Since starting my new job last week as a policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, I have gained a unique, inside view of the good work that is coming out of this shop. As a longtime admirer of the Institute, it’s been quite fun to meet the dedicated souls whose work I’ve followed for years.
Now I get to add to MLUI’s voice in Northwest Michigan! It’s a voice that is inspiring people across the state to plan for and build healthy communities that attract economic development, protect the environment, and enhance our quality of life.
I come here with nearly a decade of experience with non-profit environmental organizations in Michigan. Much of my work was in our Capitol, so I am steeped in statewide policy, much of it about protecting the Great Lakes, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and increasing conservation funding to protect our state’s natural beauty and bounty.
Now I’m focusing that statewide experience on local issues.
“Going local” is exactly what noted author Bill McKibben, who we are presenting in Traverse City on September 7, says is the best way to address the looming effects of global climate change.
Of course, we need strong laws from Lansing and Washington D.C. to help, but we can all make a difference. Our choices about how we design our communities and live our daily lives are crucial. By biking, walking, eating local, investing in community, and taking the time to know our neighbors, we can all live healthier lives and make Michigan a big part of curbing climate change.
The Michigan Land Use Institute’s important work promoting the Grand Vision is a good example. It’s a long-term, regional, citizen-based, collaborative planning process designed to make our communities healthier, stronger, and more livable. And it is just one of the programs that are fostering a healthy future for this region.
Another is Taste the Local Difference, the Institute project that links local farmers with local markets. It’s growing as quickly as the crops now popping out of the ground, building a demand for local produce as more people tune into the bounty of high-quality food grown right down the street from where they live.
I’m thrilled to be living in Traverse City. I’ve visited this area and vacationed here as far back as I can recall. As the area continues its rapid growth, protecting our views of the bay, keeping local farms in business, and investing in our communities will become even more crucial to growing our local economy and protecting our quality of life.
Oh, and while we’re at it, we will also be working to slow global warming.
Only a week into my new job, and already it’s a lot of fun.
Brian Beauchamp is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s brand-new northwest Michigan policy specialist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.