Majora Carter is perhaps one of New YorkCity’s most well-known environmental justice activists. In February 2006,Carter gave an inspiring eighteen minute speech on “Greening the Ghetto” at aTED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, California. Morespecifically, this convention calls attention to the prevalent issue of environmentalracism and inequality among minority communities. Not only does Carter underscorethe importance of sustainable development and the imperative need for a cleangreen economy, but she also presents a number of feasible ways in which we canmaintain economic development without causing environmental pollution ordegradation. Taking everything into account, the illuminating TED Talk was certainly worthviewing seeing as Carter was able to effectively convey an empoweringmessage across to her viewers about environmental justice.
Toward the beginning of the presentation, Cartervividly narrates her fight for environmental equality in the South Bronx, NewYork City. This highlights Carter’s capacity to connect with the audience bysharing her back-story and life experiences. For example, she reveals the harshreality of growing up as an underprivileged black child in the South Bronx, andadditionallytalkedabout the loss of a loved one at one particular point in her poignantspeech. Carter’s detailed disclosure about her older brother Lenny’stragic death demonstrates her vulnerable side as well. Her vulnerability andcandidness seems to capture and resonate with people in a way that mere factsand statistics never will. Notice how Carter displays agenuine level of sincerity and dynamism in her emotions too. By opening upabout her life history and experiences, Carter is better able to connect withthe audience on a more personal level.
Carter’s storytellingprocess also pulls the viewers focus into her world and establishes a context forwhy her narrative matters. Engaging the audience via a story enables one to seethrough someone else’s eyes. This type of involvement evidently appears to bethe key to Carter’s persuasion.
An additional strong point that Carterexhibits is her confidence and passionate stance on the fight for environmentaland economic justice. For instance, Carter appeals to the viewers by vehementlystating “help me make green the newblack. Help me make sustainability sexy. Make it a part of your dinner andcocktail conversations” (Carter, 2006, min. 15:44).
In making this remark, Carter empowersindividuals to take control of their own lives and urges viewers to usetheir knowledge and influence to support sustainable change everywhere. Also, if viewers andlisteners feel a strong sense of why environmental injustice should concernthem, the more likely they are to inform and influence others about thisimportant subject matter. Moreover, Carter’s content-rich visuals,data, and statistics support her findings and help establish her credibility inthe piece. For example, Carter utilizes visualimagery to strengthen and add emphasis to her research. Sheillustrates how minority neighborhoods and communities of color suffer the mostfrom flawed urban policies. Carterfurther explains that in due course, “economic degradation begets environmentaldegradation, which begets social degradation” (Carter, 2006, min. 7:05).
Carter’s main point is that the long-term consequencesof economic, environmental, and social degradation will adversely affect susceptible communities throughout various parts of the world. Thisis a fundamental aspect of Carter’s presentation because it offers viewers adeeper insight into understanding that we are all held accountable for thefuture that we create.Furthermore, with regard to audienceawareness, Carter is highly aware and mindful of what information to present toher viewers as well as how to convey it in an effective manner throughout theentire speech. She begins by clarifying the term environmental justice forthose who may not be familiar with it. According to Carter, “no community should be saddled withmore environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other” (Carter,2006, min. 2:40). In other words,Carter believes that certain factors such as class and race are strongindicators as to “where one might find the good stuff, like parks and trees,and where one might find the bad stuff” (Carter, 2006, min. 2:59) like toxic waste sites, power plants, and hazardouschemical facilities which pose detrimental health risks to minority communities.
Towardthe end of the speech, Carter concludes by boldly stating “please don’t wasteme” (Carter, 2006, min. 17:35). In thiscomment, Carter encourages the audience not let their hard-earned experience,energy, and intelligence go to waste.
She points out and acknowledgesthe fact that although we may come from diverse backgrounds and differentcircumstances, we all have one powerful thing in common: “we have nothing tolose and everything to gain” (Carter,2006, min. 18:08). The essence ofCarter’s argument is that in order to create change and make a meaningfuldifference in the world, sometimes the very first step is finding the courage fromwithin.All things considered, Majora Carterappears to have met her objective at the TED conference. Carter presenteda profound message about the adverse effects of environmental degradation, andmakes a compelling case about how a healthy and sustainable community isessentially attainable for everyone. Several other factors that strengthenedher overall presentation included her stage presence, confidence, passion, andaudience awareness.
For this reason, Carter’s “Greeningthe Ghetto” TED Talk was worth watching since she delivered aneffective, coherent, and poignant speech punctuated by moments of witand humor.