The Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club and Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications are teaming up to deliver a presentation titled “Politics and the Environment,” a look at local Michigan candidates and how they stand on the environmental issues facing the state.
Film professor John Philbin is taking his “Media and Society: Politics and the Presidency” class to the event in downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. hosted in DeVos Center Room 136E. Philbin said he hopes his students get a better understanding of environmental issues and what policies candidates support by going to the event.
Philbin’s class is taught every four years, with a focus this year on how presidential elections have been depicted in film and media, starting in 1960. Although the environment is not explicitly talked about in his class, Philbin said an important aspect of his class is centered on issues in the election.
“We want to talk about the issues in any election, whether it’s immigration, taxes, abortion, minimum wage,” Philbin said. “But one thing that everyone has an interest in, especially students, is the environment.”
Gail Philbin, director of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, and John Philbin’s spouse, is helping to organize the presentation. She said educating students on the environment and showing them what candidates support environmental issues is most important to her.
“We need to protect the quality of our environment because air pollution causes all sorts of diseases, and all the troubles you can see people are having in Flint because of the lead pipe issue,” Gail Philbin said. “So it’s important that we care for the environment and protect it.”
The Sierra Club is one of the oldest environmental organizations in the U.S., founded in 1892. Gail Philbin said it is the “largest, most effective grassroots environmental organization” in the nation. She said they have a strong political program that helps elect environmentally friendly leaders, and a legislative program that helps bills that are good for the environment move forward, and ones that aren’t to not go forward.
Gail Philbin said she is personally most concerned with environmental injustice that goes on in Michigan.
“The Flint water crisis brings to the forefront that often environmental injustice goes on behind the scenes and many people aren’t able to pay attention to it,” she said. “That low-income and minority communities, including people of color, often bear the brunt of pollution from industries that are located in the poor areas of cities.”