GI Joe has got it wrong, according to Majora Carter, the dynamic Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx. Carter, who works to connect poverty alleviation and the environment in ways that benefit both concerns, argues that “showing up is more than half the battle.”
Well plenty of young people – roughly 5,500 in fact – will be showing up at this weekend’s Power Shift 2007 conference, the first national youth summit to address the climate crisis, November 2nd-5th. The summit, the largest-ever of it’s kind, will bring students and youth from every state in the nation together for a weekend of training, action, and movement-building in College Park, Maryland, outside of Washington D.C.
Power Shift: What made you excited to participate in Power Shift as a speaker?
Majora Carter: I never had a chance like this when I was young—or even lately for that matter. This is a unique experience that I want to contribute to. We need reinforcements out here, and I don’t want to have [young people] start from nothing. If I can pass on anything I have learned, then it is my duty and distinct pleasure to do so.
With Power Shift on the horizon, what stage of development do you see the youth climate movement at? Where is it going next?
In the South Bronx, we are connecting the public health issues we live with every day with the climate issues Power Shift is addressing. Communities suffering from environmental injustice are point sources for global warming gases everyone is trying to curb. I think people are beginning make the connection between our decades of toxic concentration and wet polar bears, but we still have a long way to go.
What role do you see the youth climate movement playing in the broader push for climate solutions and a new energy future?
They have more time to attack these problems since they don’t have kids or mortgages to pay. We have to act fast before they get too entrenched in the hyper-consumption that our society advocates.
What kind of impact do you see the youth climate movement having on electoral politics (especially the 2008 elections)? How can youth maximize their impact?
Politicians know that the youth vote is not yet strong. In the decades since Nixon ended the draft, under 25 voting is quite low. If there is a substantial turnout in 08, the 2010 races will consider youth, but right now, young people have a huge credibility gap that they must get over before politicians really take them seriously.
What, in your estimation, will be the biggest deciding factor/have the biggest impact on making positive legislative as quickly as possible?
Money or votes. If you don’t have one, you had better have the other.
When you talk to people about climate change, what do you encourage them to do to make a difference?
Contribute money to people and organizations that they see making a difference. Believe it or not, the really effective ones have the hardest time raising money. That’s because they are too busy working to go out and fund raise; and because there is a culture of failure that plagues the “do gooder” mileu. Women have it even harder. For every $20 that goes to any non-profit run by a man, only $1 goes to a woman-led non-profit. There are loads of problems wrapped up in that statement, and I won’t even go into race; but once we start to explore these issues, it might affect how we all support each other. I hope so.
What is your favorite aspect of the “1Sky” principles?
It’s the first one for sure: new green collar jobs. These can’t be exported and include all levels of ability and education. These are the opportunities for traditionally excluded sectors of our society that will both clean up our environemental and economic inequalities.
What are you personally working on after Power Shift?
Van Jones and I are pushing ahead with Green For All, and I am writing a book about how we can save the world by “Greening the Ghetto” first.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank everyone for showing up. It’s more than half the battle – there is no battle unless we show our numbers and push.
This nation’s hyper consumption comes at the cost of many people’s dignity, health and quality of life. As a creative culture, we can find ways to satisfy our needs and avoid those transgression. Will it mean some sacrifice during the transition? Yes. But think of what the WW II generation endured here in America. Now think of what they endured in Europe at that time. Fighting Nazis wasn’t easy; fighting your planet is simply not possible.
When I think of the youth coming to Power Shift, I hope that they will be the next “greatest generation” and pick up where their parents have failed.
For other interviews in this series see:
Majora, a native and lifelong resident of the South Bronx, founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 to fight for environmental justice through innovative, economically sustainable projects that are informed by community needs. She earned a 2005 MacArthur Fellowship for her vision, drive, and tenacity as an urban revitalization strategist.
Check out It’s Getting Hot In Here for frequent dispatches from the youth climate movement.