President Obama is walking into some large problems—including war, climate change, and poverty here and abroad—which he had very little to do with, but is still expected to fix. Climate change is one that some might suppose becomes less important during an economic downturn. In fact, the opposite is true: We can use this pivotal time to reduce our carbon emissions and our poverty emissions.
We can do this together and do it well, and the socio-economic benefits will ripple through all aspects of our civic responsibilities. This isn’t even about spending more money; it’s about spending the same amount of dollars in a more intelligent way.
I started the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program in 2003 to create a skilled green-collar workforce with both a personal and financial stake in environmental management. With each successive graduating class, more people come off welfare and clean the environment at the same time. Graduates learn green-roof installation, urban forestry skills, wetland and brownfield restoration, and important life skills that help them keep the jobs they get.
Communities like the South Bronx are everywhere. And it turns out that the same activities that cause global warming also negatively affect people’s health and quality of life—and cost a lot of money to support. Burning or extracting coal and oil and hauling waste and consumer goods with diesel trucks on congested roads cause problems for the people who live nearby.