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I’ve been an environmentalist since before I can remember. It started with recycling. Then I started lecturing my friends and family about how we are all connected to the earth, from the trees that help us breathe to the animals we eat. And when it came time to choose my small school at Berkeley High, I chose the School for Social Justice and Ecology.
But what gets me is, whenever I tell my brother, “Don’t throw your trash on the ground” or “Do you really need that bag of chips?” he’ll always say, “Why you come at me with that white people stuff?
Don’t tell him I said so, but my brother’s got a point.
When you see an environmentalist on TV, it’s usually a bald white guy with a PH.D at the end of his name, lecturing about how we need to save the polar bears or stop the ice caps from melting. Don’t get me wrong, I love SOME OF these guys. Like my favorite, David Brower. He said, “We’re not inheriting the land from our fathers, we’re borrowing it from our children.”
My thing is, getting my friends and family to hear that message from me, a hippie black girl still in high school.
I’ve got my own list of environmental issues. At the top is a concern for where the things we buy come from and how they affect the health and environment of the people who make them. And through my volunteer work, I’m helping to get the community together to use local resources in a sustainable way.
And so I look to Van Jones as a role model. He’s pushed for training city youth to do things like install solar panels and plant urban gardens. And now he’s President Obama’s advisor on green jobs. Jones is middle aged and has a fancy degree from Yale, but he’s also Black and engaging young people like me. He’s famous for making the environmental movement more fashionable for more people. He calls it, “green is the new black.”
So my passion is, making Black the new green, too.
I want to empower folks like my brother to realize the diversity of the green movement. So he puts his own orange peels in the compost bin, and I don’t even have to remind him.