Our planet is in trouble, there is no debate about that. The causes are diverse and the challenges many; but irrespective of the specifics one common denominator exists, humans. Although the human condition is a universal-given, it is usually ignored. By that I mean special interest groups exhaustively work to identify proximate and root causes of negative ecological effects then labor to mitigate the damage and stop future acts. However, throughout this entire process, the sociological variables of the human component go unexamined, unnoticed, and unaddressed.
Socioeconomic factors are rarely, if ever, considered; at least consciously. Political action committees target the powerful - powerfully wealthy, politically influential, and those holding the power of the cameras and microphones. But what about the demographic of the powerfully-challenged? What about the people who, through no choice of their own, aren’t afforded the opportunity to be included within the circles of the people of influence? What about the people who are often times affected negatively the most when comes to green and sustainability issues? The Seattle Weekly News reports even Pope Francis recognizes this issue; an encyclical he issued in the middle of June of this year (2015) reads, in part: “The deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet . . . Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” Francis continued by saying “ . . . water pollution hurts the poor, who cannot afford to buy bottled water. Those who live on the coast can’t afford to move when the sea level rises. And the depletion of fishing reserves hurts those who depend on these resources for food.” The Informed Comment, also reports the Pope states in his encyclical that “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”. The pope further says “ . . the most developed nations owe a ‘grave social debt’ to the poorest people on the planet who are being disproportionately and negatively impacted by human-caused global warming.”
The city of Seattle recognized this inequality and in late 2014 when the Office of Sustainability partnered with “other city departments, and launched an Equity & Environment Initiative to assess and advance equity in Seattle's environmental work more broadly, across departments and the community.” One of their programs, Community Power Works - an energy upgrade program, focuses on increasing the energy efficiency of homes owned by low income residents. Furthermore, their “Climate Action Plan”, has two components that address “Strategies to enhance equity through climate action in transportation & land use, building energy, and waste sectors; and, Adaptation actions will help vulnerable populations moderate and cope with the consequences of climate change.”
Likewise in Seattle, the “Got Green” project “is a grassroots group in the Seattle area led by young adults and people of color that promotes the movement for an equitable, green economy as the best way to fight poverty and global warming at the same time. Founded in 2008, Got Green has quickly established itself as an authentic voice from communities of color on economic, racial and gender justice issues within the framework of this new, green economy.” The members of Got Green concentrate their energy toward ensuring “low-income people and communities of color in Seattle/King County can gain equal access to and reap the benefits promised by the green movement and the green economy – green jobs, access to healthy food, energy efficient and healthy homes, and quality public transportation.”
One of the main focuses, and in-fact the very foundation, of Got Green centers around attracting, empowering, and mobilizing young leaders from under-represented socioeconomic groups to make a difference in the efforts of helping save our planet. Their program called, Young Leaders In the Green Movement, is designed to do just that. The leaders of Got Green stated they “are hopeful that the potential of the youth today will not be wasted, but rather recognized and supported in leading the way for climate preparedness and a new green economy. Leaders of the green movement must come from the communities hit first and worse, creating solutions as they have first-hand experience in what climate mitigation tactics will be most effective in their communities.”