A Phone Call to Action

What 1,000+ phone calls in one Michigan county unexpectedly revealed about climate change.

By Shanley Smith

Photography: Hannah Wei via Unsplash


A Phone Call to Action

Last year individuals at West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) took to the phone to find some answers. They wanted to know, “Where does Ottawa County stand regarding climate change?” The callers presented four statements: 

  1. “Climate change is affecting weather patterns in Michigan.”
  2. “Climate change is affecting water levels in Lake Michigan.”
  3. “It is the responsibility of local governments to protect their communities.”
  4. “Local governments should take action to prepare their communities for the effects of climate change.”

Respondents could reply “yes” or “no” and “agree” or “disagree.” Over 1,400 individuals from the county agreed to participate. The data collected revealed extremely promising results. The numbers seem to read clear; Holland is ready to take action against climate change.


The Response

In each instance respondents affirmed these declarations in landslide proportions. An overwhelming 71% of Ottawa County residents agreed that “climate change is affecting weather patterns in Michigan.” Perhaps they harbored memories of heatwaves, the 2018 polar vortex, or the extreme fluctuations in lake levels. 

In previous years climate change seemed somewhat like the boogie man, a fictive or at least faraway haunt. We perceived it as icebergs melting and faraway forest fires. But recently, we’ve seen this boogie man eroding our dunes and harming our crops. Ottawa County now knows the face of climate change.

Many citizens in Holland believe climate change is affecting us. This naturally begs the question, “What should be done to combat it?” To this we can look to the last statement posed by WMEAC. A staggering 68% of respondents agreed that “local governments should take action to prepare their communities for the effects of climate change.” So now we look to local governments. 

The Next Step

Holland residents don’t just recognize the effects of climate change in our state; Hollanders crave leaders that will take action to protect and sustain our city. In 2019 a team of savvy and gracious citizens of Holland stepped into leadership on a strategic development team (SDT). The mayor appointed the SDT to develop an energy proposal for Holland’s City Council this spring. 

But City Council doesn’t just listen to the voices of SDT. They also listen to their citizens.

Perhaps you are wondering, “What part can I play?” 

When WMEAC called, the answers from Ottawa County citizens rang clear. Holland residents believe climate change is at their doorstep. Citizens let WMEAC know; now the leaders of Holland need to know. Here are three steps you can take…

Take Action

  1. Send an email to City Council. Use our email template
    • It takes less than one minute.
  1. Give public comment at an upcoming City Council meeting. 
  1. Send a letter to the editor of the Holland Sentinel. 
Shanley Smith is a life long Hollander, currently working with WMEAC as the HCC intern. Through community organizing and writing she strives to make her hometown a greener place. More of her work can be found on Dimly Lit, where she serves as writer and editor.

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