Discussion Guide – Who Gains from the Green Economy?

A discussion guide designed to stimulate meaningful discussion based on some of the articles in this issue of ColorLines.

By The Applied Research Center Apr 05, 2008

Discussion Guide – Who Gains from the Green Economy?

The following questions are designed to stimulate meaningful discussion based on some of the articles in this issue of ColorLines.  The questions are based on individual articles but are designed to get participants thinking about connections between the articles and their own lives and experiences.  Participants should also be encouraged to make links between the articles and think about lessons that can be learned from the articles as a whole.  This section is concluded by a supplemental reading list for further study on the topics discussed in the articles. 

Interview with Vivian Chang

•    What are some of the environmental hazards that low-income people of color face in their jobs and their neighborhoods?
•    How do you think these dangers relate to the issue of global warming, which has been in the media spotlight recently?
•    In what ways is Chevron benefiting the people who live and work in Richmond, California?  In what ways is it hurting them? 
•    Why does Vivian Chang criticize measures like tree planting as a solution?
•    Reflect on Vivian Chang’s final statement:  “If we can really figure out what the true solution is for the people of Richmond, it will be the true solution for all of us.”  What do you think Chang means by this?  Do you agree with her?

Going Green: Don’t Drop the Justice – Robby Rodriguez

•    Robby Rodriguez talks about the importance of “broadening the scope of the environmental movement beyond rivers and birds.”  How is environmental justice different from environmental conservation? 
•    What are some of Rodriguez’s criticisms of the mainstream environmental movement?
•    Rodgriguez poses a number of important questions about the green movement and its relationship with poor people of color.  What do you think it would take for the green movement to put communities of color at the top of their agenda?  What does Rodriguez say activists need to do to strengthen the environmental justice movement?
•    The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.  The United States has never ratified it, despite being the top emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  With the future of the planet at stake, what do you think is needed to shift our government’s position and make leaders accountable to an environmental justice movement?  Can individuals be effective in a movement like this without the support of the government?

Who Gains from the Green Economy? – Preeti Mangala Shekar and Tram Nguyen

•    Activist Van Jones alludes to the fact that the dot.com economy had little effect on Black people.  Why do you think activists are hopeful about the potential of green jobs to end chronic unemployment in communities of color when other economic booms have bypassed them?
•    What is the “replacement mindset?”  Why do some environmental justice activists criticize this mindset?
•    This article stresses the importance of poor people being mobilized and empowered in the green economy.  Why would that be crucial to the success of a green economic movement? Why is it a good idea for workers to lead this movement?
•    When Brian Milani talks about the fundamental transformation required in green economics, he sets up some contrasting values: use value vs. exchange value, regeneration vs. accumulation.  Other parts of the article touch on collectivity vs. individualism and gray capitalism vs. green capitalism.  What do these terms mean?  How do they help lay the groundwork for a fundamental transformation in the economy?
•    A green economy would require accountability from governments, corporations, and individuals.  What do you think is the biggest challenge to creating a green economy that truly transforms society?

Wind Power – Kari Lydersen

•    In what ways does this article explore the struggle for autonomy and self-determination on American Indian reservations? How are these reservations currently dependent on outside corporations and government agencies?
•    How have some of these corporations exploited the land and resources available on the reservations?
•    Why do wind and solar energy provide a road to empowerment for American Indians? 

Toxic Policies – Christopher Weber

•    What are the potential health hazards of pesticide poisoning? How might pesticides be affecting the educational success of students in these communities?
•    Why are communities of color particularly vulnerable to pesticide poisoning?
•    Do you think more education about the hazards of pesticides will cause individuals and agencies to stop using them?  
•    Find out how your school or organization manages pest control.  Is IPM a part of its pest management system? 

General Questions

•    Look up a few definitions of the word “economy.”  What are some of the basic concepts and words that help us define this word?

•    Much of the green movement is being fueled by necessity.  The old way of doing things is simply not sustainable because of the damage it does to the earth and its inhabitants.  People are seeing a need for change. 

Do you think a green economic movement is an alternative that will replace “gray capitalism,” or is it an extension of gray capitalism? 

How do you think the green economy could affect some of the driving principals of capitalism: the need to profit, accumulate, and expand in the global market; private ownership; free market; supply and demand?

Why do people think “green capitalism” can revitalize poor communities of color?

How do you think “green capitalism” can significantly reverse the damage done to the earth?

•    Has the green movement inspired you to make changes in the way you use the earth’s resources? What kinds of personal or economic obstacles keep your from living “green?”
•    Watch the film An Inconvenient Truth through the lens of environmental and racial justice.  In what ways does the film include the unique ways in which communities of color are affected by environmental issues?  To what extent does the film ignore marginalized communities? Does the film put forth a green vision that includes economic and racial justice? 


Group Exercise

•    Both Rodriguez and Chang talk about the importance of having a broad and inspiring vision to lead the environmental justice movement. 

With your group, outline a shared vision of a green movement in this country that could inspire people to change their consumption habits and encourage the government and corporations to address environmental, economic, and social issues. 

Develop a presentation of your group’s vision through a writing, art, or multimedia project.

Suggested Readings:

➤ Bullard, Robert D, Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots. South End Press, 1993.

➤ Bullard, Robert D, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Westview Press, 2000.

➤ Camacho, David E. and Maria Bueno, Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles: Race, Class and the Environment.  Duke University Press, 1998.

➤ Clapp, Jennifer and Peter Dauvergne, Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment. MIT Press, 2005. 

➤ Cole, Luke and Sheila Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement. NYU Press, 2000.

➤ Danaher, Kevin, Shannon Biggs and Jason Mark, Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots. Polipoint Press, 2007.

➤ Foreman, Christopher H., The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice. Brookings Institution Press, 2000.

➤ Gore, Al, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Rodale Books, 2006.

➤ Kennedy, Robert F. Jr., Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy. Harper Perennial, 2005.

➤ Milani, Brian and Thomas Berry, Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Globalization. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000.

➤ Roberts, J. Timmons and Bradley C. Parks, A Climate of Injustice: North-South Politics and Climate Policy. MIT Press, 2006.

➤ Shrader-Frechette, Kristin, Environmental Justice: Creating Equality, Reclaiming Democracy. Oxford University Press, 2005.