Cities that go green not only help the environment, but they also help alleviate poverty. By investing in green programs they put money into an industry that is growing and needs labour. As a result, many environmentalists (myself included) are arguing for programs that go beyond hybrid cars and switching light bulbs to programs that promote systemic change. Building green cities is a change that can last more than a lifetime.
The Bronx group is at the forefront of a movement to put low-income and low-skilled workers in “green collar” jobs: manual work in fields that help the environment.
Cities trying to strengthen the local economy and go green see the solution in green-collar jobs. Jobs in the $341-billion-a-year green industry have the potential to move people out of poverty, says Trenton, N.J., Mayor Douglas Palmer.
Advocates of green-collar job programs say concerns about the environment have been focused on hybrid cars, polar bears and the melting ice cap. They want more attention on improving conditions in poor communities, which studies show bear the brunt of environmental hazards because they have more power plants, industrial warehouses and waste facilities.
“We want to use the green-collar movement to move people out of poverty,” says Majora Carter, head of Sustainable South Bronx. “Little green fairies do not come out of the sky and install solar panels. Someone has to do the work.”
Her group, which is funded through private grants, has helped almost 90% of its graduates find jobs working for the city parks department, local cemeteries and environmental groups, such as the Central Park Conservancy and the Bronx River Alliance.