Teach-ins are educational, interactive forums where people come together to focus and discuss a topic. They are meant to be practical, participatory, empowering, and action-oriented. Lectures, forums, discussion panels, and free debates can all be part of teach-ins. Teach-ins are often held on college campuses, but can also be hosted at libraries, houses of worship, and community centers.
Organizing a teach-in should be seen as part of a larger and longer organizing effort, not as a one-off event. Teach-ins are crucial at this time for educating and awakening Americans to the urgency of the climate crisis. As with other critical historical moments in our history, teach-ins are an important tactic for personally engaging people, and building an effective, responsive movement.
Gather your organizers. A small group of students or volunteers can organize the teach-in. Set a date for the first meeting, and start inviting people.
Structure the program. First, determine what you want the teach-in to look like. Length of the teach-in can be an all-day Saturday event, a half-day Saturday event, or an evening event of 2-3 hours. Weekend events may be more preferable, as people can set aside more time and will be fresher than after a workday. Possibilities include speakers, panel discussions, films, and facilitated dialogue with a speaker. The first half could be devoted to discussing the issues, and the second half devoted to response, with a networking intermission in between. You can have several speakers or center your event on 1-2 speakers.
Outline the content. We can provide suggestions regarding content; contact us for suggestions. A resource page is forthcoming.
Set a date. Set the date(s) well in advance—a 60-90 day planning horizon is suggested, to line up speakers and reserve a meeting space. Choose a date or dates that works well for your group, speakers, audience, and semester schedule. Possibilities could include: (1) week-long, (2) Thursday night through Sunday afternoon, (3) a series of Saturdays, (4) an all-day Saturday event that runs late into the evening.
Reserve a space well in advance. Public spaces often are booked well in advance, so make this an early priority. Options include universities, colleges, libraries, houses of worship, union halls, and community centers. Choose a site with sufficient seating for the anticipated turnout, that is easy to find, readily accessible, and with proper sound / lighting systems. If the event is an all-day event, make sure there are restaurant options nearby or you will need to provide food. Many places will donate the space or offer a discount if you tell them it is a free public education event.
Arrange speakers well in advance. Choose people who are conversation-starters, not spectacles. Look for speakers who can communicate the climate issue well in everyday language, not scientific jargon. Possibilities include professors at your local university’s climatology or physical sciences department, local leaders taking a stand for climate protection, and climate advocates with local organizations. Some speakers will charge fees—many colleges have funds reserved for invited speakers.
Find co-sponsors. Co-sponsors will help promote the event through their own networks, and can help with the organizing. Make sure responsibilities and time-lines are clearly defined for each party. Co-sponsoring organizations can set up tables in back to provide attendees with an opportunity for further engagement.
Handle various details. Arrange lunch if needed and / or snack table—ask local businesses to donate, or have organizations pick up costs. Arrange an event moderator, a timekeeper, setup and cleanup crews, an AV/light person (they should confirm the system in advance), a photographer, a video person, someone to pass around sign-up sheets, tabling volunteers, and a coordinator to confirm volunteer commitments two days ahead. Create a sign-up sheet, a take-home follow-up action sheet, and a program schedule sheet if needed.
Publicize. Create posters, flyers, leaflets, sidewalk chalk, Facebook event page, and radio announcements. Post on website calendars. Personally invite key people (local leaders, government officials, professors), and remind them within a few days prior. Posters around campus should be placed within a week of the event, and may need to be stamped. Have manned tables in the student union in the days prior. Go door-to-door in the dorms. Hand out leaflets personally at key locations on campus. Ask professors of large classes if you can briefly announce the teach-in at the beginning of their class. Ask professors to give extra credit for attendance.
Cover your costs. Make the event free, so that all can attend. If funding is not available to cover costs, a cosponsor that is a 501c3 nonprofit org can ask for donations. If you decide to provide lunch, then suggest a donation amount in an announcement.
Get media coverage. Write simple, clear, concise press releases, and send them to local radio, TV, and newspapers at least two weeks prior to the event. Arrange interviews with the speakers on local radio programs. Call beat reporters and ask them to attend the event.
Build future support and follow-through. The teach-ins are part of a larger movement-building process, not a one-off event. Capture the energy of participants who are eager to respond. Have a table with literature, and a letter-writing table. Pass around a sign-up list, asking for names and email addresses. Send a follow-up email to those who signed up thanking them for their attendance and desire to respond.
Senator Edmund Muskie, keynote speaker,
First Earth Day, 1970, Philadelphia, PA
Where would we be now, had we continued the environmental progress and momentum generated by the First Earth Day in 1970?
In the 1960s, Rachel Carson's watershed book Silent Spring awakened a major shift in understanding our connection to our environs. By 1970, over half the US public believed pollution was one of the top issues facing the nation. That year, the first Earth Day brought out one in ten Americans to call for reforms, described by journalist Mark Dowie as the "largest one-day outpouring of public support for any social cause in American history." Roughly 1500 colleges and 10,000 schools organized teach-ins. Tens of thousands organized local events such as parades, demonstrations and protests.
As the result, Republicans and Democrats together passed a portfolio of landmark environmental policies during the Republican administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Environmental advocacy groups emerged at the time and played a vital role in the reforms.
December 1969: Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, hires 25-year-old Denis Hayes to direct a national “teach-in” about environmental issues. Hayes recruits a handful of young college graduates to come to Washington, D.C. and begins planning what will become the first Earth Day.
January 1, 1970: Congress passes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), requiring every federal agency to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for any legislation. The Act’s passage is due in large part to the public outcry that resulted from the Santa Barbara oil spill the year before.
January 14, 1970: General Motors' president Edward Cole promises “pollution free” cars by 1980, citing the removal of lead from gasoline and the addition of catalytic converters as means to stop deadly emissions.
January 22, 1970: In recognition of the growing media attention given to the approaching Earth Day, President Richard Nixon stresses the importance of environmental issues in his State of the Union Address.
January - March 1970: In the months leading up to Earth Day, advertisements amplify the direness of the environmental problems facing the world, reading: “It can be the beginning of the end of pollution. Or the beginning of the end.”
Some opponents condemn the movement to organize a national Earth Day as an unpatriotic deflection from the war in Vietnam. Others point out the fact that April 22, 1970 is the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's birth, and warn Americans that Earth Day could be a clever communist plot.
First Earth Day, 1970, St. Louis, MO
April 22, 1970 - Earth Day: The first national Earth Day. Co-chaired by Congressman Pete McCloskey and coordinated by Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day takes the form of a nationwide protest against environmental ignorance. An estimated 20 million people participate across the country, in what will ultimately be the largest demonstration ever in American history.
June 1970: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is established to provide citizens with the tools to draft environmental laws and lobby for their passage.
July 9, 1970: President Nixon works with Congress to establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new Federal agency primarily responsible for United States environmental policy. In its first year of operation, the agency will employ over 4,000 Americans. The EPA will be responsible for the passage of environmental legislation, ecological programs, and research.
October 2, 1970: The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is created to monitor and improve the conditions of the oceans. NOAA enforces the sustainable use of resources of coastal and marine ecosystems and supplies environmental information to the public.
November 1970: During the election cycle after Earth Day, Denis Hayes organizes a movement to unseat “The Dirty Dozen” - a list of 12 members of Congress with infamous records on environmental policy. The movement will successfully remove seven of the incumbents, and earn the environmental movement significant political clout in the legislature.
1972 - A Wave of Legislation
October 18, 1972: The Clean Water Act (CWA) becomes the primary legislation governing water pollution in the country. The goal of the CWA is to eliminate toxic substances in water and to uphold surface water to a national standard of cleanliness. The act, an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, bestows enforcement authority on the EPA and restructures previous water quality regulations.
October 21, 1972: The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects all marine mammals from importation, exportation, hunting, capture, or any form of harassment, thus encouraging natural resource management in the United States.
October 27, 1972: The Coastal Zone Management Act mandates coastal states to develop management plans to offset the negative impact of humans on coastal areas.
October 31, 1972: Dennis Meadows co-authors The Limits to Growth, a study of the interaction between population, industrial growth, food production and ecosystem limits. In the book, Meadows demonstrates with clear diagrams and linear models that Earth’s resources are being steadily used up, and as these resources drop, human population is expanding exponentially. The Limits to Growth predicts that by the middle of the 21st century, Earth’s population will no longer be sustainable and the ecosystem will completely collapse.
December 31, 1972: DDT is banned in the United States, the result of nearly 10 years of legislative battles. Since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring first brought DDT into the spotlight in 1962, the government formed investigative panels and committees to substantiate the danger of the pesticide. With the ban, the Administrator of the EPA , William D. Ruckelshaus, stated his conviction that “the continued massive use of DDT posed unacceptable risks to the environment and potential harm to human health.”
Arab Oil Embargo, 1973
October 1973 - March 1974: During the Arab Oil Embargo, energy demands exceed supplies in the United States for first time. The fuel shortage results from the suspension of oil shipments to the US, with gas prices skyrocketing and the price of a barrel increasing 400% from $3 to $12 a barrel. The energy crisis fuels immediate research into alternative energy and creates a new dialogue about energy security for the United States.
December 28, 1973: Congress passes the Endangered Species Act in order to prevent the extinction of animals in the United States. This act restructured the 1966 legislation regarding endangered species and directed the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA to carry out its stipulations.
June 26, 1974: President Nixon signs the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act, the first attempt to balance the nation’s energy demands with appropriate environmental regulations.
June 28, 1974: Chemists Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina claim that Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can destroy ozone molecules and may erode the Earth’s protective ozone layer. A report released two years later by the US Academy of Sciences will provide further scientific evidence to support the hypothesis of ozone depletion. In 1978 the United States will ban the use of CFCs in aerosol cans, but is not until the early 1990s that CFCs will begin to be phased out of product production.
August 17, 1974: The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) is enacted in an effort to monitor forest resources in the United States. The RPA mandates comprehensive assessments in order to supervise forest supply.
December 12, 1974: The EPA is charged with settling and monitoring water quality standards with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), covering every public water system across the country.
January 3, 1975: The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act protects over 200,000 acres of National Forests. This legislation is the first to protect lands that were once logged or previously inhabited.
October 11, 1976: The Toxic Substances Control Act mandates the EPA to control all new and existing chemical substances being used in the United States. The act controls polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and other toxic products, although the management of existing chemicals are grandfathered and untouched by the act.
October 21, 1976: The EPA is given complete control over hazardous waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which mandates the agency manage all aspects of toxic waste management.
October 22, 1976: The following day, National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to monitor forestlands and to develop a standard to manage each unit of the National Forest System.
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This is our time; now is our moment.
Photo: Evan Leeson (cc)SA-2.0
Your actions and volunteerism are crucial for building a Climate & Ecological Emergency Campaign and taking ATL’s efforts to scale.
- Read "WHAT CAN WE INDIVIDUALS DO?".
- Read and discuss the new book “BRIGHT GREEN LIES: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.
- Support resistance to the proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada.
- Download and read ATL's free e-book: "Climate and Ecological Delusions and Contradictions That Will Rapidly End Humanity…Unless...". The e-book provides the basis for why we need to trigger an emergency alarm and how we can achieve it.
- Further emergency information: (1) read our Situation page, (2) watch climate scientist Kevin Anderson's lecture "Climate's Holy Trinity," and (3) read William Ophul's short book "Apologies to the Grandchldren: Reflections on Our Ecological Predicament, Its Deeper Causes, and Its Political Consequences."
- ATL's March 17, 2019 Letter to the Hewlett Foundation.
- Spread the emergency personally: share ATL's Delusions and Contradictions e-book, discuss these issues with friends, family, teachers, students, colleagues, and your networks.
- Join the Climate Emergency Coalition (sign on: Individuals / Organizations).
- Sign up for ATL's updates and action alerts.
- Spread the emergency online: email, tweet, post on Facebook, reach out through other social media channels.
- Donate to ATL, a 501c3 organization.
Help ATL recruit key citizens, and help build the movement to address climate change at the scale and urgency required to protect a livable climate. Who do you know that might support ATL's efforts? Contact them, engage them, activate them.Start recruiting
The Association for the Tree of Life uses the word "Apocalypse" in the sense of seeing something previously hidden.
Commonly, the “Apocalypse” is thought of as the final cosmic showdown between good and evil. In the Book of Revelation, written 2,000 years ago, the forces of good are prophesied to finally overcome the forces of evil. Over the centuries, a library of books predicting the soon-coming Apocalypse, put out by thousands of Biblical interpreters, have come and gone.
But, as yet there has been no showdown, final or otherwise.
However, a new type of Apocalypse is brewing, and its several intertwined denouements are being revealed. ATL pulls back the curtain of some of those hidden “Revelations” – that is, surprising or unseen aspects of our current situation.
ATL showcases various denouements awaiting “Revelation”, such as the energy crisis, food, fertilizer, methane, and plastic.
Showcases of the Apocalypse are visible if one can pierce the fog of delusions and contradictions that hold the world together, now slowly unraveling. The pieces of this Apocalypse are myriad and complex, as one might expect given how riven our world is, particularly the USA, with non-fact-based assumptions, beliefs, and superstitions.
(Facts, as used here means reliable-and-valid reality-based occurrences.)
To uncover this complex Apocalypse, first one must know in which direction to look to find its parts and meanings.
Stay tuned. Sign up for email alerts to be notified of each new part, if you are not already on ATL’s list.
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