George Coling (ENACT Steering Committee)

George Coling was a first-year graduate student in the School of Public Health in the fall of 1969 when he joined the ENACT Teach-In steering committee.  He had finished his undergraduate degree earlier that year at the University of Rochester, where he participated in anti-Vietnam War activism.  Coling organized several events during the ENACT Teach-In, including the Environmental Scream-Out, and worked with African American students to establish the support group Blacks for the Environment.  After the U-M teach-in, he helped start the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor and then, instead of completing his graduate program, moved to Washington to coordinate the campaign to set up local ecology centers nationwide.  He later worked for the union-affiliated Urban Environmental Conference and many other environmental organizations during a long career in activism and public policy. 

Interview of George Coling (in Worthington, Massachusetts) by Amanda Hampton and Matt Lassiter (in Ann Arbor, Michigan), December 7, 2017

Part 1: George Coling explains his background as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, how he became interested in public health and environmental issues, and the mission of the ENACT Teach-In.

Part 2: George Coling discusses the links between environmental activism and the Vietnam War, his on experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student eligible for the draft, and the support of the teach-in by the faculty of the School of Public Health. 

Part 3: George Coling talks about racial tensions around the ENACT Teach-In at the University of Michigan, starting a group called Blacks for the Environment, the concurrent Black Action Movement (BAM) mobilization, and the way Vietnam loomed over everything in the spring of 1970.

George Coling addresses his fear of the draft and opposition to the Vietnam War and tells a story about a basketball game between the radical White Panthers and the Michigan National Guard.  He also explains how ENACT organizers started the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor and his role in launching national movement for local ecology centers.  

George Coling talks more about the links between environmental activism and Vietnam, discusses the role of labor unions in the environmental movement during the early 1970s, and details his experience in the Urban Environmental Conference that connected unions with environmental justice campaigns.

George Coling talks about being a part of history at the ENACT Teach-In and chronicles his long career in environmental activism and policymaking in the decades afterward.