Speaker: Mike Garfield has served as Director of the Ecology Center since 1993. He has led grassroots advocacy campaigns which raised over $100 million in public funds for land preservation, testified before federal and state legislative committees, and served on numerous public advisory boards.
Thanks in large part to the leadership of the Ecology Center, the Ann Arbor community had seen substantial environmental progress since the Teach-In on the first Earth Day in 1970. There nevertheless is an ever-present need for new programming to reinvigorate environmental activism. The Ecology Center organized Earth Day ’80 with that as its mission: “We have an opportunity to reassert the importance of environmental values and to promote alternative, ecologically sound policies for the eighties.” Additionally, “Earth Day ’80 will hopefully serve as a springboard for a new nationwide commitment to a more livable future.” In the 1990s, the Ecology Center began focusin its attention on companies to ensure that they were not selling harmful products. Johnson Controls, for instance, made foam seat cushions for cars using a manufacturing process which released methylene chloride, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere. The public pressure generated from litigation that the Ecology Center initiated eventually led to the use of a water-based solvent instead of methylene chloride; the Ecology Center also gave money to individuals to teach environmental sampling to those who were impacted by these poisonous emissions. This shift in focus from sustainable and environmental programming to education and advocacy led the Ecology Center to merge with Recycle Ann Arbor. As a subsidiary non-profit of Recycle Ann Arbor, the Ecology Center deliberately has extended its focus beyond Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. It began to work more frequently in Lansing. It took on many projects regarding toxic chemicals and their impacts on public health. By such branching out, taking on projects that affected Michigan as a whole rather than just the Ann Arbor community, the Ecology Center sought to make more of an impact and effect broader change. Our speaker will discuss the successes and failures of this approach.