July 2023 video message

Hello colleagues and friends across the U-M community!

With summer in full swing, I’m looking forward to traveling Up North and exploring Michigan’s natural splendor.

And while I – like so many of you – will be enjoying the sunshine, it’s also important to think about what our rising temperatures mean for our university, our state, and our world.

Sustainability begins at home, and at the University of Michigan, home stretches beyond our campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint.

So as we work toward reducing our emissions to net zero, we’re also advancing environmentalism through community partnerships and applied research.

We call this comprehensive approach “Planet Blue,” and this month, I’m excited to share just a few of our efforts that are specific to Michigan.

At our School for Environment and Sustainability, assistant professor of practice Lisa DuRussel and her students are helping Detroit residents navigate the vacant land acquisition process.

Together, they’re transforming neighborhoods for the better, enabling landscapes to become more resilient and welcoming to wildlife. Collaborating with community members, they aspire to put the estimated 19 miles of vacant land in Detroit back in the hands of Detroiters for future use and stewardship.

Throughout the university, interdisciplinary teams are examining the relationship between climate change and threats related to the Great Lakes. One such threat is harmful algal blooms, which thrive as the lakes warm. They produce toxins, threaten public health, and contribute to economic losses that exceed $2 billion annually.

In response, the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research forecasts these blooms and provides recommendations so that communities can prepare and adapt.
This summer, our Graham Sustainability Institute is supporting graduate students as they work to advance environmental goals in Traverse City, Holland, Grand Haven, and other communities that are setting the climate-action bar for our state. At the end of the summer, these rising leaders will have created many valuable tools for open, public use by communities throughout Michigan.

This program is part of a special partnership with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – through which we work to empower communities across the state to take the next steps in their sustainability journey, regardless of where they’re starting.

Sarah Mills leads this partnership and is this month’s Portrait of a Wolverine.

Sarah works with rural communities in Michigan that are considering renewable development projects. By providing them with impartial and approachable data, she enables these communities to shape and define their future – often resulting in agricultural stability, increased municipal revenue, and improved civil services.

Sarah understands that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and that communities shouldn’t have to act alone to have a positive impact on sustainability. As Sarah and more than 700 sustainability experts at U-M recognize, climate change brings a wide range of harms, and so merits a multifaceted and sustained response.

Let me leave you with a final thought.

Addressing the climate emergency is our greatest challenge as a society. We all need to meet the moment, and we all have a role to play.

So I encourage you to learn more about what the University of Michigan is doing at planetblue.umich.edu, where you can track our progress toward carbon neutrality, learn more about U-M research and impact across a number of different topics, and find ways to get involved.

Together, let’s go beyond climate awareness, and toward a sustainable future through climate action.

Thanks again for joining me, and I’ll see you in August.