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In 2020-21, the Ecology Center is celebrating fifty years of environmental action. Established in the wake of the first Earth Day, the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center has grown into a leading regional organization promoting a mission of “healthy people, healthy planet.”

This website, created by the Environmental Justice HistoryLab, is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Ecology Center and the University of Michigan Department of History. By excavating stories of environmental activism, justice, and sustainability, the project demonstrates how student research and writing can inform and empower advocacy. As a digital resource, these pages also allow visitors to access some of the letters, photographs, and posters used during the research process.

Beginning in 2019, teams of University of Michigan undergraduates dove into archival materials, conducted interviews with Ecology Center affiliates, and developed this website documenting many of the Ecology Center’s main campaigns. Their findings are organized into five themes that showcase the Ecology Center’s diverse activities. Rather than an official and comprehensive history of the Ecology Center, what follows contains highlights reflecting the perspectives and interests of student researchers.

The first section, “Building a Movement,” contextualizes how the 1970 Environmental Action for Survival Teach-In and subsequent Earth Day spurred the environmental movement in southeast Michigan and created fertile ground for establishing the Ecology Center. The rest of the site chronicles the expanding scope of the organization’s work from 1980 until today.

Progressing chronologically within each theme, visitors can explore the development and growth of recycling in Ann Arbor, learn about educational programs, and discover collaborations with groups such the NAACP, UAW, and local communities. So far, the site focuses on the Ecology Center’s work through the year 2000. As a work-in-progress, we’re excited to release more material throughout the year. Check back again in the future as we continue to document the Ecology Center’s work into the 21st century.

To learn more about the Ecology Center’s history, take a look at the 50 Years of Fighting for a Healthy Future page. That series of stories draws from this site and features many of the same documents, oral histories, and resources.

If you have stories or ideas to share, please contact us at ecologycenterhistory@umich.edu.

Visit the website for the Environmental Justice HistoryLab to learn more about its projects and this partnership with the Ecology Center.