Declaring that today’s green movement should use the same organizational approach as the 1960s civil rights movement, environmental advocate Jerome Ringo called for people of all social and economic levels need to be included in building a clean, healthier future during a recent talk in San Diego.
One of the nation’s foremost environmental leaders, Ringo spoke about the latest policies and practices that are spurring clean-tech industries and the green job marketplace at the California Center for Sustainable Energy while he was visiting San Diego to participate in events celebrating Earth Day 2010.
Ringo described the green economy as a race by nations to become leaders in developing clean technologies that can reduce dependence on foreign oil, prevent global warming and put people to work. One of the best ways to do that, he said, is to engage people who have not been traditionally involved – the poor, low income and minorities – who usually spend a greater percentage of their income on household energy and gasoline and often live in areas with the worst environmental conditions.
“We’re living in a world where the cost of energy is so high that single mothers and poor people around the country must stand at the gas pump daily and make a decision between purchasing a gallon of gas and purchasing a gallon of milk,” he said.
Green is the Common Cause
Ringo sees an opportunity with green issues and sustainability to unite disparate groups around a common cause, much like the experiences of the civil rights movement he witnessed firsthand growing up in Louisiana. The key is education at all levels, including what he calls “nature versus Nintendo,” in an effort to get everyone, and especially youth, to understand the value of energy efficiency and sustainability in their everyday lives. He said he was inspired by what the California Center for Sustainable Energy is doing to educate the San Diego community, calling it an “oasis of knowledge” that should be replicated in every city throughout the nation that doesn’t have such a public energy information center.
Ringo learned the effects of pollution while working for more than 20 years in Louisiana’s petrochemical industry, over half of that time as a union leader. He saw the harmful effects to his fellow workers and on adjoining communities’ health and began helping people fight against worsening environmental conditions. His experience organizing environmental and labor communities and his drive to further diversify the environmental movement helped solidify his lifelong dedication to environmental issues and social justice.
He left the oil industry and in 2005 became chairman of the board of the National Wildlife Federation, the first African-American to head a major conservation organization. He then became president of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental, national security, civil rights and business leaders fighting to make America independent from foreign energy. Ringo left the Apollo Alliance in January to become a senior executive for GreenPort, an international firm dedicated to greening seaports worldwide.
An author and lecturer, Ringo inspires audiences around the world to create a new, clean-energy economy. Although now in the private sector, he continues to serve as a member of the Apollo Alliance’s board of directors and to work toward uniting environmentalists with corporate and industrial leaders and encouraging public and private investing in clean technologies.
photo: Jeffy Can