Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Acterra closes Schools Group

Dear friends,

I was extremely disappointed but not at all surprised to learn today that the board of directors of Acterra has voted to end the High Schools Group program.

The environmental movement is faltering and the problems we face won't be resolved tomorrow, or next year, or even ten years from now. Today we must take a long view. The future depends on our youth. We have to invest now in programs that will make future environmental leaders out of today's ten- and fifteen-year-olds.

Bay Area Action once had one of the country's most innovative and effective programs for teens, an age group for which there's almost no environmental education.

In 15 years the Schools Group helped enact legislation, brought public pressure to bear on polluters, educated the public on myriad issues, and -- most important of all -- provided hundreds of teens with invaluable leadership training of a sort that they couldn't receive anywhere else.

During the time when Bay Area Action (BAA) and the Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation (PCCF) were discussing the possibility of merging in 1999 and 2000, the board and members identified the Schools Group as a "core competency" and the program was retained because it was something the organization did well and that no one else did at all. We filled a void.

Now, sadly, Acterra's board has turned its back on youth. No one fills the void anymore.

Acterra has consistently moved away from nearly all the goals that were identified as important by the members and stakeholders during the time of the 1999-2000 merger talks. During that time, several surveys and meetings of members and stakeholders identified several core characteristics in BAA that were lacking in the (I shall be blunt) aging PCCF. People described BAA with terms such as "action-oriented," "effective," "youthful energy," and "hands-on involvement." Indeed, it was the PCCF's board of directors that approached BAA with the merger idea; it was a "friendly takeover."

At the time, those in the know sometimes described the PCC as the Peninsula Conversation Center; a place where a lot of issues got talked about but not much got done. As the merger talks between BAA and PCCF grew serious, many people expressed fear that BAA would lose its action-oriented edge and be in danger of taking on some of the less flattering characteristics of the older organization (not that BAA was perfect either).

Today, five years after the merger, it is with a heavy heart that I must confess that Acterra has become the thing that we feared most.

Over time, Acterra has shut down many of the programs that were considered the most vital and impactful (Urban Agriculture, Schools Group, Youth Environmental Action, and Bay Area Earth Day, to name a few).

Since Acterra is not an organization of the type that affords its members a vote in its direction, I have elected to vote in the only way I can: I will not renew my membership and choose to no longer support the organization I once loved dearly.

with deepest regret,
Mark Bult

PS> As some of you undoubtedly know, I left Acterra a year ago. Even then I saw the early signs that the Schools Group would probably not last much longer. Unfortunately, the forces aligned in this direction were more powerful than myself and the few remaining board members who still believed strongly in the Schools Group (yes, there were still one or two).

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