Each year, with generous support from the Colina Foundation, MiCAN recognizes the Michiganders doing exceptional work to address the climate crisis in our state with the Climate Champion Awards. The awards, based off of community nominations, honor the dedicated professionals, activists, and young people doing the hard work of moving Michigan toward a just and sustainable future.
- The Climate Champion Award goes to a professional doing exceptional climate and justice work for an organization, a municipality, or business in Michigan;
- The Climate Action Award is awarded to an individual doing exceptional climate and justice work as a volunteer for an organization in Michigan. This award recipient receives a $1,000 prize for a non-profit of their choice; and,
- The Young Climate Leader Award goes to a student or youth doing exceptional work as a volunteer or individual. This award recipient is granted a $1,000 prize.
For our 2023 edition we elected the theme "Ending the Era of Fossil Fuels" – the first, most logical step in addressing the climate crisis. Awardees were honored at our 2023 Winter Members' Meeting.
Climate Champion Award: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
We are honored to announce our professional championing undeniably exceptional work for communities across the Great Lakes State, Attorney General Dana Nessel. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School, and former criminal prosecutor and civil rights attorney, Nessel was sworn in as Michigan’s 54th Attorney General on January 1, 2019. In the years since, her core initiatives have been fashioned in the image of her promise to Michigan’s residents: to give the Department of Attorney General back to the people that it serves.
Perhaps nowhere has this been more apparent than in her efforts to hold Enbridge Energy Co. accountable, and debunk its claims that better alternatives to the Line 5 pipelines are not already available — specifically, in providing a voice for Michigan's people through her brief in support of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in its lawsuit against the oil giant. Nessel has also protected residents’ interests by saving ratepayers more than $2.4 billion in unfair utility rate increases, bringing relief through litigation to communities impacted by PFAS “forever chemicals,” and reviving the department’s environmental crimes unit to make full use of its criminal prosecuting authority in defense of the State’s natural resources.
Learn more about AG Nessel and the Michigan Department of Attorney General’s ongoing work online at Michigan.gov/AG.
Climate Action Award: Stephanie Johnson
Stephanie, a Detroiter, became aware of energy inequalities in 2016 when she went into collections because of a DTE bill after losing her job. Fast forward to a few years later, and she was a dedicated activist in Soulardarity's "Work for Me DTE" campaign promoting affordability, health, community ownership, and good jobs through local clean energy. Stephanie's commitment to bringing solutions to those affected and advocating for their voices in influential spaces has been unwavering, as she has courageously lent her own personal narrative as official testimony in legal interventions with the Michigan Public Service Commission and more. Her contributions were instrumental in challenging DTE's extractive Prepay Program and Rate Hike proposals, leading to significant victories for ratepayers.
During her tenure as a fellow for the Soulardarity Community Organizing Collaborative (SCOC), Stephanie's efforts in community outreach for the Communities LEAP initiative, a collaboration with the Department of Energy granted to the city, played a pivotal role in securing invaluable technical assistance for Highland Park, which will be crucial in steering the community towards a sustainable, renewable energy future. Last but not least, Stephanie is actively building local energy resiliency by introducing a toolkit of resources for launching a community-owned backup power supply in Southeast Michigan neighborhoods.
Stephanie has a B.A. from the University of Detroit and a Masters in Training and Development from Oakland University. She now serves as the Vice-chair on the Polar Bear Sustainable Energy (PBSE) Co-op board, which she joined during the pandemic with a personal goal of contributing and participating in Energy Democracy. Her professional experience ranges from IT to program management.
Young Climate Leader Award: Mia Breznau
Mia Breznau is a high school senior from Kalamazoo. For the last two years, she’s been a member of the Ardea Youth Climate Coalition, a high school advocacy group through the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She also co-founded National Youth for the Climate Emergency (NYCE), which serves to amplify youth climate work across the country. She is strongly passionate about climate activism, specifically youth engagement, climate education, clean energy, and regenerative agriculture. This year, she’s organized an anti-fossil-fuel FFF protest, testified before State Congress in support of standardized climate curriculums, lobbied extensively for the recently enacted Clean Energy Future Plan, and much more! After graduation, she plans to pursue a BS degree in environmental or climate science before pursuing a Ph.D., with the end goal of becoming an academic researcher in the field of coral paleoclimatology. Her ultimate goal is to preserve pristine nature, and she hopes to train the next generation of environmental advocates to do the same.
Our first, incredible recipients were honored at the 2021 virtual Michigan Climate and Clean Energy Summit.
Climate Champion Award: Denise Keele, Ph. D.
The recipient of this award is Dr. Denise Keele, a founding member and director of both Western Michigan University's Climate Change Working Group and the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition (KCCC). Dr. Keele has focused her teaching, scholarship, and professional service to educating students and helping other faculty learn about the climate crisis. She has inspired countless students to pursue careers related to climate change.
As one person who nominated her wrote, “Dr. Keele devotes her professional life to championing the cause of addressing the climate crisis. She does so in a way that profoundly models inclusion, collaboration, education, and political transformation.” AND “Denise’s infectious energy and enthusiasm have motivated many hundreds of people throughout southwest Michigan – who otherwise would have remained silent - to act on climate change.”
Climate Action Award: Theresa Landrum
We are thrilled to award Theresa Landrum, a community organizer and activist, has been fighting against Environmental injustices over twenty years. Theresa Landrum was appointed by the Governor to the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (MAC-EJ) She also is the Community Education Specialist for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition’s Clean Air Council. Theresa Landrum is a life-long Detroiter, and is one of the strongest community activists in Southwest Detroit 48217.
As a person who nominated her said,” Theresa is doing the work that NEEDS to be done, work that many are afraid to do. She does it WELL! With grace, yet fire that allows the job to get done! She’s amazing and she also teaches, Instills, and inspires so many others.”
Young Climate Leader Award: Dolores Perales
Congratulations to the winner of this award, Dolores Perales, for her work as a vocal advocate for climate and justice and working closely with the community to develop and sustain green placemaking projects. She also helps facilitate sustainability-based research in partnership with local high schools and universities.
One of the many people to nominate Dolores wrote “As a classmate of Dolores', I've learned so much from her, and watch her work tirelessly to fundraise and promote events that educate our community. She is an inspiration and deserves the Young Climate Leader award.”