>> Sunday, February 8, 2009
This post is my submission for the Green Moms Blog Carnival. The topic is "I believe...." Check out the musings of all the great Green Moms on February 9 at The Smart Mama.
Last August, Slow Food USA held a festival in San Francisco to celebrate and promote their belief in local and sustainable food. The slogan of the Slow Food movement is "good, clean, and fair food," but over and over when I read media reports describing the event, it was labeled as an elitist gathering for wealthy yuppies. Admission to the various pavilions and panels was expensive, and the many displays of high-priced artisinal foods made slow food seem out of reach for the average American, used to Walmart and McDonalds prices.
Sadly, the stereotype of the 21st century environmentalist is a white college graduate driving a Prius, shopping at Whole Foods, wearing over-priced organic cotton clothing, and reprimanding everyone for not doing the same. The stereotypical image of environmentalism from the last century was a poorly dressed, Birkenstock-wearing, treehugging hippy...but still white.
But is environmentalism really just a movement of the white and affluent, who have the time and the means to enjoy a green lifestyle while the poor and minority populations are left behind?
I don't think it has to be that way. I believe there is a green hat to fit every head, blonde or brunette, buzzcut or dreadlocks, black or white (or as First Son would say...peachy or browny.) I believe in clean, green, and fair for everyone.
But how do we make going green accessible and desirable for everyone?
Here are some possibilities:
Promote Energy Savings
The media has done a good job of selling compact flourescent lightbulbs as energy and money savers. But I recently learned that an energy efficient home retrofit can shave as much as 30% off of the average home energy bill. Why isn't the media advertising that? For low-income families who can't afford to retrofit their homes, the U.S. government has created a Weatherization Assistance Program. But let's face it. Government sponsored programs are slow and often ineffective. If we're going to have clean, green, and fair for everyone, we need more programs, perhaps sponsored by charities and non-profits, that help low-income people make their homes energy efficient.
Promote Green Jobs
If the future of America is clean, renewable energy, we are going to need lots of people to make that happen. Instead of bailing out companies that have already demonstrated bad business practices, we should be investing in future jobs: installing and maintaining solar panels, building wind farms, retrofitting houses, and rebuilding America's infrastructure. We will also need people to develop these new green technologies. Going green will provide thousands and thousands of people with a new reliable source of income.
Promote Affordable Public Transportation
As energy prices rise, it's going to be more and more important to improve public transportation options in our cities. Besides reducing energy consumption and pollution, a good transit system can stimulate economic development by revitalizing aging downtowns and urban neighborhoods. Clean and affordable public transportation will be especially beneficial to poor and minority populations, the majority of which live in cities.
Promote Health Benefits
Huge numbers of low-income people live near oil refineries, garbage dumps. waste treatment plants, polluted waterways, and other sources of pollution, leading to higher incidents of cancer, asthma, and other illnesses among the poor. A cleaner, greener world would lead to fewer health problems among the poor, as well as less money spent treating those health problems.
Promote Urban Gardening
Organizations such as Urban Farming, Food from the Hood, and The Garden Project teach urban gardening techniques to low-income people, at-risk youth, and former offenders, providing educational opportunities, skills, and food for people in need. Additionally, urban gardening can provide independence and self-sufficiency, important qualities in hard times.
I believe that if we don't show environmentalism in a way that will attract more diversity, we will fail. Our green umbrella must cover a broader group of people or we will never build up the momentum to have a long term impact. If we are going to succeed, we need to declare, "Clean, green, and fair for everyone!"