Putney School conference teaches kids about ‘climate justice’

This article by Chris Mays originally appeared April 30 in the Brattleboro Reformer.

PUTNEY — It was the proposal for another sewage plant in the South Bronx that inspired Majora Carter to start exploring how to make “low-status communities” more meaningful and valuable to their inhabitants.

“It’s not just about, ‘How do you fight against something?’ but, ‘How do you fight for the community?'” Carter told an audience Sunday morning at the first ever Putney Climate Justice Conference at The Putney School.

Bruce Parker/TNR

High school kids at The Putney School learned that climate justice isn’t just about nice slogans, it’s about millions of dollars in grant money.

A sewage treatment plant, a sewage pelletizing plant and four electrical power plants were already in the neighborhood Carter returned to when she went to live with her parents while attending New York University. She said she could pretend not to see the injustice of the proposal, or she could be part of an effort to look at how to change the course of the community.

Grant funding through the U.S. Forest Service helped spearhead the cleanup of a riverfront spot in 1998 that led to a park the following year. That gave way to activities and parties.

“We didn’t have the culture of actually going to parks in our own communities,” Carter said. “We literally had to teach folks there was something to do there to get them down to the river.”

A photograph in a slideshow featured Carter with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a groundbreaking event at Hunts Point Riverside Park. The mayor had just announced $3 million in funding for the project.

These details elicited a large round of applause at the conference.

“It was an incredible spot that got people to see the value of open space in that way,” Carter said. “It was easily the most beautiful space in the area … and it could reflect right back on the people.”

Mahogany Brown, a senior at The Putney School, told attendees more than a year went into planning the conference that looks at climate change and systems of oppression. Sophie Perry, another senior at the school, said the goal is to understand how complex environments in society intersect.

“[I]t is really clear that climate issues aren’t just related to climate,” added Carter, the event’s keynote speaker who is an urban revitalization strategist, public radio host and environmental activist.

Read full story at the Brattleboro Reformer.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

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