Set the Alarm Clock: Don’t Sleep Through the Green Revolution
Originally posted on The Great Energy Challenge
"There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution."
The revolution Dr. King spoke of in his speech at the National Cathedral in 1968 was one of the most transformative of the 20th Century - the painful transition from a racially divided America to an America stitched together, however roughly. But the sentiment holds true for every revolution.
Today, there's another revolution underway - a revolution that is restructuring America's energy future. It's changing the way we work and live. In this time of rapid change, all those caught sleeping, or even hitting the snooze button, will be left behind.
As we get ready to celebrate Dr. King's birthday, life and legacy, it is not enough for us to reflect on the past. We must look forward and take action, we must be deliberate in shaping this revolution - because Dr. King's work remains unfinished.
Today, there is still a great need to lift communities out of poverty and into productivity. The unemployment rate is still significantly higher in the Hispanic and African American communities. And low-income and minority communities are disproportionately more likely to breathe in polluted air, drink dirty water and suffer from asthma. As long as these disparities exist, our nation cannot fulfill its full promise as a land of opportunity and equality. And as long as these problems exist for any American, the revolution is not complete.
It is time for the nation to wake up and fight for a green economy that addresses the health and opportunity of all communities. It will take a collective effort to make this happen. Dr. King's story teaches us that one man alone cannot achieve this kind of meaningful change. It takes a movement. He empowered others.
In this tradition, Green For All has established a number of educational initiatives to empower and engage community leaders across the country about the clean-energy economy. In 2008, we began the Green For All Fellowship which provides training programs focused on the green movement to talented and up-and-coming leaders. When the program concludes, these leaders take the skills they have acquired to make a difference in their own neighborhoods. So far, over 100 local leaders from communities of color and low-income communities have graduated and become Green For All Fellows. Block by block, they work diligently to bring new opportunities and sound environmental strategies to areas long ignored.
Last year, we also launched the College Ambassador Program. Partnering with historically black colleges and universities, we aim to cultivate the next generation of green leaders. These students take part in expert trainings and lead by example, sharing a vision of a green future with their fellow students.
We view empowering others as necessary work. The transition to the green economy is inevitable because of decreasing supplies of natural resources, and increasing demand for environmentally sustainable products. Americans must now ask themselves if they want to be leaders of this movement or sleep while we fall behind the rest of the world.
For Green For All, the answer is clear: We need to get to work now. We have this unique opportunity to better our environment, while creating jobs that can help close the economic gap between communities. That is why these college students, our Green For All Fellows and all of those they engage are wide awake and ready to seize this opportunity. Following in Dr. King's great tradition of selfless service, the rest of America should set their alarm clocks - and rouse those who are still sleeping.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Green For All.