by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All Visit ThankYouEPA.com to show your appreciationForty years ago today, the Environmental Protection Agency was created. It’s fitting that the anniversary falls just one week after Thanksgiving, because every American from every state should be grateful for the Agency’s work. Consider that by 1990, the EPA’s actions had prevented 205,000 premature American deaths, 189,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations and 18 million child respiratory illnesses. The EPA has reduced 60% of dangerous air pollutants in the air we breathe. They have transformed 67% of contaminated Superfund Brownfield sites nationwide into livable neighborhoods and active business centers. In the four decades of its existence, millions of lives have been impacted by the EPA. Including my own. I grew up in a community where “affordability” was a code word for low income and high pollution. The industries responsible for earning the region the dubious distinction as the worst place to live in the Bay area weren’t likely to prioritize public health – nor was a local government desperate to keep any and all employers. That’s where the EPA comes in. So on this anniversary, I want to say: thanks. And we at Green For All have made it easy for you to say thanks as well at http://thankyouepa.com. There, we identified our favorite accomplishments from the last 40 years and made it easy for you to share those accomplishments with your friends and colleagues. Some day, in the hopefully near future, we’ll build industries that don’t trade job opportunities for pollution. Today, though, the EPA continues to face strong opposition from those chained to a dirty energy economy. It is incumbent on all of us to help the EPA continue on a trajectory that will maintain our clean air protections and open the door to a new era – an era in which our nation is no longer addicted to dirty energy; no longer dependent on overseas supplies of oil; and finally able to put millions to work in new, green industries. Whether EPA Administrator Jackson is joining us in Harlem to plant community gardens as she did last Earth Day, or working to ensure green job training for low income communities, it is clear that the EPA shares our vision to make our country not green for some, but truly Green For All. Express your thanks to the EPA on this important anniversary. Visit http://thankyouepa.com and celebrate their success in cleaning our air and water, creating thousands of jobs, and saving tens of thousands of lives. This post was originally published on The Energy Blog, a project with National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge and Planet Forward.


Photo credit: kevindooley via Flickr
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All, is part of Change.org's Changemakers network, comprised of leading voices for social change. Her contribution today is part of Blog Action Day 2010, a day for bloggers around the world to raise awareness about a single topic—"water."


I don’t remember how old I was when I learned that water is not supposed to have a taste. I grew up in a town that was surrounded by oil refineries and heavy industry, basically learning that water that tasted like chemicals and metals was normal. This was my reality, and unfortunately the reality for many young people growing up in low income communities and communities of color. The EPA estimates that more than 870,000 of the 1.9 million housing units for the poor, occupied mostly by Latino and African Americans, sit within approximately a mile of factories that report toxic emissions to the U.S.

Turning on your faucet shouldn't be a high-risk venture. Parents shouldn’t have to worry whether or not the water in their homes is safe for their children to drink. Cities and towns shouldn't have to worry that the water lost in leaky pipes will mean ongoing shortages or usage restrictions. But these concerns are already cropping up in communities throughout the country — and they will only become more common as decades of neglect to our water infrastructure begin to catch up with us.

We have a choice: We can either be a country that continues to take shortcuts for the benefit of polluters, or we could be a country that sees opportunity in water. With the proper investment in our infrastructure, we can conserve water, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, upgrade its integrity, generate revenue for cities, create green jobs and new green spaces in low income communities and communities of color.

We’ve seen some of the sorts of innovation that illustrate what’s possible.

Green For All Academy Fellow, Katie Houstoun in Philadelphia spearheads a program aiming to turn one-third of the city’s impervious asphalt surface into absorptive green spaces. The city has even declared that all new buildings must capture the first inch of water on-site. One inch of rainwater hitting one acre of asphalt means 27,000 gallons of water going into the sewer. “For a big warehouse downtown with lots of parking spaces, they could be looking at half a million in storm water fees per year,” says Kate Houstoun.

Edmonston, Maryland used more than $1 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to transform its main street from a flood-prone hazard to a "green street" that diverts storm water to keep it from overflowing and polluting the Anacostia River. This green infrastructure project generated about 50 jobs for local companies.

Treepeople, in Los Angeles, retrofitted a public park and built a 216,000 gallon underground cistern to capture and reuse rainwater for use in dry months, when the park vegetation must be irrigated to survive. The purpose of this green infrastructure is to mitigate the city's need to import 85 percent of its usable water – and to save the city money. As an additional benefit, tree canopies from strategically planted trees can also help cool the environment up to 10 degrees to counter heat-trapping concrete, which in turn saves families money in energy bills.

Innovation exists. And it must be expanded, explored and invested in. The challenges our nation’s water infrastructure faces are real and immediate, and the existing problems, particularly in low-income communities, are long-standing and increasingly severe.

We often speak of creating a better life for our children. I know how our water systems failed my community when I was a kid. Working together, we can ensure that future generations ensure that America is green – but that our water is clear.

by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

In our moments of hope, we look to and count on our elected officials to make the right decision. In our moments of cynicism, we fear that they will instead make wrong decisions in order to make nebulously defined "special interests" happy. So when our elected officials take bold action on critical issues, it's important to stand behind them. And when that bold leadership comes under threat from actual, powerful, wealthy interests, it is imperative that we come to our representatives' defense.

On November 2, Californians will have a chance to do just that. Proposition 23 is a ballot measure designed to kill green jobs and bolster oil and dirty energy by effectively repealing AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. It's an important statewide and national issue.

Every year, air pollution in California contributes to 19,000 deaths and skyrocketing rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases — problems most pronounced in low-income communities and communities of color. But California has taken strong steps recently to try to change that. Prop 23 wants to undo that progress and subject the next generation to even more of this pollution.

It would be one thing if Prop 23 backers were asking us to sacrifice health and air quality for economic growth and prosperity. That would still be a bad trade, but at least I could see the merits of a debate. Instead, Prop 23 would cost California jobs and growth, too.

Prop 23 is an attempt to kill California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act. Also known as AB32, this law holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens human health and contributes to climate change. This not only cleans up California's air, but also bolsters California's economy. By mandating lower levels of pollution, AB32 spurs investment and growth in clean technology sectors. Right now, 500,000 Californians hold clean-tech or green jobs. That number is growing; since 2005 statewide green jobs have grown ten times faster than total job growth. But all that will stop if California passes the Dirty Energy Proposition, which would turn back this growth and cost California thousands of jobs.

Why would anyone want to sacrifice both the environment and the economy? Because one group would profit from killing the Global Warming Solutions Act: dirty energy companies who want to keep polluting. That's why Prop 23's biggest backers are Texas oil giants Tesoro and Valero.

Texas oil may like Prop 23, but it is bad for California. More than that, it is bad for the country. This election will be the first exchange in the national debate about clean air and green jobs that promises to unfold in 2011.

Right now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is deciding how to exercise its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution that causes climate change. This is part of the EPA's job under the Clean Air Act. But before it can even start this crucial work, some members of Congress are doing everything they can to rob the EPA of its authority. Much like Proposition 23, they want to stop the EPA from cleaning up the air and spurring growth in clean energy and technology.

Doing the right thing is already hard enough. Prop 23 would make it even harder for elected officials to take the right action for our environment. Voting no on Prop 23 will protect statewide priorities like cleaning up the air, building green industry that provides jobs to thousands of Californians, and protecting our planet. But perhaps more importantly, voting no on Prop 23 will tell our representatives to keep doing the right thing, to keep fighting the good fight.

Vote "NO" on Prop 23.

by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

Green Jobs for New Orleans


Watch it on YouTube

As August draws to a close, we face a somber, sobering anniversary. Five years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The storm — and the horrifying ineptitude of the relief efforts before, during, and after — left the region devastated. Most of those who died or were abandoned to "sink or swim" were poor people, people of color, or both.

Since that day, the Gulf Region has spent five years showing us where America is falling short. Starting with Katrina — and continuing with Hurricanes Rita, Ike, and Gustav — we have seen that we are simply not prepared to deal with the kind of extreme weather that will only become more common as climate change worsens. We have also seen that we are ill prepared to bounce back from such disasters. Many homes remain uninhabitable; many claims for support, whether from five years ago or five months ago, remain unanswered.

Starting with Katrina, the Gulf has also shown us that assertions that we have arrived in a post-racial era, where the color of her skin no longer factors into the quality of a person's life or the prospects of her children, are woefully premature. People of color have taken the worst of these disasters, and have gotten the least support in their aftermath. Indeed, a U.S. District Court recently ruled that the funding formula used to provide grants to New Orleans residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita very likely disadvantaged black homeowners.

These storms may have given us a preview of the devastating weather events that climate change will likely bring down the line, but this year the Gulf also taught us, to tragic effect, about the immediate and devastating impacts of our addiction to dirty energy. In April, BP's oilrig exploded and poured more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The biggest oil spill in history laid the price of oil out bare before us: human death, the contamination of communities, the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems, and the disruption to the economy.

But in five years, the people of the Gulf region have also shown us something else. While their tragedy was teaching us where America is still falling short, their resilience was teaching us how America can begin to measure up to her own lofty dreams and ideals.

The Gulf Coast is showing that a region that has been dominated by the oil industry can turn a new, green leaf.

  • Wind turbine manufacturing has recently created 600 new jobs in the region.
  • The Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation is working with a White House initiative to put solar panels on New Orleans homes, and is developing an ambitious urban farm project that will create new jobs in agriculture for workers displaced form the fishing and oil industries.
  • The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice is training workers for green jobs in the region.
  • The Alliance Institute is bringing organizations together across the region to work on projects like creating independent health care clinics in underserved areas, or advocating for the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act that would fund jobs and training in the areas hit hardest by these disasters.
  • In the Bayou, BISCO is looking both forward and back, pushing for new industries that will create clean energy and green jobs, and industries that will restore the region's damaged wetlands.

BISCO's approach reflects one of the main lessons of the last five years: we must repair what damage we can, but we can never fully restore what we've lost. Instead, we must combine restoration with innovation. The examples I mention above are just the tip of the iceberg of what local groups are doing to build a clean, green, safe future for the Gulf region. And that collective activity itself barely scratches the surface of what we need to be doing. From wind farms to biofuels to energy efficiency to urban farming, many of the most promising solutions remain on the horizon.

For five years, Gulf residents have been suffering through the worst features of the crises in our economy and our environment. They have also been shining a light towards a future beyond these crises. As we mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is this resilience and vision that give me confidence. And the fact that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is a black woman from New Orleans gives me hope that the region's restoration and recovery will finally get the attention it needs and deserves. As a country, we must invest in the people of the Gulf, we must support the work they are already doing, and we must give them the tools and resources to do more.

The Gulf is showing us the way forward. It is up to us to walk the path.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Green For All and one of America's preeminent leaders on green jobs and green pathways out of poverty. Under her leadership, Green For All has become one of the country's leading advocates for the clean-energy economy, and one of its most important voices on the intersection of economics and environment.

This week, Green For All is marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by publishing a series of blog entries from local Gulf Coast organizations working to create a green, clean, and safe future for the
region. You can find these posts on the Green For All Home page.

Other Posts on www.greenforall.org

By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All
When oil was steadily gushing out of BP's broken oil pipeline into the Gulf of Mexico, we were all desperate to stop the flow and get the oil that had already spilled safely out of the water. Sadly, we paid too little attention to where that oil would go once clean-up workers removed it from the Gulf waters. Now we know: far too much of it is being dumped in communities of color.

Robert D. Bullard, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, wrote last week that 61% the waste from the BP clean-up (more than 24,000 tons) has been dumped at landfills in communities of color -- despite the fact that people of color make up only 26% of the population in the coastal counties in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The landfill that has received the most waste from the spill sits in a Florida community where three-quarters of the residents are people of color.

This is not a new problem. For decades, communities of color have borne an unfair share of the burdens and risks of waste disposal in the U.S. A disproportionate amount of toxic waste has found its final resting place near communities of color, which have the high cancer rates, asthma rates, and other environmental health problems that follow. The problem has been particularly acute in the Gulf region; a section of Louisiana has become known as "Cancer Alley."

Still, the racial disparity in toxic dumping continues, and federal regulators have not done enough to stop it.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should serve as a wake-up call to the entire country. We have no time to waste in leaving dirty energy behind and embracing a clean-energy future for our country. But this debacle in the dumping of waste from the spill is another wake-up call: that transition, as well as all other aspects of the recovery from the environmental and economic mishaps of the pollution-based economy, must be fair and equitable.

Shifting environmental burdens to the most vulnerable among us is a sad inheritance left us by the last century. We must build the next century in the image of tomorrow's triumphs, not yesterday's failures.

by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, (CEO, Green For All) and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., (President, Hip Hop Caucus)

Cross-posted from Huffington Post

A year ago today, Green The Block was born in a ceremony held in the West Wing of the White House while President Barack Obama celebrated his own 48th birthday. It was a tremendous honor to stand on such a grand stage as we launched our new effort to ensure that communities of color have a leading role in shaping America's emerging green economy - an honor we have spent the last year doing our best to live up to.

For twelve months, Green The Block has been working tirelessly to ensure that American green industry fulfills its potential to revitalize our struggling communities, so ravaged by decades of economic and environmental degradation, while effectively curbing climate change. We began by doing what we do best-organizing within our communities. On September 11, 2009, President Obama called on Americans to engage in a National Day of Service. Green The Block responded by sponsoring and supporting more than 100 service events around the country. This powerful demonstration showed how widespread support for green jobs and green investment is in communities of color.

We were proud of our work on the National Day of Service, but we were not content. For us, that was only the beginning, kicking off monthly Green The Block "calls to action" that gave everyday people a variety of opportunities to help build a green economy in their own communities.

We began in March by honoring Women's History Month with a focus on "Women In The Green Economy." We shared the stories of women like BPI Certified Energy Auditor Dawn Moody, a longtime Philadelphia resident and green-collar worker, and Evelin Palacios of the Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES), who co-founded her own eco-housecleaning co-op after being exposed to toxic cleaning products her whole life.

In April, Green The Block partnered with Reverb's Campus Consciousness Tour, featuring Hip Hop artist Drake. This partnership allowed us to reach out to thousands of young people who are ready to make a difference in their communities. Drake is changing the music game with his sound and energy, and changing campuses and communities with his decision to go green with Green The Block. As our call to action, we invited people to celebrate "Earth Day on Every Block." In partnership with Drake, we mobilized more than 3,500 students, activists, and community members in more than 20 states to make a personal commitment to lower their carbon footprint and to spread the word. This was a huge step in communities where Earth Day has often passed unnoted.

In May, Green the Block congratulated high school, junior college and college grads, highlighting first generation graduates and their families. Knowing these young people were starting their adult lives, we gave them information about, resources for, and opportunities to make that beginning as green as possible. From getting rid of their old furniture to finding their new careers, Green the Block helped make 2010 a green graduation.

June was the real beginning of summer, so Green The Block launched a "Stay Cool Campaign." We highlighted hundreds of organizations nationwide doing work to help families weatherize their homes for little to no cost. Weatherization is a cheap, easy, and effective way to combat both the temperature and save money at the same time - and it creates green jobs in local communities.

In July, our "Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities" campaign focused on how going green could improve health and wellness in communities of color. Green The Block provided information about what healthy food choices can look like, how farmers markets can provide cheap, healthy, and locally produced food, and encouraging our members to spread the word with food-themed movie nights or book clubs.

Now, in August, we find ourselves celebrating our first birthday, right along with the president. As we reflect on a year of hard and rewarding work, we are reminded that every day is a birthday for our country - that is it is constantly being born and reborn from the dreams and desires, the fears and frailties, of its latest heirs. We are filled with hope about the country we can build together, but we are also wary of what could happen to our country if we don't build the future together.

It is difficult to imagine a greener country, when in just a few short weeks we are faced with the 5th anniversary of the most significant environmental and human rights catastrophe our country has ever seen in Hurricane Katrina. Coupling this anniversary with the BP Oil Disaster, growing coal mining accidents, and the glaring lack of comprehensive national legislation to transition our nation to a safer and more sustainable economy, there are far too many stories of tragedy and destruction. Regardless, we must not ignore the stories of families and communities praying for new opportunity and a brighter future.

Now is the time to come together - not just to address the problems of today, but to build for the promise of tomorrow. If the past year has taught us anything, it's that we can have the country we need and deserve, a country where every community has ample opportunities for health and wealth, a country where we take care of each other and the planet. But to do that, we need to work together.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All, a national organization dedicated to building a green economy strong enough to lift all Americans out of poverty. For more information on Green For All visit www.greenforall.org and follow Phaedra on twitter @PhaedraEL

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is the President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund. He is a minister, community activist, and organizer, and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. For more information on the Hip Hop Caucus visit www.hiphopcaucus.org and follow him on Twitter @RevYearwood.

Written by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All, and Ben Jealous, President of NAACP As Senators enter the final rounds of negotiations on the climate and energy bill, big utility companies apparently are making unconscionable demands that threaten the health and safety of all Americans. For example, The Hill reports: "Power company officials are now asking for relief from upcoming EPA restrictions on pollution the agency has long regulated under the Clean Air Act, including ozone, particulate matter and lead." Other stories also suggest that big utilities want the United States Senate to somehow bargain away EPA's authority to protect America from dirty air and water. These demands are unacceptable. The American people deserve a climate and energy bill that not only improves air quality, but also creates jobs that will help pull the economy out of recession. This bill is in danger of doing neither. In spite of this, we are hopeful that there is a better, more equitable approach to this legislation. We believe that American policy can be smart enough to protect both our children and our grandchildren. The Gulf oil spill, the coal mine explosion in West Virginia--these are just the most recent in a long line of disasters that prove our current dirty energy economy is broken. Our reliance on these fossil fuels endangers the lives of countless Americans. We believe that Americans should not have to choose between personal safety and putting food on the table for our families. There is only one federal agency standing between our communities and even worse degradation: the Environmental Protection Agency. If the bill limits the ability of the EPA to enforce greenhouse gas regulation, or worse limits the agency's ability to enforce regulation of mercury and ozone, the American people will suffer immediate and long-term health consequences, from asthma to early death. If the Senate can get this right, this historic climate and energy bill will maintain our clean air protections, while opening the door to a new era: one in which our nation is no longer addicted to dirty, dangerous fuels; no longer dependent on overseas supplies of oil; and finally able to put millions to work in clean, new industries. Take action now.
Declare Independence from Dirty Energy!This weekend, we celebrate America's independence from Britain. Brave people — the fathers and mothers of our country — stood together against the most powerful empire of the time and said, "We will be free." But as BP's disastrous oil spill in the Gulf Coast reminds us, a force just as powerful has our country under its thumb today: dependence on dirty, deadly fossil fuels that are polluting our nation and costing Americans their livelihood. Once again, we must rise up and fight for America's independence. This time, the enemy is not a foreign power, but a way of living we have all adopted here at home. Instead of forcing someone else to let us go free, it is we who must let go, we who must change. Green For All is ready to lead the charge in this new fight for independence. While we are working tirelessly to see a comprehensive climate and energy bill pass in the Senate, we need to match that policy measure with a mass movement of the American people. We've declared the week, July 1 - July 7, the Dirty Energy Independence Week of Action. Our mission is to get thousands of people to take a stand in solidarity with the people of the Gulf Coast. For more than three months, they have been coping with the worst, most treacherous aspects of our dependence on dirty energy; we must stand with them as we begin to break that dependence. The images from the Gulf Coast have been heartbreaking: animals drenched in oil; the burning deepwater rig; the ocean swallowed by blackness. The stories have been just as troublesome: families struggling to cope with lost loved ones; fisherfolk who cannot work and are losing their homes; repeated failures and setbacks in the effort to stop the massive leak. This is the cost, right now, of our dependence on oil and dirty energy. Down the line, it will cost all of us our air, our drinkable water, our seasons, and our planet. To end this dependence, we must stand together, in solidarity with each other and with the people of the Gulf Coast.

Declare Independence from Dirty Energy!

Standing together, we can take the greatest single step ever towards a clean, healthy, and prosperous future for our children and our planet: passing a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Such a bill would make big polluters pay a price for the carbon they put in the air while investing money in clean, renewable energy. This would spur job growth and American innovation in clean-energy sectors while moving our economy from one that hurts the planet to one that heals the planet. Such a bill would be a massive leap forward in the quest for American independence from dirty energy. We won our first fight for independence. We can win this one, too. Join Green For All in declaring our independence once again — this time from dirty energy. Declare Your Independence by taking a personal pledge to reduce your dependence on oil and coal. And tell your senators to support comprehensive climate and energy legislation. The House has already passed such legislation, but the Senate continues to drag its feet. Help to ensure another tragedy never happens again by supporting a climate and energy bill. http://dirtyenergyfreedom.org
We applaud President Obama's plan for the restoration of the Gulf Coast and his commitment to comprehensive climate-change legislation. As the President stated yesterday, we must embrace a clean-energy future. We must unleash American innovation and position our country at the global forefront of a clean-energy economy. We must create millions of good, green jobs and challenge the false choice of having to choose between a paycheck and personal safety. It starts with passing comprehensive climate and energy legislation that creates a more equitable, clean, and secure future for all Americans. In addition to protecting and restoring the Gulf Coast, the Administration must safeguard our nation against another dirty-energy disaster. Our President, and more importantly, our country know that we are on an unsustainable path, too dependent on unreliable and dirty-energy sources. The oil rig explosion represents a watershed moment. We can choose to move towards greater energy independence and increased national security, or we can continue to put the profits of multinational corporations ahead of the livelihoods of American families. We thank the President for his vision of a clean-energy future. We look forward to working closely with the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Senate to swiftly pass legislation that prevents a tragedy like this from ever occurring again, and that improves the health, wealth, and well-being of all Americans. Please take action today!

by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, (CEO, Green For All) and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., (President, Hip Hop Caucus)

Hip-hop artist Drake is "going green" and bringing his fans with him.

"Everywhere you turn, you can see how pollution and poverty are hurting our neighborhoods," says Drake. "But we can change that. Going green is the solution."

Partnering with Green the Block, Drake traveled to 17 campuses in 12 states to entertain and, with the help of Green The Block, educate his fans about the benefits of going green – the jobs, health and wealth – created through this movement.

While Drake's highly anticipated album "Thank Me Later” doesn’t arrive in stores until June 15th, check out this never-before-seen footage with the hip-hop star from his Away From Home tour!

Green The Block is a campaign from Green For All (www.greenforall.org) and the Hip Hop Caucus (www.hiphopcaucus.org) working to change the face of environmentalism.