NAACP Panel: Black Community Needs Green Future
By Tony Pecinovsky
July 14 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
"As a society, as a world, we can no longer continue
our dependence on fossil fuels," Texas state Sen.
Rodney Ellis said at a workshop here at the NAACP's
101st Annual Convention on July 11.
"We make up about 5 percent of the world's population,"
Ellis continued, "but we consume more than 20 percent
of the world's energy. When we talk about
sustainability, that's not sustainable, that's not
In fact, the United States consumes more energy than
any other country in the world.
"Green jobs will be the wave of the future," said
Ellis, a Democrat who represents Houston in the Texas
Legislature. "We have to diversify our economy with
clean sources of energy."
The workshop, titled "Green Jobs: A Lifeboat in the
Unemployment Storm," brought together political and
community leaders from across the country to discuss
the impact green jobs could have on communities of
The prospect of green jobs is especially important now
- as an environmental issue and a jobs issue. African
Americans have been hit especially hard by the current
economic crisis, with over 17 percent unemployment
nationally. Additionally, according to the Economic
Policy Institute, unemployment for African Americans is
expected to reach a 25-year high this year.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, from Green for All, added that
green jobs means "recognizing that our communities
"The economy is going to be rebuilt," she said. "The
question is: are we going to participate in it? Will
jobs be created in our communities?"
"Some people," Ellis-Lamkins continued, "don't think we
deserve to be a part of the planning of the economy.
Well, the green economy is being created. It is already
3 to 5 percent of the current economy. But we have to
fight for the opportunity to be included."
While stimulus money has created or saved millions of
jobs, said Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied
Research Center, "Black communities have been left
Sen added, "It isn't enough for people of color to be a
part of the environmental coalition. We can't be
tokens. We have to have the ability to influence the
agenda, to influence the outcome."
Diversity and equality are not the same thing," she
Sen said people of color have to challenge people's
"dominant system of thinking, their frame. We need the
power to shift people's frame."
"But that takes hard work," she added. "We have to
organize, organize, organize! There is no shortcut. We
have to talk to people and get them invested."
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., connected the need
for green jobs with the health of the black community.
Cleaver, who grew up 300 yards from a landfill, said,
"Freeways and highways always come through minority
communities. We get the tail-pipe exhaust. As a result,
we have the highest rate of respiratory problems of any
group in the nation."
"We live in the oldest buildings and have the oldest
homes. We need to be leaders in the issue of
sustainability," Cleaver continued. "We need
weatherization. This is our green future."
"But," Cleaver concluded, "we need a seat at the
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