Pages tagged "academy"

60,000 high quality jobs for New York State residents

Authors: Clarke Gocker, Green For All Fellow Candidate After being signed into law in late 2009 by then Governor David Paterson, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) finally launched the initial phases of an innovative new statewide residential energy efficiency program called Green Jobs/Green NY (GJGNY) this past fall. The program seeks to weatherize 1 million homes in 5 years and create 60,000 high quality jobs for New York State residents. It is being funded by revenue from the sale of CO2 emission allowances as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade program. Residents earning up to 200% of area median income can currently receive free or reduced-cost energy assessments from BPI-accredited home performance contractors and can finance energy efficiency upgrades through a low interest loan product being offered by NYSERDA. Several of the more progressive and transformative program elements that will make GJGNY standout as a truly innovative model to scale up the home performance industry and put people to work have yet to be implemented. Therefore, opportunities exist for continued public engagement and grassroots mobilization around these critical issues. As a Green for All Fellow candidate and staff member with People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo) in Buffalo, NY, I am helping to lead local and statewide organizing efforts involving coalitions of responsible contractors, training organizations, and workers. These GJGNY coalitions are focused on the following set of issues: A. Implementing a community-based GJGNY program model capable of driving unprecedented customer demand and putting people to work
  1. Transforming the market for energy efficiency improvements using innovative outreach strategies and financing tools;
  2. Training a new and incumbent workforce for family sustaining career pathway jobs;
  3. Connecting disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities to training pipelines and employment opportunities with local contractors and businesses;
  4. Reducing barriers to entry for building trades unions interested in partnering with contractors and community groups on high road workforce agreements;
  5. Expanding the base of certified and accredited women and minority-owned contractors able to participate in energy efficiency programs administered by New York State; and (6.) Broadening the scope of work that is eligible for GJGNY financing to include health and environmental hazard remediation and abatement that adheres to a Green and Healthy Homes approach.
PUSH Buffalo is working closely with other statewide stakeholders, including the Center for Working Families, to achieve these objectives and recently submitted a proposal to NYSERDA to perform customer outreach and coordinate workforce development in the GJGNY program following a community-based implementation model that will deliver community workforce benefits. B. Advocating for passage of landmark state legislation that would create an on-bill recovery financing mechanism If passed, on-bill recovery will allow GJGNY customers to finance energy efficiency retrofits directly on their utility bill using the energy savings generated after eligible measures are installed. On-bill recovery would eliminate the upfront financial costs of participating in the GJGNY program and would substantially reduce the economic risks to moderate income households (60% - 120% of area median income) that have difficulty accessing safe and affordable credit or that continue to be targeted by predatory financial institutions pedaling high risk consumer loan products. Consumer advocates are now joining home performance contractor trade associations, community-based stakeholders, and working families across New York State in the fight to win a legislative mandate for on-bill recovery. These groups are planning coordinated community mobilization events - town hall meetings and rallies - for early April, 2011 to raise public awareness and popular support for this issue, and to call on state legislators and the governor to work together to get this legislation enacted. For more information about on-bill recovery and related advocacy efforts in New York State please visit:

Finding New Approaches to Ending Hunger in Madera, CA

Authors: Yolanda Contreras | Green For All Fellow Candidate My name is Yolanda Contreras and I am a Green For All Fellow Candidate, currently in my term of service. I am 26 years old, was born to Guadalupe Bautista and Nazario and was raised in a small rural town north of Fresno, surrounded by grape vines and almond orchards—Madera, CA. Despite the fact that Madera is an agricultural town, hunger is among us. Many residents suffer from food insecurity, which is why I have chosen to dedicate my term of service to building up the leadership of the Feed Madera Task Force. The population of Madera is about 56,710 and approximately 67.8% of the population is Hispanic or Latino. Unfortunately Madera has a high unemployment rate of 17.5%. I attended elementary, Jr. high, high school and some college in Madera. As I pass the years here, I continue to become more and more attached to my community and feel more driven to end hunger. Having a career as a social worker, I understand how important community partnership is. Therefore, with that in mind I work as a Hunger Campaign Coordinator in Madera Community Food Bank, and currently facilitate a Feed Madera Task Force with community leaders and churches. Feed Madera was created about two years ago, the overall objective was to brainstorm ideas on how to improve existing emergency food distribution processes while also collaborating on multiple community efforts. Several community organizations realized there were program inefficiencies in emergency food distribution for Madera Community Food Bank and we worked to correct those. Today, Feed Madera continues to be a committee, which became, Feed Madera Task Force. Feed Madera is now concentrating on building new leadership from within the community and partnering with churches and organizations to try new approaches to addressing hunger. We want Madera to be food sustainable and hunger-free. Through my work with Green For All, I am learning how important community agriculture is and the role it can play helping Madera residents to grow our own produce and keep it local. I believe that by having community gardens in our community it will make Madera sustainable. I’m the second to the oldest in a family of five siblings. The first time I heard “community garden” was when my sister who is the third to the oldest suggested a garden at home. Unfortunately, her strong willingness and belief lead her where she is now, Mexico, where she became vegan and is growing her own crops, living how her ancestors survived more than one hundred years ago. Meanwhile, I do my part here in Madera. Maybe when she comes to visit one day, she will come back to find Madera with a thriving green economy meeting the needs of ALL residents.

More Federal Subsidies for Fast Food Chains?

Authors: Jose Narvaez, Green For All Fellow Candidate

The other day I was biking around my neighborhood. I noticed a fast food place doing something I thought was illegal. According to federal law, you are not allowed to use food stamps to buy hot foods. However, there it was: a popular fast food place with a big sign that says‚"We Accept EBT."

I go by there a lot and this sign was probably put up in the last few weeks. I've been interested in how food is consumed in low income communities for a while now. I was on food stamps myself and when money is good, I'm vegan, eat organic, local etc. But when money and time are tight, a value meal looks mighty good.

I had to pull over and see what was going on. I asked her about the sign and how to get some fast food using EBT. She explained that a customer uses their EBT card to buy a frozen meal for 25¢ less than the regular price. Then the customer pays the remaining 25¢, in cash, to warm up the food. I was taken back by the cleverness of this model. Legally, this set-up is no different than take and bake pizzas at your local supermarket.

I'm not sure if this will catch on. However, I asked the cashier if she's been selling more since they started taking EBT. She said, "Yeah, we've been selling a lot more since we started this." Moreover, this is a national franchise. If the store's sales are high, word will get out among other franchise owners. In other words, this could become popular if a store is successful with this model. If this store does not succeed, sooner or later another franchise will try it. Not having to pay your own money for the convenience of fast food is hard to pass up.

Let's assume this catches on. What does this mean from a food justice perspective? It means the fast food industry has figured out how to further federally subsidize their revenues. These companies are responsible for one of the most costly externalities today - poor health among low-income people.

While many would say, "It's their choice to buy value meals with their EBT cards," I would argue low-income people in food deserts, often don't have choices. Fast food for food stamps might be a welcomed new option for many living in areas where a supermarket is hard to get to. But the question remains, should we provide the subsidies for unhealthy food? This product is purchased on the taxpayer dime and all too often, so are medical bills from a life time of value meals. From a public health perspective, this could be problematic.

The fast food industry already benefits from federal corn subsidies. They use these subsidies to reduce their costs to sell us cheaper food that make us sicker. Food that makes our national health care problems worse. And now, they have found a loophole to receive even more federal subsidies, at the health cost of low-income people.

The Dream is Alive in Richmond, CA

Authors: Tania Pulido, Green For All Fellowship Candidate As a first generation US Citizen with migrant parents from Mexico, my path into community development stems from the desire to combat the same racial, class, and gender injustices that my parents traveled to escape, but still face in North America. Growing up in the city of Richmond, CA, a community that has historically borne the brunt environmental racism, my understanding of social, political and economic issues were limited, and seemed far removed from being related to one another. Thankfully, through my involvement in community based organizations like Urban Tilth, The Ryse Center, and Green For All, I have expanded my knowledge of the interconnectivity between issues of health, environment and politics. Being able to take part of the Green for all Academy, as a fellow candidate in the 4th Class, has opened the door to new opportunities as well as provided me a wealth of resources, people, and information that make my work as a community organizer more effective. I am grateful to belong to a national organization with dedicated people who want to create a cleaner, safer and ultimately better future for all. This year on MLK Day I saw the power of that interconnectivity alive in hundreds of my youngest neighbors... Just days after 16 year-old Gene Grisby was gunned down in front of his grandmother’s home in Richmond, California – becoming the city’s first homicide of 2011 – over 400 school children rallied for peace on the Richmond Greenway, a stretch of hiking trail on the southern border of the Iron Triangle neighborhood.

MLK March from New America Media on Vimeo. The rally was just one of several events in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which included the city’s fourth annual Peace March, where children and young adults carried signs demanding their right to live in a peaceful neighborhood. One of the highlights of the event were the mud balls, filled with seeds, that the school children were given to throw onto the soon-to-be “edible forest” being cultivated on the Richmond Greenway. The forest project is being sponsored by Urban Tilth, a Richmond non-profit committed to urban farming. “You are planting seeds of peace,” said Doria Robinson, Executive Director of Urban Tilth, who gave a powerful and empowering speech to the children. Then, over a hundred balls flew in the air, landing on the empty patch of grass. After the ball toss, the children continued their peace march down the Richmond Greenway to Lincoln Elementary School. Once they reached their destination, the children had a ceremony and a number of performances began. The children sang, danced, and recited spoken word poetry. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also attended the event, and gave a speech to the children. As a young person living in Richmond, I can say that the Peace March was the most powerful event I have ever attended in my city. The energy of the children was unbelievable; it was an epic moment for me to see them demanding peace and chanting together until the end, despite a long day of marching. I have participated in other marches, but this one was the most energetic, memorable and empowering. At least on this day, a diverse group of people in Richmond had come together, all standing against the violence that has given Richmond the unfortunate reputation of being the sixth most-dangerous city in America.

Building Solidarity

Authors: Zoe Hollomon, Green For All Fellow Candidate I recently returned to Buffalo after presenting at the 2011 Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference along with other Green for All Fellows. Hosted by the Blue Green Alliance, the conference brought together representatives from labor, environmental organizations and local community non-profits to discuss a more sustainable future and green jobs. It was inspiring to see the combination of attendees, speakers and workshop topics all taking place at one event. For our panel, “Faces of the New Green: Models in Green Jobs Development Among Low-Income Communities & Communities of Color,” each of us described our work, our different projects and perspectives, keys to our progress, challenges and finally we shared critical questions with our audience about how to accomplish our shared goal - create a future that we are proud to pass on to future generations. As a youth development and food justice professional, I am proud to say that our concerns and focus on food security and youth employment were echoed by people from communities in DC, NYC, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, and beyond. In our breakout groups it was uplifting to hear people's praises in support of our work at Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) and feel the solidarity of sharing similar struggles. I was able to make connections with other groups and individuals and get to know better the work of my Green for All Fellows. At one workshop, I met several youth leaders from Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night School, a unique school where youth can obtain a high school diploma in two years and get green job training and skills for their future. I felt an immediate connection with the teens through their presentations and hearing their stories. It reminded me of our Growing Green program and we made promises to get in touch and see if we could build a bridge between our two organizations. Getting closer to some of my Green for All Fellows and hearing about some of their best practices and challenges helped build our existing relationships and opened some new possibilities to work together. What I parted with from this experience was a sense of alignment with thousands of others in the movement, working for better choices for our communities. I feel proud to represent my community of Buffalo, our youth and our work at Growing Green. My fellowship with Green for All has been a wonderful opportunity to see how diverse our movement is and what can happen when diversity is cultivated. I'm recharged and glad to be back home.

Community Based Production

Authors: Jose Narvaez, Green For All Fellow Candidate As a budding electric bike designer, I try to keep up with trends on what’s hot and the latest technology. Since I am in engineering school, keeping up on the latest technologies is easy. However, I go to school out of state and this disconnects me from my community back home. So I knew I needed to touch base with someone who was more connected to their local community. Luckily, during the Green For All Fellowship training, I met Itef Vita. He’s an all round talented artist. I asked him to sketch out what he would want the bike to look like. We talked about different designs. He did a few sketches. It was inspiring. I also talked to different bike designers and met with other Green For All Fellows involved in the scraper bike movement. I took all the ideas and blended them together to develop a 3D model of the bike. Everyone I spoke with will see elements of their input: Ideally, I’d like to meet with more hip-hop artists around the country and get their feedback. For now, I’m going to make this design as open as possible. In other words, I’ll leave it up to the people to add their own flavor to it (another idea from a Fellow. Big Ups to Tanya!). Since the aesthetic design has now been finalized, the next step is to do the engineering. This involves switching from art mode to math and science mode. I have to make sure the bike will physically work. I have to make sure the battery gives enough juice to get you around and bump your jams at the same time. Stay tuned.

Why I Moved to the Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield

Authors: Eric Mathis | Green For All Fellow

Often people ask why I moved to the “Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield” to work on Renewable Energy and more often than not, they are shocked by my answer.

They typically view The JOBS Project’s work through the lens of environmentalism and habitually build from this assumption that we are made up of die-hard progressive Democrats striving to end mountain top removal. It is within these assumptions that I have built our organization’s strategy, that is, to decouple renewable energy from these associations by building non-traditional allies with the perceived enemy – the coal industry and the employees that are the life blood of America’s energy infrastructure.

So when I was asked by Green for All to present at the 2011 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National conference I jumped at the opportunity to discuss a strategy that some environmental groups working in Appalachia have refused to accept – a strategy built around collaboration.

Moreover, Secretary Chu’s recent statement further unpacks the issue at hand when he stated that the “United States faces a choice today: will we lead in innovation and out-compete the rest of the world or will we fall behind?” Falling behind is exactly what we are doing and what lies at the heart of this issue is simple: while we are fighting each other within the various Clean vs. Dirty energy debates, our country is being chopped up, sold off and shipped to China.

As I stood in front of a crowd of more than two hundred, I began navigating through my presentation on our various projects while nervously leading up to an implicit challenge of collaboration to a crowd predominantly made up of labor unions and environmentalists, a demographic often associated with an “us against them” approach to social change.

Well, I am happy to report that the same challenge that has enabled us to build allies from both sides of the debate in the coalfields of Central Appalachia was again welcomed with warm smiles, subtle nods and inquisitive discussions during our break out session.

It is my belief that these discussions hold the potential of becoming the “ground zero” of the American psyche where we can begin building hope by collaboratively lifting our great democracy from the ashes of a strident partisanism which is quickly ripping our country apart. To create a space where we can come together as Americans and create a new patriotism built upon collaborative dialogues where idealistic discussions of saving the planet are transformed into a pragmatic duty of saving America!

What is the power of one voice?

Authors: Ambessa Cantave, Green For All Fellow

What is the power of one voice? Ambessa Cantave, Green For All Fellow, Hip Hop artist, activist, father, and educator with the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), is using the power of his voice to activate a whole generation of eco-warriors, and it's working!

"I use my art of hip-hop music as a platform for raising awareness about climate change and how it impacts the economy and the health of communities that are historically marginalized from basic resources across the nation" says Ambessa the Articulate (that's his MC name).

Combine Ambessa's talent as an MC and his passion for empowering young people through hip hop culture with the Alliance for Climate Education's cutting-edge multi-media climate change presentation, and you've got the perfect formula for inspiring high school students to become climate heroes.

With ACE presentations in over 1200 schools thought the country so far, over 53,000 students have pledged to make lifestyle adjustments to combat climate change. Many others have chosen to take their activism to the next level by forming action teams on their campuses and being trained as leaders. To date, there are over 23,500 students engaged in action teams to address climate change on their campuses.

Ambessa was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, who reported on his recent ACE presentation for 200 East Oakland students at Unity High School. Using alternative approaches to engaging Oakland youth of color is something Ambessa has been committed to ever since he moved to the Bay Area from the east coast about a decade ago. He has contributed his skills and dedication to some of the freshest leadership development programs for low-income youth of color in the Bay, such as Grind for the Green and United Roots: Oakland's Green Youth Arts and Media Center.

When Ambessa is not educating high school students through his work with ACE or in the studio making music, he is collaborating to develop social enterprise opportunities from conscious parties to arts-based green media and marketing.

This month we honor Ambessa Cantave for using his voice, his passion, and his entrepreneurial skills to inspire hope and most importantly action.

Austin'€™s Landscape: Searching for Equality in an Emerging Green Economy

Authors: Carmen Llanes, Green For All Fellow Candidate Austin is a place like no other in the country. It is a town full of green and blue, with nature and humanity in a precious balance, and pulsing with liberal ideologies, bustling businesses, and diverse ideas. It is full of conscious people and very active organizations, working to improve the city and the world in various ways. While at times the world of Austin activism and organizing can seem small, it still falls victim to silos that separate people who could otherwise be working together. Austin also falls victim to denial of its incredibly racist and classist history and politics, typical of a town where the liberal values of privileged people with the best of intentions often blind them to the searing injustices suffered by low-income communities and people of color. But at its best, Austin is a town of aware people who care. It is the perfect place for dialogue and communication to break such barriers and bring us into a real progressive change that benefits everyone. The other day I had a great conversation, over vegetarian tamales and enchiladas, with my friend Carlos, a co-founder of Third Coast Workers for Cooperation (TCWC). This new organization seeks to help develop and launch worker-owned cooperatives, for the planet, and for the people, as well as help democratize existing workplaces and bring justice to workers, especially low-income people of color. Carlos and I discussed a paradox: Austin’s abundance of entities providing services and job training to people who need it most. With all this training and education, why are there so few folks of color with living wages? Where are the local businesses owned by people of color? In order to understand Austin’s landscape, one must first understand that historically, for the last 80 years, there has been a distinction that created “two Austins.” That divide is marked, in part, by Interstate Highway 35, separating the city into East and West, the “haves” and “have-nots,” or white communities and communities of color. This distinction was created in 1928 by a Master Plan, which segregated the city and relocated communities of color to East Austin, zoning neighborhoods adjacent to industrial facilities. As a result, the vast majority of hazardous industry and contamination has occurred on the East side, where African American and Mexican American neighborhoods have coped with a lack of services, resources, and good schools. This landscape continues to influence the mission of many organizations, including PODER, which seeks to redefine environmental issues as social and economic justice issues, and address these as human rights. PODER runs a youth leadership development program in the summer with East Austin teenagers, called the Young Scholars for Justice (YSJ). In this program we discuss that landscape in detail, and train youth in community organizing, advocacy, and artistic expression. In this dialogue the youth feel they belong. They understand where they fit in the story, and this helps them identify the ways in which they want to participate and make a difference in their own communities. This job is not just another summer job for them. For many it is the beginning of understanding meaningful community work, with a purpose. They are main players, because they understand where they fit in. The YSJ program teaches community organizing and advocacy, not green job training. But the analysis and story telling aspect of the program is the kind that would give a job-training program in green building, conservation, or community food systems a whole new meaning. That same analysis is a part of TCWC’s mission, which is why I believe TCWC can be so effective in plugging people with new skills into meaningful and transformative players in the green economy. Organizing and facilitating strategic conversations between these key organizations and community groups is how I will focus my energy during my term of service as a Green For All Fellow Candidate. Initiatives like Southwest Key Programs’ Green Construction Training Program and American YouthWorks/Environmental Corps’ Casa Verde Builders program are turning out young people of color with skills highly demanded in the green economy. They also attract workers who want to start their own businesses. Groups like Third Coast Workers for Cooperation seek to help skilled workers organize to create local business with a democratic and environmentally just purpose. Coordinating these efforts is a critical component to building a movement for an inclusive green economy in East Austin. If we can combine that skills training with empowering analysis that helps people see their role in this movement, then I think we have a much better shot at improving the lives of those most impacted by joblessness and environmental racism. The result is a movement that heals Austin’s scars of racism, classism, and segregation, and builds a stronger local economy truly reflecting the beautiful diversity of this city. That is the Austin I want to call home. (Image by Larry D. Moore, used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License)

Reclaiming My Voice

Authors: Jameelah Muhammad |Green For Fellow Candidate After several years of almost complete silence, I am writing my first blog post. In many ways I credit this renewed inspiration to my recent experiences as a 2010 Green for All Fellow candidate, conversations with my Fellowship Associate and trying to channel the wisdom from the Fellow’s Mentorship program. I think my silence has been fueling and preparing me for something I have yet articulated clearly to the world. This blog, in no way can completely convey the various shades of my personality or the full dimension of my work, but what I realized is that the tools and skills I am learning will help us all evolve into something incredibly powerful. I was inspired by a deep sense of urgency that suddenly hit me. I felt compelled to act, and obligated to make a better effort. What has been on my mind recently and what I have particularly been concerned about is the food crisis we have found ourselves in, and what this means for our bodies and the long-term health of the planet and future generations. I’ve been doing some interesting reading about the topic thanks to a recommendation to read Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do It Ourselves Guide from some friends and other fellows. What I found most refreshing about the book was its ability to provide practical solutions, great images and diagrams to cater to those who are best at visual learning, and as sense of honest voice and rhetoric that you don’t always find in such guides. I want to share a few thoughts and reflections in the spirit of this and a call to action that I found in this book. In October of last year I had the opportunity to be a facilitator for the Food, Faith, and Health Disparities Summit sponsored by NY Faith and Justice and other community organizations interested in food justice, including faith based institutions. After the event a speaker from the New York city council released a report called Food Works which details a plan for how to create a sustainable “food system” in New York City. I think both of these experiences provided me with a lot of insight into how different individuals, groups, and institutions view food justice issues. I came to the realization there were still a lot varying perspectives and when it came to creating action plans and strategies around building sustainable communities. The diversity of ideas presented seemed endless and overwhelming. Some might even argue that it is this exact fractional thinking that has created the way things are right now, but I would like to believe that it simply means that something dynamic is happening. It means that people are simultaneously advocating for the future that they want to see while actually beginning the first steps of creating what that future looks like. It might mean that people are presenting a lot of amazing ideas and solutions out into the world and what needs to happen next is a series of connections, and networks in order tie all of these actions together. One thing I know for certain, the debate about food, like my decision to immerse myself in the world of writing once again, is indeed rapidly evolving and to suggest that there is only one solution would be incredibly blind-sighted to some of the integrative possibilities when it comes to many of the other environmental issues that exist. Specifically related to energy and food, I’m currently exploring more detailed models and systems displaying the possibilities of how alternative energies impact food systems. So, I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to write this blog post, to unveil what I’ve been thinking, something inside of me told me that I had to do this, I had to overcome whatever was holding me back before and just make it happen. I realized that what is happening right now, related to our economy, related to the environment, related to our communities, is so much more important than my own personal inability to evolve. Today, I am simply sharing my thoughts and reflections; maybe tomorrow I will be sharing some locally grown food.