Thursday, July 01, 2010

Three-day Sustainable Community Summit attracts 800 people

Green thinking will bring jobs to Duluth

Majora Carter spoke to a crowd of over 500 at the Clean Economy Dinner at the DECC. She grew up in the Bronx and has helped to revitalize the borough by both beautifying it and bringing jobs. Photo by Naomi Yaeger-BIschoff

Majora Carter is a New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx and spearheads a campaign to ‘green the ghetto’ and create green-collar jobs. She is nationally recognized as a sustainability pioneer and was the keynote speaker for a June 15 Clean Economy Dinner, which was attended by 519 people. She energized the crowd with her ideas for creating environmentally sustainable jobs.

The dinner was the highlight in the middle of a three-day Sustainable Community Summit, which was hosted by the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation and Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Over 800 separate people participated in the Summit’s various events, which included cultivating job opportunities in natural resource protection, green building, transportation and energy production, and localizing food processing and growing.

Carter met with business, government, non-profit leaders and community members over a two-day period to discuss the Twin Ports Green Jobs Action Plan. Collaborators included regional and national funding agencies.

“Ghettos and environmentally devastated areas don’t just happen,” Carter said during her keynote speech, “They are planned.” She gave the history of how the Bronx started out as a sustainable, pleasant community where everyone could walk to work, shopping and school. She maintains that through planning it became blighted and referred to as a “war zone.” Suburbs and freeways were planned. A waste facility and prison placed in the neighborhood were also planned.

“The environment and the people living in it are not separate. When we damage our environment, we damage ourselves. No one should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one, and this notion’s environmental and economic implications span the globe,” Majora said. playgrounds,” she said. Carter said she spent decades saying she was going to move out of the ghetto. After graduate school she ended up living with her parents in the Bronx and credits her involvement in the environmental movement to her dog, Xena.

During a walk, the dog pulled her through a dump where Carter was amazed to see a beautiful river, a river she had never seen because of the blight and waste that obstructed the access to it.
Her parents moved to the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx in 1948, shortly afterwards many whites left the Bronx, which was termed “white flight.” Money was spent to develop freeways to the suburbs, and the Bronx was “red-lined” by bankers. Red-lining is a banking term in which financial institutions refuse to loan money in certain neighborhoods, which stifles development, investment and renewal. Carter grew up watching buildings burn because the buildings were worth more burned down than standing. Often The Bronx was referred to as a war zone. “We were the poster child for urban blight,” she said. Her brother returned home after a military tour in Vietnam only to be killed when he returned home to the blighted neighborhood.

Carter’s job ideas include training people for green construction jobs like restoring wetlands, building parks and building smart roofs. “These are jobs that cannot be outsourced,” she said. “The work also gives previously unemployed people job readiness skills.”

“Race and class will tell you exactly where you will find waste and blight; and parks and