Earth Day XX

"The focus [of Groundswell ‘90] is on things that each of us can do--starting with ourselves and our families, but also working through our schools, our communities, our organizations, and our workplaces--to bring our society back into harmony with the natural world and to create a just and sustainable future for all.” - excerpt from Groundswell ‘90 statement of purpose

The Ecology Center celebrated Earth Day XX in April, 1990.

In 1990, the Ecology Center celebrated 20 years of environmental activism by organizing its most ambitious event yet: Earth Day XX. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first ENACT Teach-In and the first Earth Day, the Ecology Center coordinated a coalition of 75 different local Ann Arbor groups to host a month-long series of activities. These included the Groundswell, a full day teach-in for both adults and children, as well as a regional town hall meeting on April 7, and a “Greenfair” in downtown Ann Arbor and Earth Day “birthday party” on April 22 for Ecology Center staff and supporters. The annual Bike-a-Thon rounded out the month on May 6. The festivities proved a massive success, equally teaching and entertaining children and adults while setting the agenda for what would prove to be a long decade of environmental activism ahead.

A day-long teach-in was held on April 7 in advance of Earth Day XX. 

Groundswell 1990

To celebrate Earth Day 1970 ambitiously while providing a meaningful impact, the Ecology Center coordinated an entire day full of teach-ins and activities. The name “Groundswell” hints at the day’s mission statement: to create a “groundswell” of heightened awareness and willingness to engage in more environmentally friendly lifestyles. Therefore, the Ecology Center’s Rebecca Kanner planned to create a dynamic program for both younger and older audiences alike.

The result paid off: Groundswell presented a variety of workshops on topics ranging from “energy consumption,” “smog and global warming,” and even “using the arts to create social change.” Kids enjoyed “garbage games” while being introduced to the three R’s, while children and adults like participated in a mural painting activity. These events were staffed by volunteers, Ecology Center staff, UM faculty, and members of other local groups throughout Michigan. The day ended up being a huge success, prompting members of the community to reflect on their individual lifestyles while building connections to other environmentally-minded individuals across Michigan.

To capitalize on the post-Groundswell enthusiasm, the Ecology Center helped coordinate other supplemental activities for the rest of Earth Day weekend. The next day, the Ecology Center put together a town hall in order to provide a forum for discussing key findings from Groundswell and think about the next sustainable steps in the Michigan environmental movement. Another Earth Day event promoted by the Ecology Center was the annual Greenfair, which provided environmentally-oriented products and services to Ann Arbor citizens. Finally, the Ecology Center hosted its annual “Earth Day birthday party,” which was meant to be a much smaller gathering for Ecology Center staff and volunteers.

The EC held a "birthday cake bake-off" during their Earth Day birthday party. 

The Earth Day teach-in led to robust discussions about environmental activism, past and present. 

The Ecology Center kept the spirit of the original ENACT teach-in alive at Earth Day XX.

This pamphlet recruited new EC members by highlighting key campaigns and successes from the past 20 years.

Mike Garfield explains how Earth Day XX helped build support for the Environmental Bond. 

Additionally, Earth Day XX was held during a pivotal time for environmental policy in Ann Arbor. In April 1990, Ann Arbor City Council passed a sweeping $28 million funding package known as the Environmental Bond that would reform Recycle Ann Arbor and revitalize solid waste management throughout the city. Mike Garfield recalls how the timing of the Environmental Bond coinciding with Earth Day XX couldn’t have been better: 

"There was a lot of national attention around the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, and so when the ballot proposal was getting debated within the community, we had all these good eco-feelings on our side. And we recruited the former Republican mayor of Ann Arbor who had liked recycling back in the early days [Lou Belcher]...and his greatest adversary at the time, a man named Al Wheeler, who had also been mayor, a Democrat...we had the two of them campaigning as the honorary chairs of the recycling campaign in 1990."

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