The first teach-in on the war in Vietnam was held on the campus of the University of Michigan in 1965. To honor the 50-year anniversary of the historic event that launched the anti-war movement, faculty and students from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are helping to organize a commemorative teach-in March 27-28, 2015 in Angell Hall to mobilize against a different kind of war.
Teach-In 50: End the War Against the Planet will focus on climate change and the threat it poses to the web of life on Earth as Exhibit A.
Professor John Vandermeer, a founding member of the Ann Arbor chapter of Science for the People in 1972, is an organizer of the teach-in along with two of his graduate students, Zach Hajian-Forooshani and Theresa Ong. Vandermeer was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement as a student and faculty member and has a long history of political and social activism. Science for the People, an educational organization that mobilizes scientists to become active in science to serve social needs rather than military and corporate interests, is a driving force behind the event. The complete planning committee is on the Teach-In + 50 website. Bill Gamson, one of the organizers of the original teach-in, proposed the idea for this modern-day teach-in and he takes part in the panel discussion March 27.
Many well-known speakers will present including Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 1,300 public television and radio stations worldwide; Bill McKibben (via live feed), an author, environmentalist, activist, and founder of 350.org; Sandra Steingraber (Ph.D. UM EEB 1989), biologist, author, cancer survivor, and cofounder of New Yorkers Against Fracking; Tom Hayden, author, leader in the student, antiwar, and civil rights protests in the 1960s, editor of The Nation; M. Jahi Chappell (Ph.D. UM EEB 2009), agroecologist and political ecologist, director of Agroecology and Agriculture Policy at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; U-M EEB Professor Knute Nadelhoffer, director of the U-M Biological Station; and U-M EEB Professor Vandermeer, who, in addition to the above, was a founding member of the New World Agriculture and Ecology Group.
“We believe climate change is one of today’s most pressing issues,” said Ong. She and her colleagues are calling upon U-M faculty and students to once again take up the banner of sociopolitical activism, just as they did in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s and the anti-apartheid movement of the 80s and 90s.
“We’re trying to recall the strength that campus activism has had in the past,” said Ong, “particularly at the University of Michigan. We want to reduce the despair that leads to apathy and remind students and faculty that we have the privilege and power to learn, educate, and instigate meaningful change.”
“Teach-In + 50 in many ways echoes the same moral issues students expressed when analyzing the imbalance of power and overexertion of force used in Vietnam,” explained Ong. “Fifty years later, we face the same power imbalances, though the face of that power may have changed. War, inequality, poverty, and hunger are intricately tied to the demands we as human beings place on the planet. To solve the problem of climate change we need to address the complex socio-economic issues that are tied to the ecology of our Earth and we hope that a diversity of student perspectives at Teach-In +50 will help reveal these connections and help usher in a new social, political and economic paradigm that can address the issue of climate change. Climate change is a truly uniting issue that affects people of all races, ethnicities, gender, and socio-political backgrounds.”