For Blacks, the green agenda is about jobs and economic sustainability and empowerment and not only waste and other dangerous products being dumped in their neighbourhoods, environmentalist Majora Carter said at a green forum last Saturday at York University.
“There are opportunities to help advance the green jobs agenda in this country as we are moving from a fossil fuel based economy to a more sustainable model and one that the community can directly benefit from,” Carter said at the Jane Finch Green Job Coalition event. “The other thing is that you risk compromising your health and property value.”
Carter speaks from experience, having been raised in the heavily polluted South Bronx where little consideration was given to the environment a few years ago.
That was until Carter returned to her old neighbourhood as a graduate student and figured out that many of the problems were directly related to environmental conditions.
She advocated for the development of the Hunt’s Point Riverside Park which was an illegal garbage dump and, through Sustainable South Bronx which she founded in 2001, started the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program which is one of America’s first urban green collar training and placement agencies.
“It was not easy at first getting all of these things done,” said Carter, who was listed as one of the 25 most influential African Americans by Essence magazine in 2007. “It was quite a challenge for me helping people see that there was a future for them. It was hard.
“The idea that they could be a part of having a professional and financial stake in improving their community was the first step that we made not just changing things for the community but changing things for the future. It’s all about empowering people and creating a new kind of economic system.”
Carter said there are studies which show that citizens who are exposed to greenery thrive socially and academically.
“The stress levels reduce, kids perform better in school and the self-esteem of girls go up, resulting in less incidences of teen pregnancy,” she added.
While in Toronto last weekend, Carter participated in the Greater Toronto Summit and was the keynote speaker at the Jane-Finch Community & Family Centre’s Green Change gala last Saturday night.
Proceeds from the event will go to the establishment of a meeting place in the Jane-Finch community where members can get together to plan the creation of an environmentally-friendly neighbourhood.