Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto, Democratizing Sustainability!

As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or chemical facility — which I do.” (Majora Carter)

In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx — and shows how minority neighborhoods suffer most from flawed urban policy.

Majora Carter redefined the field of environmental equality, starting in the South Bronx at the turn of the century. Now she is leading the local economic development movement across the USA

Catch her TED Talk at

She highlights example of South Bronx where Planning did not take care of the poor neighbourhood, she states “Now, why is this story important? Because from a planning perspective, economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation. The disinvestment that began in the 1960s set the stage for all the environmental injustices that were to come. Antiquated zoning and land-use regulations are  still used to this day to continue putting polluting facilities in my neighbourhood. Are these factors taken into consideration when land-use policy is decided? What costs are associated with these decisions? And who pays? Who profits? Does anything justify what the local community goes through? This was “planning” — in quotes — that did not have our best interests in mind.”

In the talk she highlights the role community groups have done towards an environmentally just planning in South Bronx. They began by creating a park which was a first stage of a greenway movement in South Bronx. Next came the plan for a waterfront esplanade with dedicated on-street bikes, placement of waste and other facilities, informing public etc. They run job training in the files of ecological restorations; they are seeding what they call the ‘green collar jobs’. Community has even created alternate transport plan, have created New York’s first green cool roof and many more actions!

She states that she is interested in what she calls the ‘triple bottom line’ that sustainable development can produce! Developments that have the potential to create positive returns for all concerned: the developers, government and community where these projects go up!

She ends with a calling:  “Help me make Green new Black!”


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