The three-day SXSW Eco Conference, which happened earlier this month, brought together representatives from science, industry, education, NGOs, policy and business to “explore, engage and co-create solutions for a sustainable world.” During the conference Angela Mason, Director of Urban Agriculture for Chicago Botanic Garden, and Oscar Medina, a teacher at the Western Institute for Leadership Development in Tucson, Arizona, joined Roots of Success Director and curriculum author Raquel Pinderhughes to host a panel titled “Green Job Creation: Path to Community Empowerment” — which explored the wide variety of opportunities provided by the green economy.
Mason discussed how the Windy City Harvest program at the Chicago Botanic Garden — which focuses on urban agriculture and uses Roots of Success to “helps apprentices get on the same page about environmental issues” — contributes to community empowerment by preparing participants for “green job that contributes to preserving and restoring the quality of the environments in which we live.” Windy City Harvest provides training, transitional jobs and educational pathways to individuals with barriers to employment and increases educational opportunities in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Their graduates go on to related seasonal and full-time work in wholesale distribution, rooftop farms, commercial aquaponics and community farms. “As we continue to feel the effects of climate change and the economic downturn,” Mason explained, “green jobs can play a role in a variety of solutions, and as educators we must continue to focus our efforts on equipping young people and job-seekers with the skills to power a greener economy.”
Medina talked about how he also uses the Roots of Success curriculum to “share his passion for science and open up new career possibilities for his high school students at the Western Institute for Leadership Development.”
Windy City Harvest, the Western Institute for Leadership Development, and similar programs around the country are strengthening communities, boosting health and providing opportunities to underserved populations, while preparing participants for good jobs and post-secondary education. Their presence at the SXSW Eco Conference provided a strong and inspiring example of how green jobs can play a role in combating climate change and economic injustice in communities most impacted by these systemic problems. To read more about the conference experience, check out Angela Mason’s blog post here.