Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the historic oppression against Black people in North America, says it is creating a scholarship fund to help break down the barriers of entry for Black youth into the green infrastructure industry.
“The scholarship program is a tangible way that GRHC can support Black youth that are interested in working in the green infrastructure industry but lack the resources to get started. It is but one small way that we can support the transition to a more equitable society,” GRHC founder and president Steven Peck said in a statement.
The fund, an attempt to break down the barriers of entry for Black people into green infrastructure, will be offering $10,000 worth of scholarships throughout 2020 by partnering with Black-led environmental organizations.Through these partnerships, GRHC will offer free online training and passes to our virtual events. Moving forward, GRHC is going to center the discussion of social justice and environmental racism in green infrastructure conversations.
GRHC says it is is hosting a Virtual Green Infrastructure Symposium on July 9, looking at the social determinants of health in Chicago communities and how green infrastructure has been used in the past but also its role in the future in meeting climate, resilience and equity goals of communities. See www.greenroofs.org/virtualevents.
The staff and GRHC Board has released the following statement of support for Black Lives Matter:
On behalf of the staff and board of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Every person has a right to expect and receive fair and equal treatment under the law and from law enforcement professionals. No violation of this right is ever acceptable. Such a violation is particularly reprehensible when carried out against persons of color, particularly given both the historical atrocities committed against these people in North America, and the racist actions that continue into present times.
In our support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in our understanding that the treatment of black persons is in urgent need of deep correction throughout society, GRHC is committed to using our unique sphere of influence to help create a more equitable world. GRHC operates to support the specific areas of green roof and green wall research, design, manufacture, construction, and maintenance, so we therefore believe that the best and most natural way that we can respond is by focusing our anti-racism efforts on the use of green infrastructure to promote and enable social equity.
As an organization, we will work to ensure that the development of green infrastructure in cities becomes a stronger force for social and environmental justice. It is clear that right now, many neighborhoods suffer disproportionately from a lack of green space and many negative health impacts caused by the urban heat island. Poor air quality for example, contributes to increased rates of asthma, and the lack of green space contributes to poor mental well being and the breakdown of community.
Green roofs and other forms of green infrastructure such as urban forests, rooftop farms and green walls, while not a panacea for all of our social problems, can contribute to community well being by improving air quality, providing fresh produce in communities with food deserts, generating employment opportunities and more. Green infrastructure redevelopment can be accomplished without resulting in gentrification, when the appropriate policies are in place to support affordable housing and employment.
In support of these objectives, we have built social and environmental justice into the Living Architecture Performance Tool, (LAPT) a rating system and resource design to improve the overall performance of green roof and wall projects. We have incorporated a number of social, environmental and economic elements into the rating system. As an organization, we pledge to do more to engage communities of color and to raise issues of social and environmental justice.
We are providing a $10,000 scholarship fund to support the training of people of color through our Living Architecture Academy and virtual events. The fund will be administered through partnerships with local groups that are supporting youth empowerment and fighting racism.
As individuals, it is clear that not being racist is insufficient in light of the ongoing persecution of minorities. We need to be anti-racist, and therefore work towards actively changing the systems and institutions of oppression.
We encourage our members to support Black Lives Matter chapters in their communities, (www.blacklivesmatter) and the NAACP which are actively working to eliminate racism and build equity into the sustainable building sector (https://www.naacp.org/climate-justice-resources/centering-equity-sustainable-building-sector)