Taking a Stand for the Land on Earth Day
Lansing—More than 25 local environmental and farmland protection groups will take to the Capitol lawn on April 22, creating a celebration reminiscent of Earth Days past when grassroots action helped awaken the nation’s awareness to DDT, Love Canal and Three-Mile Island. This year’s Earth Day celebration on the Capitol lawn has a specific focus—Take a Stand for the Land—that will demonstrate how urban sprawl is hurting the state’s environment.
“This year more than ever, people are saying to their elected officials, ‘we want to take control of sprawl before it’s too late, before every last beautiful corner becomes a parking lot,’” said Conan Smith, Land Programs Director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “Out-of-control development and urban sprawl have been tearing local communities apart for years, but it hasn’t really been a priority for most of our state’s leaders—until now. Earth Day is our chance to show politicians that urban sprawl is an environmental problem—that it’s hurting our water, it’s hurting out air, it's hurting our quality of life.”
Since its creation in 1970, Earth Day has helped local citizens elevate local concerns to state and national prominence. This year, as the national election focuses attention on the ongoing war in Iraq and the struggling economy, Michigan residents are working to make sure the home environment—including polluted beaches, loss of farmland, and water and air quality—doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Educational displays, speakers, and organizations will come together on the Capitol Lawn as participants learn from individuals are working to protect Michigan's beaches, cities, forests and farms.
“I believe most people in Michigan are environmentalists because they’re worried, like I am, about the loss of Michigan’s beautiful open spaces and rivers and beaches, and about pollution and dirty air that hurts people in our cities,” said Ben Stupka, a recent graduate of Michigan State University, who helped organize this year’s event. “Earth Day reflects the true spirit of environmentalism—people coming from all walks of life and saying ‘these places matter to me.’ We’re taking collective action based on the idea that ordinary people acting together can make a difference.”
Annual celebrations of Earth Day have helped highlight—and change—some of the nation’s worst pollution and harmful laws. In the past, it has served as a way to help local people bring their environmental concerns, such as sand dune mining and the industrial pollution of Lakes Michigan and Superior, to the attention of Michigan politicians and demand change.
Recently, the legislature and local groups around the state have begun to look more closely at land use and urban sprawl, tackling difficult issues like reviving and creating “cool cities,” protecting farmland, and making transportation systems more flexible to fit local needs. The Governor convened the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council one year ago, and charged the 26-member panel to find ways to minimize the negative effects of urban sprawl on Michigan’s environment and economy. Advocacy since that time has helped pass 17 legislative bills based on the Council’s report.
“Land use is the biggest and quietest environmental issue facing the state, because of its subtle but long-term consequences for our air, water and the way we live,” said Smith. “People in Michigan care about the land, and they want to protect it. Changing our development patterns isn't a question of being pro-growth or no-growth—it’s about being smart about growth, and how we choose to create our communities.”
Senator Gaylord Nelson, who is credited with founding Earth Day, explains the origin of Earth Day by saying, “I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment. The response was electric. The American people finally had a forum to express concern about what was happening to the land, river, lakes, and air—and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” Michigan residents look to be similarly exuberant this year.
For more information or to register, contact
Ben Stupka, Michigan Environmental Council
or visit http://www.mymichigan.org/
Earth Day at the Capitol: Preliminary Agenda (more speakers to be announced)
10:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Many have called Ann Arbor’s Green Belt millage the single most significant land
preservation measure approved by voters in Michigan’s history. Mike Garfield,
Executive Director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor will share the strategies
and tactics they used to buck the sprawl trend. http://www.mymichigan.org/article.php?id=209
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Tom Barwin, Capitol Room 404. Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin, who has spearheaded the rejuvenation of one of Detroit’s first suburbs, will offer information and strategies for revitalizing Michigan's long-neglected communities. Barwin took the reins of the then-crumbling suburb of Ferndale in 1997 and set out to revive it. http://www.mymichigan.org/article.php?id=211
Scott Everett, Capitol Room 405. The Regional Director for the American Farmland Trust, Scott Everett will share strategies and tactics for saving Michigan’s farmland and turning the tide that threatens Michigan’s agricultural economy. http://www.mymichigan.org/article.php?id=210
12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Lunch and Live Music (Bring your own brown bag and make it a picnic!)
1:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.
John Waterman, Capitol Room 405. John is the Executive Director of the Program to Educate All Cyclists, based in Ann Arbor. He assists individuals with disabilities to become competent cyclists. For over a decade, the program has drawn national attention as it improves the lives of participants with increased independence, fitness, and enhanced self-image.