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New Orleans’s Green Economy Leads the Way to Opportunity

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New Orleans is justifiably proud that the city’s spirit has never been broken, never wavered. The city has seen disaster – twice in the last decade alone. The city has survived.

The stories of those survivals have been told many times. They’re stories made possible by the people who live there; who remain and maintain no matter what happens; who are the city. But it’s time for a new story. Or, at least, a new chapter.

New Orleans stands poised to lead on a new chapter for the nation. The people of New Orleans can create an economy that is new, is innovative, and has room for any American who wants to participate. New Orleans can and will lead in the creation of a green economy, one that uses renewable energy as fuel and green jobs as opportunity.

This opportunity isn’t unique to New Orleans, but it’s happening on the Gulf Coast already. Operation Reach runs the GulfSouth Youth Biodiesel Project, which trains young people on creating fuel sources from organic material. Total Community Action’s program puts people to work “weatherizing” homes – that is, increasing their energy efficiency, significantly reducing energy bills over the long term.

Other organizations and individuals are running urban farms, harnessing the power of the sun, building water management systems – to the tune of thousands of people, working on creating a cleaner New Orleans.

That success, those jobs, didn’t happen by accident. It took recognition of the opportunity and access to resources that could make it possible.

Last weekend, Green For All and a number of local partners organized a conference gathering some of the region’s most innovative thinkers to share their experience with creating opportunity in the new economy. Attendees heard about local green initiatives; workshops provided information about resources for getting involved and getting New Orleans to work – in a new way. Green economy innovators, community leaders, and local artists shared their vision for building a new system. And, fitting for the city, the day culminated in a concert featuring Dead Prez, Charmaine Neville and the Hot 8 Brass Band.

The people of New Orleans are nothing if not resourceful, nothing if not passionate about making the world better, more glorious, more fun. This city is not defined by disaster and recovery; it is defined by an ability to create and demonstrate a new way. Without an informed, engaged citizenry and empowered grassroots movement, big changes are not possible in New Orleans, the state capital or Washington, D.C. The people of New Orleans are finding a way out of no way. And because of that spirit, change is coming to America, change derived from a new ways of creating power and protecting our planet.