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Celebration of fortieth anniversary of Earth Day scheduled April 15 at Odum School of Ecology

Mar. 31, 2012

Writer: Larry B. Dendy, ldendy@uga.edu


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:

  • Allen Stovall, professor emeritus  in the UGA College of Environment and Design.   Stovall was at UGA for the first Earth Day and contributed an essay on environmental planning for the collection published by Balance.  An authority on landscape architecture and historic preservation, he is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
  • Carol Couch, senior public service associate in the College of Environment and Design. Before joining UGA, Couch was director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division for six years and headed the state’s Water Council.  She has led national water studies for the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Laurie Fowler, associate dean of the Odum School of Ecology and co-director of the UGA River Basin Center.  A long-time Athens environmental activist, Fowler has served on the Governor’s Environmental Advisory Council, the Georgia Land Conservation Partnership Advisory Council and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.
  • Mark Milby, a UGA senior majoring in ecology.  The recipient of a Morris Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, Milby is a leader of the UGA GoGreen Alliance, which was  instrumental in  passage of a student referendum approving a  student fee to support environmental improvements at UGA.  The referendum was a major factor in UGA’s decision to create an Office of Sustainability.  Milby is co-president of the Ecology Club and helped start the student-led recycling program on football game days.

Further information about the April 15 program is available by contacting Larry Dendy, 706-546-0431, ldendy@uga.edu.

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