COLUMN: On Energy and Our Environment
By Jeffrey Richardson
(I look forward to sharing information with you through this column On Energy and Our Environment and offer my thanks to the Los Angeles Sentinel for the opportunity).
We are in a period of significant change that has clarified the linkage between our community’s struggle for racial and social equality and the economic, social and moral issues that are at the heart of the evolving global environmental movement and our nation’s attempts to chart a new energy future built on clean renewable sources such as solar, wind, bio-fuels.
Let me outline in brief the context of our energy/environmental reality. We have reached a period of increased demand for the limited oil reserves of the planet. Growing powers including China, India and others are vying for the fossil fuels that power American society. The competition and the increased exposure to human and environmental degradation in pursuit of oil and coal is literally exploding on the airwaves. The recent and continuing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an economic, environmental and human catastrophe that has underscored the growing cost of holding onto to outdated fuel sources when a transition to new clean technology is possible and necessary. The recent death of miners in West Virginia and reports of multiple mine accidents in China again, point out that the costs of cheap electricity, driven by coal are counted in human lives and devastation to the environment. Many other ecological disasters that displace communities and destroy eco-systems in this country and other areas of the world go largely unreported.
In Los Angeles, as much as 40% of our electricity is generated through the use of coal. Our enormous network of highways and dependence upon cars versus rapid transportation systems leads to unhealthy vehicle emission levels and increased rates of cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases. These air quality issues are compounded for residents of low-income and people o color communities who are more likely to live adjacent to factories, and industrial pollution. The health risks for residents living near the Port of Los Angeles with its heavy diesel emissions are even greater.
Another aspect of the energy equation is the growing number of wars and military interventions in which access to global oil reserves is increasingly a contributing or major factor–Iraq. This reality has cost the nation billions of dollars that will not go to education, housing, healthcare of job creation. The impact of this massive diversion of tax dollars has been horrific for the African-American community. Again, the cost of oil and gasoline is much greater than what pay at the pump.
The nation’s economy, reeling from the enormous and criminal graft of Wall Street has been locked into yesterday’s fossil fuel based production practices and thinking. The result has been missed opportunities to create millions of new jobs through manufacturing vehicles that run on clean renewable energy, as well as making the move to solar, wind, geo-thermal and increased energy efficiency. While the current administration has made real investments to grow a new green economy the nation is far from where it should be and is not a global leader in many of the technologies.
The job creation potential of the green economy is of critical importance to the African-American community . In many cities across the nation, the Black unemployment rate is above 20% and in some communities it at 50%. Engaging our political leaders in the debate and mobilizing our community organizations, churches, business and forming Black/Brown and other alliances around the shared interests of bringing green jobs to South Los Angeles and other surrounding communities is imperative. We must actively press for information and demand full participation in the economic transformation that is already in motion.
As a community we must become more active in the scientific and technological revolution that is shaping the future of the world and our place in that world. This move requires a renewed commitment to learning and a realization that the bar has been raised around the globe. We must meet the challenge realizing that history will not wait for us.
At a deep level the current situation requires of us a new system of values in which consumption and consumerism are replaced by a consideration of how our actions impact the environment. Much of what we use is simply thrown away and ends up in harmful landfills, or the water system. What if we practiced as many of our older relatives did, ways of reusing instead of simply buying the “disposable” product. Or how about switching to energy efficient lighting. These are small steps that we can each take as we own our role as stewards of this planet and our community environment.
On a personal level, I am working with others to increase the participation of people of color and low-income communities in the green economy through our solar installation company, Imani Energy, Inc., where I serve as the President/CEO and cofounder. Our goal at Imani Energy is to create jobs and provide training in the solar installation sector with a primary focus on low-income and people of color communities. We are also planning to establish a solar panel assembly facility in South Los Angeles to increase jobs and provide expanded opportunities for learning and growth in the energy sector.
Our company recently participated on a panel in Torrance, CA at the 12th District Conference of the fraternity that I joined in 1979, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.. Earlier this year we provided education at the South Los Angeles Earth Day. We continue to spread the word and offer our experience as a private sector company, while we work to grow our business to create green jobs.
Though the current economic climate is very challenging, it is important that we actively build a future where clean renewable energy, environmental consciousness and social and economic justice are integral to the action plan of the African-African community. We are citizens of the planet as well as the neighborhood and energy and its use play a big part in shaping our world. Let’s make sure that energy works for us. Until next time. Imani.
Jeffrey Richardson is the President/CEO of Imani Energy, Inc. a solar installation/energy company based in Los Angeles. He has 25 years of experience as an organizer and activist and entrepreneur. He served as the Executive Director of a social justice foundation, Director of a major Los Angeles largely African-American labor organizing campaign, organizational and political campaign consultant, community economic development professional and reporter. He has traveled to West Africa, Nicaragua and Cuba and written on his travels. He is also a singer/songwriter of message music and the cd “Another World Is Possible” available at cdbaby and www.jeffreyrichardsonmusic.com.
You can contact Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn about Imani Energy, Inc. at www.imanienergy.com.