In the South Bronx and beyond, community members affected by issues of environmental injustice are working together to transform the cities in which they live. Often, sustainable development intersects with challenges such as health, affordable housing, and education, and leaders in all of these fields have joined forces in the battle for a greener, fairer future. Although they face bureaucratic obstacles and difficulty obtaining funding, the inhabitants of inner city communities have organized by appealing to local governments and first pushing for small scale changes before tackling larger problems.
They have had great success. In the South Bronx, grassroots activists and organizers, such as Majora Carter, Stephen Ritz, the Via Verde team, and South Bronx Unite, have managed to create parks, greenways, gardens, jobs, affordable (and sustainable) housing, new lines of public transport, and green roofs that have made their community happier, healthier, and more hopeful. And in addition to their impact at home, they have had remarkable influence on communities outside of their own. Since leaving Sustainable South Bronx in 2008, Majora Carter formed a consulting group to spread her approach to the green economy to cities such as New Orleans and Detroit. Stephen Ritz has also watched the Green Bronx Machine expand—his program is now a K-12 model incorporated in schools throughout New York state and beyond. And there is already talk of the next Via Verde, which has been honored with dozens of national and global architecture and city planning awards.
The South Bronx, once a symbol of urban plight, is now upheld as exactly the opposite: it has become a successful model of urban renewal, proving that even in the most broken and infertile of cities, from desolation and despair, a community can grow hope.