Greening the Ghetto

When picturing the Bronx, “green” is not usually what comes to mind.  Nevertheless, Majora Carter is about to change that.  Born in the Bronx herself, Carter was considered the “poster child for urban blight”, as she noted in an interview by CNN back in 2008.  After leaving the Bronx to attend school, she later came back due to finances.  As she reflected on just how poor her community had become, she knew she had to become part of the solution and not just succumb to the problem.  Her neighborhood was being filled with toxic waste and other various polluting infrastructure.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/06/05/carterinterview/

Surveying the scene, Carter created Sustainable South Bronx.  She sums up its mission to be “advocating for environmental justice through sustainable environmental and economic development projects” (Carter, 2008).  Their goal is to create green collar jobs that employ  people who ultimately become an active part of creating a healthy and green community.  More than just cleaning her environment, Carter is addressing public health and poverty alleviation simultaneously.

Currently, the South Bronx handles about 40 percent of  Manhattan’s commercial waste, which has lasting impact on its population.  Carter notes that many of the neighborhoods’ issues revolve around the fact that the Bronx has a “sewage treatment plant, a sewage sludge palletizing plant, four power plants and the diesel emissions from about 60,000 diesel truck trips each and every week” (Cater, 2008).  As a result, they are currently experiencing a health crisis directly related to the poor state of their environment.  Many children suffer from asthma and the majority of its population is obese, a result of people not being active outdoors.

By visiting Carter’s website, teachers and students can first be informed of Sustainable South Bronx’s mission.

http://www.ssbx.org/ssbxblog/

A major objective of Carter’s goal is to understand that trashs’ journey does not end when it’s tossed in the garbage can.  The following video provides a little more insight into Carter’s vision.

Ultimately, trash needs to end up somewhere.  Generate a list of where students think trash goes. Keep track of what they think to compare to later on.  Enlist students to do a little research.  Have them create a ‘trash’ diagram that follows the trashs’ journey.  Have them develop a map from the person who creates the trash to its final resting place.  They may know the beginning phases, from trash can to garbage dump to garbage truck, etc. however, what happens next?  Using the internet and teacher supervision, call the garbage company, recycling company, even local officials to track down the garbage.  Once completed, receive permission to hang the diagram in a popular area, either within the school itself or in a town building.  Have students brainstorm ideas as to how this can make a difference.  Have passersby think twice about that plastic bag they need from the drug store, or perhaps the coffee cup they buy every day instead of investing in a reusable one.  How does their diagram compare to their initial thoughts?

How did students thoughts changes about trash after the project? What was the most surprising?

What environmentally harmful habits will you, as the educator, change?

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