Pandora Thomas: Bridging the gap between communities of color and the environmental movement

Authors: Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager Green For All Fellow Pandora Thomas is an environmentalist, permaculturist and greenbuilder, curriculum developer and teacher, entrepreneur and much more. Growing up with a strong understanding of her parent's love for the planet has allowed her to develop a career where she is sharing that love with a variety of different communities. This summer, Pandora not only worked with a group of international youth from mainly Iraq and Indonesia to green their world through the Global Youth Village but she also taught environmental literacy to men inside San Quentin as part of The Green Life Program and co-facilitated a social entrepreneurship workshop to college students along side Dave Hopkins. With over 25 years of combined professional experience in business, media, education and environmental sectors, Pandora and her business partner, Green For All Fellow Zakiya Harris started EarthSeed Consulting LLC to reconnect people of color to the earth and inspire community transformation. They leverage their broad networks to foster collaboration and ensure measurable success. Whether successfully delivering Toyota's first African American Green Initiative (TGI), integrating permaculture and environmental literacy into San Francisco Unified School District (ESLI), producing an original urban green living television series or training youth to produce the bay areas largest solar powered hip hop music festival, their work represents a new model of engagement at the intersection of culture, media, environmental awareness and sustainable solutions. In addition, EarthSeed manages G4G Mobile, a state-of-the-art solar-powered trailer that can be used to power public and private event such as lectures, concert and festivals. Pandora strongly believes that environmental change can only occur through culturally relevant and inspirational models linked to real life experience within the natural world context. In her work, she describes the idea of being green as a lifestyle and understands that there are many healing opportunities within the movement, not only in terms of physical health but for mental health and job creation as well. This philosophy guides her work with corporate partners, community members and students.

We are the experts of our own stories, we meet an individual or a community where they are at, but we don't stay there.- Pandora Thomas

She believes that "we are all experts of our own stories, we meet an individual or a community where they are at but we don't stay there." With The Environmental Service Learning Program her work insured that young people "are not only the next generation but the now generation." As part of her work with YouthBuild, Pandora co-wrote Shades of Green, a green building guide for constructing and rehabilitation affordable housing. Shades of Green was adopted by the Department of Labor as their official green building guide. Her activism and training also extends beyond the boundaries of the US. In 2010. Pandora also worked with the Global Women's Water Initiative in Ghana to train women from throughout West Africa to implement technologies that test and treat contaminated water in their communities.

Not only do we care about the environment but we also care about many other things we have to deal with daily.- Pandora Thomas

Pandora has dedicated her career to bridging the gap between communities of color and the environmental movement. She believes that within all of our traditions exists an ethic of environmentalism that we can reconnect to and build upon. This is where culturally relevant and inspiring stories and projects are key. At Tedx Denver Ed, Pandora described the disconnect she felt as a deeply passionate college student who cared about both her community and the environment and saw them as completely integrated. Her mostly white classmates in the environmental club would ask her why African-Americans didn't care about the environment. "I knew deep in my core that that wasn't true. Not only do we care about the environment but we also care about many other things we have to deal with daily." Pandora recalls. This belief has guided her work ever since.

Pandora Thomas - San Francisco, CA

Pandora Thomas is Director of the Green Career Program at Global Exchange. This program creates pathways for communities of color, youth and lower income people to access jobs and healing opportunities within environmental fields. Pandora is completing an M.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. She received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Youngstown State University and a Teaching Credential from the New College of California. Read Pandora's full profile ยป

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