories of struggle and engagement in communities like Detroit that have been on the frontlines of environmental injustices. It is members of our communities – often living in the shadows of polluting facilities, congested highways and toxic lands – that are developing the tools to organize and harness our collective power toward change.

The overarching goals include:

1.         Ending heavy dependency on extreme energy, which is defined by the extreme risk posed to human and ecosystem health, community resilience, economic certainty and climate stability. Creating transition pathways out of such resource and carbon intensive industries would reduce carbon emissions in line with what science says is necessary to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Mitigation and adaptation must be done in tandem and both must address the root causes of the problem.

2.         Implement a Just Transition to local resilient economies in which good, green, and family-supporting jobs are created for unemployed and underemployed people and workers formerly from energy-intensive industries. Our localized economies will be ecologically grounded, build community well-being, and democratize decision-making and local control of our resources (including land, water, and food systems) and livelihoods.

3.         Build a Movement strong, broad and deep enough to make this happen – one that has a culture of trust and steps into national leadership to define victory and claim the spaces of contestation. This national mass movement will operate in relation to global movements for climate justice.

Our aim locally is to begin where we are, with the tools and resources we possess to identify, understand, generate and implement solutions to the climate, environmental and ecological problems facing our communities. Members of the Detroit Climate Justice Alliance are doing just that.

Detroit Climate Justice Alliance Members include:

Southeast Michigan Jobs With Justice

The framework for Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice’s “Green Energy, Green Jobs” activities comes from a quote in Van Jones’ book, “The Green Collar Economy.” In it, the environmental activist writes, “Once the Green economy is no longer just a place for the affluent to spend money, once it becomes a place for ordinary people to earn and save money, nothing will stop it.”

Part of a network of 43 workers’ rights coalitions across the U.S., SEMJWJ believes the key element to building a mass movement against climate change is overcoming the myth Americans have to make a choice between going Green and having a job.


City of Detroit City Planning Commission

The City Planning Commission (CPC) is an advisory body to the City Council on policy related to the physical, economic and social development of the City.

The CPC recently completed a multi-stakeholder process to devise the Urban Agriculture Ordinance (passed by City Council) and will continue an inclusive process to further develop agriculture policy. Heat island effect and any threat or disruption to conventional food supplies could greatly threaten the health of people in Detroit. Facilitating the ability for citizens to grow their own food and create productive community-based green spaces within their neighborhoods contributes to community self-determination and resiliency.


WARM Training Center

WARM Training Center envisions people thriving in vibrant communities and buildings that foster social, economic and environmental health for everyone. We believe that realizing that vision entails mitigating our region’s current contributions to climate change as well as  fostering adaptive strategies.   Encouraging greater adoption of energy efficient retrofit and building techniques, promoting the use of renewables and planning for the effects of climate change are strategies that we engage in each day to address climate change and help build more resilient communities.envisions people thriving in vibrant communities and buildings that foster social, economic and environmental health for everyone.

We believe that realizing that vision entails mitigating our region’s current contributions to climate change as well as  fostering adaptive strategies.   Encouraging greater adoption of energy efficient retrofit and building techniques, promoting the use of renewables and planning for the effects of climate change are strategies that we engage in each day to address climate change and help build more resilient communities.


Earthworks is an urban farming program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Our mission is to help build a just and beautiful food system for all. Earthworks also works toward social justice, as we work in harmony with nature and build relationships of mutual benefit within this living system.

 Earthworks seeks to promote food sovereignty, sustainable agricultural practices and peace, respect and harmony between environment and community. We hope to realize this through active consciousness of the interdependence of people and Earth, community self-reliance grounded in revitalized food economies, and organizing for community power and responsibility through authentic and holistic relationships. Through working with others, we live into our values of interdependence and connectedness between one another and the earth and connect to the greater movement for ecological and climate justice.

Greater Woodward Community Development Corporation

Greater Woodward Community Development Corporation focuses on climate justice issues. Our vision to improve the economic opportunities for men and women in urban areas, Greater Woodward CDC has turned its efforts to “climate justice” issues. The five year old organization installed the first “grey water” bathroom system in the community. This spring, the grey water system will also utilize water from an outdoor rain capture system.

Earlier this month, GWCDC installed solar in the project house and will be tracking its success as plans to construct the first solar hub in the city move forward. “A CDC cannot focus on the construction of low or moderate income housing and consider that its contribution to community,” says executive director Reverend Joan C. Ross. “In order to develop sustainable communities, a CDC must look at the problems that plague a community and address those issues.

East Michigan Environmental Action Council

EMEAC aims to create a space that advances the thinking and efforts of grassroots organizations and community members committed to environmental and social justice.  Our work is spread across three interrelated areas: youth organizing and leadership, media justice and policy advocacy.  Rooted in the principles of environmental justice (created at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991), this work draws linkages between health, environment and quality of life.   EMEAC firmly believes that only through collective efforts can meaningful change be made. These beliefs are supported by a strong history of holding critical roles in strategic collaborations.

We agree that is time to make a just transition away from the systems, institutions, policies and norms that have created local, national and global ecological crises (including environmental and climate) and continue to perpetuate inequity and multiple forms of oppression, as attested to by our participation in the Detroit and national Climate Justice Alliances.