News

Earth Day at 50: Observing Natural and Political Cycles

When I look back at 1970 later in life, as an amateur environmental historian, I can fully appreciate what happened that year. It wasn’t just April 22—the first celebration of Earth Day—it was 12 months of successful citizen work to raise consciousness and pass new federal and state laws that revolutionized America’s treatment of air, water, land, fish, and wildlife. Michigan was a national leader on the environment throughout 1970. Every time I think of Michigan in 1970, I am deeply grateful to the many largely unsung citizens who pressured elected officials to conserve and protect the environment. We owe them a great debt for reforms that persist today.

Earth Day Against the Backdrop of the Events of 1970

The first Earth Day celebration at University of Michigan did not wait until April 22, 1970, the date Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson had set for environmental teach-ins across the country. In Ann Arbor, this history-changing observation blasted off March 11 when 15,000 people jammed U-M’s Crisler Arena, and thousands more crowded its parking lot. The four-day happening was sponsored by a new U-M organization, Environmental Action for Survival of the Planet (ENACT), and it was successful beyond the wildest dreams of its young organizers.

Progress at Home, What About the Planet?

Acting locally has gotten us clean air and water, but what has it done for Earth Aren’t we rather arrogant to relish our environment while importing cheap manufactured goods made by people choking on their air and vomiting from their water? Will countries continue to meet carbon dioxide emission targets by sending manufacturing to countries without targets? Sustainability of climate and health demands a much less myopic view of Earth thinking/acting than the first 50 years of celebrating Earth Day has given us.

How Do Hands Get Washed?

I worried, as I am prone to do, about the thousands of families in Detroit without even a dribble flowing from faucets, their water shut off because of unpaid bills. How do they wash their hands for 20 seconds when they enter their homes? How do they drink plenty of water at the first hint of COVID-19 symptoms? How do they stay healthy?

Clean Water and Public Health are Inseparable

What we know is that water and public health are inseparable. Without water, we simply can’t fight this pandemic, let alone meet daily household hydration and sanitation needs. Much more work lies ahead to ensure everyone has access to safe, affordable water. Frontline communities like Detroit continue to be hardest hit by growing coronavirus cases.

Enbridge’s ‘Line 5’ Oil Tunnel Permit Application is Contrary to the Legal Process

Enbridge Energy’s permit application is out of step with Michigan’s legal process, according to FLOW. The Canadian energy-transport company has not even sought, let alone obtained, authorization from the State of Michigan for the easement and lease required by law to locate a risky, multibillion-dollar oil pipeline tunnel in the public trust soils and waters of the Great Lakes. Nor has the company sought and obtained a certificate of necessity and approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission to locate the tunnel in the Straits.

To Combat Coronavirus, Michigan’s Governor Orders Communities to Turn Water Back On to Shutoff Homes

Governor Whitmer’s order on March 28 to halt disconnections and restore drinking water followed urgent calls by the People’s Water Board Coalition and its partners—some of which (like Michigan Welfare Rights Organization) have been leading this fight for nearly 20 years. Continued leadership and collaboration with these frontline groups must happen to ensure that water service is restored to every household in need as soon as possible, and that emergency water and sanitation supplies are provided during the intervening days.