This week we rise up.
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Teach-In on the Environment, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the first and largest of hundreds of Earth Day events held across the United States that year, in what, at the time, constituted the largest mass mobilization of people in U.S. history. After the Ann Arbor Teach-In, organizers founded the Ecology Center, to keep the spirit of the moment alive.
On this 50th anniversary of the Ecology Center and Earth Day, we are looking to the future. We face the most profound threat that humanity has ever faced. We know that the only viable response is a mass uprising of people demanding climate and environmental justice. We believe that only a movement focused on equity and justice will have the scale and perspective to create lasting change.
Fifty years ago, we faced multiple crises that threatened human health, ecosystems, and all species. The threats were global, and by that time, visible to everyone. The public awakening to the threat was unprecedented in history, and the mass mobilization to address it larger than any before. As a result, sweeping laws were passed that addressed a part of the crisis, and the entire economy shifted in response to the demands of the movement.
Still, efforts lacked the leadership and perspective of marginalized and indigenous communities, and therefore the solutions lacked the scale and ambition necessary to be transformative. Equity was largely ignored, and the full vision was never achieved.
Today we find ourselves in a situation with remarkable parallels to 1970. The climate challenge is unprecedented in all of human history. Increasingly, that challenge is visible, leading to a public awakening around the globe. There is no precedent for the scale of the changes needed. At the same time, we face multiple intersecting political, economic and social crises.
These include challenges to democratic institutions, disruption of ecosystems, inadequate access to healthy food and safe water, and world-wide social inequity. The threats to all living systems are a result of the climate crisis, but not solely due to climate change. They also spring from the unsustainable way we grow food, build and move products, and power the world. All these sources must be addressed together.
We largely know what to do to address these threats. We know that we can design human-centered systems that are just and equitable, and protect the health of all species. We know how to make cities more livable, agriculture more sustainable, products without toxicants, energy systems that don’t threaten civilization. And where we don’t have the solutions, we know where innovation will be necessary to do what we can’t yet do.
What we lack is a mass movement large and diverse enough to demand the changes necessary and to hold leaders and institutions accountable. This is the Ecology Center’s work for the next decade, along with our many allies across the United States, and throughout the world. We call on all of you to join us, and rise up, this week and every week forward.
Please see the events we’ve helped organize as part of Rise Up for the Environment Week of Action: March 9 - March 14
Published on March 10, 2020