Last month I attended a two day sustainability summit. The keynote speaker was the inspiring Majora Carter from the South Bronx NY.
Carter’s TED profile explains why she is important:
Majora Carter is a visionary voice in city planning who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. Hence her motto: “Green the ghetto!”
With her inspired ideas and fierce persistence, Carter managed to bring the South Bronx its first open-waterfront park in 60 years, Hunts Point Riverside Park. Then she scored $1.25 million in federal funds for a greenway along the South Bronx waterfront, bringing the neighborhood open space, pedestrian and bike paths, and space for mixed-use economic development.
Her success is no surprise to anyone who’s seen her speak; Carter’s confidence, energy and intensely emotional delivery make her talks themselves a force of nature. (The release of her TEDTalk in 2006 prompted Guy Kawasaki to wonder on his blog whether she wasn’t “every bit as good as [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs,” a legendary presenter.)
Carter, who was awarded a 2005 MacArthur “genius” grant, served as executive director of Sustainable South Bronx for 7 years, where she pushed both for eco-friendly practices (such as green and cool roofs) and, equally important, job training and green-related economic development for her vibrant neighborhood on the rise. Since leaving SSBx in 2008, Carter has formed the economic consulting and planning firm the Majora Carter Group, to bring her pioneering approach to communities far outside the South Bronx. Carter is working within the cities of New Orleans, Detroit and the small coastal towns of Northeastern North Carolina. The Majora Carter Group is putting the green economy and green economic tools to use, unlocking the potential of every place — from urban cities and rural communities, to universities, government projects, businesses and corporations — and everywhere else in between.
“We could not fail to be inspired by Majora Carter’s efforts to bring green space for exercise to the South Bronx. We need more ideas like these to bring solutions to minority communities.”
Most likely you weren’t at this summit to here her speak. Her presentation was an updated version of her excellent TED presentation, well worth 20 minutes:
Over a decade ago Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx:
Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) has been championing hope and opportunity for the people of the South Bronx and other urban communities since 2001. Our unique and comprehensive approach delivers integrated economic and environmental solutions, resulting in more prosperous and revitalized communities.
- We specialize in pairing economic and environmental solutions.
- We prepare workers for jobs in the growing green collar field while laying the groundwork for healthier urban communities.
- We inspire the members of our community to improve their economic conditions, and back it up with education and job training.
- Weâ€™re public advocates, determined to provide a strong voice for our neighbors.
We accomplish the following aims through innovative Green Collar Workforce Training, Environmental Education, and Community Greening Initiatives:
- Attacking rampant un- and under-employment in a community where nearly 30% of the population is unemployed.
- Creating access to jobs with living wages that offer opportunities for growth.
- Adding to the growing (local and national) green-collar workforce.
- Increasing residentsâ€™ consciousness of the communityâ€™s environmental degradation.
- Raising local awareness of the benefits of greening the community, and the many opportunities for citizen participation.
- Remediating environmental threats, through the activities of BEST and BEST for Buildings trainees and FabLab participants.
- Developing awareness of Environmental Justice issues, so workers and other residents can mobilize to protect and preserve their community.
Carter isn’t anti-development and says she has embraced her “inner capitalist” which has allowed her to bring sustainable projects to the South Bronx. Sustainable from an economic perspective, creating profit for investors and employing members of the community, sustainable from an environmental perspective by using green materials and techniques rather than the status quo. Hopefully we will see some real change in St. Louis.
- Steve Patterson