When one understands how their local actions connect to global consequences and vice versa, I call it “glocal” understanding. You’ve developed a sense of place and can discern some degree of efficacy and significance in the systems which you affect.  In essence:

Global+Local=Glocal Empowerment

At the 2011 University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-Dearborn) Global Festival, I spoke on global citizenship and heritage to connect Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining in Appalachia, climate change, and local environmental actions through storytelling to accompany a set of fiddle tunes.

As a way of connecting the audience and stories with opportunities for substantive action, I introduced Michelle Martinez, who worked with the regional Sierra Club Detroit office, Sally Petrella of Friends of the Rouge (a local watershed education group), and myself, at the time representing the Student Environmental Association at UM-Dearborn.

DSCN7748I performed a set of fiddle tunes arranged (and one written) by Michigan Fiddler Judy Plester which I chose for using their geographic origins.

The tunes provided a framework for discussing the industrial revolution, the Appalachian region, Appalachia’s role in U.S. cultural heritage, where our electricity comes from, how our current local energy consumption ties back to coal which ultimately accelerates global climate change and contributes to local environmental injustices.

In turn, I used that to flesh out the idea of global citizenship–that our local actions can make a global difference.  We share an opportunity to celebrate a rich cultural heritage, but also share a responsibility as stewards of human cultures and the broader ecosystemic communities they share.

For most people in Southeast Michigan, every time we turn on the lights we increase energy demand from the local utility, Detroit Edison, which sources much of its power from coal plants (coal makes up 54% of Michigan’s energy circa 2011). Also worth noting from a 2011 energy report by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Public Service Commission:

Michigan is limited in most energy resources and imports 97 percent of its petroleum needs, 82 percent of its natural gas and 100 percent of coal and nuclear fuel from other states and nations. These imports account for about 72 cents of every dollar spent for energy by Michigan’s citizens and businesses. Michigan citizens and businesses spent an estimated $31.3 billion on energy in 2009.

DSCN3854A sizable proportion of the coal used to meet this demand is obtained through a process known as mountain top removal (MTR) extraction. Cost competitive alternatives to coal energy exist in Michigan–here, wind power is on par or beneath the price of coal. In addition to its economic and environmental impacts, MTR displaces and destroys much of our Appalachian and ultimately the very cultural heritage that makes up the United States of America.

This presentation and performance was a fairly personal topic for me, I’ve met a few West Virginians who experienced MTR firsthand, and one of my friends grew up there. All of them conveyed similarly. Land owners are frequently encouraged or pressured (sometimes simply intimidated and threatened [disclosure, I have no affiliation with the Mountain Justice organization which this link goes to]) to move away from their homesteads. For those who remain, the byproducts of MTR and its waste can lead to contamination of groundwater, or contribute to poor air quality which can lead to silicosis and other respiratory diseases. To find out more or get involved with finding alternative solutions to MTR, I Love Mountains and Mountain Justice are good places to get started.

This is why I work on issues of comprehensive sustainability, which looks at the social, economic, and environmental issues.  I don’t like advocating solely about climate change because it tends to distract everyone from very real consequences and issues of public health, environmental justice, and the underlying ethics that motivate what we care about.


For anyone skeptical and curious about climate change, please read here for common arguments refuted with good evidence).


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