Moving Forward: Don Maruska, Making a Difference

Written by Judy Salamacha

January 27, 2023

In his latest book “Solve Climate Change Now, Do What You Love for a Healthy Planet,” internationally recognized master coach and our Estero Bay neighbor Don Maruska invites us to have joy in what we do, even have some fun and save some money, as activated “climate solvers.” He defines a ‘climate solver’ as an individual or group that recognizes climate change is happening and ongoing; chooses to incorporate simple everyday modifications to their lifestyle; and challenges elected leadership to do more than talk about a healthier world for future generations.

“Collectively, we can make a difference,” Maruska said. He’s on a mission to spread opportunities to anyone who will listen. Currently, he’s reaching out to local community groups like Kiwanis, Quota, Lions, Soroptimist, Eagles, Boys & Girls Club, Scouts, all faith-based believers, sports enthusiasts, and even more casual meet-up groups who might enjoy accepting a friendly challenge. Later this month he’ll address groups in Sacramento.  

Maruska is a fellow Rotarian with the SLO Rotary de Tolosa Club. He was scheduled to present his passion project to Morro Bay Rotarians Tuesday January 9 at a regularly scheduled meeting held dockside on the Chablis. The meeting was rescheduled due to the destructive atmospheric river’s thunderous waves crashing the Chablis into the docks while torrents of pounding rain and bomb-cyclone high winds devastated the West Coast. We became participants and witnesses to consequences of nature’s fury. In Morro Bay trees fell, dry ditches became overflowing rapid-running streams, and streets and businesses were flooded and closed. Every artery into and out of Morro Bay was clogged or closed necessitating City Manager Scott Collins, to call an official state of emergency. Surely the universe is sending one more reminder that if we think ahead and implement a focused plan of action, we can be better prepared for tomorrows.

Maruska’s aha moment came in the early 2000s during his facilitation of workshops contracted by the Marine Interest Group of SLO. He learned and accepted the science that climate change should no longer be ignored. As further testament that climate change had accelerated worldwide, he and his daughter toured Iceland’s ice caves and witnessed first-hand dramatic proof. The ice caves were melting at 85-ft per year.   

“What kind of a world am I going to leave for my daughter,” he asked himself, “and how can I make a difference?”     

When the worldwide pandemic pushed the pause button on normal activities, Maruska found he had time to ponder his question and facilitate an action plan using the tools he normally shared with others. He recognized his plan needed to start locally — even start at home. Leadership had failed, including outcomes from a recent United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt. Knowledgeable worldwide representatives were tasked to focus on action items meant to adapt to climate change. They produced more talk, but no plan of action.

Fear-based strategies currently ingrained in climate change discussions were the wrong approach, Maruska decided. “Humans don’t like to be told what they have to do.” He also said carbon emissions are not something we can see or touch and yet, “We need to understand what is happening and develop strategies for the long term.” 

In chapter one of his book, Maruska quickly gets to the point, “In my work helping people solve tough issues together, I’ve seen the power of engaging people around their hopes and what gives them joy. …” His climate solver plan suggests a focused approach in what he calls the triple A of climate health — Awareness, Action, Advocacy. Maruska suggests Awareness is educating ourselves until we are convinced we are not only part of the problem, but we can also become part of the solution. He recommends the free interactive website www.resilientslo.org to research our personal carbon footprint. This website increases awareness, suggests a variety of action choices and encourages involvement with other climate solvers.  

Action, typically done with others is more fun either because we enjoy the competition or cherish positive feedback. Advocacy ultimately suggests a giant leap sharing our knowledge, action and passionate resolve with local, state and federal leadership.

Maruska is not advocating anything he isn’t currently doing himself. He assessed and made personal changes to reduce the impact of his own carbon footprint. Then, when he learned the United States is losing 36 million urban trees per year, he suggested his Rotary club plant trees. Their goal became 100 tree plantings per year. By collaborating with other local partners like the City of SLO, SLO Botanical Garden, ECOSLO, Land Conservancy, ResilientSLO, and SLO County Parks, 167 trees were planted since May, 2022, plus bioreactors were built.

A graduate of Harvard, Maruska was founder and CEO of three Silicon Valley companies. At twenty-two, he was a legislative assistant in the US Senate where he developed management procedures. While employed with McKinsey & Company, Maruska led strategy and organization projects for corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits. He has worked with organizations such as Accenture, Blue Shield, Duke Energy, Intel, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo and founded and directed the CSMFO and ICMA Coaching Programs, which provided professional development for over 10,000 leaders in local government throughout the United States. He has a talent for translating innovative ideas into practical applications. His career path includes becoming a life coach, author, and speaker offering hands-on workshops worldwide.

Don Maruska believes residents in the Estero Bay and the rest of San Luis Obispo County can be a catalyst to reducing our  carbon footprint worldwide. Action starts with us. If we begin to push leadership to further positive action, our elected officials will claim and promote their personal leadership on climate change action. Who knows, and why not! Just maybe, action plans will go from Estero Bay to recommended action items by leadership attending the 2023 United Nations Climate Conference!

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