LEAPS ACTION CENTER

Make A Green Noise

Green Is the New Black October 9, 2012

Everywhere you look there are promotions urging you to buy green, go green, think green, green your home, your office space and pet.  Green is the new black.  But for black and Latino communities, the multi-billion dollar green economy has not altered or improved the quality of life. The green economy has gone main stream and quietly left communities of color in the grey polluted economy of yesterday.

The black community is festering in a gray dirty economy. African Americans live in communities with the highest levels of industrial pollution and suffer from lead poisoning twice that of whites. Black children are three times more likely to die of complication from asthma than white children. Unemployment and underemployment has reached epidemic portions in the black community.  According to Van Jones, founder of Green for All and former green advisor to the Obama Administration, “The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people—while honoring the Earth.”
The green economy is a market, driven by individuals whose carbon footprint per person averages about 28% more than Black America. It is deeply segregated in terms of race, class, and gender. But for all the investment in a clean energy, the green economy will not be fully realized until the breath of the green economy becomes inclusive of race, class and gender.

It is greater than consumer choices and how disposable income is spent.  It is a place where the unemployed or underemployed can find family paying wages, opportunities to advance in the workforce. It is a pathway out of poverty, a step towards ownership, management and empowerment.

Rooted in environmental sustainability, the green economy refers to business practices that are energy efficient, foster community self-reliance, respects biodiversity while taking into consideration the human impact of global warming and climate change.
Whether you’re standing up close or peering from afar, the green  economy looks more like the haves versus the have nots; whose going versus whose staying;  whose deserving versus the undeserving.  However, green has the capacity to “lift communities out of poverty” through job creation and employment opportunities. That’s beautiful. That’s power. Let it also be black  and brown power.

 

Face of Pollution

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Communities that have a good school district, low crime rate,  nearby hospital, grocery store  and   entertainment amenities that provide comfort and relaxation hold a special reverence in America’s heart. For the most part, they are thought of as special and as traditional as apple pie.  But these communities are not as homemade as grandma’s pie. Rather the public benefits they offer are shaped by land use and housing patterns, public policy and infrastructure development. The impact of who gets what and where has created public benefits for some and public burdens for others.

Not all communities  are created equally. Industrial policies have shown to be paternalistic towards depressed communities of color  with a high concentration of unskilled labor and  low educational attainment. Polluting industries see these communities as easy marks and city planners who wrestle with decades of neglect and underdevelopment disparities in depressed communities see an opportunity to strengthen  their tax base. Industries provide much needed  jobs but they also produce pollutants that can considerably  contaminate air, ground and water.

 Paper, chemical, and waste disposal firms that  are unacceptable in stable  all American communities  are seen as a welcome trade off in a community where unmet needs are real and “unknown” risk may or may not be evident.  In 2000 the Dallas Morning News covered a study from the University of Texas that reported 870,000 of the 1.9 (46%)  housing units for the poor sit within a mile of factories that reported toxic emission according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 Put it in Blacks’ backyard (PIBBY), the  flip side of Not in my backyard (NIMBY), is  unjust and a threat to public health and safety. In a world where there  is a place for everything and everything has its place, we must remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.