Is Green really the new Black?

By Donna Hernandez Feb 05, 2009

I’m at the Good Jobs; Green Jobs National conference in Washington DC where 2,500 plus people have gathered. The more popular workshops have focused on how to create Green Solutions that include and focus on communities of color. Here are some highlights from the Green for All workshop – Robert Bullard was a great moderator and set the stage for a very important discussion that focused on equity issues in the Green movement. He talked about the U.S. crumbling infrastructure and the disproportionate amount of dollars that go into fixing areas that have low community of color populations and where the gaps are in for people of color currently holding Green jobs. One of the main points he made was that “Growing Smarter and Greener will potentially address the issue of equity”. Here are some notes on what the panelists said: Nia Robinson discussed climate change and the fact that it’s not only an environmental issue but that it has a very dangerous intersection with Race and Class issues. Some of these issues are being addressed in small communities and by organizers around the nation but the real work is yet to come. The health and economic impacts that climate changes have had on communities of color and low-income families is nothing new. We’ve felt the affects of asthma, heat wave deaths and flooding for a long time now – what’s new are the young leaders of color taking charge of the changes that need to happen and include us all. John Moore was refreshing and gave a great list of programs currently happening in New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, just to name a few. These cities have been investing in programs that not only work towards improving the environment but more importantly provide green jobs for low-income and people of color who are mostly affected by the environmental changes currently taking place. It’s great to hear about solutions that include people of color in the midst of Stimulus discussions that we know will be over in two years and will likely have little impact on the communities we live in and work so hard to make equitable. Ian Kim was very inspirational. He asked people to consider the next seven generations when thinking about ways to solve our environmental issues. There are a lot of drastic changes that are currently happening which will affect what our history looks like. The current system is failing on its own terms – but the side that has an affective plan usually wins. The Ella Baker Center and Green For All are spearheading a plan to ensure that Oakland’s City Council will pass an energy and climate action plan to deal with Oakland’s climate crisis. The Applied Research center is one of the ally groups for this plan – we hope many more groups will join the cause. Green can actually be the new Black, Brown, Red and other colors in between – especially of we are at the table developing the plans to address the climate changes currently affecting us on a daily basis. We are the one’s who know the effects first-hand. So yes people of color, we are all environmentalist, whether we like it or not. And the best way to solve our environmental issues is to ensure that we are included in the decision-making stages like the panelists mentioned above. I look forward to hearing more great ideas and plans over the next few days. More to come – I hope…