This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, first held in 1970, and the University of Michigan’s Earth Day at 50 initiative is organizing campus-wide activities to celebrate this formative event in the history of sustainability and continue its crucial mission. Numerous events are planned at U-M and throughout the community as part of the Earth Day 2020 effort; see https://earthday.umich.edu/events/ for details.
A generation ago, U-M was among the leaders in boosting the level of public awareness about ecological challenges ranging from local to global. In March 1970, U-M held a massive, student-organized “Teach-In on the Environment,” which engaged over 50,000 people. The kickoff event in Crisler Arena drew an overflow crowd to hear Ralph Nader, Michigan’s then-governor William Milliken and many other luminaries. The Michigan Daily reported that there were over 125 events including four large rallies and dozens of workshops across campus and at Ann Arbor high schools. These U-M events generated momentum that continued through the original, national Earth Day events of April 22, 1970 and ever since.
Energy looms large among the many sustainability challenges that confront the world. The U-M community is continuing its leadership in meeting such challenges, with multiple “Teach-Ins” being planned in addition to “Teach-Outs” that will exploit world-wide web technologies to engage even more people in conversations about the needs and opportunities involved in achieving environmental justice today and protecting the environment for generations to come. The university’s Earth Day at 50 effort will bring campus and community partners together — at events, lectures, exhibits and more — to examine the impact we’re currently making on sustainability and explore how we can collectively rise to the challenge of creating a better future for the planet.