Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sustainable South Bronx

Majora League

An interview with Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx

By Amanda Griscom Little
28 Sep 2006
Majora Carter is no ordinary environmental leader. For starters: She's a woman, she's black, and she's not afraid to publicly challenge Al Gore.

Majora Carter.
Majora Carter.
Photos: Sustainable South Bronx
In 2005, she was honored with a MacArthur "genius grant" for her work with Sustainable South Bronx, a group she founded to mobilize grassroots environmental activism among New York City's poorest and most environmentally oppressed citizens.

In February, Carter turned heads at the luminary-packed Technology Entertainment Design conference when she publicly took Gore to task. During her speech, she told the crowd that her efforts to talk to the former veep about grassroots global-warming strategy earlier that day had been met with the cold shoulder and a suggestion that she send in a grant proposal. "I wasn't asking him for money," Carter said. "I was making him an offer." Gore soon thereafter applauded Carter's work and asked her to join the board of the Alliance for Climate Protection, a global-warming group he helped found. Other high-profile outfits, including the Google Foundation, have also enlisted her to work with them on green strategy.

The South Bronx, where Carter was born, is home to a higher concentration of power plants, sewage-treatment facilities, diesel-truck fleets, and waste-transfer stations than any other section of the city, and, not coincidentally, is saddled with higher asthma rates than any other community in the nation. Sustainable South Bronx has raised millions to help clean up existing facilities, block new ones, create "green-collar" jobs, and build a five-mile corridor of landscaped bike paths that will replace brownfields, landfills, and prison barges.

Grist's Amanda Griscom Little met with Carter at her South Bronx headquarters where they discussed the origins of Carter's activism, the reasons she doesn't consider herself a tree-hugger, and the challenge of instilling hope in a depressed community.


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