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Michigan Conference Envisions Local Future of Resilience and Sustainability

THOMPSONVILLE, MICH – A spirited debate on nuclear energy, policy aimed at bolstering the state’s renewable energy industry and a vision of prosperity for the state of Michigan were among the highlights of the 2009 Conference on Michigan’s Future held at Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa.

The four-day conference (November 13-16), with a focus on Michigan’s energy, economic and environmental future, brought together over 200 participants and better than three dozen experts in business, energy, public policy, environment and economics. This group of leaders with a diversity of expertise and perspective traveled from across North America to offer ideas to help Michigan reach beyond its recent history of economic and environmental decline.

“Michigan needs jobs and needs them now,” said Aaron Wissner, conference director and founder of the non-profit Local Future organization. “The conference is about the citizens of the state taking the wheel and charting our own course to a prosperous, sustainable, and resilient economic future.”

The mix of speakers created productive discussions concerning the role renewable energy will have in revitalizing the economy and sustaining natural resources. The conference investigated the value of feed-in tariff legislation to further incentivize the growth of wind and solar energy. Peak oil was a focal point and the need to transition to forms of transport and community planning that reduces dependence on oil. Much was discussed about alternative economic philosophies placing higher emphasis on sustainability, resilience and quality of life.

Each of the presentations from the Conference on Michigan’s Future can be viewed online at FutureMichigan.org including the following state and nationally recognized experts:

The Debate on Nuclear Energy
Dr Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and nuclear advocate as co-chair of CASEnergy, and Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, participated in a spirited debate about the role nuclear will and should play in the state and nation’s energy future.

Ecological Economics
Robert Costanza, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and co-founder of the International Society for Ecological Economics for which 2009 Nobel Prize Winner Elinor Ostrom is an editorial board member. Dr. Costanza described the need for new economic indicators such as sustainability and quality of life to replace those purely based on indexes such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He concluded the conference with an interactive seminar developing potential futures for Michigan.

It takes an Eco-village
Albert Bates, author of 14 books, including “Climate in Crisis,” and a founder of the Global Ecovillage Network spoke about eco-villages, bio-char and sustainable regional enterprises.

Peak Oil Solutions
Megan Quinn Bachman, co-producer of a documentary on post-Soviet Union Cuba and their response to petroleum shortages, spoke on the Cuban experience and potential community solutions to impending shortages in the United States as a result of Peak Oil.

A New Currency
Thomas Greco, author and expert in alternative monetary systems, proposes parallel types of currency to augment the present monetary system, which is dominated by credit, banks and the Federal Reserve.

Legislation to Re-Energize Michigan
State Representative Dan Scripps (D-101st District), who proposed the Re-Energize Michigan package of bills, discussed legislation to encourage the proliferation of renewable energy in the state including renewable energy payments also known as feed-in tariffs. Under a renewable energy payment program utilities would sign long-term contracts to pay a premium price for electricity generated from windmills and solar panels.

The Conference on Michigan’s Future received widespread support from business leaders such as Dow Chemical, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, educational institutions like Northwestern Michigan College, and Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute, utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy as well as other organizations like Interlochen Public Radio, Renewable Power Solutions, USDA Rural Development, Mancelona Renewable Resources, Pure Eco Environmental Solutions and Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa.

For video and audio from each of the conference presentations and additional information on Local Future, visit www.FutureMichigan.org.

Editorial Notes: Photo caption: Aaron Wissner From Aaron Wissner, Local Future President: This was Local Future's third major conference focusing on peak oil and climate change. This year's conference featured increased emphais on the issue of monetary reform with speakers Richard Douthwaite (author of The Ecology of Money), Thomas Greco (author of Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender), Stephanie Mills (board member of the Bay Bucks local currency), and Michael Sauvante (advocate for publicly owned banks). Accomplishment include: * The local NPR station's manager served as emcee for the event, and subsequently is editing the audio recordings for prime listening hours * All presentations were recorded in high definition and are currently at the video production studio to be mastered into one or two DVD's for distribution to state legislators, business leaders, community educators, etc. * Controversial topics including nuclear, coal, and renewable energy payments (a.k.a. feed-in tariffs) were presented with both pro and con speakers * Five state legislators attended and/or spoke at the conference * Podcasts of all talks, most of the slide shows, and a handful of full-length uncut videos are available for download and distribution from the conference web site: FutureMichigan.org In addition, for 2010, Local Future is now seeking partners for hosting the following conferences in 2010: * The International Summit on Money 2010 -- Featuring leaders on money, monetary reform, and steady-state economics; a major networking event to bring together the best understanding of money as it relates to energy and resources; and to develop effective models for resilient, ethical and sustainable money systems. * The International Conference on Energy, Economy & Environment 2010 -- A call for presentations event for all speakers with interest in presenting innovative ideas and proposal for protecting and restoring the environment; a networking event for all Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D environmental/activist organizations, to bring a common understanding of climate, energy, money, and provide opportunities for mass collaboration. * The Conference on Michigan's Future 2010 -- Specifically designed to attract and educate Michigan's leaders and decision makers, to bring them up to date on climate science, peak oil & coal, and solutions that increase resilience and lead to sustainability and beyond. Local Future is seeking nonprofit partners and volunteers to design and implement each of these conferences in 2010. Please contact Aaron Wissner for more information: aaron@localfuture.org

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