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A High School For Green Teens

Kerry Trueman, the green fork

With unemployment in the dismal double digits, there’s a lot of chanting and ranting about jobs right now. China’s cleaning our clock when it comes to clean tech, even as its growth continues to rely on dirty ol’ coal. And so does ours, for that matter. The difference is that China’s forging ahead with alternative energy while we bury our heads in the tar sands.

Our national unemployment rate seems stuck at 10 percent, and in some urban areas, it’s risen above 15 percent, according to CNN. Creating more jobs is clearly job number one. But what color will those jobs be? A generation or so ago, jobs came in just two basic colors: blue collar and white. Now, we’ve got one black-collared Jobs, trotting out another supposedly game-changing gadget in his trademark mock turtleneck (color Pee Wee Herman among the unimpressed).

The real game changer, though, is the thousands of green jobs we could be creating, if only we’d reallocate our deficit-depleted resources. And the Steve showing us how to do this is named Ritz, not Jobs.

Steve Ritz is a trail-blazing teacher with an impressive track record of achievement working with students in one of the most challenging environments in New York City, the South Bronx–that eternally dumped-on borough whose name is synonymous with urban blight.

Ritz has figured out how to grow good food, good jobs and good citizens by tapping into one of our greatest wasted resources–urban youth. And he’s doing it in Hunts Point, a quintessential “food desert” that, ironically, just happens to also be one of the world’s largest food distribution centers; 2.7 billion pounds of fresh produce from 49 states and 55 foreign countries passes through Hunts Point’s New York City Terminal Market annually on its way to more affluent neighborhoods…

(4 Feb 2009)

Climate change and the West

    Given the “41st vote” of Massachusetts senator-elect Scott Brown, it seems unlikely major federal climate legislation is going to happen any time soon. Yet many remain who wish to find ways to adapt to, and mitigate, the impacts of global warming. A recent report has some timely advice for local government officials — take steps in land use planning, linking development and transportation and energy efficiency, that are appealing because they save money. The fact that the measures also address climate change is best left as an unheralded bonus.

    The report, Planning for Climate Change in the West, by Rebecca Carter and Susan Culp, acknowledges the critical role of local planners in confronting challenges posed by climate change. It also addresses the region’s many political, cultural, demographic, and geographic factors that can be barriers to innovation and effectiveness. Big policy goals need to be tailored to local realities, says Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute. “State and federal initiatives are important,” he says, “but mitigation and adaptation will only happen if implemented on the ground, locally.”

    Co-author Culp, project manager of Western Lands and Communities, a joint venture of the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute, adds: “Western planners are emphasizing sustainability or economic efficiency, rather than climate change, in their decisions to manage water supplies, reduce energy consumption, increase transportation efficiency, and protect open space.” She cited a survey of nearly 50 government staff and elected officials in the Intermountain West indicating local skepticism that climate change was a problem in many communities. According to the research, a significant number of residents in these communities are unconvinced that climate change is human-caused and they perceive the issue as global and remote.

Planning for Climate Change in the West is the latest Policy Focus Report from the Lincoln Institute. It was released today at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Seattle, an annual symposium on sustainability and land use that runs Feb. 4-6 and includes presentations by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The report is available at the exhibition booth of the Lincoln Institute and Sonoran Institute and can be downloaded free here.
(3 Feb 2010)
From the website:
About the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

A leading resource for policy makers and practitioners, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy addresses issues involving the use, regulation, and taxation of land.

The Lincoln Institute seeks to improve the dialogue about urban development, the built environment, and tax policy in the United States and abroad. Through research, training, conferences, demonstration projects, publications, and multimedia, the Lincoln Institute provides the highest quality, nonpartisan analysis and evaluation for today’s regulatory, planning, and policy decisions.

DIY Life: Urban Homesteaders at Kitchen Table Talks
Naomi Starkman, Civil Eats

At the most recent Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco close to 100 City dwellers came out in the pouring rain to hear stories from local urban homesteaders, who shared their experiences and insights on ways to become more self-sufficient. Kevin Bayuk, Heidi Kooy, and Davin Wentworth-Thrasher discussed growing and preserving your own food; keeping worms; composting (including the art of the compost toilet); greywater and rainwater catchment systems; and raising goats and chickens (Heidi’s chicken, Sweet Pea, graced us with her beautiful feathers).

In case you were wondering, “urban homesteading” has been defined as:

1. Growing your own FOOD on your city lot.
2. Using alternative ENERGY sources.
3. Using alternative FUELS & TRANSPORTATION.
4. Keeping farm ANIMALS for manure and food.
5. Practicing WASTE REDUCTION.
6. Reclaiming GREYWATER and collecting RAINWATER.
7. Living SIMPLY. Developing back-to-basics homemaking skills, including food preservation and preparation.
8. Doing the work YOURSELF. Learning to do home and vehicle maintenance, repairs and basic construction.
9. Working at HOME. Earning a living from the land or hand work done at home. Developing a home-based economy.
10. Being a good NEIGHBOR. Offering a helping hand for free. Urban homesteading is a community-based way of life, not a business opportunity. Being a neighbor, not a business person.

Our three homesteaders employ almost all of these ideals and inspired us with their stories and ideas.

Kevin Bayuk, a self-described “activated advocate for ecotopian living,” serves on the Board of Directors for the Urban Alliance for Sustainability, and teaches with the Urban Permaculture Institute and Urban Permaculture Guild.

…Davin Wentworth-Thrasher, the co-founder of the Ecology Center of San Francisco, offered the crowd information on how to do it yourself and more. He also brought homemade, handmilled loaves of bread, crackers, nut butters and jam.

…Heidi Kooy, a former anthropologist turned small business owner, shared her experiences gardening, cooking, canning, preserving, and tending to her collection of small livestock, including chickens and goats in her 1,000 sq. ft. backyard in the Excelsior.
(28 Jan 2010)
EB readers would do well to check out the extremely informative blog Civil Eats on a regular basis. -KS