Residents and leadership of Ann Arbor gathered virtually on a Zoom call to celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday. The opening ceremonies began at 9 a.m. and included a showing of the movie, “The Story of Plastic: Washtenaw Climate Reality Project,” trivia, bingo and a discussion about the involvement of the elderly in climate action.

Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor delivered opening remarks for the celebration and described the first Earth Day celebration in Ann Arbor in April of 1970. 

“It was a four-day, 125-event environmental teach-in. The Law School hosted authorities on emerging specialty environmental law. The physics department put on a computer simulation about expanding urban centers. Ecologists, lakes, scientists, engineers got together to talk about the Great Lakes,” Taylor said. “There were rallies and assemblies, dozens of small workshops and on the final day, March 14, there was a mass walk along the Huron River and a rally that absolutely filled Crisler’s arena. It made people aware, it changed lives and it helps shape the modern environmental movement.”

Jan Culbertson, senior principal at A3C Collaborative Architecture, presented on Ann Arbor’s 2030 carbon neutrality plan. In addition, Ann Arbor residents Julie Roth and Josh McDonald led a presentation about the cost and environmental benefits of rooftop solar panels. They emphasized these solar panels will support Ann Arbor’s plan to go carbon neutral by 2030. Roth addressed some of the concerns about Michigan not having enough sun for solar panels to be effective.

 “Maybe 20 years ago this was more challenging because solar panels were not as efficient as they are now,” Roth said, “but given the fact that the technology has improved so much, we have plenty of sun here in Michigan. There is more (sun) here in Michigan than in Germany, where they're majorly powered by solar (panels).” 

A panel of young adults representing the Sunrise movement, University of Michigan students and alum, and local climate activists in the Ann Arbor community  discussed what gives them hope on Earth Day. 

University alum Illina Krishnen is a member of various campaigns that focus on climate action and climate change. Krishnen said she hopes Earth Day will include issues involving Native Americans over the next 50 years. 

“I want to recognize that indigenous people worldwide have been fighting for their land… and the protection of their land for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Krishnen said. “So, that struggle is so much longer than any kind of Earth Day work that is going on right now. I think in the future, I would love to see Earth Day really center those struggles.”

Business Junior Dhruv Tatke was a panelist in the virtual event and spoke about the  importance of climate action beyond the scope of the single day celebration. 

“Nothing’s ever going to be accomplished in a day and one day here will never ever be enough,”  Tate said. “I really hope that at some point, this is simply a check and lay point which might not be so so big of a deal in the future. But that is, I guess that’s an aspiration more than anything.”

Daily Staff Reporter Brayden Hirsch can be reached at braydenh@umich.edu.

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