In the shadow of one of the great environmental and social injustices of Latin America, Cerro Rico, Bolivia, a green coop stands as a hopeful sign that Bolivians can begin to restore their land and their lives after centuries of exploitation. Cerro Rico (Hill of Riches) was once known as Sumaj Orko, the sacred “Majestic Mountain” of the indigenous people of Potosì, Bolivia.
In 2004, D.C. Greenworks— a non-profit that seeks to resolve urban environmental and economic problems by fostering local expertise, job training, and community stewardship—joined forces with the Coalition for the Homeless and the 14th and U Main Street Initiative to form the Green Team, a group of men and women charged with maintaining clean, green, and safe streets in the Shaw commercial corridor of Washington D.C. In addition to handling litter and graffiti removal, the Green Team is also responsible for tree box landscaping and maintenance, and provides employment and training opportunities for Shaw’s homeless population. By creating a well-maintained commercial district, it has stimulated investment in vacant properties and supports tourism by disseminating heritage and hospitality information about the neighborhood and its attractions.
On the first day of spring in 2005, Berkeley’s city council unanimously approved a zero waste resolution—one of the first in the nation. The resolution officially adopts a 75 percent waste reduction goal for 2010, and establishes a zero waste goal for 2020.
What Does Zero Waste Mean?
If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or com-posted, then it should be restricted, redesigned, or removed from production. The goal is to combine aggressive resource recovery and industrial redesign to eliminate the very concept of waste. Eventually, the community’s resource-use system will emulate natural cyclical processes, where no waste exists.
In the current wave of community action for immigrant rights, a wider public is learning about the realities of life for immigrant workers in the U.S., undocumented and documented. Since the passage in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the number of immigrants from Mexico has increased dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of displaced rural Mexicans could no longer support themselves in an agricultural economy distorted by an unrestricted flood of subsidized, bio-engineered U.S. grain.
While most immigrants work for large corporations (growers, meat processors, construction firms and hotel chains), there are many examples of alternative employment for immigrant workers—even opportunities for “green” business ownership at the grassroots. These alternatives seek economic returns while also pursuing environmentally-sustainable business practices. In California’s Central Valley, Oregon, and Washington State, for example, the fastest growing sector in farming operations is Latino immigrants who purchase or lease land, many of whom use sustainable methods that reflect generations of indigenous knowledge, as well as the newest techniques in organic agriculture.