Do You DIY? Sustainability in the City

I recently visited West Virginia for work.  My colleagues and I were connecting with one of our partners, New Vision Renewable Energy.  The visit blew my mind on so many different levels.  First and foremost, this organization is quite literally bringing a new vision for energy to our local communities and international brothers/sisters.  Solar panels, aquaponics, and innovative recycling were just the beginning.  They showed us Life in a Box containing lifesaving water filtration pouches as well as recycled iPods containing education and literacy tools.

What I really sopped up like a swiffer is the fact that this kick ass work is headquartered out of the humble city of Philippi, West Virginia. Community members, neighbors, local colleges, churches, school aged, college aged, middle aged retired, and newly professional are all leaning in to bring economic resources and environmental sustainability to those in need.  New Vision bridges science, education, and faith in ways that big cities can learn from.

Don’t get it twisted; I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was en route to Philippi.  As a city girl, and more specifically a sister city girl, I had my trepidation about what kind of reception would be waiting for us.  My first wtf flag flew up when our tour began in a cemetery.  Yep, you read it right.  We drove through and stopped at the cemetery where each of the four main families from this city were buried.  You know that was felt as wrong as wearing a wool sweater without a bra.  I thought to myself, if this is the kick off, I should call my babies now and tell the oldest where my life insurance papers are in case mama don’t make it back from West Virginia. Well, as always, God gave me a big face palm and reminded me that His heart is present in all shapes and iterations, and that past disappointments never change His will; that only an open heart and mind can receive new blessings.  All that said, this is truly the only experience I’ve had where being the only Black folk in a sea of rural, White Christians was not only ok, it was a gift.  Damn, I can’t even believe my jaded ass just wrote that.  Woo, life is a trip.

So, in observing the incredible work of New Vision, it was mentioned that people, once almost void of financial resources and self-sufficiency, are empowered when they learn that the energy they are struggling to pay for; that the heat, food, and clean water they depend on outside companies to provide, is actually a product they can make themselves.  Rather than be held hostage to forces outside their control, these communities are creating and maintaining sustainable, renewable energy for their own families.  New Vision provides the raw materials and the training and presto! A once elusive commodity suddenly becomes DIY.

Well this got me to thinking: what am I unnecessarily outsourcing in my day to day life? In terms of my family’s day to day consumption, I was definitely swayed to think about ways to capture and re-use rainwater (we are in Tacoma, after all), and incorporate LED lights, high efficiency appliances, etc.  And yes, this should have occurred to me some time ago, but the green movement is definitely something marketed to and accessed by White folks.  This is ironic to me considering Black folk used to be the sole hands, feet, muscle, and brain driving the economic growth of this country (and others).  Despite our ability to hustle, bounce, back and innovate, we are not traditionally invited to the table to learn and cultivate the lessons of environmental sustainability.  For whatever reason, the idea of teaching these lessons to Black Africans is much sexier than going to say, Camden New Jersey and letting those brothers and sisters bear the fruit of these resources.

Center for Sustainable Urban Systems Quarterly Research Briefing

What are we paying others to do that we can be doing ourselves? Who do we trust to feed us, fuel us, and teach us? Are we taking the time to be informed about what we are consuming and passing on to our youth?

I don’t know, y’all. I don’t pretend to have any answers. But I do have the desire and will to do better, do my best for our people. Staying in constant pursuit of truth and empowerment will reveal a path that leads to our special brand of milk and honey; nectar that we brew, pour, and place on the lips of all our kin…with nothin but love lacing the ladle.

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2 thoughts on “Do You DIY? Sustainability in the City

  1. Melissa Rhyne says:

    Black people taught us white people how to eat off the land…like poke greens, or any kind of good greens. You younguns call it green. My generation and the generations before me call it living.
    Melissa Rhyne

    • Say that, Melissa! I appreciate that perspective because you are so right. More and more mainstream media gives name and visibility to things our people have been doing for generations. Please continue to share your wisdom. Peace.

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