As a young witness to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Wally Longshore knows all too well what environmental disaster looks like.
“I saw an ecological meltdown. There were days where we couldn’t even see the sun because of roiling dust,” says Longshore, 80, a writer, environmental activist and six-year resident of Mount Rubidoux Manor in Riverside, Calif.
Having experienced such devastation already, he now fears that the entire planet faces similar calamity, this time because of an excess of carbon dioxide and other “global warming” gasses.
Those fears prompted him to take his lifetime of expertise as a publicist and press aide to politicians and apply it to organizing his peers and neighbors to help reduce Mount Rubidoux Manor’s impact on the environment.
“I’m spending all of my time campaigning – the poems I write, the essays I write, the political action I’m involved in – all goes to getting carbon dioxide down as quickly as we can,” he says.
“Seniors Giving the Gift of Green,” the program that emerged from his activism, encourages grandparents and great-grandparents to fight global climate change on behalf of younger generations.
“I really believe that seniors, motivated on local, city, state and national levels, can be the vital center that can move governments and people to do something about climate change, because we have the motivation that our grandchildren must not experience global ecological meltdown,” he says.
His campaign began in earnest last fall with a call in Mount Rubidoux Manor’s newsletter for the community to “go green.” Soon after, the resident council, of which Longshore is the vice president, adopted a resolution to promote energy and resource conservation throughout the 16-story high-rise.
Residents are asked to help keep rooms cool by using curtains and blinds, to conserve water by turning off faucets when brushing their teeth, and to replace standard light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.
The program also encourages residents to conserve fuel and support local agriculture by doing their food shopping at the nearby Downtown Farmer’s Market each Saturday.
Mount Rubidoux Manor took its green commitment public in September 2008 with a tree-planting organized by Longshore to honor fellow resident and avid gardener Mable Harris, 100, using shade trees donated by Riverside Public Utilities. The event drew 150 people and received widespread local media coverage.
Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge, who has spearheaded efforts to make Riverside a center of green technology, commended the Mount Rubidoux Manor project as “an example of leadership for the entire city.”
The next step in “Seniors Giving the Gift of Green” will be a regional conference held outdoors on Sept. 26 in White Park, next door to Mount Rubidoux Manor. The community will invite seniors throughout the Riverside area to come and learn more about climate change and how they can live green. Longshore is hopeful that other ABHOW communities will be similarly inspired and come on board.
“The motivation, the driving force, is that whatever seniors are involved in, their grandchildren are really dear to them,” he says. “And when they really begin to recognize that they’re in danger, I think that will be the catalyst for the movement.”