29 August 2009

green like me?

Did anyone else read the title of Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article, "Green Like Me," and automatically think of John Howard Griffin's 1961 memoir, Black Like Me?

Kolbert's article is a critique of the new spate of environmental "stunt" books, such as No Impact Man, by white writer Colin Beavan, that engage in what she calls nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit--the belief that a move from mere mortal with a heavy U.S. carbon footprint to supergreenhero No Impact Man for one year will actually have some impact. Kolbert says that it won't because it is all "gimmickry" and no engaged action.

Fade 2009. Cue 1959.

John Howard Griffin, a white writer in Texas, decides that he wants to experience life as a black male in the south to more fully understand racism and segregation. So he travels to New Orleans, takes an anti-vitiligo drug and embodies blackness for six weeks. He keeps a journal, the basis of his book, detailing the encounters he has with black southerners and white southerners. He is shocked by what he sees and feels. He first shares his experiences in Sepia magazine in March 1960 (the editor financed his journey) and there is an immediate white backlash in his hometown, as well as thousands of letters of support. But the terror unleashed against him, his spouse and children propels him to move to Mexico in order to feel safe.

I have not yet read No Impact Man (or seen the movie) and have not read Black Like Me since college (or seen the movie). I definitely plan to read both now because the comparative possibilities are ripe for further study.

Let's begin the discussion now. How is green like me like black like me?

23 August 2009

u.s. virgin islands & renewable energy

Energy is a terrible thing to waste. Unless you make energy from waste!

This is exactly what the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) will be doing. Governor John P. DeJongh's administration selected the Alpine Energy LLC, based in Denver, Colorado, to build, own and operate 2 waste-to-energy facilities in order to turn the waste created from 108,000 residents and 2 million tourists into renewable energy. This will be the government's first alternative energy project. The projected cost for the two plants is $440 million.

Construction will begin May 2010 and completion is expected late 2012. One of the facilities will be in St. Thomas, located at Long Point, on the southeastern shoreline known as Estate Bovoni. The second facility will be in St. Croix, in the Anguilla area near the Krause Lagoon. (USVIers, please email me some photos and videos!)


On 6 July, DeJongh received $8.2million in federal stimulus money to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Once the DeJongh administration successfully implements its state energy plan and satisfies the requirements of the federal Recovery Act, it will receive $10million more.

14 August 2009

chocolate & arugula in baton rouge

Living or vacationing in/near Baton Rouge? If so, come meet me at the Greening African American Museums panel I organized for the Association of African American Museums conference next Friday, 21 August.

I will give a Green 101/Introduction to Sustainability presentation. Joining me are Pamela Green, executive director of the Weeksville Society Heritage Center, who's overseeing the construction of a LEED-certified building, and Dominique Hawkins, AIA, LEED-AP, Principal, Preservation Design Partnership, who specializes in green renovations of historic buildings.

See you there!

11 August 2009

hbcus' princeton review green ratings

As promised in my previous post, "are hbcus also cgcus?," here's a list of The Princeton Review's (TPR) 2010 green ratings for all hbcus. The rating "60*" denotes that TPR did not receive enough information from the schools to comparatively rate them.
  1. Alabama A&M University--62
  2. Alabama State University--60*
  3. Albany State University--60*
  4. Alcorn State University--60*
  5. Allen University--60*
  6. Arkansas Baptist College--60*
  7. Barber-Scotia College--no listing
  8. Benedict College--60*
  9. Bennett College--60*
  10. Bethune-Cookman University--60* (listed as Bethune-Cookman College)
  11. Bishop State Community College-Southwest Campus--60*
  12. Bluefield State College--60*
  13. Bowie State University--60*
  14. Central State University--60*
  15. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania--60*
  16. Claflin University--69
  17. Clark Atlanta University--83
  18. Clinton Junior College--no listing
  19. Coahoma Community College--60*
  20. Concordia College, Selma--60* (listed as Concordia College (AL))
  21. Coppin State University--60*
  22. Delaware State University--60*
  23. Denmark Technical College--60*
  24. Dillard University--60*
  25. Edward Waters College--60*
  26. Elizabeth City State University--60*
  27. Fayetteville State University--60*
  28. Fisk University--60*
  29. Florida A&M--60*
  30. Florida Memorial University--60* (listed as Florida Memorial College)
  31. Fort Valley State University--60*
  32. Gadsden State Community College--60*
  33. Grambling State University--60*
  34. Hampton University--60*
  35. Harris-Stowe State University--60* (listed as Harris-Stowe State College)
  36. Hinds Community College at Utica--60* (listed as Hinds Community College - Utica Branch)
  37. Howard University--60*
  38. Huston-Tillotson University--60*
  39. Interdenominational Theological Center--no rating (listed as Interdenominational Theological Center Graduate Programs)
  40. J. F. Drake State Technical College--no listing
  41. Jackson State University--60*
  42. Jarvis Christian College--60*
  43. Johnson C. Smith University--60*
  44. Kentucky State University--64
  45. Knoxville College--60*
  46. Lane College--60*
  47. Langston University--60*
  48. Lawson State Community College--60*
  49. LeMoyne-Owen College--60*
  50. Lewis College of Business--60*
  51. Lincoln University--69 (listed as Lincoln University (PA))
  52. Lincoln University of Missouri--67 (listed as Lincoln University (MO))
  53. Livingstone College--60*
  54. University of Maryland Eastern Shore--no listing for undergrad only for grad school
  55. Meharry Medical College--no rating
  56. Miles College--60*
  57. Mississippi Valley State University--60*
  58. Morehouse College--60*
  59. Morehouse School of Medicine--no rating
  60. Morgan State University--60*
  61. Morris Brown College--60*
  62. Morris College--60*
  63. Norfolk State University--60*
  64. North Carolina A&T State University--60*
  65. North Carolina Central University--60*
  66. Oakwood University--60* (listed as Oakwood College)
  67. Paine College--60*
  68. Paul Quinn College--60*
  69. Philander Smith College--60*
  70. Prairie View A&M University--no rating
  71. Rust College--60*
  72. Savannah State University--60*
  73. Selma University--no listing
  74. Shaw University--60*
  75. Shelton State Community College--60*
  76. South Carolina State University--no rating
  77. Southern University at New Orleans--no rating (listed as Southern University at New Orleans Graduate Programs)
  78. Southern University at Shreveport--60*
  79. Southern University and A&M College--64
  80. Southwestern Christian College--60*
  81. Spelman College--79
  82. St. Augustine's College--60* (listed as Saint Augustine's College)
  83. St. Paul's College--60* (listed as Saint Paul's College)
  84. St. Philip's College--60* (listed as Saint Philip's College)
  85. Stillman College--60*
  86. Talladega College--60*
  87. Tennessee State University--60*
  88. Texas College--60*
  89. Texas Southern University--60*
  90. Tougaloo College--60*
  91. Trenholm State Technical College--no listing
  92. Tuskegee University--60*
  93. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff--no listing
  94. University of the District of Columbia--60*
  95. University of the Virgin Islands--60*
  96. Virginia State University--60*
  97. Virginia Union University--60*
  98. Virginia University of Lynchburg--no listing
  99. Voorhees College--60*
  100. West Virginia State University--60*
  101. Wilberforce University-60*
  102. Wiley College--60*
  103. Winston-Salem State University--60*
  104. Xavier University of Louisiana--60*

10 August 2009

are hbcus also cgcus?

According to The Princeton Review's (TPR) 2010 green ratings, it's unclear whether most historically black colleges and universities are also currently green colleges and universities. Based on a ratings scale of 60-99, only 8 out of 104 hbcus received grades higher than 60:

Alabama A&M University (62)
Claflin University (69)
Clark Atlanta University (83)
Kentucky State University (64)
Lincoln University (69)
Lincoln University of Missouri (67)
Southern University and A&M College (64)
Spelman College (79)

The vast majority of the hbcus--82--received a rating of 60*. TPR assigned this rating to the schools that did not supply enough information to comparatively rate them.

For a list of the green ratings for all hbcus, see my 11 August post.

What's TPR's criteria for the green ratings?

The ratings are based on 3 main areas:

1. whether the school’s students have a campus quality of life that is healthy and sustainable;
2. how well the school is preparing its students for employment and citizenship in a world
defined by environmental challenges; and
3. the school's overall commitment to environmental issues.

Schools completed the following 10 survey questions:

1) The percentage of food expenditures that goes toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food;
2) Whether the school offers programs including free bus passes, universal access transit passes, bike sharing/renting, car sharing, carpool parking, vanpooling or guaranteed rides home to encourage alternatives to single-passenger automobile use for students;
3) Whether the school has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus:
4) Whether new buildings are required to be LEED (environmental certification of equipment/appliances) Silver certified or comparable:
5) The school's overall waste diversion rate:
6) Whether the school has an environmental studies major, minor or concentration:
7) Whether the school has an "environmental literacy" requirement:
8) Whether the school has produced a publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventory and adopted a climate action plan consistent with 80 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 targets;
9) What percentage of the school’s energy consumption, including heading/cooling and electrical, is derived from renewable sources (this definition included “green tags” but not nuclear or large-scale hydropower); and
10) Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.

The colleges and universities that received the highest score of 99 were placed on the Green Rating Honor Roll. The 15 hwcus/cgcus are:

Arizona State University at the Tempe campus
Bates College
Binghamton University
College of the Atlantic
Colorado College
Dickinson College
Evergreen State College
Georgia Institute of Technology
Harvard College
Middlebury College
Northeastern University
University of California at Berkeley
University of New Hampshire
University of Washington
Yale University

Here's my take:

TPR partnered with ecoamerica, an environmental non-profit focusing on research and marketing, to create the survey. In the TPR press release, there are no details about the number of points given for each question. In fact, there are not many details about the real meaning of the ratings in the press release or in the individual school profiles. For example, there's no way of knowing the difference between Clark Atlanta's rating of 83 and Spelman College's rating of 79. Does one focus on vegan options more than providing Zipcars on campus? We know that Spelman was the first hbcu with a LEED-certified building. [correction: Spelman College is still seeking LEED-certification of its green dorm, The Suites. updated 16 September 2009.] But what has Clark-Atlanta done to receive a higher rating?

And, finally, what to really make of the fact that the majority of hbcus received a rating of 60*? That is a question that I hope to answer in future posts.

03 August 2009

who's a green american?

Green America (formerly Co-Op America) is currently promoting its newest t-shirt design:
"I AM A GREEN AMERICAN". (100% cotton, made in the U.S.) It is a clever, problematic, referential design that is ripe for deconstruction.

The artist chose the Statue of Liberty from the eyes up, apparently to obscure the racial and gender identifiers of the original statue and to emphasize the dark green outstretched arm--a clear reference to Tommie Smith's and John Carlos' raised arms at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. The torch, instead of a vessel for a flame, is a nest of flowers for a lone bird.

Using the Statue of Liberty makes sense as an easily identifiable referent to a popular narrative of Americanness--it was one of the first sights seen by white-skinned Europeans who immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century via ships.

The artist was smart enough to know that relying on an icon that would equate Americanness with whiteness wouldn't cut it. Tattooing or grafting a deeply American iconic image of blackness--Carlos' and Smith's Black Power(ed) raised arms and black-gloved fists-- onto the the arm of Miss Liberty is artistically brilliant. And conceptually intriguing.

Where does green begin and American end? Does green refer solely to ecology (flowers and birds)? And American solely to racialized humanness? Or is the blurring of green and American intentional?

Here's what I see:

The pairing of the lone human with the lone bird, representing, respectively, growing and dwindling masses, alludes to a symbiotic relationship between humans and other animals within a contentious rights framework.

And the t-shirt design suggests that green is not solely about ecology. That it is implicated in the U.S.'s racialized and color-struck history. Therefore, green is not a neutral color (or movement) without a history or identity that somehow absorbs and neutralizes other colors in the current march toward a collective fight against climate change.

For these reasons, I love this t-shirt.

What I don't like is that the Green America marketers chose to advertise the t-shirt on a thin, white-skinned woman thereby implicitly making a green American a white American with a green tan.