ENACT, or Environmental Action for Survival, organized the first Earth Day teach-in event in Ann Arbor in 1970.


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They started a group called Environmental Action for Survival, or ENACT. Members of the steering committee ranged from quiet lab types to veteran protesters such as Stephen Sporn, a member of the Students for a Democratic Society. Yet overall it was "a very conservative movement," Russell recalled. "We put less emphasis on protest activism and much more on education and policy. We did not want to be seen as radical extremists, but rather as mainstream agents of change who were working through the 'system.' This point has been dramatically overlooked in many accounts. We discussed and scrapped plans for protests and banner-waving and sit-ins."Declaring "Our sick environment needs you!" they called a mass meeting of interested students and announced plans for a massive, multi-day teach-in the following spring. And, right away, ENACT's leaders began talking with staff in the office of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin).

“The University of Michigan teach-in was not the first or even the second or third – a few small liberal arts colleges had environmental teach-ins in January and February 1970,” says Adam Rome, a professor of history at Penn State who is working on a book about Earth Day. ”But the Michigan event was by far the biggest, best, and most influential of the pre-Earth Day teach-ins. The media gave it tremendous coverage. It was the first sign that Earth Day would be a big deal.”

More information

The Environmental Movement and the Sixties], Adam Rome, Journal of American History