New York City produces around 50,000 tons of waste every day. If you need a mental picture, imagine 25,000 SUV’s. Now imagine all of them in a single heap in the South Bronx. Such is the reality of waste disposal in the Big Apple. Nearly all of the trash from the five boroughs ends up in one place, and it’s no surprise that the people living there are low-income people of color. Neighborhoods like this are the evidence that social injustice and environmental degradation are inextricably tied.
In a number of cities around the country, from the South Bronx in New York, to the Bayview in San Francisco, residents of these neighborhoods are organizing against perpetual dumping in their communities, which carries grave health risks, not to mention the unattractive appearance and odors emanating from garbage and sewer plants. Sustainable South Bronx is one such organization. Founded by Majora Carter in 2001, the group has implemented a number of sustainable community development projects with the mission of advancing “the environmental, social and economic rebirth of the South Bronx.”
Founder Majora Carter has just been named a MacArthur Fellow, honoring the work she has done and granting a five-year stipend for the advancement of her organization. It’s exciting to see this kind of synthesis of environmental justice, community health research, and green building attain recognition on a national level. This work is essential for the true revitalization of urban neighborhoods.