It is very trendy these days to talk about being green. The greening of America, after all, holds the promise of becoming the next great economic boon—even bigger than the dot.com bubble–that will not only create tens of thousands of jobs but also has the added value of helping the United States to play a leading role in saving the world from the adverse impacts of climate change. (In fact, creating green jobs will be part of the agenda at the White House Jobs Summit Thursday, which will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live.)
With the November unemployment numbers set to be released Friday, the Obama administration is facing critics that he’s not doing enough to stanch the flow of people filing for unemployment insurance. The unemployment rate rose from 9.8% to 10.2% in October, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of that, the African American unemployment rate has reached 17.4%.
In addition, “Food stamp assistance, a key economic indicator, is at 28% for African Americans as compared to 8% of whites,” according to statistics provided by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California). Several black lawmakers are quietly questioning the level of effort made by the White House to direct aid to black communities and have begun pushing for more targeted assistance.
As a result, green is little more than a trend for many African Americans, and Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. He fears that as with the dot.com bubble, they will be left in the red. “Green is good, but green has to be good for all,” he said.
Preparing communities of color to participate in the new green economy was the subject of a summit sponsored by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Shell, and hosted bythe Urban League in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. The organization has formed a Council of Green Advisors to ensure that urban communities are active and prosperous participants in the new green economy. Many of the participants agreed that getting more African Americans involved in the green movement begins with educating communities about job opportunities in such areas as the retrofitting and weatherization of homes and commercial buildings, as well as how these steps will lower their own energy bills.
“It’s not just about the environment,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “It’s also about money.” Nutter noted that upon his return trip to Philadelphia on an energy-efficient train, and as soon as he pulled up to City Hall in his hybrid SUV, there was a 90% chance someone would ask him about finding a job. But if he were to mention opportunities in building wind turbines or installing solar panels, of which he admittedly knows little about, the conversation would soon come to an end.
The learning curve, he lamented, is just as steep for government officials like him, who must be wary about getting scammed by others who profess to know more. “We’re learning new things about this every day. It’s so far beyond what most of us have been doing that we’re trying to catch up,” he said.