Event Review

Panel Discussion Highlights Opportunities and Barriers to Climate Resiliency in West Michigan

The panel discussion on responding to climate change in West Michigan featured speakers with a local and international perspective. The discussion was led by moderator Nicholas Occhipinti Policy Director at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Panelists included:

  • Alison Sutter, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Key Green Solutions
  • Mark LaCroix, Executive Vice President, The CarbonNeutral Company
  • Amy Deel, Membership Coordniator, Local First
  • Rick VanDellen, Sustainability Program Manager, Amway
  • Aaron Ferguson, Project Manager & Health Educator, Climate & Health Adaptation Program, Michigan Dept. Community Health
  • Haris Alibasic, Director, City of Grand Rapids Office of Energy & Sustainability

The discussion kicked off with the panelist briefly talking about what their organizations do and the challenges they face to climate resiliency. Haris Alibasic with the City of Grand Rapids said that the “biggest challenge for the City of Grand Rapids beyond the most obvious one’s are energy and managing our resources in the most sustainable manner”.

A recurring theme in the discussion was data driven decision making, and how extreme weather conditions make it easier for communities to see the need to make changes. Alison Sutter with Key Green Solutions provided the example of a hospital that took 15 hours to evacuate a hospital due to a power outage during Superstorm Sandy. The hospitals generators were in the basement, which had flooded.

The panel discussion looked at the greatest climate concerns for West Michigan and how the panelists are working to be change agents in the community.