Highlights from the 2012 EGA State of the States in San Diego

San Diego recently played host to the 2012 EGA State of the States. I was very excited to see that it was one of the larger State of the States gatherings organized by the EGA in recent years, with more than 100 funders and over 40 speakers from all over the country. In light of the inside-the-beltway discourse centered on job-killing environmental regulations, funders like me came together to learn more about how states and regions are innovating around sustainability and shared prosperity.

At a time when basic protections to our air, land and water are under fire from many directions, the State of the States gathering featured many promising efforts to re-energize the environmental movement at the grassroots and broaden the base for civic engagement by connecting environmental concerns with those of democratic participation, our energy future, community health and well-being, and sustainable food systems.

Many funders were looking for new approaches and opportunities (and, frankly, some inspiration) to rebuild the environmental movement from the ground up by helping to give voice to politically, economically and racially disenfranchised communities that often bear the disproportionate burden of dirty air and water, lack of access to green space, and the like. What I found most inspiring were the many organizations (People for the American Way Foundation, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, 350.org, and CREDO Action, to name a few) – and funders (many civic participation funders joined us) – finding common cause across constituencies to foster civic engagement, protect our natural resources and public health, and grow our clean energy economy.

While there has been some recent news about declining interest among millennials in becoming civically involved to safeguard our planet, I must say that I took great comfort in listening to the passionate, creative, energetic efforts of the youth organizations such as Student Public Interest Research Groups, Sierra Student Coalition, and New Era Colorado working across the country to protect our natural assets and the public trust. They are definitely a beacon of hope for a brighter future.

Written by Emily Young, San Diego Foundation