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Green Inequality

January 2, 2012

Green Inequality
Green Inequality Racism, ageism, classism– these are truths. They exist in all forms of our society. And if the last seven political years have taught us any one thing, it is we cannot look to government to correct societal wrongs. When we have a government that snatches up people off the streets because they have a mode of worship and dress unfamiliar to most in the US and a skin color a few shades darker; when we have a government that robs Peter to pay Paul, but only when Peter is old enough to qualify for social security, and Paul is a well-connected corporation; when oil prices hit $100/barrel and the government’s idea of alternative energy sources is to crank up the old coal mines: well, it is time we take matters into our own hands. These societal wrongs exist in an environmental context as well. If one were to map out where the primary Brownsfield sites in large metropolises are and then were to overlay first, where people of color lived, next, were the aged live, and finally where the impoverished live, I’m sure it would come as no surprise that people of color, older people, and poor people come in contact with more pollution than the average American. Our government will not correct this unfairness. The question remains, who will?The “green” construction industry has failed to address this issue of environmental racism/ageism/classism. How do we, as obviously concerned citizens, point our compasses toward not just a cleaner planet, but a fairer planet as well?Part of our mission as “green” builders is to develop means of limiting “green” construction costs. Further, developments designed for the elderly, for affordable and workforce housing, cannot simply be cheap. This is unfair thinking. This is wrong thinking. This is short sighted thinking. We cannot allow “green” construction to remain the pet boutique industry of the wealthy. This means that the wealthy will be the only beneficiaries of the newest environmentally friendly developments. More importantly, if this is the sole sphere in which “green” thrives, then “green” dies. Until “green” becomes the building mode of the masses, “green” has only minimal impact– except, of course, on the lucky few who can afford renewable energy sources and those builders who can build for clients without need of a budget. But will this narrow scope of change have any significant change on the environment? I doubt it. Simultaneously, “green” construction, particularly renewable energy sources shouldn’t be financially structured as too expensive. With public and private financing intervention, renewable energy sources could be viewed as just the opposite– it would be too expensive to not use renewable energy sources. How do we do this? Well, it is no more than torquing one’s perspective as both a consumer and a vendor. As a consumer, one must be forward thinking and understand that to not invest in sustainable energy sources is to incur significant financial burden for fossil fuel costs. As a vendor, to sell systems which imbue value into a project, be it single family home, a multi-family dwelling, or a commercial building, is a means of creating more value for your product, thus making that product easier to sell. Perhaps the perspective which needs most changing is that of the banking community and, dare I suggest it, the government– municipal, state, and federal. The banking community needs to jump on board and conclude that green construction is more valuable construction. If banks adopt this perspective, then value-added green components should then allow a consumer to borrow more money. After all, 80% of 120 thousand dollars is more than 80% of 100 thousand dollars. However, banks thus far have failed to adopt any form of value conversion, and this has slowed the development of green alternatives. As for our government, well, until we have someone in the White House who does not directly benefit financially from the burning of fossil fuels, we will not have a national plan for renewable energy sources, period.For a more academically formal investigation on this topic, please go to http://www.hinkleycenter.com/publications/poverty_pollution_siting_94-8.pdf.   -Miles Shapiro

via Building A Zero Energy Home.

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