Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day and CMU

by Casey Gamble and Bryan Whitledge

The first Earth Day was held April 22nd, 1970. The original proposal intended the day to be on March 21st, the first day of Spring, as a way to honor the Earth and promote peace. However, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed April 22nd as a separate Earth Day -- an environmental teach-in created to be used to bring awareness to environmental issues. This was the date that became nationally recognized. Earth Day began spreading internationally by 1990.

1998 CMU Yearbook, pp. 28-29

CM Life, April 22, 1970
Colleges and Universities around the country prepared for the first Earth Day teach-in during the spring of 1970, Central Michigan University included. Students and activists planned a four-day program, which included seminars about environmental crisis, government & citizen action, population control, ecology, environmental awareness and many more. A cleanup was scheduled Downtown, which brought out the people to help get rid of the trash and clean up Mount Pleasant.

In many of the Central Michigan Life articles written during April of 1970, there was a strong tenor of encouragement for everyone to become environmental activists. Of course, environmental activism was no rarity in the 1970s and the fears that activists expressed, of smog pollution and unclean waters, were not so far-fetched. There were predictions that things would get worse if people did not start making changes.

Honors students cleaning
up the Chippewa River, 2001
Earth Day has continued to be celebrated over the past 44 years. In the 1990s, environmental issues resonated quite a bit with students and Earth Day events on campus grew. It became a regular occurrence to see students volunteer to pick up trash along the roads and paths of Mount Pleasant or help keep the Chippewa River clean. Recycling drives have turned into intercollegiate competitions pitting Central against other campuses, including in-state rival, Western Michigan University.

Similar to other communities, Earth Day at Central has become Earth Week. It includes similar awareness events as in the 1970’s, with more interactivity. Students in charge have brought in more participation from local businesses. This year, events include tie-dying and printmaking on recycled-fiber t-shirts, outdoor volunteering for recycling and clean-up, art competitions, an Earth Day Garden Party, and much more.

CM Life, April 23, 1990
We’re looking forward to seeing students out and about, green with enthusiasm as they work together to make this Earth a cleaner, healthier, and better place for us to live.