When Dr. King was assassinated, President Obama was 7.

It was 1968. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson was 6. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was 23. Naomi Davis, a Green For All Fellow and one of Chicago's most celebrated environmentalists, was 13.

Many of the African-American leaders who now carry the torch of justice that King lit were young when he died - toddlers, elementary school students, just out of college. Now, Lisa P. Jackson, Rep. Cleaver, Naomi Davis and others are leading a new movement - a movement for a green economy. They came of age in a world without Dr. King's physical presence, but within the enormous shadow he cast over America.

Jackson, of course, now leads the Environmental Protection Agency. During the last year, she and her agency introduced groundbreaking new environmental protections that will dramatically improve low-income communities and create jobs that will power America's economic recovery. As Mayor of Kansas City, Cleaver launched an innovative Green Improvement Zone; and now fights for a stronger environment for all Americans in Congress. Davis, the granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers and founder of Blacks in Green in Chicago is carrying forth the legacy of community organizing in the black community, training local leaders to tap into their cultural legacy of sustainable economics and resilience. She calls this grannynomics. Each help carry King's vision forward in a different direction, to the same destination.

Young people continue to be inspired by Dr. King. His vision of a just, more equal America will always resonate - it will always provide energy to progressive movements. And it's manifested in many ways - one of those ways is through artistic expression.

That's the energy that we hope to capture in Green For All's new contest - The Dream Reborn: Who's Next? We are launching the contest today in honor of Dr. King's legacy. Contestants are asked to write and perform a song about how Dr. King's inspiration leads them to push for a new, green, economy. The winning song will receive a $1,000 prize - plus, we'll produce a video for the track!

Like millions of Americans, we see the green economy as a rebirth of Dr. King's message. King's dream was one of equality - and we still have a long way to go. You can still predict who will suffer the impacts of air pollution, who will have less access to fresh food, who needs to worry the most about water quality, based on the color of their skin and the community in which they live. The green economy promises to solve those problems - and put people back to work. It's the dream of a just America, in a new context. And our young people get it.

When Green For All held a similar contest back in 2010, it was won by a group of middle school students in Minnesota that called themselves the Climate Change Crew. The video we produced for them - which you can watch at the contest website, DreamRebornContest.com - conveys their energy and passion in fighting for a cleaner, greener tomorrow. These young people were not alive during Dr. King's time, but they are inspired by what he fought for and accomplished - and recognize what his fight looks like today.

Yesterday's young people are today's leaders in the fight for a just, green economy. Today's young people are tomorrow's leaders. But today, they're our inspiration. They're the energy in our movement. With The Dream Reborn: Who's Next? contest we hope to find a new anthem that captures that energy, that spirit, that dream - for another generation to come.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All

Cross-posted from Jack & Jill Politics

Quick question: Do you think that tax subsidies for the "big five" oil companies -- which earned $32 billion in profit during the first quarter of the year -- are more important than the financial aid we give to low-income college students?

My answer: Of course not. Investing in our young people is a far better use of taxpayer dollars than giving handouts to some of the world's most profitable corporations. My guess is that you agree.

How does the oil industry feel? Well, they aren't sure. When asked this question by Senator Schumer at a congressional hearing yesterday, James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips, uncomfortably refused to answer the question.

Additionally, he and his peers from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell repeatedly complained about unfair and "discriminatory" treatment, saying that the American people -- who face outrageous prices at the gas pump -- are unjustly scrutinizing the four billion dollars a year in tax breaks oil companies receive.

Really? Clearly they don't see or recognize that Americans are facing hardship and unfair challenges every day.

Just ask the young people who may lose their chance to go to college because the House leadership has proposed cuts to the Federal Pell Grant program.

It's unfair that more than two-thirds (70%) of Hispanics live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards for one or more pollutants, according to the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

It's unfair that 1 in 6 African-American children suffer from asthma, and that children of color are more likely to grow up in areas with dangerous levels of ozone.

It's unfair the food stamp program is threatened with a 20% cut at a time when so many families are hungry.

I have news for oil companies: There are true injustices occurring on a daily basis in America. Eliminating your tax subsidies is not one them.

It's the truth plain and simple; and it's time we called out these companies. For this opinion, Mr. Mulva would say that I, and the many others who share this view, are "un-American." And, when asked about these comments at the hearing, he refused to apologize for his rhetoric.

Again, really?

During times of crisis, true Americans, especially those in positions of power, ask themselves, "What can I do to help?" Instead, these executives ask themselves, "What can I do to ensure that government keeps helping me?"

Now is the time for government to choose who it serves: the oil companies or everyone else?

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it's about who we are as a country and where we want to go.

Do we want an America based on those timeless values and ideals of fairness and opportunity for all?

Or, do we want a country where the rich play by their own rules, while budgets are balanced on the backs of the middle class and poor?

The answer is clear and it's time to take action.

Oil companies have been given generous tax breaks for too long; now it's the American people's turn to have a chance at the American Dream.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All "We're only talking about four billion dollars." That's how former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin defended the tax breaks going to the some of the world's richest corporations: oil companies. It may "only" be four billion dollars to these entities; after all, they are reaping windfall profits from rising gas prices. The "big five" oil companies -- ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips -- made $32 billion dollars in profit in the first quarter. In fact, Exxon is the most profitable company in the world, raking in $30 billion dollars in 2010 -- nearly double that of Walmart. Oil companies seem more than happy to watch us suffer at the gas pump; and, while roughly a dime of every dollar we earn goes to their profits, we -- the American taxpayer -- then have to write them a bonus check. Before we get to the economics and politics of the issue, we must ask ourselves a moral question: Is this right? At a time when a record 47 million Americans are living below the poverty line, and unemployment stands at 9 percent, should billions in breaks go to some of the most profitable companies in the world? Of course not. Millions of Americans are watching this debate unfold from their living rooms. They are unemployed. They see programs they depend on threatened with cuts. They wonder how they are going to provide for their families. They are asking themselves, "Where is my break? Why isn't government on my side?" They have a right to feel angry and frustrated; they don't think that government works for them. Some of the same representatives helping Big Oil are proposing cuts to the Federal Pell Grant program which, according to the Education Trust, would hurt 10 million low-income students who just want to go to college and prepare themselves to succeed. The same people giving relief to the richest companies want to cut 20 percent from the food stamp program, even though many rely on it to feed their children. Those who say that oil subsidies are "only four billion dollars a year" were, a few months ago, suggesting that funding for NPR is expensive -- even though it's 1,200 times less costly. This whole debate shines a light on a few simple questions: Who is government for? The special interests or the common interests? The rich or everyone? It's time for government to put people before the privileged. The oil companies have done very well; they've achieved the American Dream. Now, they should stop hogging that Dream, and give others a fair shot at moving ahead in life. Let's use these tax breaks to help struggling families, promising students, and budding entrepreneurs in sectors like clean energy. Oil companies won't miss these subsidies. After all, they're only four billion dollars a year.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All In 2008, Americans were fed up. Wars, a terrible economy, dishonesty, a drift from our core beliefs. That November, Barack Obama said, "Change," which may basically have meant, "Not that." Not that direction for America. Not that economic policy. And it worked. America didn't want that. America wanted something different. Now, reasonable people can debate the extent to which America got something different. It's certainly the case that the driving motivations of Presidents Bush and Obama are quite distinct. But as next year's election looms, Obama's problem is that wars and the economy and the vision for how America should act in the world are still on shaky ground. It opens wide the door for an opponent to say: not that. But Barack Obama has gotten incredibly lucky. He has a slew of opponents who are grabbing the mic and saying: "this." The headliner for this is, of course, Donald Trump. His racially offensive, obnoxious trumpeting of the most disreputable political theory in recent memory has done two things. It laid bare the embarrassing failure of the Republican party to stem this line of thinking - and, at times, their encouragement of it. And it also earned him the pole position in the Republican primary race. Other Republicans are staking out the party's extreme positions in other ways. Paul Ryan is sketching the boundaries of their willingness to undermine the medical and economic security of seniors. Governors and state houses across the country are in a race to do the most damage to the rights of workers and women. Recent proposals have included forcing foster children to get second-hand clothes, making abortion a felony, and requiring a very particular kind of birth certificate from Federal candidates. This! These things are what elected Republicans believe should be the law of the land! Undermining the ability of the poor to escape poverty, of working people to care for their families, of seniors to get their medications. And holding the banner at the front of the parade, Donald Trump. And the banner reads, "Who elected this black guy, anyway?" Making it very easy for President Obama to once again simply say: not that.

By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins | CEO, Green For All

One year ago today, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit exploded in the Gulf of Mexico — a catastrophe that most Americans will never forget.

11 people lost their lives. According to Good, roughly 5 million barrels of oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf – eventually covering more than 60 miles of shoreline. Areas of the shore remain oil-soaked to this day.

The tragedy highlighted the need for new regulations to strengthen oversight of offshore drilling. In response, Congress held more than 60 hearings related to the BP disaster; more than 100 oil spill-related bills were introduced.

How many passed? None. Zero.

In fact, a member of the House of Representatives actually apologized to BP President Tony Hayward at a hearing. But, where national leadership has failed, local leadership has stepped in to make a difference.

Every day, across this nation, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to give back and help others. They don’t do it for fame or votes or personal rewards — they simple see people in need and act.

In New Orleans, there are unsung heroes who are working to build a green future. They include:

  • Operation Reach, which runs the GulfSouth Youth Biodiesel Project and trains young people to create fuel sources from organic material;
  • Total Community Action, which is weatherizing homes and putting people to work; and
  • Numerous other organizations in the area who are running urban farms, harnessing the power of the sun and building water management systems.

Urban garden in New Orleans

Photo:Urban garden in New Orleans

On this Earth Week, Green For All urges you to join this green movement. We need you more than ever.

After the BP oil spill, Congress decided to close their eyes and ignore the crisis that the rest of us could see in the waters of the gulf. Now, they are trying to block efforts to address the crisis that you can’t see: pollution in the air.

Recently, members of Congress launched an effort to handcuff the EPA’s authority to regulate pollutants, apparently not caring that pollution – even when it’s invisible – can cause enormous damage. (How much? Visit CostOfDelay.org to see, in real-time.)

They should care. We care.

That’s why we can’t let them risk the public’s health to further their own agendas. We — the people — must take our country back and do what we can in our communities to shape a clean and green future.

Let’s make sure that, from now on, environmental catastrophes will be treated as the devastating events that they are.

The power is in our hands. Let’s use it.

Read our 2010 blog posts on the Gulf Oil Spill >>

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All

Last weekend, I was proud to join the likes of former Vice President Al Gore and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as a keynote speaker at Power Shift 2011.

There was an incredible energy; more than 10,000 young leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to work towards two common goals - a cleaner future and a just America.

It was a sight to see.  When I stood at the podium, and looked out at all these talented and energized organizers - standing in solidarity - I was filled with incredible hope that this was a turning point for the green movement.

In my speech, I talked about how the special interests try to keep our nation from moving forward.  Even though progress is part of the American story, polluters don’t want the next chapter to be written because in it: We have the power.

We must finally put an end to the days when dirty interests — who put their own short-term profits before the long-term health of our country — have more influence than the people.

America belongs to everyone.  It’s time to take our power back from the polluters.

There’s no time like this week: Power Shift, the anniversary of the BP Spill, Earth Day. Over the course of the week, we’ll share the lessons we’ve learned and new ways we’re engaging to build a new, clean economy. We’ll also identify ways for you to get involved, both in your community and in the national movement.

Let’s make this Earth Week not just a celebration of the planet, but also a time of action.  Let’s use this momentum to ask ourselves if we can do more to help open eyes, change minds and inspire action from others.

It’s going to take a united effort; we can’t and won’t be divided by race, gender or sexual orientation.

Together, we can ensure that the future isn’t just Green For Some, but Green For All.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All

While you were brushing your teeth this morning, did you ever, for a moment, think that the water coming out of your faucet would make you nauseous or damage your kidneys?

Probably not. But, unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury.

One in three people lack access to quality water. At least fourteen states are currently experiencing crisis-level water shortages and contamination. And, the nation's water infrastructure is outdated and crumbling, putting our fresh water supply at risk.

Clearly, there is a need for action; every child deserves to grow up with access to clean water. That's why, on this World Water Day, Green For All, with its partner SIGG USA, is proud to launch a public education campaign called "Keep It Fresh" for the Campus Consciousness Tour featuring Wiz Khalifa. This effort will raise awareness about the need for safe drinking water, and empower others with tools to fight for environmental sustainability in their own neighborhoods.

Dirty water is an issue facing communities across the nation. From Florida to California, chemicals and pollutants are toxifying our water supplies at levels that exceed health guidelines – and, in some cases, standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. And who does a lack of access to clean water impact the most? Our nation's rural communities, low-income communities and communities of color.

This is unconscionable and unacceptable. We must take steps now to ensure that future generations have access to safe, clean drinking water.

First, there must be consistent and large investments in infrastructure. Our current water network is made up of old and leaky pipes – 20th century equipment can't handle America's 21st century needs. By replacing these antiquated and rusty systems with modern infrastructure, we will both ensure better quality water, and create projects that put people back to work.

Secondly, we have got to conserve. Fresh water is a limited supply; we cannot let it go to waste. We have all heard someone tell us to turn the water off when we're not using it. While it may seem like a small measure, it can go a long way in protecting our water supply. By changing our daily usage habits and implementing water conservation techniques – such as installing low-flow appliances and rainwater catchment – we will help conserve a limited resource.

Finally, we need to dispose of chemicals and other pollutants properly to make sure we don't contaminate our underground water supplies or waterways. For example, yard waste will often times end up in our city's drainage system, especially during heavy rains. Most likely contaminated with chemical fertilizers, the yard waste gets carried through the drainage system and is dumped in nearby bodies of water without treatment. Before we blame anyone else, we must first ask ourselves what we can do better, including cleaning up our own backyards and joining the larger movement that is fighting for clean water.

I encourage you to join Green For All, Wiz Khalifa and the Campus Consciousness tour beginning on March 31st at Emory University in Atlanta.

We also urge you to check out the Keep it Fresh campaign at www.facebook.com/freshtour, find out what you can do and enter to win a limited edition Wiz tour water bottle and a new Ipad 2.

Be a part of our movement by educating yourself, educating others, volunteering, and being vigilant.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All

If a fire broke out in your office right now, would you know what to do? Would you know where to go? You likely would, thanks in large part to codes requiring fire exits and fire drills.

Today, we accept these basic standards without even pausing; they are plain common sense rules government has developed to benefit and protect the public. But, as crazy as it sounds, there was a time when fire codes were considered burdensome regulations by businesses — employees had to risk their lives just to go to work. A century ago this month, for example, near the end of the workday, a fire broke out at Triangle Waist Company in New York City, engulfing the top floors of the building.

500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, rushed to the doors, only to find they were locked — the owners wanted to keep their employees from leaving while on the job. Panic ensued. 146 people died, including many who jumped out of the 10th story windows to escape the flames.

As word of the tragedy spread, outrage grew. Government officials, recognizing the need for reform, proposed a series of new regulations that were eventually adopted.

They just wanted to raise the standards of acceptable behavior, which included requiring businesses to hold fire drills and install water sprinklers.

Nothing too radical, right? Not according to many business leaders at the time who complained that new regulations would cripple the economy. According to the Cry Wolf Project, one said the rules would result in "the wiping out of industry in this state." Another, channeling Grover Norquist, stated that "to my mind this is all wrong….The experience of the past proves conclusively that the best government is the least possible government."

Anyone who has been to New York City in the past 100 years knows that it managed just fine — government's work to raise the standards of acceptable behavior didn't hinder its growth.

Time and again, this same old story played out throughout history: government introduces new regulations to make life a little better and safer, and the "men who cry wolf" respond by screaming that the world is ending. That story continues today.

Case in point: The Environmental Protection Agency's new mercury and air toxics rule, which will raise the baseline for the amount of mercury and other hazardous pollutants emitted by power plants. The new standards, which are court-mandated, don't require that power plants emit floral-scented perfumes and pure water vapor, but just that the lowest acceptable levels be a little higher.

And, in response, this generation's "men who cry wolf" pulls out its old playbook; they call the new rule a "job killer," and recklessly use fear to make others think it's bad for our economy. Why? Because the rules benefit the general public, and not just their own personal interests.

As Ronald Reagan would say: There they go again.

The truth is that this proposed rule would actually create jobs – but not only for the businesses lobbying Congress. A report from Ceres recently reported that implementation of this rule — along with the proposed Clean Air Transport Rule — will produce 1.46 million jobs over the next five years, in areas like construction, maintenance and installation.

Working class communities would benefit both economically and environmentally by this simple shift in standards — but ideologues and dirty energy interests don't care about that. They care about their own businesses, they care about their own agendas.

If you lived directly next to a power plant and had a dial that could set how much toxic mercury settled into your yard and came in your windows, what would you set it to? The EPA is turning that dial down, and the same rhetorical ghosts we've heard moaning and whispering for a century are trying to stay its hand.

Just because a few bucks are going to someone else.

Progress is a slog. It always is: occasionally pushed forward by a burst of energy; often knocked backward by opposition. In politics, it's an evolutionary process that depends on gradual re-alignment and re-consideration of views.

Consider pollution. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the new factories driving the Industrial Revolution emitted a constant stream of smoke and soot, turning the skies over and surfaces of many cities black and hazardous.

Consider employment. In that same time period, children worked fourteen-hour days to bring home a pittance to perennially impoverished parents. The advent of unions that could provide a voice on the job was met with brutal, fatal hostility.

And consider the interim. In the first case, the establishment of pollution standards and the Environmental Protection Agency; in the latter, the elimination of child labor, the growth of protections for workers, the advent of the minimum wage. Public policy shifts that ensured a better America.

But our views of those practices aren't contingent on the public policy. It's now generally accepted that child labor is reprehensible and that belching soot and poison gas into the skies over urban areas is a terrible thing to do. It's safe to assume that most people would continue to feel that way even if the laws preventing them were removed. In the early 1900's, public attitudes started to shift in a positive direction and the policies followed - moving the baseline of acceptable behavior for the last hold-outs, making the old polluting, damaging ways no longer possible under any rationalization.

This is, of course, what we're seeing today in the fight over the regulation of greenhouse gasses: a continual shift away from the pollution that's heavily contributing to - if not entirely causing - the most significant change to our climate in recorded history.

And it's a slog. In part, this is because business, a sizable and powerful segment of America, is divided in how to respond.

On the one hand, there are the opportunity-seers, those businesses that recognize a national and global market for solutions to greenhouse gas emissions. The solar panel makers, the wind turbine manufacturers, the energy effiency programs. This, it's safe to say, is the national policy of China: building - and selling - the components for a clean energy economy.

On the other hand, the reactionary ideologues: those so committed to preserving the status quo that they deliberately seek to misrepresent the science, they pour millions of dollars into lobbying efforts, and they defend their position by any means necessary. We'll come back to this group.

In the middle, a growing group of businesses that sees imminent risk and seeks ways to reduce or eliminate it. They understand that their existing practices may not be sustainable, or are threatened by the disruptions that will accompany shifts in resources, and are taking steps to address it.

A number of major corporations, for example, have built sustainability systems in partnership with the World Wildlife Federation, understanding that they need to act to ensure a long-term supply of resources. Others are buying land in Africa to ensure food supplies. There is a very real effort on behalf of corporations inside and outside the United States to ensure that they can continue to be profitable even after the impacts of a changing climate become more pronounced. This isn't trying to make money from climate change - it's trying not to go out of business.

There's a hazy zone somewhere in between the opportunity-seers and the risk-preventers. It's embodied by, of all companies, Fox News' parent company News Corporation.

News Corp has an entire page dedicated to their efforts to combat climate change and "minimize its environmental impact". On it, they outline practices that might be pilloried on Fox News itself: the energy efficiency of their printing facilities, the new solar power installation at Dow Jones and, most commendably, becoming the first global media company to become carbon neutral. For this, they were praised by one of Fox News' frequent targets for attack, the EPA.

Why would Fox News target the EPA and climate change for attack while its parent company seeks to reduce its environmental footprint? In part because of the public relations benefit of being attentive to environmental issues. And, in part, because of the power of the reactionary ideologues.

For the most part, these ideologues aren't the oil and coal companies who stand to lose market share in a shift to a renewable energy economy. Instead, they're people who believe that business should be allowed to determine its own behavioral changes, outside of the influence of government. That makes our current political environment perfect for objecting to regulatory action by the EPA, because anti-regulation conservatives are driving the political conversation. These arguments play out on Fox News and are trumpeted by the Chamber of Commerce, an organization that is predicated on opposing governmental standards. (Even to its own detriment; several high profile companies have quit the organization because of its climate change policies). Change is very difficult when the richest, loudest voices oppose it on principle, not evidence.

In general, of course, there's a valid case to be made for allowing the free market to determine boundaries. But when it comes to moving - or creating - the absolute baseline of acceptable behavior, there will always be opposition from those who put profit before the public, the ExxonMobils and Massey Energys of the world. Since the scope and impact of climate change necessitates bold, quick action, the baseline needs to be moved farther and faster than it might otherwise be - meaning more businesses find themselves near the proposed boundary line. There's a place for them to appeal: public opinion.

In the end, the pressure on the EPA we're seeing right now isn't about the EPA. It isn't even about climate science. It's about an evolving marketplace that has deep parallels to attempts to move away from the dirtiest pollution of the Industrial Revolution. But it’s happening at a particularly bad political moment and it needs to happen even faster than other change might. And each day that passes, the urgency grows and grows, and the ultimate baseline needs to be moved farther and farther.

In a moment in which we need to move quickly, it's instead harder than ever. We won't change the minds of those for whom a higher standard of behavior is fatal to their business. But we can do two things.

First, we need to marginalize the ideologues, which is much easier said than done. 350.org has started a new campaign that seeks to raise awareness that the Chamber of Commerce isn't a voice for local business; rather, it's a voice for an ideology. At Green For All, we've begun a campaign, Oppose The Future, that will help people understand the motivations for critics of climate policy - be it ideological or financial.

Second, we need to lift up the opportunity-seers, the companies and individuals who understand the market possibilities of a new, clean economy and green jobs. Our Green Jobs Index is designed to do exactly that; we encourage you to share the profiles and information we post there.

At a time when the Department of Defense is making contingency plans for the national security implications of climate change (see the Quadrennial Defense Review, pages 84-88, or the Army’s Vision for Net Zero), getting bogged down in ideological debates over the role of government is frustrating and regressive.

Making change, progress, is always a slog. But doing it while being tied to rocks is madness. Every generation and every evolution of a market faces opposition. The opposition now is particularly fierce; the moment particularly urgent.

Even News Corp knows better than Fox News.

Originally posted on The Great Energy Challenge

"There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution."

The revolution Dr. King spoke of in his speech at the National Cathedral in 1968 was one of the most transformative of the 20th Century - the painful transition from a racially divided America to an America stitched together, however roughly. But the sentiment holds true for every revolution.

Today, there's another revolution underway - a revolution that is restructuring America's energy future. It's changing the way we work and live. In this time of rapid change, all those caught sleeping, or even hitting the snooze button, will be left behind.

As we get ready to celebrate Dr. King's birthday, life and legacy, it is not enough for us to reflect on the past. We must look forward and take action, we must be deliberate in shaping this revolution - because Dr. King's work remains unfinished.

Today, there is still a great need to lift communities out of poverty and into productivity. The unemployment rate is still significantly higher in the Hispanic and African American communities. And low-income and minority communities are disproportionately more likely to breathe in polluted air, drink dirty water and suffer from asthma. As long as these disparities exist, our nation cannot fulfill its full promise as a land of opportunity and equality. And as long as these problems exist for any American, the revolution is not complete.

It is time for the nation to wake up and fight for a green economy that addresses the health and opportunity of all communities. It will take a collective effort to make this happen. Dr. King's story teaches us that one man alone cannot achieve this kind of meaningful change. It takes a movement. He empowered others.

In this tradition, Green For All has established a number of educational initiatives to empower and engage community leaders across the country about the clean-energy economy. In 2008, we began the Green For All Fellowship which provides training programs focused on the green movement to talented and up-and-coming leaders. When the program concludes, these leaders take the skills they have acquired to make a difference in their own neighborhoods. So far, over 100 local leaders from communities of color and low-income communities have graduated and become Green For All Fellows. Block by block, they work diligently to bring new opportunities and sound environmental strategies to areas long ignored.

Last year, we also launched the College Ambassador Program. Partnering with historically black colleges and universities, we aim to cultivate the next generation of green leaders. These students take part in expert trainings and lead by example, sharing a vision of a green future with their fellow students.

We view empowering others as necessary work. The transition to the green economy is inevitable because of decreasing supplies of natural resources, and increasing demand for environmentally sustainable products. Americans must now ask themselves if they want to be leaders of this movement or sleep while we fall behind the rest of the world.

For Green For All, the answer is clear: We need to get to work now. We have this unique opportunity to better our environment, while creating jobs that can help close the economic gap between communities. That is why these college students, our Green For All Fellows and all of those they engage are wide awake and ready to seize this opportunity. Following in Dr. King's great tradition of selfless service, the rest of America should set their alarm clocks - and rouse those who are still sleeping.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Green For All.