We all need to recognize that our well-being is inextricably tied to that of other people and the planet itself. There are no throwaway people and no throwaway places. When communities are fully engaged in problem-solving, they can come up with holistic solutions that lift up the voices of the marginalized and regenerate forgotten places. Buffalo NY is a wonderful example of what can be achieved.
By 2005 Buffalo had lost half of its 1950 population, and its residents were struggling with unemployment, rampant blight, and high energy costs. A grass roots community group, People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), brought together community residents to craft a plan for a large, blighted area. The outcome was a 25-square-block Green Development Zone (GDZ), which is now a model of energy-efficient, affordable housing. PUSH is the organizing force behind rehabilitating homes in the GDZ, installing efficiency upgrades, like insulation and geothermal heating, and dramatically lowering residents’ utility bills. This is also a jobs program as PUSH has cultivated a growing network of contractors who are committed to hiring locally.
Taking a step further, in other parts of the city PUSH has gone on to turn trash-strewn, vacant lots into state-of-the-art rain gardens, small urban farms, and aquaponics greenhouses. Even more ambitiously PUSH is advocating for the “Green Jobs-Green New York” program, which seeks to create 35,000 jobs while providing energy upgrades and retrofits for 1 million homes across the state.
How about all you other community organizers across the country taking inspiration from Buffalo!
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