The Black “Green Gap”
Question: What can be done to involve African-Americans more in the green movement?
Ben Jealous: As a kid, the first group I ever paid dues to was a group called SEEK. That was a bunch of green activists on the college and high school campuses; actually I set up one of their first high school chapters. And there's always been I think in the black middle class a lot of folks who have been active in the green movement in this country. For working people, you've got to make it worth their while; you've got to connect at the kitchen table as using ways that are very explicit. So, you'll see folks, you know, in Whirl, Mississippi, where a plant that used to produce some horrible toxin has exploded getting very involved in that local issue because it's about life and death, it's about their children's health, they get it, they understand it.
Katrina helped, and Haiti has helped to make that case in a more general basis to working class folks, but what really I think has the best opportunity to get working class black people involved in the green movement is connecting it to the opportunity for jobs, connecting it to their children's health in very explicit ways, very high rates of respiratory disease in the black community that come from very local environmental contamination. And there's a real sense that changes in the global economy is passing our neighborhoods and communities by. And so, yeah, I have great hope that the green jobs movement in this country will pull in generations of black people who have stood by the sidelines in that battle because no one has ever made the connection for them about how this actually would make their lives better.
Recorded March 10th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Environmental catastrophe affects everyone, yet the green movement is mostly white. What can be done to bring minorities into the fold?
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According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.
Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.
By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:
Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.
Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.
McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.
It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.
But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.
Read more at LinkedIn.
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