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Green Team America bringing generations together

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August 4th, 2009
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Gary Dunham was the first person chosen to act as a surrogate for Al Gore to deliver the famed Inconvenient Truth talk to community groups. According to a new report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, global climate change (also known as global warming) is real. Reports about the alarming rate of rainforest destruction (1.5 acres per second) and the melting of the polar ice caps are plentiful. (Experts now say that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet and summer Arctic ice could disappear as early as 2013.) But until now, there has been little solid information regarding the immediate impact of global climate change in the U.S. (see sidebar). Gary and Jan Dunham are turning their passion to save the planet into Green Team America. This report stresses that climate change has immediate and local impacts it literally affects people in their backyards, says Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study emphasizes that the choices we make now will determine the severity of climate change impact in the future. One man determined to inspire Americans to make choices that safeguard rather than threaten the planet is Gary Dunham of Houston, Tex. Dunham and his wife, Jan, are set to launch Green Team America (GTA) at Eagle s Trace, an Erickson retirement community in Houston. The ambitious project combines the energy and enthusiasm of the nation s youth with the wisdom and experience of its older generation to literally save the planet.

Unlikely candidate

Dunham is an unlikely candidate to lead the crusade to save the planet. Retired from a career in advertising, Dunham was looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren when a visit to a movie theater changed his life. After seeing Al Gore s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Dunham was stunned. He immersed himself in the topic of global warming and soon had his own slide show to present to local groups. He reached out to Al Gore s office for more information. They took a look at his slide show, liked what they saw, and asked Dunham if he wanted to be the first among a thousand people who would act as surrogates to deliver the same presentation Gore makes in the film to community groups. Dunham accepted and went on to become director of operations and senior mentor for Al Gore s The Climate Project. Now Dunham is turning his knowledge, passion, and experience to GTA, which aims to inspire America s youth to take ownership of their planet. Let s face it, he says, anyone who has any connection to teenagers knows that as energetic as they are, they need an awful lot of direction.

A corps of volunteers

To provide that direction, Dunham is turning to the residents of Erickson campuses. He envisions a corps of volunteers who are like grandparents to both lead the high school students and keep them focused. The kids provide the bulk of the energy and the motivated force to do something really important about global warming, says Dunham. But they need the direction that the older group can give them. So it s a perfect marriage. By partnering with Erickson Retirement Communities, GTA is able to tap into a network of people who are already committed and passionate about global warming. Many residents belong to green clubs in their communities to raise awareness of global warming, and the campuses themselves have made extensive efforts to be eco-friendly. Dunham also believes the culture within Erickson communities is a perfect fit for GTA. Erickson residents are already attuned to volunteering, he says. They ve volunteered at the garden clubs and community groups throughout their lives so this kind of project should be second nature to them. GTA will launch at Eagle s Trace in the fall with plans to branch out from there. We are going to grow sequentially through the Erickson properties, says Dunham. It will probably take us through the end of next year to make it to all the locations.

Generations working together

Dunham sees the intergenerational aspect of GTA as vital to its mission. As he puts it, I m 73. I represent the group that caused most of the global warming problems and the kids represent the group that got stuck with it. They re going to have to fix it, but they don t naturally think too far in the future. Older people understand the focus on the future because they ve got grandkids. In my case, I just recently became a great grandfather. I m not going to see the worst effects of global warming, but that little guy is. For more information about Green Team America visitwww.americasgreenteam.org.michele.harris@erickson.com

Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.

Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing threats to human health and quality of life. Increased heavy downpours will lead to more flooding; waterborne diseases; negative effects on agriculture; and disruptions to energy, water, and transportation systems. Insect infestations and wildfires are already increasing and are projected to increase further in a warming climate. Local sea-level rise of over three feet on top of storm surges will increasingly threaten coastal infrastructure. Coastal flooding will become more frequent and severe, and coastal land will increasingly be lost to the rising seas.

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