"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Many of us remember this trifecta slogan from our childhoods, and yet 20-some years later our urban communities are still some of the smoggiest, most polluted areas. On this Earth Day, what will it take for African-Americans to get involved in the green movement?
Now, I know that many of you think: How many more causes will we have to take up? We are already suffering disproportionately in almost every aspect. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is more than 15 percent, as opposed to just under 9 percent for the nation. We suffer disproportionately from health disparities, poverty, home foreclosures—the list goes on. What we have to understand is that the circle of life is not just a theme song from The Lion King. Everything is connected, and once we realize that, we will see that the laundry list of problems in our communities is all tied together. Health issues like asthma, multiple forms of cancer and other illnesses we suffer from are directly tied to the harmful exposure to environmental hazards in the air we breathe and the water and food we consume.
Because our communities are some of the most contaminated, we have to get involved in going green. Now I’m not saying all of our problems will be solved, but we can make vast improvements for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Going green is more than a movement; it will eventually be a way of life, and why not be at the forefront for a change, instead of once again getting left behind? Out of the need to rely more on clean energy, jobs will be created, health disparities will decrease, and life as we know it can improve. We should arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge to become part of the solution and not the problem. I don’t mean to steal President Obama’s new catchphrase, but it really does start with us.
We can make a difference even if we start small, like cutting back on the amount of water and electricity we use. We can work towards weatherizing our homes.
In talking to some friends, I know money is a factor. It’s expensive to install solar panels. But there are some cost-effective ways to go green. I visited the Center for Green Urbanism in Washington, D.C., this week, where they have a home that is completely weatherized. They run six businesses out of it—even an art gallery. I encourage you to check them out and get some tips on how to go green cost-effectively. In the long run, some of the household bills that put a hole in our pockets will go down. There are so many different ways to make a difference in your community, so why not fight poverty and pollution at the same time? What will you do to help? How will you make Earth Day every day?