By Grey Lee

Today at Greenbuild, USGBC hosted the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit for 2014.  Above is Anisa Baldwin Metzger, the first Green Schools Fellow from the USGBC in New Orleans, who provided guidance to the Recovery School District to implement green schools in the rebuilding effort after Katrina.  She provided an introduction to the dire situation in New Orleans, which while being dramatic, is not unheard of in our country.  She showed how green schools show kids and communities that they matter, that they are important and that they have the potential to do great things.

The summit was an amazing gathering of incredible speakers and advocates for sustainability for the places that matter – our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools and where we recreate & socialize.  Kimberly Lewis, USGBC SVP for Community Advancement, outlined the day and gave us a pep talk on how the Chapters can connect on this important dimension of our work – enabling greater sustainability in our communities.


The best speaker from my perspective was Dr. Antwi Akom of I-SEEED, who has created the Streetwize app to help people crowdsource data about the places they live and frequent.  It is like a yelp for neighborhood features.  His presentation was on the power of Place – how place determines a lot of your chances in life and how community-driven tech powers smart cities of the future.

One of his major points is that he can tell, due to statistics, what's going to happen to a kid born and living in his neighborhood in Oakland, California.  The zip code of a young person is the defining indicator of health, wealth and success in life – if you're from certain place, you have certain chances in life – likewise for people from privileged places. 

Not just chances for social mobility, but also for receiving the benefit of government services.  And not just typical things like policing and fire protection, but also investment in civic infrastructure for learning, parks & recreation, and for environmental health.  If you are in certain zip codes, you are missing out.  This is all related to race and ethnicity; thus, we are living in an eco-apartheid situation.


He described the cumulative causation of climate injustice and the way the design community creates for the 1% – but we need to create and design our communities for the 100%!  Climate destabilization is one crisis – but the other crisis is of the human imagination, public participation, diversity of democratization and the collapse of our civic infrastructure!

He says it best here at a Greenbuild video.

We also heard from New Orleans City Council LaToya Cantrell, who was one of the community leaders of the neighborhood Broadmoor, which was one of the sections of the city hit hardest by Katrina.  Months after the disaster in 2006, New Orleans planners developed a map of the city to indicate where some neighborhoods would not “come back” – and would be reborn as urban parks.  Well, the people of Broadmoor didn't quite jibe with that and built a program of outreach and engagement to repopulate, repurpose, and rebuild their community with an “educational axis” and improved amenities.  They are still working hard to recover, but their library and school are important community assets and they are an example of community organizing at its best.  LaToya was truly inspirational!



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