Vice President Harris talks climate, importance of community in Ann Arbor

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Jan. 12, 2023. (Meredith Bruckner | WDIV)

ANN ARBOR – Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at University of Michigan’s Rackham Auditorium on Thursday.

She was joined by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and University of Michigan professor of environmental justice Kyle Whyte for a discussion that highlighted the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Harris spoke about the inequities of the climate crisis, particularly about how low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards.

“You can look at, for example, the data that tells us that some of the regions in America with the poorest air quality are low income communities and communities of color,” said Harris. “When you look at rates of asthma, you see correlations. When you look at which communities are suffering the most in terms of extreme weather and therefore need to evacuate, you can see a correlation.”

Harris emphasized the importance of addressing the changing climate from several different perspectives, including public health, education, equity and justice. She said her administration is working on putting more investment in community banks and boosting small businesses.

“Our administration from the beginning made a commitment that we would increase minority and women-owned businesses getting federal contracts by 50%,” said Harris.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Jan. 12, 2023. (Meredith Bruckner| WDIV)

When Granholm asked which next-gen technology excited her most, Harris responded she has a keen interest in electric school buses.

“I just love them for so many reasons,” said Harris. “Maybe because I went to school on a school bus. Twenty-five million children a day go to school on diesel-fueled buses. They are inhaling toxic fumes, everyone who is in that educational ecosystem.”

Harris urged the students in the audience to advocate for others impacted by extreme climate and to build coalitions.

“Work to remind people of their rights, right to clean water, to clean air -- in that way, this is very much a civil rights fight.

“In the midst of a time in our country where there are so many so-called powerful people, so-called leaders who are trying to divide our country and spread and spew hate, one of the most powerful things we can do is build coalition to remind people they are not alone and we are in this together,” she said.

Steps taken by the administration and the Department of Energy have increased access to cleaner, more affordable power, slashed consumer costs and created millions of jobs, according to a White House release.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.