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From 2001 to 2008 Majora Carter was Executive Director of the non-profit she founded, Sustainable South Bronx. There she pioneered green-collar job training and placement systems in one of the[…]

In the South Bronx, environmental degradation has led to high rates of asthma, diabetes and learning disabilities, Carter says.

Topic: The Connection Between Race, Class, Environment and Health

Majora Carter: The biggest problem that we’re having in many urban areas is asthma. In the South Bronx, we see about 60,000 diesel truck trips going through our community each and every week. That definitely adds to asthma, upper respiratory problems. But if you have a community where people are afraid to go outside because there’s so many trucks running around, or if the air smells because of sewage treatment plants or other kind of issues like that.

People also aren’t getting the kind of physical activity that they need, as well. Which leads to diabetes and, of course, to obesity, as well.

And then there’s also the not so well reported issue that there’s actually more than conclusive evidence to show that proximity to fossil fuel emissions causes learning disabilities in young kids.

And we now know that poor kids that don’t do well in school, actually, have a much better chance of ending up in jail, rather than going onto higher education. So, for us, the development of environmental services in our community, like the creation of Urban Forestry, Green Roof Installation, actually, even doing solar panels. So we’re reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. So that provides a benefit to our communities by, number one, cleaning up the air, because there’s actually green things that are cleaning the air. Two, providing jobs for people, because they have to do it. Which, of course, we know now that poverty is also a key component in folks going to jail.

So creating opportunities for people to do environmental services, which have a net benefit to the environment. And also, all of our infrastructure creates jobs. They get reinvested in our communities. It creates healthier communities.

Recorded on: April 28, 2008