Project Survival, an early environmentalism-awareness education event, was held at Northwestern University on January 23, 1970. The event was the first of several held at campuses across the United States in the lead-up to the first Earth Day.
Project Survival was not an Earth Day event itself, but rather the first of several preparatory events in the months leading up to Earth Day, April 22, that sought to introduce the environmentalist movement's ideas into the public discourse. Organized by Northwestern Students for a Better Environment, it was referred to as a "teach-out," emphasizing the desire to pass a message along to the community outside the school.
More than 4,000 attendees listened to speakers including Illinois State Treasurer Adlai Stevenson III, Illinois Lt. Gov. Paul Simon (politician), and a number of scientists, including Dr. Lawrence B. Slobodkin, director of the Evolution and Ecology program at Stony Brook University, and Dr. Barry Commoner, director of Washington University's Center for the Biology of Natural Systems. Folk singer Tom Paxton led a midnight "sing-in" where he introduced the song "Whose Garden Was This?," three months before it would become an anthem for the first Earth Day.
Discussion groups met from one to six a.m. to address various topics including over-population, depletion of natural resources, overcrowding, pollution, and nuclear power. Panel titles included: "Surplus People and Instant War," "Life or Death for the Oceans," and "Radioactivity & Prenatal Fatalities."
A film of the event was produced to help other schools prepare for Earth Day and the text of the event's speeches was published in a limited printing by Northwestern.
Following the event, Project Survival became an organization at the University, with a mission to initiate, sponsor, and encourage the study of environmental problems, and to bring information on the topic to the school at large.
Project Survival, Northwestern University Archives