Does Green/Sustainability Issues Need Black Folks?

9 years ago

I don't live in a $6 million dollar custom built eco-friendly home. I love polar bears but I've got survival problems too. As much as I applaud Whole Foods decision not to dispense plastic bags at their markets it doesn't mean much if I can't afford to shop in the store on a regular basis.

Let me be blunt. When I see video of Haitians eating dirt cookies made of honey, when I hear of Asian countries that have rice shortages and vendors starting to water down gas supplies it is time to engage everyone on issues sustainability.  It is time to end the green apartheid divide.

For my gift to the planet on this day I want to share with you a collection of nexus points for education and establish common ground communication.  I know from my history that innovation happens not only from the top down but the bottom up.

On the academic side of the fence many colleges and universities are working on the processes to create sustainable housing for communities. For example, UC Berkeley is working on a project, Sustainable Building Materials In Moorea, French Polynesia.  Instead of hauling materials to Moorea they are looking at local regenerative materials that are also cyclone resistant.

A system for the local manufacturing of sustainable building materials offers numerous environmental and economic incentives. From a global perspective, reductions in energy demand and pollution generation are major environmental benefits. Local incentives include invigorating the economy, creating jobs, reducing waste, and supporting self-sufficiency.  International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering,Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 102-130, Fall 2007 ISSN 1555-9033

Closer to home, independent of the U.S. and state governments Actor Brad Pitt visited citizens of the Ninth Ward and asked them what they wanted and needed to rebuild their communities. The result is the Make It Right Foundation, a development of sustainable housing and community resources:

In a series of community meetings, residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt about the challenges their community faced, both before and after the storm. The rising cost of energy placed a strain on the low-income households of the neighborhood and residents expressed concern about worsening environmental conditions. Their concerns have been validated by many scientists, who have concluded that climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes, resulting in the erosion of wetlands and barrier islands that once protected the coast. The residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt that while their terrible crisis had exposed their vulnerability, Katrina had also created an opportunity: to build something better than what had existed before.

This is very good stuff and we need much more of it. But it is still the outsiders stepping in. There are voices that have ideas and contributions to aid in transforming our communities and our world.

African American Environmentalist Association blog looks at environmental issues from an African American perspective. The creation of Green Jobs and some of the opportunities that could make use of the human power that will be needed to convert from coal/oil power to alternative energy. There is also posts that express feelings that the mainstream green movement has no interest in engaging communities of color.

Black Into Green looks at day to day issues folks need to be aware of but also how difficult it can be to educate consumers on making necessary changes.

The last few days have really opened my eyes to how completely uneducated people are on environmental and health issues. Two people this week told me that buying a hybrid was not worth the money. (I am going to research this) Two more expressed the need to drive powerful vehicles. All complained about gas prices. What?! Others routinely throw recyclable materials in the trash without a second thought and eat whatever tastes good and is convenient. It occurred to me how mindlessly we go about living our lives, almost as if we are on autopilot to destroy ourselves and the world. I realize that I was one of those individuals in the past and I am truly amazed at my cavalier attitude towards sources of items that I consumed. Anyway, when you talk to people it is really difficult to figure out where to even start to educate them.

Sometimes the fight is local as with the Citizen's Campaign to Fix the Blue Line in Los Angeles. The new train is running through the African American community without the same safety measure that have been applied in non-African American communities.  Does a benefit to the city (improved mass transit options) have to negatively impact communities of color?

Other times you have to stand on issues that can have a tremendous impact your community. The Ella Baker Center in Oakland saw that there was an opportunity to train young people on how to install solar panelsGreen for All looks at the ways that an inclusive green movement can benefit the entire society. 

And finally it isn't just about jobs. It is about environmental justice and reciprocity. Engaging the perfect circle of sustainable balance can help one person save another. I leave you with a video presentation from TED Conference 2006 Majora Carter, Sustainable South Bronx.  Keep you eye out for Al Gore, she makes him blush.

Other Resources:

CE Gena Haskett writes at Out On the Stoop and looks at library topics at PCCLibTech

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