NEW White Paper: Detroit Water Shutoffs and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The RISE Lab is happy to release a White Paper detailing how institutional authorities in the State of Michigan and City of Detroit addressed water affordability and the mass water shutoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the first cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, were identified in the United States, community activists appealed to authorities to reverse this shutoff policy. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds to prevent community spread of COVID-19 , activists pointed out that this was impossible for many Detroit residents who lacked running water in their homes. Their pleas were initially dismissed, however, and it was not until March 10, 2020, by when Detroit had emerged as a national epicenter of COVID-19, that Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued executive order EO2020-28 halting water shutoffs and restoring water to disconnected homes. In December 2020, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the City would cover outstanding payments through 2022 and permanently end shutoffs, but questions remain about whether these promises will be upheld, if they have not fundamentally changed their language and assumptions of the root problems related to water affordability.

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Learnshop on Tensions Model to Negotiate with Environmental Stakeholders at GLBD 2018 Conference

I was privileged to facilitate a “Learn shop” at the 14th annual conference of the Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, targeted primarily at regional leaders working toward environmental sustainability. My own contribution centered on helping learnshop participants use communication theory to engage multiple stakeholders amid the “wicked problems” of environmental sustainability. Drawing from my research, I proposed a Tensions Model centered on recognizing how tensions can be more than just headaches, but can be used constructively once we take the time to appreciate the situation holistically from multiple perspectives. Specifically, the learnshop used four “tension areas” as the starting point to help analyze different problems in small groups.

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Climate change response in Alaska: “Do, but don’t talk”?

The other day, I read a news report about how Siberian policymakers are “lukewarm” about the impacts of global warming — or, more accurately, Russian policymakers are lukewarm, whereas local Siberian scientists are sounding the alarm — and it reminded me of the interesting rhetorical response to the same issue in Alaska, a U.S. state that is similarly dependent on fossil fuel extraction, and similarly hungry for infrastructure development.

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