Environmental issues are, too often, pigeon-holed as an elite issue — rich people driving Prius hybrids and buying their organic food. Status symbol, sometimes, as much as substance.
Whether it is a question of pollution from industrial facilities or Global Warming impacts, it is (writ large) the poor who have the most to suffer from destruction to the environment, from wasteful pollution.
In the 16 Sept 07 Washington Post, Mick Dumke had an excellent OPED, Let’s Add Some Color to the Greening of America.
For some people, “going green” is more than just a trendy cause, a way to score points on the campaign trail or a means to achieve the abstract goal of preserving nature for future generations. … it’s a matter of survival.
Truth be told, ‘greening’ is a matter for all of our survival in the face of methane bubbling in the not-so permanent permafrost, but there are communities (in the US and around the world) where the situation is more urgent.
If you drive a Prius and buy tofu at Whole Foods, going green may be a lifestyle choice. If you live in a poor neighborhood near a toxic factory, going green is a human rights issue. The movement has been slowed by a divide that is visible in everything from local recycling policies to the complexions of environmentalists. On one side are mostly white middle- and upper-class populations with plenty of money and political clout. On the other side are minority and low-income communities with little of either.
The tragedy is that the communities that are left behind often have the most at stake — and the most to contribute. Because not only is environmentalism a human rights issue, it is also an economic opportunity.
And, it is an economic opportunity in so many ways. A more energy efficient and more renewable energy focused economy will bring good paying jobs into the local community (with home energy efficiency projects, distributed power generation, etc …) instead of exporting money for fossil-fuel extraction. Energy efficiency will save people money. “Green” schools and homes will improve health and improve productivity — including helping to improve student test scores.
One gap from this article is discussion of how lack of capital resources inhibits smart upfront investment to help foster greener infrastructure (whether private or public). Due to ‘cash’ concerns, the cheaper up front cost item is often the more expensive system to own — which translates into more pollution and less money available to do other things. But, if the resources aren’t there to buy that more efficient refrigerator, it doesn’t matter much what the five year ‘total ownership cost’ calculation is.