June 6, 2017  |  

America Still Cares and the YMCA can help

The Thursday June 1st decision by President Donald Trump to pull America out of the Paris Climate Agreement was a big shock – and not a big shock. Trump’s election mantra was ‘America First’ – and in the speech he made to accompany his Paris announcement, the message seemed clear that America was going to focus much more on internal matters than it had in the past. Previous administrations had been intentional and strategic in their International relationship building and support efforts; this administration would act on a case by case basis ensuring there were domestic as well as global benefits to each action.

Thankfully this somewhat isolationist attitude is not shared by the majority of Americans, with regard to the climate crisis or global relationships in general. For example in a post election poll by Yale University, 7 out of 10 respondents thought the US should remain in the Paris Climate Agreement rather than abandon it. Reactions following the Donald Trump announcement, from political, business and grassroots organizations echoed this general sentiment

I recently changed YMCA jobs which took me from Petersburg Virginia on the East Coast to San Diego California on the West Coast. My new State and it’s leadership have for many years promoted a very pro-environment agenda – as well as one that embraces local and global diversity and inclusion. The difference between a scattered majority around the country and a unified State? California has the muscle to put these kinds of views into action. As the Governor of the sixth largest economy in the world, Jerry Brown can command the attention of local and global business leaders and local and global political leaders – and almost immediately after the President’s announcement his actions spoke loudly. Brown held a series of press conferences denouncing the decision and with amazing timeliness, left for a trip to China with 100 business leaders and officials to discuss green initiatives and a global partnership.

Local constituencies within California are also continuing their efforts to combat Climate change and engage local and global communities. My new home city has a strong Climate Action Plan in place and many initiatives to make it more than just a plan on paper. I work in a town called Pacific Beach, a suburb of San Diego and it has a development framework called the Pacific Beach Ecodistrict. “The Pacific Beach EcoDistrict is a community committed to advancing sustainability by targeting eight performance areas: community identity, health and well-being, habitat and ecosystem, access and mobility, appropriate development, energy, water, and materials management.”

Beautiful PB


As fate would have it, the reason I moved to San Diego was to help develop a new YMCA in Pacific Beach. The new facility will sit in the heart of the town, next to the local Middle School and Recreation Center, two miles from the ocean. We will certainly have the ability to help the Ecodistrict achieve one of it’s performance areas – health and well-being – bringing a focus on spirit, mind and body to town. But beyond that, we can help bring a youth-led voice on environmental issues into the equation. In addition, the YMCA of San Diego County is a leader in YUSA DIG work – Diversity, Inclusion and Global – which means a new Y in Pacific Beach can engage a broader community as well as the local one.

My current role involves making sure there is a strong YMCA presence in Pacific Beach well before there is a building. The Y does not depend on bricks and mortar. Along with beginning youth sports programs, summer camps and exercise classes – I will be recruiting children and teens to help shape the vision of this Y from a youthful perspective and from a sustainable perspective. Next week I will sit with a classroom full of high schoolers and I will present to them the Resource Group on the Environment. Not only can the RGE provide green and climate change focused advocacy and activism options for young people, it can also provide a way to embrace global relationship building and friendships.

The US decision to leave the Paris Climate agreement could have lead to despair – or it could ignite a passion and love for humanity that sits in the hearts of community members all around the nation. This passion is especially strong in many young Americans who care about the future of this earth. The YMCA as always has a role to play in inspiring youth – and in one corner of this country at least, the inspiration will involve green shoots of hope encouraged to grow with RGE support.

Youth Led Activism


By Mike Roberts

Executive Manager



Mike Roberts
Mike Roberts
There are few professions where you get to make a real difference, impacting individuals, families and communities on a global scale. The YMCA has given me so many opportunities - organizing soccer camps in Haiti, teen leaders programs in Zimbabwe, helping to develop cancer survivor exercise opportunities in America. The Y is so much more.

» Latest Posts