New Jersey’s City of Abundance and Clean Renewable Energy
What started out as a means to beautify a city, became a subculture that erupted into a green revolution!
According to the United States Census Bureau, the world’s population is currently over 7 billion, the United States population is well over 313 million, and over 8 million of these people reside in New Jersey. Newark’s population is more than 277 thousand, making the city the largest in New Jersey by population; and with the economic development taking place its population is expected to increase tremendously.
With a person being born every 8 seconds, analysts have governments of every nation on high alert of the energy crisis to come. It is predicted that by 2050, 9 billion people will populate the planet and the mystery question is how will all these people be fed?
Even today, people across the country are finding it more challenging to feed their families. As reported on CBS Money Talk, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits are set to fall for more than 47 million lower-income people—1 in 7 Americans—most of whom live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities.” Urban and rural communities have been severely impacted by this.
“The paradox of education is precisely this: that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” —James A. Baldwin
An energy crisis would be one more setback for a city like Newark, whose crime rate has been on a drastic roller coaster ride for decades. Its unemployment rate nearly reached 15 percent; and its high school dropout rate rising to over 50 percent. With 70 percent of the city’s landscape being covered in asphalt/concrete it caused a red alert on the environmental radar; and being one of the nation’s major air, shipping, and rail hubs, many people attributed this to the city having the highest asthmatic cases in the state.
Newark has not been spared the obesity epidemic, either. In another astonishing national health report, “more than 1/3 of American adults are now obese, costing approximately $147 billion per year in associated medical expenses. As a result of obesity, the generation of American children is the first to face the possibility of a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
With these staggering statistics, you don’t have to be a psychologist to predict a revolution of some sort, but no one ever thought it would be so green. It was a call to action no one could ignore. Some elected officials and community leaders tried to take full credit while green enthusiasts argued that nature herself had sounded the alarm…decades ago.
“The world as we created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” —Albert Einstein
To move forward is to know from where you have traveled. We started off by implementing the Adopt-A-Lot Program, allowing residents, nonprofits, and neighborhood/block organizations to adopt vacant lots for the purpose of beautification, public enjoyment, and produce cultivation. With the support of Newark-based organizations residents began to act.
Think global, act local…that’s GLOCAL!
By developing an Office of Sustainability we were able to implement science into our local government. We were no longer administering laws based on opinions, but using scientific data. We came to the realization that as Jacque Fresco, founder of The Venus Project, stated, “It’s going to take the redesign of our culture, our values, and it has to be related to the caring capacity of Earth.” Alongside our national flag we hung proudly the world flag and began pledging allegiance to the world and everyone on it.
Then we developed a local database of the necessary professions needed to help with this transformation. We knew that collaboration would be our ticket into the future and was able to form partnerships with neighboring cities Irvington and East Orange. We kept our city borders open as an invitation for other jurisdictions. As Thomas Painstated, “My country is the world and my religion is to do good.”
We then conducted a full survey of the city’s natural resources to determine what materials and production facilities were available and instituted an intelligent management of our resources. The earth has physical limits and we decided to know longer defy nature but work with her. We also wanted to determine the needs of our residents.
“If we are not careful, our [schools] will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful ‘brethren!’ Be careful, teachers!” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We realized it was crucial to update our school system with today’s knowledge and technology. Our future depended on this. It was a painstaking political and legal battle that spilled out into the streets. Liberal Arts became our standard curriculum as a means to provide a wide-range of information so students were well-rounded problem solvers. We evolved into a learning system where creativity, critical, and divergent thinking is allowed to flourish.
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” –Albert Einstein
The study of social psychology helps us better understand social behavior, and we made sure our teachers, public administrators, and police officers received ongoing training in this discipline. Also, entering apprenticeship and volunteer programs became a way of life for our students. Visual demonstration and hands-on learning became the education model.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer stated, “When you change the way you look at things the things you look at will change.” We decided that it was no longer effective to make the school system as an extension of the community but should be built within the design of the city, thus redesigning the city like a university, an ecosystem, making the entire city a cultural and educational experience. We no longer catered to the needs of one section of the city while another section suffered. The human body does not flourish with internal conflict, nor does a city.
It also became mandated that every student become well informed about civilizations like the early Rapa Nui people of Easter Island and how they created a thriving culture. However, human activity, the introduction of the Polynesian rat, and overpopulation led to gradual deforestation and extinction of natural resources, which caused the demise of the Rapa Nui civilization. By providing a relevant education and informing the public how scarcity is created we were able to stabilize our population. Our population only expanded as the environment allowed. We were kept in check by nature.
“Retrofitting (i.e. painting white) all urban roofs and pavements in the world would yield emissions reductions equivalent to taking all the world’s cars off the road for 18 years…The average American household could counteract the 10 tons of CO2 it annually emits by retrofitting 1000 square foot of roof or sidewalk with reflective surfaces.” —Mark Hertsgaard, HOT: Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth, 2011
Electric powered shuttle buses and light rails were developed to transport people throughout the entire city. Just as Rudolph Diesel intended, diesel engine vehicles ran on discarded vegetable oils collected from restaurants and bicycle parking stations were placed wherever people populated. Green roofs (rooftop gardens), blue roofs (rooftop rain water systems), and white roofs (the painting of rooftops white) became an environmental necessity. In a matter of five years, we reduced our carbon imprint by 50 percent.
“The engine of life is linkage. Everything is linked. Nothing is self-sufficient. Water and air are inseparable, united in life, and for our life on earth. Sharing is everything.” —HOME directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand,narrated by Glenn Close
Community gardens became open space for community wellness, which became a model for enjoyment. Residents no longer felt like prisoners in their own homes. Vacant community centers became science centers, where urban agriculture and clean renewable energy are taught and experimented on. Residents realized how technology is simply an extension of human performance that is used to free people from doing dangerous and/or monotonous jobs. We also developed more cultural arts centers where diversity and individuality are put on display.
Unemployment centers became employment centers and a hub for social entrepreneurs. Public parks became food forests. As a means to combat obesity and diet-related disease, soup kitchens became community wellness centers that also teach nutrition education. Those working in our service industry start their day in a public display of physical activity. They put new meaning into President John F. Kennedy’sRemarks on the Youth Fitness Program, “A sound mind and a sound body.”
Our fire fighters no longer raced into burning homes. We sent them back to school to become technicians and engineers and better informed about nonflammable materials. They act as consultants for ecological construction companies to make sure they are in compliance with the environment. They also assist residents with their environmental concerns.
“More than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water and things are expected to become even more difficult as the world’s population continues to grow.” –How Many People Can Live on Earth presented by David Attenborough
Recycling and/or upcycling discarded materials, food scraps, and human waste became a city wide program. This was a common practice for astronauts during space travel. We just replicated the process on a massive scale. We did not stop there. When we updated our over 100 years old sewer system the city celebrated. We no longer had fears of drinking contaminated water.
Reforming our legal system has been another painstaking, ongoing challenge. It took nationwide hunger strikes, rallies, and appeals to the United States Supreme Court to unveil the institutional racism embedded in the fabric of our system, and we are still fighting for improvements.
We gave people access to the necessities in life with no chain and ball attached and practically eliminated scarcity. What we created is not perfect, but it is far better than where we once were. What is more important than who gets here first is who will never make it.