50 Years of Earth Day: Celebrating a Golden Anniversary

Organizers of the original Earth Day celebration at U-M reunite 50 years later. Photo courtesy of University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability

The 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day is of more than historical importance. What happened on and around April 22, 1970, is relevant at this moment. It’s a time to consider what has happened to America’s environment since then, but also to take stock of how lessons learned can inform our journey forward.

For Michigan, Earth Day really began in March 1970 with a nationally publicized Environmental Teach-In at the University of Michigan. It continued all year with landmark changes like the passage of Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act and the creation of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In the decade that followed, Michigan won recognition as a state with some of the strongest environmental protections in the country.

What can we learn from the massive citizen movement that made 1970 a year of decision for Michigan and the nation? What can we learn from the progress and setbacks, defeats and triumphs since then?

FLOW has invited people of diverse perspectives to offer their thoughts on the occasion of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. We invite you to consider them. Let us know if you’d like to contribute your own.

FLOW’s Earth Day Coverage

• On Earth Day and Every Day, We’re All in this Together—Liz Kirkwood, April 22, 2020

Earth Day at 50: Observing Natural and Political Cycles—Dave Dempsey, April 20, 2020

• Earth Day Against the Backdrop of the Events of 1970—Lana Pollack, April 15, 2020

• Progress at Home, What About the Planet?—Mel Visser, April 13, 2020

• Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Respecting Water—JoAnne Cook, October 14, 2019

• Reflecting on Earth Day 1970 in Michigan and the Origin of the State’s Environmental Movement—Dave Dempsey, April 22, 2019