Ensuring a Healthy Environment Requires Long-Term Vision

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Ensuring a Healthy Environment Requires Long-Term Vision

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Happy Earth Day! Check out @GM's environmental blog this week for a series of guest posts to commemorate #EarthWeek http://3bl.me/3v25r6

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Monday, April 22, 2013 - 9:30am

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation


For Earth Week, we are running a series of guest posts written by influential thought leaders in the environmental space. Today’s post is written by Lisa Bardwell, the president and CEO of Earth Force.


Envision a nation where young people are actively making positive change to the environment at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and in partnership with their communities. 

Earth Week temporarily shines the spotlight on this vision, but ensuring a healthy environment requires a longer-term investment. We know people care deeply about their communities and quality of life — how do we effectively enlist them, and especially young people, our next generation of leaders, in ensuring that future?

At Earth Force, we have a few insights:

  • We will not get lasting results with a onetime experience. 21st century skills of problem-solving and critical thinking take practice; the attitudes and dispositions so important to building a civic society require multiple opportunities and reinforcement.
  • We need strategies that engage young people. 
  • We need to understand and address the root causes of environmental issues.
  • We can’t do it alone – we need partners and advocateswho are willing to commit for the long-haul.

Many of these learnings have come from our work in General Motors’ communities across the US and Canada. For the last 20 years, GM GREEN has seen young people, their educators, GM mentors, and community partners donning their waders to test the quality of their water and identify key issues that impact water quality.

Then, the young people work together to select one of those issues and to develop a project to contribute to a long-term solution. The ongoing commitment of watershed education partners has ensured that everyone has multiple opportunities to work together and to establish a legacy for local environmental stewardship.

GM GREEN uses a problem solving strategy that engages and values the input of young people. It instills lifelong habits around active civic engagement by challenging young people to solve problems. It helps them identify root causes, so that the projects they develop help address the real issue, not serve as a short-term remedy.

Take Grand Prairie, TX, where students were concerned about flooding in their outdoor learning lab due to beaver activity. They wanted to address the issue without harming the beavers, so they solicited expert advice from a local wildlife organization and decided to install beaver deceivers. They are working with wildlife experts and GM environmental engineers to install the devices and paint trees around the perimeter of the lab to dissuade their resident beavers.

GM GREEN thrives because of the strong partnerships that support it – not once, but throughout the year, every year. Our strongest communities include many players — GM, schools, watershed organizations, government agencies, and universities – coming together to engage young people around addressing issues related to the health of their watershed. It takes a village – of committed adults and organizations – to sustain the kinds of programs that young people can access and anticipate as part of their education. 

By doing this, we can truly realize a nation where young people are actively making positive change to the environment at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and in partnership with their communities. 

Keywords: Environment | Earth Force | Earth Week | GM GREEN | Lisa Bardwell | csr | earth day | sustainability

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation