By Leroy Barber
Published in the Summer 2009 issue of Flourish magazine
Urban neighborhoods are dangerous places, environmentally speaking. Trash dumps, tow lots, expressways, and chemical plants create places that are quite unsafe. But neighborhoods can begin to help themselves and lower their risks by starting their own green projects. We can hire and train people to do home audits in homes that are full of lead paint, leaky windows, clogged gutters, and uninsulated water heaters. This training would create jobs and lower energy bills for residents, as well as reduce neighborhoods’ negative impacts on creation.
We can grow neighborhood gardens and establish farmers’ markets, which would offer neighbors better access to nutritious foods that are otherwise very costly and unavailable at inner-city food stores. We can make neighborhoods walkable, so that neighbors can get around without driving. That means less asthma-causing air pollution, fewer emergency room visits, and fewer sleepless nights for worried parents.
Caring for the environment has hit the hood and is now a major urban issue, and people of faith have the opportunity to offer good news in a new way. This is no longer just an issue of global warming and saving rain forests — it is about protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens. Through green job training, youth receive job skills, financial resources, and greater responsibility in their communities. Neighbors benefit from reduced energy costs, cleaner indoor and outdoor environments, and improved health. And whole communities grow in health, safety, and dignity.
The dream of greening my hood is becoming a reality through the church’s obedience to God’s will. Green job-training programs already exist throughout the country, bringing work to thousands of youth and millions of dollars of savings to urban communities. But Flourishing Communities, Flourish’s green job-training program that my church in southeast Atlanta is participating in, is rooted in the church, and therefore infuses good stewardship with the deeper hope of Christ.
Following Jesus’ command to clothe the naked, care for the sick, and feed the hungry now means, in part, providing clean air, safe streets, and healthy neighborhoods for our poor urban neighbors. Churches are well-positioned to provide hope in environmentally dangerous neighborhoods, in economically frightening times, by doing just what Jesus asked of us.
Learn more about green jobs and the communities they serve:
Check back for more about Leroy’s green hood at flourishonline.org/flourish-blog
Leroy Barber is president of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18-29 year-olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year. Rev. Barber is pastor of Community Fellowship Church in Atlanta, GA. He was a contributor to UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters, and recently released his first book, New Neighbor.