Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rebuilding a Green New Orleans: An Interview WIth Matt Petersen, President of Global Green U.S.A.

It would certainly make sense that the post-Katrina rebuilding of a city like New Orleans -- which is below sea level and thus severely endangered by global warming -- would take a green angle.

How have efforts to green the rebuilding of New Orleans been working out?

Treehugger reports, in an interview with Global Green President, Matt Petersen (the one who got Brad Pitt involved).  Responding to Treehugger's question about what Global Green will take away from its experience in New Orleans -- the most powerful part of the project, Petersen says:

The commitment of the Holy Cross neighborhood. We'll look back in 20 years and say this is where this shift, this turning-around started: these citizens and residents saying we need to become carbon-neutral. That's what allowed us to come into that neighborhood and build the project we're building. It's that commitment of the community and people taking pride in their own neighborhood That has only reinforced my belief in the green schools initiative. We need people to relate to something in their own backyard.

And other than their neighborhood, think about the entity that's in every neighborhood, a school. How do make that a connecting point to both improve the lives of school children and create a better educated workforce as well as solving global warming. That connection to your neighborhood, that you need to love where you live. That starts not with your home, but with your community. If you love where you live, and have a bold vision to go along with it, and a sense that you can influence what your neighborhood can do, then you can begin to make a real difference. How can we do more as an organization and as a society to empower individuals to act?

This reclaiming of the role of citizens in New Orleans, that was crucial. When every level of government was broke, it was this neighborhood planning progress that really helped drive the sense of civic participation. How do we reclaim our role as citizens and not just be consumers anymore in this country?

If there's one city that knows how to have fun going about reclaiming our role as citizens and not just be consumers, it's New Orleans -- and it's phenomenal musical and culinary heritage.  A story like this -- in which solving New Orleans' climate change problem is also helping to solve its economic and health problems -- is definitely worth some horn playing!

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