If you are like many people, you’d like to do your part to reduce the human impact on the Earth, and there certainly are times when the idea of simplifying your life sounds appealing as well. Yet when it comes right down to it, you’re still hesitant about whether these great ideas would really work for you. You may feel overwhelmed, or you may feel you have gone as far as you know how. You may be asking yourself questions like:
- Where do I start?
- Which actions are the important ones?
- How do I implement these actions?
- Does what I do actually make a difference?
And through it all, what you would probably really like is relevant personal help and support for the process of changing your life so that it can be more "Earth friendly."
Since the beginning of the year, we at the Context Institute have been helping to develop an innovative program aimed at doing just that. It’s all part of something called the Global Action Plan for the Earth (GAP), a new non-governmental organization formed by a team of international activists under the leadership of David Gershon. (David organized the First Earth Run in 1986, which became the largest project of the UN’s International Year of Peace. The Earth Run involved 62 countries, 45 heads of state, and through the media reached 10% of the world’s population. See IC #17 and IC #22.)
GAP’s full program isn’t scheduled to "go public" until Spring 1991, but we’ve developed it to the point where pilot programs are beginning in several countries. We are excited about the program and would like to invite IN CONTEXT readers to get involved now. Here’s the big picture:
GAP has three major pieces. First, global environmental goals: To help determine which actions are the most important, we assembled the most important environmental goals recommended by major international commissions (such as the Brundtland Commission) and well-recognized research groups (such as Worldwatch Institute). We used this material to set quantitative global environmental goals for the year 2000, such as a 20% reduction in global CO2 emissions. The goals we prepared became the basis for Earth Day 1990’s "Agenda for the Green Decade."
Next, grassroots action: This second major part of the GAP program involves connecting the global goals to relevant actions you and I can take in our households, workplaces and communities. The starting point for this work is contained in GAP’s Household EcoTeam Program – a six-month program for restoring your household to environmental balance. GAP is designed to help set-up and support EcoTeams all over the world
The final piece in GAP’s overall program is feedback and communications. The results of the actions taken by all the EcoTeams are collected and communicated out to the media and back to each EcoTeam on a monthly basis. That way we can know that our actions, rather than just being "a drop in the bucket," are actually helping to fill the bucket! The feedback and exposure will empower further action by demonstrating that progress toward the global goals is possible – and that it’s happening.
THE HOUSEHOLD ECOTEAM PROGRAM
At the heart of GAP is the Household EcoTeam Program, which is designed to help transform people’s desire to make a difference into effective actions that really will make a difference.
The program simplifies the overload of environmental information, and divides it into six specific action areas – one set of actions to work on each month, over a period of six months. An EcoTeam can be any small group of friends, family members, neighbors, church members, or the like; and EcoTeam members support each other in putting these actions into practice. An easy-to-use EcoTeam Workbook provides step-by-step guidance as you and your EcoTeam work through the monthly action areas to:
- Improve Home Energy Efficiency
- Improve Home Water Efficiency
- Reduce Your Garbage
- Improve Transportation Efficiency
- Be an Eco-Wise Consumer
- Empower Others through Household,
Workplace, and Community Action
For each of the first five months, the workbook guides you through an assessment of the current status of your household relative to each action area. Then, based on the results of your assessment, you’ll choose from a list of suggested actions to bring your household closer to a sustainable balance with the environment. Finally, each month you’ll implement the actions you select and report the results back to your EcoTeam.
The sixth month is for celebrating your EcoTeam’s accomplishments – and for looking ahead to expand your effectiveness. Guidelines are provided to help organize new Household EcoTeams, or to begin working to bring your workplace or community into alignment with global environmental goals. Worksheets are provided to assess workplace or community needs.
The workbook includes tips for the EcoTeam meeting facilitator, to help participants support each other and to keep the monthly meetings running smoothly. There are also helpful notes on setting up a new EcoTeam and getting started.
THE GAP-EARTH DAY CONNECTION
GAP is off to fast start: it already has country coordinators in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. GAP’s leadership is truly international in representation, and it has formed an alliance with Earth Day International, which is encouraging its worldwide network to participate in the EcoTeam Program.
We at Context Institute have been working with GAP and David Gershon to develop many of GAP’s key elements. Institute founder Robert Gilman directs environmental research and the design of the GAP organizational structure and communication system. We edited the EcoTeam Workbook, and we are serving GAP’s International Coordination Team as communication facilitator.
But GAP is more than a coordinating effort. Training is also available to help leaders balance inner development with outer skills in order to empower others to take effective action. The training develops your skills at overcoming limiting beliefs and accelerating change (see the interview with David Gershon in IC #22).
The EcoTeam Program was designed to help meet Earth Day 1990’s "Agenda for the Green Decade"- developed by the GAP design team, in concert with the organizers of Earth Day 1990. Key to the Agenda are 15 quantifiable goals for protecting the health of the planet. These goals address needs to preserve the climate and atmosphere, preserve biological diversity, reduce waste, use water wisely, and stabilize human populations. They provide a basis for the design of specific actions, as well as a means of measuring progress. The Agenda itself also serves as a vehicle for alignment among environmental groups.
The goals are large ones – reflecting the scale of global environmental problems. No doubt some will argue that they are too ambitious, others that they do not go far enough. GAP welcomes that debate and encourages that the goals be adapted to local needs. At the same time, we must begin taking action now. If we wait for full consensus on the goals, the continuing damage to global ecosystems will likely be irreversible.
Why start with households? Because while the goals may seem beyond the reach of individuals, they can only be met by empowering collective, individual actions. Such positive, direct action has proven effective in meeting global goals in the past. Citizen Diplomacy, for example, empowered people to take individual actions outside their governments that successfully transformed relationships between the Soviet and American people, which contributed to a transformed relationship between their countries.
How can you get involved?
- Form your own EcoTeam. To find out how, order the EcoTeam Workbook from the address below for $15 plus $2.50 for postage and handling.
- Become part of a Regional Coordination Group. These groups will provide on-going support to local EcoTeams as well as collect and distribute results and feedback.
- Help build the program financially. Memberships in GAP are $35 and contributions beyond that level are most welcome, especially during this startup phase.
- Encourage others to form EcoTeams. Use your networks to spread the word!
For more information on how to get involved, contact Global Action Plan for the Earth, 449A Route 28A, West Hurley, New York 12491, USA, Tel. 914/331-1312, FAX 914/331-3041.