Climate Change Impact: Michigan with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
Representing Michigan’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell serves in House Leadership as a co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. She is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, where she leads on critical issues including affordable and accessible health care, clean energy and water, domestic manufacturing and supply chain resilience, and protecting our wildlife and natural resources. Growing up in beautiful Michigan, Dingell, who chairs the Great Lakes Task Force, has always been an advocate for the outdoors and commits her work in Congress to protecting the environment for generations
How has climate change and climate-related disasters impacted your district’s arts and culture community?
Communities across the nation are experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand, and Southeast Michigan is no exception. During Dearborn’s historic flooding in summer 2021, I heard from artists with flooded basements who incurred thousands of dollars of losses, not to mention the heartbreak seeing the damage to their life’s work.
How has the local arts and culture community in your region addressed climate change?
A love for the arts instills important values within the community, including an appreciation of the beauty and importance of nature. Michigan is home to some of the most breathtaking waterways, coastlines, and forests, and many artists take inspiration from these natural treasures. Protecting these valuable and life-sustaining resources is critical in preserving Michigan’s vibrant art and cultural heritage.
We had an art exhibit in Ypsilanti—Interdependence at the Riverside Arts Center—that demonstrated the connectedness of every person, animal, and living creature on our planet. The Huron River Watershed Council has also partnered with arts organizations like the Michigan Theatre to screen films including “An Inconvenient Sequel,” and host conversations on how we can engage at a community level to address these challenges.
What can federal, state, or local lawmakers do to help effectively prepare for and respond to the rise in natural disasters?
It seems that every year, we experience once-in-a-lifetime weather disasters that push families out of their homes, destroy irreplaceable heirlooms, flood roadways, and devastate local businesses. We deeply understand how climate-related disasters can upend communities, which is why it is critical the state and local responders are prepared to address natural disasters.
With the passage and enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law last year, the federal government authorized targeted funds to invest in more resilient infrastructure that can still withstand natural disasters. Moving forward, I remain committed to working with lawmakers across all levels to implement a strategic and comprehensive plan that protects all Michiganders from harm.
How can policy support the preservation of place-based cultures in the face of climate-related disasters?
Climate-related disasters do not discriminate and can affect any of us at any moment. While it is difficult to protect specific areas from immediate harm, we can advance policies that may be able to mitigate the risk. Investments in infrastructure can prevent the risks and consequences of flooding, contamination spreading into surrounding waterways, and damage to critical environmental sites. Beyond this, it is important to establish federal protections for important sites that enable us to preserve these lands for generations to come.
This blog is part of a series of Q&As with federal, state, and local legislators about the impact of the climate crisis in their areas, how local arts and culture communities are addressing the issue, and how lawmakers can help their regions effectively prepare for and respond to the rise in natural disasters.