Is it possible to create a new economy in the hood that would create jobs, lower energy costs, reduce the carbon footprint of an urban neighborhood, and allow neighbors to get to know one another at the same time? I think there just might be a way to make this a reality. I would like to green my hood.
The problem in urban neighborhoods is that they are some of the most dangerous places, environmentally speaking. Trash dumps, tow lots, expressways, and chemical plants create places that are quite unsafe. Our neighborhoods can begin to help themselves and lower some of the risk by starting their own green projects. We could hire and train people to do home audits for seniors and families in homes that are full of lead paint, leaky windows, clogged gutters, and uninsulated water heaters. This training would give jobs to people and lower energy bills for residents, as well as reduce the carbon footprint of the neighborhood.
We can grow neighborhood gardens and farmers' markets, which would offer places for neighbors to have better access to nutritious food and vegetables that are otherwise very costly. When we make neighborhoods walkable and livable, neighbors can get around without driving, and that means less asthma-causing air pollution, fewer emergency room visits, and fewer sleepless nights for worried parents. Caring for the environment has hit the hoodand is now a major urban issue , and people of faith have opportunity to offer good news in a new way. This is no longer just an issue of global warming and saving rain forests -- it is about protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, and feeding the hungry now needs to include providing clean air, safe streets, and healthy neighborhoods for our poor urban neighbors. I am committed to greening my hood for a number of reasons. If you want to learn more about it, you should check out The Green Collar Economy, by Van Jones. This is his idea, and I have become a fan.
This is one topic I'll be addressing at a conference I'm speaking at, May 13-15, in metro Atlanta. Flourish 2009 will help churches understand environmental issues in the context of justice, missions, compassion, and sound theology, and it features an amazing diversity of speakers. Come and join me. My organization, Mission Year, has arranged a 25 percent discount for readers of this blog - just use the code "missionyear25" when you register for the conference at flourishonline.org.
Leroy Barber is president of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18- to 29-year-olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year of their lives. He is also the pastor of Community Fellowships Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of New Neighbor.