(This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and while the traditional event held at Constitution Hall will not take place this year, people can view the poster contest on EGLE’s Earth Day website, as well as Environmental Service Project Award winners. MI Environment today takes a look at the event's history at Constitution Hall, the state office building that has hosted the event.)
The Earth Day celebration at Constitution Hall — the state office building in Lansing that houses many of the staffers of the Michigan departments of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; Natural Resources; and Agriculture and Rural Development — began small, eventually attracting thousands of visitors over the years. It got its start there in 2002, the first year the new building was occupied. A small group of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) staffers gathered in the atrium to celebrate.
The following year, the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources joined the planning committee, and the event featured exhibits and guitar playing, as staffers sang songs.
In 2004, the annual Earth Day celebration — while still small — for the first time included visitors to Constitution Hall and incorporated Take Your Child to Work Day for building staffers.
The well-known poster contest predated the formal event in Constitution Hall. DEQ's Air Quality Division, started the poster contest in 2000 for K-12 students as part of the national poster contest sponsored by the Air and Waste Management Association. In 2003, the contest continued for K-5 students and judging criteria included incorporation of current science standards.
The observation grew larger over the years, including thousands of school children — and others — who crowded the atrium and surrounding conference rooms to learn more about the environment.
Last year's event drew 2,500 participants and attendees, including over 1,300 students and 22 school groups, as well as the children of EGLE, MDARD and DNR staffers for Bring Your Child to Work Day. The event featured 50 displays and activities. The atrium was colorfully decorated with many of the 2,240 Earth Day posters created by students.
"As Michiganders, we want future generations to inherit a clean, healthy environment that supports a thriving sustainable future," said EGLE Director Liesl Clark. "As a state, we have made great progress improving air quality, cleaning up contaminated lands, and ensuring our bodies of water are healthy and safe. We still have important work to do, but let's take a moment to recognize and celebrate the progress we've made and those who make it possible.
"The current pandemic underscores the interconnectedness of our 'one planet,' and the critical need to work cooperatively to ensure its protection — a fitting, if sobering, tribute to the theme behind Earth Day.
"As we identify additional opportunities over the rest of 2020 to celebrate the Earth Day 50th Anniversary, we will share them with you. And in the spirit of promoting Earth Day, we urge you to take action and celebrate at home. Consider the following, in an effort to create a more sustainable Michigan, that will contribute to a healthier and cleaner planet:
While this year's event was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, plans call for its return next year, says EGLE's Pam Howd, of the planning committee.