Getting in on the Green Ground Floor

African Americans have traditionally been last in line for America’s economic advances. The burgeoning green movement offers an opportunity to change that.

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The opportunity we’ve been waiting for is finally here.

African Americans have the chance to get on the ground floor of an economic surge that could give our communities the foundation for long-term health, peace and prosperity.

And it looks like something we’ve been doing for a very, very long time—it just hasn’t been recognized.

It’s the green revolution. The word “green” should be inclusive, and not just geared toward cute animals or rain forests in faraway places.

Most of us have been mixing black and green our entire lives. We’ve all had the grandmothers planting gardens in the backyard, garnishing our dinner plates with homegrown goodness. We know about the Afrocentric herbal shops selling natural hair products, skin lotions and essential oils. I remember my favorite vegetarian soul food restaurant as a child.

Now is the time to take all that black and green living and transform it into economic gain.

See, the rising green tide isn’t just about the environment, or lifestyle. It’s also about the economy. Clean tech and green enterprise are quickly becoming huge growth engines for our economy. You can see it in President Obama’s recovery plan. Of the $787 billion package, about $60 billion will go into green technologies and projects—by far the largest such investment the federal government has ever made.

That investment, and more from the private sector, will generate millions of new jobs and billions of dollars in new wealth. It will create countless opportunities for work, wealth and health. It will put new money in the hands of workers, entrepreneurs and consumers. It will create the core of an entire new economy.

That’s no exaggeration. Right now, oil and coal are at the core of our economy. They power everything we do, from industry to transportation to cooking and keeping our homes warm. They are also among the dirtiest and most dangerous energy sources in the world. A switch to safe, clean, renewable energy—such as solar and wind power—means transforming the very foundation of our economy. It’s not a makeover. It’s a do-over.