This Week in MIT HistoryBy Katie Jeffreys
On April 22, 1970 MIT hosted a teach-in honoring the first Earth Day. The event included an appearance by Governor Francis Sargent ’39 who spoke in Kresge. According to an article published in The Tech [“Earth Day judges ecology” April 24, 1970], Sargent and other speakers addressed “technological, social, and political aspects of the crucial ecological issues” of the time.
In his address, Sargent proposed an environmental control council. The council would help include young people in the environmental movement, which Sargent saw as integral to the cause. He also expressed support for a constitutional amendment which declared a healthy environment is an inherent right. Sargent added that he planned to propose a law which would allow “for citizen suits to prevent environmental damage.”
The creation of a holiday intended to foster environmental discussions marked the politicization of the environmental movement. “Earth Day” at the time had an ecological focus. Sargent said, however, “my only hope is that its motivation won’t go away in a few weeks.”
Other panels that day addressed not only politics, but academia’s role in mediating environmental research. Because industry brings with it an agenda, MIT professor James Keck recommended that the government fund research which would reduce air pollution by addressing the source rather than “end of pipe” pollution.
The even also featured a debate between panelists about “whether state or national governments should assume responsibility for pollution control.” Issues arise when pollution caused in one state travels to another.
Environmental awareness has continued at MIT. This year Share a Vital Earth (SAVE) is sponsoring several events in honor of Earth Week. Submissions to their environmental art contest have been on display in the student center. Performance art pieces will be presented tonight at an open mic night at the 24-hour coffeehouse. The group is also hosting a bike ride and other events involving the entire Boston community.