by Van Jones
You will not find in this book a single reference to a president, nor a parliament, nor a pope. Nor will you find any discussion of federal legislation or litigation. Nor will you discover any long lists of agency acronyms.
The revolution that this volume describes is simply too humble, too authentic, and ‚?? in the end ‚?? too powerful to need or desire any reference to the ordinary seats and sources of authority.
On the surface, Edens: Lost & Found simply chronicles the brave efforts of ordinary Americans, doing their best to bring hope and beauty to our cities. These are simple and heart-warming stories about neighbors caring enough to imagine a different future for their neighborhood. And sometimes their actions directly impact only a single city block.
But make no mistake about it: the true implications of their efforts are not just local. They are global.
That‚??s because, over the next several decades, human activity in the world‚??s cities will either sink the planet ‚?? or save it.
For the first time in human history, the majority of the world‚??s people live in cities. And though cities cover only two percent of the Earth‚??s surface, they already consume seventy-five percent of the planet‚??s natural resources. As more people continue crowding into cities, that figure will climb even higher, which means that urban areas have become the main driver in the ecological crisis.
At the same time, many cities are sinkholes of human suffering, especially for a marginalized population of low-income earners and people of color. Especially in the United States, the word ‚??urban‚?Ě has become synonymous with the word ‚??problem.‚?Ě Many urban neighborhoods are plagued by economic desperation, violence, pollution, and crumbling infrastructure.
And, all too often, top-down policy choices make bad matters worse. For instance, California now spends more money on prison cells than it does on college classrooms, supposedly in response to an epidemic of violence and drug trafficking in our cities. And yet de-funding hope and opportunity for under-privileged youth only fuels despair and desperation ‚?? actually undermining community safety in the name of protecting it.
Bottom line: as our cities now function, they harm both the people within them and the eco-systems that surround them. Current city planning exacerbates the two crises that will define the new century: sweeping environmental destruction and radical social inequality. Unless we make a dramatic U-turn in urban policy, we will further imperil both our society and our planetary life-support systems.
Thankfully, a better and wiser path is beginning to emerge from within urban America itself. That path is beautifully chronicled in these pages and in the accompanying PBS documentary series.
This book is one of the first major attempts to chronicle the beginnings of a new American movement ‚?? a quiet counter-current that has the potential to both heal the Earth and flood our inner cities with renewed hope and opportunity.
And while this book chronicles many private and volunteer efforts, the spirit they embody is already beginning to spill out into the marketplace. The ecological crisis is pushing up demand for technologies, products, and services that truly honor the Earth. By meeting that demand, new eco-entrepreneurs could create a massive boom in new technology, wealth creation, and job creation. And those new jobs could create a ladder up and out of poverty for jobless urban residents.
In other words: the answer to our ecological crisis also answers our social crisis. The surest path to safe streets and peaceful communities is not more police and prisons, but ecologically sound economic development. Such an approach can lead us to new, green economy ‚?? one with the power to lift people out of poverty while respecting and repairing the environment.
Because of massive urbanization on a global scale, our species will survive only by creating cities that work for people and with nature. In the modest and hopeful efforts to recreate Eden, we may be seeing the seedlings of a new urban politics and economics that can transform our civilization.
Imagine eco-industrial parks sited on land once blighted by brown-fields and prisons. Imagine non-profit Solution Centers, training young urban workers in new technologies and ancient wisdom. Imagine urban youth creating zero-pollution products to sell. Imagine formerly incarcerated people moving from jail cells to solar cells ‚?? helping to harvest the sun and heal the land.
Imagine cities like Oakland, Watts, Detroit, and Newark blossoming as Silicon Valleys of green capital. Imagine global cooperation to give Africa and other struggling regions the means to grow economically, while preserving their natural environments. Imagine China and India powering up with clean energy and leading the world in sustainable enterprise.
With their garden hoes and paintbrushes, the local heroes and she-roes highlighted here may be carving the only viable path away from ecological and social catastrophe.
And in so doing, they may be quietly teaching a great lesson in leadership to those in power. May we all learn from their great examples.