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1st Friday Focus On The Environment: Michigan's Role In Fighting Climate Change In 2016 And Beyond

Michigan League of Conservation Voters

On this 1st day of 2016, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Lisa Wozniak talks to former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. In this January edition of WEMU's '1st Friday Focus on the Environment,' they discuss the politics of environmental stewardship and climate change.   


George Heartwell, until recently, served as the Mayor of Grand Rapids --- one of the most sustainable mid-sized cities in the country. During his tenure, he became recognized as a national leader in adopting policies on the local level that address the global challenge of climate change. Appointed by President Obama to the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Heartwell also recently returned from the COP 21 talks in Paris where he joined local government leaders from around the globe to push for real action to address our changing climate.

Discussion items: 

What the COP 21 agreement will mean for cities across the world, the US and in Michigan. 

What the best hope is for using the Paris climate agreement to form more common ground here at home.

The state legislature is in the midst of a debate over the future of Michigan’s clean energy policies. How to connect the dots for our Lansing lawmakers?

Grand Rapids has committed to an ambitious renewable energy goal and received a number of well-deserved awards for its commitment to sustainability and its balance of fostering a growing economy while protecting the environment. Heartwell has advice for other local leaders in Michigan who want to make a difference. 

The resignation of Michigan DEQ Director Dan Wyant and what that may mean for Michigan's environmental policies and actions in 2016. 


George Heartwell became mayor of Grand Rapids in 2004. He finished his 3rd and final term at the end of 2015 after the City of Grand Rapids voted by initiative to create term limits for city officials maxing out at two four-year terms.

During his tenure, the city government implemented a variety of environmental measures, including purchase of renewable resource energy, use of alternative fuels in city vehicles, continued attention to water quality in the Grand River, and widespread implementation of energy conservation measures.

In January 2007 the United Nations recognized Grand Rapids as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development."  In 2010 the US Chamber of Commerce gave Grand Rapids the “Nation’s Most Sustainable City” award.

In 2012 Mayor Heartwell was given the first place Climate Protection Award by the US Conference of Mayors. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director, and host of Morning Edition Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email him at

Contact David:
Lisa Wozniak is Executive Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
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