Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto
Majora Carter - Activist for environmental justice
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. Full bio
how sustainable development
we are often told
is just not feasible,
like New York City.
with decision-making powers,
as though they're in danger.
in part, is because of a dog --
back in the rain, back in 1998.
a much bigger dog than I'd anticipated.
fighting against a huge waste facility
our small part of New York City
of the entire city's commercial waste:
a sewage sludge plant, four power plants,
more than 60,000 diesel truck trips
of parks to people in the city.
by the Parks Department
to help develop waterfront projects,
well-meaning, but a bit naive.
and you could not get to the river,
that I mentioned earlier.
with my dog one morning,
was just another illegal dump.
and other stuff that I won't mention here,
of that lot was the river.
me there, was worth saving.
to become the proud beginnings
of the new South Bronx.
that got bigger than I'd imagined.
became the first waterfront park
in more than 60 years.
more than 300 times,
marriage vows with my beloved.
back there, which he does all the time.
in environmental justice communities
and have for some time.
who may not be familiar with the term,
with more environmental burdens
than any other.
are extremely reliable indicators
like parks and trees,
like power plants and waste facilities.
I am twice as likely as a white person
poses the greatest risk to my health.
to live within walking distance
created the hostile conditions
diabetes and asthma.
for a brisk walk in a toxic neighborhood?
is high even for this country,
children has asthma.
than the national average.
for solid waste costs,
with pollution and more odiously,
our young black and Latino men,
of untapped potential.
live at or below the poverty line;
emergency-room visits as primary care.
and produces no proportional benefits.
they are still unhealthy.
like me who are striving for solutions
in the short term,
and we all have that in common.
we're all incredibly good-looking.
didn't have kids in your early teens,
in some other ways.
in my neighborhood burn down.
a few blocks from our home.
across the street.
from the ghetto.
of the people in my community,
to fight for justice in the other.
a Pullman porter, son of a slave --
section of the South Bronx,
white, working-class neighborhood.
their own version of the American dream,
in the South Bronx
wherein certain sections of the city,
off-limits to any sort of investment.
profitable to torch their buildings
than to sell under those conditions --
a walk-to-work community,
work nor home to walk to.
was added to our problems.
an aggressive highway-expansion campaign.
to make it easier
in Westchester County to go to Manhattan.
did not stand a chance.
less than a month's notice
and prostitutes were from the South Bronx.
from your earliest days
from your community,
and all we had.
and the love inside of it,
and friends along the way, was enough.
begets environmental degradation,
in the 1960s set the stage
injustices that were to come.
regulations are still used to this day
facilities in my neighborhood.
when land-use policy is decided?
with these decisions?
what the local community goes through?
our best interests in mind.
it was time to do our own planning.
a Greenway movement in the South Bronx.
dollar federal transportation grant
for a waterfront esplanade
public policy regarding traffic safety,
and other facilities,
a community's quality of life.
to be more physically active,
to build first-phase projects.
by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects.
it'll connect the South Bronx
of Randall's Island Park.
of water, but this link will change that.
its abundance will give us back even more.
[Environmental] Stewardship Training,
of ecological restoration,
have the skills to compete
the area with green-collar jobs --
a financial and personal stake
is an underutilized relic
that were divided by it.
it goes virtually unused.
an alternative transportation plan
of the highway.
together all the stakeholders
can be better utilized
and local economic development.
and cool roof demonstration project
surfaces that don't absorb solar heat,
the building or atmosphere.
of petroleum-based roofing materials
to urban "heat island" effect
up to 75 percent of rainfall,
costly end-of-pipe solutions --
communities like mine.
for our little friends!
project is a springboard
economic activity to the South Bronx.
not to do pitches up here,
for forgiveness than permission.
and New Orleans' Ninth Ward
by poor people of color,
think hip-hop and jazz.
that host both industries and residents
we have still more in common.
and maligned and abused, at worst,
nor the South Bronx was inevitable.
national symbols of urban blight
by empty campaign promises
languish for a decade or two,
of grassroots activists
in communities like mine?
to make the world a better place
some of what I've been through.
if you want to know.
or one's perception of it,
the "triple bottom line"
to create positive returns
the developers, government
where these projects go up.
in New York City.
developments in the South Bronx,
between city agencies
of increased traffic, pollution,
and job development are so lame
is replacing the House That Ruth Built
well-loved community parks.
than that stat I told you about earlier.
of South Bronx residents own cars,
thousands of new parking spaces,
with Columbia University and others
I am not anti-development.
and if you haven't, you need to.
with developers making money.
to show that a sustainable,
can still make a fortune.
and Amory Lovins --
have shown that you can actually do that.
with developments that hyper-exploit
communities for profit.
for the future that we create.
to remind myself of greater possibilities,
in other cities.
runaway gun violence and drug trafficking;
that of the South Bronx.
in the late 1990s
mayor named Enrique Peñalosa.
was dedicated to serving them.
do something about that.
thoroughfares from five lanes to three,
and bike lanes,
bus mass-transit systems
he was nearly impeached.
that they were being put first
their day-to-day lives,
were alive with people.
typical urban problems at one time,
in this country, I'm sorry.
their people-first agenda
those who could actually afford cars,
for all Bogotanos to participate
of the population
a radical idea here in the U.S.
has the power to change that.
with the gift of influence.
value the information we exchange.
sustainable change everywhere.
I'm trying to build,
politics are personal.
and cocktail conversations.
and economic justice.
with a triple-bottom-line return.
by bringing everyone to the table,
planning can be addressed everywhere.
the other day after breakfast,
activists were going to be included
that I wasn't asking for funding.
top-down approach is still around.
are needed at the table
that Mr. Gore reminded us
to meet you like this.
rapidly-growing groups of individuals
can change the world.
stations in life,
one incredibly powerful thing.
and everything to gain.
About the speaker:Majora Carter - Activist for environmental justice
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.
Why you should listen
Majora Carter is a visionary voice in city planning who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. Hence her motto: "Green the ghetto!"
With her inspired ideas and fierce persistence, Carter managed to bring the South Bronx its first open-waterfront park in 60 years, Hunts Point Riverside Park. Then she scored $1.25 million in federal funds for a greenway along the South Bronx waterfront, bringing the neighborhood open space, pedestrian and bike paths, and space for mixed-use economic development.
Her success is no surprise to anyone who's seen her speak; Carter's confidence, energy and intensely emotional delivery make her talks themselves a force of nature. (The release of her TEDTalk in 2006 prompted Guy Kawasaki to wonder on his blog whether she wasn't "every bit as good as [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs," a legendary presenter.)
Carter, who was awarded a 2005 MacArthur "genius" grant, served as executive director of Sustainable South Bronx for 7 years, where she pushed both for eco-friendly practices (such as green and cool roofs) and, equally important, job training and green-related economic development for her vibrant neighborhood on the rise. Since leaving SSBx in 2008, Carter has formed the economic consulting and planning firm the Majora Carter Group, to bring her pioneering approach to communities far outside the South Bronx. Carter is working within the cities of New Orleans, Detroit and the small coastal towns of Northeastern North Carolina. The Majora Carter Group is putting the green economy and green economic tools to use, unlocking the potential of every place -- from urban cities and rural communities, to universities, government projects, businesses and corporations -- and everywhere else in between.
Majora Carter | Speaker | TED.com