According to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, sustainability is simply defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability is normally separated into three main dimensions: social, economic, and environmental. Sustainable development in these three areas is necessary to ensure that human societies will be able to endure, thrive, and last without destroying their environments and depleting their natural resources.
Our vision at CSF is that all African American communities in the future will be safe, healthy, socially and economically equitable and harmonious with the environment. In order to make this vision a reality we have identified 8 practices that will increase the ability of African Americans to pursue sustainable development and environmental justice.
The Sustainable Living Practices
- Growing Your Own Food – CSF will promote urban farming that allows community members to supply themselves with healthy produce. Growing your own food will help to address problems caused by food deserts and food insecurity in our community.
- Healthy Eating – CSF will advocate for community members lowering their consumption of salts sugar and fats. Furthermore we will advise lowering consumption of meats, GMO’s, and processed food. Members of our community should strive to improve our eating habits in order to have healthier, more productive lives as well as lower health care cost.
- Water Filtration and Conservation – CSF will promote the use of water filters to avoid consumption of potentially hazardous chemicals found in tap water. Furthermore, we will promote personal responsibility with general water usage. The impending water crisis worldwide threatens the future of many life forms on the planet. Additionally, pollution in water further compounds this problem. It is very important for members of our community to be aware of their water consumption in relation to their own health as well as the environment.
- Energy Efficiency – CSF will promote responsible energy consumption, as well as raise awareness of the alternative sources of energy. With African Americans spending 25-30 percent higher on energy costs there must be an effort to increase awareness of energy sources and personal efficiency measures.
- Recycling – CSF will promote limiting community output of waste by finding ways to re-use items. Finding ways to reuse trash and other waste products will be imperative for our community.
- Collective Civic Engagement – CSF will promote awareness of community needs and facilitate the establishment of community voting blocs and community voting agendas. It is important that African Americans begin to approach politics and public policy more cohesively. Furthermore there is a need for increased accountability for elected officials.
- Cooperative Economics – CSF will promote community support for locally owned businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as facilitate the development of “cooperatives” throughout our community. We advocate that African Americans spend at least 25-40 percent of their income with other Black Businesses. In order to increase employment rates and economic well-being it will be important for African Americans to pursue cohesive economic strategies. Very importantly will be the development of cooperatives where people come together as partners to form businesses.
- Breastfeeding/Breastfeeding Support – CSF will promote breastfeeding for newborn children and facilitate breastfeeding support networks in our community. African American mothers have dismal breastfeeding rates. This leads to reliance on formula feeding which is not the healthiest option nor is it sustainable. Lack of breastfeeding in African American communities has been tied to limited support networks.
Environmental Injustice exists when people face more exposure to environmental hazards due to their race, color, national origin, or income. Much of the research in this field has determined that race is a key factor in determining who is protected from environmental hazards.
Research Studies have shown that:
- Although African-Americans contribute 20 percent less than white households to the causes of climate change, research suggests they are more vulnerable to consequences of this activity.
- In all forty-four of the major metropolitan areas of the United States, African Americans face greater exposure to higher concentrations of air-borne toxins.
- Three out of every five African American and Latinos live in areas near toxic waste sites, as well as live in areas where the levels of poverty are well above the national average.
- Children of color who live in poor areas are more likely to attend schools filled with asbestos, live in homes with peeling lead paint, and play in parks that are contaminated.
- As of 2002, more than 70% of African Americans lived in counties that are in violation of federal clean air laws and standards (these are called “non-attainment areas”) compared to the 58 percent of whites living in such communities.
- Black children are two times as likely to be hospitalized for asthma and are four times as likely to die from asthma as White children.
- 96% of African American children who live in inner cities have unsafe amounts of lead in their blood. African Americans are more likely than others to live in neighborhoods where nutritious, fresh, healthy, and affordable food is largely unavailable which has been connected to childhood obesity along with other health issues.
Our vision is to create a national network of sustainable African American communities where the residents and families are able to thrive. These communities will feature clean air and water. The neighborhoods will be seen as safe, well-kept and energy efficient. Most importantly these communities will be affordable. We also want to see decision making in our communities include full participation and collective cooperation. The police forces should be locally controlled and responsive to the concerns of community members. Furthermore, the communities should have the ability to produce their own experts and specialists to deal with their most significant problems. Thus there should be a strong emphasis on education and training for all residents. The general concept is that all activity in the community will promote enhanced quality of life in the present without jeopardizing the opportunities for improvements of future generations.