The Bronx River, the only fresh water river in New York City, has over the past few years undergone tremendous change. From about the 1840s up until 2007, industrial waste and sewage was regularly dumped into the river–a river previously considered so pure that the New York City Board of Aldermen were interested in using it for city residents’ drinking water. It’s taken groups like the Bronx River Alliance to get the river clean again. And the most well-known member of that alliance, Majora Carter, has not only helped to turn around the pollution of the Bronx River, but has also turned around the environment of the Bronx itself. She’s the founder of the nonprofit organization Sustainable South Bronx, whose mission is to “integrate economic and environmental solutions through innovative job training, public advocacy and education programs.”
What’s been most notable to folks about Sustainable South Bronx is that Majora Carter acquired a $1.25 million dollar grant to rebuild the area near her home. In the past three years–just one year after surrounding suburbs agreed to stop dumping their sewage into the Bronx River–Majora began the Majora Carter Group (MCG), a for profit organization that aims to help communities in urban areas around the country develop both their environment and economies so that their neighborhoods begin to thrive and folks who live there, stay.
The Majora Carter Group uses the green economy and green economic tools to unlock the potential of every place – urban, rural and everywhere in between. MCG “helps clients connect the value of government, business and industry and community, bridging the gaps between clients and the interests we all want served…We create an environment where all dreams can thrive. Based on research gleaned from seven successful years heading Sustainable South Bronx, and other findings from cities and universities worldwide, the services MCG offers to concentrated environmental problems are grounded in a progressive economic development approach.” (from MCG Web site)
The thinking behind MCG is that “money spent on public health and incarceration costs, imported energy resources, and conventional waste disposal, creates one-way movements of capital out of local economies. By contrast, robust distributed investments – adapted to local climactic conditions – pay for themselves through more effective economic multipliers as money works from the pockets of people who are presently regarded as problems. We help create new tax-bases, while removing obligations from the tax ledgers.” (from Black Economic Development)
An example of an MCG project was an idea begun in 2009 to support greater health and sustainability in Detroit through worker owned greenhouses which would then locally produce food for a nationwide brand. An article in City Farmer News noted that the plan seemed “to fit midway between Detroit’s hundreds of tiny, volunteer garden plots and the big, mechanized, for-profit farm that businessman John Hantz proposed earlier this year.” Majora stated that the MCG plan could offer economic empowerment to folks in Detroit. “Ultimately, our goal is that these are investable models and that we will be able to find the capital to do this simply because we are going to be able to show that there’s money in this, that there is a return on investment if we do it right.”
For MCG part of doing it right means helping various groups (local government, business and community) realize that there’s strength in working together and that in the end everyone can benefit. “MCG finds ways to connect cost-effective green strategy with all the people who are affected by a given situation.” (from BET.com) Indeed, if Sustainable South Bronx is any reflection on what can change for a community–everyone can benefit. MCG creates real equity for people who need and deserve it.
Learn about the Majora Carter Group
Watch CNN International’s Turning the Ghetto Green