The 40th anniversary of Earth Day will be celebrated in Athens April 15 with a program that examines the history and impact of the grass-roots movement that has made environmental awareness and action a top national priority.
The program, titled “Earth Day @ 40: Where Do We Stand?” will include a reception; a showing of the film “Earth Days”; and a round-table discussion featuring four Athens environmental leaders, Allen Stovall, Carol Couch, Laurie Fowler and Mark Milby. It will be held in the University of Georgia’s Eugene Odum School of Ecology, headquarters for the first Earth Day in Athens on April 22, 1970.
The program, which is free and open to the public, is part of GreenFest, the series of environment-themed activities and events held in Athens each spring. Mayor Heidi Davison has designated the program as Athens’ official event for Earth Day 2010—Global Day of Conversation, a national observance of Earth Day sponsored by the Earth Day Network.
Sponsors for the program include the EcoFocus Film Festival, the UGA Office of Sustainability and the Odum School of Ecology.
The first Earth Day in 1970 drew national attention to environmental issues and brought out millions of Americans for marches, demonstrations, festivals and educational seminars known as “teach-ins” that focused on such problems as pollution, overpopulation and preservation of natural resources. Earth Day has been observed every year since and is credited with fostering many of the nation’s major environmental advances and reforms, from creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Superfund to passage of the Clean Water Act and bans on DDT, leaded gasoline and PCBs.
In Athens, the first Earth Day was organized by a group called Balance, composed mainly of graduate students in UGA’s Institute of Ecology. The event included a speech by former Gov. Carl Sanders; exhibits and films at Memorial Hall; and more than 25 teach-ins led by UGA faculty and graduate students. Balance also sponsored environment-themed art, photography and poetry contests, and put together a collection of essays on environmental issues, titled “Toward Balance,” written by faculty and students.
The April 15 program will begin with a 6 p.m. reception in the foyer outside the ecology auditorium. It is sponsored by the EcoFocus Film Festival, which brings top environmental films to Athens each fall.
At 6:30, the movie “Earth Days” will be shown in the auditorium. Directed by documentary film-maker Robert Stone, the film recounts the beginnings of the environmental movement and features such influential figures as former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall (who died in March), author Paul Ehrlich, Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand and renewable energy pioneer Hunter Lovins. The film will be shown nationally April 19 on the PBS program “American Experience.”
Following the film will be a round-table discussion in which participants will assess progress on environmental problems over the past 40 years, discuss current environmental issues and look to environmental challenges of the future. The discussion will be introduced by John Gittleman, dean of the Odum School of Ecology. The participants include:
Further information about the April 15 program is available by contacting Larry Dendy, 706-546-0431, firstname.lastname@example.org.