Inherit the Earth, or Borrow it from our Children?

By Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NOVA Parks | Posted on June 30, 2015

Sustainability-Blog-EarthAs park and recreation agencies, what is our role in solving the world’s environmental problems?

On one level, addressing issues like global climate change, or even the expansion of invasive plants, can seem far beyond the scope of any one agency, and it is. But on another level, showing leadership on environmental issues can have numerous benefits including:

  • Contributing to the solution of these issues, even if it is small in scope
  • Setting a good example of being good stewards of the natural resources we are entrusted with
  • Positioning your agency, parks and programs as being an important local part of addressing these global issues 

Big, hairy issues like the overuse of chemicals in our environment, or shifting weather patterns, can be overwhelming to many in our communities who would like to protect our environment but may not be sure where to start. 

This is where park systems can play a pivotal role.

We have parks and programs that reach the people. We are a trusted voice on issues related to natural resources. By taking a more proactive role in environmental protection, we can serve our communities better, and our world. It is the old adage of “think globally, and act locally.”

Recently, NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) published a Sustainability Report. This report highlights the agency’s efforts over a number of years to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, Sustainability-Blog-PDF-Coverenhance riparian plantings, reduce its carbon footprint and expand environmental education.


The report starts with the Native American saying, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” The message that we need to take action if we want to pass on a world with a healthy environment to future generations runs throughout the document. While this is a message we should all take to heart individually, as professionals in the parks and recreation field, we have the ability to set an important example and educate our communities about what they can do to be part of the solution. 


What is one way your agency is setting an example in sustainability? Leave a comment below or tweet us @NRPA_News


Paul Gilbert is the Executive Director of NOVA Parks