Climate change and the economic crisis are linked by the one element that created them: those who control the resources.
And it will take those who do not … those who believe in human capital, fostering an awareness of the importance of being in harmony with nature …to bail us out. As was repeated in many sessions at the recent high-level United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, we must go to the farmer
in Africa to find some of these answers.
There is an irony in going to that farmer; she subsists in areas where poverty and hunger are at some of the highest levels in the world. Meanwhile, according to a study by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, “Foreign nations are showing growing interest in Africa’s production base as they seek to secure their own growing needs for food, feed, fiber and fuel. These claims pose an additional threat to Africa’s food security. Proactive and timely adaptation measure, both technical and institutional, might help rural Africa to capitalize on this increased demand instead of becoming victim to it.”
So what does this have to do with changing lightbulbs, weatherizing windows, using real plates instead of paper, and recyclable grocery bags? More than you think. Central Brooklyn has severe health issues, high foreclosure rates, low income, and high unemployment. In Many respects, we are more Third World than not.
That farmer, bent over the soil, bringing life to a plot of land, is not so far from removed from us. “In fact, we (of Southern and Caribbean backgrounds) are the most environmentally-based people,” said Desmond Prince, a local green entrepreneur. “So our connection with the soil and with green is part of our heritage.”
Unfortunately, that history maybe getting blurred from the multiversity meltdown, and that could bring on a dynamic which would be tragic: the selling of “green” literacy programs or initial ancestral basic inventions back to us. If that happens, we will be worse off than ever. So that is why a Greenprint for Change needs to encompass something a little deeper than a grocery list of things to do … although they should be done.
The platform of this Greenprint will unfold over time; its core is grounded in changing value systems, recalling and respecting ancestral traditions, equalizing opportunity. It is a revitalization of the mind set, focus on things that need to be done to help the family, the community, the nation, our children survive beyond us. It is at that point we begin to think about how we will design our own sustainability futures and push for bold agendas, and not have designs or agendas foisted on us. .
A series of Boot Camp courses on Sustainability or Green Tips and Techniques to all Block Association Presidents.
Revise the city’s school textbooks to reflect accurately the histories of Native Americans and
enslaved Africans and their contributions to the “planting” of New York. Also what they brought to
these shores that still survive.
Different communities sharing, through community board day-long conferences, how they are greening their neighborhoods, and sharing resources. (This could also occur with the Chamber of Commerce board and the membership of, say, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Lions’ Club.)
Neighborhoods should develop “green” partnerships with neighborhoods in other cities, again all for the purpose of sharing.
Information sharing would extend to family reunions; many families from Brooklyn travel South. They should tour the cities, and see what is being done or not being down to thwart the challenges of global warming. Develop Local Food recipes for a Family recipe book, and include family history.
Get junk food out of the schools, as State Sen. Eric Adams said at the Brooklyn Food Conference, recently. A door to door outreach campaign to fix the food system would begin to increase awareness of health sustainability.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goal is to halve poverty and hunger by 2015. Set a goal in your neighborhood for developing a Food Coop by that time, and another Farmers Market. UNEP says “25% of the world’s food production may become lost due to ecological breakdown by 2050.”
Micro-finance – utilizing small donations from block residents – a business for teen members of the Block Associations, as long as that business has a green aspect. Within legal restrictions, they could test the soil of a backyard and grow, then sell their produce to block members. Or write a book about the block which would include profiles of everyone who agreed in advance to purchase a copy.
Parents should demand agriculture, gardening, carpentry and other hands-on course be put back into the curricula, and this includes such “green” other “green” activities as home economics.
The U.N. delegate from Seychelles advised: develop a neighbor to neighbor food trading system: one homeowner grows tomatoes; plants okras; other collards, and they share with each other.
The U.N. delegate from South Africa said: If you see an empty unused lot, take it over. Just do it.
Organization like Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration might offer free Weatherization seminar, while Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford Stuyvesant would offer Lead Prevention workshops – a t a Block Association meeting.
Universities should take an interest in priming the pipeline before children reach high-school with mini-institutes of science in the classroom or at a nearby center – free.
Local schools can connect with HBCU agricultural colleges for week-long summer NASA-like programs for young people and their parents. This could be by lottery with corporate sponsorship.
Every major corporation located in a striving neighborhood should invest in the environment of that neighborhood.
The Mayor should provide incentives for groups and blocks that engage in green/sustainable projects or develop their own plan for neighborhood sustainability.
Offer neighborhoods new learning opportunities to explore stimulating challenges – solving the crisis in Africa, interpretations of it through art and music, group discussions, create new ideas and engage young people in pen pal situations.
Technology companies can deploy their staffs to train in micro-green site development.
The City should create a Green Business Plan competition, open to all Block Associations, with start-up funding going to the best plan.
Universities receiving grant money for community work can split the money with the community, as well as resources and teaching labs. Sometimes, that translates to a couple of $100,000.
Greenprint for Change continues, in an upcoming issue.
-Bernice Elizabeth Green