Matt Chapman

THE NEW GREEN IS BROWN?

by , 07/20/06

New Green Panel

The 92nd Street Y in New York hosted a fantastic panel discussion last night (7/19) entitled The New Green: The Changing Face of Environmentalism in New York. The participants (full list below) had many great insights into how a city known for innovation, but not necessarily environmentalism, is now marrying the two in a number of extremely dynamic ways.


Atypical alliances were definitely a theme of the night. Blue labor leaders, red state Republican industrialists, civil and human rights activists are all adding brushstrokes to the typically green environmental picture – prompting moderator Ben Jervy to quip that the new green may very well be brown.

All the participants were brilliant and insightful. The one who struck me the most, however, represented a community not typically associated with the environmental movement: Harlem. Negotiating what is typically considered a white liberal terrain, Kizzy Charles-Guzman and her environmental justice organization, We Act, seek to balance environmental issues, development projects, and local economic vitality in the Harlem community. She spoke directly to the Inhabitat philosophy when she said that for too long the environment has been considered the great outdoors, and that it needs to be framed as “indoors: the places we live, work and pray.” Amen. This consideration is especially important in communities of color which have long been the dumping ground of bad products, bad buildings, and bad policies.

Communities like Harlem are also right at the crux of environmental do-gooding and economic/health repercussions. Kizzy sited the recent desire of many environmentalists to eliminate cars from Central Park. This sounds like something we can all get behind until you realize that doing so creates enormous traffic congestion in Harlem. So, while We Act still supports the a car free Central Park, they are lobbying to find solutions to ameliorate any negative traffic problems the intitiative might cause.

She also illuminated the rather shocking equation of planting trees in her neighborhood. Trees = gentrification = higher property values = no more more neighborhood. For more information on all of the amazing work Kizzy’s organization is doing to help improve the environmental wellbeing of her storied community please visit www.weact.org.

Kizzy’s statements were only one small component of a much larger discussion. Other participants included Inhabitat favorite, Josh Dorfman, CEO of Vivavi and host of the Lazy Environmentalist. Josh spoke about all of the amazing furniture and product design going on in Brooklyn that grace the pixels of inhabitat with such regularity. Kelly Cox, New Media Strategist for the Natural Resource Defense Council offered hilarious anecdotes on the generation gap in longtime organizations like the NRDC — such as taking her boss on a tour of MySpace. Chris Neidle, the Outreach Coordinator for Solar One talked about how the narrative of New York as a leader of innovation and media helps clean up the hitherto ailing image of environmentalism. Moderator, Ben Jervy author of The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City, did a fine job of keeping the conversation rolling. Inspiring talk you all!

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6 Comments

  1. Ben July 25, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    Matt hit it exactly….I was concerned when seeing the post’s title that it may have been misinterpreted. It was rather a throwaway comment when discussing all the new alliances forming within the environmental field (exactly as Matt put it), and I think I said something to the effect of “So maybe the new green is actually turquoise, or mix in some other colors–republican red, libertarian yellow, etc–and maybe the new green is actually brown. Although that’s probably not quite as marketable a color!” You see–it was really just a throwaway comment.

    Although I’m also very comfortable in the assertion that “green” is no longer only elite white.

  2. Matt July 21, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    The brown in the title refers to the comment that the Ben Jervy made about atypical alliances, namely green environmentalists, blue labor leaders, red state capitalists, etc. in addition to the civil rights/health concerns of people of color. Mixing all of these “colors” together creates brown.

  3. Octavio July 21, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    I think “BROWN” refers to Brown folk.

  4. Johnson July 21, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    What does the title mean? What is the “BROWN’ being referred to in the title?

  5. Micky July 21, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    The notion that banning cars in Central Park will create traffic congestion in Harlem is not only a valid claim, but an issue to be address. If a major through fare is cut off there will be spill over onto the streets. Anyone uptown trying to get to points east and west will not acess to the major road arteries and as a result this traffic will have to spill over onto the streets. With higher than average air pollution problems, Harlem cannot afford or support an influx in cars in the community. The more cars that are redirected trying to find an east west connect will have to traverse the streets of Harlem until they get to 116th or 125th Streets. One of the few streets with river to river access not impeded by a park, a building, a campus or a hospital.

    So the notion that there will be traffic congestion, is a fair statement and one that should be look at when talking about closing Central Parks to cars. The idea to close Central Park to cars is a good one, but when advocating for this it is also to advocate that people get out of their cars and rely on mass transportation, especially during rush hour when the park will be closes.

  6. m July 21, 2006 at 11:51 am

    The notion that banning cars in Central Park will cause traffic jams in Harlem is based cn completely false premises.

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