Fifty years ago, the New York Times said Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment had been “by any reckoning . . . one of the most extraordinary ‘happenings’ ever to hit the great American heartland: Four solid days of soul-searching, by thousands of people, young and old, about ecological exigencies confronting the human race.”
The Teach-In provided the blueprint and the momentum for thousands of other activities and events across the country that made up the first Earth Day just a few weeks later on April 22, 1970. It also propelled a new movement of environmental consciousness and action. In the spirit of the Teach-In’s deeply interdisciplinary week of activities, we are writing this letter together, coming together across disciplines as we reflect on the past and rise to the challenges of the future. Now is a critical time to build a large tent, include diverse perspectives, and work toward improving conditions for the natural environment, its effect on human health, equity and justice.
We are both relatively new to our roles as deans, drawn to Michigan for its commitment to research, teaching, and impact, as well as its interdisciplinary approach to tackling the world’s biggest challenges. Our schools, the School of Public Health and the School for Environment and Sustainability, are part of a university-led initiative committed to scholarship and engagement surrounding Earth Day at 50, and we are privileged to be in our roles. The initiative involves collaboration between a number of schools and programs across the university and community groups across the region—because climate change is an issue that impacts all of us and cannot be solved by any one discipline alone.
Throughout this issue of Stewards, you will learn more about the many partnerships that enrich this work across sustainability, health, engineering, business, public policy, and many other disciplines.
We are committed to strengthening the relationship between our two schools not only because it is Earth Day’s fiftieth anniversary but because, through our combined expertise and efforts, we believe we can contribute significantly to the health and sustainability of generations to come.
As an inhabitant of the Earth, you are part of the solution, and this is the time to rise to the challenge.
Dean Jonathan Overpeck,
School for Environment and Sustainability
Dean F. DuBois Bowman,
School of Public Health