Build Back Better for Us: Bob Sutherland’s Story

Bob Sutherland owns Cherry Republic, a food store born in northern Michigan that sells more than 200 products made from cherries with six locations across the state. As a prominent northern Michigan business owner, Bob understands the importance of Michigan’s Great Lakes, majestic dunes and beaches – and the need to protect them.

Bob is an advocate for our Great Lakes and northern Michigan way of life because he believes it’s right. With multiple locations in northern Michigan that rely heavily on a thriving tourism and agriculture industry, Bob is seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand.

Record high lake levels over the past several years have caused erosion of Michigan’s dunes and beaches. Extreme weather and abnormal climate patterns have led to excessive rainfall and humidity causing extra work and expenses for cherry farmers, on which Bob’s business depends. He is experiencing the inherent connection between our water and Great Lakes and the climate crisis.

It’s Bob’s belief that the business community has a significant responsibility when it comes to the protection of our air, land and water and the fight against a changing climate. Business owners should use their platforms to take a stance and ensure leaders know why protecting our air, land and water is so important.

That’s why he’s using his platform to support President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to build back our economy and water infrastructure while positioning us to tackle the climate crisis. The American Jobs Plan presents our country with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect our water, that businesses like Bob’s rely on so heavily. 

“We are seeing the impacts of climate change right now here in northern Michigan. The American Jobs Plan is our opportunity to create jobs rebuilding our country and tackling climate change. We need bold action and leadership now to tackle the climate crisis, which is why I’m calling on members of Congress to get behind the American Jobs Plan.”

Build Back Better for Us: Jim MacInnes’s Story

Jim MacInnes knows a thing or two about efficiency. As CEO and co-owner of Crystal Mountain Resort since the 1980s he along with his wife and resort President, Chris MacInnes, has built one of Michigan’s premier outdoor recreation destinations, offering skiing, golfing, spa and conference services for hundreds of thousands of guests every year. Under their leadership, the Crystal development and operations team has built the resort into what it is today, and Jim has maintained a strong focus on community-building and efficiency, especially when it comes to the infrastructure and the energy needed to power their business. 

Over the past 36 years Jim has noticed the accelerating effects of climate change in Northern Michigan in the form of more drastic and variable weather, increases in precipitation and other extreme weather events, along with rising average temperatures. Using his background in electrical engineering with a degree from the University of California Irvine and previous experience in the power industry, Jim has pursued energy efficient, and clean energy alternatives to power the resort. These initiatives have been key to ensuring the resort operates efficiently, cost effectively and with an environmentally conscious focus. 

From transitioning to LED lighting, more efficient energy control systems, public EV charging, reusing water in more sustainable ways, and investing in geothermal energy that now heats and cools a 30,000 square foot inn at Crystal Mountain, Jim is committed to a low carbon future for his business, the surrounding communities, and Michigan as a whole. Despite the need to invest in snow-making machinery due to warmer temperatures in the winter months, the resort now runs on 62% zero carbon electricity.  

With the climate crisis continuing to accelerate, Jim and Chris recognize the importance of investing in a carbon neutral future and have led by example in how they run their business. As we try to facilitate meaningful action to address climate change, Jim says that “the emphasis needs to be on disinvestment in fossil fuels and turning to clean energy alternatives based on systems thinking.”

For Jim, building back our economy from COVID better and greener presents a unique opportunity to tackle climate change and necessitates becoming much less dependent on fossil fuels. He believes that through investments in more resilient infrastructure, pursuing innovative ways to upgrade our power grids, and by accelerating our energy transition using more development-friendly clean energy regulations and tax incentives, we can ensure that Northern Michigan and places like Crystal Mountain Resort continue to be uniquely beautiful and majestic destinations for generations to come. 

“There are many ways to significantly reduce carbon emissions here in the United States and we can be a leader.  The technology and opportunities are currently available, we just need the will to use them.” 

Build Back Better for Us: Naina Nagar’s Story

Naina Nagar, a senior at Troy High School has volunteered for many causes throughout her 17 years of life. Most recently, she’s spent her evenings making phone calls to lawmakers and community members about the current state of clean water in Michigan with Michigan LCV’s Our Water Activist program.

Naina found the Our Water Activist program through a program at her school called Project Lead, a group that organizes volunteer activities for students.

“When I found the Our Water Activist program I thought it would be a great way for me to make a difference where I could see things changing and make some kind of progress right now.”

While clean water activism is a passion of Naina’s, she also understands the key to a sustainable future requires taking serious action against climate change by replacing fossil fuels with clean energy on a global scale.

“Fossil fuels need to be replaced with clean energy, and we need to move away from the gasoline cars that we have right now. That would be the only way to really have a future on the planet that’s going to be sustainable.”

Naina believes taking bold actions against climate change needs to be a top priority for citizens and lawmakers everywhere.

“It’s not just recycling that’s going to make a big difference in the world, or using less water, or less electricity or things like that. We need to be doing big things like taking governmental action on a wide scale throughout the state and the country.”

That’s why Naina supports building our country back better with historical investments in protecting water access and fighting climate change.

“We’re talking about the future, your family’s future, your kids or your neighbor’s kids, or everyone that you know. I like reminding people that this is bigger than you.”

The Build Back Better Agenda offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for major investments in water infrastructure including removing lead pipes and rebuilding aging sewage systems, as well as fighting climate change by expanding the clean energy sector and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This plan not only improves the quality of life for people right now, but it also protects the planet for future generations.

“We have to make sure that we’re thinking about the big picture. It’s really important that we all take bold action together in order to reverse climate change as best as we can.”

Build Back Better for Us: Missy Stults’ Story

Most people don’t see the ecosystems at play in every single aspect of our lives, but Missy Stults is not most people. Initially, ocean ecosystems captivated her, and she chose to study marine biology at the University of New England, however, one course in environmental ethics changed her entire career trajectory. To Missy, the intersectionality of the environmental, cultural, social, and economic implications of climate change reveal visible human ecosystems, both globally and locally.

“I will work on climate change until we solve the climate crisis. It’s not a job, it’s a life purpose for me,” says Missy.

After completing her marine biology and environmental science degree, she joined the very first cohort launched by Columbia University called Climate and Society. Later she received her PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she works today as the sustainability and innovations manager for the city.

Most, if not all, of Missy’s work centers around the A²ZERO plan, a massive city-wide plan that lays out the steps necessary for Ann Arbor to become carbon neutral in a just and equitable way by 2030.

The A²ZERO plan features dozens of bold projects and initiatives. One of the programs includes transforming the electric system with a landfill solar project that will provide 24 megawatts of renewable energy to the community. Another project includes energy and weather efficiency improvements in homes beginning with a home health, safety & comfort assessment. Yet another project focuses on building electric vehicle infrastructure, and a handful of projects focus on policy change locally and regulatory reform at the state level.

“The Build Back Better Agenda would provide investments needed to catalyze the kind of change we want to see,” says Missy.

Of the countless positive changes these investments could make, perhaps the most influential would be the investments in the clean energy sector resulting in better paying, long-term, family sustaining jobs while protecting the health of the environment and the community within.

“The Build Back Better Agenda will provide new jobs in sustainable industries that can meet the demand that is necessary to prevent this climate crisis and we need that. We need more people doing this work. We need all hands on deck,” says Missy.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to make the investments that put American employees to work in good paying jobs that protect our health, safety and welfare and ensure that we have a livable planet for today and for future generations. The Build Back Better Agenda will put us as the vanguard on the bleeding front of solving the climate crisis and will lead to all kinds of economic opportunities that we can’t even imagine. Why in the world would we not make an investment in the American people?”

Build Back Better for Us: Lauren May’s Story

Healing is found in many forms, for Lauren May, healing is found running along the path in the woods outside her home in Traverse City. This healing, which she feels is integral to being a human, is one of the many reasons she devotes so much of her time to protecting not only the environment here in Michigan, but also fighting climate change on a global scale.

May is finishing up her junior year at Traverse City Central High School with a packed schedule. She runs track and cross country, is the president of the Students for Environmental Advocacy Club at her school, volunteers for the Sierra Club and with Michigan LCV as an Our Water Activist, and yet still finds time to get lost in the woods and marvel at passing deer and the beauty of the forest.

May credits the roots of her environmentalism to going vegetarian at nine years of age and reading books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. She attended a climate strike in Traverse City in 2019 that coincided with the global climate strikes, and she realized the powerful potential of collective change as a society could have compared to simply making changes as an individual.

“Everybody has their own perspective and everybody you know is worth considering as a future activist in some way,” says May.

May plans to continue her journey in environmentalism throughout her college career. She’s leaning towards working in environmental law or policy to bring her closer to her goals of making big changes to protect the planet.

“I want to use my career and want to focus my life on being able to make those changes firsthand and advocate for them,” says May.

May believes the time to act is now, and the action taken must be remarkable, for time is running out and consequences will be dire.

“We have like a decade or so before we can’t make any further action,” says May passionately, “We have a chance to take that bold action. Millions of people could die from the repercussions of climate change in some way.”

“We need to transition our economy to cleaner sources of energy, and we need to have a lens of environmental justice. The American Jobs plan presents a bold vision to take action on climate change and set our country up for a healthier, more prosperous future.”

Build Back Better for Us: Cathy Edwards’ Story

Cathy Edwards, 21, a social work major at Ferris State University, chose her field of study to motivate people to make positive changes in their lives. Inspired by human rights issues like water accessibility, her primary goals are to help people in need and address social justice issues.

To Edwards, it’s the human rights factor that ties environmental justice and social justice tightly together. Populations left vulnerable to environmental justice issues are referred to as frontline communities, and often suffer to a greater extent due to affordability and accessibility of basic necessities like clean water.

Edwards sees access to clean, safe water as a human right.

“We all have the right to have clean water and adequate healthy food because we need it to survive. I just feel like these shouldn’t be controversial issues,” says Edwards.

Outside of school, Edwards is an Our Water, Our Vote activist with Michigan League of Conservation Voters. She says making an impact and inspiring others to get involved are what drives her.

“I think it is super great to reach out to others and give them a chance to act and make a change.”

The potential for monumental change is one reason why Edwards is optimistic about President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and the countless opportunities it could bring to communities everywhere.

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment in water infrastructure nationwide. In Michigan in 2020, Governor Whitmer introduced her MI Clean Water plan, a $500 million investment in Michigan’s water infrastructure that would improve affordability and access to clean water. These two plans working in tandem will ensure safe, clean drinking water is a right in all communities.

Edwards, who is starting her senior year this fall, hopes to work in public policy to create big change: “ We have to be preventative not reactionary in our actions because its the only way we’re going to create actual change. I just think we have to invest in a better America and start putting our people first.”

“The American Jobs Plan is super important. If it was passed with the full 2 trillion, it could really change so many people’s lives and just set our country on track for a brighter future. We have to invest in our country to make sure it thrives and to make sure everybody living here can thrive as well.”

Build Back Better for Us: Sylvia Orduño’s Story

Sylvia Orduño is a resident of Detroit where she is involved in frontline community groups, including the People’s Water Board Coalition, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Water Is Life Alliance. In 2020, she was appointed to the first Michigan Advisory Council for Environmental Justice, which was created to ensure perspectives from impacted communities are included in state decision making; and to the EPA’s Great Lakes Advisory Board. Sylvia also serves as a Region 5 member of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council where she serves as the current Chair.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated water shut offs in the City of Detroit, Sylvia’s current focus is on extending the state moratorium on water shut offs and enacting statewide water affordability programs for drinking water, sanitation and public health. Further, she believes it’s important for more people to understand the interconnectedness of climate change and water systems, and that the impacts of climate change exacerbate water insecurity and drinking water quality issues.

After four years of environmental rollbacks from the Trump Administration, including attacks on the Clean Water Act, Sylvia is hopeful that President Biden’s American Jobs Plan that will make transformative investments in drinking water infrastructure, create good jobs, replacing lead service lines, increasing access to safe, affordable water and sanitation, and ensuring environmental justice priorities. For Sylvia, putting affected residents at the forefront of decision-making is critical.

She supports the American Jobs Plan because it will reinvest in protecting our water sources, assisting people impacted by water shutoffs, improving drinking water infrastructure, and cleaning up unsafe air, soil, and water for healthy communities.

“We must understand that addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs depends upon understanding the implications of climate change, from financial costs and social designs of delivering water, to capturing wastewater and stormwater in sustainable ways. We must understand the immense cost of continuing to do nothing. Members of Congress must put our water concerns at the forefront and that means supporting the American Jobs Plan.”

Build Back Better for Us: Sandy Wynn-Stelt’s Story

In 2017, Sandy learned that her water had been contaminated with Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of man-made chemicals that have been linked to health problems including cancer, thyroid conditions, auto-immune diseases and reproductive challenges.

After the discovery, Sandy had her blood tested. The results came back finding her blood contained 750 times the national average for PFAS. The source? A contaminated site across the street from her house where Wolverine World Wide dumped its waste from a tannery nearby. The waste site contaminated the water of Sandy’s community, impacting hundreds of people. 

She has suffered from health complications, including symptoms linked with exposure to PFAS in health studies, such as thyroid problems and gout as well as cysts and other issues. In 2020, Sandy was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.  Her husband, Joel R. Stelt, passed away at 61 from liver cancer in March 2016.

This experience battling PFAS contamination compelled Sandy, who by trade is a clinical psychologist, to dedicate her time advocating for protections against PFAS and justice for those who have been exposed to these toxic chemicals. She has testified before Congress, urging lawmakers to set a national drinking water standard for PFAS and has shared her story with media and elected officials.

For Sandy, the American Jobs Plan presents a unique opportunity to clean up our water and remediate PFAS contamination that has impacted communities like hers. She believes President Biden’s proposed $10 billion investment in PFAS cleanup is a good start, but we can do better. She’s calling on members of Congress to support the American Jobs Plan and work to expand funding for cleanup of PFAS to ensure communities in Michigan and across the country have safe, clean water to drink.

“Here in Michigan of all places, we should have safe and clean water to drink. It’s time for our leaders to step up and protect our water. We can get to work doing that right now with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which will dedicate funds to update our water infrastructure and clean up toxic PFAS chemicals that threaten our health.”

Listen in as Michigan LCV talks microbeads with Rep. Christine Greig

Charlotte Jameson, Michigan LCV’s policy manager, discusses the issue of microplastics in the Great Lakes with State Representative Christine Greig.

Microplastics, or microbeads, are tiny pieces of plastic that are added as exfoliants to many toothpastes and facial scrubs. These plastics are traveling down our drains and into our Great Lakes, where they are causing serious problems for our state’s greatest natural resource.

Earlier this year, Rep. Greig introduced a bill that would require the phasing out of the manufacturing and sale of products containing microbeads or microplastics.


Want to help keep microplastics out of our waterways?

Tell YOUR State Representative that you want meaningful action to protect our lakes, rivers and streams from plastic pollution >>

You can find out more about this important issue and find out what steps you can take in your own day-to-day life at

WEMU First Friday Focus on the Environment: Lisa Wozniak & Reverend Lennox Yearwood

On September 2015’s First Friday Focus on the Environment on WEMU 89.1, Lisa Wozniak from Michigan LCV interviews Reverend Lennox Yearwood about the Hip Hop Caucus’s Climate Advocacy Bus Tour visiting Detroit that day. Listen to the full conversation below!

You can find this story and all of the stories covered during WEMU 89.1’s First Friday Focus on the Environment at The program is hosted on the first Friday of each month by WEMU’s David Fair and Michigan LCV’s Lisa Wozniak and is aired throughout Southeast Michigan.

Photo credit:, Christine Irvine, Project Survival Media