Harold Stokes, longtime environmental activist, remembered
First recipient of the Ecology Center's Munzel Award
Harold Stokes “could be counted on, even into his 80s, to come out to every event put on by the Ecology Center, to hold a sign, sing a song, march, speak, take action,” according to Tracey Easthope, environmental health program director at the Ecology Center. “He marched the longest, held the sign the highest, moved the fastest (even though he was often the oldest person in the group by decades) and had the most enduring positive energy.”
Stokes, a lifelong social activist and the first recipient of the Ecology Center’s Herbert L. Munzel Award for Environmental Activism, died in July.
Many of his friends gathered in Detroit earlier this month to celebrate his life with a potluck supper, folk dancing and advocacy for progressive causes.
Stokes worked on countless campaigns for social and environmental justice since the mid-1930s. He was an ever-present fixture at campaign rallies and public meetings on all of Michigan’s most important environmental issues of the past 40 years, including controversies associated with nuclear power, incineration, air pollution, water quality, landfills, and the impact of globalization on local environmental protection.
“He hugged everyone in the crowd and laughed and teared up in most conversations, disarming people by his love and gratitude,” Easthope remembered. “I'll miss him.”
Stokes was active with Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Detroit chapter of the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the Ecology Center, among other groups.
“Harold has an amazingly generous spirit, encouraging every fledging effort, any person with a spark, any righteous cause, no matter the particulars,” Easthope said when she presented the Munzel Award to Stokes in 2004. “He always sees the hidden light in us, in our circumstance, and then demands more, reaches in and prods the effort, urges it on.”
The Munzel award is named for Herbert L. Munzel, who worked tirelessly in pursuit of clean air and water in southeast Michigan for more than 40 years, and is meant to honor inspirational, courageous, and effective community-based advocacy by a Michigan resident for clean air, safe water, and healthy communities.
EcoLink — September 2014 An online publication of the Ecology Center