If you live in DC, it's possible that over the summer you've seen high school and college aged youths parading throughout the city's neighborhoods wearing blue shirts that read "The Mayor's Conservation Corps" in bright white letters. The adolescents sporting these shirts work as part of an initiative, led by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, to "green" the city. The program aims to employ local youth, creating new jobs and strengthening the economy, while at the same time conducting "conservation projects" across the city.
So, what exactly constitutes a conservation project? That term is a bit vague. The mayor's website
defines its idea of a conservation project as "community beautification," planting, and graffiti removal. While these activities are important to local communities, I don't know if they merit the adjective "green," or should be referred to as "conservation" projects. In a way, they help conserve communities from becoming unaesthetic, and technically they can make a community greener by planting more trees. To me, the use of the terms "green" and "conservation" intimates environmental betterment. I don't want to belittle the importance of the corps' work, but are the participants of these projects actually learning environmental conservation methods? Perhaps a better title for the organization could be "The Mayor's Community Betterment Corps" or "The Mayor's Clean Team."
Normally, my politics can be described as liberal. In talking about the environment, however, it is key to be conservative. We must conserve our usage of natural resources, and of products that are harmful to the environment. We must find new ways to implement conservation, and give the act of conserving a boost in popularity, if we want to save our environment from a disastrous future. We need to build new types of water infrastructure and invest in and promote sustainable energy sources. The government can, at times, be a great resource for strong conservation policy implementation. Sometimes, however, it can miss the point altogether. Let's use Mayor Fenty's Conservation Corps as an example.
One of the first tasks completed by the DC conservation corps was to place paper fliers, filled with literature promoting the corps' purpose, on each doorstep in all of the city's neighborhoods. Residents came home to find these little fliers promoting conservation projects scattered up and down their streets. News spread of the ironic littering, resulting in a promise from a Mayor's Conservation Corps staffer that the green litterbugs (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) would be back the next day to clean up the mess. (Some residents even blogged about it; like Scott
from Columbia Heights). The Mayor's Conservation Corps received a good bit of flak for that snafu. Perhaps the corps should have alerted locals to its presence through electronic neighborhood listservs, eliminating the need for paper altogether. Maybe the corps will learn from mistakes such as this, and improve itself for 2010.
Mayor Fenty does deserve credit for his GreenDC homepage
which provides helpful informational links, and promotes its ideas on how to make DC a more environmentally friendly city. Its viewers can learn how to properly dispose of waste within the District, become more knowledgeable about the eligibility of tax deductions for green acts such as driving a hybrid vehicle, and read about the administration's plans to make the Anacostia a swimmable river.
Photos: Bullneck/Flickr, Oceandesatoiles/Flickr